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              A Coroner's Inquest Into the Origin of Life on Earth

by Reason McLucus

Copyright 1990
 
 

Those who argue over how humans and other plant and animal species came to exist concentrate too much on attempting to prove their religious beliefs and fail to deal adequately with the processes that had to have been involved in producing the necessary changes to create or develop earth's various life forms. Creationists begin with the belief that Genesis provides the complete account of how God created life on earth. Evolutionists begin with the belief that the various species must somehow have developed without the assistance of an intelligent being and claim that life must have begun as a single cell and somehow developed gradually into more advanced forms.
 

How should we solve this mystery about the origin of life?
 

When someone dies under mysterious circumstances, government sometimes conducts a coroner's inquest to determine the cause of death. The coroner, often assisted by a jury, examines all the known facts and attempts to determine the most likely cause, or causes, of death the facts will support.
 

For example, assume a body has been found. An autopsy reveals that the cause of death was a bullet wound. If we further assume that no gun was found at the scene, the likely verdict would be that the person died as a result of being shot by a person or persons unknown.
 

Before beginning our inquest we need to list the possible causes of the origin of life. We have two basic possibilities. Some intelligent being or beings created and developed the various species. Species developed without the aid of intelligent beings through the random interaction of chemicals and physical forces. Any non-directed process would have to be random because only an intelligent being could provide direction.
 

The intelligent being hypothesis could involve either some other type of being or members of some civilization from another planet. The other type of being might be a hyper-dimensional being or simply another form of life. The other civilization hypothesis would allow the possibility that some species or the original cells originated somewhere else and were introduced to the planet earth. Cells or complete animals could have been delivered to earth in some type of spacecraft or the necessary genetic information could have been placed on something like meteorites for delivery to planets that might be hospitable to life. The creator or creators of life on earth might or might not still exist.
 

We begin our inquest with an examination of the nature of the cell -- the basis of earth's life forms. We have to understand what the cell is before we can hope to understand how it came to exist. What do we know about the cell?
 

The cell is a system. It receives inputs and produces outputs. Inputs include energy; various chemicals, including oxygen, that provide raw materials for the cell's products; and directions from other parts of the body. Outputs include, energy, chemicals, and changes in shape.
 

The cell is a device. It normally functions without changing. In complex species, individual cells perform functions as directed by the body as a whole in accordance with a preprogrammed list of instructions stored in its genes.
 

The living cell operates much like a digital computer. The cell has a processing unit that fetches its instructions from memory where they are stored in binary form. Each memory location in the DNA molecule contains one set of molecules or the other(0 or 1) and one member of this set or the other(0 or 1) is attached to a given side.
 

The cell as a biochemical entity performs different functions than electromechanical computers, but operates in much the same way. It follows programmed instructions a step at a time and directs the function of its various parts. Its biochemical nature allows the cell to duplicate itself.
 

If the cell is a computer than we have a potential explanation for how an intelligent being could have created life. The operation of early computers shows the probable order of such development. Operation began with a bootstrap loader which typically was a punched card with sufficient instructions to load itself into the computer. The bootstrap loader would then load a more sophisticated program that would load users' programs.
 

With the cell, a virus could likely have been the equivalent of the bootstrap loader. The virus could then have developed, or loaded, the RNA molecule which could have developed or loaded the DNA molecule. The DNA molecule might have been built gradually a few genes at a time or put together by combining viruses. The quickest way to have developed a variety of species would have involved random combinations of viruses for each species. Survival would have depended upon compatibility with the environmental.
 

Radiation or alterations in the chemical environment could have been used to cause mutations and produce new species or simply alter existing species. Introduction of new viruses could also have changed existing species. Creators representing another civilization rather than a higher order being might also have altered species in a laboratory type environment and then introduced the new species into the planetary environment. The ability of modern scientists to shift genes from one species to another demonstrates the possibility that an intelligent being could have created the various species currently living on earth.
 

We have seen that life could have been developed by an intelligent being or beings. Could life have developed through some random interaction of chemicals and physical forces?
 

Random development of such a highly sophisticated system as a cell would seem to be unlikely, particularly considering the computer-like nature of the cell. Such an outcome would seem as unlikely as a tornado picking up a box of electronic components and turning them into a working computer. However, we cannot reject this possibility because the probability seems very low.
 

What would this random process have to do to produce the complex species we have today? First the process would have to have produced at least one cell. Next the process would have to have caused the necessary changes to produce the wide variety of species that have existed on earth.
 

Let us return to our dead body. We will assume that the body belonged to a gun collector and that one of his guns was on the floor near its normal storage place. Under this assumption the death could have resulted from an accident in which a loaded gun fell and landed in such a way that it fired a bullet into its owner.
 

Could the death have been caused by a similar accident under identical circumstances except that the gun was not found at the scene? Such a scenario would require that someone remove the gun from the premises which would be possible but unlikely.
 

Demonstrating the existence of a naturally occurring process that produces living cells from chemicals would imply that life could have developed without intervention by an intelligent being(although an intelligent being could have created such a process). The fact that no such process has been found indicates that the hypothesis of natural development is invalid, the process no longer exists because of some unknown change in the physical environment, or life began as a fortuitous accident.
 

The process no longer exists hypothesis would imply that a variety of cells developed during the period the process existed. Accepting this hypothesis causes a need to explain why the process ceased to exist. The fortuitous accident hypothesis would imply development of only a few simple cells and create a need to explain how simple cells became complex species. A detailed examination of the requirements for the development process should indicate whether or not a non-directed process could have produced current species.
 

This process or accident would have to have created some of the complex molecules that comprise the cell in such a way that these molecules would have formed the cell and replicated themselves. The binary nature of the cell would argue against either hypothesis. A natural process would seem more likely to produce some form of life that did not involve a DNA molecule using essentially a binary code to control the cell or to be arranged in paired chromosomes.
 

Development of paired chromosomes would seem unlikely from a natural process because one half the chromosomes would serve no essential function except during reproduction. This characteristic provides a quality control function, encourages diversity, and facilitates the sexual reproduction process. Dual chromosomes reduce the potential impact of defective genes by allowing the cell to ignore them in favor of "normal" genes. The existence of dominant and recessive genes implies the action of an intelligent being because the decision of which instruction to follow would seem to require a logical comparison of the two genes to determine which set of instructions to follow.
 

The initial development of individual cells would have to have been accompanied or followed by a process or accident to cause further development of cells into more complex organisms. The natural development of a simple cell would be easy compared to the changes necessary to produce advanced species.
 

Development of a simple cell would require existence of exactly the right combination of molecules to produce a functional cell and to reproduce. Even in an appropriate chemical and physical environment, such development by chance interaction of chemicals would seem very small. Any changes in the cell or in a combination of cells would have had to have met two qualifications: the ability to function effectively(remain viable) and the ability to reproduce. Any change in a cell that did not allow the cell to meet these qualifications could not have become permanent and the cell, or entire being, would have died.
 

Generally any changes in species under a system not directed by an intelligent being would have required a large population for a species to change. An environment producing frequent mutations would speed the process, but still require a large population.
 
 
 

Changes would have fallen into a range from reducing survivability to enhancing survivability. Any mutations would have occurred at some rate per size of population, such as one per each ten thousand births. The higher the rate the lower the population of a given species required before changes could have occurred.
 

As the species became more complex, random changes would have been more likely to have reduced survivability. As systems become more sophisticated, they become less receptive to change. Sophisticated systems rely on the proper interaction of their various parts. Changing any one subsystem alters the impact of that subsystem on the operation of the overall system. If the system, or any of its subsystems, cannot handle the impact, its functioning will be impaired.
 

A change that enhances one subsystem may hamper others. For example, anabolic steroids can enhance the muscular development of teenagers, but prematurely stop the growth of the skeleton. A genetic disorder, sickle cell trait provides a form of immunity from the affect of malaria but can produce potentially fatal sickle cell anemia. Those with Marfan's syndrome are taller than other people, but have a higher risk of fatal heart attacks.
 

The most important change in all species involved development of separate sexes. When a species divided into separate sexes would have affected its ability to successfully change. The existence of sexual reproduction would have severely complicated any random development process.
 

Having separate sexes would have required any mutation involving a major change to have occurred in at least one member of each sex living in sufficiently close proximity to have produced offspring having the new trait or traits. The need for a given mutation to have occurred twice implies the need for a substantially higher population than would have been required if a change only had to have occurred once. The existence of separate sexes in virtually all species would imply that either such division came very early, some universal mutation occurred as a result of some major physical-chemical event, or some intelligent being developed the various species.
 

Recent research indicates the probable existence of a "sex trigger" that determines whether a fetus will develop as a male or a female. Thus the basic program for both a male and female must be present in each member of a species. An intelligent being could have used this feature to develop a single member of a species, have that member produce a second member and then have both produce additional members. If life developed without assistance, this process would have required some unique event to have triggered division into sexes.
 

The existence of paired chromosomes undermines the argument for random development of life. The information on each chromosome must match sufficiently to allow each to perform the same basic functions. A random accident would have had to have happened twice. If all life began from the same cell some process would have had to have existed to create new chromosomes or to reduce the number of chromosomes.
 

The mechanics of sexual reproduction generally require both parents to have the same number of chromosomes to guarantee survival. If the potential parents have a different number of chromosomes, they may not be able to produce any offspring or may only be able to produce a sterile offspring like a mule. An individual with an odd number of chromosomes may not be able to function properly, as is the case with humans having Down's Syndrome. Thus any mutation causing a change in the number of chromosomes must cause the number to increase or decrease by two and occur in two members of a species of opposite sexes in order to pass the change along to future generations.
 

An intelligent being would have been able to duplicate chromosomes to create chromosome pairs and use the same process to change the number of chromosomes(if desired) used to create the initial chromosomes.
 
 
 

The development of multicellular species with specialized cells seems to preclude any random development of life. An intelligent being could have designed specialized cells to perform sophisticated functions such as digesting food or pumping oxygenated blood through the body, but how could such cells have developed without intelligent control.
 

How many mutations would have to have occurred before a workable heart developed? Were there any intermediate stages? What functions, if any, did these intermediate cells perform? These questions must be answered if specialized cells developed without intelligent control.
 

The development of specialized cells in and of itself would be only a small part of the process of producing complex life forms. These cells must be integrated into a workable framework in order for life to exist. Each organ requires a place in the body and connections to the other parts of the body. Each organ must be compatible with other parts of the body. It must be able to receive inputs from other parts and produce outputs to be used or processed by other parts or to be expelled from the body. The various parts must from the moment of initial development be collectively able to completely process the necessary inputs and outputs for the body as a whole. Any inability to neutralize or expel inputs or internal products incompatible with life will result in the death or other dysfunction of the body.
 

Any dysfunctional mutation would have reduced survivability. An intelligent being could have developed such cells to perform functions required to meet the criteria of the design for the life form. Such sophisticated development would seem impossible for an uncontrolled process involving random mutations.
 

Development of different organs would have required genetic changes in corresponding genes in the same place on the same chromosomes. Such development would have had to have occurred before the development of different sexes or have occurred in at least one member of each sex of the specie. In order for most species to have the same basic organs, such mutations would have had to have occurred before development of separate species or have occurred independently in each specie. If organ development occurred before development of species then we must explain how the number of chromosomes changed. If organ development occurred after development of species, then some unusual event must have occurred to produce the same changes in each species.
 

Development of specialized cells requires more than simply development of the necessary genetic information to govern each cell. The fact that all cells within the body have the same genetic code means that some mechanism had to develop within the cell to tell each cell which portion of the genetic program to use. The existence of such a mechanism increases the complexity of the cell and reduces the probability of development by a random process.
 

The capability of the brain argues against random development of life. Even a bird's brain has extremely sophisticated information processing ability. A bird can adjust its speed and body in flight in such a way that it can reach a potential perch at the proper speed and in the proper alignment to stop at the perch. Some birds can fly into very small openings without stopping on some type of perch first. Such behavior requires an ability to receive information from the eyes and determine the suitability of the perch, the distance to the perch, and the amount of time required to slow down and adjust the body's various parts. This information processing must occur in time for the bird to act properly.
 

The bird must be born with much of this processing ability because trial and error learning would not allow sufficient margin of error for species survival. A bird has to learn how to manipulate its body properly, but the ability to process visual information involving distance and size of objects cannot be learned.
 

We are still attempting to develop computer equipment capable of handling visual information as well as the brain can. The electronic video equipment necessary for this process alone would be larger than a bird's body. We cannot expect development of bird sized self-propelled computers capable of processing the necessary video information for many years. How then could development of such capability have occurred through the random interaction of physical and chemical processes? How could random mutations have produced such capability?
 

If, as some suggest, genetics determines some animal behavior such as migration of birds, then how did this capability develop? If the behavior is critical to species survival, then the development had to have occurred early or the species would no longer exist. For example, if birds migrate south for the winter, those birds that cannot survive the cold weather would have had to have always flown south. These birds would have had to have developed the genetic characteristic mandating migration at the same time as the development of the cold climate. Otherwise all would have frozen to death the first winter. The complex genetic code required and the need to develop such a code argue against a genetic basis for such behavior or argue for development of the genetic code by some intelligent being.
 

Incidentally migration could be a learned behavior by individual species. Early members might have been forced by conditions to migrate and later members continued this behavior through conditioning by following the lead of older members at the appropriate time.
 

Most of those interested in the origin of species focus their discussion on skeletal development as evidenced by fossil remains. Skeletal structure depends upon environmental factors as well as genetic ones. Nutrition and environmental contaminants can limit the body's ability to develop its skeleton according to its genetic blueprint. Thus examining bones may not provide an accurate record of genetic changes.
 

The same basic arguments apply to skeletal development as were mentioned in development of organs and other special body parts. The development of bone-making cells is important because these cells create a permanent physical structure that will survive after the body's death and the decomposition of the cells themselves.
 

The need to produce a well-engineered body design argues against random development. Trial and error mutations to produce workable body designs would require large populations because of the potential dysfunctional variations. The bones must fit together properly and, where appropriate, have the proper design to support body weight. The muscles, ligaments, etc. must connect and interact with the bones in a manner that allows movement when appropriate.
 

Changing the design of this system would require adjustments in various muscles and bones at the same time to keep the body functional. The changed bones would have to be connected to the rest of the body. The muscles would need some type of connection to the bones and be able to move them. Changing the size without changing the design might not require any genetic changes. Environmental factors, as well as the genes regulating growth, can affect size.
 

The gestational development stages animals go through imply that the initial members of individual species could have begun with complete genetic information for total development in something approximating their current forms. This development would probably have required an appropriate physical environment such as a body of water. Environmental stimuli could have triggered various stages of development. Gestational stages do not imply an evolutionary development process, because an evolutionary process implies mutations changed the genetic code. If the code changed the cell would no longer have the information for the previous forms of the species.
 

Our examination of the nature of the cell and the needs of any development process indicates that a being or beings unknown caused development of life on earth. A non-controlled random process would not have produced the sophisticated design characteristics exhibited by modern animal species. The nature and number of "accidents" required to produce life cannot be reasonably considered possible.
 

This discussion is not intended to be a complete analysis of the origin of life on earth. The discussion merely demonstrates the direction the debate needs to take to answer the question of where we and the various other species came from. Those who argue that "God created life" or that "life evolved" need to examine the necessary cause and effect relationships required to support their beliefs. Life did not simply happen. Someone or something must have caused it to happen.
 

Assume in our above crime example that the cause of death involved a fire or assume that we are simply investigating a fire of unknown origin. Fires do not simply happen. They require certain conditions such as fuel, oxygen, and sufficiently high temperature. If the building that has burned is served by electrical or gas utilities, then a faulty appliance could have caused the fire. If someone was smoking in the building, a carelessly discarded cigarette could have caused the fire. In some situations, a chemical reaction can cause a fire by spontaneous combustion. Each of these fires could be described as an accident, but each would have a cause. Accidents do not happen, something causes them.
 

A fire investigator would not simply call a fire an accident, he would suggest a specific accidental cause or possible causes. Those investigating the origin of life need to take the same approach and begin dealing with the methods God or some other being might have used to create life or suggest the possible causes and nature of evolutionary changes.
 

Even random actions involve a cause. Some events occur in a random fashion in that they require a variety of conditions to exist at the same time or in an appropriate sequence. For example, traffic accidents are random events that occur whenever a moving vehicle attempts to occupy the same space at the same time as another fixed or moving object. Assume that at random intervals a vehicle runs a stop light at a given intersection. Running the light will not automatically cause an accident. A pedestrian or another vehicle must also be in the intersection for an accident to occur.
 

In a court of law the cause of the above accident would be the vehicle running the stop light. The cause of running the light might be poor brakes, the driver being inattentive, or the driver might not have wanted to stop. The physical cause of the accident would be the presence of both vehicles in the intersection at the same time because the accident could not have occurred without the presence of both vehicles. We cannot predict when such accidents will occur because they involve the random movement(from the standpoint of the intersection) of vehicles through the intersection. We can only estimate the probability of occurrence over a given period of time. We cannot predict the specific causes of each occurrence, but each will have a cause or set of causes.

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