May 16, 2008

The Evolution of Life - A Glob to a Blog

What is life? What does it mean to say "I live." What are we?

We call ourselves "humans." We've explored our bodies and our minds, and we've searched our "souls" trying to make sense out of our existence. Over the thousands of years we've populated Earth, we've come to a wide array of conclusions as to many of these questions. Darwin concluded we were but an offshoot of an original organism that thrived in some primeval "soup" which enabled life to grow into its millions of shapes, forms and species, including plants and even bacterium. Of course, his conclusions can no longer stand up under the scrutiny of real scientists who practice real science.

But philosophers have also wrestled with those questions. Most of them got no closer to the truth than Darwin. Indeed, most of the philosophers spent their time and energy speculating about the existence of life from a perspective that was not based on origins, but based on existence itself. Summed up by Rene Descartes, "I am. I exist." (In an earlier work, he expressed it differently, to wit, "I think, therefore I exist.") Descartes found his solace in numbers where he felt there was some certainty. He set out in his quest to make sense out of the questions about life by forcing himself to doubt everything he learned. Descartes decided to suspend belief about everything "which I allowed myself in youth to be persuaded without having inquired into their truth." Thus, he begins by seeking to establish truth by working towards conclusions about life that will lend themselves to understanding life.

One can find hundreds of answers rendered to the questions raised, by tens of thousands of humans. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion. Everyone feels he or she has a pretty fair grasp as to what "life" means. Some are rather simplistic in their approach, like Descartes. They live, and for them, life is being alive, nothing more. While that may sound somewhat circular, nonetheless, it works for many. They are no that concerned as to the deep meanings of what "life" means. They live. They have life. That's enough for them. They don't want to know how the heart works. They're not interested in the physiology of the human body, nor do they have an interest in the inner workings of the brain, nor do they care whether the body has something called a soul or a spirit. Life for them, is something they have and something they enjoy. Their thinking carries them no further than that.

Others are more speculative. They have conjured up some rather fascinating conclusions as to what "life" means. One group, for example, has concluded that life is a never ending circle of lives in which we live again and again and again, as different humans at different times. Others have opined that life is what you see, to wit, humans of varying shapes, colors and sizes, who eventually die. That's it. Once they're dead, there is no more life for them. It is finis.

Religion has, of course, placed its indelible stamp of authoritative approval on a wide array of conclusions about life. Some hold that gods of one sort or another, have populated the earth with humans and rule unseen from the heavens.

Others, such as the Jews and Christians, hold that a single being called God-as opposed to "a" God-created life in a single moment of time, and hold that this life will continue on a different plane of existence, a spiritual one, when the body dies. In other words, their view is that life goes on.

If one truly examines the question, "What is life?" it becomes rather critical to come to some kind of conclusion as to the beginnings of that life. The simplistic solution of Darwin is, of course, unacceptable. Life is too complex. There are simply too many variations of life. There are animal species of countless variations and kinds. There are plants and bugs and trees and bacterium and cells that are so widely different that it becomes impossible to believe all life evolved from a single source. We must ask this question as well: How did life begin? We know life exists. We see evidence of our existence. We see evidence of the existence of other forms of life, ranging from tens of thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects, to strange species that live deep within our oceans.

How did all of these come into existence?

The complexity of the human brain is but one example of the staggering complexity of the human systems and argues against an evolutionary process. Judson Herrick, Professor of Neurology at the University of Chicago, states that: "If a million cortical nerve cells were connected one with another in groups of only two neurons each in all possible combinations, the number of different patterns of interneuronic connection thus provided would be expressed by 10 to the 2,783,000th. This, of course, is not the actual structure, as we shall see; but the illustration may serve to impress upon us the inconceivable complexity of the interconnections of the ninety-two hundred million [9,200,000,000] nerve cells known to exist in the cerebral cortex."

Michael Denton, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has written two significant books dealing with the complexities of life, entitled Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and Nature's Destiny. In his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Denton writes "In crude terms, the human brain is a natural computer composed of 10 to 100 billion neurons, each of which connects to about 10,000 others, and all of which function in parallel. Neuronal systems take about 100 processing steps to perform a complex task of vision or speech which would take an electronic computer billions of processing steps."

We must ask another question. How finely-tuned is life? How precise are the parts and the whole of humans, and of other life? What are the odds of this complexity evolving naturally, on its own? What are the mathematical probabilities of this highly intricate web of systems of life somehow creating itself into perfectly nuanced systems? Those are questions being answered by scientists like Denton and Herrick and many other very learned scientists.

Once we begin looking at the precision with which the parts of life fit, we begin to realize that "life" is far more than mere existence. Life begins to take on a different meaning. The precision with which life on our world is put together and the incredible complexities involved in the capable functioning of life, whether it be plant or animal or human, begs a new question to be answered. How can this be?

Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and author of the book Darwin's Black Box (Behe 1996), speaks of the complexities of blood-clotting and compares it to a mouse-trap, opining that if you take away any one piece of the trap, such as the spring or baseboard, or the metal piece that traps the mouse, the trap ceases to function so as to catch a mouse. In like fashion, take away one component from our blood and it ceases to give life.

Behe notes that if any one of the more than 20 proteins involved in blood clotting is missing or deficient, as happens in hemophilia, for instance, clots will not form properly. This is but one single example, out of tens of thousands, of phenomenally complex and intricate elements in the human make-up and the plant and animal make-up that defy the conclusion that such intricacies somehow "evolved."

Those critical of Behe and other like-minded scientists fail to grasp the essence of his and scientists like Behe's findings. They also fail to realize that the debate is not about Behe, nor is it about evolution. The real debate is about life and how it came to exist. The real debate is about the quest for truth. In order to understand the issue, those who profess to be scientists must one day put aside their pre-conceived notions and biases and ask themselves this question: How can it be that tens of thousands of intricate systems have come to exist and work within humans and animals and plants? They have never asked that question. Instead, their question has always been on the heels of Darwin, to wit, "How did evolution evolve?" The simplistic approach has put them into an intellectual straight-jacket in which they now struggle.

Many scientists, some former skeptics, are turning away from the shaky platform of evolution. In 2006, three University of Michigan professors added their names to a list of scientists who have concluded that evolution cannot explain the complexities that exist in life. Ronald Larson, chairman of chemical engineering, Phillip Savage, a professor of chemical engineering, and Kenneth Ludema, an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering, are among about 500 scientists worldwide who have signed "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.''

The petition was signed by 514 people, with nearly a fourth of them biologists. The other signers include 76 chemists, 75 engineers, 63 physicists and 24 professors of medicine. The signers include some nationally prominent scientists such as James M. Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University; Rosalind W. Picard, director of the affective computing research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Philip S. Skell, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Penn State who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The petition reads, in part: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.'' Citing his extensive training in chemistry and physics, Larson noted "that evidence for natural spontaneous formation of living cells from undirected chemical reactions is virtually nonexistent.'' While Ludema refused to go so far as to say he supported the creationist's views on evolution, he remarked that the mathematical probability that the elaborate structures existing in life could emerge from random processes was minute.

Professor Savage said he signed the petition because of those (evolutionists) who have asserted that the origin of life has been fully established scientifically, when in fact the evidence does not support that. Tour echoes Larson, saying his experience in chemistry and nano-technology showed him how hard it was to maneuver atoms and molecules. He found it hard to believe that nature was able to produce the machinery of cells through random processes. He concludes that the explanations offered by evolution are incomplete.

How can such precision, such incredible variety, and such marvelous intricacy exist within all of the forms upon the earth that have life? Clearly, life could not have simply sprung into existence on its own. And no one who has the ability to reason can conclude that life "just happened" by chance. The chance of life "just happening" by some fluke or lucky break is incalculable. It simply could not happen by chance. And, if life did not happen by chance, then we must conclude life happened on purpose. If life happened on purpose, then that suggests intelligence behind the existence of life. Once you reach this conclusion, as one must, if he or she is a true intellectual, then you must make a conclusion called "Intelligent Design." There is simply no other explanation for the existence of life-all life.

Here's a very excellent video on the subject entitled The Miracle of the Cell

If you have not seen the Ben Stein movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Required, you must see it. This is such an excellent movie dealing with this subject. It will make you think, and if you're an evolutionist, it will make you blink.

Richard Dawkins blinked.

Copyright 2008 Voyle A. Glover


Jenny said...

Great post as usual, Voyle! I'll have to get TG to take me to see Ben Stein's movie. If you endorse it, that's enough for me! Ben Stein is hilarious. Hope you're doing well.

Voyle said...

Stein is brilliant. Everything about him is "understatement." He did such an excellent job on this. Pretty incredible, actually. I suspect it went over the heads of some of the wizards of the science world, but some of them got it. I heard the collective groans (especially from Dawkins after he watched the movie.)