The Genesis Chronicles: A Proposed History Of The Morning Of The World
Chapter 3: THEORIES ON THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE
This chapter covers the following topics:
The Primordial Earth
The most difficult part of the theory of evolution to test or defend is its ideas concerning the origin and development of life. In this session we will look at this part of the theory and how it is built on mountain upon mountain of incorrect assumptions. To start with, we will compare the original Earth that evolutionists imagine with what the geologic evidence says was there initially.
According to most science textbooks, the Earth once looked much like the moon: a rocky, airless and waterless body, dotted with craters from frequent meteor impacts. Because of those meteors, it took an immense time to cool down to temperatures in which life could exist, from 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago. Meanwhile volcanoes erupted, spewing out gasses which became the first atmosphere. The volcanoes also produced water vapor, which condensed into raindrops, but it could not form lakes or seas until the temperature of the land dropped below the boiling point of 212o Farenheit. Thus, they imagine that the first rainstorms boiled away when they touched the ground, but bit by bit they cooled the surface of the Earth, and eventually it got cool enough for the greatest rains of all time to fall from the skies and form the first oceans.
Was the first atmosphere like the one we are familiar with today (78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% carbon dioxide and other gasses)? Not at all. They theorize that air was originally composed of nitrogen, hydrogen, methane and ammonia. In other words, the whole atmosphere resembled the fumes from a Port-a-Potty at a rock concert; pee-yew! Why is that? Because the part of the atmosphere we need the most, oxygen, is corrosive to the chemicals from which life is made. Our cells are built from proteins, which in turn are made up of amino acids. Free oxygen is a very corrosive agent; it tends to burn up or rust other molecules it meets. When amino acids meet free oxygen, they combine with it to form useless chemicals--the term is oxidation. Today's organisms have cell membranes and other mechanisms to deal with this problem, but evolutionists imagine that the first cells did not, so there must have been a time when free oxygen was not around to get in the way. So the evolutionary model supposes an earth where the molecules necessary for amino acid formation are present in the atmosphere, but oxygen isn't. Interaction between the primitive air and water, helped out by lightning storms, eventually produced primitive amino acids in the oceans, forming a "primordial soup."
How did scientists get the idea this really happened? A chemist named Dr. Harold Urey had been doing research on the matter in the 1930s and 40s, and in 1953 Stanley Miller, one of Urey's graduate students, tried to simulate conditions on the primitive earth. Miller filled a flask with hydrogen, methane, ammonia and water, and ran two tubes between it and a discharge chamber. Through the discharge chamber he passed an electrical charge for a week, to simulate the effects of lightning and solar energy. Afterwards he found amino acids had been produced--the building blocks of life. Miller considered it a success and in a 1996 interview, he stated, "Just turning on the spark in a basic pre-biotic experiment will yield 11 out of 20 amino acids."(1) This spawned headlines declaring that scientists had come close to creating life, and some people went one step further and claimed that scientists had created living cells in a test tube, when nothing close to that has yet happened. Then in 2008, one year after Miller's death, two of Miller's graduate students re-examined samples of the residue from the Miller-Urey experiment, and found, with modern spectrometers, not 11, but 22 amino acids, including all 20 that occur in living things.
A critical look at Stanley Miller's experiment will show that it did not prove as much as we thought. The most important point is that Miller placed a trap in the outgoing tube, to filter out and store the amino acids when they formed. The reason was that he knew that electricity can destroy molecules as well as create them--in fact it destroys more often--so he made sure that the amino acids were removed from the experiment before they could pass through the discharge chamber twice. This would not have happened in the real world, so he had to alter his simulation to avoid coming up with the same chemicals he started with. Furthermore, by taking the amino acids away from the source of energy, he effectively prevented them from forming into anything other than what they already were. We have a layman's term for what happens when you remove kinetic energy from living matter--death. A dead thing may have nearly all its molecules where it should be, but it is missing the most important ingredient, what we call "the spark of life" for want of a better term.
Anyway, back to the classic evolutionary story of how life got started. Over millions of years amino acids randomly came together to form proteins. Then somewhere in the "soup," a chance combination of amino acids produced RNA, a molecule that could duplicate itself. From RNA it was a short step to DNA, the blueprint of all cells to come afterward. Meanwhile proteins came together--still at random--to form membranes, which kept other proteins from drifting away. The combination of membranes and DNA formed a self-replicating factory which could drift freely without running the risk of coming apart. These were the first crude cells.
The first cells lived by eating amino acids from the soup they were in, until the broth thinned out, causing the world's first famine. Most of the early cells starved, but two kinds survived. Some cells took to eating other cells; these became the first animals. Other lucky cells had chlorophyll, a chemical which allowed it to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into food. Those cells became blue-green algae--the first plant.
In time the plants caused an environmental revolution; some call it an "oxygen catastrophe." The waste product they gave off was pure oxygen. At first the free oxygen was absorbed by iron molecules, to become layers of rust in the rocks. Eventually, however, the algae produced too much oxygen for iron to handle, so it went into the atmosphere instead, permanently changing the atmosphere's composition. Again, most of the early cells died, because as we noted above, oxygen was a toxic element to them. It was those with protection against free oxygen that survived, and nearly all of today's life is descended from them. Supposedly it was around the same time that some one-celled organisms stuck together after dividing, instead of drifting apart, and they found that belonging to colonies of cells had advantages. The oxygen in the air also proved to be a blessing, because it produced the ozone layer, which screens out ultraviolet and cosmic rays before they get to the lower atmosphere and to us.(2)
That's the classic story of how life began. The problem with it is that it is completely false. To start with, despite the best wishes of the theorists, there is no way of escaping the effects of oxygen. Oxygen is the most common element in the Earth's crust, making up nearly 40% of ground beneath our feet. It turns up even in the oldest rocks, meaning that the atmosphere could never have been much different from what it is now. Furthermore, while an atmosphere of hydrogen, ammonia, and methane may be practical for big, cold planets like Jupiter, it is not for the inner solar system. These gasses are made up of very light elements (H2, NH3 and CH4 respectively), and the heat of the sun is strong enough to make them fly away from the Earth; only in a much colder environment do these molecules move slow enough for a planet's gravity to hold onto them.(3) In 1988 the German biochemist Günter Wächtershäuser proposed an alternative: life began not in a soup but as molecules attached to a clay or crystalline surface; a boiling salty bath provided the chemical reactions needed to form life. However, even if his "open-faced clay sandwich" model is more realistic, it still has to answer the question we will cover in our next section: what are the odds of life arising by chance?(4)
To start with, the proteins used in a cell have to be the right proteins. Most amino acids come in two sets, which are the same in chemical makeup but different in the way the molecules are organized. For simplicity's sake we call them "left-handed" and "right-handed." Both "left-handed" and "right-handed" amino acids occur naturally, but nearly all life on earth can only use the "left-handed" kind. Now when amino acids are randomly chosen to form a protein, there is a 50-50 chance that each amino acid will be of either variety. But if you combine both "left-handed" and "right-handed" amino acids, the resulting protein won't do anyone a bit of good. Assuming a simple protein molecule contains 172 amino acids, and it comes together without outside direction, what is the mathematical probability that all of the amino acids will be "left-handed?" Infinitesimally small! It calculates as 2 to the 172nd power, or to use standard numeration =
5,986,310,706,507,437,833,151,830,030,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1.
There is an experiment in probability you can conduct yourself. Take an ordinary deck of 52 cards. Take out two cards; let's say they are the King of Spades and the Ace of Hearts. How many ways can you arrange them? You can arrange them exactly two ways, either by putting the King of Spades first or by putting the Ace of Hearts first. Take out a third card and add it to the other two; let's say it's a Three of Clubs. Now you can arrange the cards in 1x2x3 ways, or six: KA3, K3A, AK3, A3K, 3AK, or 3KA. If you add a fourth card, your possible combinations become 1x2x3x4, or 24 combinations. What if you used the whole deck? In a 52-card deck there are more than 8 x 1067 combinations of cards, or
Now this is just with nonliving cards. The simplest DNA molecule has 106 chains of nucleotides, more than twice as many parts as the deck, so the odds against that coming together correctly by chance are too great for my calculator to estimate! On top of that add the other things which make up a cell, like the membranes, mitochondria, lysosomes, chloroplasts (for plants), Golgi bodies, etc., and the odds against them joining randomly skyrockets. In 1961 a leading information scientist, Marcel E. Golay, calculated the chances of a cell coming together by itself as 1 in 10 to the 450th power. As Duane Gish said, improbability stacked upon improbability becomes impossibility!
But let's suppose life did get started on its own. If something killed it off, how long would it take to replace it? Even with oceans of organic molecules, the same miracle isn't likely to happen twice in the nearly five billion years evolutionists allow for the age of the earth. This means there only two chances for life on other planets--slim and none!
If the odds really favor a unique earth, then the only extraterrestial beings we should expect to find out there are God, the angels and the demons. As noted in the last chapter, many people, from science fiction writers to NASA scientists, have devoted their lives to proving this isn't so. For example, Carl Sagan, one of the most visible evolutionists of our time, didn't believe in God, so he spent almost thirty years searching for life elsewhere in the universe. He was a major backer of SETI, the project which listens for radio messages from other planets, and wrote a best-selling novel about extraterrestrial life, Contact!, which was recently made into a movie. Yet when he appeared in a 1992 television interview, celebrating the 25th anniversary of SETI, he had nothing to show for his efforts: "We've been looking for life beyond the Earth for 25 years now, and we haven't found it anywhere. There must be something unique about the Earth." I believe that after his death he came to realize how incredibly true that statement was.
Evolutionists are gradually becoming aware that the odds are against them. Some have pointed to the 300 million years between the times set for the cooling of the Earth and the formation of the oldest life, and say that is simply too short a time span for life to come together. Instead they have proposed the idea that life began elsewhere, and was brought to earth, either by meteors and comets or by aliens in flying saucers; they call this theory "panspermia." This only passes the buck, by putting the problem somewhere else. We have not yet found a place where life is more likely to evolve than on our own planet. Nominations, anyone?
For example, he taught that the giraffe got its long neck during a long drought, when the only edible vegetation grew on the tops of trees. A short-necked ancestor of the giraffe stretched often to get at those leaves, and its neck got a little longer as a result. The giraffe's efforts became a part of its physical makeup, which its offspring then inherited. The descendants also stretched often to get leaves that were just out of reach, and their necks grew still longer, until they got the results we see today. Darwin believed that invisible objects in the body called pangenes record every change in the body, and pass them to future generations. This turned out to be what made evolution so appealing. This was the nineteenth century, the age of industry, the age of progress, when most people believed that life was getting better and they could make a perfect world through their own efforts. How can you improve something? Use it a lot. What happens if you don't use something? It will atrophy and disappear.
Well, the first thing I learned about genetics when I was in biology class was that this is not so. Before the nineteenth century was over the use-disuse theory was discarded. In one experiment a scientist cut off the tails of mice, bred them, then cut off the tails of the next mice, and so on, but after doing this for over twenty generations he never produced a breed of tailless mice; his deliberate mutilation never changed the mouse's genetic makeup. So if anyone tells you that we get our personal traits from the environment, you have my permission to call it quackery.(6)
Despite his background in biology, Charles Darwin had some grossly incorrect ideas. He believed he came from a family of superior genetic type, and bad characteristics like hereditary diseases could be eliminated by inbreeding. For that reason, at the age of thirty, he married Emma Wedgwood, a first cousin. He also gave his approval when his sister Caroline married another Wedgwood, and encouraged his cousins to marry cousins as well. Since their great-grandparents were already inbred to a certain degree (they came from remote English communities where inbreeding was common), this gives us a fine case study of what inbreeding can do.(7)
What Darwin did not realize is that while inbreeding can preserve superior traits, it is just as likely to make recessive traits come to the forefront in an individual. Often these traits are harmless, like red hair or blue eyes, but some (e.g., hemophilia) are so dangerous that they will kill before the individual can leave any descendants. Some are so bad that the result is a miscarriage. Problems like these happened in Darwin's family, so it is a wonder he could have missed this detail. His brother Erasmus was aware of it, though:
"The dread of hereditary ill health was not entirely illusory . . . And as it happened, of his ten children, one girl died shortly after birth, another, the much-beloved Annie, died in childhood, his youngest son, Charles, was a mental defective who lived only two years, Henrietta had a serious and prolonged breakdown at fifteen, and three sons suffered such frequent illness that Darwin regarded them as semi-invalids. Even if all these ailments were not the constitutional disorders he took them to be, they were real enough to warrant some amount of anxiety."
The creationist response to that is, "Yes, animals can adapt to a new environment, but only to a point." When Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands he observed finches in all different sizes and colors, some with big beaks for eating seeds, and some with little beaks for catching insects. For him this was proof that they had all evolved from a less specialized finch. It has been over 150 years since Darwin's visit, but if you go back to the Galapagos today you will find that the finches are still finches, with no sign that they are evolving into something else.
Now let us compare Darwin's finches with the people in a typical American city. Like the finches, you will find people in various colors, big people and little people, people with big beaks and people with little beaks. And each human type is best suited for a particular "niche"; e.g., there are certain urban neighborhoods where being a white Anglo-Saxon is not cool. We all know why this is so; America's history is one of immigration, a country populated by people who have come here from every other country. But we are not evolving into separate species; on the contrary, with interracial marriage blurring the differences between ethnic groups, one could make the case that Americans are evolving into just one "type" of human. If some anthropologist of the future studied our society and didn't know of our immigrant ancestors, do you suppose he might falsely conclude that all Americans evolved from some undiscovered "primitive American?" Might the United States someday go into textbooks as the "showcase of human evolution?"(8)
Let me stress again that while genetic variation is possible, there are limits. Every year gardeners come up with new kinds of roses, and there are hundreds of varieties of dogs, but a rose is still a rose and a dog is still a dog. There is no case where a farmer or scientist used controlled breeding to produce a viable creature of a wholly new species. And the longer you do selective breeding, the more you restrict an organism's viability, to the point that many of our fancy plants and animals can no longer survive if turned loose in the wild. This article (from a humor website, of all places) describes five animals bred for features that make their lives short and miserable, even when we care for them.
We forget that we raise our crops, our livestock, and our pets under optimal conditions, where the extremes of climate are kept away, and there is no concern over where the next meal is coming from. When left on its own the original wild animal will always be better off than the specialized breed; wolves do better in the forest than poodles; a mongrel is likely to win in a fight against a show dog. If you do selective breeding for too many generations, you may get something that you cannot keep alive (e.g., a dog with a dog and a half's worth of skin is a shar-pei, but a dog with half a dog's skin is a dead dog!). Finally, if the genes of the parents differ too much, you will either get sterile offspring (i.e., a mule), or no offspring at all; nobody can cross a deer and a sheep and expect to get a bouncing baby "deep."
The truth of the matter on all these issues is that because sex combines the genes of two individuals, there is a good chance that any organism will have the genes for dealing with many situations, and natural selection will determine which ones are most useful. In fact, it was a creationist, Edward Blyth, who first suggested this in 1835, fully 24 years before Darwin's ideas became common knowledge. He probably didn't get the credit because the scientists who didn't believe in God wanted it to be their own idea. When Darwin published "The Origin of Species," one of his first challengers was the Bishop of Oxford; he published a review which acknowledged that natural selection produces variations within a species, but rejected Darwin's claim that it could account for the transformation of one species into another. Darwin read the review with interest, and wrote in a letter that "the bishop makes a very telling case against me." So the next time an evolutionist asks you, "Don't you believe in natural selection?", you can answer, "Of course. We thought of it first."
In the English countryside the peppered moth is a common sight, and it comes in two colors, either light (white with spots) or dark (greyish-brown). On a lichen-covered tree the light moth is almost invisible, while the dark moth is easily seen; consequently hungry birds catch and eat the dark moths, but overlook the light ones. That's the way it usually was; in 1850 we estimate that 98% of the uneaten moths were light. However, with the building of factories in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, air pollution killed much of the tree-covering lichens, and coated trees with soot and grit. Under these circumstances the dark moths were now camouflaged, and the light ones weren't, so the situation reversed; by the 1950s, 98% of surviving moths were dark.
There you have it, a supposed story of light moths evolving into dark ones through natural selection. But there's more to it than meets the eye. What they usually gloss over is the fact that the light moths did not become extinct; in fact, now that Europe puts stricter emission controls on its smokestacks, air pollution is decreasing, and light-colored moths are making a comeback. Before the change caused by dark satanic mills, we had light moths and dark moths. What do we have now? The same: light moths and dark moths. Every peppered moth still has the genes for more than one wing color, and they can turn up in any future generation, the way brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child if they carry blue eye genes from their grandparents. No genes changed because of the environment, only the proportion of light to dark moths; all the biologists proved is that moths produce moths. The conclusion: natural selection--yes, evolution in action--no.
Since natural selection has failed to provide convincing evidence that evolution has happened, many scientists have turned to mutations as the key to causing changes over millions of years. They call themselves "neo-Darwinists," and propose that evolution occurred like this: suppose a mutation takes place which benefits the organism, causing it to be more successful than the competition. It would then pass on the new gene to its descendants, who would then acquire new mutations to make them still more successful, and so on until the organism has become a completely new species.
The problem with this idea is that not one in a thousand observed mutations is a "good" one.(9) Usually the result is some missing or deformed part of the body; you can consider yourself lucky if the mutation is only harmless, like six fingers on a hand. A mutation is not an improvement but an increase in disorder. If you expose your vegetable or flower seeds to nuclear radiation before planting them, you won't get a garden of super blooms and veggies, but a bunch of hideous weeds that you hope will die before they leave any seeds for next year's crop. Mutations are worse than recessive genes when it comes to killing you off at an early age; they often leave the organism sterile and less capable to cope with its surroundings. And the only "beneficial" mutations I know of are ones which benefit man, but not the organism which has them. For example, the navel orange is a seedless mutation which many people enjoy. But if a fruit tree has no seeds, how is it going to leave descendants? There wouldn't be a single navel orange tree today if someone hadn't propagated cuttings from the first one. This is clearly a mutation that is better for us than for the tree that has it.
For a while after the mutation idea came out, the writers of science fiction stories and "B" movies had a heyday with it. They imagined the world after a nuclear war, where radiation has produced all sorts of creatures with extra arms and eyes, super powers ("Them radiation-spawned mutants can read your mind!"), and only an occasional case of cancer to make the story more "realistic." We found out otherwise after we dropped two atomic bombs on Japan; instead of producing characters like the Marvel X-Men, the radiation caused so many hideous diseases and deformities that no sane person wants to use nuclear weapons again.
To give an idea of how absurd the "mutated monster" idea can be, let us consider the reality behind one of those "B" movie stars, the giant tarantula. Some of you may have seen the film where radiation causes a spider to grow a hundred feet high, and it crawls around, destroying cities, leaving radioactive footprints in its path, and eating everything and everybody that gets in the way. For our purposes, just imagine what would happen if a spider was enlarged by a lesser amount, say, from one inch to ten inches. Those of you who have taken geometry know that an object's weight is equal to the cube of its length, meaning that if you double something's height, and increase its length and width by the same amount, its weight will go up not 2, but 2x2x2, or eight times. So if the spider's size is suddenly increased by a factor of ten, its weight will go up 10x10x10, or 1,000 times. The result? The spider feels like it is carrying 999 spiders on its back; it collapses and goes squish, the world is saved, and the movie director goes broke.
Most scientists now realize that playing the mutation game is more risky than betting at the racetrack. No doctor will tell you to stand in front of an X-ray machine, so that the X-rays will cause you to have better children. In fact, there has never been a documented mutation in humans that can be considered beneficial. We have a layman's term for mutations in people that sums it up pretty well--birth defects. Would you be willing to risk having any one of a thousand things go wrong to improve on something else?
"Nowhere have the limits between species been transgressed (The Material Basis of Evolution, pgs. 165, 168). Practically all orders and families known appear suddenly and without any apparent transitions ("Evolution as Viewed by One Geneticist," American Scientist, January 1952, pg. 97). Nobody has ever succeeded in producing a new species, not to mention the higher categories, by selection of micromutations (Theoretical Genetics, pg. 488)."
Never fear, Dr. Goldschmidt found a way out of this dilemma. Instead of looking for evidence, he proposed that a bunch of mutations took place at once and a dinosaur egg hatched a bird. This was called the "hopeful monster" theory, and they introduced it to the public in--of all places!--a child's book called The Wonderful Egg. This conjures up visions of an ape giving birth to a hairless baby and exclaiming, "Good grief! It's a people!"
Now anybody who has lived on a farm will tell you how silly this is. Cows always have cows, chickens always have chickens, and if their genes get mixed up before birth the result is not a "hopeful monster," but a hopeless monstrosity. Furthermore, even if it survives, how would it find a mate? Unless another nearly identical "hopeful monster" is born around the same time, it cannot reproduce! Since it cannot be proved that evolution happened slowly, a new theory--equally lacking in evidence--claims that evolution happened quickly. When you ask evolutionists about this, they will tell you that they don't take the "hopeful monster" theory seriously, but you have to wonder, since the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) did endorse the book.
As with the other theories discussed so far, the facts say otherwise. The "primitive" features on the human embryo are not prehistoric organs which we no longer carry, but budding organs which have to be where they are until the rest of the embryo grows big enough to put them in their proper place. The "gill slits" do not connect with the respiratory system like they do in a fish, but later grow into the middle ear bones, parathyroid and thymus glands. The "yolk sack" is not a food storehouse like in bird eggs, but a temporary structure used to make the first blood cells until bone marrow can be formed. The "tail" is merely the end of the spine, which grows first and sticks out until the legs and pelvis catch up with it. Doctors have known better for years, and the only reason I can think of for why they allow this theory to be taught is intellectual dishonesty.
For personal reasons I am glad this theory is false. My brother and sister were born nine weeks early, and if the doctor believed in the embryology-evolution connection, he might have put them in the monkey house at the Seattle zoo instead of in a hospital incubator!
This is the End of Chapter 3.
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