Dr. Jerry R. Bergman was instructor of science at Northwest State College, Archbold, Ohio. He holds a B.S. in psychology from Wayne State University, an M.S. in psychology from Wayne State University, a Ph.D. in evaluation and research from Wayne State University, an M.A. in sociology from Bowling Green State University, and a second Ph.D. in human biology from Columbia Pacific University. At Northwest State College Dr. Bergman has served as chairman of the academic affairs committee and as faculty advisor for degree programs. He has been a consultant for more than 20 science text books.
This is what Dr. Bergman has to say about the origin of life:
The requirements for Life
The thesis of this chapter is that the origin of life could not have occurred by a gradual process but must have been instantaneous. The reason this must be true is simple. Every machine must have a certain minimum number of parts for it to function, and if one part below this minimum is removed, the machine will cease to function. The example Michael Behe uses is a common spring mousetrap which requires ten parts to function. The trap will no longer function if just one part is removed. No one has been able to show this concept to be erroneous – only that under certain conditions a certain machine can operate with one fewer part.
Many of these „one fewer part“ examples, though, are misleading. Ruse (1993, p. 28) notes that a mousetrap can be fastened to the floor, thereby eliminating the base, he claims. In fact, it only uses a different base (the floor); a base is still necessary. Further, the mousetrap parts are useless without the intelligence to assemble them into a functioning unit. A trap is also useless without the bait, the knowledge and ability necessary to use the trap, and the existence of a mouse with enough intelligence to seek the bait but lacking in the experience and intelligence to avoid the trap. A simple mousetrap system is much more complex than it first appears.
The irreducible complexity argument can be extended to the creation process which produced life. The concept argues that both an organism and its parts, including organs, organelles, cells or even its protein, cannot function below a certain minimum number of parts. In biological organisms the smallest unit of life is the cell, and the number of parts it contains at the subatomic level is usually much larger than a trillion (1012). As Hickman notes:
Cells are the fabric of life. Even the most primitive cells are enormously complex structures that form the basic units of all living matter. All tissues and organs are composed of cells. In a human an estimated 60 trillion cells interact, each performing its specialized role in an organized community. In single-celled oragnisms all the functions of life are performed within the confines of one microscopic package. There is no life without cells (Hickman, 1997, p. 43).
Even most bacteria require several thousand genes to carry out the functions necessary for life. E. coli has about 4,639,221 nucleotide base pairs, which code for 4,288 genes, each one of which produces an enormously complex protein machine. The simplest species of bacteria, Chlamydia and Rickettsia, are the smallest living things known. Only a few hundred atoms across, they are smaller than the largest virus and have about half as much DNA as do other species of bacteria. Although they are about as small as it is possible to be and still be living, these two forms of life still require millions of atomic parts (Trefil, 1992, p. 28). Many of the smaller bacteria, such as Mycoplasma genitalium, which has 452 genes, are parasites and can only live with the help of more complex organisms. For this reason, when researching the minimum requirements for life, the example of E. coli is more realistic.
If the simplest form of life requires millions of parts at the atomic level, higher life forms require trillions. All of the many macromolecules necessary for life are constructed of atoms, which are composed of even smaller parts. That life requires a certain minimum number of parts is well documented, and the only debate is how many millions of functionally integrated parts are necessary – not the fact that a minimum number must exist for life to live. All viruses are below the complexity level needed for life, and for this reason they must live as parasites that require complex cells in order to reproduce. Trefil noted that the question of where the viruses come from is an „enduring mystery“ in evolution. They consist primarily of only a DNA molecule and a protein coat and
… don’t reproduce in the normal way, [therefore] it’s hard to see how they could have gotten started. One theory: they are parasites who, over a long period of time, have lost the ability to reproduce independently. … Viruses are among the smallest of „living“ things. A typical virus, like the one that causes ordinary influenza, may be no more than a thousand atoms across. This is in comparison with cells which may be hundreds or even thousands of times that size. Its small size is one reason that it is so easy for a virus to spread from one host to another – it’s hard to filter out anything that small (Trefil, 1992, p. 9).
Oversimplified, life depends on a complex arrangement of three classes of molecules: DNA, which stores the cell’s master plans; RNA, which transports a copy of the needed information contained in the DNA to the protein assembly station; and proteins, which make up everything from the ribosomes to the enzymes. Further, chaperons and many other assembly tools are needed to ensure that the protein is properly assembled. All of these parts are necessary and must exist as a properly assembled and integrated unit. DNA is useless without both RNA and proteins, although some types of bacteria can combine the functions of the basic required parts.
The problem for evolution caused by the enormous complexity required for life is quite well recognized, and none of the proposals to overcome it are even remotely satisfactory (Spetner, 1997). These proposals include the theory of panspermia advanced by Nobel Laureate Francis Crick. Panspermia is the hypothesis that the earth was seeded by life from other planets (Crick, 1981). This solution, though, only moves the problem elsewhere. Naturalism must account for both the parts necessary for life and their proper assembly. For life to persist, living creatures must have a means of taking in and biochemically processing food. Life also requires oxygen, which must be distributed to all tissues, or for single-celled life, oxygen must effectively and safely be moved around inside the cell membrane to where it is needed, without damaging the cell. Without complex mechanisms to achieve these tasks, life cannot exist. The parts could not evolve separately and could not even exist independently for very long, because they would break down in the environment without protection (Overman, 1997).
Even if they existed, the many parts needed for life could not sit idle waiting for the other parts to evolve, because the existing ones would usually deteriorate very quickly from the effects of dehydration, oxidation, and the action of bacteria or other pathogens. For this reason, only an instantaneous creation of all the necessary parts as a functioning unit can produce life. No compelling evidence has ever been presented to disprove this conclusion, and much evidence exists for the instantaneous creation requirement, such as the discovery that most nucleotides degrade rather fast at the temperatures scientists conclude existed on the early earth (Irion, 1998).
The problem is that the half-lives of many of the basic building blocks of life „are too short to allow for the adequate accumulation of these compounds. … Therefore, unless the origin of life took place extremely rapidly (<100 years) … a high temperature origin of life … cannot involve adenine, uracil, guanine, or cytosine“ (Levy and Miller, 1998, p. 7,933). This finding is a major setback for abiogenesis, because high temperature (80-100°C) origin of life is the only feasible model left (Levy and Miller, 1998). Creationists have only begun to exploit this huge stumbling block to Darwinism.
The simplest eukaryote life form is yeast. Most eukaryotes are much more complex than yeast, and a fertilized egg, called a zygote, is the minimum complexity possible for all multi-cell life forms. Further, the development of an organism from a zygote does not provide evidence of evolution, because a zygote cannot exist as an independent unit, but is dependent on a complex designed support system, such as a womb or an egg. A complex life system designed to produce the gametes first exists, and the zygote is only part of a series of stages designed to allow it to fulfill its potential.
An organ or an organism cannot function, nor will it be selected, until it is minimally functional. At this level it must be both enormously complex and independent on many other parts of the system (Behe, 1996). A gamete contains all the information needed to develop into a complete organism. When the organism is first developing, all its cells are totipotent, meaning that each cell can develop into any one of the over 200 cell types needed for an adult human to live, including epithelial, muscle, blood and other cell types.
Evolutionists once argued that all life could develop from some hypothetical first cell, because even today all new life develops from a single cell, but we now realize that a cell can develop into a complex organism only because all of the parts and instructions are in the original cell produced from conception. The human mother passes not only 23 chromosomes but also an entire cell to her offspring, which includes all the organelles needed for life. A cell can come only from a functioning cell and cannot be built up piecemeal, because all the major organelles must have been created and assembled instantaneously for the cell to exist (Overman, 1997).
Cells require all their millions of necessary parts to remain alive, just as a mammal must have lung, liver, heart, and other organs to live. All of the millions of cell parts are required to carry out the complex biochemical business necessary for life. This business requires manufacturing and processing of proteins, and storing of genetic information to be passed on to the next generation. Trefil called the evolution of prokaryotes (cells without organelles) into eukaryotes (cells with organelles and other structures lacking in prokaryotes) an „enduring mystery of evolution“ because of the lack of evidence of the evolution of organelles, and the total lack of plausible links between eukaryotes and prokaryotes.
The difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells are striking, to say the least. But if the latter evolved from the former, why are there no intermediate stages between the two? Why, for example, are there no cells with loose DNA and organelles? If the evolutionary line really went from prokaryotes to eukaryotes, and we have many living samples of each, why did none of the intermediate stages survive? (Trefil, 1992, p. 104).
This view is also reflected in the observation that the universe appears to be designed specifically to contain human life, and functions as a unit to allow and support life (Overman, 1997).
Life and Information
One of the most compelling evidences in support of the instantaneous creation world view is the daily observation that information does not come about by chance and, if left to itself, disorder usually soon results. Archeologists are normally easily able to discern if an object found in their field research digs was produced by humans or by natural events such as wind or rain. The criteria they use to do this is the degree of information the object contains (Yokey, 1992). Complexity and information are compelling evidence that some outside intelligent agency (which in the case of an archeologist’s findings was another human) has applied design skills and intelligence to the natural world, adding a higher level of information and order on top of that which naturally exists in the non-living world such as rocks.
Both plants and animal kingdoms manifest enormous complexity and information in their genetic codes, but this order and information pre-exists in the animal or plant and was inherited and passed on through reproduction. Except for the living world and the „world“ made by humans, the natural world operates according to pre-existing physical laws and previous events. The living world, which scientists are only now beginning to understand, represents a level of design complexity based on information existing in the genetic code which is not found anywhere in the non-living world except that created by humans. Hence the rationale for the belief that the living world could not come from the non-living world. As Nobel laureate research molecular biologist Komfield stated in a now-famous interview that occurred over 50 years ago:
While laboring among the intricacies and definitely minute particles in a laboratory, I frequently have been overwhelmed by a sense of the infinite wisdom of God. … One is rather amazed that a mechanism of such intricacy could ever function properly at all … the simplest man-made mechanism requires a planner and a maker; how a mechanism ten times more involved and intricate can be conceived as self-constructed and self-developed is completely beyond me (Komfield, 1962, p.16).
In other words, the enormous amount of genetic information that is translated into the complexity that is evident everywhere in the living world is far beyond that found in both the non-living and human-manufactured world. Products produced by the non-living world (such as smooth stones polished by moving water) could never produce either plant or animal life because all life is based on information, and the parts produced by that information must be assembled according to a designed plan in an environment such as a certain ecosystem that supports life.
Mathematical Proof for the Designer Requirement
That a complex structure such as a living organism could be formed by chance without intelligent input has never been demonstrated in the lab or anywhere else. Given enough time, the naturalistic world view reasons, anything is at least possible. The problem with this view is that the degree of information and complexity required for living organisms to be able to „live“ is such that, aside from deliberate intelligent design, from what we know now, no matter what the conditions, time alone will not allow for the naturalistic contruction of life. Evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould stated that even if evolutionary history on earth repeated itself a million times, he doubts whether anything like Homo sapiens would ever develop again (Gould, 1989; also see Kayzer, 1997, p.86).
Many researchers have concluded that the probability of life arising by chance is so remote that we have to label it an impossibility. For example, Hoyle (1983) notes that the probability of drawing either ten white or ten black balls out of a large box full of balls that contains equal numbers of black and white balls is five times out of one million! If we increase the number to 100 and draw sets of 100 balls, the probability of drawing 100 black or 100 white balls in succession is now so low as to be for all practical purposes impossible.
To illustrate this concept as applied in biology, an ordered structure of just 206 parts will be examined. This is not a large number – the adult human skeleton, for example, contains on the average 206 separate bones, all assembled together in a perfectly integrated functioning whole. And all body systems – even our cells‘ organelles – are far more complex that this.
To determine the possible number of different ways 206 parts could be connected, consider a system of one part which can be lined up in only one way (1 x 1); or a system of two parts in two ways (1 x 2) or 1, 2 and 2, 1; a system of three parts, which can be aligned in six ways (1 x 2 x 3), or 1, 2, 3; 2, 3, 1; 2, 1, 3; 1, 3, 2; 3, 1, 2; 3, 2, 1; one of four parts in 24 ways (1 x 2 x 3 x 4), and so on. Thus, a system of 206 parts could be aligned in 1 x 2 x 3 x … x 206 different ways. This number is called „206 factorial“ and is written „206!“.
The value 206! is an enormously large number, approximately 10388, which is a „1“ followed by 388 zeros, or:
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000
Achievement of only the correct general position required (ignoring for now where the bones came from, their upside-down or right-side-up placement, their alignment, the origin of the tendons, ligaments, and other supporting structures) for all 206 parts will occur only once out of 10388 random assortments. This means one chance out of 10388 exists of the correct order being selected on the first trial, and each and every other trial afterward, given all the bones as they presently exist in our body.
If one new trial could be completed each second for every single second available in all of the estimated evolutionary view of astronomic time (about 10 to 20 billion years), using the most conservative estimate gives us 1018 seconds; the chances that the correct general position will be obtained by random is less than once in 10 billion years. This will produce a probability of only one out of 10(388-18) or one in 10370.
If each bone is only the size of an electron, one of the smallest known particles in the universe, and the entire known universe were solidly packed with sets of bones, this area conservatively estimated at 100 billion cubic light years could contain only about 10130 sets of 206 parts each. What is the possibility that just one of these 10130 sets, each arranging their members by chance, will achieve the correct alignment just once in ten billion years? Suppose also that we invent a machine capable of making not one trial per second, but a billion-billion (1018) different trials each second on every single one of the 10130 sets. The maximum number of possible trials that anyone could possibly conceive being made with this type of situation would permit a total of 10166 trials (10130 x 1018 x 1018). Even given these odds, the chance that one of these 10166 trials would produce the correct result is only one out of 10388, or only one in 10222 trials for all sets.
Further, all the parts must both first exist and be instantaneously assembled properly in order for the organism to function. For all practical purposes, a zero possibility exists that the correct general position of only 206 parts could be obtained simultaneously by chance – and the average human has about 75 trillion cells! The human cerebral cortex alone contains over 10 billion cells, all arranged in the proper order, and each of these cells is itself infinitely complex from a human standpoint. Each of the cells in the human body consists of multi-thousands of basic parts such as organelles and multi-millions of complex proteins and other parts, all of which must be assembled both correctly and instantaneously as a unit in order to function. This required balance and assembly must be maintained even during cell division.
This illustration indicates that the argument commonly used by evolutionists – „given enough time, anything is possible“ – is wanting. Evolutionary naturalism claims that the bone system happened as a result of time, luck, and „natural“ forces, the last element actually holding the status of a god. Time, the chief escape that naturalism must rely on to support its theory, is thus a false god. Complex ordered structures of any kind (of which billions must exist in the body for it to work) cannot happen except by design and intelligence, and they must have occured simultaneously for the unit to function. Scientists recognize this problem, and this is why Stephen Jay Gould concluded that humans are a glorious evolutionary accident which required 60 trillion contingent events (Gould, 1989, see also Kayzer, 1997, p.92).
A problem with understanding the concept „life“ is that although we now have identified many of the chemicals which are necessary, researchers do not yet know all of the factors necessary for life „to live“. Further, even assembling the proper chemicals together does not produce life. The proper arrangement of amino acids to form protein molecules is only one small requirement for life. Most animals are constructed of millions of cells, and the cell itself is far more complicated than the most complex machine ever manufactured by humans.
The famous illustration „the probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop“ argues that information and complex systems cannot come about by chance, but can only be the product of an intelligent designer. Books likewise do not come about by chance, but are the product of both reasoning and intelligence (although some books may cause us to wonder about the author, but this is another problem!). Even Darwin admitted in his writings that it was extremely difficult, or impossible, to conceive that this immense and wonderful universe, including humans with our capacity of looking far backward and far into the future, was the result of blind chance.
Life from Non-Life?
An important part of the question „Where did life come from?“ is the issue of spontaneous generation, the concept that life could produce itself if the proper circumstances existed (Lewis, 1997). This idea is no longer accepted as possible by secular scientists – except only for the beginning of life, when some believe the first living organism somehow spontaneously generated itself once or, at most, a few times, and every living thing thereafter evolved from this „first“ life. This principle of science that life only comes from life is called the „law of biogenesis“ The term is from the Greek words bios (meaning life) and genesis (meaning birth, source or creation), and means that living organisms are produced only by other living organisms. Biologists know only that all life derives from preceding life, and that the parent organism’s offspring are always of the same kind. The idea that life can come from non-life is called abiogenesis, which is assumed by evolutionists to have occurred only once or a few times at most in earth history. This conclusion is not a result of evidence, but is obtained because the current dominant world view in Western science, naturalism (atheism), requires a chance spontaneous origin of life.
The naturalistic view requires a set of unknown conditions to have existed in the distant past that operated to produce the first „living“ thing. These unknown forces do not operate today to produce flies from decaying meat or bees from dead carcasses, as once believed. Scientists have demonstrated that the belief that „life“ could come from „non-life“, even if millions of years were available, is untenable (Overman, 1997). Darwinism demands a non-theistic explanation and therefore is forced to put much displaced faith in an unprovable „one-time“ event that they reason must have occurred because life is here. Hoyle, in a review of the literature, concluded:
There is not a shred of objective evidence to support the hypothesis that life began in an organic soup here on the earth. Indeed, Francis Crick, who shared a Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA, is one biophysicist who finds this theory unconvincing. So why do biologists indulge in unsubstantiated fantasies in order to deny what is so patently obvious, that the 200,000 amino acid chains, and hence life, did not appear by chance?
The answer lies in a theory developed over a century ago, which sought to explain the development of life as an inevitable product of the purely local natural processes. Its author, Charles Darwin, hesitated to challenge the church’s doctrine on the creation, and publicly at least did not trace the implications of his ideas back to their bearing on the origin of life. However, he privately suggested that life itself may have been produced in „some warm little pond“, and to this day his followers have sought to explain the origin of terrestrial life in terms of a process of chemical evoution from the primordial soup. But, as we have seen, this [theory] simply does not fit the facts (Hoyle, 1983, p.23).
This conclusion is not unique to Hoyle but common to thinkers not blinded by dogmatic naturalism. Einstein argues that the „scientist’s religious feelings take the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection“ (Einstein, 1949, p.29; emphasis mine). Scientists once argued that life was relatively simple, could spontaneously generate, and regularly did so. They now realize the human cell is the most complex machine known in the universe, far more complex than the most expensive computer. This realization has forced many persons to conclude life could not have evolved, but must have been created instantaneously as a fully functioning unit.
All of the extant evidence reveals that there is nothing living on earth, either animal or plant, that did not receive its life from previous life, its sexual or asexual parent. Since the law of biogenesis states that life proceeds only from pre-existing life, various forms of pre-existing life must have been parents of all living organisms. And since life cannot create itself, the source of life must be God: „O Lord … For with you is the fountain of life“ (Ps. 36:6-9). In the words of the well-known scientist, Robert Jastrow, „For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story [of the quest for the answers about the origin of life and the universe] ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries" (Jastrow, 1978, p. 116).