Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Earth's Sudden Life Enigma

Even the most naturalistic scientists would acknowledge the profound enigma of the origin of life on earth. We do not find evidence of the “warm little pools” Darwin envisioned, or the “primordial soups” often referred to by evolutionary biologists as a nursery needed to gradually birth simple life. Instead, overwhelming evidence forces us to conclude a very sudden onset of morphologically simple (one-celled) but bio-chemically complex life. Functionally, such life is wondrously intricate. There is nothing simple about it!

The sudden appearance of complex microbial life under extremely harsh earth conditions as early as 3.8 billion years ago has all the hallmarks of a special creation event. The likelihood of molecules quickly assembling themselves by chance into complex life forms such as sulfate-reducing bacteria and cyanobacteria is remote beyond comprehension. Paleobiologist J. William Schopf, who reported in 1993 his discovery of 3.5 billion-year-old microfossils in Western Australia, confessed he would prefer organisms such as cyanobacteria to have a history leading from “primitive ways of living” to later “advanced metabolic lifestyles.” He favors this explanation because, supposedly, that is the classic evolutionary scenario. Such gradualism, however, is not evident in the fossil record; the suddenness of cyanobacteria’s appearance does not indicate an evolutionary process. Rather, it signals a creation event.

When I viewed slides of Schopf’s fossilized cyanobacteria, I was struck with awe. These morphologically simple, yet biochemically complex cyanobacteria are still present on earth today, performing the same tasks as in eons past. In the last few decades biologists have discovered more and more wonders of cell function. Those functions are complex almost beyond belief. Any modern biology text will describe dizzying functional capabilities of single-celled organisms. Several decades ago we were able to describe these capabilities only in a general way.

As scientists consider the suddenness of life’s initial appearance and of new forms in the fossil record, one would think more biologists would wonder aloud, “What’s going on here?” This is not so. Most are locked securely in their naturalistic box. Their conclusions about origins and their explanations of life’s historical sequence show a monotonous uniformity: evolution is responsible. Creationists examine the same evidence and consider a different conclusion, one which includes direct, theistic intervention.