Was Evolution Really Possible by Chance?

On science and religion.

Moshe Trop, Ph.D., is a member of the Department of Life Sciences, Bar-ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

 

VARIATION, randomness, and chance are the driving forces many evolutionists postulate for the processes that produced life and brought about the present complexity of life forms. Many other students of nature, however, are convinced that the evidences of intelligent design in the physical world are the products of a Creator who intentionally placed fully-developed life forms on the earth, though with the capacity for some adaptation and change.

Perhaps the place where evolutionists and creationists diverge the most widely is in their explanation for the origin of life. Evolutionists have supposed that because they could see small changes taking place in the world around them (microevolution), they could extrapolate backward to the supposed beginnings. If given enough time, they said, chance combinations of elements could result in superiorly endowed molecules, chance variations of such molecules could result in the first simple life forms, and then the more complex forms, as well. By "enough time" in the past they mean about 100 million years for a significant change.

There were no scientists present at the beginnings of life, of course, what ever these beginnings were, so it is difficult at this point to say scientifically what happened. At the present time, however, we do know some basic things about the structure of cells that are true of all existing life forms. From these data we may make some reasoned estimates about the probability (or improbability) of the postulated development of cells. The importance of these considerations was not recognized by the original formulators of the evolution hypothesis.

Let us look at some fairly complicated processes such as the utilization of energy in sugars and the physiology of muscular contractions.

Appearance of New Enzymes

A living cell must have energy. Sugars are the main source of energy for any animal. To make grape sugar (a form of glucose) available as energy, at least ten different kinds of enzymes (forms of protein) must carry out a chain of reactions on the sugar to execute the process known as glycolysis. In order to completely use the various components produced in this process, still other re actions must take place, each guided by other sets of enzymes, which actually interweave one with another in their work. These carry out the "combustion," or complete oxidation, of the material, extracting the last bit of energy from it. Every enzyme type within the set seems to have a defined task, involving a specialized structure.

The plan for this structure, including the control and fine adjustment systems, is carried in information provided in advance in a special gene or genes (nucleic acid) found in the chromosomes of the cell nucleus. These are carried forward hereditarily from generation to generation, together with all of the in formation locked in them. It is evident, therefore, that for a new enzyme to come into being and to be acquired by the life form carrying it, it has to appear as an item of information in the gene, i.e., a new gene must appear.

If this is to happen, it must be through the chemical mutation of another gene. The mutation would alter the gene, which would acquire a new meaning, and would be transformed, if everything should go well, into a new gene bearing new information. For a set of ten new enzymes to come about in this manner, at least ten new genes would have to be formed, through ten different, independent, mutations.

All muscles of the body—skeletal muscles, and muscles of internal organs—operate through contraction. This is their special characteristic, not found in other body cell structures. The relatively great pulling power of the muscles is produced by their contraction when they receive nervous excitation. When the excitation passes, the muscle relaxes and returns to its former state.

The exact process of contraction and relaxation is constituted through electrochemical and mechanical operations occurring simultaneously, and continues to be the subject of research, since the process has not yet been elucidated completely. It is known that muscles contract as a reaction to instructions emanating from the nerve center, which sends out signals to nerves attached to the muscle fibers; these signals cause chemical changes in the muscle and the electrochemical energy is transformed into mechanical action.

Imagine an individual muscle cell (fibril) that first appeared in the world, within some multicelled creature. With what new tools must it be equipped in order for it to be of any utility whatsoever? It is necessary (a) for it to include several thousand new molecules of proteins called actin and myosin, and (b) for these molecules to be in a parallel, coordinated order of a special kind, resembling a comb, in order for them to react simultaneously when stimulated.

And the cell must (1) be situated be tween two specific supporting points, (2) be equipped with a motor nerve cell to trigger it, (3) have a suitable conjunction between the nerve cell and muscle, and (4) be part of a control system for the operation of the muscle when ex cited by the nerve. For the appearance of a new, efficient muscle of this kind, which would be suitable for use by an animal, several tens of independent mutations are required at the very least.

Unicellular creatures, or primitive multicellular ones, multiply relatively quickly; from several individuals it is possible to obtain within a short time an almost unlimited number of offspring determined only by the living space available.

Once the living space has been taken up, the life forms reach saturation point, their numbers cease to grow and they remain constant, or even decline. However, it would be wrong to suppose that at saturation point the cells entirely cease multiplication. Actually re production continues, but the death rate grows to equal or exceed the "birth rate" and hence the number of living cells ceases to increase.

In this situation, of all the creatures "born" within a given time span only a few succeed in establishing a wide spread family. Those that do so are the more successful, in Darwinian terms; their individual characteristics grant them victory in the struggle for existence, it is said; they overcome others, multiply, and pass on their superior characteristics to their heirs.

But by this argument, for a new system of material utilization such as that of the sugars, or a new type of cell such as the muscles, to appear as a permanent part of some creature, it is necessary that the new feature give its possessor some superior attribute enabling it to succeed in the process of natural selection. However, a new feature or phenomenon can be beneficial only when there is a complete set containing the minimum number of enzymes required, or when there is a network of parts and mechanisms fully integrated with the cell and its surroundings.

Number of Possibilities Is Limited

Assume that at least ten mutations must take place at once, in one and the same cell, for such a progressive change to occur. This is, of course, a minimum requirement, very far-fetched, and it is highly doubtful if, in fact, meeting such conditions would be sufficient.

What is the possibility of a new metabolic facility arising within all of the generations of a typical unicellular creature (such as bacteria), which could have existed on earth? An approximate calculation shows that during 2 billions of years, there would have been a maxi mum of 1048 births (or cell divisions) of unicellular animals, while in order for it to be possible for a specific creature to acquire a characteristic involving ten mutations, 1080 births (or cell divisions) are required. It can be seen at once how wide the gap is, arithmetically speaking. 1

Even more remote is the possibility of a multicellular creature acquiring a new type of cell such as a muscle cell. During two billion years there could have been only 1044 births or multicellular animals, while the best probability for the acquisition of a new type of cell would be one individual out of 10 160 births. 2

Were Life Conditions in the Ancient World Different?

Many researchers find refuge in the idea that in very ancient periods the number of mutations were greater, owing to some special conditions then prevailing. The world, they suggest, was then being bombarded with a great quantity of cosmic rays or other radiation, causing a high rate of mutation, so that all new characteristics could have appeared at random.

It is regrettable that this idea has proved a pitfall for so many, for, on the contrary, a high rate of mutation causes death and disappearance; most mutations cause destruction of vital genes, or the appearance of degenerative phenomena. It is well known that excess exposure to radiation has destructive effects, such as destruction of cells and structures, or birth of monstrosities lacking entire limbs.

It is permissible to suppose that the maximum rate of mutation that would not lead to elimination of the species would be one per million (about the number of vital genes); even then, in the first case considered, the probability of the appearance of a beneficial metabolic characteristic would be one in 1060 births, and the chance for the appearance of a new muscle or nerve cell would be one in 10120 . Even then there would be no possibility of such an evolution in the time available and with the number of creatures that could have existed.

Not only this; there are many types of creatures that have acquired entirely new characteristics (or so it would have to be maintained according to the theory of evolution) while living in situations that protect them from cosmic rays to a greater or less extent. Land creatures such as moles and earthworms, cave dwellers such as bats, and sea inhabitants of the deep waters (which cannot live near the surface) would fall into this class.

All calculations made of the probability of the gradual beneficial development of characteristics and new genetic systems, one after the other, in millions of life forms show that during the limited time of the existence of the earth there could have been no possibility of the random appearance of life of this nature. The doctrine of evolution was founded by men who relied heavily on the supposition "that anything could have taken place on earth during an unlimited period." That supposition will not hold anymore today. The tree planted by the original proponents of evolution has yielded fruit that has been consumed on all sides, but the tree has no roots.

The truth is that, today, men disagree about even the approach to the determination of the origins of the organisms now living on earth. Moreover, examination of astronomical bodies during space flights, and by telescopes, until now has resulted in only one conclusion—that life is a phenomenon unique to the earth, at any rate in that portion of the cosmos to which man has direct or indirect access. To the present, human ingenuity has brought forth no really scientifically well-founded theory to ex plain the origins of life.

There is no reasonable substitute for the Creation of the world, and all its creatures, through a supernatural force above our comprehension—God Him self.

 

Adapted from Dr. Trop's article by the same title that appeared in Creation Research Society Quarterly II (41, March,
1975. Used by permission.

FOOTNOTES

1 Were the earth's surface equal to that of the sun, it would have been possible to get only 1052 births, and even were the earth's circumference as large as that of the whole solar system the number of births possible would not be more than 1060 .

2 Sufficient to remember that the number of atoms comprising the earth probably does not exceed 1052, while the sun contains no more than 1058.


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Moshe Trop, Ph.D., is a member of the Department of Life Sciences, Bar-ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.

July 1977

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