Evolution, chance and creation
Update 2015: The author of this 1983 archive article assumed that protein amino acid sequences could not vary at all. Some variation is clearly possible, even with insulin (e.g. cow insulin differs by three amino acids and is still effective in humans). Thus the calculated probability is understated, but allowing for this, the conclusion is still correct. For calculations of the probability of life forming naturalistically, see Probability of the origin of life.
Most people don’t know how to check statements about time and chance. There are very easy ways to show that these claims are simply unscientific nonsense.
Take for instance, the chemical which controls the level of sugar in your blood. Its name is insulin. It belongs to a group of chemicals called proteins and it is one of the most simple proteins. If you have too little insulin, you can’t control the sugar in your blood and suffer from diabetes. If you have too much you suffer from hypoglycaemia. Neither of these diseases is very pleasant.
The protein insulin, like all proteins, is made up of smaller groups called amino acids, which simply means they have a part which behaves like an acid and a part which has nitrogen.
So far 23 different amino acids have been found, but only 20 of them are very common. If you join these acids together in various ways, you can make different proteins. Even the same acids joined together in a different order make different proteins.
While amino acids can be joined together as groups of two or three, they are usually found with at least 20 or 30 linked together to form a chain. Insulin contains two such chains. One has 21 groups in it and the other has 30 groups making a total of 51 acid groups.
The English scientist Frederick Sanger received the Nobel Prize for his work in discovering the type and order of acid groups in insulin.1 Making it is a lot harder than talking about it, as you will guess when you look at the diagram below.
Sanger worked on the basis that all proteins had a unique structure.2 In 1964, another chemist, Reginald Taylor,3 when writing about proteins like insulin said, “There is an astonishing economy of material and ingenuity of fabrication”. He made this comment because although there are a high number of proteins, they are made simply from different arrangements of the same bit—the 20 common amino acids.
Each protein has a unique arrangement in order to fulfil a precise biological function.1 If you get one amino acid out of order the protein won’t do its job properly. The devastating human disease, sickle-cell anaemia, is produced by just having one amino acid out of place.
Could evolution make insulin?
To answer this question, first consider what needs to be done to make it in the laboratory. Before insulin can be made, a chain of 84 amino acids in the right order is produced. This is called pro-insulin. A special enzyme4 then cuts 33 acids off the chain to leave the 51 units which make insulin. This all takes considerable skill. What then is the probability that even one molecule of the relatively simple protein insulin would be made by the random methods of evolution, that is, with no one in charge?
Remember there are 20 common amino acids and 51 acid groups. This means the total number of proteins you could make which would have 51 amino acids would be 20 multiplied by itself 51 times, i.e. 2051. Only one of these would be insulin! Since most people understand the maths of tens better than the maths of twenties, we can translate 2051 into 2 x 1066 which is 2 with 66 zeroes after it. Even if you had a machine which could sort the amino acids into groups of 51 at the rate of one billion per second, it would take you 1047 years to produce 2 x 1066 combinations—only one of which would be insulin. In other words, you could expect to get the insulin combination only once in 1047 years. This is more than 2 x 1037 times longer than even the most ardent evolutionist is prepared to believe the world has existed.
One chance in 1047 years offers rather slender odds, and this means only one chance if the only thing you had to do was mix and sort. But you have to do a lot more than just mix and sort to produce insulin from amino acids.
You have to take into consideration the energy, how it should be added, how to start reactions, how to stop them at the correct spot, and much, much more. That’s why the probability of producing insulin in the laboratory by random methods is exactly the same as producing it by evolution—zero.
Imagine the impossibility of constructing proteins such as whale myoglobin which has 153 amino acid groups, and if that’s not enough to convince you, just consider how you would make the molecule of insulin illustrated above.
Claims such as “given millions of years things can occur by accident in nature, when they require precision experiments in a laboratory” are simply poor science, based on a blind belief in evolution, rather than careful observation.
The incredible complexity in even the most simple body chemicals should be more than enough to convince us that “In the beginning God created”.
References and notes
- Sanger, F., The Chemistry of Simple Proteins, Symposium of the Society for Experimental Biology 9:10-31, 1955. Return to text.
- Ref. 1. p.26. Return to text.
- Taylor, R. J., The Chemistry of Proteins, Information Division, Unilever Ltd, 1964, p.3. Return to text.
- Coppedge, J. F., Evolution: Possible or Impossible?, Zondervan Corp, Michigan, 1973. Return to text.