Is God left-handed?
Gary Bates interviews peptide chemist Ken Funk Ph.D.
Dr Ken Funk attended Moody Bible Institute and graduated from Houghton College (New York State) as a chemistry major, zoology minor and then from Case-Western Reserve University (CWRU-Ohio) with both masters and doctorate degrees in organic chemistry. He is the owner of three patents and has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Although Ken started his thesis back in 1967, studies were deferred from 1969–72 due to his service in the US Navy during the Vietnam War.
Dr Ken Funk worked for over 28 years as a process development chemist at a major pharmaceutical company in the area of peptide chemistry. So what is a peptide?
The basic building blocks of much of the machinery that all life requires are called amino acids, of which there are 20 different ones in the human body.1 Proteins are long chains (100 or more) of these amino acids, whereas chains shorter than this are called peptides.2
Ken spent his career leading a team of scientists synthesizing peptide drugs on a large scale. Peptides can be isolated from natural sources or synthesized. This can be in their natural form (such as insulin which has 51 amino acids), or chemically modified to enhance medicinal properties. For example, Ken’s work as a process development team leader helped develop a billion-dollar drug with the brand name of Lupron (generic name: leuprolide). It is a nine-amino-acid peptide analogue that is used to treat conditions such as prostate cancer, precocious puberty,3 endometriosis,4 and uterine fibroids5.
Changing of the culture
Ken has been a Christian since responding at a Billy Graham Crusade in 1957. For most of his adult life, he has been an active witness for the Lord and serves in his local church. He recalls that in the early days of his career the subject of ‘science’ being at odds with the Bible was not discussed as much as it is today. He attributes this to the very strong Christian culture that permeated American society decades ago. The work he and his fellow scientists were engaged in involved “day-to-day experimental science, so discussion about origins or evolution rarely came up.” Except, he says, when a world-renowned peptide chemist he studied under, the late Miklos Bodanszky, told him, “Evolution could not have happened by chance but I am unwilling to invoke a god.” Ken says, “This is tragically like many today who willfully reject the clear evidence of God’s design in nature. Today, evolution and its deep time foundation is being taught as fact, and used as a justification to dismiss the Bible’s authority. The undermining of Genesis has had a dramatic effect on evangelical people’s confidence in Scripture and their witnessing. Most Christians are intimidated by their own inability in answering issues that evolution and its millions of years have raised in their own minds. Also, by not teaching the Bible as real history, the church is failing to equip believers in this critical area.”
Ken is frustrated that so many church leaders sit on the fence with regard to the age of the earth. He notes, “They don’t realize that the concept of millions of years totally undermines the credibility of Genesis, and thus the rest of Scripture and the Gospel, by putting eons of death and destruction before Adam and his Fall. It is especially sad that scientists who support biblical authority get so little support from today’s theologians.”
Active in evangelism
This realization has given Ken new-found zeal to spread the Good News. Although retired since 2002, he is active as men’s ministry facilitator at his local church. And as a member of its evangelism ministry team, he is keen to teach others how to use creation arguments in their witnessing.
Stumbling block for evolution
Diagram of chirality.
Ken also has developed a creation talk in his area of speciality, called “God is left-handed”. This catchy phrase refers to the ‘chirality problem’ for evolution. Ken explained that during the time of his graduate research, the Miller–Urey experiment was the prize ‘proof’ for evolutionists that life could somehow spontaneously arise from a primordial chemical soup.
In 1953 graduate student Stanley Miller conducted experiments based on Harold Urey’s proposals about the necessary environmental conditions for life to arise by chance on a primordial Earth billions of years ago (often referred to as ‘chemical evolution’). It involved an electrical discharge through a mixture of gases in a flask, and produced some amino acids. But the major product of the experiment (about 85 percent by volume) was a noxious mixture of tarry substances poisonous to life, while the amino acids were only about 0.9 percent of the total volume. He says, “Much work was going on at the time to develop variations of this experiment, but without success.”
The chirality problem
Moreover, the amino acids produced were in any case what is known as a racemic (50:50) mixture of left and right-handed forms, whereas all living plants and animals can only use left-handed amino acids to make proteins. (Left and right hand refers to the fact that the amino acids, though chemically identical in their ability to form peptides, are mirror images of one another, like our left and right hands. An exception is the simplest amino acid, glycine.) If amino acids of the wrong type are included in the chain during manufacture, life’s proteins cannot fold properly into the shapes needed to function. Life therefore requires what is known as an ‘optically pure’ supply of solely left-handed amino acids, whereas chemistry by itself, following the laws of chance, will always produce a racemic mixture. Moreover, all sugars in DNA and RNA must be ‘right-handed’, otherwise the vital informational double helix could not form.6
Ken says, “Evolutionists argue that given sufficient time proteins could form by chance. But, for a protein of just the minimum 100 amino acids (many are tens of thousands long), for all to be left-handed, and assuming that it did not matter which order they appeared in, it’s like flipping a coin 100 times and resulting in all heads. The number is astronomical.”
But in fact, the order is crucial at most positions in the chain, and for each position chance has to choose from 20 amino acids, which makes the problem stupendously greater. In all proteins, the order is crucial, some more than others. E.g. calmodulin, the ubiquitous calcium-binding protein, has almost all of its 140–150 amino acids ‘conserved’ (the same in all organisms). So if we generously (to the evolutionists) assume we have a pool of 20 left-handed amino acids, the chances of all 140 amino acids to be right is about one chance in 10182—like guessing a 182-digit PIN.8 And all one would have, even then, is a lonely protein, useless without all sorts of other proteins and other machinery of life.
“The ‘primordial soup’ chemical synthesis of functional proteins and enzymes by chance is not plausible when the uniqueness of God’s special creation is examined. The problem of chirality remains to this day an unsolved problem to both chemists and biologists that undermines evolutionary biology’s path to any functional first protein, much less the appearance of a first cell.”10
Life from space?
Ken laughed when we discussed some of the wild, yet serious, suggestions to solve the ‘first life’ problem, like panspermia. This is the idea that organisms somehow traversed billions of kilometres of space, where there is no atmosphere, in some icy comet or meteor. In the vastness of space this object then just happened to have the good fortune to intersect with our planet, and by more good fortune it survived temperatures of thousands of degrees and did not burn up during entry through Earth’s atmosphere.11 It then had to survive a potential fireball impact with the earth or dissolution in an ocean. He added, “Such ideas don’t solve anything for evolutionists—they only compound them. They still have the problem of how first life appeared, and the chirality problem persists—and then the problem, on top of that, of it getting here by chance. All they have done is pushed the problem off into outer space, saying ‘Well, if it can’t happen here, it must have just happened out there, because we know evolution is true!’”12
It’s great to see a respected scientist recognize the corrosive effects that evolutionism is having on our culture, and attempt to do something about it. Ken is also part of Midwest Creation Fellowship in the state of Illinois. In addition to feeling especially blessed with a wonderful family, he feels blessed to be able to share the truth of God’s Creation with others.
References and notes
- Certain Archaea and eubacteria code for 21st or 22nd amino acids, selenocysteine and pyrrolysine. Return to text.
- (By convention.) Amino acids in peptides and proteins are joined by a peptide (a type of amide) bond between the carboxyl carbon (–COOH) of one amino acid and the amino nitrogen (–NH2) of the following amino acid. See also Sarfati, J., Origin of life: the polymerization problem, J. Creation 12(3):281–284, 1998, creation.com/polymer. Return to text.
- This is the early onset of puberty in children, i.e. before 8 years of age in girls and 9 in boys. Return to text.
- Where the cellular tissue normally lining the inside of the uterus is found growing outside of it. Return to text.
- Tumours of the smooth muscle of the uterus, mostly non-cancerous. Return to text.
- For details on this whole issue, see Sarfati, J., Origin of life: the chirality problem, J. Creation 12(3):263–266, 1998, creation.com/chirality.
- If you don’t use Windows calculator in modern scientific mode, the calculation is: 2100 = 10(100×log2) = 1030. Return to text.
- Actually, for very low probability p of success, and d = 1/p, a good rule of thumb is: to have a 95% chance of at least one success, we need 3d trials. In this example, p is about 1/1030, so d = 1030, so we would need about 3 × 1030 trials of 100 coin tosses for a 95% chance of all 100 heads. (Personal communication from Dr Jim Davidson to Dr Jonathan Sarfati.) Return to text.
- See a worked example in creation.com/prob-calc, 5 March 2009. Return to text.
- Due to such unresolved problems, some evolutionists have tried to distance themselves from the term ‘chemical evolution’, preferring instead to call it abiogenesis. Nonetheless, it remains as part of the ‘General Theory of Evolution’—the idea that all life forms on Earth arose from a single source which itself arose by natural processes from non-living matter. (Kerkut, G.A. (1927–2004), Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, p. 157, 1960.) Return to text.
- But evidence shows that microbes would be burned on entry—see Sarfati, J., Panspermia theory burned to a crisp: bacteria couldn’t survive on meteorite, creation.com/panspermia, 10 October 2008. Return to text.
- See also Bates, G., Designed by aliens? Discoverers of DNA’s structure attack Christianity, Creation 25(4):54–55, 2003; creation.com/aliens. Return to text.
100% behind and supportive of Creation.com but want to make a point that the 'odds of life' comments to me don't seem relevant at all, as an argument in support of creation. You give here odds are 10 power of 185 - a fantastic number but this may, according to chance been hit on the first throw of dice or twice on the 10 power of 370 throw. It means the same if it was hit, it was hit which it has been, it exists. Is this valid? I don't accept life came from anywhere other than our Creators hand.
You seem to be misunderstanding the force of probability arguments. These are in fact used all the time in other areas to detect design. The foundational reason is that all physical processes are fundamentally reversible. For example, if a working car was torn apart by a tornado to form a junk heap, you could write mathematical equations for all the parts flying away from each other. Running these equations in reverse would mean the parts of the junkyard all flying together to produce a working car—and because of reversibility, these equations would be just as valid. But we see only the former process, never the latter, although the equations are just as good. The reason is that there are astronomically many more ways of making a junk heap than a working car. So although there is a tiny chance, as per your reasoning, of a tornado through a junk heap forming a working car, it is too infinitesimally small to be considered a rational possibility. No, probabilities this tiny show that the car just didn't arise this way; rather, it arose from intelligent design.
Or think of it this way: we film a car being torn apart: running the film in reverse will show the car forming. We can tell that it is time-reversed precisely because of the tiny probability of that being true. Indeed, we can define time, by saying that the forward direction is in the direction of increasing probability. This becomes circular, because when we have two sets of equations of motion in time that are equally valid, and we just eliminate the one set as being contrary to the direction of time.
The chances of life from non-living chemicals is even smaller, so the rationality is even stronger. Or, take the parallel in the article: if someone illegally used your bank card and entered the right PIN, your bank would presume that it was either stolen or left lying around. They would never argue that the crook solved it by chance, even though there is a non-zero probability.
Dear Rodney, I have to admit that I was shocked by reading your remark to the Dr Ken Funk article. But in a way I understand you because Faith is such a great gift from God that we may enjoy with, but also we need to understand that all of us can reach the capability of different levels of understanding - as Dr Kohelberg reached as results of his studies. From what the apostle Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:20, to that which is "falsely called knowledge" we may infer that there is a "truly called knowledge". Do you think that our Great Creator - who made us in his image and likeness - would endowed us with such a grey matter as we do have, just to tend a garden and care for animals as yet important as they are? I like Gary Bates mention about the scientific achievements made by the use of grey matter by scientists for the well being of our health (and not only that). However keep going with your faith dear Rodney, just thinking in addition that our fantastic God in creating the whole universe organised also such a large set of physical laws to keep it work, that we are left breathless the more and more we discover them, and, falling on our knees we may sing God, "How great you are." May God help more and more Christian scientist to stand up in opposing that which is "Falsely called knowledge".
Wow! A great article! Its also important to realize the base invalidity of any "chance" argument. In such cases as this, "chance" is completely irrelevant, because its not like a lot of some sort is being cast, or a dice is being rolled. This is what I never understood about the whole "abiogenises by chance" idea. Even these incredibly low ratios of probability (while enormously convincing of themselves) aren't necessary, because nothing is being "cast" in the first place. Its irrelevant what the result of a coin being cast will be, if no one is there to flip it in the first place. Non-existence doesn't just "give it a go." There is no time, nor probability, nor constant dice roll going on until the first correct "combo" is "hit." Nothing doesn't have a "chance" at causing something. It isn't there. Thank you Creation! I love hearing good news like this every day.
quote- Most Christians are intimidated by their own inability in answering issues that evolution and its millions of years have raised in their own minds-. I find this more an indictment of the Christian worlds inability to understand that we believe -BY FAITH-. when all else is overwhelming us with its outpouring of earthly beliefs and understandings , we, Christians must stay with the beginning of our Christian walk, BY FAITH, Abraham BELIEVED, never does the bible say that Abraham delved into the world of knowledge, Abraham was actually well aware of much of the then current -astrological beliefs, HE DID NOT BELIEVE IT, he believed in a God of creation, he trusted the God of creation, he did not worship the creation, he worshiped the God -who created- the heaven and earth, we live in a prophesised world where -KNOWEDGE IS GREATLY INCREASED-, however we also must understand that when Satan urged Adam and Eve to go for the tree of knowledge, the result was to be tossed out of the GARDEN OF EDEN, so how do we expect the current world which has massive knowledge-only because God said we would have such knowledge-to do anything other than take us further and further from the God of all creation, IT REQUIRES FAITH ALONE IN GOD TO BE CLOSER TO GOD IN A RELATIONSHIP WAY. and as such to enter the new garden of Eden, Abraham is the Father of our Faith, Faith in and not knowledge of God is the first and foremost requirement to a relationship with God.
rod qld aust
I reread this a few times and also got another staffer to read it as I wanted to ensure that we understood it correctly. But you appear to be kind of indicating that the pursuit of knowledge is not necessary or a waste of time. I think you may be misunderstanding the aim of providing creation information that points to the Creator. While we would agree that a relationship with God should be first and foremost in a Christian's life, we don't see how one should exclude the other. The pursuit of knowledge is a most worthy endeavor for Christians. Without the pursuit of knowledge you would not have been able to read and respond to this article or even read your Bible. As Christians, people like Louis Pasteur or Madame Curie would not have made discoveries that helped save millions of lives, which is a good thing because it actually follows the example of Christ (who similarly healed the sick), thus reversing the effects of the curse. And similarly, without the pursuit of knowledge we would not be able to use technology to 'go into all the world' (whether by airplane or using the internet) and preach the Gospel, thereby fulfilling the Great Commission. We are called to have faith and we are often called to trust. But it is not a blind faith. Romans 1;20 reminds us that Creation speaks of a Creator by what has been made. The pursuit of understanding what has been made can indeed reveal who God is to us, and to the lost, when we share that information.
I had earlier today been communicating with a friend from church about the Origins issue and then I saw this article; I thought "I can send him the link to this article." Then, as I read on I said to myself "No, he won't grasp the concepts beings discussed here." Is there a DVD or book which would enable an 'ordinary Joe or Joanne' to firmly grasp a mental picture of the chirality issue - a step by step, picture by picture presentation?
Wayne, we have a lot of laymen friendly stuff on this topic. It's covered in the new book and DVD Evolution's Achilles' Heels. But perhaps the best is an comprehensive (almost a mini book with diagrams and videos) but lay friendly article on our site called Origin of life. See also Origin of life. The-chirality problem. Jonathan Sarfati's DVD Chemicals to living cell also covers this. Remember, the search engine is your friend. :)