Why the Creation of Life
Must Have Been Instantaneous

Dr. Jerry Bergman
Author, Speaker, Professor

(Investigator 205, 2022 July)


No organism can live unless (and until) all of the structures and necessary parts for life exist, are simultaneously and properly assembled as a unit, and a steady state nonequilibrium condition exists for all life chemical reactions.  Furthermore, a certain minimum number of parts must exist for any machine to function, a concept called irreducible complexity.  Life requires trillions of parts at the molecular level, and if any required structure is lost or damaged, the victim will become ill or die.  Irreducible complexity is true of all life as an organism, and all of the structures of life, from its organ systems to individual proteins, and even individual molecules such as ATP.

Almost everyone at one time or another asks the question, "Where did life come from?"  Bound up with the answer is the question, "What is the purpose of life?"  Essentially two viewpoints exist: 1) the atheist position, which concludes that life came about through mutations, natural selection, time, and a large number of fortuitous events; and 2) the creationist position, which teaches that every living organism type was created by an intelligent creator that most people call God.  Christianity has, since its inception, taught that life was created by God for a specific purpose: "...You (God) created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created" (Rev. 4:7).  Both Judaism and Islam have also historically taught the Genesis creation doctrine in Gen. 1:1-8. 

Evolutionary naturalism, also called atheistic creationism because it attempts to explain how life was created, teaches that life began by the random collision of the right number and kinds of atoms to form complex, self-replicating molecules that produced accurate copies of themselves.  These hypothetical molecules eventually evolved into larger molecules, and eventually cell parts, then whole cells and, after billions of years, evolved into all of the millions of life forms existing today.  The key to this molecule-to-human evolution was mutations (genetic copy errors or changes) plus natural selection (the selection of favorable mutations that altered the animals or plants that survived so as to reproduce more effectively than its competitors).

The Requirements for Life

This paper argues that the origin of life could not have occurred by a gradual process, but must have been instantaneous.  The reason why this must be true is simple:  every machine and organism requires a certain minimum number of parts for it to function, and if one part below this minimum is removed, the system will cease to function. Biochemist Michael Behe illustrates this concept by a common house spring mousetrap that requires just ten parts to function properly (Behe, 1996).  The standard mouse trap will no longer function if only one part is removed.  No one has been able to prove this concept erroneous, only that, under certain conditions, a certain machine can operate with one fewer part.  This does not negate the argument because, at some level, the number of parts cannot be reduced further.  The only way to negate the argument is to produce a fully functional house mousetrap consisting of one stable fundamental particle such as a quark (up, down, charmed, strange, top, and bottom) or a lepton (electrons, muons, and neutrinos). 

Many "one fewer part" claims are misleading.  Ruse tries to reduce the parts needed by noting that a mousetrap can be fastened to the floor; thereby, he claims, eliminating the base (1998, p. 28).  This example fails to disprove the concept because a base is still required, only a different base (the floor) is used.  A simple mousetrap system is much more complex then it first appears: the mouse trap parts are useless without the intelligence to assemble them correctly into a fully functioning unit.  A trap also is useless without the bait, the knowledge and ability necessary to use the trap, and the existence of a mouse with enough intelligence to seek the bait but lacking the experience and intelligence to avoid the trap.  

The irreducible complexity argument can be extended to the creation process that originally produced life.  The concept argues that both an organism and its subdivisions (including the organs, organelles, cells and even life proteins) cannot function below a certain minimum number of parts.  The smallest unit of life is the cell, and the number of parts it contains at the subatomic level is many times larger than a trillion.  As Hickman notes,
cells are the fabric of life.  Even the most primitive cells are enormously complex structures that form the basic units of all living matter.  All tissues and organs are composed of cells.  In a human an estimated 60 trillion cells interact, each performing its specialized role in an organized community.  In single-celled organisms all the functions of life are performed within the confines of one microscopic package.  There is no life without cells (1997, p. 43).
Even most bacteria require at least several thousand genes to carry out the functions necessary for life. E. Colihas 4,639,221 nucleotide base pairs that code for 4,288 genes, each one of which produces an enormously complex protein machine.  The smallest known bacteria species, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia, and Rickettsea, are also among the simplest living organisms known to exist.  Only a few hundred atoms across, they are smaller than the largest virus, and have about half as much DNA as do other species of bacteria.  Although they are "about as small as possible and still be living," these two forms of life still require millions of atomic parts (Trefil, 1992, p. 28).

All of the smaller bacteria such as M. genitalum, which has 256 genes, are parasites like viruses, and require more complex organisms to survive (Mushegian and Koonin, 1996).  None of the known bacteria with genomes of less than 1.6 Mb can synthesize the many polyamines required for growth. The smallest known bacteria, discovered in 1993 and called nanobacteria, was reportedly first cultured in 1998 but much controversy still exists about this life form (Kajander and Ciftcioglu, 1998).  For example, the results by Kajander and Ciftcioglu were not supported by Cisar, et al. (2000).  Nanobacteria are slow growing, yet hardy, Gram-negative organisms 80 to 500 nm long, about one-twentieth to one-half the size of common bacteria (Dorrell, 1999).  Named Nanobacterium sanguineum, they are not free living but parasites and, like M. genitalum, require that most all of their nutrients be available in their environment. For this reason, when researching the minimum requirements needed for something to be able to live, the E. coli  example is more realistic.  Even E. coli requires a highly supportive environment that contains many complex nutrients, many produced by other life forms.  A life form that could survive in an ancient lifeless earth would have to produce all the needed vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients required for life.  No life form today can do this — humans need 13 vitamins and 10 amino acids in their diet because they cannot make them. Life also requires over 20 elements, including phosphorous sulfur, calcium, zinc and others.

The same problem exists with the cell.  DNA is useless without all of the complex transcription machinery required to produce mRNA, and the machinery needed to convert mRNA to protein.  In order to live, a set of hundreds of complex proteins are required. Thus only a complete, functional cell could have been created as a unit, not individual parts.  

While the simplest form of life requires millions of parts at the molecular level, higher life forms require trillions.  All of the many macromolecules necessary for life are constructed of atoms that are composed of even smaller parts.  The fact that life requires a certain minimum number of parts is well-documented, and the only debate is how many millions of functionally integrated parts are required, not the fact that a minimum number must exist.  All viruses are below the complexity level needed for life, and for this reason are forced to live in complex cells as parasites in order to reproduce.  Evolutionist James Trefil noted that the origin of viruses is an "enduring mystery" in evolution.  They consist primarily of only a DNA molecule and a protein coat and do not
reproduce in the normal way, [therefore] it's hard to see how they could have gotten started.  One theory:  they are parasites who, over a long period of time, have lost the ability to reproduce independently. . . Viruses are among the smallest of "living" things.  A typical virus, like the one that causes ordinary influenza, may be no more than a thousand atoms across.  This is in comparison with cells which may be hundreds or even thousands of times that size.  Its small size is one reason that it is so easy for a virus to spread from one host to another--it's hard to filter out anything that small (1992, p. 9).
In short, life, even so-called simple life, must be created as a functioning unit similar to how we see most forms of life existing today.

Behe, Michael.  1996.  Darwin's Black Box.  New York: Free Press.
Dorrell, Sharon.  1999.  "Nanobacteria Linked to Kidney Disease."
 Molecular Medicine Today,  5:373.
Hickman, Cleveland, Larry Roberts and Allan Larson. 1997  Integrated Principles of Zoology.  Dubuque, IA.:  Wm C. Brown.
Kajander, E. Olavi, and Neva Ciftcioglu.  1998.  "Nanobacteria: An Alternative Mechanism for Pathogenic Intra- and Extracellular Calcification and Stone Formation."  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 95:8274-8279.
Mushegian, A.R., and E.V. Koonin.  1996.  "A Minimal Gene Set for Cellular Life Derived by Comparison of Complete Bacterial Genomes."  Proceedings of the National Academy of  Sciences USA, 93:10268-10273.
Ruse, Michael.  1998.  "Answering the Creationists."  Free Inquiry, 18 (2):28-32.
Trefil, James.  1992.  1001 Things Everyone Should Know about Science. New York: Doubleday.