Assumption Four, Part one: Complex Life Evolved from an Ancestral Single-Celled Organism*
During the last few decades, research in microbiology, biochemistry, and related fields has provided an incredible amount of new insight into the function of the cell. Scientists engaged in intelligent design (ID) studies have demonstrated that this new data is powerful evidence for creation by design—and largely inexplicable in a materialistic evolutionary model. In this and the next two blog articles, I’ll summarize the three ID evidences that I believe are the most significant: (1) the inability random mutations to fuel naturalistic evolution, (2) the “irreducible complexity” of a cell, and (3) information science—the inability of material properties to create information.
Mutations and Natural Section
The total absence of concrete evidence demonstrating how a single-celled organism could have emerged from non-living matter, that is, chemical evolution (assumption three), is only part of the problem facing the evolutionary model of origins. In order to launch biological evolution, these tiny life forms would then have to evolve into increasingly complex, multi-celled organisms, eventually resulting in all the multiple millions of plants and animals that inhabit the earth.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that by some extraordinary means a single-celled organism did accidentally self-assembled and emerged from non-living chemicals and was able to replicate itself. The question is would naturalistic evolution, via natural selection, seamlessly follow? Could mindless, accidental, random process ultimately account for all subsequent life on earth? Can evolution demonstrate scientifically that this occurred—or is it yet another philosophical statement about evolution? There are several scientific reasons why this scenario would have been impossible.
The driving force behind naturalistic evolution (in theory) is natural selection working through beneficial genetic mutations. Evolutionists assert that this is the mechanism by which one species evolves into an entirely different species, as well as into entirely different kinds of animals (e.g. amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into mammals, etc.). Simplified, the idea goes something like this.
DNA molecules carry hereditary information. When a random mutation in the DNA occurs, the new genetic material gives a particular creature survival advantages over others of the same species. This gives it a better chance to propagate and pass this new trait on to its offspring, providing them the same survival advantages. Eventually, after millions of years, thousands of other beneficial mutations, and countless generations, an entirely new, genetically distinct species of animal emerges. Thus, evolution teaches that accidental mutations plus long time spans plus natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) results in the continual emergence of new species of plants and animals—and the extinction of their predecessors.
What’s wrong with the naturalistic scenario? Many things, but two in particular. First, in practically every know case, mutations are not beneficial to an organism but harmful, usually killing it. A deformity lessens the survival potential of an animal—it does not strengthen it. And even if there are “good” mutations, the tremendous number of bad mutations would overwhelm the fewer number of good mutations. What one would expect to see, if mutations were passed along to future generations, is a tendency for a species to degenerate and eventually become extinct, not evolve upward to new or better species.
For example, for many decades scientists have artificially manipulated the genes of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) in order to produce a new species of fly. It never happened. All that resulted were birth defects: grossly deformed fruit flies with extra wings (which prevented flying), missing organs, sterility, and so on. What researchers didn’t get was a genetically new species of fly. After hundreds of generations, fruit flies were still just (weird) fruit flies. There has never been an observable or laboratory case of mutations creating a new species.
Not enough time
The second flaw in the mutation theory is that the time needed for a primitive animal to evolve into a higher animal through random mutational changes doesn’t exist. Before big bang cosmology demonstrated that the universe is finite, evolutionists could argue that an infinite universe provided all the time needed for random process to produce new kinds of animals from ancestral species. This argument is no longer tenable. Modern “super computers” have been able to simulate the trial-and-error process of natural selection through random processes. The outcome showed that the probability of evolution by chance is essentially zero—regardless of the time scale. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross provides the necessary figures to illustrate this:
The problems of primordial soups are big, but bigger yet is the infeasibility of generating, without supernatural input, an enormous increase in complexity . . . . Years ago, molecular biophysicist Harold Morowitz calculated . . .that if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10100,000,000,000. Most of us cannot even begin to picture a speck of chance so remote. With odds as remote as 1 in 10100,000,000,000 the time scale issue becomes completely irrelevant. What does it matter if the Earth has been around for ten seconds, ten thousand years, or ten billion years? The size of the universe is of no consequence either. If all the matter in the visible universe were converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe, then instead of the odds being 1 in 10100,000,000,000 they would be 1 in 1099,999,999,916 .
(The Creator and the Cosmos, 139-140).
The problem lies in the fact that a new trait doesn’t evolve in one generation. There must be a series of both related mutations and subsequent mutations that evolve simultaneously and are complementary to one another. For a mammal to evolve greater speed requires not only that it slowly, over countless generations, develop more powerful legs, but also that corresponding mutations in other areas of its body must also be taking place. To run faster, a more efficient heart, lungs, circulation system, and so on are needed. And these changes are minuscule in terms of what it would take for, say, a land mammal to evolve into a whale (as evolutionists claim).
Biologist Gary Parker explains that the chance of getting just three related mutations in a row is one in a billion trillion (1021). To illustrate the odds of this, he states that “the ocean isn’t big enough to hold enough bacteria to make it likely for you to find a bacterium with three simultaneous or sequential related mutations.” And if one tried to find four related mutations, now the “earth itself isn’t big enough to hold enough organism to make that very likely. . . . [and] four mutations doesn’t even make a start toward real evolution.” This is why, he concludes, “some evolutions have given up the classic idea of evolution, because it just plainly doesn’t work.” (What Is Creation Science? 63).
Not only have some evolutionists given up on the classic idea of evolution, increasing numbers have come to be "more sympathetic to design." A great article on this is in the newest edition of the Christian Research Journal, "Are There Non-Religious Skeptics of Darwinian Evolution and Proponents of Intelligent Design?" by Casey Luskin. The article highlights several well-known "non-religious scientists and scholars who doubt modern Darwinian theory" (Vol. 36/ no. 02). This is a great resource.
* This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, blog, or Facebook. I have also developed these arguments more fully in my book The Christian Combat Manual (AMG Publishers), and my sources are documented there.