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Did God create life?

Ask a protein
By Thomas Heinze
Most highschool students are taught that life began when lightning passing through a
particular atmosphere produced chemicals called amino acids. These are the building
blocks of proteins, the major ingredient of cells. In 1953, Stanley Millers famous
experiment showed that some amino acids really can be produced in this way.
However, its one thing to get the building blocks, but quite another to get them to
build. Supposedly, these amino acids went on to concentrate in the ocean in an organic
broth where they linked together to form proteins. These proteins then somehow got
together with DNA to form the first simple cell, or so it is said. Many who believe that
life started without a Creator were at first convinced by this argument. Now even the
atheists are bailing out. Why?
3D structure of myoglobin, a protein used to store oxygen in muscles. This protein was
the first to have its structure solved by X-ray crystallography. FromWikipedia, after
Phillips, S.E., Structure and refinement of oxymyoglobin at 1.6 resolution, J. Mol.
Bio.142(4):53154, 5 October 1980.

Amino acids do not concentrate in the ocean. They disperse.

Amino acids would be grossly contaminated with other chemicals that would stop
them forming proteins.

And even pure amino acids (made by intelligent organic chemists)


will not
form proteins under natural conditions. Rather, the reverse
happensproteins
break down into amino acids.1

Millers amino acids were an equal amount of right-handed and lefthanded amino acids. Living things use exclusively left-handed ones.2

Even if pure left-handed amino acids could link up, it could not be
in the right
3
order. In living things, this is coded in the DNA and read by complex machinery
requiring already-existing proteins!4

DNA and its building blocks, called nucleotides, do not form spontaneously
either.5

The argument that convinced multitudes that life did not need a Creator was false in
every step except the first one; some amino acids can form in nature. A quiet revolution
has taken place in the last few years. Another chemical has elbowed out proteins and
taken over the popular fancy. Even schoolbooks are finally admitting that proteins could
not have formed in organic broth:
Scientists have not been able to cause amino acids dissolved in water to join
together to form proteins. The energy-requiring chemical reactions that join amino

acids are freely reversible and do not occur spontaneously in water. However, most
scientists no longer argue that the first proteins assembled spontaneously. Instead,
they now propose that the initial macromolecules were composed of RNA, and that
RNA later catalyzed the formation of proteins.6
The stories have changed, but the central dogma, Life did not require an intelligent
Creator, has remained the same. But the new proposal, the initial macromolecules
were composed of RNA, and that RNA later catalyzed the formation of proteins, is
false. RNA, like DNA, will not form outside of already living cells!7,8,9
Whatever one believes about their origin, proteins are the principle ingredients of living
cells, and deserve serious consideration. Most people have no idea of the powerful
scientific evidence they give that living things had an intelligent Creator.

Proteins are folded to fit


In order to perform its function in a cell, each protein must be folded correctly in its own
complex three-dimensional shape. When a cell makes a new protein, on the way to its
place in the cell, it folds into the exact shape which will allow it to connect with the other
proteins or sugars, etc. Its a bit like the way a key fits in a lock.
IBM has built the worlds most powerful supercomputer
(dubbed Blue Gene, completed in 2005) to tackle the
protein folding problem. The IBM website explains why:
The scientific community considers protein folding
one of the most significant grand challengesa
fundamental problem in science whose solution can
be advanced only by applying high-performance
computing technologies.

Its
absolutely
amazing, the complexity
of the problem and the
simplicity with which
the body does it every
day. an IBM
researcher on protein
folding

Proteins control almost all cellular processes in the human body. Comprising
strings of amino acids that are joined like links of a chain, a protein folds into a
highly complex, three-dimensional shape that determines its function. Any change
in shape dramatically alters the function of a protein, and even the slightest change
in the folding process can turn a desirable protein into a disease.10
In spite of the tremendous amount of computing power being unleashed, it was estimated
that it would still take about a year for Blue Geneto finish its calculations and model the
folding of a simple protein. How long does it take living cells to actually fold one? Less
than a second!
As one IBM researcher had earlier noted, Its absolutely amazing, the complexity of
the problem and the simplicity with which the body does it every day.11

Chaperones

Specialized proteins called chaperones or chaperonins have been discovered to be vital


for folding many proteins. They move along with newly made proteins to the places in
the cell, where they must fit perfectly if they are to function with the other proteins
around them. On the way, the chaperones help them fold correctly, and then help fit them
into their place. How do the chaperones themselves fold correctly? They too have
chaperones! Evolutionists thus have another problem: how did the first chaperones ever
fold correctly without pre-existing chaperones?12
Scientists are able to link amino acids in the laboratory to assemble some small proteins,
but unless they fold properly they will not work in living things. Unfolded proteins may
be the same chemically, but they are no better than miniature spaghetti as far as biological
activity is concerned, and a wrong fold may cause a serious disease. One example is the
deadly CreutzfeldtJakob disease (CJD) in humans, related to mad cow disease.

Addressing proteins
Even though there may be billions of possible wrong places for some proteins to go, there
are very few places, sometimes just one, in which any newly made protein will fit and
function. The problem is that proteins are not made where they will be used, and each one
is worthless until it has found its way to the spot where it fits. How do proteins find their
way?

Section of
a protein
structure
showing
serine and
alanine
residues
linked
together by
peptide
bonds.
Carbons
are shown
in white and hydrogens are omitted for clarity.
The answer is, newly minted proteins contain an amino acid string that determines
their eventual home.13 This string of amino acids is usually added as a tail on the end of
the longer string of amino acids which make up the protein. It has been compared to the
address on an envelope. When you put a letter in the mail box without the address, what
chance does it have of getting to the right person? Each properly folded protein will fit
and connect correctly in only one spot, so it must be addressed correctly. Misplacing a

protein is more serious than losing a letter, however. There are diseases where proteins
are mistargeted in cells.13
In 1999, The Nobel Prize for Medicine went to Dr Guenter Blobel of The Rockefeller
University in New York, for discovering the amino acid address tags that direct each
protein to its proper place in the cell.14
For the first cell to function, it not only had to have a way to make proteins, it also had to
have solved the complex problems of folding proteins correctly, and addressing them to
the exact spots where they would fit and function. Near misses in any step can cause
disease.

Turning proteins on and off


It is not enough for a cells proteins to be folded correctly and sent to the right places.
The cell also needs the right amount of each protein. If it just kept making more and more
copies of any given protein, it would use up many of its raw materials. It is like the
difference between burning the right amount of wood in your fireplace, and burning
down the whole house.
Also, if there were even one protein that the cell could not stop making after it had made
enough, that cell would soon be jammed so full of that protein that it would pop. The
production of every individual protein, therefore, must be turned on and off at just the
right moment.15
Even if a first cell had just turned up with all the right amounts of the correct proteins,
perfectly folded and in the right place to begin life, it would have had to replace each
protein as soon as it wore out.
One of the most important methods of turning protein production on or off is regulatory
DNA sequences. They are stretches of DNA whose job is to tell the cell when to start and
stop the production of the various proteins. The DNA, however, cannot turn protein
production on or off by itself. It works together with specialized proteins, each of which
fits a particular stretch of regulatory DNA. The regulatory protein folds perfectly so it
will fit the exact spot on the DNA with which it must work. Together they form a
switch.16 Neither the regulatory DNA sequences nor the regulatory proteins will work
without the other. Both must have come into being perfectly coordinated by the time
production of the first protein needed to be turned on or off.
Proteins are so complex they will not form anywhere in nature except in living cells.
Inside cells, the directions for protein construction are already contained in the DNA.
Then, if a protein is to perform its task, its production must be carefully regulated, but
even then, it will not function unless it also has the correct address tag and is properly

folded. All these systems would have to have been in place or the first cell could not
function. These systems, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. I chose them to illustrate
the many coordinated systems that would have to have been present before the first cell
would work.
The teaching that the first cell spontaneously popped into being without the involvement
of the Creator has its basis in the pre-scientific myth that single-celled creatures were
simple. It obviously does not stand up under todays knowledge that a cells DNA,
RNA, membranes and proteins are extremely hard to make, and when proteins are made,
they must be properly folded, addressed, and turned on and off at just the right times.
None of these brilliant solutions could invent itself, yet no first cell could exist
without all of them. They could not have happened without a very intelligent Creator.
Gods solutions to these complex problems were, in fact, incomparably better than
those hoped for from the worlds most powerful super computer. They remind us of
how powerful and intelligent the Creator is. Its only reasonable to trust Him with our
lives.