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Building a better biology?

Published: 10 November 2012 (GMT+10)

Skeptics often complain about a perceived lack of optimal design in various biological structures, and think they can do it better. However, such complaints are long on rhetoric, but short on substance. Building a better biology is not as easy as some skeptics seem to think it is. CMI’s Lita Cosner responds to today’s correspondent with comments interspersed.

Erin writes:

Hello people, I am a Christian and I love science. I have a question, or series of questions I would like to run by anyone of you who are versed in the sciences, biology, and physics, and, who are fellow Christians. I enjoy your books and materials, as well.

123rf.com/Bojana Ilic

The essential core of my question is this: We look at nature, the human body, and even evangelism, and we see alot of ineffeciency, at least what appears to be inefficient, to us. I see two classes of arguments put forth: The atheists will look at the world and say “The human body is inefficient, compared to “Theoretically Ideal” engines and mechanisms, and “I would design things better than your God”. The second statement put forth is that the human body and nature are very efficient, for the tasks they have to carry out. Its like: Human flesh is too easy to damage, and yet, the human body is also incredibly strong and flexible. When compared to electronic circuits, human neurons and neural synapses function at the slower chemical-reaction speeds, and yet, neurons, synapses, and the data processing systems of biology are much more intricate and powerful than artificial machines, in other ways. So which is it? Thats part of my question.

As a Christian, I know that the universe is young (ie a few thousand years old) and was created in six 24 hour days. I know that molecules to man Evolution is false, even though “micro evolution”: Change within a basic Kind, is real. I know that when God created everything originally it was perfect, good, and, the death and problems came with the fall of Adam and Eve. And, I know Jesus will return one day and restore and regenerate the universe.

When an atheist says “If I were to design a human body, I would have made it super efficient, not weak and frail like our bodies.” What should I say? The atheist engineer told me “I would have made humans able to get energy from solar power, which is all around us, instead of having to eat food meals or starve. I would have made human bodies with super strong and light carbon fiber skeletons and tougher polymer skins, so we would not be easilly damaged like proteins and bones are. I would have used some method other than blood and hemoglobin and a brain that needs oxygen to survive, this is a weak system.” You get the picture. How would you respond to this atheist? He also said: “While I deny your Gospel, I could think of a more efficient means to spread it, than what appears in your Bible. If I were God, I would write Gospel verses on the clouds every day in all languages, so noone could deny it, and, instead of having inefficient fallen humans do it, I would have angels appear and tell people to turn to Jesus, that would be more convincing.” How would you respond to him?

123rf.com/Alexey Belous human body

Sincerely,

Erin

Thank you

CMI Information Officer Lita Sanders’s responses are interspersed:

Dear Erin,

My comments are interspersed below:

Hello people, I am a Christian and I love science. I have a question, or series of questions I would like to run by anyone of you who are versed in the sciences, biology, and physics, and, who are fellow Christians. I enjoy your books and materials, as well.

I’m glad you enjoy our resources.

The essential core of my question is this: We look at nature, the human body, and even evangelism, and we see alot of ineffeciency, at least what appears to be inefficient, to us. I see two classes of arguments put forth: The atheists will look at the world and say “The human body is inefficient, compared to “Theoretically Ideal” engines and mechanisms, and “I would design things better than your God”.

This shows a lot of ignorance on the atheist’s part, which I’ll get to more below. For now I’ll refer you to our Design Questions and Answers page which has a lot of instances where scientists have looked to nature to improve their own designs.

The second statement put forth is that the human body and nature are very efficient, for the tasks they have to carry out. Its like: Human flesh is too easy to damage, and yet, the human body is also incredibly strong and flexible.

But of course, they usually attribute this to random selection over millions of years.

When compared to electronic circuits, human neurons and neural synapses function at the slower chemical-reaction speeds, and yet, neurons, synapses, and the data processing systems of biology are much more intricate and powerful than artificial machines, in other ways.

The brain and nervous system is an incredibly complex, extremely well-designed system which has a computing power orders of magnitude beyond anything we can imagine building at present. In fact, the brain is a problem for evolutionists, because in their view it’s over-evolved. Why would a dumb hunter-gatherer need the potential to play chess or play the mandolin? If the brain evolved, we would expect it to work just well enough to give us a survival advantage, what we actually see is extravagantly more than that.

So which is it? Thats part of my question.

We see evidence of a human body that was incredibly well-designed, but is affected by the Curse and 6,000 years of genetic entropy.

As a Christian, I know that the universe is young (ie a few thousand years old) and was created in six 24 hour days. I know that molecules to man Evolution is false, even though “micro evolution”: Change within a basic Kind, is real.

But we discourage people from calling it ‘microevolution’ because it gives the wrong idea that it’s the sort of change that evolution requires. See our Arguments Creationists Shouldn’t Use page. In fact, natural selection and speciation (which do happen, and actually are an important part of how we explain how all land animals today are descended from passengers on Noah’s Ark) involve the opposite of what evolution requires (see the links for an explanation).

I know that when God created everything originally it was perfect, good, and, the death and problems came with the fall of Adam and Eve. And, I know Jesus will return one day and restore and regenerate the universe.

Yes, that’s a broad outline of the creation, fall, restoration theology that runs throughout Scripture.

When an atheist says “If I were to design a human body, I would have made it super efficient, not weak and frail like our bodies.” What should I say?

Well, first of all, he would have to propose something better. And this body would have to develop from a single cell (the fertilized egg) to adult, viable at every stage of development. The ‘recipe’ would have to be able to be encoded in DNA, and use organic materials. It would also have to be able to repair itself and reproduce.

The atheist engineer told me “I would have made humans able to get energy from solar power, which is all around us, instead of having to eat food meals or starve.

This atheist engineer obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about. From where would the physical material come out of which our bodies are constructed? Even plants don’t run on solar power alone; they need nutrients from the soil. Photosynthesis is only one part of the equation. And how much surface area would humans require if we were to get all our energy from sunlight? Our resident biologist tells me that the average plant gets just under 14 food calories (14 kcal) per day per square meter of surface area. Plants do not have to move. They do not have to instantaneously interact with their environments. And, importantly, they do not have to think. These processes require tremendous amounts of energy (about 2,000 food calories per day). To get 2,000 food calories per day through photosynthesis, human beings would require a flat surface 36 feet by 36 feet, or the size of a modest home. This doesn’t include the requirements for extra energy to lug around this huge amount of extra mass plus the supporting structure required to hold it aloft!

A surface area of ~1500 square feet would have huge problems with heat management and all this photosynthesis would require a tremendous amount of water for the fixing of carbon and to account for water loss though the stomates that need to be kept open in order for carbon dioxide to get in (i.e., we would need roots). These are only the first considerations. What this person has proposed is nothing short of a total reengineering of what it means to be human. So what he is really saying is, “If I were to create humans, I would not create humans,” which is nonsensical.

I would have made human bodies with super strong and light carbon fiber skeletons

Could they repair themselves the way our bones can? Our bones are already super light and strong. And don’t forget they contain the marrow, without which we’d die pretty quickly.

and tougher polymer skins, so we would not be easilly damaged like proteins and bones are.

Our skin is remarkably strong for its thickness, and it works well. Consider that we go around most days without a single injury. It takes a sharp instrument or considerably force to break the skin, and the ingenious blood clotting mechanism can create a temporary protective covering over most minor wounds.

I would have used some method other than blood and hemoglobin and a brain that needs oxygen to survive, this is a weak system.”

Again, he has to come up with a system that works as well, within the constraints of biological development and upkeep. And the brain would have to be plastic (not the material, the ability to change and develop according to use).

Moreover, it’s extremely unlikely that brains could be constructed that don’t need oxygen in this world. Brains are energy-expensive organs, so they need a highly effective and highly abundant terminal electron acceptor1 to be able to produce enough energy through cellular respiration to function. Oxygen is the best candidate around. It has a higher reduction potential than any other terminal electron acceptor used in biology. This means it is more efficient at producing the electrochemical gradient2 needed to produce ATP, the cells ‘energy currency’, than any other biological terminal electron acceptor, which is why practically all multicelled creatures respire using oxygen. It is also highly abundant—it is the most abundant element in the crust and sea by weight; and the second most abundant in the air.

You get the picture. How would you respond to this atheist? He also said: “While I deny your Gospel, I could think of a more efficient means to spread it, than what appears in your Bible. If I were God, I would write Gospel verses on the clouds every day in all languages, so noone could deny it, and, instead of having inefficient fallen humans do it, I would have angels appear and tell people to turn to Jesus, that would be more convincing.” How would you respond to him?

I would explain to him that Someone more important than angels gave us the Gospel, God Himself (God the Son) came down as one of us to give us the message (Hebrews 2). We don’t have the right to ask Him to do cheap parlor tricks and sky writing to convince us, and if they aren’t convinced by the Scriptures, miracles won’t convince them either (cf. the Pharisees who had Jesus killed, and continued to reject Him after the Resurrection).

Sincerely,

Erin

Thank you

I hope these comments are helpful.

Sincerely,

Lita Sanders

Dear people,

Thank you so very much for the responses and answers to my questions that I was asked.

This was very helpful.

God bless you

Erin

References

  1. A compound that receives or accepts an electron during oxidation of a carbon source (e.g. during cellular respiration or photosynthesis). All organisms obtain energy by transferring electrons from an electron donor to an electron acceptor. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron_acceptor. Return to text.
  2. The separation of oppositely charged ions by a membrane which produces both a concentration gradient and an electric charge gradient across the membrane. This is often generated by actively transporting one or more such ions across a cell membrane. See http://www.biologyaspoetry.com/terms/electrochemical_gradient.html. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Discovery of Design
by Donald DeYoung & Derrik Hobbs
US $15.00
Soft Cover

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