The View From 1776

“Understanding” Creation - Round Four

Continuing the discussion about what the meaning of is is.

An emailer wrote, in response to my statements in “Understanding” Creation - Round Two:

“If you take out my heart, I will die. ?But you cannot deduce from this that all living creatures must have a heart.

“Similarly, because cells and single-cell creatures as we know them today would not be able to exist without certain parts, you cannot deduce that all cells/cellular organisms must have those parts to exist. ?Therefore your suggestion that they must have had all of those parts to exist or they could not have existed at all is faulty, and therefore your suggestion that they must have sprung into existance fully formed is also faulty.

“If I remember my science correctly, viruses are quasi-living creatures that are primarily complicated protein structures that behave in a living-like way, yet most of them are missing the detailed substructures of which you speak. ?In any case, you could posit viruses as an example of what a medium stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts might look like.

“As for the spontaneous existing of vertebrate life, I’d never heard that before and would be interested if you could point me towards a more history of that era.”

My reply:

Let me answer your second point first.  I didn’t say that the vertebrate life forms of the Cambrian period came into existence spontaneously.  The imprecise terms I used were:

“Apart from the fact that the fossil record completely contradicts his predictions (the basic vertebrate phyla and genera sprang into existence, fully differentiated at one time in the Cambrian period roughly 600 million years ago, with no connecting evolution from the invertebrate forms found in earlier fossils) .....”

In addition to this dramatic case, there are large numbers of others in which a species simply died out, with no evidence of evolutionary change over hundreds of millions of years, as well as additional large numbers in which life forms remain today exactly as they were hundreds of millions of years ago, with no evidence of evolution in response to tremendous changes in their environments. 

At the same time, there are many cases in which a species remained unchanged for as long as 140 million years, then exhibited a sudden leap to major new characteristics, with no intermediate, gradual changes. 

The problem is so acute as to have produced a major controversy within the field of evolutionary theorists.  The late Stephen Jay Gould and his colleague Niles Eldredge conceived the theory of punctuated equilibrium as a less then successful attempt to explain the phenomenon.  Other evolutionary biologists hotly dispute this theory.

Darwinian theory, of course, postulates thousands of intermediate forms, as a species randomly and spontaneously develops genetic mutations and imperceptibly evolves into a completely new species. The fossil record was predicted by Darwin to reveal thousands upon thousands of these intermediate evolutionary forms.  In fact, it does not.

With regard to your first point, you are, of course, correct that not all single-cell creatures have all of the sub-systems that I mentioned.  Viruses are less complex.  Nonetheless, they are far from simple in their organization. 

The Tulane University website on viruses states: “The complex arrangements of macromolecules in the virus shell are minute marvels of molecular architecture. Specific requirements of each type of virus have resulted in a fascinating apparent diversity of organization and geometrical design.” About the HIV virus, for example, Tulane says: “HIV is a fairly complex virus, although by no means the most complicated known. The virus is thought to contain 2 identical copes of a positive sense (i.e. mRNA) single-stranded RNA strand about 9,500 nucleotides long.  These may be linked to each other to form a genomic RNA dimer.”

You say, “In any case, you could posit viruses as an example of what a medium stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts might look like.” 

The differences between the structures of viruses and the single-cell creatures I described are as great as the differences between a slide rule and a desktop computer.  To postulate that one evolved from the other requires so huge a leap of faith as to make Christians’ faith look like a short walk from the desk to the water cooler.

Unfortunately, “might have been” is about the best that Darwinian theorists can produce.  To say, for example, as Ernst Mayr did that fish fins evolved into legs is about as scientifically conclusive as saying that, because they look somewhat alike, boulders might have evolved into bricks, and eventually into walls.  The mere superficial similarity in appearance or structural use is no proof at all that one evolved from the other.  When biochemists examine these structures at the x-ray microscope level, they find great differences of chemical and structural makeup.

Darwinian evolution’s inescapable problem remains that it cannot produce a single proof of evolution.  Most people, including me, will accept the idea of natural selection producing gradual changes within a species via combinations of random genetic variation and suitability for changing environments.  That, however, is a very long way from proving that every living thing started, purely by chance, from inert chemicals combining to form a single-cell living creature and that every living plant and animal evolved from this single-cell creature.

Underlying all of the debate is Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, the God who created the cosmos and established all of the laws of nature that, for example, cause viruses to be organized in very precise geometrical patterns.

In your “might have been,” suggesting viruses as an intermediate stage between complicated proteins and single-celled animals with specialized parts, you make what amounts to an implicit assumption that complicated proteins are somehow just hanging around to be used in this theoretical transition.

Scientist in many specialized fields have confidently started young careers aiming to demonstrate how life might spontaneously, purely by chance, have come into being from some primordial soup.  All of them have ended their careers as disappointed and skeptical old men.

Even in carefully controlled laboratory conditions, no one has come close.  The most promising theories to date have foundered on the simple fact that, while the theorized conditions of a geologically young earth might have produced some amino acids, the process doesn’t stop there, but continues on to convert the amino acids into gooey, lifeless tar.