Three Puzzles Evolution Can’t Solve

by , , and on ; last featured October 9, 2016
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For more than a century Christians have looked for the scientific silver bullet that would destroy Darwinian evolution and prove biblical creation to be true. We already know from God’s revealed, infallible Word how the universe, the earth, and all life came into being: He spoke them into existence (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11; Hebrews 11:3). This fact alone refutes Darwinian evolution. Yet in a world where secular researchers reject the supernatural and divine revelation, many Christians still feel compelled to provide empirical (observable and repeatable) evidence to confirm the Bible’s claim.

The problem is that neither creation nor evolution is observable or repeatable. Empirical science alone can’t prove a miraculous, onetime historical event any more than it can prove evolution. Instead, we must make assumptions, and our conclusions are only as good as our starting assumptions.

The issue is not the evidence, but how we interpret the evidence through our worldview. Does our worldview make sense of the world we observe today?

Evolution is based on a faulty initial assumption, while belief in creation is based on facts revealed by the only eyewitness, the Creator Himself.

God’s Word says we should always be ready “to give a defense to everyone who asks” (1 Peter 3:15). When witnessing to unbelievers, we should challenge their worldview and show how the biblical worldview makes better sense of our world.

Three biological puzzles continue to stump evolution but make sense within the biblical worldview:

Life from Nonlife

“Life comes from life” is a fundamental law of biology, and yet formation of the first living thing must violate this law. How this could happen still stumps scientists.

by Kevin Anderson


At the beginning of my first college biology course, we studied the evidence refuting spontaneous generation—the idea that an atmospheric “vital force” can spontaneously organize inanimate organic material into living creatures. Maggots could form from rotting meat. Mice could fabricate from a pile of clothing.

Aristotle proposed an early version of spontaneous generation, and it remained popular until the nineteenth century. At that time, experiments by Louis Pasteur and others proved the fundamental law of modern biology, biogenesis (life only comes from life). Support for spontaneous generation gradually lost popularity. Well, sort of lost popularity.

Interestingly, toward the end of that same biology course we were taught that life may have originally arisen by spontaneous generation. Confused? Supposedly, life could have arisen in the distant past under unique conditions, unlike those found on earth today. In other words, life will not spontaneously form today, but it must have under unknown conditions earlier in earth’s history.

The only real evidence given for this claim is the simple fact that life exists. It must have come from somewhere, and the possibility of a creator is completely unacceptable to the secular mind. So, life must have originated by a natural, spontaneous event. And this is a scientific solution?

Researchers around the world have been pursuing virtually every conceivable possibility. They have spent billions of dollars searching for water on Mars, apparently assuming that water also means there will be life. Creative experiments have produced a few organic molecules and some strangely structured strings of amino acids. A recent paper in the journal Nature Chemistry proposes that a wide variety of organic molecules could form from a single basic reaction. The popular science website Phys.org even heralds this assumed achievement as having “solved the riddle of how life began.”

While much speculation is still offered, a natural mechanism for life’s origins is as elusive as ever.

Yet, a simple fact remains—the scientific community is clinging to trivial results. Sticking together a few amino acids, finding water on Mars or “organic” material in meteorites, or even making numerous molecules from one reaction is still not creating life. It is not even getting close. Life is an extraordinarily complex and sophisticated functioning system, not just an assemblage of miscellaneous organic molecules.1 Despite decades of speculation, creative imagination, and untold millions of dollars spent on research, the spontaneous origin of life from natural processes seems just as impossible as ever.

To make a point, I offer this challenge. I will let researchers use all the necessary molecules they want; all the molecules found in living systems (such as sugars, amino acids, and lipids). I will even grant them all the biologically correct structures of these molecules and the absence of any chemicals that might inhibit key reactions.2 None of these conditions is actually realistic in a natural setting, but that further demonstrates my point. Even granting the unrealistic, life will still not spontaneously form.

Perhaps early investigators (even Darwin) might be forgiven for imagining a simple origin of living organisms. When the universe was seen as a fertile matrix that enables flies to spontaneously emerge from spoiled meat, it was natural to assume that forming life was not a big deal. In fact, the spontaneous origin of life was considered virtually inevitable.

While Darwinian evolution does not claim to answer questions of life’s origin, its goal is to offer a natural explanation for the diversity of all life on earth (after it began). As Darwinism gained popularity during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, people simply assumed that the same natural forces that produced diversity could also have fabricated the first living organisms.

Early investigators considered cells as simple “bags of enzymes,” and they understood only a few basic reactions within a cell. Life was little more than the correct mix of ingredients. Get the mixture right and life was inevitable. Within their vacuum of understanding, many things seemed plausible. The gap between the living and nonliving worlds did not seem too large.

Yet, bridging this gap not only has remained elusive but has slipped completely from view. Findings in the past few decades have moved the expanse of the “bridge” far beyond the horizon. Rather than offering greater insight into life’s origin, recent discoveries have further detailed the daunting size of the gap. The “bags of enzymes” have proven to be an extraordinarily sophisticated system with no counterpart in mankind’s most advanced technology.

The findings of contemporary genetics, cell biology, epigenetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry render life beyond the reach of mere natural processes. While much speculation is still offered and millions of dollars continue to be spent in this fruitless quest, a natural mechanism for life’s origins is as elusive as ever. The mechanism exists only in the imagination of the “true believer”—hardly a scientific solution.

A spontaneous origin of life has failed to meet the most basic of scientific tests. It has never been observed. On the other hand, we consistently observe that life comes only from life. After repeated verification, there has never been an exception. This is why biogenesis is a scientific law. So, how is it unscientific to say that life originally arose from other life (which happens all the time)? God, who is life, produced the first life.

If researchers ever do construct life in the laboratory from more elemental components, it will still not achieve their goal. Their accomplishment will use already preexisting components, and will be based upon decades of research and scientific understanding. It will not be a spontaneous event, but rather a carefully controlled and designed process. The achievement will be less a synthesis of life and more a semi-synthetic reassembly of life.

Nonetheless, in the wake of such an accomplishment, subsequent media headlines will likely proclaim the achievement as proof that no creator was needed to form life originally. Actually, such an event would demonstrate the opposite—the formation of life requires intelligence and an extensive amount of knowledge. By studying and understanding life, secular scientists are merely attempting to copy it.

These researchers would simply have plagiarized the life systems that already exist. But as is often the case with plagiarists, they will attempt to deny the original author. Inadvertently, though, any such success will give honor to the original Creator, whose handiwork is worthy of copying.

Kevin Anderson earned his PhD in microbiology, and subsequently was an N.I.H. Postdoctoral Fellow and university professor. Since 2003 he has served as the director of the Van Andel Creation Research Center. He is also a past editor in chief of the Creation Research Society Quarterly and has written more than 25 papers in peer-reviewed technical journals.

Information of Life

Life consists of more than all the physical parts working in unison—it requires the information to run the parts. Scientists still don’t understand where this information could have come from.

by Brian A. Catalucci


Explaining life requires much more than the spontaneous generation of complex new physical features, such as the first DNA, cells, organs, and brains. Life also requires something intangible—vast amounts of instructions stored in DNA. This is separate and independent from the physical world, yet just as essential for any form of life.

Where did all the information come from? As far as scientists know, information only comes from preexisting information. So this is one of the most difficult and insoluble puzzles for Darwinian evolution—and one of the most powerful evidences that confirms the biblical account of creation.

What Is Information?

So what is meant by information? Simply put, information is a conceptual, nonmaterial entity (something that exists) that conveys meaning, which can be used to make something, to do something, or to communicate something.

It is the basic ingredient of producing anything functional in this world, and the key to functionality is organization. Information is needed to build any organized system, such as a machine. It is the fundamental building block of the created universe. Without information it would be impossible to make, do, or communicate anything, and life itself could not exist.

The only place information can originate is from a higher source of information. My work as a computer scientist is a good illustration. If you want to build a computer system, all the information that goes into that system must come from a higher source of information: a computer designer and a software engineer.

To discover that higher source of information for our entire universe, we must look to the Bible for the answer. In John 1:1, God’s Word states, “In the beginning was the Word [Christ]”; and in Colossians 2:3, “in whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Wisdom and knowledge include information. So, according to the Christian worldview, every bit of information in our universe existed prior to the creation, because it was hidden (contained) in Jesus Christ.

In Genesis 1 and Psalm 33 the Bible clearly reveals that Jesus spoke His universe into existence through only His Word: all the mass, all the energy, and of course, all the information.

All information existed before the creation of the material universe, arising only from the nonmaterial, biblical God (John 4:24). Information is a fundamental, nonmaterial entity, separate from mass and energy. This means information has no material or physical existence. You cannot see it, touch it, smell it, or taste it. You cannot weigh it on a scale like a bag of sugar or store it in your refrigerator. Yet it is as real as and has more importance and power than any physical or material entity that exists.

Other important nonmaterial entities exist. First and foremost is God. Others are outgrowths of information, which I call the children of information, including logic, mathematics, the laws of science, thoughts, emotions, morality, truth, justice, love, hate, intelligence, and consciousness to name a few. The most important and useful things in our universe have no physical existence, yet we use them every moment of our lives. So does every plant, insect, bird, and animal in existence.

The Unseen Language of Life

Dots and dashes of Morse code are arranged into words in books. In the same way, DNA molecules store information for complex proteins using four nucleotides. Where did this language come from?

Language of Life

Information’s Special Connection to Matter

Because information is not a property of matter, a rock does not contain or create information. Interestingly, to store, use, or display information in our world, a material medium is needed: a piece of paper to display written words, a schematic to detail the design of a Boeing 747, a DVD to store songs and movies, DNA to record protein instructions, and your brain to know how to drive a car.

This nonmaterial characteristic of information is easy to demonstrate. For example, all cell phones require a computer that runs a software program (the information) to control all the phone’s functions. If you weigh the phone, it has a specific weight (say, 4.6 ounces or 130 g). If you delete the software program (billions of bits of information), the phone has the same weight but is now just a useless hunk of metal, silicon, and plastic.

Without information, nothing in this universe would live, operate, or communicate. For example, a Boeing 747 has over six million parts but cannot fly without nonmaterial, organized information. Suppose that all these parts could be manufactured and assembled by chance without prior knowledge of aerodynamics and engineering—the pieces still could not fly. Even more information is needed to fuel the machine and then fly you safely from Chicago to Beijing!

An Interesting Conclusion

This leads to an interesting conclusion: information is major evidence that disproves the evolutionary, materialistic worldview and strongly confirms the biblical worldview.

You see, information is in all life: it is contained in the DNA of every living cell of every plant, animal, and human being on this earth. It is the blueprint that tells a cell how to grow, reproduce, and operate. It explains why you grew up with the body of a human and not a carrot.

DNA is the most complicated, intricately organized computer program and database system in existence. It is also the most compact information storage mechanism known to man. The question is: where did all its information and programming come from?

Evolution depends on unguided, random, and accidental processes over millions of years. Yet mutations and natural selection have never been proven conclusively to add the kind of genetic information required to produce life. At best, they merely shuffle around existing information. In fact, mutations and natural selection often remove information from DNA.

Secular scientists must answer the question, “How could a purely materialistic system like evolution add nonmaterial information to the DNA computer system to change one kind of creature into another?” Also, “How did the first cell obtain the information and control system necessary to fuel its ‘engines’ and keep them running (metabolism)?” Darwinian evolutionists have yet to answer these questions.

Material entities cannot create nonmaterial entities. Hydrogen and rocks do not create information contained within DNA molecules. In In the Beginning Was Information, Dr. Werner Gitt, a renowned specialist in information theory, showed that only nonmaterial entities (such as God and man’s spirit) can create new information. This gives very strong support to the biblical worldview.

So we can rest comfortably in our 747s, knowing intelligent beings built them safely from highly organized and detailed information the Creator placed in the universe for our benefit and His glory. Evidence of God’s wisdom is all around us, not just in the physical world but in the intangible information that keeps life running.

Brian A. Catalucci has a master of science in computer science and engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is presently an adjunct speaker for Answers in Genesis and is currently working on his PhD dissertation in theology and apologetics.

Resources

W. Gitt, In the Beginning Was Information, third English ed. (Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung Bielefeld, 2001), 47.

W. Gitt, B. Compton, and J. Fernandez, Without Excuse (Atlanta, Georgia, USA: Creation Book Publishers, 2011), 119, 124, 129, 285.

Irreducible Complexity

Darwinian evolution requires that every complex component of life arose step-by-step. The discoveries of genetics and cell biology have highlighted this impossibility, which scientists still can't explain.

by Nathaniel Jeanson


When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he insisted that evolution occurred only in small steps, not big leaps. This element was so important that he made it the defining test of evolution: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” [emphasis added].3

Since 1859, the discoveries of genetics and cell biology have collapsed Darwin’s theory—in ways that he never would have imagined.

Irreducibly Complex Cells

Consider the information storehouse of the cell, DNA. One of the ways the cell attempts to meet its changing needs is by extracting information from DNA. To do so, the cell must locate the appropriate instructions quickly on the correct strand and then express them at the right time to address the right problems. Without the cellular locating and timing tools already present, the information in DNA would be inaccessible and useless to the cell, and the cell would eventually cease to exist. Without cells, evolution would be dead.

This evolutionary conundrum only gets worse. To execute the instructions encoded in DNA, the cell copies sections of DNA into an entirely different type of molecule, called RNA. To ensure that RNA performs its appropriate task, the RNA molecule itself is subject to a host of regulatory controls. Special instructions are spread throughout the molecule to protect the information’s integrity. Remove the regulatory controls, and chaos ensues. How could evolution build the information transfer process by numerous, successive, slight modifications?

Finally, in a normal, healthy cell, RNA is eventually chemically translated into another cellular language—that of proteins. Organisms produce thousands—even tens of thousands—of proteins to perform varied functions. These tiny machines transport molecules from one section of the cell to another; they transform other chemicals to extract energy; they send signals to various parts within the cell; they help the cell divide into two cells—and the list goes on and on. Translating RNA into protein requires a host of cellular parts, presenting yet another roadblock to step-by-step evolution. Without proteins, the evolutionary origin of species would never occur.

As fascinating as these examples are, they only scratch the surface of the irreducible complexity locked within each cell.4 If these simplified illustrations sink evolution, what hope does Darwin have in the vast ocean of interdependent, complex systems?

All or Nothing

Nearly every creature alive today requires information to flow from DNA to RNA to proteins. These are three very different kinds of molecules, but none of them can function without the other two. DNA depends on RNA and proteins to function; RNA depends on DNA and proteins; and proteins depend on DNA and RNA.

All or Nothing

All three had to be in place at the same time for them to function. Dr. Michael Behe coined the term irreducible complexity to describe such mutually interdependent systems within cells.

No Escape from Darwin’s Test

Not surprisingly, these findings have forced the evolutionary community to propose creative solutions to the apparent contradictions between Darwin’s original hypothesis and cell biology. Their attempts to rescue evolution fall into four major categories.

First, evolutionists from Darwin on have appealed to the power of artificial selection—mankind’s ability to domesticate and breed wild species to produce profound biological changes. The problem with this counter-explanation is that it requires a change in the original definition of evolution. Darwin didn’t title his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Intelligent Creation. Instead, he proposed that the mechanism was natural selection—no human or divine activity involved. In contrast, artificial selection requires intelligent people to oversee the process, making this analogy a non-starter.

The second attempted solution has a similar problem. Perhaps, the evolutionists say, cellular “scaffolds” once sustained simpler intermediates until the complex, interdependent parts of the cell were completed. They say that since the erecting of a bridge requires scaffolds and intermediate pieces until all parts are connected, why not the cell? For this analogy to work, the evolutionists must, once again, play loose with the definition of evolution. The construction of a bridge involves intelligent human activity. Evolution by natural selection does not.

A third effort arranges organisms into apparent hierarchies— for example, from fish to amphibians to reptiles— based on similarities among species. If species can be arranged into a series, evolutionists argue, couldn’t they have evolved from a common ancestor? The problem is that evolution requires—as per Darwin’s explicit statements—a specific step-by-step explanation at the cellular and molecular level, not a vague hierarchy.

Finally, evolutionists have appealed to something they call “neutral evolution”—changes in DNA that do not result in a change in biological function. In contrast, evolution by natural selection requires changes in biological function. By definition, natural selection requires a biological component—say, a part of a cell—to be functional before it can be selected.

Creationists have long pointed out the impossible odds of evolution by chance.

While the weakness of this explanation is hidden at first pass, it is actually the most implausible of all. At its core, neutral evolution is a synonym for pure luck, turning the question of evolution into a matter of probabilities and chance. Even if we grant the evolutionists the process of neutral evolution, creationists have long pointed out the impossible odds of evolution by chance, and neutral evolution does nothing to escape the obvious implications of Darwin’s original “step by step” test.

Thus, the only way to rescue Darwinian evolution—the strictly naturalistic, survival of the fittest, small-steps process—is to redefine it. By redefining the essence of what Darwin proposed and changing it to something entirely different, evolutionists are implicitly acknowledging that Darwinian evolution doesn’t work.

As Romans 1:18–25 explained so long ago, the Creator is “clearly seen” by the things He has made, and evolutionists have no scientific basis for contradicting this fact—according to Darwin himself.

Nathaniel Jeanson received his PhD from Harvard Medical School, specializing in the role of Vitamin D in regulating blood stem cells. He spent several years as a research associate for the Institute for Creation Research and now does research for Answers in Genesis.

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Footnotes

  1. Ironically, we cannot adequately define life. We know life by its characteristics (such as reproduction), but life is not limited to its characteristics or its basic chemistry. We know life when we detect it, but we cannot fully explain what it is.
  2. A problem with many of the popular “origin of life” experiments, such as Miller’s, is that the conditions used also produced chemicals toxic to life.
  3. C. Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, first edition (London: John Murray, 1859), p. 189.
  4. For example, see (with caution) Behe, M., Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Touchstone, 1996). Behe coined the term irreducible complexity to summarize the mutually interdependent systems that exist at the cellular level. Sadly, while Behe’s critique of Darwin is devastating, Behe accepts evolutionary common ancestry and the secular timeline.

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