Adaptation and Living Molecular Machine Systems

Recently I was talking with my two sons about our ability to adapt to different environments. This came up while watching a TV special on rockets and space travel. I mentioned that in space you lose muscle and bone mass at alarming rates and have to vigorously exercise daily to keep from withering away. One of my sons asked “why?” Well, the reason why is because of adaptive technologies we have built into our bodies. I explained that the muscles in my legs must be large enough to lift my frame up in the gravity field of the Earth, which consequently makes my weight about 210 pounds. In space, at zero G, I do not weigh anything. So this technology that makes us stronger and able to withstand harsher environments, also tunes down when not faced with resistance, and we atrophy. My oldest son replied: “like robots?” I took this opportunity to educate him on a difference between “robots” and “living creatures.” I said: “no son, robots do not have molecular (nanotechnology) systems that allow them to adapt to changing conditions.” I explained to my son that the robots we have to day are little more than a bucket of inanimate bolts. Compared to living creatures, they are pathetically simple. On the other hand, living beings like us are marvels of modern science. We have technology working at the molecular level that keeps us alive and allows us to adapt. This is called nanotechnology. The term “nano” is a scientific word of Greek origin that refers to “billionth.” Nanotechnology is technology that is on the order of a billionth of a meter in size, which is the size range of molecules. The discovery of this amazing fact that nanotechnology is at the basis of life has stunned even the most hardened atheists (see Atheist Converted). How someone could believe we were not created by a super-intelligence in light of this evidence is almost unfathomable to me.

At the fundamental unit of life, the cell, there is a technology in place with amazing capabilities. If a robot encounters an environment it was not specifically constructed to deal with, it will not function properly or it will cease to function entirely. In fact, for today’s robots, that window is pretty narrow. This is primarily due to the primitive state of our robotics technology. But living creatures like us are very different from these rudimentary contrivances of man. We are not just a combination of a few simple parts designed to move and operate in certain ways. In fact, it is our experience of late in attempting to get robots to do even the simplest activities we perform with ease, that has given us a great appreciation for our capabilities and underlying systems. Our parts have parts, and those parts have parts, and those parts have parts. And all these parts are integrated and coordinated systematically at all levels top to bottom. One extremely simple example is the thumb. If I used my thumb to perform a repetitive strenuous task over and over again, over time dramatic changes would take place. The skin on the end of my thumb would thicken and become tougher, as would the fleshy padding underneath. The muscles attached to my thumb would grow larger and thicker allowing it to apply greater levels of force over longer periods of time. My tendons, the connectivity tissue between muscle and bone, would become stronger and better able to withstand the stresses applied by my new larger and more powerful muscles. The attach points of these tendons on the bones would be reinforced so as not to be dislodged by the increased tug placed on the bone. The thumb bones themselves would grow larger and denser to better resist the bending and twisting stresses placed on them. Even the ligaments, the connective tissues between bones, would become stronger and better able to hold the multiple bones in the thumb in their joints allowing mobility under higher stresses without becoming dislodged. What is even more incredible is that all these changes occur in concert with one another. Yes, it is a coordinated and systematic upgrading of all the technologies employed to make my thumb a stronger functional component. But alas, this is but one small piece of the larger system that makes up my entire body, all of which can be adapting simultaneously with an approach that is balanced and specifically targeted to the needs at hand. This is just one simple example, but the point is clear, something amazing is going on inside our tissues making this happen. That amazing thing is a whole host of extremely miniaturized molecular technologies that go to work at the submicroscopic level to increase function.

At this point some of you may be saying: “wow, with this kind of adaptive power, maybe evolution is true?” Good question. In fact, it is the amazing adaptive nature of living systems that originally made the concept of evolution intellectually attractive. The primary thrust of Darwin’s book comes from this angle. Darwin himself bread pigeons, and as a naturalist he studied finch populations on the Galapagos Islands. Most of his book focuses on the adaptive mechanisms at work in living creatures. In chapter 10 of his book he admits that the “fossil record” does not support this notion, being devoid of transitions and intermediaries.  However, being the master of rhetorical discourse that he was, he had the reader convinced well before chapter ten that evolutionary change was going on all around the reader, both in breeding and in nature. As I have mentioned before, we were completely ignorant of the technologies at work at the cell level then. In fact, it was assumed at that time that the cell was little more than a blob of chemicals, or basically just organic Jell-O. Today we have a fairly good rough sketch of how things operate in the cell. The cell operations are controlled by an immense storehouse of information called DNA. DNA is a large molecule that contains approximately 3 billion pieces of information in humans. This information serves as the design blueprint for cell construction, the assembly instructions for 30,000 protein building blocks, operating procedures for thousands of cell functions, and control mechanisms for molecular cell robotics. I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture. While these systems are preprogrammed for adaptive functionality, this is only within the framework of the genetic code. Once you begin to understand the immense complexity and systems integration in the cell you realize that things do not change drastically and still function. In Genesis 1:21 and 1:25 God said about the different creatures that they would bring forth “after their kind.” This is what the fossil record told Darwin in the 1850s, and it is what cell biology is telling us 150 years later. Although we have bred (artificially selected) hundreds of dog breeds in the last 200 years, we have never bred a non-dog. We have put bacteria in the laboratory through tens of thousands of generations, but never produced anything other than bacteria. I believe it is now becoming clear from our science that the adaptive nature of creatures on this planet, while certainly an amazing feat of advanced robotics (God-tech if you will), has distinct boundaries and are only able to adapt within the specified parameters of the gene code and supporting molecular machine systems in the cell. In other words, adaptation is a hallmark of an intelligent designer, not evolution. Just as auto manufacturers put a heater and an air conditioner in a car, knowing they may need to adapt to hot and cold climates, so has the creator programmed living things to give them a greater range of survivability in adverse conditions.

I truly believe we are presently coming out of the dark ages of science, and many are still stuck in that mid-nineteenth century false naturalistic paradigm. The ignorance of the mid nineteenth century about the technology at the fundamental unit of life has caused many to assume over the past 150 years that the creatures found in nature are simple, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  In trying to mimic even the simplest human functions in robotics, we have been humbled over and over again by how difficult it is. As our current understanding grows about the operations of cellular systems we are simply awestruck by the incredible technology at work in this submicroscopic world. There are literally millions of functions being performed every second at the cell level in our bodies. These functions occur with astounding accuracy. The process of transcription, where molecular machines use a segment of DNA code for protein building, is estimated to make a mistake only once in one billion actions performed. This procedure is occurring millions of times a second in your body right now and is far more accurate than our most advanced manufacturing systems today. And these manmade systems often have hundreds if not thousands of intelligent engineers, managers and operators on hand to ensure quality. This cellular system operates completely autonomously. And all this happens at a breathtaking pace. Every minute 3 billion cells in your body are rebuilt. It has been estimated that your entire skeletal system is rebuilt from scratch by these tiny molecular machines once every 18 months. It is this constant rebuilding of every cell in your body that battles the destructive forces of the environment and allows you to live 70 or 80 years. This is simply astounding. Sophistication, coordination, and integration at this level of scale that is fully automated, incredibly fast, self-replicating, has unsurpassed accuracy, and passed down over thousands of years since the original creation is literally incomprehensible to the human mind. The submicroscopic molecular machines in the cells move with purpose knowing what to do, and when and where to do it. Not only that, but these systems are coordinated in such a way that they are capable of knowing when repairs are needed, and are able to execute those repairs autonomously. Even beyond that they are even capable of performing modifications that can increase the functional capability of our systems (such as my musculoskeletal example) many times over in response to stresses imposed upon us by differing environments.

Fellow believers, this is not science fiction, this is science fact that has only been known in science for a scant few decades now. So called “enlightened” intellectuals use to scoff at the Bible and its claims of people living to be 900 plus years old. Knowing what we know now about these cellular technologies the question is not how that could be possible; the question is why do we die? If we have molecular machine systems at the cell level capable of rebuilding us, why do we grow old? We even know of creatures that can re-grow entire limbs that are lost, so even catastrophic injury can be repaired. Well, the reason we grow old and die is because we are programmed to do so. These systems appear to have been designed for eternal life, but were later tuned down. What an amazing revelation. This is exactly what the Bible says happened. It appears from the Bible that some drastic change was made when Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden that caused them to age and eventually die. Another drastic change occurred after the flood when the life spans decreased by a factor of ten. Think of it, we know have a working scientific understanding of how God could have done these things. We know He did from the Bible, but now we know enough about the technology He used in living systems to actually see that this is the best explanation for aging and death.

The picture becomes clearer and clearer everyday that when God said that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in Psalm 139:14, we had no idea the depth of that statement.  As the story continues to unfold about the amazing systems underpinning life, we stand in awe of the incredible works of the creator. As mentioned above, this is a revelation that even the most hardened atheists find hard to ignore. The knowledge of these things should give us all the more reason to not fear death. These bodies in which we dwell, in all their nanotechnological glory, are still just advanced machines, machines that God breathed an “eternal” soul into. One day we must shed this temple, and this amazing technology will return to the dust of the earth, but do not fear, a God that could create these wonders can certainly make provision for the afterlife. I for one am looking forward to that glorified body God has promised me (Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:35-55). I firmly believe that we cannot even imagine the wonders awaiting us in heaven. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).”

For more information about the amazing technology at the cell level you may purchase a copy of a video called “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” at www.arn.org.  On this video you will be introduced to world renowned scientists that went through this revolution in science that began in the 1960s. One of these scientists, Dr. Dean Kenyon, was considered the foremost authority in the world on the chemical origins of life and wrote a best selling textbook on the subject.  He gives you his personal testimony on how after he authored this text he was converted from believing in naturalism to intelligent design by the complex structure discovered at the cell level. Cell biology is the most convincing proof of God’s existence on the planet, making this video a must see for the creation science oriented individual.

Will Hoyt

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 20:14

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.