The Biochemistry Challenge to Darwin
The AT commenters responses to my book review of Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose, by Physical Chemist, Spectrometrist Researcher Dr. Marcos Eberlin were, in many cases, well informed and insightful, but one extraordinary commentary was provided by Dr. Ronald Cherry of East Tennessee, who is board certified in four specialties of medicine and an energetic researcher in matters of biochemical cellular physiology and micro anatomy and physiology.
Dr. Cherry provided me with a commentary titled “Zero Probability for Self-Generated Life” that I found compelling and worth summarizing and discussing for the many who are interested in the debate on the origination of life and the appearances of species of life, the question—does the Darwin Theory of Origin of Species hold up to modern scientific analysis that includes the microanatomy and microphysiology as well as the active complex biochemistry of the magic that is a living cell?
The life functions of a single human cell, as described by Dr. Cherry, are far more complex than the world's most capable supercomputer, and impossible for man to duplicate using non-living materials due to the complexity and the sub-microscopic size and fragility of biochemical and cellular elements that are critical to the development of more complicated functional living things, but also that provide for maintaining the survival of the “lesser” forms of cellular life. The complexity and rapidity of life-requiring DNA transcription into messenger RNA, and then ribosomal translation into enzymes and proteins of structure and function challenges human understanding.
Image credit: Pixabay
The living cell is enclosed in a protective membrane that is a perfect place for all the proteins and the other biochemically active molecules to perform chemical reactions to achieve important functions. For example, the DNA genetic code can direct and control, orchestrate, if you will, a cellular symphony where the 37 trillion cells of our human bodies produce a hundred thousand trillion enzymes and other proteins per second. Get your head around that one and consider whether such a symphony can result from random banging around of brainless chemicals.
Dr. Cherry asks the obvious question: where did the essential DNA code to run the cells come from, and how would the first strand of DNA, devoid of its cellular environment, initially run the cell -- big if -- the cellular environment had to be present to protect the DNA so it could run the factory. Dr. Cherry provides a lot of questions about the chicken/egg mystery, and points out the inadequacy of the self-creation theory, but there is no answer to this chicken/egg question, since there is no way to explain the circular puzzle. Cellular research has no explanation for how the first strand of DNA could perform its essential life generating work without the essential enzymes, ribosomes, energy production, and complex biochemical membrane functions that give DNA a place and an environment to work. DNA cannot work unless the conditions are right.
Nucleotides (the molecular building blocks of DNA, composed of phosphoric acid, deoxyribose and one of four nucleic acid bases) do not self-assemble in lifeless inorganic nature into the self-regulating, self-reproducing, mega-information containing polymers that we call genes. Even if there were an ocean full of these essential building blocks of DNA, there is no enzyme (call it DNA synthetase) that exists that can assemble DNA from scratch. Here we go again, circular causation questions: no enzyme to create the first strand of DNA, because DNA creates the enzymes and all enzyme assembly is based on DNA coding. The only DNA “assembly” enzyme in existence is DNA polymerase that cannot assemble DNA from the aforementioned nucleotides in the absence of DNA since it requires the presence of a pre-existing DNA template and coding to produce the polymerase. All enzymes are built on a DNA coded blueprint of messenger RNA, so the conundrum is clear; the cell’s first strand of self-generated DNA would require the pre-existence of DNA, and perfectly coded RNA. That’s a non-starter with a probability of zero.
The same circular problem exists with enzymes, large proteins that function to make cellular life. DNA codes the making of those enzymes that make things work. For example protein receptors, second messenger biochemicals directed back to the interior DNA, and enzymatic protein electrolyte channels that all work in a sequence that is regulated and highly choreographed and ordered by, guess what: DNA. But they have to be present for DNA to survive and function; whoops, circular causation strikes again.
All the regulation of cell activities coordinated by DNA ensures the proper pH and electrolyte concentration required for cell survival and DNA function. No DNA-assembly enzyme could exist prior to the existence of DNA so there could be no protective enzymatic membrane proteins prior to the existence of DNA, and no friendly environment in the cell. For all those reasons the first random self-assembled strand of DNA is an impossibility, doomed. Circular causality strikes.
Taking it a biochemical step further no DNA-assembly enzyme could exist prior to the existence of DNA because DNA codes all the proteins for the cell. There could be no RNA polymerase prior to the existence of DNA, an enzyme required for transcription of DNA into messenger RNA, that is the mechanism for creating essential proteins and enzymes. The immediate survival of the first self-generated strand of DNA would require the pre-existence of DNA-dependent RNA polymerase -- not possible under the Darwinist incrementalist scientific theory.
Dr. Cherry points out that the DNA of the first living self-generated prokaryotic (single cell) entities, such as bacteria, would not have survived because these cells have a very short life span. The circular causation argument returns with a vengeance, the important role of DNA in creating survival and the urgent reproduction mechanisms for those simple cells.
Cells require energy produced in the form of discrete energy biochemicals called Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP), but such energy would be absent under pre-life inorganic conditions because enzyme-containing mitochondria, essential for energy use, and their membranous prokaryotic equivalent, require DNA-encoded information as a pre-requisite for their existence -- again, not possible because functional DNA is required to produce mitochondria and the enzymes necessary for energy production. Thus the first self-assembled strand of DNA, if it miraculously self-assembled, would lack ATP energy and be dead in the water.
The only rational, i.e. scientific, alternative explanation for cellular life is that cells were created intact. That DNA genes appeared at the same time as all the biochemical entities required to make the cell that the DNA was controlling. All the proteins, enzymes, organelles of the cell, membranes and all the energy that drives the activities of the cell -- the interdependence of DNA and the components of the cells and the cellular activities makes the circular causation problem the insurmountable problem.
The DNA code is primary, but the structures and functions for which it codes must appear ahead of time for its initial self-assembly and subsequent survival, an impossibility, because that would require the pre-existence of DNA ahead of the first strand of DNA.
What we know about cellular anatomy and physiology makes a theory of self-assembly irrational, because it is impossible genetically and biochemically. Self-assembled cellular life is an irrational idea that is the basis for an atheistic explanation for life's origin, but which cannot overcome the circular causation problem. The science leads Dr. Cherry to the conclusion that living things must be the product of undiscovered magic, or by rational design which was not random or accidental. Dr. Cherry asserts Atheistic claims for self-generated life require a magical or religious-like faith that contradicts the scientific evidence, observations revealing a design and arguing for a designer, a Creator, belief compatible with science.
I don’t know the nature or identity of the designer, but I must posit design when I see it. Dr. Cherry makes a strong case for design.
John Dale Dunn, MD, JD is a physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas