Could Life Have Started Without God?

The origin of life is one of the huge questions that scientists must wrestle with.  If the course of nature is an unguided, random process, then life must have arisen spontaneously from non-life without the agency of an intelligence.

So what explanation does science give for the origin of life?  Our discussion must begin with the Miller-Urey Experiments.

In 1953, scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey filled a flask with methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water.  Miller ran an electric current through a closed system containing these gases.  The electric current represented lightning, which may have been quite common on earth’s surface long ago.

The results?  Several different amino acids were found in the products.  This is significant because a variety of amino acids are absolutely essential for life.  They are necessary for the formation of proteins, which along with DNA and RNA, are present in all life forms.

So, we could present the findings this way: “scientists have proven that the essential building blocks of life can be created through natural means.”

Not so fast.  As it turns out, Miller filled his flask with a very unrealistic mixture of gases.  Analysis of ancient rocks indicates that earth’s atmosphere never had anywhere near Miller’s levels of hydrogen or hydrogen-rich gases such as methane.  What if we used a realistic mixture of mostly carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases similar to earth’s actual early atmosphere?  This article in Discover Magazine puts it lightly: “you’d have a hard time finding amino acids in the resulting brew.”

Also, there may have initially been a lot of lightning on earth’s surface, but nothing like the constant supply of electricity that Miller subjected his concoction to.

So it is conceivable that some amino acids resulted from the composition and state of earth’s early atmosphere.  But how close are amino acids to life?  Actually, amino acids are rather unexciting and simple compared to life.  We have already discovered about 90 of them in existence, of which 19 are found on earth.  The rest are out there in space.  So… apparently the presence of amino acids alone doesn’t do much to get a life cycle started.

Here is an illustration that depicts some of these acids.

amino acids

The article linked above cites scientists admitting that “amino acids are old hat and are a million miles from life.”

That’s because amino acids are like tiny little building blocks that must be put together in complex and elegant ways to make the essential elements of life known as proteins.  They also can’t give us DNA or RNA, which are also absolutely essential for life.  We would need nucleic acids for that which are even harder to come by.

But let’s humor the supporters of abiogenesis (spontaneous life from non-life) for a minute.  Let’s say that despite incredible odds and by means mysterious to us, we could get all of the amino acids and nucleic acids that we needed.

Then we would have a pile of acids sitting around doing nothing.

That’s because amino acids don’t spontaneously bond to each other and build themselves into proteins.  This is what a protein looks life, conceptualized in three different ways for your convenience.

Protein

In order to build proteins out of amino acids, you need the environment present inside a cell, complete with some very specific information encoded in RNA, and ribosomes.  A ribosome is a “large and complex molecular machine” made of two subunits that look like this:

ribosome large subunit

Bur ribosomes themselves are built from proteins and RNA.  This creates a “chicken or the egg” scenario in which ribosomes are needed to create proteins but proteins are needed to build ribosomes.

Furthermore, the instructions necessary for the creation of proteins by ribosomes are in RNA.  But nucleic acids don’t spontaneously build into DNA and RNA.  And if they did, they would be doing so randomly, not in a way that encoded them with the complex and beautiful information necessary to direct the life processes of a cell.

So lets review.  It is conceivable that amino acids could have resulted from the conditions in our early atmosphere.  One way to present that statement is this: “we can get the essential building blocks of life from nature without God.”

But what about explaining the creation of enough amino acids and nucleic acids of various kinds, and then explaining their formation into proteins, and the formation of those proteins into ribosomes, and the very presence of the specific information present in DNA and RNA?  And how did all of these pieces build themselves into a cell with a cell wall, a cytoplasm, and at least one chromosome, among other things?  After all, the instructions in DNA teach a cell how to grow and reproduce as a closed-system, not how to build itself from a bunch of pieces that are laying around like a man picking himself up by his own bootstraps.

simple cell

Even when scientists take a simple, self-contained cell with all of these pieces already in it, and pop it, they cannot coax it to come alive again.  Though all of the pieces are there in forms full of the complexity and information that they cannot explain, they still cannot convince the pieces to spontaneously begin cooperating with each other in the form of a cell.  And remember that all life is built from cells.

When science claims to understand how the “essential building blocks of life” could have arisen without God, don’t be ignorant about the very limited scope and implications of that claim.

Additional sources:

http://people.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html

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Evidence For Intelligent Design: The Beautiful 10,000 RPM Motor Inside Our Bodies

British scientist William Sturgeon invented a direct current electric motor in 1832.  Since that time, such motors have fostered the development of countless amazing machines that aid us in our daily lives.

But a surprisingly similar motor has actually always existed.  Inside our bodies.  It wasn’t discovered until 1929.  We didn’t know much of anything about it until 1941.  And we are still learning about it today.

I’m talking about ATP synthase.  First a brief lesson on ATP and then we’ll investigate this amazing piece of nanotechnology in more detail.

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is a molecule used by ALL living cells to carry energy, from the smallest life forms up.  It is considered by scientists as the “energy currency” of life.  Our bodies use it constantly in all daily processes.  No ATP means no life.

In fact, rather stunningly, our bodies create almost there entire weight in ATP molecules every day!  This seems unbelievable until we consider that when the energy in ATP is used, it is simply converted down to ADP and waits to be upgraded into ATP again.  It remains astounding that out bodies are generating such vast amounts of ATP every day.

atp and adp

So how is so much ATP possibly created?  By a 10,000 RPM “biomechanical power generator found almost ubiquitously across life” (source here).  This video released by Discovery Institute provides a beautiful and informative animation of the motor at work.

ATP_synthase

A recent scientific article remarks that “the rotational mechanism of the ATP synthase demands ingeniously designed interfaces between rotor and stator subunits.”  It is amazing the language that you will here the scientific community using when describing the mind blowing examples of design in nature honestly.  I agree that the mechanism is “ingeniously designed” in the full meaning of that descriptive phrase.

Another article states that this is a “unique energy transmission mechanism… not found in other biological systems” and “although there are other similar man-made systems like hydroelectric generators, F0F1-ATP synthase operates on the nanometer scale and works with extremely high efficiency.”  The speed and accuracy of this mechanism is indeed unparalleled by man-made motors, and this intricate machine preceded man’s invention of the motor unbeknownst to him.

ATPase

So we actually know from experience that this kind of a design is likely to result from intelligent designer.  And yet when we find it in nature we refuse to admit that it has a designer?

Attempts to explain how the incredibly elegant and efficient motor found across all of life on earth was assembled by random chance are, predictably, quite contrived.  The few weak attempts currently proposed are discussed briefly but in substantial technical detail here.  Science honestly has no good explanation.

The truth of the matter is that an extremely high number of “ingeniously designed” motors of incredibly small size are responsible for creating the ATP necessary to sustain the life we see around us, and the contrived explanations for its unguided evolution require processes that, on top of being embarrassingly unsatisfactory, would also require the use of large amounts of… guess what?  ATP!

It is analogous to saying that the very first electric power generator was produced by machines plugged into high amounts of electricity.

God has set in motion processes with so many interconnected, dependent, fine-tuned and intricately designed pieces that suggesting that they spontaneously built themselves by sheer chance is at least unsatisfactory if not ridiculous.

Additional sources:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/plant-terms/adenosine-triphosphate-atp-info.htm

Sarfati, Jonathan D. The Greatest Hoax on Earth?: Refuting Dawkins on Evolution. Atlanta, Ga.: Creation Book, 2010. Print.

Morpho Butterflies: Amazing Hidden Technology in Nature

morpho butterfly

Maybe you’ve seen an image of one of these beautiful butterflies before.  They are called Morpho butterflies.  There are several species with wingspans ranging from 3 to 8 inches.

Their beautifully colored wings have a metallic sheen that varies noticeably in color depending on the angle at which you view them.

morpho butterfly wing

Antonio Donato Nobre, who has spent many years studying the Amazon Rainforest and who gave a talk that inspired me to research Morphos, describes the beauty of seeing one of these insects in the wild:

“When we see the morpho butterfly in the forest, we feel like someone’s left open the door to heaven and this creature has escaped from there.”

What if I told you that these beautiful colors were not due to pigment?  The blue morpho doesn’t actually have blue pigment at all!  To discover what makes them blue, we will have to take a closer look.

morpho butterfly scales

Viewing a few of its scales reveals that they are largely translucent, but still doesn’t reveal the stunning technology present on this butterfly’s wings.

Take a look at this image, at 10,000 times magnification, of a morpho scale.  The ridges you see are something like the strait rows of a forrest of photonic crystals.

morpho butterfly scale magnified 10000X

With 15,000 times magnification we can see the actual shapes of these crystals in a cross- section.  These christmas tree shaped structures are not made of a blue material or colored with a blue pigment.  They operate on a principle of physics known as interference, or wave propagation.


morpho butterfly 15000X magnification
According to Nobre, these crystals are so sophisticated that at the time of their discovery, man had not developed a comparable technology.  This type of structure has since been used to create some very beautiful color display monitors.

Man often borrows his inspiration, or even his actual technology from nature.  But imagine the kind of creativity present in a Mind that could conceive of these things out of nothing.

morpho butterfly technology

Consider finally the difficulty of explaining this kind of biological technology from a macroevolutionary standpoint.  The evolution of a structure would require that it change slowly from some less sophisticated or at least different structure into the new one over thousands or millions of years.  This evolution would include countless transitionary phases that lacked the sophisticated functionality of the final product.

So what feasible transitionary stage is there between using pigment and using a perfectly organized and elegantly designed microscopic forrest of highly sophisticated crystals which are in fact not colorful themselves but create stunning colors through light wave interference?

Only in their fully developed form would these crystals create the desired effect.  Evolution would have had no incentive to labor through countless years of worthless transitionary structures to get there.

God on the other hand, had a beautiful incentive.  To show us the grandeur He was capable of putting into His creation.  To give us, as this creature has given Nobre and his associates, a glimpse into the kinds of beauty we may one day see in heaven.