A Response to Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker
© Creation Ministries International, 1996, 2006
There are glaring deficiencies in logic in Dawkins’ arguments. It fools laymen who know little of the complexities of living things, but it should not fool anyone who is scientifically literate. Many of those who cite Dawkins’ book to put down creationists know that it is a large dose of bluff. Dawkins is a rabid atheist and his mission in life is to use every tactic, fair or foul, to destroy biblical Christianity. This can be easily documented. His books are self-confessed attempts at indoctrination.
Note that, for natural selection to work, you have to have a self-reproducing entity. What is the simplest conceivable such unit? It is incredibly complex and full of information. This whole functioning unit has to come into being all at once, before Dawkins’ mutations and natural selection can function (assuming that they then can function at all as Dawkins claims!).
Fred Hoyle did some calculations on the likelihood of a hypothetical minimum self-reproducing cell coming together, given all the ingredients (this is impossible anyway, by natural, non-enzymatic processes). Hoyle hypothesised a cell of only 400 enzymes/proteins; a real world bacterium has about 2,000! For this hypothetical minimum cell, Hoyle calculated a probability of it forming by natural processes of 1 in 1040,000.
To put this in context, there are about 1080 atomic particles in the universe. If the universe actually were 15 billion years old, as Dawkins believes, this would give about 1018 seconds. If every second and every atomic particle were an experiment in a soup of all the ingredients necessary for the cell to form, this would amount to 1098 experiments. This is a long way short of any chance of getting our ‘cell’. Let’s make every microsecond an experiment. This gives 10104 experiments. This is not getting us anywhere. Let’s make every atomic particle in our universe a universe like our own with every atomic particle in those universes and every microsecond an experiment. We now have 10204 experiments. Hey, we’re still a long way short of 1040,000 necessary for a reasonable chance of succeeding. The chances of getting our cell are zero!
Furthermore, if you mixed all the ingredients together necessary for a living cell to form, many of those ingredients would react together to prevent anything from happening!
Dawkins’ computer morphs have as much relevance to the origin of the information in living things as sand has to the origin of information in a computer memory (the memory chips are made of silicon extracted from sand). Dawkins’ selects things that look like something recognisable and then he claims that what he gets is the result of blind selection (The Blind Watchmaker). How illogical!
There is no evolutionary answer to the origin of information in living things.
1. Over-simplification. Let’s assume a self-replicating molecule is possible. Various origin-of-life proponents have been trying in recent years to get a self-replicating RNA-based enzyme—a ribozyme; but without success. Dawkins proposes a protein-based molecule but in some mysterious, unexplained manner ends up with DNA-based genes. How does he go from one to the other?
Anyway, for the sake of the argument, how many amino acids would have to be strung together in the proper sequence to get this hypothetical replicator? There are few functional enzymes less than 100 amino acids; most have hundreds. Let’s be kind to Dawkins and assume it is possible to get such with just 100 amino acids. What is the probability of this happening, assuming all the amino acids are present?
This protein is going to be one incredible protein, because not only has it to catalyse the joining together of the amino acids in a copy of itself, but it has to make them line up in the correct order as well. No such thing is known to exist—amino acids have no affinity for other amino acids of the same type and nor is there any complementary attraction like with the nucleotides of DNA/RNA)! Functional enzymes have a 3-dimensional structure, so this enzyme will have to unravel itself to allow amino acids to line up along it in the correct order (which they won’t /don’t) and at the same time act as a catalyst for their polymerisation (while it is unfolded!) Come on Dawkins, you can’t be serious!?
However, ignoring all such problems, and many others that could be detailed, what is the probability of getting just 100 amino acids lined up in a functional manner? Since there are 20 different amino acids involved, it is (1/20)100, which is 10130. To try to get this in perspective, there are about 1080 fundamental particles (electrons, etc) in the universe. If every one of those particles were an experiment at getting the right sequence with all the correct amino acids present, every microsecond of 15 billion years, that amounts to 4.7 x 10103 experiments. We are still 1027 experiments short of getting an even chance of it happening. In other words, this is IMPOSSIBLE! How can it be spelt out any more clearly to Dawkins and his like? Dawkins knows this, but persists in his nonsense because it fools laymen and is effective in his proselytising for atheism (he is an avowed anti-Christian cum atheist and takes every opportunity to ridicule the Bible—jibes about copying errors in the New Testament and the virgin birth, for example).
It’s actually far worse than this. More than the 20 amino acids found in living things have been produced in ‘origin of life’ experiments. It is impossible without enzymes to produce them with the correct chirality—there are left and right-handed forms of amino acids and only left-handed forms are used in living things. The non-enzymic processes available in the pre-biotic soup (only living cells produce enzymes) could only produce equal quantities of both types. In other words there could have been more than 50 amino acids to choose the 20 from. This makes the probability (1/50)100 or 10170! (if we made every elementary particle in our universe another universe the same as this one, we would have 10160 elementary particles … etc.)
Dr Aw Swee-Eng and other creationists are absolutely correct about the necessity of the cell (see The origin of life: a critique of current scientific models (PDF)). Without the cellular environment, spontaneous chemical reactions would destroy proteins quicker than they could form. One of the assumptions under-pinning the origin of life scenarios is the absence of oxygen on the early earth, but such an absence of oxygen would also mean an absence of ozone and so UV radiation would destroy complex chemicals such as proteins or nucleic acids (DNA/RNA). Cells have all sorts of mechanisms for protecting the cellular machinery (enzymes, membranes, DNA, RNA, etc.) from oxidative processes. Without these mechanisms, it is impossible to conceive how ‘life’ could form itself.
By the way, it is impossible that the earth could have been devoid of oxygen for very long (assuming that it could have been at all!) because UV penetrating to the earth in the absence of an ozone layer would split water molecules to produce oxygen. There is no evidence that the earth was ever free of oxygen, and so even the abiotic origin of the amino acids, nucleotides and sugars is impossible. Even with no oxygen, ribose and uracil, critical components of RNA, are extremely difficult to produce and are very unstable in a cell-free environment, so are unlikely to have formed.
2. Illogical analogy. Dawkins is a master at this. With regard to Dawkins’ argument that given enough time the improbable becomes certain (the lottery analogy, for example), see the article ‘Cheating with Chance’, p. 14 in the March/May 1995 Creation magazine.
The condensation reaction in which amino acids are polymerised to produce a peptide (protein) is reversible so that all that more time will do is ensure equilibrium conditions, or very little polymerisation! Dr Harold F. Blum, Time’s Arrow and Evolution, 2nd edition, Princeton Uni Press, N.J. said that ‘increased time spans in biological systems will merely increase the probability of equilibrium being set up, and not the probability of improbable reaction products being formed.’
DNA cannot replicate by itself without enzymes (contrary to Dawkins). You may have heard of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This is the process used to copy DNA pieces, or amplify them to large enough quantities to do research on. It is called this because a very complex enzyme called DNA polymerase is necessary for it to happen. Other specified conditions are also necessary, such as pH, absence of substances which would spoil the reaction, osmolality control (salt concentration), temperature, etc. In the cell, a whole suite of enzymes are necessary, including ones such as the helicases, which unravel the double strand to allow copying.
For a very thorough treatment of chemical and thermodynamic objections to evolutionary origin-of-life theories, see:
- Thaxton, C. B., Bradley, W. L. & Olsen, R. L., The Mystery of Life’s Origin, Copyright 1984, Foundation for thought and Ethics, published by Lewis & Stanley, Dallas, TX.
- An excellent and up-to-date summary is Aw, S.E., The origin of life: a critique of current scientific models (PDF), Journal of Creation, 10(3):300-314, 1996.
- Theories of RNA life, self-reproducing peptides and complexity theory are critiqued in Sarfati, J.D., ‘Self-Replicating Enzymes?’, Journal of Creation 11(1):4-6, 1997.
- Book excerpts by Dr A.E. Wilder-Smith on Technical/In-depth [Creationist] Papers
- Origin of Life Questions and Answers.