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
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.