Evolution's Extinction Engine

Part 1 – DNA

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If you have ever wondered exactly how the Neo-Darwinian Theory of evolution can transform a bacterium into a basketball player, you're not alone! We will examine the heart of the theory and compare its lofty goals to what is actually observed. Does nature alone possess the ability to move life in an upward direction - from the simple to the complex? Let's ask the critical questions and find out!

Welcome back to another session of Literal Genesis, where we strive to hold firmly to scripture and hold loosely to theories, because as we know, theories are fluid. They change all the time, whereas God's Word never changes.

So let's get a little closer to some of the more technical aspects of an argument from DNA. Now, we won't get too deep into DNA today. This is going to be a multi-part, multi-session series. So we'll go a little bit deeper as we go along. DNA is a very fascinating subject. It's a code. It's a language, if you will. And what I want to do is compare this code, this language, like it's a set of instructions- instructions on how to build me, how to build you, how to maintain us as human beings- and compare that to something that might be a little more accessible in terms of a thought exercise, and that is how to build an airplane.

So I want you to get this in mind: How to build an airplane. What kind of manuals would we use? What type of processes would we need to have to build this, what type of tools? And not just any airplane. Now, as elegant and simplistic as the Wright brothers' style of airplane is, that's not the airplane I have in mind. Today, envision a 747 jumbo jet. One of the largest, one of the fastest commercial airliners ever built. This is the kind of airplane that I want you to think about today.

Before we go into that exercise, let's go to scripture, as we always do. Let's get started with something from God's Word. In Psalms 139:14, David says,

"I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well."
- Psalms 139:14

We're going to come back to this a few times before we're done with this series. I don't picture David sitting out in the pasture, taking care of the sheep, having on his lap some genetic textbooks or biology textbooks. I don't think he knew the depth of how humans are made and how DNA works or anything like that, like we do today, but yet he knew enough to take a look at the human body and know that there was something wonderful about it, and not only is there something wonderful about it and awesome about it, but the credit goes completely to the Creator.

Right away, he says, "I will give thanks to You."- capital You. He's talking to God. I will give thanks to You for how I am made. Now, fast forward centuries later, thousands of years later, to us today. We have so much more knowledge than David did as to how the human body works, as to all the systems that come together, the cell, which we'll look at in this series, and how DNA works. It's interesting because the further and the deeper we go, the more we learn, and the more our jaws just drop.

We think we know how biology works and the goalposts are right here, but every time we learn more, the goalposts get further and further away, and it's just absolutely mind boggling. If David had the knowledge that we have today, I don't know that he would change a single word in this verse.

We are wonderfully- fearfully, in some translations- and awesomely made, wonderfully made.

How to Build an Airplane

And we'll get started here with our thought exercise. So have that jumbo jet, that 747 airliner in mind, and what we want to do is come up with a set of manuals or instructions on how to build this airplane.

Think about all the different components that you might need. Now, I'm not an expert in aviation or anything like that, even though both of my children are aviation fanatics, which is a good thing. We can start with maybe the frame, right? What are you going to need to build the frame? Maybe the electrical work. Before you put the outside on, all the electrical work needs to go in there. We need manuals for these things. For the hydraulics, we need manuals for that, for any of the plumbing. Now, remember, this isn't a Wright brothers' type plane. This has lavatories and water systems and all that. So we need manuals for all of this.

In the cockpit, what do we have there? We have computer systems, we have gauges and dials. We have lots of them, right? So we need manuals for those.

What else are we going to need? How about wings? We can't fly without wings: the distribution of those wings, the placement of those wings, the weight of the wings, the placement of the fuel cells, the bladders, if you will, inside of the wings, the tail wings. From all these things, that are on the outside, to things like landing gear. You've got to have landing gear if you're going to not destroy your plane the first time that you try to take off in it or land it. Inside you have lavatories, you have seats; not just the seats, but cushions on the seats. What kind of material are you going to put on those cushions? How are you going to fasten those seats to the floor? What's the floor going to be made of? So all these things go into our thinking.

We've talked about the wings, landing gear, and engines. How about the cabin pressure system? That's very important. As you increase in altitude, you go into a lower pressure, so you have to have more internal pressure.

So you need manuals. You need instructions for these. Now, just from the short list we've come up with so far, I think we're going to have a pretty impressive set of manuals and instructions.

Have I missed anything? We've got the tail assembly, the flaps, the ailerons. How about the weight ratio? That is extremely important. If you're going to get a big, heavy piece of machinery off the ground, the weight has to be weighted just right. Rudder pedals, so another stack of manuals. Now, if we're really going to do justice in comparing the instruction set of DNA in our cells to these manuals on how to build an airplane, we can't really stop here.

How to Build an Airplane from Scratch

We've got to take this analogy a little bit further, and that is, we need to build it from scratch. Right now in our thought process, we're probably thinking we're in a hangar. We've got all these parts laid across the floor. We've got tires, we've got landing assembly, we've got the computer system, and whenever we need those, we just carry them over and we put them on the plane. That's not exactly how the cell works. When the cell needs a part, it actually has to build it.

So we need to take this a little further. What about the metal? Where are we going to get the metal to build the plane? The aluminum, the steel. That's from iron ore and from bauxite in the earth, right? We need manuals on how to mine these raw materials so that we can make the metal into the parts, so that we can use them on the plane.

We need to figure out where are we going to get the rubber for the tires? Well, that's a byproduct of oil, so we need manuals on how to explore and drill and produce the oil, how to transport it through pipelines or shipping or trucks, and the storage that it takes to store the oil, and then feed it into a refinery, so that we can get these byproducts.

That's a lot of manuals so far, but we're not finished. What about the circuit boards for the computers? Well, we need silicon for the chips. Where do we get that? We get that from sand and rocks. Oil to plastics. We need manuals on this process, because there's a lot of plastics in the plane, anywhere from the window shades to your table trays. All over the plane, you'll find plastic parts. We can't take any of this for granted, because your cell doesn't.

When a cell needs something, it has to make it. It doesn't go to partsareus.com or amazon.com and say, "I need to order a landing assembly or some tires." It doesn't work that way. The cell has to completely come up with everything it needs from scratch. There's another set of manuals.

What else are we missing? Oh, what about the rivets and the bolts and the nuts? We just can't order those parts. They're not just going to be lying around on the hanger floor. We have to know how to manufacture those.

Here's a big one. The jet fuel, right? The process of converting oil to byproducts takes a refinery. How many manuals do we need just for that process alone? Probably enough to fill half of this room. Building the scales and the weights. We need to build all these from scratch as well, but there's still more. So again, we're getting better, right?

How to Build an Airplane - The Tools

We're getting closer to what the cell has to do by going out and getting the raw parts, but the tools that we use, the riveters, for example, to place the rivets, the wrenches for the nuts and bolts, we can't take those for granted, so we need instructions on how to build the tools in order to assemble the parts that we've now gotten the raw materials from the earth to build.

How to build the drilling equipment, the oil equipment. We can't take that for granted. There's more manuals for that. How to build the refineries themselves, to get all the byproducts that we need from the oil.

So you get the idea. Lots and lots of instructions needed here, and this is what the cell has in the form of DNA: the instructions on how to build the parts when we need them, at the right time, and then get them to the right place where they're needed.

How to Build an Airplane - The Whole Manual

I don't think we're quite done yet, we need to take this a little bit further. So we have all these manuals, and this is a lot of manuals. Imagine a manual on creating a refinery and the whole refining process alone, right? So we have tons and tons of instructions here. Let me ask the question. We have our 747 plane at this point, correct? Of course not. We don't have anything. We have instructions. We don't have a plane, so what are we missing? We're missing something.

Ah! We need skilled engineers who understand the language in the manuals to be able to decode them, if you will, so that they can plan out the installation process. Skilled workers, that's another thing we're missing. We need them to take those plans and put the plane together piece by piece. Not only that, but there's a certain order things have to be done in. So besides having the information, the manuals, having the skilled decoders and readers and workers, everyone has to be in agreement as to when things take place. It'll do absolutely no good to build a perfectly good set of landing gear, but install them on top of the plane, or build a perfectly good jet engine, but install it in the cockpit. So there's a certain order and a certain place that these things need to go as they're built.

It's also going to be highly inefficient if every time we need instructions on how to build something, we start from the very first manual and work our way all the way through the end, until we find the piece that we need, the instruction set that we need. That's not very efficient at all, and that's not how the cell works. The cell knows exactly where to go in the DNA to get the right set of instructions at the right time for the right parts. So now we've just blown up our manuals in order of magnitude, right? We need manuals for all of these things. It also does us no good to have the plane, once it's built, if we have no one that knows how to use it, if we don't have the crew that knows how to fly it.

So we need instructions for those as well. And what I mean by that is we need to know how to build these engineers. We can't just take it for granted. We call up the temporary agency, "Hey, I need an engineer." The cell can't do that, so we can't do that, either. How do you build an engineer that knows how to decode the manual? Now it gets a little tricky, doesn't it? It gets way more complicated. How do you build and create the workers who know how to carry the right parts from point A to point B in the process, after we've mined them and processed them and developed those tools.

See, the cell already has this. The workers, these workers that carry parts in the cell, those are called kinesin proteins, and they're very interesting looking proteins, almost like a stick figure, if you will, kind of a lengthy stick figure that has these little feet that are motorized, that walk along these microtubials, and they carry these massive bags of parts all around the cell, to get the parts where they're needed.

We also need to know how to make a worker that can carry these parts and get them to the places that they're needed. I don't know what those manuals will look like, to be honest. Well, it would probably look like DNA, right? It would be very complex.

What else do we need? Well, as I mentioned, it does us no good to have the instructions and the finished product if we don't have people that know how to fly it, so we need to know how to make the crew, to build a crew that understands the final product.

We need to know how to make and create the inspectors who inspect and make minor repairs on the plane between flights. The cell has the same thing, something called the DNA glycosylase. This is an enzyme in the cell that can actually read the DNA and determine, "Oh, hey, we have something that needs to be corrected." We'll talk more about that later, but we can't take that for granted. So we need manuals on that as well.

So now that we have the instruction sets, let me ask you a question. If we follow these instruction sets every single time we want to make an airplane, we're going to get the same kind of airplane, aren't we? We're going to get a 747 jumbo jet.

Now, if we want to get something different, we need to modify the instructions, don't we? It's not very complicated. If we use the same instructions, we're going to get the same byproduct, the same product in the end.

Evolution's Engine

Now, in DNA, if evolution is true, we can't have one set of instructions, let's say for a single-celled organism, that never get altered, or otherwise the only thing we'll ever have is single-celled organisms. Somehow those manuals need to change, and this is the process that I want to talk about next. This is evolution's engine. We can call it the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, the Neo-Darwinian theory or the modern synthesis. There's all kinds of nomenclature, but we're going to call it the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. In this model it is mutations that change the DNA. So we need to figure out, somehow, a way to change our manuals.

Now, in order to mimic this as closely as we can to the way it happens in genetics, we're going to take our set of manuals, we're going to put them in a room- a gigantic room- and we're going to introduce a three-year-old. A little, cute three-year-old.

Why a three-year-old? Well, a three-year-old can't read the manuals. She has no understanding of what's in the manual. She has no understanding of what the manuals produce. She has no scientific ability to keep a notebook of changes that she's going to make, and she can't think about the future, right? But we're going to do something else with this three-year-old. We're going to blindfold her. She doesn't need to be blindfolded, but if we're going to make this as much like the evolutionary process, evolution is said to be blind- the process is said to be blind and random and based on chance. Well, this is what I came up with: a blind three-year-old.

Now we're going to give this three-year-old some tools in order to make the changes to the manuals: a pair of scissors and a marker. Now, you could even throw in some scotch tape, because maybe she cuts from one page and then transfers it to another book and pastes it in. Where? I don't know. Is it going to make sense? Who knows. But this is the process that's going to mimic the evolutionary process, mutations and natural selection. We'll talk about natural selection later on. So this is the process.

Now we need to think about this for a moment. This three-year-old doesn't need to eat, doesn't need to sleep. Her only job is to make changes in the manual 24/7, because within ourselves, the changes that are happening in DNA, those happen 24/7. It doesn't stop. It never stops unless we die. Let's ask the question: Do you think this process will ever lead to a better or an improved airplane- with our three-year-old in there making random changes, all day long, every day, seven days a week, all year long? It's hard to see how this process could lead to a better airplane.

It's easy to see how this process could lead to an airplane that doesn't fly, or some very, very messed up airplane, at the least. What about new features? If evolution is true, if we're going to get something other than a single-cell organism, if we're going to get us, for example, then somehow, this process needs to introduce new and improved features, novel features, right? Do you think it would be possible for this three-year-old with these tools and the blindfold to create a plane that could fly into outer space? Not create a plane, but to improve the plane, improve the plane so that it can do something it could never do before.

Why can't a plane fly in outer space? Well, for one, the top speed on our 747 is somewhere around 560 miles per hour, I believe, if I have my facts straight there. What we need the plane to be able to do is to be able to reach 25,000 miles per hour to escape Earth's gravitational pull, the escape velocity. Can you imagine this three-year-old making her happy little changes in there, and accidentally creating an engine that could go 25,000 miles per hour? Is that tenable? Is that even possible? Now, in the evolutionary ideology, it is possible. You just give that three-year-old enough time, and there will be a better engine that could go 25,000 miles per hour. This is what we are supposed to believe. Now, again, as a Christian, I'm not going to check my brain at the door.

This logically doesn't make sense to me, and hopefully it doesn't make sense to you, either. That's just one of the problems with flying into space, though. What else do we have? Well, once you get into space, how are you going to get the plane back down to Earth for its maintenance and repairs and so forth without burning up in the atmosphere? The 747 isn't designed to take the immense heat when you come back in from outer space.

Let's say somehow she gets past that happy accident, right? And now the plane is improved. It can withstand the heat coming back into the atmosphere. You've got problems in space. The jet engine of our 747 relies on not just jet fuel, but air in order to have combustion. There's no air in space, so how are you going to move the airplane once it gets into space? That's more sets of happy accidents that need to happen. Then you've got problems with pressurization. When you go higher in altitude you have less pressure, so airplanes are pressurized. They create pressure inside so that we don't have ear problems every time we fly. Well, how do you deal with the near zero pressure of space? So these are just a few examples of the changes that need to be made in order for something new, something that the plane couldn't do before, to be able to do. And it must be done by this blind three-year-old, completely by chance- random changes to the manuals.

How long do you think before this plane doesn't fly at all? Now here's an interesting thought, because there are probably going to be a fair amount of changes the three-year-old makes that are neutral, that have nothing to do with the way the plane flies or operates.

For example, she may make a change that changes the color of the seat fabrics. We call that a neutral change. It's not a big deal. She may make other changes. Maybe the window shades don't go all the way down, or maybe they are opaque, instead of transparent, or the other way around- maybe they're transparent, sort of opaque. So these things have nothing to do with how the plane flies. It is possible that during her random changes she's going to change some things that have zero effect.

That's exactly what we find in our cells, in nature, is that the mutations, the things that happen to our manual, our DNA are almost across the board near neutral and the things that aren't near neutral, they're devastating. And I imagine we'll have the same thing with this three-year-old, but eventually the three-year-old's going to get to a part of the manual that has a very crucial part in the flying process, and the plane won't be able to fly at all whatsoever.

So this is evolution's engine, and this is why I titled this series "Evolution's Extinction Engine," because this process, from our observations, our real-world observations and our experience, doesn't lead to bigger and better things or new novel features, or new organs that never existed before. We've never seen it, and the three-year-old, certainly, when we turn her loose on our manuals for our airplane in this entire process is not going to make this process any better. She'd have to be extremely lucky to get all of these necessary changes in order to have something new and better.

Manuals, Codes, and Languages

Let's think about the manuals themselves for a moment in DNA, because remember, the only reason we're doing this analogy is because we want to compare it to DNA, these instruction sets that we have in the cell.

So we have our manuals here and we have our airplane, how to build it from scratch, all the processes that we talked about before, and the question that I want to ask is: Could these manuals write themselves? You know, I ask this question to a lot of people whenever I engage in evolutionary conversation or talking with agnostics or atheists, and across the board, no one says, "Well, of course these manuals can write themselves. Just give them enough time." Could they write themselves if they had 13.8 billion years to do it? Nobody ever comes back and says yes, because it's impossible. We're missing something here. Could a manual, could even a simple manual be created by itself, if it had an infinite amount of time? Well, the answer is no.

Manuals don't write themselves, but for some reason, because it's biological, because it's DNA, we're supposed to believe that this manual can write itself over time. But does that make sense? What is a manual anyway? Well, it's a set of instructions. In our case, it's a set of instructions on how to completely build our 747 from scratch. But in order to have a manual, in order to have workers that can read the manual, you have to have an agreed-upon code between the workers and the manuals, between the workers themselves. You have to agree upon the language. You have to agree upon the syntax. It really has little to do with the manual, and everything to do with the creator of the manual.

We can communicate in all kinds of ways. If I wanted to get across the idea that there's an emergency, that I'm in trouble, I could tap out a series of taps on a pipe or on a wall or on a door, and if you know Morse code, you would know that I was calling for help. How did you know that? Well, because there's an agreed-upon language, an agreed-upon syntax. It could be knots in a rope. It could be dots and dashes on a paper. It could be sounds from a computer, beeps, long beeps and short beeps. See, the medium doesn't really matter. What matters is the agreed-upon code, so that those who read the code can all agree on what we're doing, what its purpose is, and that's the same thing with the DNA.

Languages do not write themselves. Languages always, and this is important, always come from a mind. I want you to stop and think about this for a second. Can you think of any example where this is not the case, where a manual has created itself? Any type of manual, even a simple one, even one not made of English letters from the alphabet, but maybe dashes and dots or something like that.

You can't think of one, because it doesn't happen. Languages and codes always, always come from a mind. And when we apply this to the DNA, we have to ask the obvious question, the elephant in the room: Where did the DNA manual come from? Where did the set of instructions come from? Now, we're going to look at this a little bit more deeply later and see some of the more modern ways of thinking about this.

Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, once we discovered DNA and we started drilling down into it, there's many scientists, including Francis Crick, that said, you know, this is impossible. It is impossible for nature to have created this code, because he realizes- and he's a Nobel Prize Winner- that codes and languages always come from a mind. So where did our DNA come from? What mind created it? Not a mindless, random, chance-based process. He knew that, and he even wrote a book about it.

So that's the question: where did the DNA come from? And which came first? If you're an evolutionist and you're thinking, well, DNA somehow could magically write itself, these 13.4, 13.5 billion letters created itself over time. That's okay. You can believe that if you want to, but how do the workers know how to read the manual? And which came first, the workers that could read the manual, or the manual that could build the workers? We'll look at that problem a little more later, as well.

So for now, I think we'll pause here. We've reached the end of this first part of the session. There's a lot to digest here. Just think about how complex these sets of instructions are and how changing these with a blind, random, no-thought process can never lead to a better airplane, and it's the same with our genetics.

We'll pick it up here next time, and we'll go a little bit deeper into this analogy.