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In this section:  Chance or Design?   The Scientific Method Life in a Test Tube? The Eye Irreducible Complexity Anything Can Happen? Evolution or Selection? Real Examples of Evolution "Do You Feel Lucky?" (Abio)Genesis 1:1 Life from Comets? Life on Mars? Richard Dawkins A Brief History of Slime...

... or "Designer Genes"?

Self-organization or Intelligent Design?


In the 1950's, Miller and Urey performed a famous experiment regarded by many as evidence that life could be the result of natural processes.  Let's take a look at exactly what they created:

Tar Carboxylic acids Glycine,
C2H5NO2
Alanine,
C3H7NO2
Glutamic acid, Aspartic acid, Valine, Leucine, Serine, Proline, Treonine
Glycine Alanine Glutamic Acid
85% 13.0% 1.05% 0.85% Trace

How life could begin mired in tar is a mystery itself, but Glycine and Alanine are the simplest and most common of a group of molecules called amino acids, which are indeed the building blocks of proteins found in living organisms.

So is this evidence of life?  Well not exactly . . .

All living organisms have DNA, a very precise code of four molecules, each   quite a bit more complicated than the amino acids created by Miller and Urey:

So then this is life, right?  Well not exactly . . .

These four molecules become part of a very complex double helix spiral held together by other molecules yet, none of which have been produced in such experiments.  Adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T), while cytosine (C) pairs with guanine (G).  The two DNA strands are held together by weak bonds between the AT and CG base pairs:

So then this is life, right?  Well not exactly . . .

This represents only a very small section of DNA.  DNA in even the simplest bacteria have from 0.6 million to 4.7 million of these paired AT / CG bases in a very precise order that encodes all the information necessary for building and maintaining life.  Each gene is comprised of segments of base pairs.  Humans have 3 BILLION paired bases that form their DNA. 

If the DNA sequence of the human genome were compiled in books, the equivalent of 200 volumes the size of a Manhattan telephone book (at 1000 pages each) would be needed to hold it all.

If unwound and tied together, the strands of DNA would stretch more than 5 feet but would be only 50 trillionths of an inch wide.  To put this in scale, if the strands were magnified to one inch wide, their length would be 19 MILLION miles - 20% of the distance to the sun.

So then this is life, RIGHT?  Well not exactly . . .

Each of these strands of DNA forms a chromosome.  In higher organisms, the chromosomes combine in pairs.  Humans have 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs.

So then THIS is life, right?  Well not exactly . . .

DNA is just the program for life that exists in the nucleus of each living cell of an organism.  Each cell is a miracle of biological machinery in itself:

Of course this is just a single "simple" cell.   Humans are made of roughly 75 TRILLION cells, each with its own unique design and purpose.

So then THIS must be life, right?  Well not exactly . . .

An organism can have all this wonderful biological machinery in place and still not be living.  Once an organism is dead we know of no way to bring it to life.  Even with every physical component in place, there is no life unless all the life systems (respiration, ingestion, digestion, excretion, reproduction, circulation, etc.) of the organism all work simultaneously to create the miracle called life. 

"The very best Miller-Urey chemistry, as we have seen, does not take us very along the path to a living organism. A mixture of simple chemicals, even one enriched in a few amino acids, no more resembles a bacterium than a small pile of real and nonsense words, each written on an individual scrap of paper, resembles the complete works of Shakespeare."
Dr. Robert Shapiro (Noted Chemist and Evolutionist)

The real working "building blocks" of life include a dozen sugars and building blocks of lipids, which have never been formed in any significant amount in Miller-Urey experiments, as well as proteins, polysaccharides, nucleic acids and lipids, which have never been formed at all.

If our best application of intelligence and technology falls so short of life, is it rational to assume that life could form naturally or does this in itself suggest design?

Despite this, Scientific American in July 1999 proclaimed "Life may owe its start to complex organic molecules manufactured in the icy heart of an interstellar cloud."  The  organic molecules commonly found in meteorites, however, are still as far from "life" as the amino acids produced forty years earlier in the Miller-Urey experiment.  Most, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's), are even simpler.  Are we moving forwards, or backwards, in our understanding of life?

EXPLORE:

Scientific American, July 1999
EXPLORE:
Life on Mars

EXPLORE:
The Miller-Urey Experiment:
Natural or Unnatural?

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In this section:  Chance or Design?   The Scientific Method Life in a Test Tube? The Eye Irreducible Complexity Anything Can Happen? Evolution or Selection? Real Examples of Evolution "Do You Feel Lucky?" (Abio)Genesis 1:1 Life from Comets? Life on Mars? Richard Dawkins A Brief History of Slime...

 


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