The Creation Explanation
|The Changing World: Physical Laws & the Origin of Life|
Life and the Laws of Energy and Information
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is of great importance also for any theory of spontaneous origin of life. Such a theory begins with supposed formation from inorganic chemical of the simple organic molecules which are the building blocks for living things. These are amino acid, sugar, fat and nucleotide molecules. The theory then proposes that chance arrangements of physical conditions and mixtures of the simple organic building block molecules maintained for billions of years made possible, probable, even inevitable the formation of some complicated, energy-rich proteins and other bio-molecules from which the original living cells then were formed by random combinations.
This chemical evolution of life from non-life, however, would require the spontaneous production of organic compounds extremely rich in free energy and low in entropy, and the spontaneous assembling of fantastically complex structures of living organisms. It is most difficult to imagine how this could occur spontaneously without violating the Second Law, to say nothing of actually demonstrating such a process experimentally. It is, of course, pure imagination. Since the Second Law has not yet been faulted or invalidated, theories of spontaneous chemical origin of life call for extreme skepticism on the part of honest scientists.
Just what is going on in a plant or animal which is so different from inorganic chemical processes? A living creature is a self-contained metabolic engine maintaining itself in a high-energy steady state which is not in equilibrium with its surroundings. The creature obtains energy with which to preserve this energy state in one of two ways, depending upon whether it is a plant or an animal.
A photosynthetic plant is able to couple the energy of the sun's radiation. An animal makes use of energy-rich substances produced by plants or other animals which feed on plants. In the processes of metabolism, energy and building materials from the surroundings flow through the living system continually, and it is thus enabled to maintain its complex, high-energy steady state and also carry on the other functions characteristic of life, i.e., growth, response, and reproduction. Plants couple the solar energy and produce an excess of energy-rich chemicals. Animals feed on this excess from the plant world and excrete into the environment simpler substances containing less free energy. Other animals may use these and extract more energy, but plants ultimately recycle the building materials.
When the living creature's source of energy or food is cut off, or when the ability of the creature to metabolize ceases, death occurs. The creature no longer maintains its high-energy steady state; its chemical structure starts to move toward the state of equilibrium with environment, the complex designed structure disappears, and there remain only relatively simple chemicals which are unable to carry out the reactions unique to living creatures.
How do living creatures accomplish what chemical reactions in non-living systems cannot do? First, the process of photosynthesis and all metabolic processes of plants and animals require exceedingly complex metabolic systems or motors. These metabolic systems certainly appear to be the product of intelligent, purposeful design. Nobody has yet successfully explained how they could have originated by chance. Moreover, the metabolic motors require instructions to direct them to carry out the correct reactions necessary for life. This information is carried by the mechanism of genetic inheritance which will be discussed in Chapter-4.
An immense amount of coded information is required to describe the structure and functions of any organism. Each living cell supposedly contains in its genes all of the information necessary for the description and production of the organism. This information must be copied when cells divide to form new cells, and it must be transmitted to places in the cells where proteins are being constructed and controlled reactions are occurring.
Finally, the information must be translated to guide the construction and control activities of the cells. The mathematical laws of information theory predict that in any transmission or translation of information, the amount of noise or non-information will spontaneously increase.2 The mathematical; equation describing this increase of noise is identical in form with the equation for entropy increase. The theory that the genetic code and genetic information originated spontaneously and that the information has spontaneously and continuously increased for billions of years is called the theory of organic evolution. This theory certainly seems to violate the laws of information theory which are just as soundly based as are the laws of thermodynamics, and are, in fact, mathematically identical with them.
2. Tribus, Myron and McIrvine, Edward C., Scientific American, Vol. 224, Sept. 1971, pp. 179-188.