Creation Weekend 2015 proved to be as exciting and informative as the organizers had hoped. Dr. Raymond Damadian, of New York, inventor of the MRI scanner and founder of FONAR Corporation, provided large audiences in Edmonton with lots to think about. In his initial lecture on Friday evening, Dr. Damadian shared some of the story of how he first came to the idea for an MRI scanner and how he was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of his idea.
Having carried out postdoctoral research at Harvard University in biophysics, Dr. Damadian’s interests focused on electrical conditions in the human body. Since differences in sodium and potassium concentrations (for example) in nerves produce an electrical charge, and since the reversal of this charge produces an electrical signal which moves along a nerve, Dr. Damadian spent three years looking for a sodium pump in cells. Many experts supported the idea of a sodium pump, but eventually Dr. Damadian concluded that there was no such thing.
This initial discussion seemed very esoteric but it was important to understand where the idea for the MRI came from. So Dr. Damadian continued with his story. At the State University of New York , he next researched the ‘ion exchange resin hypothesis’. The idea is that sodium sticks to a negatively charged protein in the cell. The same thing holds for the potassium ion. And both positive ions (sodium and potassium) are also surrounded by water molecules which are also charged. But the sodium ion has a higher charge density than the potassium ion and so attracts a bigger clump of water. As a result, potassium fits better inside the cell.
Dr. Damadian went to Pennsylvania to use a pulse nuclear magnetic resonance machine (commonly used in chemistry) to test his hypothesis on a test tube of bacteria. The test involved a magnetic coil (2.25 inches in diameter). When the sample was placed inside the magnetic field, the sample gave off a radio signal. Based on the amplitude (intensity or brightness) of the signal and its decay time (time for the signal to disappear completely), the scientists could tell which sample contained more charge (and more water).
This was the eureka moment for Dr. Damadian. As a medical doctor, he also knew that potassium levels are different in cancerous tissue than in normal tissue and the accompanying water levels would be different too. Cancerous tissue should show a brighter signal and a longer decay time than normal tissue of the same type. Thus Dr. Damadian published a technical article in the journal Science in 1971. In 1972 he applied for the first patent in this field, which he received in 1974. Dr. Damadian and his research team next set out to prove that this technique would work on living people.
There was much resistance to Dr. Damadian’s proposal. Finally the Damadian team managed to build a prototype machine, after a year of work and with almost no money for expensive components. On July 3, 1977 the first successful signal was obtained from the body of a graduate student. He had been a reluctant test subject, but all went well. The rest more or less is history. An unexpected bonus to this research was the discovery that the various normal tissues in the body also all display different signals because they all have different amounts of water. So MRIs can image all the normal tissues in the body without any invasive procedures. So this is how a Bible-believing Christian came to make medical history.
On the Saturday evening Dr. Damadian demonstrated the kind of benefits which are possible from MRI scans. He described recent research on the cerebro-spinal tube which conducts fluid inside the spinal nerve and the brain. He showed how imaging can demonstrate if this tube is ruptured from neck injuries and how this might impact neurological health. From there Dr. Damadian transitioned into the topic he is really “passionate about”. That is creation. As an introduction to the issue he reviewed the words of some great scientific thinkers of the past on creation and then he looked at the precision of information required for the human body to function. In this context he described the complexities of the human camera eye and the human ear.
People attending Dr. Damadian’s lectures were very appreciative of the interesting information that he presented. Many people spoke to him after the sessions and he had time for everyone. Other speakers on Saturday included Margaret Helder who spoke in the morning on surprising examples of real camera style eyes in some animals with very different body plans (without back bones and some even without brains). This situation demonstrates that a designer was required to confer this eye design on creatures with such different life styles. No spontaneous process could lead to such complex structures in organisms as different as a single cell alga and a coyote! She also discussed the precision of information in an organism’s genetic material which is required to produce the organs, tissues and cells that work to support life. She tied this in to the wisdom demonstrated by God in the creation of all living creatures.
Vance Nelson spoke to a large crowd on Saturday afternoon. His theme was “dire dragons,” examples of dinosaurs in the art of ancient peoples, which indicate that they had first hand knowledge of such creatures. However he began by discussing examples of living fossils followed by a discussion of radiometric dating of soft tissue in dinosaur and other fossils. All these examples suggest that these artifacts may be only thousands of years old. Vance Nelson’s lecture was visually very sophisticated and he had examples of many related artifacts on tables at the front of the hall.
All in all Creation Weekend provided much to stimulate a wide variety of interests. We are most grateful for a wonderful weekend with much to think about in the days ahead.
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