The First Living Cell | Jim Stephens

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This is a WordPress repost of an excellent article originally authored by Jim Stephens on his 101 Proofs for God website. If you’ve never looked at his site I can easily recommend that you do. It is a wealth of information on a vast variety of subjects, at a depth that one doesn’t normally encounter. Here is his post on The First Living Cell which is indicative of the detail that he goes into on each of his posts. I’m going to include a link to another post on The Simple Cell that I posted previously that provides additional insight. Enjoy!


Let’s take a couple of minutes to think about the origin of life in the very, very first living cell. Many people think about the beginning of life as something that just happened easily and naturally. One small, tiny, simple cell just spontaneously and accidentally happened. A bunch of chemicals in some goo formed into a blob. No big deal.

If you think that first living cell was just a blob of goo, then it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch from pond scum or murky soup of chemicals to a little tiny cell. Some bolt of lightning or other source of energy zapped the chemicals and voila, suddenly life started.

Believers in Evolution do not (and cannot) begin to apply their theory until after life exists and has started reproducing. Mutation and Natural Selection, the processes of Evolution, cannot operate until there is already life reproducing itself. The Theory of Evolution does not explain where everything before life came from or how life itself got started. (It’s obviously therefore, a sort of religion requiring faith.)

But for right now, let’s think about that first living cell a little more deeply given what we now know about living cells. What are some of the qualities that first living cell had to have in order for life to exist in it? We now know from Biology there are certain basic requirements for life to exist and the whole process is extremely complicated. [1]

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Suppose you laid all the individual parts for an automobile out on your driveway, can you now imagine any possible scenario that could take place in the next billion, billion years where those parts get organized by some natural (i.e. no intelligence added) process into a fully functioning car that you could someday drive away? There could be lightning bolts, hurricanes, floods, windstorms, asteroids, whatever, but nothing is going to assemble anything.

With all the microscopic research done in cell biology, we now know that even a single tiny little cell is like a busy little city.[2] It’s much more complicated than an automobile. Even if you had all the chemicals necessary for life in one place like a swamp or deep ocean setting, getting it organized into some form of first living cell is on the order of complexity of simultaneously assembling all the different cars in America.

Here is a short list of some of the attributes that would have been necessary for the first living cell. There are others that you can find in the research if you want to go into more depth. I’ll expand on some of these later on after the list.

1. Reproduction and Inheritance.[3] The first living cell had to be able to reproduce a second living cell or there would never have been any more life. It also had to pass on its genetic characteristics by some mechanism such as DNA.

2. Cell Membrane.[4] There had to be a wall around the contents of the cell to hold in the material. Otherwise, it would drift away or be destroyed by other chemical processes. The Cell Membrane also has to be permeable to let chemicals go in and out. It must also be able to grow in size.

3. Digestion for Energy.[5] Life requires a process to get energy. There had to be a system for breaking down chemicals and converting it to get energy out of them.

4. Protein Production.[6] There had to be a system for making proteins and enzymes or it could never reproduce itself. There are 20 basic amino acids that are necessary for all the known life forms.

5. Repair capability.[7] All DNA and RNA molecules are subject to harmful mutations and damage from other chemicals. There had to be a process of repairing them when they are multiplied.

6. Elimination of Waste.[8] There would need to be a process for getting rid of used up chemicals.

7. Respiration.[9] Most life forms take in oxygen in some way. Scientists are still debating if the first living cell would have required a process of taking in oxygen.

So here is a pretty amazing list of abilities required for life. I might also have included growth as a property and another property might be sensing and responding to the environment.[10]

To go from a goo of chemicals to a fully functioning living cell that meets the above requirements without any intelligence applied seems a lot less likely than assembling an automobile. You might be able to imagine how one or two of the above processes or systems could have happened, but all of them is not reasonable or logical.

Let me quickly mention a couple of famous headlines about scientists creating life in the laboratory. First is the Miller–Urey experiment in 1953 [11]. They put the hypothesized original chemicals in a test tube and hit it with a bolt of electricity. The result was the formation of some amino acids (less than 10), the so called building blocks of life. Even though this experiment is still found in a lot of science textbooks, it has been fully discredited because the early earth’s atmosphere was not like they hypothesized.[12] And even if they got some amino acids, it takes 20 to build a protein. That’s like getting only some of the simplest car parts on your driveway, it’s not a functioning car.

Second, on May 20, 2010, Craig Venter, a pioneer in human genome research was able to synthesize a living bacteria.[13] It was hailed as “creating life”. What they did was figure out the DNA of an already living cell. They were able to synthesize a genome of over a million DNA base pairs sequence using very complicated processes and millions of dollars. One part of the process required yeast to help copy the DNA because a machine cannot do it. At one point there was a mistake of a single base pair missing and it wouldn’t work. It took them 3 months to find the error and then make the copy correctly. They then inserted this DNA back into an already living cell with its DNA removed. If you call that “creating life”, you have to ignore the fact that all they really did was COPY the DNA of “life” that already existed. Even then they had to put the DNA they copied back into a previously living cell for it to function. The cell of cytoplasm where they put the DNA already had a cell membrane and the systems required for cellular tasks like carrying sugars, copying DNA, removing wastes, converting energy, regulating production speeds, communicating with the environment, and so on.[14] This is an amazing accomplishment to be sure and I don’t want to minimize it, but look at all the intelligence that has gone into it. It has taken some really, really smart people 15 years to get this far and they’ve hardly started. So how much intelligence will it take before they can “create life”, if ever. Will they still try to claim life happened accidentally with no intelligence behind it. That would be laughable.

Okay, back to the list and Requirement Number 1, Reproduction. Think back to Biology class in school where you learned about mitosis and cell division. The first living cell had to be able to do that all by itself the very first try. Otherwise there would be no second living cell. We know that all reproducing cells contain DNA, a very complicated molecule.[15] It is the mechanism that inherits the characteristics of the cell to the next generation. The simplest life forms must have a DNA molecule of thousands of base pairs.[16] It would have to somehow decide to split in half and make an exact perfect copy of itself. Then the two strands would have to separate into two different areas of the cell and the cell membrane would surround each one and split into two new cells.

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Evolutionists have to believe that the DNA pre-exited the first living cell. It could not logically have formed accidentally at the same time as the cell membrane formed or after the cell already existed. However, DNA is too complicated to last outside a cell. This idea has basically been deemed unlikely because DNA cannot exist for long without protection from harmful mutations and serious breakdown from contact with oxygen and other chemicals and ultraviolet light.

Number 2, Cell Membrane. There has to be a cell membrane to surround the cell, otherwise you don’t have a cell. But a cell membrane is an extraordinary boundary. If you have ever seen an animation of what’s happening all the time with the membrane that surrounds a living cell, you will be amazed.[17] You probably did science experiments in school with osmosis. Well, osmosis is going on all the time with nutrients, water, oxygen and other chemicals passing in and out of the cell through the membrane. Just where did the membrane around the first living cell come from? Could something like that have been floating around in the soup too at the same time as all the perfect chemicals and scoop them up and then close the whole thing like a fishnet?

I think this is getting too long. But as you can see, each well established attribute of a living cell that is listed above would require more intelligence than we currently have in the world of science.

There must be God.
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[1 ] Why the Miller–Urey Research Argues Against Abiogenesis, by Jerry Bergman, August 1, 2004, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v18/i2/abiogenesis.asp
“The eukaryote protozoa, believed in Darwin’s day to be as simple as a bowl of gelatin, are actually enormously complex. A living eukaryotic cell contains many hundreds of thousands of different complex parts, including various motor proteins. These parts must be assembled correctly to produce a living cell, the most complex ‘machine’ in the universe—far more complex than a Cray supercomputer.”

[2] An Analogy for the Genome. http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2002/analogy.html. “Imagine a small walled town. Within it there is a diversified population of people performing different tasks. There is a butcher and a baker and an undertaker, guards at the gate and a refuse collector. The people in the town are good at their tasks but they are quite stupid so anything novel is a real problem for them. Fortunately there is a library in the town, a library which contains instructions for dealing with unusual situations.”

[3] ] How Evolution Works, Marshall Brain http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution11.htm

[4] How Evolution Works, Marshall Brain http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution11.htm

[5] ] How Evolution Works, Marshall Brain http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution11.htm

[6] ] How Evolution Works, Marshall Brain http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution11.htm

[7] Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_repair “DNA repair is a collection of processes by which a cell identifies and corrects damage to the DNA molecules that encode its genome.”

[8] Properties of Life: Homeostasis, http://plantphys.info/organismal/lechtml/biology.shtml

[9] The Respiration Process: “one of 7 characteristics of all living organisms.”http://www.biotopics.co.uk/humans/respro.html

[10] Wikibooks: Structural Biochemistry/Properties of Living Organisms http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Structural_Biochemistry/Properties_of_Living_Organisms

[11] Duke University, Miller/Urey Experiment http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html

[12] Why the Miller–Urey Research Argues Against Abiogenesis, by Jerry Bergman, August 1, 2004, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v18/i2/abiogenesis.asp

[13] Scientific American, May, 2010, Man-Made Genetic Instructions Yield Living Cells for the First Time, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=synthetic-genome-cell

[14] Have Scientists Created a Living Cell?, Brian Thomas, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/article/5485/

[15] Complicated Cells Leave No Room for Evolution, Brian Thomas, http://www.icr.org/article/5353/

[16] The Smallest Genome: What’s the Minimum DNA Amount for Life?. http://news.softpedia.com/news/The-Smallest-Genome-What-039-s-The-Minimum-DNA-Amount-for-Life-73763.shtml. “Nanoarchaeum possesses the smallest genome in the world: just 490,885 pairs of nucleotid bases.”

[17] www.YouTube.com. Search for “animation of cell membrane”. Suggested examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Z9pqST72is. This animation shows the working of DNA, RNA, proteins, and ribosomes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdBJt6sdDfI

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About

Disciple of Jesus, married to Peggy, with 5 grown up children, 7 grand children, ex-Canadian military and residing in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. a.k.a. "Papa"

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Posted in Apologetics, Creationism, Defending Christianity
2 comments on “The First Living Cell | Jim Stephens
  1. Jeff Rab says:

    Deep! It’s strange that the smallest elements of life are the things that seem so exquisitely complicated, and it’s the little things that make the big things happen! Great post!

  2. bcparkison says:

    This will take some time…..later.

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