Could a Virus Jump-Start the First Cell? | The Institute for Creation Research

Could a Virus Jump-Start the First Cell?

Evolutionists have had a hard time imagining how mitochondria evolved. One theory is that these cellular powerhouses originated when bacteria invaded a primitive cell. A recent study deciphered the structure of a key mitochondrial enzyme, some features of which were described as providing "new insights" into this theory. The insights it actually provided, though, make an evolutionary origin even less likely.

A press release highlighting the enzyme discovery stated, "It is now generally accepted that mitochondria evolved from free-living bacteria that were engulfed by the progenitor of today's animal cells at an early stage in evolution."1

However, evolving mitochondria are not possible. These tiny cellular machines produce energy for the cell through clockwork-like machinery and interdependent networking. The cells would have died while waiting for just the right changes to retrofit a bacterium into an effective mitochondrion.2 Plus, retrofitting would have required an engineer, which naturalists are dogmatically unwilling to consider.

The newly described mitochondrial enzyme, an RNA polymerase, forms RNA molecules by reading and matching corresponding DNA sequences. This enzyme shared some features with the RNA polymerase found in certain viruses.

Because of these shared features, some scientists now suggest that right at the time when the cell supposedly engulfed its would-be mitochondrion bacterium, a virus attacked the cells. However, instead of causing any damage, the virus supposedly donated the DNA code for its RNA polymerase enzyme!

It was difficult enough to believe, without any observational precedent, that one bacterium could engulf another without killing it, that the engulfed bacterium would then immediately become an integral part of the host cell, and that nature somehow retrofitted the bacterium into a mitochondrion. But now readers are asked to believe—again with no observational support—that a virus donated the gene for an enzyme that was also immediately adopted by the imaginary cell-within-a-cell.

But that's not all. The gene was precisely and rapidly modified, all at the same time. What are the odds of that?

The researchers, publishing in Nature, explored the structural differences between the viral RNA polymerase and the human mitochondrial RNA polymerase enzymes. They found that the mitochondrial RNA polymerase required at least two additional proteins to "melt" DNA so that it could read the sequence. Apparently, the presence or absence of these partner proteins enables "mitochondrial gene regulation and the adaptation of mitochondrial function to changes in the environment."3

Though the study authors mentioned these concepts in their paper's abstract, they didn't explore them in the rest of their report. However, it is apparent that the mitochondrial RNA polymerase's methods of interacting with DNA are fine-tuned to the microscopic world of the cell's mitochondria, not to that of viruses. Insisting that such a fine-tuned machine arose by a chance viral infection and that the viral machine just happened to modify and integrate so perfectly as to activate mitochondrial machinery is too much to ask of nature.

But of course, fine-tuning molecules that enable life is not too much to ask a super-intelligent Being to accomplish. Indications are clearer than ever that God purposefully engineered the machinery of life.4

References

  1. Structure of a molecular copy machine. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München press release, September 26, 2011.
  2. Criswell, D. 2009. A Review of Mitoribosome Structure and Function Does not Support the Serial Endosymbiotic Theory. Answers Research Journal. 2 (1): 107-115.
  3. Ringel, R. et al. 2011. Structure of human mitochondrial RNA polymerase. Nature. 478 (7368): 269-273.
  4. Thomas, B. Study Demonstrates Complex Cells Could Not Evolve from Bacteria. ICR News. Posted on icr.org October 28, 2010, accessed October 18, 2011.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 21, 2011.

The Latest
NEWS
Inside October 2020 Acts & Facts
What is ICR’s vision for the next chapter of creation ministry? Why do mosquitoes attack humans? How did we celebrate the first anniversary of...

ACTS & FACTS
Abound in This Grace
One of the strongest exhortations for Christian giving is found in Paul’s encouragement to the believers in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul...

APOLOGETICS
Food Web Ecology Corroborates Scripture
Real-world ecology supports the Bible’s trustworthiness. Accordingly, how creatures get and use food matches how Scripture describes our world.1-3 Food...

ACTS & FACTS
Leviathan: Legend, Croc, or Something Else?
In Job 41, God points Job’s attention to a terrifying animal called leviathan. It’s clear this was a real creature, but what was it? Bible...

ACTS & FACTS
Why Mosquitoes Attack: Mystery Solved
It’s late evening. You’re relaxing on the backyard deck when suddenly they find you. Mosquitoes! One way they locate you is by tracking...

DISCOVERY CENTER
ICR Discovery Center's First Anniversary Celebration!
The ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History recently celebrated the first anniversary of its grand opening. To commemorate this milestone,...

ACTS & FACTS
New Testament Upholds Created Kind Stasis
The opening chapter of Genesis makes a significant and scientifically accurate statement concerning the fixity of created kinds. During the creation...

ACTS & FACTS
An Old Friend Came Home
Years ago, an attendee at an ICR Back to Genesis seminar approached me with a fossil he and his daughter had found while on a hike in Washington State....

ACTS & FACTS
Lava Flows Disqualify Lake Spillover Canyon Theory
There has been considerable debate among scientists over the origin of Grand Canyon. We all agree it was formed by the removal of some 1,000 cubic miles...

RESEARCH
ICR Paleoclimate Research Continues
Because the Genesis Flood caused the Ice Age,1 studies of Earth's past climate, or paleoclimatology, have long been a focus of the Institute...