The Creation Debate-Part 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Duane Gish; ©2002
Dr. Gish explains why the complex structure of DNA indicates that the probability of the spontaneous generation of life is, as Francis Crick put it, “equal to the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard would assemble a Boeing 747.”

Editor’s note: In June 1990 The John Ankerberg Show taped a series of interviews with men from several branches of the sciences regarding the evidence for creation. For technical reasons we were unable to air these interview. Nevertheless, we have decided to re­lease portions of these interviews in a series of articles so you could read the arguments that were being made at that time—more than a decade ago.

Considerable effort has been made to quote the gentlemen correctly. We have at­tempted to find the correct spelling of the scientific terms used. However, the reader should keep in mind that this is a transcription of oral interviews. Mistakes in spelling and in the technical language should be laid at the feet of the editor.

DNA and The Origin of Life

Dr. John Ankerberg: I want to begin by talking about the origin of life. How did life begin on earth? My first guest is Dr. Duane Gish who received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1953. Dr. Gish, give us the two difference models. What is the evolutionary model saying today and what is the creationist model?
Dr. Duane Gish: John, according to the evolutionary model or evolutionary theory, concerning the origin of life, life arose through processes which were strictly naturalistic, mechanistic, according to properties inherent in matter. That is, no intelligence was in­volved; God was not involved; no outside agency was involved. Now I want to emphasize that certainly not all evolutionists are atheists, but that theory is non-theistic. God simply was not involved; it was not necessary.
According to this theory on the hypothetical primordial earth there were simple gases, perhaps something like hydrogen, ammonia, and methane, and nitrogen, and carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and things like that. And by the interaction of raw energy such as lightning and ultraviolet light converted the simple chemicals to more complicated chemicals such as amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and the nucle­otides, which are the building blocks of DNA and RNA. And then somehow, through strictly spontaneous natural processes, these building blocks combined with one another.
Not only did they combine with one another, but somehow through pure chance mean­ingful molecules arose: a DNA molecule that supposedly contained information and that information could be then transcribed and translated into a protein molecule which could do something meaningful. And then these molecules dissolved in the hypothetical primordial ocean, somehow assembled themselves into a living cell, with membranes and energy factories, and protein factories and all these metabolic cycles that are necessary for life. And this all happened spontaneously without any intervention of any outside agency.
Now the creation scientist says no, that is not possible. We don’t see anything like that happening in nature. We don’t see things assembling spontaneously in any meaningful way. But the evolutionist says, “There was an informational molecule there with information in it.” Now the creation scientist says, “If there is information there, that has to be imposed from the outside.”
Ankerberg: Talking about DNA, Dr. Francis Crick was the Nobel Prize winner and biochemist and co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule. And he said in his article, “Life Itself,” page 88, “An honest man armed with all the knowledge available to us now could only state that in some sense the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.” Now, Dr. Gish, what did Francis Crick mean by that statement?
Gish: Well, when we look at the alleged self-assembly of these molecules, and then the assembly of these molecules supposedly into a self-replicating, self-maintaining entity called life, the probability of that happening through natural processes is so infinitesimally small that you would ordinarily ascribe that to a miraculous cause.
And you know, John, the more we learn about life, the more we understand the pro­cesses involved, the more miraculous it becomes. When I was in college, for example, we thought that the synthesis of the DNA molecule was a rather simple thing. You have the nucleotide triphosphate, you have a polymerace and then put it together. We know now however, that the synthesis or replication of DNA molecule involves at least twenty different proteins, many, many enzymes and other factors. It is vastly more complex than we thought then. And as we study life and understand more about it we’ll find that it is even vastly more complex than we believe today.
Ankerberg: I read in the newspaper, “In the human body, DNA programs all characteris­tics such as hair, skin, eyes and height. DNA determines the arrangement for 206 bones, 600 muscles, 10,000 auditory nerve fibers, 2 million optic nerve fibers, 1 billion nerve cells, 400 billion feet of blood vessels and capillaries…” and so on. So, this is just what this does. Now what’s the problem chemically, biologically if you want, to get that thing together?
Gish: Let me add just a little bit to what you’ve said, John. The human brain contains about 12 billion brain cells, and since each brain cell is connected to 10,000 other brain cells, that means that there are about 120 trillion connections in the human brain. Now, that information, how this must be put together, is coded somewhere. We know how the DNA sequence codes for protein. We know that. But we don’t know why you have blue eyes and I have brown eyes, while you’re maybe tall, I’m short, or something like that. We have no idea, really, where that information is. So we know really very little about the genetic sys­tem, except that we know that it is incredibly complex.
Now, about your question. Let me start out by emphasizing what information is. I have a book here and we say it conveys information—there’s information here. Now, John, there is absolutely no information here unless there is a human being to read it. If every human being died tomorrow, there would be absolutely no information in this book. So the very fact that there is information here implies or requires that there is something able to utilize it.
Now first of all, we had to invent language and only human beings do that. But once the language has been invented, we have something we can use, then that language had to be put into this form where the letters had to be arranged in precise sequence, the word had to be right in certain sequence. And then we have information.
Much is the same with a living cell. We say that DNA contains information. Well, there is absolutely no information in any DNA molecule without a living cell that can read that infor­mation and can utilize it and put it into use. And so, there must be information there, but there must be an apparatus to utilize it.
Now the evolutionist believes the DNA molecule came first and it had information. I maintain that’s absolutely, totally false. The primitive ocean couldn’t care less what the sequence of these nucleotides were. The only meaning is when there is machinery to utilize it.
Let’s take a look first of all at the replication of the DNA molecule—what that does in­volve and I can only say a few things about it. First of all, there must be enzymes that unwind the DNA molecule. The DNA molecule is a double-stranded molecule that must be unwound, there is an enzyme that does that. Then there are DNA polymeraces that put these nucleotides together in segments and there is an enzyme that adds short primer segments to get this chain assembly started. Then there are ligases that link the DNA segments together. And there are many other enzymes involved. There are, as a matter of fact, about 20 different enzymes in this synthesis of DNA itself. You see, when any living organism replicates itself, or reproduces, it must make copies of the DNA—its genes, you see. That’s an incredibly complex machinery required to do that.
Now, we have then the so-called information in this DNA molecule, in other words there’s a sequence of the units, we call them nucleotides, the sequence of which tells the cell, say for a certain protein, which amino acid is to be first, which amino acid is to be second, which is to be third, and so forth, so we have a biologically active molecule, such as an enzyme, or human growth hormone or hemoglobin, the red blood protein, and so forth and so on. Now, you see that information in the DNA molecule is found in the nucleus, but where all the action takes place is out in the cell itself, out in the cytoplasm. So, we’ve got to move that information from the DNA somehow out into the cell.
That’s a very, very complicated process. First of all, the information in the DNA molecule must be transcribed into an information in what is called a messenger RNA. That requires quite a complex apparatus. Then the messenger RNA moves to the ribosome, contains ribosomal RNA. (By the way, a ribosome, which is absolutely essential for the synthesis of protein, contains three RNA molecules and about 55 different protein molecules.) The ribosome is very complex, so we must have the information the DNA molecule transcribed into the information in the messenger RNA which then moved to the site of the ribosome and there it must cooperate with the ribosome.
Now how does this information get translated into protein? Well, each individual amino acid which forms a protein first must be linked to a transfer RNA, so there is another RNA molecule. And there is a particular transfer RNA molecule for each particular amino acid and there is a particular enzyme for each amino acid and each transfer RNA that will link the particular amino acid with its particular transfer RNA. So you have to have the transfer RNA, the amino acid, and the particular enzyme.
Then after the amino acid has been linked to the transfer RNA, that moves to the site where the messenger RNA is there with the ribosome. Well, the transfer RNA then posi­tions itself in the proper place in the messenger RNA, where that amino acid to which it is linked is supposed to go. Then you have another enzyme that links the amino acid then to the growing protein chain, another enzyme that cuts loose to transfer RNA and another enzyme that finally releases the protein and many other enzymes. Now you see, it is in­credibly complicated machinery.
Now, where did this machinery come from? You see the machinery had to be there to utilize that information. There could be no information there until we had all this compli­cated machinery that could utilize it, you see. Now the creationist says that that information could not spontaneously produce itself.
This book was not produced by the ink and the paper or a typesetting machine or a typewriter, you see. That’s an important part of it, but it had to be done by intelligence. The creationist is saying that the fact that there is information there and then there is this very complicated machinery required to utilize that information, that that had to come from the outside. It could not have arisen spontaneously from within the system. And it’s a very, very compelling argument. We believe that it’s more than persuasive; it’s coercive evidence that life, you see, is the secret of DNA. DNA is not the secret of life, but life is the secret of DNA.
Now, this information has been so powerful as you quoted from Dr. Crick, who certainly is no believer, others have been so persuaded, one of those is Sir Fred Hoyle, a famous British astronomer. He, working with a friend, Professor Chandra Wikramasinghe, also a very well known British astronomer, became interested in this problem of the origin of life, and they calculated the probability of life evolving on this planet in 5 billion years. Actually they considered only a small part of it. The probability of getting, say, a protein molecule together, or a DNA molecule together, they didn’t even consider the probability of assem­bling all of this into a cell.
And their conclusions were that the spontaneous origin of life is impossible. And as a matter of fact there was an article which appeared in the August 14, 1981 issue of the Daily Express in London about this statement by Hoyle and Wikramasinghe and what they’ve said. After they had considered these possibilities involved, they concluded, as Hoyle put it, “The probability of the evolution of life is equal to the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard would assemble a Boeing 747.” And Hoyle and Wikramasinghe consid­ered only a part of the problem—the problem of putting nucleotides together in a meaning­ful sequence or amino acids. They didn’t even consider the bigger picture of the origin of the cell itself.

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