How did life begin? For those who reject the testimony of Genesis, the search is restricted to clues in nature.
One such clue is the minimum essentials required for growth and reproduction. If that number is small enough, then life might conceivably have formed by chance.
The 2008 documentary movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed presented 250 proteins as an estimated minimum required for cell function. The odds of that many forming by chance was equated to a man winning at a slot machine 250 consecutive times.
But the real odds are much more staggering. Molecular biologist Doug Axe said, "We're talking about something that's staggeringly improbable: roughly one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion."1 Based on new research, Axe may have to quadruple those already impossible odds.
A team of biologists at the Stanford University School of Medicine employed a new method to estimate the minimum genetic information required for the survival of bacteria called Caulobacter crescentus, which are commonly used in labs. They used a novel technique that marked specific DNA mutations in surviving mutant bacteria. Then they mapped the Caulobacter genome to discover the areas that did not tolerate mutation.
The researchers found 480 essential protein-coding genes, plus 532 other essential regions, on the bacterial DNA, according to a Stanford press release.2 Most of those 532 regions regulate gene expression, 91 regions have unknown functions, and the remainder are genes of unknown but necessary function.
Thus, this experiment found that the number of DNA regions required for the basic life of this bacterium was 1,000, which is four times larger than the 250 proteins estimated in Expelled.3
If the origin and survival of the first cell were miserably unsolvable by any machinations of natural law before, they are even less solvable now. And what nature alone cannot explain must logically be explained by the supernatural, just like Genesis has said all along.
- Stein, B. 2008. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. DVD. Directed by Nathan Frankowski. Premise Media Corporation, L.P.
- Digitale, E. New method reveals parts of bacterium genome essential to life. Stanford School of Medicine news release, August 30, 2011, reporting on research published in Christen, B. et al. 2011. The essential genome of a bacterium. Molecular Systems Biology. 7 (1): 528.
- Each "DNA region," including genes, gene promoters, and other DNAs, probably averages over 100 specified nucleotides in length, making the sheer odds of random amino acid combination 1 in 10100000 (which is a 1 followed by 100,000 zeroes).
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on September 8, 2011.