EVALUATING EVOLUTION: IS IT REASONABLE?
by Ross S. Olson MD
I finished my medical education with the impression that evolution was a logical conclusion stemming from fair evaluation of all the relevant scientific data. Further, I was told that no intelligent people doubted its truth, although there were a few intellectually primitive Neanderthals who also continued to believe that the earth was flat and dragons caused eclipses.
It was not until I was given a book by one of my brothers, who is a science teacher, that I even considered looking at the basis for these impressions. I left the book alone for over a year before I even opened it, finding myself revolted by the thought of reading material from someone who was so far from the scientific mainstream.
When I began to read The Creation of Life by A. E. Wilder-Smith, I was amazed and astounded by what I discovered. The author has three PhD's and is a brilliant biochemist. In his book, he pointed out that there is design in life which cannot be accounted for by chance. In fact, design always requires a designer and does not occur naturally.
Those effects of natural processes which show some sort of order are of a different sort from the effects of intelligence. The sorting of pebbles and sand on the beach is easily explained by the action of wind and waves. The piling up of cut stones, cementing them together and forming them into a house with windows and doors, is the result of planning and work and is not innate in the nature of the materials or the natural forces acting on them.
We can tell the difference and would not normally confuse a rock pile with a beach house. Nor would we attribute a house to the action of the wind and waves, but would assume that someone built it, even if we did not see the builder or know who it was.
Attempts to explain away this distinction generally appeal to long ages of time and say that eventually, the unlikely becomes inevitable and the impossible becomes likely. In real life, however, we all know that time will not help to produce this kind of order. Given many years of exposure to the forces of nature, a beach house will not transform itself into a 400 room castle nor will a rock pile become a beach house. No, in time, both the castle and the house will be reduced to a rock pile and will blend in with all the other rocks along the beach.
In the case of living things, the degree of order is so incredibly complex that the chance of it coming about by natural means is essentially zero.
For those familiar with molecular biology, the next few thoughts will be understandable. For those who are not, simply try to appreciate how intricate and interrelated the factors have to be for it all to work properly. One scientist put it this way, "For life to occur by natural processes would be like a Boeing 747 assembling itself by means of an explosion in the junk yard."
The simplest living cell must have many functioning parts to be alive -- to respond to its environment, to extract energy, to protect itself and to reproduce. There must be coded information, usually stored in long molecules called DNA. This information must be retrieved and transferred when necessary to perform a function. This is generally done within cells by the manufacture of protein molecules which catalyze chemical reactions or form structural parts of the cell.
All this must be organized in space for it to work. An auto parts store may have all the pieces needed to build a car, but until they are put together, you cannot drive it. Even one minor problem with the construction, such as a disconnected wire, may make the whole thing inoperable and random changes in the parts or connections are not going to make it better.
For those who think that "maybe we just got lucky," let me put a few numbers behind those ideas. Proteins are the basic building block for the structure and function of living cells and are essentially long chains of individual amino acid molecules. They assume various globular shapes, depending on which amino acids occupy which positions, and their function is determined by the shape and electrical charge at various points on their surfaces.
There are 20 different amino acids which are used by living systems to make proteins. A few of these amino acids may occur naturally, but they exist in a mixture of "d" and "l" forms which are like mirror images of each other. Only the "l" forms are used in living systems.
A protein molecule of 100 component parts would be a small part of a living cell. There would have to be at least 230 other very specific proteins, some as large as 10,000 amino acids long, to complete the most basic living cell. There would also have to be the coded information in the DNA for manufacturing that protein and the mechanisms for retrieving and transferring the information when the cell needed the function which that protein performed.
For the sake of illustration, let us look at the probability of putting that small protein molecule together from a "primordial soup" of individual amino acids, setting aside other difficulties such as the fact that long chains tend to fall apart and the need to select only "l" forms and the problem that amino acids, even if they do occur in nature, tend to deteriorate over time.
Since the chance of selecting the correct amino acid for the first position from the mixture of 20 possibilities is about one in 20 (1/20), and the chance of selecting the second position correctly is also 1/20, the chance of getting both correctly is (1/20)2 or 1/400. Therefore, the chance of getting all 100 positions correct is (1/20)100 which is (1/10)130 or 10-130. On the average, therefore, 10130 different chains of 100 amino acids would have to be tried before it is likely that one of them would be the correct configuration to do that particular job for the cell.
This is an incredible number which we can only begin to understand. The probability of this protein coming together is far beyond the bounds of possibility since there are only about 1080 atoms in the entire universe and about 1018 seconds in 30 billion years. Therefore, we will run out of time and matter before even getting close to the order of magnitude needed to make it probable.
But suppose, what if someplace in the universe, some chain of molecules got lucky on this one protein? Still, the DNA for controlling that protein would need to "just happen" as well. Then, in order to have life, the other 230 different proteins and their DNA would also have to be put together by chance, some of them 10,000 amino acids long.
And this is just to produce the simplest living cell. What about improving it by random changes into all the life forms that exist with the incredible complexity of, for instance, the human brain with its hundred billion neurons and hundred trillion connections?
Also, from the naturalistic point of view, the human brain is just an accidental organ, whose evolutionary purpose is supposedly for improved survival. It was designed and programmed by chance and there is no guarantee that it can come up with truth any more that randomly generated letters will come up with meaningful ideas.
There is also no real mechanism for free will in a naturalistic world. The way the brain works, sensory input activates electrical-chemical pathways, predetermined by the present random state of the brain and the pathways taken by previous impulses and produces a response. In other words, past experience and present happenstance determine what comes out. The person cannot help what he thinks or says. It was just the molecules bouncing around.
When the evolutionist says he knows his brain evolved, he has to admit that he could not help but say that. His brain is giving him essentially randomly processed data. Thus, he cannot trust the mind that led him to the conclusion. Anybody confused?
The case against evolution removes the illusion that atheism is intellectually respectable and throws one back to the most important decision any person ever makes. Specifically, realizing that there is indeed an incredibly intelligent and powerful Creator who made us and all that exists, how will we respond to Him?
It is in this regard that the Scripture says: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:18-21)
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