The Complexity of Life

Article ID: DC745 | By: Hank Hanegraaff

The following is an excerpt from article DC745 from the Christian Research Journal. The full article can be read by following the link below the excerpt.


One of the primary dilemmas of naturalistic evolutionary theory is that it forces scientists to conclude that the cosmos in all of its complexity was created by chance. As biologist Jacques Monod, a Nobel prize winner, puts it, “Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution” (emphasis in original).2 Noted theologian R. C. Sproul explains, for the materialist chance is the “magic wand to make not only rabbits but entire universes appear out of nothing.”3 Sproul also warns that “if chance exists in any size, shape, or form, God cannot exist. The two are mutually exclusive. If chance existed, it would destroy God’s sovereignty. If God is not sovereign, he is not God. If he is not God, he simply is not. If chance is, God is not. If God is, chance is not” (emphasis in original).4

THE COMPLEXITY OF LIFE

Chance in this sense refers to that which happens without cause.5 Thus, chance implies the absence of both a design and a designer. Reflect for a moment on the absurdity of such a notion. Imagine suggesting that Christopher Wren had nothing whatsoever to do with the design of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Imagine asserting that the majestic Messiah composed itself apart from Handel. Or imagine claiming that the Last Supper painted itself without Leonardo da Vinci.

Now consider an even more egregious and absurd assertion — that an eye, an egg, and the earth, each in its vast complexity, are merely functions of random chance.6 Ironically, Darwin himself found it hard to accept the notion that the eye could be the product of blind evolutionary chance, conceding that the intricacies of the human eye gave him “cold shudders.”7

The Complexity of Life- The Eye

In his landmark publication, The Origin of Species, Darwin avowed, “To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree possible.”8 He called this dilemma the problem of “organs of extreme perfection and complication.”9

Consider for a moment the incredible complexity of the human eye. It consists of a ball with a lens on one side and a light sensitive retina made up of rods and cones inside the other. The lens itself has a sturdy protective covering called a cornea and sits over an iris designed to protect the eye from excessive light. The eye contains a fantastic watery substance that is replaced every four hours, while tear glands continuously flush the outside clean. In addition, an eyelid sweeps secretions over the cornea to keep it moist, and eyelashes protect it from dust.10

It is one thing to stretch credulity by suggesting that the complexities of the eye evolved by chance; it is quite another to surmise that the eye could have evolved in concert with myriad other coordinated functions. As a case in point, extraordinarily tuned muscles surround the eye for precision motility and shape the lens for the function of focus.11

Additionally, consider the fact that as you read this article, a vast number of impulses are traveling from your eyes through millions of nerve fibers that transmit information to a complex “computer center” in the brain called the visual cortex. Linking the visual information from the eyes to motor centers in the brain is crucial in coordinating a vast number of bodily and mental functions that are part and parcel to the very process of daily living. Without the coordinated development of the eye and the brain in a synergistic fashion the isolated developments themselves become meaningless and counterproductive.12

In Darwin’s Black Box, biochemist Michael Behe points out that what happens when a photon of light hits a human eye was beyond nineteenth-century science. Thus, to Darwin, vision was an unopened black box.13 In the twentieth century, however, the black box of vision has been opened, and it is no longer enough to consider the anatomical structure of the eye. We now know that “each of the anatomical steps and structures that Darwin thought were so simple actually involves staggeringly complicated biochemical processes” that demand explanation.14

Behe goes on to demonstrate that one cannot explain the origin of vision without first accounting for the origin of the enormously complex system of molecular mechanisms that make it work.15 Phillip Johnson, author of Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, has aptly summarized Darwin’s dilemma regarding the eye: “Evolutionary biologists have been able to pretend to know how complex biological systems originated only because they treated them as black boxes. Now that biochemists have opened the black boxes and seen what is inside, they know the Darwinian theory is just a story, not a scientific explanation.”16

The Complexity of Life- The Egg

In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe further notes that there are black boxes within black boxes. As science advances, more and more of these black boxes are being opened, revealing an “unanticipated Lilliputian world” of enormous complexity that has pushed the theory of evolution beyond the breaking point.17 Evolution cannot account for the astonishingly complex synchronization process needed for, say, the shell of a developing egg to form from the calcium that is stored inside the bones of a bird’s body.18 This shell not only provides a protective covering for the egg but also provides a source of calcium for the developing embryo and a membrane through which it can breathe.19

Furthermore, evolution cannot account for the complex synchronization process needed to produce life from a single fertilized human egg. “The tapestry of life begins with a single thread.”20 Through a process of incredible precision, a microscopic egg in one human being is fertilized by a sperm cell from another. This process not only marks the beginning of a new life but also marks the genetic future of that life.21 A single fertilized egg (zygote), the size of a pinhead, contains chemical instructions that would fill more than 500,000 printed pages.22 The genetic information contained in this “encyclopedia” determines the potential physical aspect of the developing human from height to hair color. In time, the fertilized egg divides into the 30 trillion cells that make up the human body, including 12 billion brain cells, which form over 120 trillion connections.23


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In Darwin’s day, a human egg was thought to be quite simple — for all practical purposes, little more than a microscopic blob of gelatin. Today we know that a fertilized egg is among the most organized, complex structures in the universe. In an age of scientific enlightenment, it is incredible to think that people are willing to maintain that something so vastly complex arose by chance. As Dr. James Coppedge, an expert on the science of statistical probability, puts it, “Chance requires ten billion tries on the average in order to count to ten.”24

In an experiment using 10 similar coins numbered one through 10, chance will succeed on the average only once in 10 billion attempts to get the number one followed in order by all the rest. Coppedge explains that if a person could draw and record one coin every five seconds day and night, it would still take over 1,500 years for chance, on average, to succeed just once in counting to 10.25 He goes on to demonstrate the difference intelligence makes by documenting that a child can do in minutes what chance would take a millennium to do. “Chance doesn’t have a chance when compared to the intelligent purpose of even a child.”26 Even more revealing is the fact that a child playing with the party game Scrabble can easily spell the phrase, “the theory of evolution,” while chance requires five million times the assumed age of the earth to accomplish the same feat.27

The Complexity of Life- Earth

Like an egg or an eye, the earth is a masterpiece of precision and design that could not have come into existence by chance. Astronaut Guy Gardner, who has seen the earth from the perspective of the moon, points out that “the more we learn and see about our universe the more we come to realize that the most ideally suited place for life within the entire solar system is the planet we call home.”28 King David said it best:

The heavens declare the glory of God;the skies proclaim the work of his hands.Day after day they pour forth speech;night after night they display knowledge.There is no speech or languagewhere their voice is not heard.Their voice goes out into all the earth,their words to the ends of the world. (Ps. 19:1-4)

Let’s take a few minutes to explore the miracles that demonstrate life on earth, which a benevolent Creator designed and which could not be directed by blind chance. First, consider plain old tap water. The solid state of most substances is denser than their liquid state, but the opposite is true for H20, which explains why ice floats rather than sinks. If water were like virtually any other liquid, it would freeze from the bottom up rather than from the top down, killing aquatic life, destroying the oxygen supply, and making earth uninhabitable.29 Furthermore, ocean tides, which are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, play a crucial role in our survival. If the moon were significantly larger, thereby increasing its gravitational pull, devastating tidal waves would submerge large areas of land. If the moon were smaller, tidal motion would cease and the oceans would stagnate and die.30 Finally, consider the ideal temperatures on planet earth — not duplicated on any other known planet in the universe. If we were closer to the sun, we would fry. If we were farther away, we would freeze.31

From the tap water to the tides and temperatures that we so easily take for granted, the earth is an unparalleled planetary masterpiece. Like Handel’s Messiah or da Vinci’s Last Supper, it should never be carelessly devalued as the result of blind evolutionary processes. Yet, tragically, in an age of high technology and supposed scientific enlightenment, many are doing just that. Consider the following introduction to “The Miracle of Life,” an Emmy-award-winning PBS NOVA broadcast on evolution:

Four and a half billion years ago, the young planet Earth was a mass of cosmic dust and particles. It was almost completely engulfed by the shallow primordial seas. Powerful winds gathered random molecules from the atmosphere. Some were deposited in the seas. Tides and currents swept the molecules together. And somewhere in this ancient ocean the miracle of life began….The first organized form of primitive life was a tiny protozoan [a one-celled animal]. Millions of protozoa populated the ancient seas. These early organisms were completely self-sufficient in their sea-water world. They moved about their aquatic environment feeding on bacteria and other organisms….From these one-celled organisms evolved all life on earth. (emphases added)32