You might think that comparisons between a human and an amoeba would leave the small one celled organism paling in every comparison. This is certainly true except for one little thing. While a human has DNA (( DNA |ˌdi ˌɛn ˈeɪ| noun, Biochemistry. deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information. )) that is comprised of 2,900,000,000 base pairs, the little cellular critter has 670,000,000,000 base pairs in its DNA. For you mathematicians, that’s 2.9e+9 versus 6.7e+11, or more than 200 times and many base pairs in a single Amoeba. (( http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/02_01/Sizing_genomes.shtml ))
This is fascinating. Given that there may be some specific base pair variations of course, let us assume the best evolutionary and simplest mathematical case here, which is that there is precisely one correct sequence. What this means is that there is a precise order to the base pairs. Assuming that, you must get the exact order right at least 1 out of 3.23170060e+616 chances for a viable organism.
What is the importance of base pairs anyway you may wonder? In typical DNA, there are two strings of molecules, where each molecule can consist of either adenosine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), or cytosine (C). Each strand of molecules in an Amoeba has an matching strand with cross connections to the other strand so that an A molecule always matches a T molecule, and a G molecule always matches a C molecule. In other words, an Amoeba has a single chain consisting of 6.7e+11 base pairs with a cross-bonded matching molecular chain of that same length.
The sequence of these base pairs is very important, because they are a template from which special protein enzymes derive the correct order to make all the other proteins that an organism has using almost a dozen amino acids. Only one strand of DNA has the correct pattern, while the other strand is simply acting as both the protector and crossmatching pattern. The cross-linked strands generally for a spiral and are separated only when the special protein enzymes need the pattern to make a particular protein in the organism.
Double stranding is important because, if you already have the necessary special protein called polymerase, you need only one of the strands to reconstruct the entire DNA. Polymerase is very important because when cells divide, each of the resulting cells must have a working copy of the DNA in order to carry on with all the metabolic processes that require protein enzymes. All those proteins come from the patterns in the DNA, whether you are an Amoeba or a human.
In summary then, an Amoeba needs one strand of its DNA, one molecule of polymerase, and a supply of adenosine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine to create more DNA. To make more proteins, there must also be a special enzyme which can read the molecular patterns (of which there are many encoded along the length of the correct DNA strand), and churn out the proteins that perform functions like creating special energy molecules called ATP, the cell wall material, and on and on. The creative process requires then a ready supply of amino acids, the building blocks of all proteins.
Now lets assume then that for the sake of argument that if we could only get a strand of Amoeba DNA molecules, all 670 billion of them, lined up in the correct order then, voilà, we have an Amoeba, ladies and gentleman!
But it is unlikely of course that we are going to get that lengthy combination right the first time. It might take a couple of tries…or more. So how many tries would it take? What are the odds of hitting the right combination?
Not being a statistician, I Googled and found a website ((
to do the calculations for me. What we want to know is with just four molecules, A, T, G, and C, to choose from, which can be repeated throughout a DNA chain, where order if very important to get functional proteins, what are the odds of getting the right order for 6.7e+11 (670 billion) DNA base molecule?
So I plugged in 4 types to choose from and 670 billion total choices and that order was important and that repetition was allowed. The odds of getting the correct sequence then is 1 out of 3.23170060e+616. That is a staggeringly huge number!
Is it possible? It depends on how many times you try. Remember if you try to get the right combination a number of times, then you might get a repeated, but wrong, sequence since each try has the same chance of producing the correct order of DNA molecules. For the sake of simplicity, lets assume that once we try a certain combination that we mark off that combination never to see it again in future tries. How long would it take to find the right combination if we tried one combination every second? For the sake of giving success the advantage, lets say we can try the combinations at a rate of 50 per second.
Now this rate of 50 times a second is not just a number out of my head. You see, I’m assuming that to create this strand of DNA, there would have to be many pools of liquid containing a large supply of the A, T, G, and C molecules, and that there must be some source of energy that would cause them to link chemically in one long 670 billion molecule strand. Lightning is the most obvious high energy source, and it can be more easily quantitated and is consistent whereas volcanic heat activity would be comparatively short-lived. One source reports that there about 50 lightning strikes per second. (( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning#Lightning_flashes_and_strikes ))
At 50 tries per second with no repeated sequences then the website I referenced above reported that it would take 2.6815616e+152 seconds to try all the possible combinations. That’s a lot of seconds! Let me repeat that’s a whole lot of seconds!
Suddenly, that number of seconds becomes very significant. At the extreme, the universe is thought to be some 45 billion light year across. That means that it has existed for 45 billion years which is 4.5e+10 years (though actually it is only 13.6 billion years old, we can see some 45+ billion lights years sude to universe expansion). There are 1.4191200e+18 seconds in that many years. In the best case without non-repeating sequence combinations, it could take almost 1.89e+134 times as long as the life of the universe. (( http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=2.6815616e%2B152+%2F+1.41912e%2B18 ))
Probably you’ve heard Mark Twain’s (aka Samuel Clemens) famous comment about statistics. (( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lies,_damned_lies,_and_statistics )) It was revealed in 2010 (( http://www.examiner.com/article/revealed-mark-twain-s-view-of-christianity )) just how he felt about God. No doubt he despised religion and concluded it was all a lie or a damned lie.
But the statistics here don’t lie.
If we are to begin with one-celled organisms, such as this Amoeba, which spring into life, and then slowly evolve into the higher forms of life, so that the finall result is man, then we have primary problem. There is not enough time even in my hamshackled attempt to give evolutiona a nudge for it to be a seriously considered possibility as the first cause of man (or the lack thereof).
First cause is the ultimate reason that all life exists. It either sprang into existence by chance and out of nothing resembling its final form, or there was an intelligent force that caused it to spring forth. There is no other alt native.
The is another fly in my DNA soup however which casts infinite doubt on the possibility of a chance first cause. The proteins that are required to duplicate DNA, or to use DNA to create other proteins from the coded patterns the DNA contains, are themselves ever so much more complex than DNA. Every three DNA molecules codes for one of the 22 protein-creating amino acids. Unlike DNA which creates a whiplike, double-helix strand, proteins create three dimensional structures which give them their ability to manipulate and make atomic changes in other molecules.
Thus this is the philosophical brain-bender equivalent of which came first, the chicken or the egg, only at the molecular level. The evolutionary choice then is which came first, the DNA or the protein that manipulates the DNA?
Neither could really come first. DNA is useless without these special proteins. The special proteins are not able to make DNA without one of the two stands in the DNA double helix. Even if DNA could be successfully created de novo in a primordial soup, that same success would have to come with at least a few of the proteins that manipulate the base pairs in DNA, and it would have to come simultaneously for the Amoeba begin to ‘live.’
Thus I conclude that DNA and at least several DNA modifying proteins would have to be created independently. The DNA would have to have the pattern coded in itself for that protein, and the protein would have to have the specific atomic spacial aspects to precisely manipulate that DNA. One incorrect or out of place amino acid is all it takes to devastate the protein as is the case with sickle cell anemia. (( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle_cell_anemia )) The fact that most babies that perish in utero have much more severe genetic errors which are incompatible with life attests to the very, very precise dance between DNA and proteins.
It is in fact so precise that chance creation of DNA and protein must be excluded as a first cause. Hence there must be a creative, intelligent being responsible for all that exists. While this conclusion comes from a cold, non-personal factually scientific argument, in A Mere Christian, I followed the Lewis’ tack which sails on the philosophical side.
Like him, I believe that the Law of Human Nature, the inner knowledge of right and wrong, is something within us that cannot be explained by anything biological. And this is a resounding argument and the one that calls me to a personal God that is my creator. The DNA-protein argument is merely supportive science.
This statistical exercise is at least something for which disbelievers will no doubt begin to point fingers and to try and poke holes at my conclusions and assumptions. There are no doubt assumptions which could be different, but they would be unlikely to affect the conclusion. The fact of the matter is that rue science can never say that God exists or does not exist. It is outside of science and true scientific method prevents the testing of the being of God.
But my Amoeba exercise, at its worst, shows that scientists and non-scientists who believe that we are here by some freak chance of nature truly have no scientific basis for their position. To believe in evolutionary chance takes more faith that it does to believe in a creator who has a purpose in our being.
Like Mark Twain, many reason without sound truth within a darkened intellect. It is their choice to do so. The very fact that they have that choice comes from God, and is reason enough to conclude also that God is good, now and forever. If we didn’t have the choice to believe or not, then we would be automatons and incapable of even understanding what choice itself is.