The Sophisticated Nanotechnology of the Cell Reeks of Design
In the 19th century, the time of Darwin, the underlying basis of life was completely unknown. It was only in 1838 that the German scientists Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann advanced the “cell theory” of life — that all organisms were composed of cells and their secretions, and that the cell somehow had a life of its own. Yet microscopes of that time were crude compared to modern technology, and little could be seen of the cell, and how it worked was a mystery. One well-known scientist, Ernst Haeckel, declared the cell to be a “simple little lump of albuminous combination of carbon,” (1) not much different from a piece of microscopic Jell-O.
He was spectacularly wrong. As science advanced in the next century, new techniques allowed us to see the molecules that perform the work of the cell. In the early 1950s Watson and Crick first deduced the double helical shape of DNA; later in the decade the genetic code was cracked. In the late 1950s the structure of the protein myoglobin was uncovered, revealing a complex, intricate shape that confounded scientists’ expectations that proteins would be simple, like crystals. In fact, proteins had complex shapes for the same reason that machines do — their shapes allow them to perform their tasks.
As science progressed in the second half of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st, the complexity of the cell has grown deeper and deeper. Not only has molecular machinery of staggering sophistication been discovered, but unsuspected complex control mechanisms which allow the cell to build the machinery at the right time and place have been discovered, too. As a writer for the world’s premier science journal, Nature, marveled in an article describing our increasing understanding of the immense sophistication of genes, “The picture these studies paint is one of mind boggling complexity.” (2) Complex molecular circuitry, unsuspected only a few decades ago, is now known to be required to build even “simple” animals such as fruit flies.
Design is recognized in the purposeful arrangement of parts, and the cell exhibits the most profound purposeful arrangement of parts in the universe. To get a flavor of that purposefulness, readers should view the astonishing molecular simulation of the cellular construction of the bacterial flagellum, produced by the “Protonic NanoMachine Project” of the Japan Science and Technology Corporation in a remarkable video which can be viewed on the Web. (3)
If “scientific merit” is judged by the correspondence between theory and physical reality, then the theory of intelligent design rates very strongly.