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Originally published in Creation 17, no 1 (December 1994): 26-27.
Snowflakes show beautiful design patterns, which appear highly ordered, and which arise by themselves under simple freezing conditions. Does this support evolution of complex life from simpler life?
Snow covers about 23 per cent of the Earth's surface—permanently or temporarily.
The lowest air temperature ever recorded was at Vostok II in Antarctica, 3,420 metres (11,218 feet) above sea level. The temperature dropped to -88.3 degrees Celsius (-127 degrees Fahrenheit).
The size and shape of snow crystals depend mainly on the temperature of their formation and the amount of water vapour available at deposition. At temperatures between 0 and 3 degrees Celsius, thin hexagonal plates form. Between -3 and -5 degrees, needles form. At -25 to -30 degrees, the crystal shape is hollow prism.
In fact, there is no parallel between the two issues at all. To put it simply, water forming snowflakes is 'doing what comes naturally', given the properties of the system. There is no need for any external information or programming to be added to the system—the existing properties of the water molecule and the atmospheric conditions are enough to give rise inevitably to snowflake-type patterns.
However, there is no tendency for simple organic molecules to form themselves into the precise sequences needed to form the long-chain information-bearing molecules found in living systems. That is because the properties of the 'finished product' are not programmed in the components of the system. It takes the addition of some extra information—either by an intelligent mind at work or a programmed machine. What would be analogous is if you saw a doily crocheted into the pattern of a snowflake. There is no natural, spontaneous tendency for the components of the system (for example, wool or cotton fibres) to assume that shape. The pattern has to be imposed by external information—either by the operation of mind or a programmed machine.
So whenever you see a snowflake doily, you instinctively recognize this fact and see it as the result of creation, as you should when you contemplate a section of a chromosome—the raw ingredients are not sufficient without a source of information. In living things, that information has come from the parent organism (a programmed mechanism) which arose from its parent which arose.... You might find that the doily has been crocheted by a programmed machine in a factory, which might itself have been built by another machine—but eventually that information had to arise in a mind. A snowflake pattern as water freezes may appear beautiful, but it is not the same thing at all, because no external programming or information has to be applied.
A similar issue (sometimes raised by evolutionists who should know better) is that of salt crystal formation as a warm saturated solution cools down. Not only is the chemical tendency already present in the sodium and chloride ions (making the end result inevitable, unlike the imagined evolutionary process), but the type of 'order' which arises is quite unlike the complexity of living things in kind, not just degree. A simple example will show the two types of order in alphabet letters:
2. A CAT SAT ON THE MAT
Both are 'ordered', but only type 2 resembles the ordering in, say, a protein molecule. Chop the first sequence in half, and the two halves are essentially the same. Break a crystal of salt in two, and you see the same effect. Chop a protein (for example haemoglobin) molecule in half and you no longer have haemoglobin—the two halves don't resemble one another. That is because the ordering is like that in the type 2 example above—chop that sentence in half and it loses all its meaning.
To put it another way, as a salt crystal grows and grows, it is like continuing the type 1 sequence above. The sequence gets longer, the crystal gets bigger (simply more of the same), but not more complex. For simple organisms to become more complex (or simple chemicals to become a living thing) would be like the type 2 sentence becoming a whole story about cats, for example.
To compare snowflake or salt crystal formation to any assumed evolutionary growth in complexity is like comparing chalk with cheese. Examining the two simply highlights the need for external information before biological order will arise—which is a strong argument for creation.