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How the Smallest Cells Give Big Evidence for a Creator

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Mark Corbett, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

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    I’m excited about an article that came out last year in Science Magazine. The article is about a team of really smart scientists who have produced a new type of bacteria. The special thing about this bacteria is how tiny it is. It has close to the smallest possible number of base pairs (bp) in its DNA molecules.

    Why would I be excited about something so weird and at first glance so irrelevant to our lives?

    I like to learn about how science provides evidence which points to God.

    The theory of evolution was only designed to explain small, gradual changes in life. After the discovery of DNA and how it works, modern evolutionary theory attempted to explain all of life by proposing that random mutations in DNA occasionally produced lucky improvements which could be passed on to future generations. But for evolution to work at all, you have to have a biological system capable of storing and passing on biological information to future generations. The ONLY system which can do this is the cell.

    As a result, the more complex cells are, the harder it is for scientists to explain how unguided evolution could have produced the first one. If you imagine that the smallest cells are very simple (after all, they are very tiny), you might not have a hard time imagining such a thing popping into existence by luck. In fact, during Darwin’s lifetime many scientists thought that the tiniest forms of life were exceedingly simple. Based on this assumption, the theory of spontaneous generation, widely held for centuries, was still being debated and tested when Darwin wrote about evolution. The theory of spontaneous generation postulated that simple life forms like mold spontaneously come into existence from non-living matter. Of course this theory, and the idea that tiny life forms are simple, proved to be wildly wrong. Even the very simplest cell is amazingly complex.

    [​IMG]

    How the Science Article Helps

    Over the last few decades, scientific knowledge about cells has increased dramatically. This is due in part to greatly improved methods for identifying the sequence of base pairs in DNA molecules. Why is that important? Well, it turns out that the base pairs in DNA molecules work almost exactly like binary code on your computer hard drive. The base pairs form a code language which controls a lot of what goes on in each cell. You can’t just put a random collection of 1s and 0s into a computer operating system and expect it to work. Neither could a random sequence of base pairs produce a functioning cell. The order of the pairs is essential.

    Computer code is made by intelligent minds. If there was not an Intelligent Designer providing information for the first cell, where did the needed information come from? The usual answer from evolution is that the information in DNA came from a combination of random changes and natural selection operating over time. It is much easier to imagine random changes producing a short functional code than a long one. The shortest code in an actual free living cell from nature belongs to a little guy named mycoplasma genatilium. So how long is the DNA code of little mycoplasma genatilium?

    Answer: 1,079,000 bp (base pairs)

    That’s huge. It is extremely difficult (to put it mildly) for evolutionists to explain how such a long code could be randomly produced. Many scientists have speculated that perhaps cells could have existed in the past with shorter, simpler DNA codes. While speculating is fun, doing the hard work to find a minimal genome size is something else. Thankfully, a big team of hardworking scientists have worked for quite a few years to do more than speculate. They have actually created a cell with a smaller genome. And not just any smaller genome. There are multiple lines of evidence which indicate that they have created a cell which has approximately the smallest genome possible which can support a free living, reproducing cell. So, how big is this “smallest possible” genome?

    Answer: 531, 000 bp

    An Analogy: Writing a Book with Detailed Instructions for a Robot to Build a Car

    To get a feel for how amazing 531,000 bp of information is, let’s imagine a book written with detailed instructions telling a robot how to build a car.

    In order to compare the instructions for our imaginary robot to the instructions stored in the DNA of the simplest cell, we need to answer a question: How many pages of instructions would be equivalent to the amount of information stored in the cell with a minimal genome?

    The DNA “alphabet” has only four chemical letters, represented by the letters A,G,T, and C. Because English uses 26 letters and there are only four chemical letters, comparing the information stored by a certain number of letters is a bit tricky. If you do the math, it turns out that the equivalent amount of information stored in 531,000 bp of DNA would take 226,000 English letters That means that the super tiny, simplest possible cell contains the equivalent of about 75 pages of instructions written in English.

    At first glance, 75 pages of instructions might not sound too difficult to produce. But, here’s the catch. According to evolutionary theory, these instructions cannot be produced by any intelligent being. And since there is no known organism simpler than this tiny cell which could have reproduced itself, all the instructions have to appear at once. The only mechanism for doing this is arranging the letters by chance. Could that work?

    Let’s say that one of the many lines of instruction for your imaginary robot building a car was:

    Mount each tire on its lug bolts, then place the lug nut on each lug bolt and tighten each nut.

    That sentence contains 75 letters, not including spaces. If 75 letters were just randomly typed, what would be the probability of producing that exact sentence?

    26^75 ≈ 1.3 x 10^106

    The chances of producing that one line of instruction by typing 75 random letters is 1 in 1.3x10^106. That’s slightly more than 1 followed by 106 zeros. This is far more than the number of atoms in the entire earth, which is estimated to be 1 x 10^50.

    But hold on! We don’t need that exact sentence. Any sentence with the same meaning could work. Here are some examples:

    Put each tire on the lug bolts, then put the lug nut on each lug bolt and tighten each lug nut.

    Mount the four tires on the lug bolts, then put the lug nut on each lug bolt and tighten each lug nut.

    Perhaps we could come up with several thousand sentences that your robot could use successfully. In the same way, there is more than one sequence of DNA letters which can produce a protein capable of performing a given function. Imagine there were as many as a million different sentences your robot could use as instructions to place the tires on the car. Would that help? Sure, but not enough. The chances of producing any one of those one million sentences by randomly typing the characters would still be something like 1 in 1.3x10^100.

    Let me put this in plain English. It is absolutely impossible to produce even one relatively simple line of instruction by randomly typing letters. Impossible. Much more complex calculations and analysis taking into account a lot of detail about chemistry have shown that it is also practically impossible to produce a string of DNA letters which would produce a functionally useful protein by randomly arranging those DNA letters.

    Here’s the kicker. The SIMPLEST reproducing cell does not need just one line of instructions. It needs the equivalent of roughly 75 pages of line by line instructions. And some of those “lines” will be longer than 75 characters. This is because the average protein length in bacteria is about 267 amino acids! It’s even longer in more complex forms of life.

    What about the Cells in Your Body?

    Up to now, we have been talking about the very simplest cells. How many base pairs does your DNA have? Over 3 billion. Those three billion chemical letters of code are found in every one of the approximately 37 trillion cells in your body! Based on our analogy, that means each cell in your body contains roughly the equivalent of 423,000 pages of information.

    At some point it’s time to drop down on our knees and worship our amazing God who created all this. God said to Job,

    26 "Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south?

    27 Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?

    (Job 39:26-27 NIV)

    Perhaps if Job had been a 21st century molecular biologist, God would have added,

    Did you write the DNA code for the first living cell?

    Did you create its amazing molecular machines?

    Can you design 37 trillion cells into a body that can grow and think and see and sing and dance and believe and kneel and . . . worship?


    How great is our God!



    This post is a lightly modified version of a post on my blog.
     
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  2. Gold Dragon

    Gold Dragon Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you that the cell, life and DNA are amazing testaments to our Creator. I also agree with you that for evolution to occur, life had to already exist. Evolution is about the origin of species or how species develops.

    Abiogenesis is the field describing how life may have begun from non life. It is separate from evolution and the models of abiogenesis we have are very poor and speculative. In contrast, the models of evolution of species are well developed, well supported by both DNA and fossil evidence.

    Regardless of how well or poorly supported a scientific model is, it cannot tell us whether or not a divine power was behind that process. Even when those processes appear completely random to us, we cannot prove or disprove that God was behind that process. It is by faith that we believe that God is the creator of all things, including all things that are random.
     
  3. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

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    I agree that we cannot prove or disprove that an intelligent agent was involved in a process which appears to be random. However, when we see something which is complex, and achieves a purpose, we can often detect design with no difficulty. My OP simply seeks to show how science confirms our intuition that living things are too complex to be produced without an intelligent designer.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

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  5. Gold Dragon

    Gold Dragon Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your post with the caveat that the complexity of living things is strongly suggestive of a creator but could still have happened without one. It is by faith in scripture that I believe there was an intelligent designer but there is also plenty of amazing evidence in nature that strongly supports that faith, some of which is found in evolution. It shows us a creator who designed an amazing process for living things to adapt, survive and thrive in dynamically changing environments.

    Saying that things are too complex to happen without a creator sounds like a proof which as you said earlier, we cannot do.
     
  6. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

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    We agree on the most important point: God created everything.

    We also agree on a secondary point, which is still important, namely that "there is also plenty of amazing evidence in nature that strongly supports that faith".

    One point we disagree on, that I would be willing to explore a little, is your statement that living things "could still have happened without one". How could nature, without God's intervention, come up with the correct sequence of amino acids to form even one of the many average length (267 amino acid units) functional proteins found in even the simplest bacteria? (This problem is explained in the OP.)
     
  7. AwesomeMachine

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    It's truly not whether God created the world. It's that man is drawn to beauty. Without beauty life is pointless. We believe God created the world, not because anyone can prove one way or the other, but because it's beautiful. Those who truly hate beauty reject their own origin as an unique creation of God, priceless beyond measure; for the ugliness of being a random collection--an accident.

    Let me illustrate: something intentionally brought into being by an all-powerful, all-loving God--in His Own image--is valuable simply for that reason! The creation theory of origin bestows intrinsic value and beauty upon human life. The theory of accidental origin gives each person value only in what they accomplish or produce that is of value in the temporal world.

    It also reduces the ideal standard of moral conduct to the minimum legal requirement, leaving man with no guide to truth; making government ultimate authority over right and wrong. The ugly paint the world to match themselves. Those who reject truth shall perish, forever. Those who embrace truth shall never die.

    What was truth is truth now, and it always will be truth. There is one truth. Everything else is wrong!
     
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