You’ve heard the phrase, “The Devil is in the details.” In the following paragraphs, we’re going to look at details, remarkable details, details inside the cell. And instead of finding the devil in them, we’re going to find impressive evidence for God. In fact, the more details science uncovers, the more evidence we find that points toward God. A disclaimer before we begin: I’m not a scientist. I’m not a mathematician. I don’t even play one on TV. So you need to understand that I’m not an expert, but I’m going to point us to experts. If you’d like details and want to enter a world entirely composed of details, I’ll recommend some excellent books.
The reigning theory of origins (at least in secular textbooks) is Darwinian Evolution, which posits that all living organisms share a common ancestor – all life descended from a single cell. But what does it take to get the first cell? It’s one thing to assert that all life descended from a prototypical cell; it’s another thing altogether to offer an account for how that cell came to be!
In Darwin’s day, before powerful microscopes, it was believed that the cell was basically a sort of globule filled with a protoplasm (think blob of jelly). So getting the first cell by chance wasn’t thought to be too difficult. You just needed the right conditions and enough time.
As it turns out, however, the cell is exceedingly complex – and not just complex, but there’s a shocking surprise inside: it’s a miniature city. We’re not going to dedicate any time to the various features within the cell (we might call them highly complex factories and well-ordered workers within the city) because we don’t have time and I don’t fully understand them. We’re only going to talk about the building blocks of the cell: proteins. Proteins are amazing structures that are giving evolutionists fits and God glory.
Here’s how an explanation of proteins by Dr. Stephen Meyer (author of two outstanding, albeit complex, books on this subject - Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt):
Proteins build cellular machines and structures, they carry and deliver cellular materials, and they catalyze chemical reactions that the cell needs to stay alive. Proteins also process genetic information. To accomplish this critical work, a typical cell uses thousands of different kinds of proteins. And each protein has a distinctive shape related to its function, just as the different tools in a carpenter's toolbox have different shapes related to their functions. (Signature, 92).
So, each protein is a specific tool in the cell. Each tool performs a specific function for the wellbeing and survival of the cell. Proteins are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They can function as antibodies, enzymes, message carriers, structural support, and transport/storage. They are truly marvelous mechanisms. And to get life you need proteins. But proteins are made of smaller units called amino acids. These amino acids link together through something called a “peptide bond” to form a chain of amino acids. This chain of specifically arranged amino acids forms proteins.
So, think of a chain of amino acids like those colorful childhood linking blocks. Each block is an amino acid. Each block is linked by that little knob on the end, which is a peptide bond. A shortish protein contains 100 to 150 amino acids, but they can reach to the hundreds and thousands. The cell contains numerous proteins. So, we need to get from amino acids to proteins to the first living cell. It’s cheating to assume the first cell!
For now, we’re only going to shoot for the protein (not even a cell; just the protein). In other words, we’re going to make it easier on evolutionists! What would it take to form the first protein (without God)? Well, how does the cell currently build proteins? A chain of amino acids (called a “polypeptide chain” because there are many (poly) peptides (linking units) making the amino acids into a chain) is folded into various ways to form a protein. So, amino acids are linked by peptide bonds ordered just right to get just the right protein to do just the right job.
So, how does the cell know how to fold proteins? DNA. As you may recall from high school biology class, DNA forms a beautiful double helix structure with the four nucleobases guanine-cytosine and adenine-thymine. This is where DNA stores the information (the genetic code or blueprint) for building proteins. Here’s how it works: a protein complex separates the double helix of the DNA to prepare it to be copied. This process of copying is called “transcription.” A protein complex called a polymerase makes a copy (or a transcript) of the information code / the instruction manual for assembling the specific protein and then sends the transcript/copy on its way as a Messenger RNA transcript.
This mRNA travels through a molecular core complex that controls the flow of information in and out of the cell’s nucleus (kind of like an eagle-eyed gatekeeper). It arrives at the ribosome (a chemical factory). This is where a protein is synthesized. During this protein synthesis, called “translation,” mRNA builds an amino acid chain (specifically ordered) in accord with the transcript that was copied from the DNA. After this, the protein is folded into a specific shape to perform its specific function.
If you lost the thread, here’s the gist: Darwinists have a chicken and egg problem. It takes protein compounds to produce proteins!
Biochemist David Goodsell explains:
The key molecular process that makes modern life possible is protein synthesis, since proteins are used in nearly every aspect of living. The synthesis of proteins requires a tightly integrated sequence of reactions, most of which are themselves performed by proteins (Signature, 133).
In other words, it takes proteins to build proteins (a real chicken and egg problem)!
Can chance plus time overcome the problem? Remember, to get to a functional protein, the amino acids have to be arranged in a specific way. And then the polypeptide chain (chain of amino acids) has to be folded in a certain way. So we’re moving from two dimensions (specified order) to three (specified folding)!
To get an idea of what we’re talking about, imagine blindly taking one letter at a time from a scrabble bag, placing them sequentially on the table and hoping to form coherent, information-bearing sentences. What are the chances we could produce something like this – In the beginning was the Word… – from our blind draw? Not too great, but as it turns out, the odds are actually greater for producing this sentence by a blind draw than they are for producing a functional protein! And we didn’t even have to fold our sentence into a three dimensional structure as with proteins!
I’ll spare you all details, but a very smart mathematician
figured out the chances of getting a functional protein by chance: 1074
. That’s 10 with 74 zeros behind it. That’s the probability of getting a functional protein. In other words, only one out of 1074
polypeptide chains produces a functional protein. One out of a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion polypeptide chains produces a functional protein (it would take you over 31,000 years just to count to 1 trillion!). And that doesn’t take into account the peptide bonds that have to form between the amino acids. I’ll spare you the details, but when you factor in the peptide bonds, the probability of getting the amino acids assembled so as to form a functional protein is: 10164
Scientists estimate there are only 1080 elementary particles in the universe, and temporarily granting evolutionary ages, scientists (endorsing naturalism’s billions of years) estimate there have only been 1016 seconds since the Big Bang and only 10139 events since the beginning of the universe. In other words, we haven’t even had enough time for chance to produce one functional protein! And you need 250-400 proteins to build a minimally complex, simple-celled organism.
You can see why proteins are giving evolutionists fits and God glory. Such amazing specified complexity, such specifically ordered information demands an intelligent source and there’s only one candidate with the credentials to pull it off, the very candidate evolutionists don’t want to allow in. Evolutionists are clinging to hope that they may yet find some way or some mechanism to accomplish the task without God, a task that’s looking more and more like a desperate search for Big Foot or the Fountain of Youth.
Despite what evolutionists may wish, specified information on this level requires a super-intelligence far above our own. The more we learn and the deeper we travel into the cell and its building blocks, the more the evidence points to God. Simply put: God is in the details.