The Chemical Evolution Dead End

When someone says they believe in “evolution,” we ask which kind?  There are three types of evolution, all significantly different; if someone doesn’t distinguish between them, they may not know what they are talking about.  Chemical evolution refers to the beginning of life by a spontaneous collision of molecules through self-organization in a warm watery environment. Macroevolution is where organisms larger than species have evolved from a common ancestor resulting in the “tree of life.” And microevolution is where organisms exhibit small differences in adapting to changing environments as expressed in various gene frequencies through selective pressures. Everybody accepts this last category which may be better referred to as “adaptation”. What is not emphasized is that there is no shred of evidence for the first two categories of evolution.

There has been an attempt in recent years to clump microevolution under the macro banner because the evidence, when probed, gets real thin. Many advocates will say they believe in “evolution” and blame any insistence of distinctions on creationists or those who believe in a designer. The problem with that is the term “microevolution” itself was coined by a Neo-Darwinist in the early 20th century. And it was a Russian biochemist Alexander Oparin who proposed an entirely materialistic hypothesis for the origin of life. He held that simple chemicals formed organic compounds which in turn constructed large, complex molecules (such as proteins) that somehow remained interconnected inside a cell wall. It was from his theory that descend terms which shape our modern vernacular such as “sea of chemicals” or “prebiotic soup.”  Macroevolution requires an evolution of origins, and chemical evolution attempts to fit that bill by ushering in organic processes from inorganic materials. This article deals with chemical evolution.

Many of us have been in an athletic contest where an opponent simply defeats himself. He may be tough, gritty and determined. But when it comes down to a few crucial points in the match, they just wilt and we find ourselves taking home the hardware. Such is the case with chemical evolution as an explanation to the origin of life. It seems to put up a good show from a distance, but when probed it has no leg to stand on. There are only two options for the beginning of life: design or random chance through evolution. As we will see, chemical evolution is a dead end and a vote in favor of intelligent design by default.

DNA: A Classic Chicken or the Egg Scenario

One burr under the saddle of chemical evolution is DNA. Often described as a chemical code, DNA is mandatory for life. Any origin of life theory that doesn’t satisfactorily account for DNA is defunct. Most people who are faintly familiar with evolution have heard of the classic chicken or the egg scenario with DNA. In simple terms, DNA is needed to create new cells, yet new cells seem to be created with DNA. Proteins are needed to create DNA, yet DNA creates proteins. The question is, which comes first? We know that DNA is a message bearing medium or information coding system. That is, it carries a message that tells a cell what kinds of proteins to make and when to make them. But if DNA carries a message, then the message cannot be the product of the chemicals that make it up; it wouldn’t be a message at all. The message cannot be an outgrowth of the medium just as the words on this page don’t arise from a keyboard and a computer screen. Since DNA is a code and a genetic language, its identity as a language cannot be accounted for on the basis of chemistry or physics alone, just as the message “Mike loves Rebecca” cannot be accounted for on the basis of physics alone.

The DNA letters A,C, T, and G are chemical letters that determine who we are. But how those letters are arranged is the question. A random combination of letters may occasionally form a word, but rarely a sentence and never a meaningful sentence much less a book. As one man writes, “meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them to two other words”. Chemicals alone don’t make DNA a coded message. Information incorporates physical elements and manifestations, but to reduce information to physical materials is to commit a fallacy of composition. An example of a fallacy of composition is, “the chair is made of wood.” The chair may be made of wood but the chair is more than wood. There is something that makes the chair a chair, something that gives it chairness. In the same way, DNA is more than the protein that makes it up even though it is that. Information always has intelligence behind it. Life contains information rich codes; non-life does not. This physical-intelligence gap cannot be explained by any materialistic explanation because it statistically is impossible for life to have evolved from non-life. Design is the only option.

RNA: Solution or Sleight of Hand To The DNA Dilemma?

To try to get around the DNA chicken or the egg dilemma, Darwinists in recent years have posited that RNA actually precedes DNA because RNA can act like an enzyme. Since DNA needs an array of proteins to make copies, and proteins are not the first building blocks, they say DNA couldn’t be first. There must be some kind of predecessor in spite of the evidence that DNA appears to come from nothing, ex-nihlo. So RNA supposedly comes to the rescue but RNA also needs pre-existing materials. The same problems exist for RNA as DNA, and gets into what is known as the “metabolism first” vs. “genetics first” debate. If all of life must came from inorganic matter which existed before us, then Darwinists fill one hole by digging another; they pass the buck further down the pipeline. How could RNA form before DNA? Some kind of non RNA world would have to precede RNA and doesn’t help us answer the classic chicken of the egg origin of life question.

Another problem with the RNA/enzyme theory is that the environment of the early earth was too unstable to allow for self-organization. Any self-organizing situation needs chemicals and information co-contingent with each other. Does chemistry precede information or does information preface chemistry? Furthermore, self-organization only talks about materials; it doesn’t comment on plan. The function of a protein is just as contingent on structure as it is on chemical composition, which DNA supplies. For example, the tertiary structure in folded proteins is just as mandatory for life as the materials itself. But random forces cannot account for this channeled structure, and it does no good to simply describe a set of chemicals and precursors to life in some periodic soup because detailed plans or blueprints are needed. It’s not just what attracts, but how they are arranged in structure and why they come together at all, which can only be explained by design.

Morowitz tried to get pre-biotic elements to organize themselves into the citric acid cycle that all cells require for life. But the missing ingredient were enzymes which need to be contingent with the process. Under the theory RNA has to be it’s own enzyme. But RNA can’t be it’s own enzyme and information system at the same time. Furthermore, catalytic RNA can’t organize itself as well as DNA and proteins anyway. It’s easy to propose such a scenario but when probed it’s like saying primitive water wheel technology is sufficient enough to explain the super-computer complexity we see in nature. Only design and not mechanistic self-organization is the best explanation to the RNA/enzyme enigma.

The Fatal Errors of Self Organization

Macroevolution is a really a chemical evolution problem and the issue is how the Darwin mechanism (natural selection acting on random variation) applies to molecules and not organisms. The Darwinian mechanism as applying to organisms sounds plausible until it is probed and we have to go beyond generalities and get to the molecular level. The theory is if we could just find a self-replicating molecule and not just self-organizing properties, then the Darwinian mechanism could take over. An example that is sometimes put forth is crystal growth from a crystal seed. But crystal growth is nothing close to the self-replication of functionally integrated molecular systems. It is impossible for crystal growth to be channeled and gated in a membrane. How can the Darwinian mechanism generate an assortment of biomacro-molecules and then become arranged into a functionally integrated system? The evidence shows that gradual replication of molecules always has interfering cross reactions such as irrelevant tars and melanoids. What nature selects by random processes always results in chemically inert dead ends.

Can natural forces go from the organic to the inorganic as well as the bridge the complexity gap? Again it is abstract information that shapes matter into the structure of design. When design is found in nature it indicates that nature is incomplete and unable to account for itself. Physical processes themselves do not contain the ultimate answers to the questions of their own origins. DNA and even the RNA sequencing problem reveal that information cannot be derived from natural forces alone. There is something about life that cannot be reduced to the materials that make it up. Information, such as we see in cells, is the bridge from the physical to some metaphysical reality. To say natural forces generate specified complexity is tantamount to saying that Scrabble pieces have the ability to arrange themselves into meaningful sentences on their own. In fact, there is an inherent pre-biotic resistance against self-organization. Amino acids react with sugars that actually prevent the formation of DNA. Intelligent causes generate information and natural causes merely transmit it. The secret to the origin of life is information not chemicals, and coded information is not pre-biotic. If life comes from non-life (abiogenesis), it cannot generate through strict random processes.

Detailed Darwinian Pathways Are Always Missing

The big picture in any enterprise must always be supplemented with specifics and details. Yet all Darwinists ever do is posit these grand schemes without the connectors. They think they know the big dots but the little dots that make the connections necessary are always missing. Exact pathways are not needed they say, just proof of principle or proof of concept. But this goes against the nature of science which always demands precision. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific. There is no known pathway to coded information in cells. There is no specific plausible pathway from a pre-biotic soup to information rich structures found in cells. Darwinists operate from a great assumption that says, “even though we don‘t know where life began, we know it had to begin somewhere and things had to self reproduce .” But on what premise? Even evolutionary philosopher Thomas Nagel  says this is circular reasoning: “one doesn’t show that something doesn’t require explanation by pointing out that it is a condition of one’s existence” (p. 95 Mind & Cosmos). With organic materials we don’t presuppose the thing we are trying to establish as the conclusion.

For Darwinism to succeed, it must explain why evolution proceeds in a complexity increasing direction. But all they ever cite are complexity decreasing scenarios. For example, when polynucleotides are exacted in a replicase environment, polymerization always goes backwards. Increasing complexity in molecules is impossible to reproduce and requires more costs. The Darwinian mechanism of natural selection acting on random variation places no inherent premium on complexity. They never give the detailed pathways from simplicity to complexity. For example, mutation is often posited a proof of the Darwinian mechanism in generating new organisms. The reality is that mutation is deleterious to an organism or sideways movement at best. All things being equal, the Darwinian mechanism in organisms prefers simplicity over complexity and there is no evidence to account for evolution in a complexity increasing direction.

Can The Message Be Reduced To The Medium?

Ironically, in a field that seems to demand precision, the Darwinian narratives avoid accuracy as a necessary mandate of science and settle for possibility. In a rather hypocritical tone “can” is a legitimate substitute for “did”. If it is chemically feasible (and even this is suspect), then it happened that way. But isn’t this also faith, the very concept they abhor in theists? In science, it’s not enough to merely assert a claim; one is required to back it up or it becomes spurious and ad hoc. The ultimate question becomes, “is the origin of life ultimately a question of chemistry and materials or design and intelligence“? The best evidence we have is that chemistry provides the medium for life, but the information it carries can’t be reduced to it. The advantage intelligent design brings to the science arena is the information argument, the weakness in so many Darwin origin of life theorists. Like we saw with DNA, origin has to do with information and not merely chemicals. Chemistry is the carrier not the source, and chemicals need information to organize passive inert matter. Information is active and acts on matter to give it form and arrangement in very particular ways. This relationship is fundamental to an understanding of our world.

Natural Law: From Whence Do Ye Come?

One last line of evidence as to why things don’t evolve from the Darwinian mechanism is that organisms are subject to natural law. They say that random processes were guided by natural laws. But where do natural laws come from? Are these also self organized? How are natural laws sufficient to account for the origin of life? Darwinists assume these by passing the buck and never explain them. In fact, we have seen that natural laws work against the origin of life, especially in the alleged “pre-biotic soup” where natural forces (through the presence of oxygen) would have broken up macromolecules and consume raw materials. Material processes left to their own devices are crushed by natural laws. When Darwinists use for support the famous Miller/Urey experiments that produced amino acids in the 1950‘s, they always leave out the fact that the building blocks never spontaneously arranged themselves. The experiments were put together and designed by a designer! Information rich structures actually limit the parameters of self-organization. There is actually an inherent pre-biotic resistance against self-organization. And amino acids react with sugars that prevent the formation of DNA while tars and other useless materials are always created instead.

One natural law that argues against evolution is the law of conservation of information. This is where organisms never end up with more information than what they start with. It has never been observed that organisms gain more information over time. Different environments may cause different gene expressions but the genes and DNA were latent in the organism to begin with. This loophole is underemphasized in the Darwinian model. The random exploration of new biological configuration space, as posited for evolutionary biologists, always depends on pre-existing information. The continual upgrades that organisms get over time for the evolutionary model to work are not supported by natural law. Evolutionary processes cannot create from scratch the information required for success as the DNA chicken or the egg scenario reveals. Design can accommodate some mystery, but when insisting on viewing reality from a reductionistic perspective only, this problem becomes exponential. (A reductionist is one who believes all of reality can be reduced to material or mechanistic explanations).

Conclusion

In summary, the questions Darwinists never adequately answer are “Why is there something rather than nothing?” “What are the detailed pathways from biomacro-molecules to organisms?“ And “Why is the universe intelligible at all?” It is interesting that the modern word “technology” comes from an ancient Greek word which means “design”. Design is a much more feasible option if for no other reason than it takes design to comprehend design just as it takes one to know one. Design, as proven by the nature of information, is endemic to nature from the beginning.

Copyright by Scott Chandler. All Rights Reserved.

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About Scott Chandler

As a trained academician, Scott speaks to the issues of our culture with an emphasis on apologetics.
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