EVIDENCE 2: THE ORIGIN OF BIOLOGICAL LIFE
The cumulative case for God’s existence becomes even more convincing when we ponder the mystery of the origin of biological life. Not only is the existence of the physical universe improbable to the point of impossibility without a supernatural Creator, but so too is the existence of biological life within our universe. To maintain a cohesive worldview, the intelligent atheist must arrive at an explanation of how non-living matter (rocks, mud and water) eventually turned into astrophysicists and beatbox rappers!
Abiogenesis is the term used to describe the supposed development of biological life from non-living matter. But science is a long, LONG way from demonstrating how such a process could have occurred via natural processes. In fact, all theories to date lie in the realm of fanciful fairy tales and desperate wishful thinking rather than pure science. The problems facing the formulation of a coherent theory of abiogenesis are huge and becoming increasingly insurmountable as scientists understand progressively more about the extraordinary complexity of even the simplest forms of single-celled biological life.
In the 19th century it was once believed that lightning strikes impacting a primordial soup of chemicals could have produced the first living cells. (It was also believed that flies, rats and mice were spontaneously generated by piles of rotting food waste!). But modern science can no longer cling to such fanciful nonsense, due to advances in our understanding of biology. These include:
The irreducible complexity of the physical structures of the single cell. For a single cell to be alive and viable (able to reproduce), all the essential physical structures within the cell need to come into existence simultaneously. We now understand that a single cell is not the simple blob of protoplasm that it was once thought to be, but an extremely complex factory comprised of about 30 different structural elements.
Most of these structures are essential and indispensable to the viability of the cell and would all need to have been created simultaneously in order for the cell to be a living entity that is then able to reproduce. No amount of lightning strikes into a supposed primordial soup could have created such a complex biological structure.
Biological molecular machines. Drilling down into the microbiological world even further, the single cell is also swarming with biological machines – microscopic biological ‘robots’ comprised of proteins that scurry around the cell carrying out essential biological and chemical functions. Some convert energy stores into usable nutrients. Some carry nutrients throughout the cell. Some transport waste back to the cell wall. Some open up chemical holes in the cell wall to allow waste to be evacuated. Some repair other machines. Some build new machines. Some build the components of new cells. The living cell is literally swarming with teams of specialised molecular machines! And ALL of these molecular machines would need to have come into existence simultaneously, each with its own complex set of moving parts, in order for the first living cell to be created.
Here is a computer enhanced image of molecular machines scurrying along super-highways within the cell:
Protein formation. Zooming down even further, all of these microscopic biological machines as well as the gross physical structures of the cell itself are comprised of proteins, the building blocks of life. Dr John Ashton points out that a single cell has 2.4 million protein molecules made up of approximately 4,000 different types of proteins. (John F. Ashton. “Evolution Impossible”, Green Forest, AR, Masterbooks, 2013, p.40). Furthermore, he points out that ongoing attempts to create even a single protein in laboratories with the latest technologies, have completely failed. (Opp cit, pp.40f). Of course, the fall-back position of evolutionists is that, given enough time, random processes must eventually result in the right chemical combinations to bring about life.
A complex, folded protein:
However, this line of reasoning vastly underestimates the statistical improbability of even a single protein evolving by chance. In 1962, Dr Isaac Asimov (a professed atheist) calculated the probability of a simple insulin-like protein evolving by random chemical combinations. (Isaac Asimov, “The Genetic Code”, New York, The New American Library, 1962, p.92). He calculated that there are 8 x 1027 (i.e. 8 x 10 to the power of 27, or 8 followed by 27 zeros) different possible combinations of the building blocks of amino acids that comprise a simple protein. In other words, there are 8 x 1027 possible combinations for these building blocks being put together, but only ONE of those combinations would create a viable protein. Even if we assume that a new combination has formed every minute that the universe has existed, after 14 billion years (the current evolutionist estimate of the age of the universe) only 4 x 1017 possible combinations would have formed. The universe would have to be 10 BILLION TIMES OLDER than it supposedly is, in order to produce a single, simple protein!
Furthermore, Dr Asimov calculated the probability of a fully functioning cell with its millions of interdependent parts forming by itself to be 1 in 1040,000. That is the number 1, followed by 40,000 zeros! There is not even a name for that impossibly large number!
Subsequent probability estimates have been even less favourable. Biophysicist Dr Harold Morowitz more recently estimated that the chance creation of a living cell from natural processes might be 1 in 10 to the power of 10 BILLION.
A single protein could NEVER have come into existence by itself by natural processes, let alone a whole, fully functioning living cell!
DNA. Then there is the even more complex molecular encoding that lies at the heart of every living cell – DNA. This is an incredibly complex set of genetic instructions that tells every living cell how to function. In human cells, our DNA is a code comprising of 3.2 billion pieces of specific instructions; millions of times more complex than any computer code that humans have ever developed. Science can offer no viable explanation for the origin of such a complex information system arising from natural processes.
ACKNOWLEDGING A CREATOR
The growing concept of the irreducibly complex, factory-like nature of the single cell led to one of the most famous scientific conversions of the last century. Dr Dean Kenyon, Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University, was once a convinced evolutionist who co-authored the evolutionary biology textbook, Biochemical Predestination. In the late 1970s, however, he became increasingly aware of a variety of evidence contradicting evolution, including the inexplicable irreducible complexity of the single cell. Dr Kenyon became convinced that the theory of evolution could not explain how such an irreducibly complex system could have evolved, and he became an outspoken advocate of intelligent design and creationism. He began teaching creationism in his biology courses at university, and he became a strong proponent of creationism in various public debates and court cases.
Dr Kenyon published many subsequent academic papers and books, repudiating his previously held position and advocating strong evidence for intelligent design. He wrote:
“I no longer believe that life arose spontaneously from non-living matter.” (Kenyon, D., Foreword to What is Creation Science? by Henry Morris, San Diego, Creation-Life Publishers, pp. i-iii, 1982).
In an interview in the 2010 Illustra Media video, “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”, he comments on the profound impact that the irreducible complexity of the single cell had upon him, stating:
“This is absolutely mind boggling to perceive at this scale of size, with such finely tuned apparatus. … We see the details of an immensely complex molecular realm of genetic information processing and it is exactly this new realm of molecular genetics where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the earth. Nothing short of an intelligence could have created this intricate cellular apparatus.” (“Unlocking the Mystery of Life”, Illustra Media, 2010).
THE CUMULATIVE CASE FOR GOD MOUNTS
The impossibility of abiogenesis (biological life arising from non-living matter) presents a huge problem for atheism and, when considered in conjunction with the problem of the origin of the universe in the first place (see my previous post), creates an already impressive case for a supernatural Creator. But wait – there is more to come. Stay tuned!
For more information, see my book, “7 Reasons to Believe”.
 Kenyon, D., Foreword to What is Creation Science? by Henry Morris, San Diego, Creation-Life Publishers, pp. i-iii, 1982