Random Process?

A while ago I shared a post from Cross Examined titled “There’s No Need to Apologize.” Someone had left some comments addressing different parts of the article. This post is the third in a series that I address this individual’s comments.

The individual says:

“Describing humans as a random collection of molecules ignores that no-one believes we were created by a random process.”

I’m not exactly sure what this person means when he says this. There are a few different things he could mean. He could be referencing the initial creation of the very first life via natural processes. He could mean the entire process of Darwinian evolution (goo to you via the zoo). Or he could be talking about biblical creation (he does use the word created, after all)!

If he means biblical creation, then I agree with him! We absolutely weren’t created by a random process. Instead, we were created with intent in the image of a holy and loving God. But I’m guessing that’s not what he meant, so I’ll address the other two options.

First Life Form

No evolutionist knows how the first life form began. Many hypotheses have been made, but none of them have been verified. Even the Miller-Urey experiment has been discounted (even though modern textbooks wouldn’t tell you that). There are a few problems with the Miller-Urey experiment:

  • Nobody knows exactly what Earth’s early atmosphere was like.
  • Miller based his experiment on assumptions that were favorable to creating amino acids (because amino acids are the building blocks of life, life exists, so the early earth had to be favorable to creating amino acids)
  • Miller’s “early atmosphere” had a perfect blend of water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen that would react beneficially to electrical currents that would ensure the creation of amino acids were created (thus, the experiment was designed using intelligence)
  • Miller didn’t include oxygen (O2) in his experiment because that’s what scientists thought during that time. However, with no oxygen, there’s no atmosphere. With no atmosphere, ultraviolet rays would destroy biological molecules. On the other hand, if oxygen did exist in the early atmosphere (which some of the oldest rocks show evidence of), then that would have also destroyed any biological molecules by oxidation.
  • His experiment created both left-handed and right-handed amino acids which tend to bond together (but life forms only have left-handed)
  • He produced amino acids, but not all the right ones (there are about 2,000 types of amino acids, but only 20 are used in life forms)
  • His amino acids had to be isolated from the rest of his experiment or they’d be destroyed by water.
  • His experiment didn’t explain DNA or RNA, which both are essential to life.
  • His results produced amino acids, but not proteins (you cannot have life without proteins and proteins have, on average, 300 amino acids that all have to be left-handed and in the right order for the protein to form). Even if he did manage to get a protein, that’s still a far cry from a living cell.

There are so many problems with the Miller-Urey experiment that it’s absurd that it’s still taught. It didn’t prove anything. The whole experiment was designed around the end result. He knew how to achieve the outcome beforehand, and he made an “experiment” to make it happen.

Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe estimated the probability that a cell forming through strictly natural processes is:

1 / 1040,000

That’s a 1 followed by 40,000 zeros.

They said:

No matter how large the environment one considers, life cannot have had a random beginning…There are about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in (1020)2000 = 104000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.

Evolution from Space, p. 176

The Miller-Urey experiment was misguided. But even so, scientists are still faced with the problem of the early atmosphere composition, the problem of oxygen, the problem of water, the very few usable amino acids, the large number of amino acids to form a protein, the correct handedness of the amino acids, the correct order of the amino acids, the problem of DNA and the problem of RNA. The quote from Hoyle and Wickramasinghe is clear: life couldn’t have arisen by chance.

Since it cannot happen by chance, some have argued that time is the factor that will allow it.

However improbable we regard [evolution], or any of the steps which it involves, given enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once…Given so much time, the “impossible” becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait, time itself performs the miracles

George Wald, “The Origin of Life,” Scientific America 191 no 2 (1954)

First of all, time can’t actually do anything. It’s a way to measure the distance between events. It has no active properties. Second of all, he’s not even confident about it happening. He says, “almost certainly” and “virtually certain.” Thirdly, if something is impossible in nature, doesn’t it usually stay that way? For instance, if it’s impossible for gravity to go up instead of down, should I now think that someday gravity going up will be virtually certain? Fourthly, he deifies time by saying it can perform miracles (but God performing miracles is ridiculous?). Lastly, what does “almost certainly” even mean? Is that like saying, someone is “a little bit pregnant”?

So, once again, our friend is correct: life couldn’t have originated by chance.

The question is: How could it be any other way? With no God, all you have is material and nature. Nature alone cannot provide an answer because it can’t create a life-creating mechanism. If that mechanism existed in nature, it would still have to exist today. If it exists today, then it reasons that we ought to see life emerging spontaneously (especially when we tip the balance in our favor in the laboratory).

So the evolutionist is faced with a dilemma: They admit that life emerging spontaneously through natural processes with no directed force or mechanism is absolutely impossible. But to admit that it was guided would be to admit that it didn’t happen through natural processes. This is such a problem that even Richard Dawkins speculates that life on Earth could have been seeded here by aliens. But that doesn’t explain how their life began. So how do they face this dilemma? By brushing it off and talking about evolution instead!

Evolution

“[E]volution has no foresight.” – Brian Charlesworth, Author of Evolution: A Very Short Introduction

 Now, there are 3 parts of Darwinian evolution: genetic mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. They are not the same, they’re not synonymous, and they should never be used interchangeably (but unfortunately they are). They are 3 distinct parts of the overall process.

 “Evolution” is a very muddled word. When I use “evolution,” I’m only going to mean it as macro-evolution, or Darwinian evolution, which is that every life form evolved from a lower life form through a series of very small changes over time. This is sometimes called “macro-evolution,” meaning that one species evolves into an entirely different species through very small changes. “Micro-evolution” is something entirely different. But Darwinists like to just use “evolution” to make it seem all-encompassing.

Genetic Mutations      

[A]ccording to Darwinism, each of these steps is the result of a purely accidental mutation.” – Sir Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge

Genetic mutations are random. They’re mistakes in the genetic code caused by unknown (although some suggested) reasons. It’s pretty simple to understand, so I don’t feel like I need to elaborate very much.

Suppose a section of your DNA contains this genetic code:          

ATGCCGTA

At some point in your life, while your cells were copying and replicating, there is a mistake. The last A is now a T. So all the sudden, one cell in your body now contains this section:

ATGCCGTT

Would this be a drastic change in your body? I doubt it. However, this new DNA strand would replicate and continue to be spread throughout your body. More importantly, this new information will be passed to your offspring.

But why did this happen? Simple. It was an accident. A mistake. When your cell was replicating, there was an error or a mistake in the process. That mistake produced a different genetic code. But why did it make a mistake? Simple. The mistake was an accident. In other words, it happened by random chance.

 “We are only chance visitants to this jungle of blind mutations.” – Thomas Ligotti

“[I]t has been found that a very efficient way to find the optimal design is to successively make small, random changes to the design.” (Brian Charlesworth, Author of Evolution: A Very Short Introduction)

“We know of no other way than random mutation by which new hereditary variation comes into being.” (C.H. Waddington, The Nature of Life)

“Mutations are random…[M]utations do not “try” to supply what the organism “needs.” Mutations are Random, Berkeley University of California

The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly” Frequently Asked Questions About Evolution, PBS

Natural Selection

Natural Selection is not random, and it’s pretty easy to see why. According to evolution, if the genetic mutation is beneficial to the organism, then it improves the organism’s survival ability (obviously). If it is harmful to the organism, then it doesn’t improve the organism’s survival ability (again, obviously).

Let’s illustrate:

Suppose I was wearing mountain expedition clothing and you were wearing clothes that were more suitable for surfing in Hawaii. But both of us were in the Himalayan Mountains. Who would have a better chance of survival? The one who was wearing mountain expedition clothes (which, again, happens to be me). What I was wearing improved my ability to survive in that particular climate. And the one that survives is the one with a better chance of reproducing. That’s natural selection.

The same is true for animals. Dogs with long hair are more likely to survive in cold environments than dogs with short hair. The dogs with short hair will all die, leaving the long-haired dogs to reproduce with long-haired dogs and producing more long-haired dogs. The genetic information for short-haired dogs is lost, so now these long-haired dogs will only ever be able to produce long-haired dogs unless new genetic information is added to their population (i.e. they reproduce with short-haired dogs).

Genetic Drift

First of all, what is genetic drift? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “variation in the relative frequency of different genotypes in a small population, owing to the chance disappearance of particular genes as individuals die or do not reproduce.”

In other words, genetic drift when certain information is lost due to particular individuals not reproducing or dying. And this is purely driven by chance.

Let’s use the example of the dogs again to look at genetic drift. Supposed long-haired dogs and short-haired dogs are both capable of living in the same climate because the weather is mild and comfortable for both types of dogs all year round. Now suppose there is a pack of 10 dogs, with 8 of the dogs being short-haired dogs and 2 of the dogs being long-haired dogs. Except for the difference in length of hair, these dogs are exactly the same. During their lifetime, though, only the short-haired dogs happen to reproduce, and they only reproduce with other short-haired dogs. The genetic information for long-haired dogs is now lost completely.

“Genetic drift…[is] a change in the gene pool of a small population that takes place strictly by chance.” Encyclopedia Britannica

The combined effects of mutations, natural selection and the random process of genetic drift cause changes in the composition of a population. (Brian Charlesworth, Author of Evolution: A Very Short Introduction)

Conclusion

There is absolutely no way that life could have originated by chance. The problems are overwhelmingly difficult to overcome. Saying, “Well, here we are, so it must have happened,” is assuming that materialism is already true. No atheist would accept “Well, here we are, so God must have created,” as convincing evidential proof. So don’t try to do the same thing with materialism. 

Genetic mutations are strictly a result of random chance. There is no guiding mechanism that directs them.

Natural selection is not by chance. But nobody disputes that. Not even creationists. However, the genetic code for adaptability was already from the beginning.  No new code is added.

Genetic drift is entirely by chance. Some fish get eaten before they reproduce. Some fish reproduce before they’re eaten. The shark doesn’t care which fish is which. It’s strictly by chance.

So unlike what our friend states, Darwinian evolution is driven entirely by a random process. Genetic mutations and genetic drift are the forces behind Darwin’s theory, with natural selection being (realistically) on the side. If creationists don’t dispute it, then Darwinists can’t stake a sole claim on it. Otherwise, they’d confirm creation!

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