What happens when you put a frog in a blender and turn it on? The Frog dies, his body becoming a mish-mash of liquefied flesh, tissue and blood. Kind of gross to think about, right? Now if I take this puréed of frog juice and heat it up, or freeze it, or send 100 volts of electricity through it, will the frog-juice ever reassemble itself back to the frog it once was? Nope. In fact, no matter what you do to the frog-juice, it never reassembles itself back into a frog. But why not?

The following article is based off of questions I’ve had from my Biology 140 class on Human Genetics, and my Biology 100 Lab course. This article contains no theories or conclusions, just facts followed with questions. I’m curious as to what your conclusions are after reading these facts, and what your answers are to my questions.

But back to the frog in the blender; it’s still sitting there in the blender container a mish-mash of frog juice. No frog has yet to emerge… A similar experiment is done by biologists, but not with frogs. A small eukaryotic cell is placed in sterile test tube. The test tube is filled with distilled water, at the perfect temperature and alkalinity for the cell’s environment. The cell’s membrane is then punctured with a needle. With the membrane wall punctured all of the internal components of the cell (organelles) begin to spill out into the test tube water. What happens next? The test tube has within it all the necessary components of a living cell, yet the cell dies. The floating organelles themselves never arrange themselves into another living cell even though all they need to do so is right there in the test tube. Why is this? Why don’t the organelles organize themselves into another living cell?

Let’s look at something smaller though. Let’s look at the basic building block of life; DNA. DNA is the absolute prerequisite for life. The world’s first living thing ever to exist on earth had DNA. In order for a living organism to live (grow and reproduce) its DNA must perform three functions; replication, transcription and translation.[1]

Replication:

In order for an organism to grow its DNA must replicate itself to make more DNA. The DNA unwinds, breaks, builds a new nucleotide chain, and then mends, producing two DNA strands where there was just one before. The DNA is unwound by an enzyme called a helicase which then holds the strand open while another enzyme called a DNA polymerase then guides RNA to the exposed DNA nucleotides. The RNA is primed and another enzyme called Ligase, then seals up the new DNA strand.

 

Enzymes are protein molecules, and protein molecules are made up from amino acids, and amino acids require DNA in order to be organized into a protein. Take note of how many enzymes were needed in order for the basic action of DNA replication to occur. At least three different enzymes are required (more are actually needed, but for sake of space I’ve condensed the DNA replication process listed here). But here’s the problem; in order to replicate DNA needed to build enzymes, enzymes are needed to replicate.[2] So how could the very first DNA have replicated itself to make enzymes, if enzymes are needed to replicate in the first place?

Transcription:

So just how does the DNA build a protein? Well, first the DNA must be transcribed. Just like replication, the DNA strand is again split and unwound by enzymes. Then comes along Ribosomal RNA which is made up of proteins and RNA. The Ribosomal RNA then takes RNA nucleotides and bonds them to the exposed DNA to form a template. This template strand of RNA can then leave the nucleus of the cell to be translated to build a protein.[3]

 

Here we find the same problem. In order for transcription to take place to build a protein, proteins are needed to transcribe. How was the first Ribosomal RNA protein built, when the only process that can build it, Transcription, requires a ribosomal RNA already present?

Translation:

A ribosomal rRNA subunit then attaches to the mRNA, attracting tRNA. The tRNA carries different amino acids based on the code each particular tRNA is. One by one the tRNA match up along the mRNA, fitting like a key in a lock, then they leave behind the particular amino acid they brought with them. The amino acid chain left behind is referred to as a polypeptide chain. This chain of multiple combined amino acids is then folded into a three-dimensional shape by various other proteins called chaperones. Depending on the three dimensional shape it is folded into will determine the function of a brand new protein![4]

 

So as you can see, the processes of replication, transcription and translation requires the involvement and interaction of various different types of proteins; helicases, chaperones, ribosomal rRNA, etc. But the only way proteins are made is via replication, transcription and translation of DNA followed by proper protein folding by other proteins. So how did proteins come to be, if proteins are needed to have already existed to make other proteins?

Amino Acids and Chiralty

To answer the question of origins we learned that amino acids have been found in various places like on meteorites and have been produced in experiments to simulate the early atmosphere of earth, such as the Miller Urey experiment.[5] The conclusion being that amino acids can form naturally from chemicals, and thus life can form from chemicals (non-life). But recall that even one protein requires a specific combination amino acids, followed by proper folding from other proteins. Without other proteins present how could the amino acid polypeptide chain be folded into a protein? Also, both my textbooks failed to mention that there are over 2,000 amino acids found naturally occurring, but only 20 can be used to build proteins.[6] Were the amino acids from the meteorites and lab experiment the correct 20, or were they just a few of the other 1,980 other amino acids that cannot be used to build a protein?

Furthermore there is an even a greater issue with amino acids called Chiralty. I learned about Chiralty from my personal studies outside of school because it also was not mentioned in either of my biology textbooks. I’ve presented that it takes the proper combination of specific amino acids out of thousands followed by the proper folding of amino acids to create just one protein. But there is a fourth and more important perquisite for amino acids in the polypeptide chain. When the atoms that make up the amino acids fuse together they make two different shaped amino acids, left-handed and right-handed. Just like our two human hands which are completely opposite of each other, amino acids are likewise opposite of each other, mirror like-reflections of one another but not identical, allowing them to fuse together. Interestingly enough when a left-handed amino acid fuses to a right-handed amino acid, they become useless for building a polypeptide chain and therefore useless to building a protein, which is known as being racemic.[7] This phenomenon is called chiralty, which is Greek for handedness.[8]

 

Here is where it gets interesting; all amino acids used to build proteins in life are all 100% left-handed. There are no right handed amino acids used in life.[9] Equal amounts of left and right handed amino acids called “racemates,” is the product of chemical production of amino acids, which naturally want to bond together. So here are my questions: If all amino acids found chemically are both right-handed and left-handed which naturally want to fuse together making them useless for building proteins, how is it that all proteins found in living organisms have only left-handed amino acids? If life came from non-life, how did the first amino acids, 20 out of 2,000, only left-handed, manage to get in the right combination, and become properly folded to build the first protein?

 

Law of Biogenesis

Definition: The principle stating that life arises from pre-existing life, not from nonliving material.[10] There are many theories, but facts that cannot be refuted are called laws. Take the law of gravity for example. Life has only been observed forming from other life. If life can arise from non-life it should be doing so frequently to this day and should be observable, yet it is not. If there is no evidence of life arising from non-life, then how can we believe it once did in the past?

Reproduction

Another interesting topic regarding the origin of life is reproduction. The first life form would have to have had the capability to reproduce. Obviously if it did not have the capability to reproduce no subsequent life would follow after it. If it couldn’t reproduce, than life would have to “accidentally” start over again and again. Ultimately, the first life form would have to be capable of reproducing from the beginning. Philosophically speaking, how does an accident in living matter also bring about accidental ability to reproduce itself?

As you can see, when you read just the facts and questions with unbiased it becomes evident that life is incredibly complex, the origins of which (in my opinion) can’t be adequately explained via evolution theory. In my opinion, when one studies biology and genetics, it becomes more and more obvious that life has an immensely complicated design.  Here I believe one can make a teleological argument:

Every design has a designer.

Biological life has a very complex design.

Therefore, biological life had a designer.

This outlook becomes even more solidified when one studies the immense amount of information stored in our DNA. How does chemical accident bring forth intelligent information more complex than any computer code ever created by man? Personally, when I read about these things I can’t help but conclude that there is indeed a God who created us and all of life. But in the meantime, the frog juice… has yet to turn back into a frog.


[1] Ricki Lewis, Human Genetics; Concepts and Applications, (New York:NY McGraw-Hill, 2008) Eighth Edition, Pg. 174.

[2] Ricki Lewis, Human Genetics; Concepts and Applications, (New York:NY McGraw-Hill, 2008) Eighth Edition, Pg. 174.

[3] Ricki Lewis, Human Genetics; Concepts and Applications, (New York:NY McGraw-Hill, 2008) Eighth Edition, Pg. 184.

[4] Ricki Lewis, Human Genetics; Concepts and Applications, (New York:NY McGraw-Hill, 2008) Eighth Edition, Pg. 190.

[5] It should be noted that the meteorites analyzed had of course been in the ground on earth for some time before being analyzed, so finding amino acids on them should not be surprising considering they were probably contaminated while in the ground. Also, the Miller Urey experiment yields multiple flaws outside of the amino acids it produced.

[6] Mike Riddle, The New Answers Book 2, “Can Natural Processes Explain the Origin of Life?” (), Pg. 67.

[7] The definition of racemic;  “of, relating to, or constituting a compound or mixture that is composed of equal amounts of dextrorotatory and levorotatory forms of the same compound and is optically inactive.” Mw2.merriam-webster.com, medical dictionary.

[8] Mike Riddle, The New Answers Book 2, “Can Natural Processes Explain the Origin of Life?” (), Pg. 67.

[9] Linus Pauling, General Chemistry, 3rd Edition (San Francisco,CA: W.H. Freeman & Co. 1970) Pr. 774.

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Comments
  1. matthew2262 says:

    I came across an article written by Michael J. Behe PhD, Biochemist, who shares my thoughts on this:

    “Everything in organisms is interconnected causally. Everywhere in biological systems, chicken and egg problems abound. For example, amino acid biosynthesis pathways are composed of enzymes that require the amino acids they make, ATP biosynthesis pathways must have ATP to make ATP, DNA is needed to make proteins, but proteins are needed to make DNA, and the list goes on. Indeed, the scope of the problem is difficult even to grasp.” http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/life_purpose_mind_where_the_ma046991.html

  2. matthew2262 says:

    “The belief that life on earth arose spontaneously from non-living matter, is simply a matter of faith in strict reductionism and is based entirely on ideology.”

    Hubert P. Yockey, 1992 (a non-creationist). Information Theory and Molecular Biology, Cambridge University Press, UK, p. 284.

  3. matthew2262 says:

    As the non-creationist information theorist Hubert Yockey observed over 30 years ago (and he has not revised his opinion since):

    ‘Research on the origin of life seems to be unique in that the conclusion has already been authoritatively accepted … . What remains to be done is to find the scenarios which describe the detailed mechanisms and processes by which this happened.

    One must conclude that, contrary to the established and current wisdom a scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written.’

    Yockey, H.P., A calculation of the probability of spontaneous biogenesis by information theory, Journal of Theoretical Biology, 67:377–398, 1977; quotes from pp. 379, 396.

  4. matthew2262 says:

    ‘The evolution of the genetic machinery is the step for which there are no laboratory models: hence one can speculate endlessly, unfettered by inconvenient facts.’

    Dickerson, Richard, Scientific American, Sep. 1978, p.70

  5. matthew2262 says:

    ‘Genetics has no proofs for evolution. It has trouble explaining it. The closer one looks at the evidence for evolution the less one finds of substance. In fact the theory keeps on postulating evidence, and failing to find it, moves on to other postulates (fossil missing links, natural selection of improved forms, positive mutations, molecular phylogenetic sequences, etc.). This is not science.’

    Professor Maciej Giertych, B.A., M.A. Oxon, Ph.D. Toronto, D.Sc. Poznan, Head of Genetics Department, Polish Academy of Scienced, Institute of Dendrology, Poland.

    In the Foreward to Creation Rediscovered, by G.J. Keane, Melbourne (Australia), 1991.

  6. matthew2262 says:

    “The origin of the genetic code presents formidable unsolved problems. The coded information in the nucleotide sequence is meaningless without the translation machinery, but the specification for this machinery is itself coded in the DNA. Thus without the machinery the information is meaningless, but without the coded information the machinery cannot be produced! This presents a paradox of the chicken and egg variety, and attempts to solve it have so far been sterile.” -John C. Walton, professor of reactive chemistry at St. Andrews University.

    Walton, J.C. (1977) “Organization and the Origin of Life,” Origins, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 30-31.

  7. matthew2262 says:

    “It’s nice to talk about replicating DNA molecules arising in a soupy sea, but in modern cells this replication requires the presence of suitable enzymes. … [T]he link between DNA and the enzyme is a highly complex one, involving RNA and an enzyme for its synthesis on a DNA template; ribosomes; enzymes to activate the amino acids; and transfer-RNA molecules. … How, in the absence of the final enzyme, could selection act upon DNA and all the mechanisms for replicating it? It’s as though everything must happen at once: the entire system must come into being as one unit, or it is worthless. There may well be ways out of this dilemma, but I don’t see them at the moment.” -Frank Salisbury, plant physiologist and former head of Department of Plant Science for Utah State University.

    Frank B. Salisbury, “Doubts about the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” American Biology Teacher, 33: 335-338 (September, 1971).

  8. matthew2262 says:

    “The nucleotide sequence is also meaningless without a conceptual translative scheme and physical “hardware” capabilities. Ribosomes, tRNAs, aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, and amino acids are all hardware components of the Shannon message ‘receiver.’ But the instructions for this machinery is itself coded in DNA and executed by protein “workers” produced by that machinery. Without the machinery and protein workers, the message cannot be received and understood. And without genetic instruction, the machinery cannot be assembled.” -Jack Trevors, professor for the Dept. of Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph and David L. Abel, Director of the Gene Emergence Project.

    J.T. Trevors and D.L. Abel, “Chance and necessity do not explain the origin of life,” Cell Biology International, 28: 729-739 (2004).

  9. matthew2262 says:

    “It is true that there are quite a number of ways of making a living — flying, swimming, swinging through the trees, and so on. But, however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive. You may throw cells together at random, over and over again for a billion years, and not once will you get a conglomeration that flies or swims or burrows or runs, or does anything, even badly, that could remotely be construed as working to keep itself alive.” -Richard Dawkins

    Dawkins, R., (1987) The Blind Watchmaker, pp. 9.

  10. matthew2262 says:

    Philosopher of Science, Sir Karl Popper once wrote, “What makes the origin of life and of the genetic code a disturbing riddle is this: the genetic code is without any biological function unless it is translated; that is, unless it leads to the synthesis of the proteins whose structure is laid down by the code. But… the machinery by which the cell… translates the code consists of at least fifty macromolecular components which are themselves coded in the DNA. Thus the code can not be translated except by using certain products of its translation.

    This constitutes a baffling circle; a really vicious circle, it seems, for any attempt to form a model or theory of the genesis of the genetic code.

    Thus we may be faced with the possibility that the origin of life (like the origin of physics) becomes an impenetrable barrier to science, and a residue to all attempts to reduce biology to chemistry and physics.”

    Popper, K.R., (1974) “Scientific Reduction and the Essential Incompleteness of All Science,” as written in Ayala, F. and Dobzhansky, T., Studies in the Philosophy of Biology, (Berkley, CA: University of California Press) pp. 270.

  11. matthew2262 says:

    “DNA cannot do its work, including forming more DNA without the help of catalytic proteins, or enzymes. In short, proteins cannot form without DNA, but neither can DNA form without proteins. To those pondering the origin of life, it is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: Which came first, proteins or DNA?”

    John Horgan- Science Write and Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

    Horgan, J., (Feb 1991) “In the Beginning…” Scientific American: 264 (2), pp. 100-109.

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