Created: September 9, 2015
Revise August 28, 2017
 

The Creation Narrative of Science and the Bible
 

Dr. David C. Bossard

Dr. David C. Bossard
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VI. The Creation of Life Itself


The creation of microbial and plant life occurs next. The CNB implies but does not specifically mention the creation of life itself, and CNS typically ignores the philosophical implications of the overwhelming difficulties. Lawrence J. Henderson remarked on the attitude of science in the early 1900s, a remark that is still relevant today.

"As for the existence of life, in spite of our utter ignorance, it must be admitted that a half century has greatly diminished the number of substantial biologists who really look forward to its scientific explanation.... The chemist puts his mind at rest regarding the existence of life, just as the physicist calms his regarding the existence of matter, simply by turning his back on the problem. Thereby he suffers nothing in his practical task as a man of science. ... Biochemists are more than ever unable to perceive how such a process is possible, and without taking any final stand prefer to let the riddle rest."
Lawrence J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment:
an inquiry into the Biological Significance of the
Properties of Matter (1913) p309-10.

"The advance of science has assuredly not made the origin of life easier to imagine, or even to think about. On the contrary I am fully persuaded that it has made the task far more difficult."
Lawrence J. Henderson,The Order of Nature (1917), p.115

The first mention of living matter in CNB is plants that grow on the dry land on Day Three (see below). However the natural world—the silent voice of Psalm 19—speaks volumes on this subjectVI.07. So this is one place where the proclamation of "God's glory and handiwork" in nature forms an indispensible part of the creation narrative. The story that nature tells about the beginnings of life is extensive, deep and detailed—and growing: it will continue to give abundant fruit for many years to come. The account of life's beginnings is an amazing tale of tenacity and fitness. And it leads to the inevitable conclusion by a rational person, hinted at in these quotations, that a rational intelligence is an indispensible part of the unfolding narrative. This is the reason why scientists "prefer to let the riddle rest," as these quotes imply. This is an indictment against the way that science is practiced, because it implies an attitude that is exactly the opposite of rational inquiry that science should presuppose.


How Special is Life?
At times in the decades after 1859, the publication of Origin of Species many scientists thought that science would soon find a scientific explanation for the origin of life. Ernst Haeckel made the remark in 1876VI.02  that the "general explanation of life is now no more difficult to us than the explanation of the physical properties of inorganic bodies." That optimism did not last long.  Within a few decades, as scientists probed the nature of this protoplasm (German urschleim) the vast complexity of life began to unfold. No longer was it possible to argue for the simplicity of this "slime."

Today, there are three areas where probes have only increased the mystery of how it all began. These are:

(1) Discoveries of the exceedingly special nature of a universe that supports life. This concerns the possible range of parameters and laws;

(2) The incredibly complex digital nature of the central dogma, combined with the vast number of complex molecules and processes that must be present for any self-reproducing life to exist; and

(3) The vast array of unique genes and processes that define the major body types of life.

To my knowledge there is no demonstration of how such seminal changes could have evolved by natural evolutionary change.

The logical conclusion is that the whole project of forming a universe capable of life, of designing the complexities of the central dogma; of creating the many specialized and complex molecules needed to support metabolism and reproduction;  and the engineering of the various major classes of living species, point to a Intelligent creator. Those who deny this are in peril of committing to  the vast and foolish fantasy that St. Paul warned against in Romans 1:22, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."


There is so much fascinating and incredible detail to the beginnings of life that it would be easy to lose sight of the overarching story. To avoid this, we will mention just some of the major points, and leave further details to appendices, so the overall flow can be got at without getting bogged down. 

Perhaps sensing the complexity of the question, Darwin  was quite careful to avoid speculation on the origin of life, contenting himself only to assert that once life existed, it evolved its many species by natural means according to Darwinian principles.VI.03


Darwin's acolytes, such as Ernst Haeckel, tried to argue at first that life was, at root, simple. But the more the question was studied, the more complex life appeared to be, leading by the early 1900s to Henderson's comment above: it is so complex that scientists do not "really look forward to its scientific explanation."

As time passed from that remark in the early 1900s to the present time, things have just become more and more complex, with a seismic event in mid-century as the details of its digital basis in DNA came to light. Today, many scientists acknowledge that the phenomenon of life is exceedingly improbable, quite possibly unique on earth in the entire universe. Even the most polemical atheists acknowledge this—their only sense of self-correctness maintained by claiming that the "probability of God" is even smaller ("so's yours!").

So here are the facts, gleaned from the multiple lines of evidence that the natural world offers.

When did life first appear on earth? The answer is startling: evidence of life appears almost as soon as conditions allow it to occur. Basically this means as soon as the earth had cooled from a molten state, and a (hot) global ocean had formed. Ancient rocks on Akilia Island just off GreenlandVI.04, dated to 3.8 billion years ago show traces of organic carbon [a carbon isotope mix that is characteristic of life]. The "biological carbon" is the result of carbon fixing by the RuBisCO molecule that is part of the sugar-making process of photosynthesis VI.05. RuBisCO is the only known natural catalyst for converting CO2 to make biologically useful carbon. It preferrentially fixes carbon-12 which results in a slightly higher ratio of 12C to 13C, the two stable forms of Carbon.

Recently (2017) some actual carbon fossils have been discovered in this same vicinityVI.06.

The Two Kinds of (vastly complex) Life.


Bacterial Life. The first life was bacterial. The creation of this life required the invention of many special molecules, procedures and even molecular machines, all defined and controlled by the Central Dogma, which is essentially the same for all forms of life.

The first bacterial life had the daunting task of scrabbling an existence from an inhospitable and inorganic earth. Its primary task was to prepare the earth for more advanced forms of life by preparing food in the form of organic wastes, including particularly fixed nitrogenVI.08 and carbon. This task literally took billions of years to distribute organic food worldwide and thus prepare the earth for ...

Eukaryotic Life. Eukaryotes are characterized by the existence of a nucleus in each cell. But that is only the most obvious feature. Eukaryotes are so much more complex than bacterial life (itself vastly complex) that it might be viewed as a further creation of life. Eukaryotes have many specialized organelles which amount to factories which produce many special components of advanced life. All visible plants and animals, both single-celled and multicellular, are eukaryotes.

Eukaryotes cannot make all of their own food—they require this food to be already prepared in advance. In particular eukaryotes cannot make the fixed nitrogen needed in abundance by every living cell. This is why eukaryotes appear billions of years after their bacterial predecessors.

Most (all?) eukaryotes respire oxygen, which must be available in the earth's atmosphere. The presence of atmospheric oxygen on a planet is thus a marker of advanced life. To my knowledge only the earth shows such a presence among all the planets discovered in the universe. [check this]




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[*fn]VI.02 Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919), The History of Creation (1876): Vol. I, On the Protoplasm Theory, p.99ff. "protoplasm [= German urschleim, the original slime] is the most essential (and sometimes the only) constituent part of the genuine cell." [p406] "the general explanation of life is now no more difficult to us than the explanation of the physical properties of inorganic bodies." Further investigation showed much greater complexity than appeared at first. See George Goodale, "Protoplasm and its History", Science XIV no. 385 (November 22, 1889) (note the date) who remarked: "instead of regarding the protoplasmic basis as comparatively simple, it is now known to be exceedingly complex [my emphasis] ... [R]esults compel us to recognize in protoplasm a substance of bewildering complexity of composition and constitution... Instead of believing, as formerly, that all the granules within the cell arise de novo from the protoplasm in which they are embedded, we are now forced to regard all of them as springing from pre-existent bodies of the same character."  The true nature of this vast complexity, and details of the genetic code and processes were not known until almost a century later, when, in the 1960s, an outline of the Central Dogma first revealed its vast complexity. Since that time, the perception of complexity has increased manyfold.

[*fn]VI.03 Charles Darwin, letter (1863)
"It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." Quoted in John Theodore Merz (1840 - 21 March 1922), A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, II, p406, n1.]

 [*fn]VI.04 Mojzsis, et al. in 1996 reported their find of ancient rock from the Akilia Island off S. Greenland, which showed evidence of organic carbon. See Mojzsis, et. al., "Evidence for life on Earth before 3,800 million years ago", Nature 384:55-59 (07 November 1996): "The carbon in the carbonaceous inclusions is isotopically light, indicative of biological activity; no known abiotic process can explain the data." This claim has been fortified in a later re-visit to the region in 2006, reported in Science News, "Scientists Strengthen Case for Life on Earth More Than 3.8 Billion years Ago", 06 July 2006, which states: "Scientists look for evidence of life in ancient rocks like those from Akilia Island by searching for chemical suggestions and isotopic evidence. ... The light carbon, 12C, is more than 3 percent more abundant than scientists would expect to find if life were not present, and 3 percent is very significant, Harrison said. ... While critics noted there are ways to make light carbon in the absence of life, Harrison considers those possibilities to be 'extremely unlikely,' especially in light of another discovery of rocks in Western Greenland, not far away, of the same age, and a similar ratio of 12C to 13C."


[*fn]VI.05
RuBisCO molecule

[*fn]VI.06
Science Magazine, March 1, 2017, 3.77-billion-year-old fossils stake new claim to oldest evidence of life—alleged actual fossils (not just organic carbon) from Greenland's Isua Greenstone Belt. Until this finding is verified, I will accept the dating of the earliest actual fossils as reported in J. William Schopf, Cradle of Life (1999). He dated cyanobacteria-like fossils in the Apex chert of Western Australia to 3,465 ± 5 Million years ago. This accuracy is possible because the fossils are sandwiched between lava flows that contained zircon crystals capable of precise dating. See figure 3.9 (p.89) in Schopf's book.

[*fn]VI.07 See my website Psalm19.org for an extensive discussion of the silent speech embedded in nature.

[*fn]VI.08 Some forms of fixed nitrogen are "inorganic" but that is an accident of nomenclature. It is generally thought that saltpeter and other "inorganic" nitrogen salts were byproducts of biologic nitrogen-fixing. See See David W. Wolfe, Tales from the Underground (2001) and G. J. Leigh, The World's Greatest Fix (2004).

VI.09 [*fn]VI.09 Note for VI.09

VI.10 [*fn]VI.10 Note for VI.10




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