Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Way of the Cell

I just finished reading a fascinating book called, The Way of the Cell; Molecules, Organisms and the Order of Life by Franklin M. Harold, emeritus professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Colorado State University. The book describes in detail the unbelievable complexity of life at the cellular level.

Dr. Harold pulls no punches in his rejection of Intelligent Design theory. He writes, “Let me, therefore, state unambiguously that I, like the vast majority of contemporary scientists, see the living world as wholly the product of natural causes…” (190).

Fifteen pages later he goes on to say,
“We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations” (205, emphasis mine).
As “a matter of principle”? Not as a matter of science? I find it amusing how atheists and some scientists pretend that they have “science” on their side while Christians have only faith (what they mean is “gullibility”). While I admire Dr. Harold’s honesty, I hardly think “wishful speculations” falls under the category of science. Dr. Harold goes on:
“Cell components as we know them are so thoroughly integrated that one can scarcely imagine how any one function could have arisen in the absence of the others. Genetic information can only be replicated and read out with the aid of enzyme proteins, which are themselves specified by those same genes. Energy is harnessed by means of enzymes whose production requires energy input. Darwinian evolution is at bottom the struggle among individuals defined by cell membranes, yet how could membranes and transport catalysts arise without genes, proteins and energy?(245)
Excellent questions! Dr. Harold chooses, as a matter of faith, to believe that it all came together by chance, natural laws, and natural selection. Many of us don’t have that much faith. We prefer to postulate a designer. Dr. Harold continues:
The origin of life is also a stubborn problem, with no solution in sight…Biology textbooks often include a chapter on how life may have arisen from non-life, and while responsible authors do not fail to underscore the difficulties and uncertainties, readers still come away with the impression that the answer is almost within our grasp…In reality, we may not be much closer to understanding genesis than A.I. Oparin and J.B.S. Haldane were in the 1930’s; and in the long run, science would be better off if we said so.” (235-236)
I agree. It would be better if many scientists, and especially the new atheists, had the kind of honesty and integrity that Franklin Harold exhibits. Finally, Dr. Harold writes:
“It would be agreeable to conclude this book with a cheery fanfare about science closing in, slowly but surely, on the ultimate mystery; but the time for rosy rhetoric is not at hand. The origin of life appears to me is incomprehensible as ever, a mater of wonder but not for explication” (251).