John P. Marcus, biochemistry
First published in
In Six Days Science and origins testimony #18
Edited by John F. Ashton
Dr. Marcus is research officer at the Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Plant Pathology, University of Queensland, Australia. He holds a B.A. in chemistry from Dordt College, an M.S. in biological chemistry and a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan. Dr. Marcus’s current research deals with novel antifungal proteins, their corresponding genes, and their application in genetic engineering of crop plants for disease resistance.
My belief in a literal six-day creation of the universe is based primarily on the teaching of the Bible and my understanding that this is God’s Word and is true. This faith, however, does not close my eyes to scientific evidence; rather, it opens my eyes so that I can make sense out of all the data. Two things that confirm my belief in creation are the clear evidence of design in nature, and the vanishingly small probabilities of life coming about by chance.
Evidence of design
The clear evidence of deliberate design in living organisms strongly confirms our faith in God’s Word. Psalm 104:24 states “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” God’s creation clearly reflects the infinite wisdom which He used to design and create it. The orderliness of living things and their mind-boggling complexity are surely unmistakable indications that this creation did not come about by random and disorderly chance processes. There are many ways to illustrate that a simple examination of an object will reveal the presence or absence of design. One can easily appreciate that certain items are extremely unlikely to come about by chance operations acting over time.
When archaeologists come across a smooth, cylindrical clay structure with walls consistently about the same thickness, a flat bottom that allows the structure to stand upright, and an opening in the top, it is a sure sign to them that some type of intelligent civilization was responsible for producing that clay pot. It is such a simple deduction to make—it is obvious that an ordered structure such as a clay pot could not have come about by chance. One can see that even the smallest amount of order exhibited in a simple clay pot is almost completely beyond the reach of random processes. That is why archaeologists know that a clay pot is a clear signature of civilization; orderliness is evidence of design.
Step back now and consider: how is this different from the formation of life from nonliving chemicals? To be sure, there is a difference; the generation of a living organism from simple nonliving chemicals is infinitely less likely to occur. Living organisms are so much more complex than is a clay pot that an adequate comparison cannot even be made. What person would want to believe that a clay pot arose by chance processes? Only a person bound and determined to exclude the possibility that civilization might have been responsible for making that pot. One can appreciate that evolutionists are also bound and determined to exclude God from the picture! It seems that they don’t even ask whether the evidence is consistent with creation. They simply insist that all explanations for the existence of the universe must come from within the universe and not from a God who stands above it. In the case of living organisms, as in the case of clay pots, the presence of orderliness gives the game away. Plainly, this orderliness could not have come about by chance—not even if chance were helped along by natural selection! It must have been arranged by an outside intelligence. Design needs a designer.
DNA1 evidence is often claimed to give support to the evolutionary theory; in reality, DNA illustrates God’s handiwork of design in a powerful way. Let us consider the complexity of this important component of living systems in order to see how absurd it is to believe that life could come about by chance. DNA is the primary information-carrying molecule of living organisms. The beauty and wonder of this molecule can hardly be overstated when one considers its properties. Being the blueprint of living cells, it stores all the information necessary for the cell to feed and protect itself, as well as propagate itself into more living cells, and to cooperate with other living cells that make up a complex organism.
If the DNA of one human cell were unraveled and held in a straight line, it would literally be almost one meter long and yet be so thin that it would be invisible to all but the most powerful microscopes. Consider that this string of DNA must be packaged into a space that is much smaller than the head of a pin2 and that this tiny string of human DNA contains enough information to fill almost 1,000 books, each containing 1,000 pages of text.3 Human engineers would have a most difficult time trying to fit one such book into that amount of space; one thousand books in that amount of space boggles the mind! For compactness and information-carrying ability, no human invention has even come close to matching the design of this remarkable molecule.
Amazing as the DNA molecule may be, there is much, much more to life than DNA alone; life is possible only if the DNA blueprint can be read and put into action by the complex machinery of living cells. But the complex machinery of the living cell requires DNA if it is going to exist in the first place, since DNA is the source of the code of instructions to put together the machinery. Without the cellular machinery, we would have no DNA since it is responsible for synthesizing DNA; without DNA we would have no cellular machinery. Since DNA and the machinery of the cell are codependent, the complete system must be present from the beginning or it will be meaningless bits and pieces.
In order to emphasize this codependence of the cellular machinery and DNA, let us examine some proteins (i.e., the machinery) that are directly involved in the conversion of the DNA blueprint into more proteins. Before we list the processes and proteins associated with converting DNA information into proteins, we should emphasize the following points: (1) each and every step in the overall process absolutely requires protein(s) that are unique and extremely complex; and (2) these unique and complex proteins can only be produced by the overall process in which they themselves are critically involved.
The making of RNA4 from a DNA template is a critical first step in the process of protein formation. For RNA to be synthesized, no fewer than five different protein chains5 must cooperate. Four of these proteins form the RNA polymerase complex and the last one tells the RNA polymerase where to start reading the DNA template. This enzyme complex must recognize where to start transcribing DNA into RNA; it must then move along the DNA strand, adding individual building blocks6 to the growing RNA chain; and lastly, it must know where to finish the transcription process.
It is not enough, however, simply to make one kind of RNA; three different types of RNA are required in the process of making proteins: messenger RNA (mRNA), ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA). Molecules of mRNA carry the information extracted from the DNA blueprint which encodes the protein to be synthesized; rRNA molecules make up a critical component of ribosomes (discussed below); and tRNA is responsible for carrying individual amino acids to the site where they will be added to a new protein. Before tRNA molecules can serve their proper function, however, they must be charged with a suitable amino acid in order that it can be added on to a growing protein chain at the appropriate time. At least 20 different aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase proteins are necessary to attach individual amino acids to the corresponding tRNA molecules (at least one for each type of amino acid).
Once mRNA, tRNA and rRNA molecules have been synthesized, it is then necessary to translate the information from the mRNA into a protein molecule. This process is carried out by a huge complex of proteins called the ribosome. These amazing protein synthesis “machines” contain multiple different proteins, together with various ribosomal RNA molecules all associated into two main subunits. In a simple bacterium such as E. coli, ribosomes are composed of some 50 different proteins7 and three different rRNAs!
The reactions mentioned above are only the core reactions in the process of synthesizing proteins; we have not even discussed the energy molecules that must be present for many of these reactions to proceed. Where is the energy going to come from to produce these energized molecules? How will the cell harvest energy unless it has some sort of mechanism for doing so? And, where is an energy-harvesting mechanism going to come from if not from pre-encoded information located in the cell?
A quick summation will reveal that the process of converting DNA information into proteins requires at least 75 different protein molecules. But each and every one of these 75 proteins must be synthesized in the first place by the process in which they themselves are involved. How could the process begin without the presence of all the necessary proteins? Could all 75 proteins have arisen by chance in just the right place at just the right time? Could it be that a strand of DNA with all the necessary information for making this exact same set of proteins just happened to be in the same place as all these proteins? And could it be that all the precursor molecules also happened to be around in their energized form so as to allow the proteins to utilize them properly?
Needless to say, without proteins life would not exist; it is as simple as that. The same is true of DNA and RNA. It should be clear that DNA, RNA and proteins must all be present if any of them are going to be present in a living organism. Life must have been created completely functional, or it would be a meaningless mess. To suggest otherwise is plain ignorance (or perhaps desperation). So, we truly have a “which came first?” problem on our hands. I believe the answer is, of course, that none of them came first! God came first; He designed and then created all of life with His spoken Word. DNA, RNA and protein came all at exactly the same time. It is extremely difficult to understand how anyone could believe that this astoundingly complicated DNA-blueprint translation system happened to come about by chance.
Meaningful molecules could not have arisen by chance
Now let us consider the probability of just one of the above 75 proteins coming about by chance. Consider a smaller than average protein of just 100 amino acid residues. If all the necessary left-handed amino acids were actually available, and if the interfering compounds, including right-handed amino acids, were somehow eliminated, and if our pool of amino acids were somehow able to join individual amino acids together into protein chains faster than the proteins normally fall apart, then the chances of this random 100 amino-acid protein having the correct sequence would be 1 in 20100 possible sequence combinations; 20 available amino acids raised to the power of the number of residues in the protein, i.e., 1 in 1.268 x 10130, or 1 in 12, 680, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000!!!
To put this number in some perspective, we must do some calculations. The reader may wish to skip ahead if the absurdity of chance giving birth to order is already appreciated. Let us take a more-than-generous scenario and see how desolate the theory of evolution becomes in view of the probabilities. The earth has a mass of around 5.97 x 1027 grams. If the entire mass of the earth were converted to amino acids, there would be in the order of 3.27 x 1049 amino acid molecules available.8 If all of these molecules were converted into 100-residue proteins,9 there would be 3.27 x 1047 proteins. Since there are 1.27 x 10130 possible combinations of amino acids in a 100-mer protein (see above), a division of the number of possibilities by the number of proteins present on our hypothetical globe shows that the chances of having just one correct sequence in that entire globe of 100-mer proteins is 1 in 3.88 x 1082!!!10
Even if each of these 3.27 x 1047 100-mer proteins could be rearranged many times over into different sequences during the timespan of the earth, the chances that one correct sequence would be produced are still not close to being realistic. Consider that there are “only” 1.45 x 1017 seconds in the mythical evolutionary age of the earth.11 It can be calculated that each and every 100-mer protein in that hypothetical earth would need to rearrange itself an average of 2.67 x 1065 times per second in order to try all possible combinations!12 The 100-amino-acid molecules could not even come close to assembling and disassembling that quickly. It is physically impossible.
An age of 4.6 billion years is an extremely long time, to be sure, but I suspect evolutionists wish they had picked a much larger number for the age of the earth and of the universe. It becomes obvious why evolutionists are never quick to point out the actual numbers associated with the probabilities of life coming about by chance. Remember, we have only examined a small protein of 100 amino acids. The very same calculations could be performed considering that we need at least the 75 proteins mentioned above in order to have a self-replicating system. For 75 proteins of the same size, the probability of obtaining the correct sequences for all of them comes to 207500 or 3.7779 x 109700!!! (That is correct, almost 9,700 zeros.)
Even if there were oceans full of amino acids just trying all kinds of different combinations, a correctly formed molecule in the Indian Ocean is not going to be able to cooperate very easily with another correctly formed molecule in the Atlantic Ocean. Nor would a correct sequence of amino acids be able to interact with another functional protein which happened to occur in the same physical location but a mere one year later. Truly, the thought of even one single functional protein arising by chance requires blind faith that will not or cannot grasp the numbers! Such thoughts are pure fantasy and have nothing to do with science.
It is no wonder that evolutionists have not come up with any specific scenarios that would explain how life arose from nonliving chemicals. The stories that are put forward are like fairy tales with some science thrown in to make them sound educated. One popular biochemistry textbook admits that there is no physical evidence for the transition of life from nonlife:
Our hypothetical nucleic acid synthesis system is therefore analogous to the scaffolding used in the construction of a building. After the building has been erected the scaffolding is removed, leaving no physical evidence that it was ever there. Most of the statements in this section must therefore be taken as educated guesses. Without having witnessed the event, it seems unlikely that we shall ever be certain of how life arose13 (emphasis in the original).
Far from being educated guesses, the many deceptive evolutionary scenarios seem to be nothing short of biased myths arising from the desperate desire to exclude God from lives and consciences.
How do evolutionists respond to the zero likelihood of life arising by chance? The biochemistry text quoted above asks and then answers the question: “How then did life arise? The answer, most probably, is that it was guided according to the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest as it applies at the molecular level.”14 The key fact to note here is that natural selection simply cannot act unless there are functional, self-replicating molecules present to act on. We have already seen that no such system could possibly appear by chance. Life in its totality must have been created in the beginning, just as God told us.
References and notes
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
About 1/100th of a millimeter in diameter.
One human cell contains 3 x 109 nucleotide bases (genetic letters) in just one of the two copies of DNA present in the cells.
RNA stands for ribonucleic acid, which is very similar to DNA but contains an additional oxygen molecule in the sugar backbone.
This figure is for “simple” prokaryotic systems; in more complex eukaryotic systems, not only are there more proteins involved in forming the RNA polymerase complex (i.e., 911 proteins), there are three different RNA polymerase complexes, specialized for the synthesis of various RNAs, including mRNA, rRNA and tRNA.
Nucleoside triphosphates: ATP, GTP, UTP and CTP. These building blocks are relatively complex chemicals and require energy, precursor chemicals, and proteins in order to be made available for RNA synthesis.
This is the figure for prokaryotes; for eukaryotes there are 73 different proteins involved and 4 rRNAs.
Take the mass of the earth 5.9728 x 1027g divided by 110g/mole, the average mass of amino acids, to determine that there would be approximately 5.4298 x 1025 moles of amino acids; multiply this number by Avogadro’s number (6.023 x 1023) to determine the number of amino acid molecules present.
That is, proteins containing 100 amino acids each. The size of our hypothetical protein is actually smaller than most proteins that occur in nature.
The number of possible sequences (1.268 x 10130) divided by the number of 100-mers available (3.27 x 1047) = 3.88 x 1082.
Sixty seconds per minute x 60 min/hr x 24 hr/day x 365.26 days/year x 4.6 billion years = 1.45 x 1017 seconds.
The 1.268 x 10130 sequence combinations to try divided by 3.27 x 1047 proteins that can be rearranged = 3.88 x 1082 rearrangements necessary for each 100-mer protein if all combinations are to be tried. 3.88 x 1082 rearrangements per protein divided by 1.45 x 1017 seconds = 2.67 x 1065 rearrangements per protein per second. This is an oversimplification, since it assumes that each 100-mer would actually never try the same sequence twice and that all the possibilities would necessarily be tried.
Donald Voet and Judith G. Voet, Biochemistry, John Wiley and Sons, New York, p. 23, 1995.
As more scientists come around to the creation side, more and more facts are coming out that destroy the myth of Evolution. Did you know man and Dinosaur walked the earth at the same time? What was the canopy made out of that protected the earth before the deluge??
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