This is a book about ‘life’, that which animates particular organic structures, organisms, absent from other ‘structures’ which remain fixed, but for the physical and chemical forces which wear them down. From our human perspective, this sets ourselves, and all other living things, apart from the inert, nonliving, matter that comprises our world and the universe. England, as a physicist, sees the world of nature and all matter within it, differently than most of us. Science has demonstrated that the universe tends to operates under consistent ‘laws’. Organisms, while a special ‘class’ of matter, are still of matter composed of the same atoms joined together in complex macromolecules not found outside of organisms, which are in fact created within organisms. They occupy a different section along a continuum defined by energy, a ‘family’ of complex, shared organic structures. This complexity of structure goes to determining their functionality. Function increases and diversifies as complexity increases, capacities are expanded and the flow of energy through them becomes an effective and sustaining agent in their ‘being’ and evolution. His view is consistent with the many other physicists who have looked into life and view it as an inevitable outcome of the processes, energies and materials that comprise Earth’s particular corner of the universe. Earth appears to be a relatively rare occurrence, but it is extremely doubtful that it is a singular one. Given the particular mix of ‘ingredients’ and energies here, matter has come together over the course of over 4 billion years to form life as we know it because it could and whatever is possible/probable tends to happen with a degree of frequency. Particular patterns precede those to follow, not necessarily determining them, but increasing the likelihood that they will. The flow of energy through matter tends to ‘favor’ a range of outcomes. Those outcomes tend to favor the next, building from one ‘success’ to the next.
Many of these patterns and energy flows occur at molecular levels well below our ability to observe and measure. These patterns are not generally obvious to us. Our perceptions are shaped by our beliefs about the world. We tend to ‘see’ what we expect to see, not necessarily what is there. We shape our perceived world into the commonly shared story that has been passed on to us. Our particular indoctrination, our educations, all go toward determining what we see, then we take our experience and use it to reinforce that understanding. In a sense we ‘choose’ our reality. From the moment we each open our mouths or put word to page, we do this. Our language and knowledge limit us. It requires that we distill our perceptions, our experiences and our understanding into a comprehensible form. We are then limited by our biases, our language, what we already ‘know’. We are all at a ‘remove’ in this sense, apart from the world in which we live, although we are intimately immersed in it. As ‘western’ people we tend to see ourselves as separate from it. In actuality, we can never be so. England looks into this question of what life is by taking our modern and still developing idea of ‘thermodynamics’, our study of energy and the way that it ‘works’ on the stuff of the universe, on matter, as his way into this ‘story’. Energy is transformative. Matter, is arguably, a particular expression of energy. One can be translated into the other.
England is a theoretical physicist. You will not find in this book a detailed explanation of the living organism or even a detailed description of the flow of energy through one. Thermodynamics and his idea of dissipative adaptation are larger concepts that can give us a framework for understanding the bigger picture of an almost unfathomably complex topic. England joins with those today who would argue that any living organism is not so much a thing as it is a process, in a state of continuous change, a process which both follows a probable, understandable, path, and is itself a part of the larger/longer process of evolution, of becoming, building on itself and life’s many patterns, as it moves ahead through time toward something unknowable to us. We exist from moment to moment, a ‘response’, one of a particular and massive set of more or less likely probabilities, each which influences what will follow, within a universe of definable ‘law’. Here England gives us an intellectual framework for understanding the processes at play in this process of living. Living organisms are conductors of a continuous flow of energy through them from outside and back after it has degraded. This flow of energy acts in very particular ways on the molecules, cells, tissues and organs of an organism…until it no longer can. An organism, is in a sense, a conductor, a channel through which energy flows from a higher, more available state, to a lower, less available state. Energy drives them, permits them and enables them so that they are in this sense ‘self’ sustaining…as long as the energy flows and the organism can maintain the integrity of its structure at all levels.
The following is an extensive quote from his book: Every Life is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Organisms, pp. 113-116.
“…a plant—for example—has to be thought of as holding steady on a steep [energy] hillside in a constant state of free fall. Much like the chemicals in a battery powering a flashlight, many molecules in a plant are constantly undergoing reactions that convert them into other, lower-energy forms. At the same time, randomizing thermal fluctuations are taking the specially ordered components of each cell that have been assembled in a particular fashion and wreaking havoc with them, either through chemical damage or via larger-scale physical rearrangements. In permanent darkness, a plant is therefore on a slow road to death, for dying in physical terms is nothing more than sliding downhill in a variety of chemical and physical ways. Of course, plants can survive just fine for a while in the dark, but not forever. [Animals, for the most part exist in a much more precarious balance requiring much higher energy flows for a given mass.] Eventually, the twin tendencies to lower energy and higher disorder that are required by the fall to thermal equilibrium will win out, and the pile of matter that was originally a live organism will start to look less and less like one.
“Turn on the lights, however, and matters have a chance to turn out radically differently. Under such conditions, it is still the case that things are falling downhill: the same internal forces and thermal fluctuations are present. The remarkable thing about life, though, is how it deploys the energy it absorbs from its environment in order to resist this onslaught. With the lights on, the plant is still falling, but at the same time it is also getting repeatedly kicked back up [the energy hill]! Like all living things, plants are structures that absorb energy from specific sources in ways that lead to internal motions that correct or undo each incremental bit of falling to pieces that happens at every moment. This process goes on not only when a wound heals, but also much more instantaneously every time sunlight is used to regenerate a molecule of chemical fuel that was just burned up, or every time a molecular chaperone burns up some chemical fuel in order to help a protein that has become mis-folded to get back into the correct, functional shape. The fuel-consuming, heat-dissipating activities of proofreading, quality control, and self-maintenance lie at the core of what living things are doing all the time to remain alive, and every one of these activities involves some kind of cyclical motion, whereby work absorbed from the environment perpetually drags things back up the mountain as each little downward slip and slide occurs. In this light, healing from major trauma is a rare and more specialized event compared with the unceasing microscopic way in which living things need to fix themselves just to stay alive and healthy.
“Viewing things from the perspective of an organism trying to survive in the wild, one might well wonder why life typically camps out on such an energetically expensive slippery slope in the space of possible arrangements of its constituent parts, rather than staying stable, without constant burning of fuel, by finding more crystal-like states of low energy. As we have already alluded, the difficulty with this kind of architectural principle is that it leaves no way of being structurally sturdy and capable of withstanding pushes from the environment without also essentially being frozen into one rigid shape. In ways too numerous to count, what life typically needs is to combine structural integrity with the ability to rapidly reorganize itself in response to new information about the environment, and the way this is accomplished is through sustained energy flow. All animal cells, for example, use actin filaments, long chains of proteins that form a matrix of intermeshed strands, to maintain their shape and push back against their surroundings, in other words actin makes cells dramatically more resilient and durable than a simple bag of liquid. Actin is also frequently involved in cell motion, and its growth and reorganization are central to what is going on at the leading edge of a cell membrane as it flows in a particular direction. Acitn is able to combine the qualities of added structural integrity and dynamic flexibility because it is no mere static set of beads on a string; rather, it is an assemblage of individual proteins that are each capable of absorbing and burning through the cell’s chemical fuel to power a continual succession of concerted changes in shape. Examples of this distinctive role for non-equilibrium driving in the molecular structure of cells abound, because there is physically no other way of skinning this particular cat: a material that has to be both strong and adaptable at the same time needs a steady flow of dissipated energy to power the constant internal motion that makes such a combination of properties possible.”
Reading England’s book has stirred many thoughts and brought together for me the ideas of others who have written on this topic of life. I find it difficult to separate that which I can only attribute to England out from the rest…and I also don’t see the point. My goal here is to better understand the science of life, not to identify and correctly attribute the thoughts to a particular author. This is a complex topic and there are, as England points out, many perspectives, many languages from which one can discuss this.
England approaches the topic from the position of a physicist with their emphasis on thermodynamics, the flow of energy through matter and its effect on it. His knowledge is deep and his courage to ‘fill in the gaps’ in our knowledge and to utilize his religious beliefs as an avenue to connect with a non-specialist audience does not bother me. We live in an historical period that will be noted for its polarized and divisive views…precisely when we need a kinder and more tolerant view of the world, of each other. This book is a commendable attempt at this kind of necessary healing. If it allows the doors of the minds of fundamentalist thinkers to open slightly and consider a broader, more tolerant view, then that is all to the better. The insistence on both sides of this issue that they are correct alone, that there is no room for gray areas, can lead us all to a literal ‘dead end’. If the creationist, fundamentalist, Intelligent Design advocate, refuses to see the wonder and awe in a still unfolding universe, what good does it do us to cast them out as inconsequential or ignorant? Is it not better to find common ground and explore the beauty and value of all of creation together? If we cannot allow an other to have their own beliefs what kind of world does that leave us to live in…for either group. There is intolerance aplenty on both sides. We need to learn to stop focusing on our differences and look at what joins us. By focusing on our differences we collectively magnify them and who does that serve?
That organisms have all arisen as a result of natural processes, sadly, is still a controversial statement. In the world of the physicist, the universe is continuously moving ahead, forward through time. Organisms are ‘products’ of, results of, among other natural laws, the second law of thermodynamics, which states that energy moves from higher states, more ‘available’ forms, to lower states and less available forms, increasing in ‘entropy’ or randomness…while doing this it ‘acts’ on matter in particular ways. The universe contains a fixed amount of energy which is still available in amounts beyond our comprehension. It is ‘conserved’. When transformed, such as what happens when it comes into contact with matter, none is lost and none is created. The result is a tendency to ‘drive’ the universe forward in time, energy being ‘spent’/dissipated across time and space as it ‘effects’ matter, accelerating it, moving it in ways consistent with the mass’s properties and of the energy itself, whether light, electricity, (both of which are forms of electro-magnetic radiation), those which hold atoms and molecules together, ‘mechanical’ or kinetic and finally into heat which disperses through ‘space’, effecting the structure and motion of a mass. In particular cases doing so organizing and increasing the complexity of a mass’s structure, energy translated into more complex/unstable structures. As these structures gain complexity they can gain functionality and may become conduits for energy’s continuous flow, the energy transforming as it acts upon the mass, moving from higher to lower states, across a gradient. Energy then ‘informs’/works upon matter, driving structures to higher energy states, ‘exciting’ the collective molecules of a structure, creating, ordering, more complex, ‘lower’ entropy structures/organisms. This may seem to violate the Second Law as energy ‘always’ increases in entropy, randomness, but it doesn’t as these structures require continual inputs of energy. The increase in complexity of a structure is offset by the degradation of energy to a lower, less available form. With the right amount of ‘push’ more complex, stable, structures are permitted. The total amount of energy remains the same, its form degraded. Such structures are out of equilibrium and will degrade themselves when their energy supply is cut off. But, while driven they are maintained at their more complex level as low entropy structures. The energy thus ‘spent’, degraded, moves in the process from low to higher entropy, to randomness, ultimately reduced to heat, dissipated outside of the structure/organism to its environment.
All organisms are this way, complex, far out of equilibrium, dissipative, thermodynamic structures, which over their lives/existence, must conduct a continuous throughput of energy, from outside of themselves, which powers a coordinated system of internal, irreversible processes, before the degraded energy is released once again outside of the organism. These organisms contain many different structures, each which possess their own particular internal processes which, when appropriately powered, provide necessary supportive services to the whole, enabling the organism to sense its environment, respond appropriately, secure the water, gases and nutrients it needs, metabolize them appropriately on demand, regulate all of this while growing and maintaining their metabolism and structure and, when, mature, reproducing themselves. Organisms, so supported, continue living. They are thus ‘pushed’ into or maintained in this more complex state of being, by said energy flow. Or, as England writes, ‘kicked back up the energy hill’. The resultant complex structures, being dynamic, arise out of the surrounding chaos and return to it at death, as the structures and supporting energy paths, i.e., their metabolism, breaks down. The expelled degraded energy increases entropy outside of these structures/organisms in order to maintain the lower entropy structure of the organism.
Over time, subsequent generations and species tend to become increasingly complex, evolving in lineages, each succeeding generation derived from the preceding. Old patterns are retained, conserved, new ones evolving as ‘driven’ organisms ‘explore’ the range of the possible from each moment to the next. As in the case of subatomic particles, such evolutionary advances occur in quantum like jumps from one state to another, complete and functional. ‘Half steps’ are in this way avoided, as are unworkable combinations. What ‘work’s tends to be repeated. Improbable combinations/developments are passed over, in part ‘stored’ in segments of their DNA, those incongruent portions inactive/dormant until changes in condition and/or other innovations/options evolve making this ‘new’ structure probable/viable. Innovation manifests. Life moves from moment to moment through ‘wholes’. Think then of such structures, organisms, cells and their subunits, as being similar to indivisible bits, the quanta of modern physics. ‘Assembled’, into particular structures, they take on unique characteristics, often quite different than those of which they are individually ‘constructed’, greater than the sum of their parts, not put together incrementally over time, but rather moving continuously. Under particular conditions, one structure in the presence of another will have a tendency to form another. The complexity of living organisms results in very particular patterns. In the creation of a particular individual organism, through embryogenesis, the organism is not cobbled together a piece at a time in a random process, but forms in a continuous process from one functional whole to the next. It is a very particular process, irreversible, but adaptable over time. Evolutionary. ‘Failures’, less effective individuals, exhibiting traits which are, on the whole, destructive or in some way compromising to the health and vigor of the species and community, which is also a construct of nature, are lost over time through natural selection…or it might be better to say, their particular patterns set aside, until they can be ‘reformulated’ at a latter date when they can provide a more effective possibility in a novel pattern. But then, so to are life’s ‘successes’ lost as they inevitably degrade and the search for other solutions continues.
Organisms can be more accurately viewed as ongoing ‘events’ than as ‘things’, each moving through it’s life to its end, each an experiment which contributes pattern and matter to what follows, necessarily. Life, as England writes, is the constant process of degradation, of ‘falling’ back down the energy hill and being kicked back up it through energetic ‘kicks’. Each organisms exists moment to moment and, in this sense is very fragile, dependent upon the processes which support it. An individual is a ‘part’ of the ongoing process in the sense that it cycles in and out of ‘being’, in a continuous cycle with the entirely of the living community. Each, is also the ‘feedstock’, the ‘substrate’ for what follows. Living organisms themselves are the fodder of which feed and support other species, not just after death, but throughout their lives. We consume and are consumed. There is nothing macabre about it. It is an essential condition of life as a process and whole ‘system’. Life is built upon death and rot, new possibilities arising from old.
Physicists view matter itself as ‘informed’ energy, particular cases of energy, gathered and held in particular ‘shapes’. Matter/energy has a tendency to assemble, at all levels into more or less stable structures. Driven, acted upon, by available and particular energy flows, these structures draw from their available genetic ‘tool kits’, assembling into more complex forms supported by their surrounding environment. Each successive ‘improvement’ has a relatively high probability of occurring. The energy flowing through each structure tends to be self-sustaining, which also goes to sustaining its micro-structure and internal functions. Once matter so structured and ordered that it has attained the complexity of an organism it has also acquired the capacity to self-catalyze the reactions necessary to maintain and grow itself. The lives of individual organisms, however, are limited. All organisms, ourselves included will die. The ‘seed’ of that process, our ending, is with us from the beginning a part of the process which sustains us.
The ‘key’ here is in England’s title, ‘Life is on Fire’. What we understand as fire is the explosive oxidation of matter, of a ‘fuel’ source, its combustion. In such a fire a fuel is heated to a critical temperature in the presence of oxygen. Recall that heat is a measure of the collective motion of the atoms and molecules of any substance their ‘kinetic’ energy. At and below the level of the atom matter is in continuous motion, the higher the heat the more rapid the motion. Every substance will respond to changing temperature levels differently. At absolute zero, measured as 0º Kelvin, -273.15º Celsius or -459.67º Fahrenheit, all motion, within all matter, down to the tiniest subatomic particles, ceases. It is frozen. Nothing chemically may occur. As heat is added this motion, most of it below a scale that we can directly and physically perceive, increases. As heat continues to be added motion continues to accelerate. But it does this unevenly. Some particles will accelerate faster than others. As they ‘fly’ around they are constantly banging in to each other, each time transferring some of their energy to the other. Slower particles tend to speed up. Faster particles tend to slow down. Add more heat and the whole process ramps up. When we measure a temperature, it is an average for a particular volume, of a solid, liquid or gas. Many elements are capable of combining with oxygen forming oxides. The conditions required to do this vary with the element. Temperature is a key factor in this. As matter warms, what were once stable molecules/structures, can break down into simpler parts, parts which may then combine with oxygen. Iron oxide, rust, is one of them. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are two important others. In the process of oxidation matter moves from a higher, more complex structure and energy state to a lower. Its molecular structure breaks down, converting into simpler substances and in the process forming oxides and releasing energy. Energy is ‘stored’ in the chemical bonds which hold molecules together. When paper, for example, is heated to 454ºF it crosses the energy threshold required to burn, to combust. Its molecular structure breaks down and carbon is freed, released in its gaseous form. At this temperature and freed as carbon atoms, they are extremely unstable and will, in the presence of oxygen combine to form carbon dioxide or monoxide. This stabilizes the free carbon. The energy once held in the more complex bonds of the fuel molecule is released rapidly in this process of combustion, the heat created causing the singular event of oxidation to become the explosive event of rapid combustion. Such combustion is a special circumstance and in general only occurs when its heightened requirements are met…but oxidation can occur at lower temperatures. The process is the same, but its rate is radically reduced. Heat accelerates all chemical reactions and combustion and oxidation are chemical reactions. Oxidation occurs continuously within all organisms.
Organisms exist necessarily within relatively narrow temperature ranges. This ambient heat sets the ‘gradient’ for many chemical reactions. This heat creates a level of randomized motion in within the organism necessary to maintain its necessary conditions and processes. Raise the temperature and the reactions can proceed at a higher, less controlled rate than the organism’s survival might require. Below this, chemical reactions can slow to a rate which cannot sustain the intricate and diverse processes within the cell and organism. Above this, other structures, like proteins, begin to break down at a non-sustainable rate, oxidizing at a rate that the organism cannot counter/repair. Oxidation is both necessary and destructive within an organism. Heat can tip the ‘balance’ between a healthy metabolic rate and destructive oxidation. Remember that temperature is a measure of the average ‘kinetic’ energy of a mass or volume. At lower temperatures there will still be some portion of the atoms moving at a high enough rate to react, a portion which increases with increasing temperature. While an organism will not suddenly burst into flame, oxidation is common across the range of temperatures necessary for life. What occurs within an organism is a kind of slow combustion. An organism’s metabolic processes result from specific and effective structures within it. They are very efficient at utilizing the energy they create and regulate. Oxidation which results in the break down of cells and tissues occurs outside of these metabolic processes. The can compromise the cell and organism’s capacity to metabolize and regulate the many substances and activities they require. If the organism is unable to make ‘repairs’ in a timely manner, the organism, at some point, will fail catastrophically in its death. The ‘slow combustion’ which is characteristic of an organisms metabolic processes, is far more efficient than any mechanical ‘heat’ engine we have or ever could build. The oxidation of fuel necessary for life adds a variable amount of heat to the body of the organism which we must dissipate into our surrounding environment to maintain ideal operating conditions. The ‘damage’ done in the process to our cells and tissues is a kind of unavoidable ‘collateral damage’, which begins to accelerate after an organism’s maturation, as our body’s ability to repair the damage declines. Although the conditions and various thresholds vary, this is true for all organisms, animal, plant and fungal.
No one individual, generation or species, represents an ultimate outcome of this process…no individual the supreme achievement of a species. Species will continue to evolve as long as the energies which drive it are available and conditions are supportive…or pass into extinction. Extinction is not the same as failure. As does each individual, each species plays a role in its allotted time, a period subject to the combined effect of all conditions. All species, all individuals, are a part of this unending process. England assigns to this process the name ‘dissipative adaptation’. It occurs in all matter, in degrees tied to that organism’s/structure’s complexity. It is not a linear process. It is exponential with countless supportive steps forming feedback loops in highly complex networks. Structures and functions are thus complexly linked contributing to an individual’s adaptability and stability across a limited range of conditions. Life, all of it, follows the same patterns which are found in inert, ‘non-living’ matter, however you decide to define it. The difference is the level of organization, the extremely particular structure of matter’s constituent ‘building blocks’ and their physical and chemical properties. Because a person does not see this pattern, because we may lack the interest or technical understanding to do so, does not make it impossible. The assigning of value and the anticipation of what will follow has relevance only to us, not the process which continues to unfold and manifest.
If we are to understand the complexities of life we need to understand it as the multi-layered process with countless feedback loops that it is, some acting to accelerate a particular reaction, others to suppress it, in concert with many other such processes. Processes take place at every level from the molecular, to the cellular, to that of tissues and organs, individuals and, ultimately, at the scale of complex, multi-species communities. Our idea of the individual organism impedes our understanding. Multi-celled organisms are functional composites. Individuals function as members of a local population and in communities of many species. The idea of an individual organism is a human one which, with our particular bias, we have come to assign far too much value to. Individuals live in relationship to all that surrounds them. Many of these are intimate, direct and necessary. Without the interconnected layers and lives of other organisms each is lessened, weakened, and, will at some point result in catastrophic failure and death. In ignoring this, as we collectively go about our economic lives, we are playing an intricate organic game of ‘Jenga’ pulling successive species out from their intricately balanced and stable relationships within their respective larger communities…until they collapse. Because they have so far not collapsed, we cling to the belief that no matter what we do, the ‘tower’ will continue to stand. Each piece is itself a well tuned and dynamic piece of the puzzle. With organisms the rules that might seem to apply at our macro-scale, change when we look at the micro- and nano-scales where the laws of quantum physics play an essential role and our ideas of classical mechanics, which operate at our scale, give way.
Jeremy England, is not just a brilliant theoretician, he is also an ordained Rabbi who sees no conflict between his belief and his work. He takes significant space in his book to discuss this and, in doing so, has ‘offended’ more than a few of his reviewers and readers. I find this sad as he has much to offer the reader. Historians will no doubt record our time as one that was particularly polarized, one in which our population became more divided by multiple issues and differences of our own creation, a population unwilling to discuss matters of common interest, convinced as they were about the superiority of their own ideologies, turning them into intractable and irreconcilable differences, ready to abandon entire segments of society because they valued and thought differently on particular topics, topics often defined by those with a narrow agenda, who were relentless in their judgements of others as enemies and threats to their security and way of life. Those elements we all share in common, were cast aside or dismissed as destructive lies, untruths, or, at best, as inconsequential, as distractions and we all turned away from each other, hoping in vain for a more perfect, smaller, controllable world, populated only by others like ourselves. Today, enmeshed in this moment as we are, we need to begin healing and figuring out what it is that we share and reattributing the value inherent in each of us, inherent in every living thing and system, that lies at the center of our own health, happiness, security and existence, to all people and the organisms we share this planet with.
England seems to be a far too rare actor in this particular universe, one who stands by his faith and sees no conflict between it and the goals and purposes of science. Critics on both sides could takes lesson from him. I am neither a Christian nor a Jew, yet I see no reason to exclude him or his work and insights from the discussion. We need more informed actors like him! If you really can’t get passed religious views, there is still of much value here. Don’t deprive yourself by ignoring/refusing this volume. Permit him his biblical quotations as chapter epigraphs and, if you must, skip his introductory references and the final chapter, though I found them an interesting read to better understand where he is coming from.
From, Every Life is on Fire; Chapter 6:
“… it is quite easy to concoct any number of different accounts of observed data that are each too unlikely for our intuition to accept. Attacks on Darwinian ideas from the standpoint of intelligent design (ID) frequently make use of this technique by proposing a straw-man version of an explanation of evolution by natural selection that can then be proven to be freakishly improbable. The key thing to remember when we are in such an argument, is that the theoretical improbability of a badly conceived straw-man model cannot be taken as proof a good model will never be found. By resorting to the notion of a designer as the only explanation for the data, ID advocates are essentially positing that their current inability to think of such a model is objective proof no such model will ever be discovered. This line of reasoning is especially suspicious because one suspects that many advocates for ID may be overly eager to reach the conclusion that a designer is the only feasible explanation of the data. Of course, whenever we do not yet understand something we always have the option of throwing up our hands and declaring that intelligent contrivance is the only way things could be this way, but we also have the option of trying harder to understand, often with a successful result.
“Speaking personally I will say this: I am fully committed to declaring that the world and everything in it was created by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob just like the Bible says, but to give up on trying to understand the inner workings of what he created in order to be able to claim evidence for his involvement seems backward to me. The biblical way of talking about the world is a covenant to which one chooses to be a party and the point is not to test whether God arranged all that is (as one would test a falsifiable hypothesis), but rather to assume that he did so and then try to see what additional shades of meaning can be gleaned from the human experience by employing language and using it to talk about the world.”
This is not something an ideologue would put in his book. He is being honest here. By doing so he is demonstrating a degree of respect for those others who may not think like he does. He is giving the reader a more honest opportunity to understand his point of view and, by doing so, he is sharing how important all of this is to him. He is also challenging others to do likewise, to examine their own beliefs before they reactively reject those of others. We should all be so courageous and respectful of others.