Artificial Life

There was a time when we who believe in a Creator could say with some confidence "scientists will never create life." Well, we can’t say that with quite the same confidence now.

Program Transcript

There was a time when we who believe in a Creator could say with some
confidence “scientists will never create life.” Well, we can’t say that with
quite the same confidence now.

Last year, it was announced that a team of scientists succeeded in
creating life. In a landmark experiment, they created the world’s first
synthetic life form in the laboratory. This controversial feat occupied 20
scientists for more than 10 years at an estimated cost of $40m and was
described by one researcher as “a defining moment in biology.”

Quite obviously, this experiment was performed with a remarkable amount
of work by a highly skilled team of quantum and computational chemists, protein
engineers, biochemists, and molecular biologists.

It is important to understand that these scientists have not created
life from nothing. Nor have they claimed to. What they have done is to remodel
an existing life form to generate a new one. Another way of looking at it would
be like a team of highly trained engineers taking parts from other existing
engines to build a brand new working engine. But let’s not underestimate what these
scientists have achieved.

The researchers pieced together enzymes from about one hundred proteins
of known structure, essentially mixing and matching protein regions to produce
enzyme mosaics. They planned and performed well-thought-out design strategies
in order to prepare artificial DNA molecules that were carefully manipulated by
highly skilled chemists.

The ingenuity of this scientific team was evident throughout the
process. Their efforts are of huge theological and philosophical significance.
Let me quickly explain why!

Their work provides evidence that if life is to undergo any significant
transformation at the biochemical level, intelligent agents must be directly involved.
Their work was based upon decades of accumulated knowledge, brilliant ingenuity
and strategic planning toward their planned goals in order to design new,
synthetic metabolic pathways and add to the genetic code. To put it another way,
they made evolution “happen.”

As you probably know, some scientists who espouse an atheist agenda
would argue that life could originate and develop through natural processes,
with no need for an intelligent creator. But clearly, this experiment did not
reinforce that argument. It was not an undirected process. Neither was it a
lucky coincidence or blind luck. It required precise methods and procedures
intelligently thought out and expertly executed. These scientists have shown
that modifying even the simplest life form needs the involvement of an
intelligent agent directing the process.

So, far from showing that life does not need a Creator, this experiment
actually reinforces the conviction of a need for a Creator’s involvement in the
origin and development of life. This experiment won’t put an end to the “Creation
versus Evolution” debate. That controversy can never be determined by the data
collected by scientific experiment. Those results must be interpreted on the
basis of philosophical or theological assumptions established on some other
grounds. And of course little intelligent discussion can take place while one
side is trying to knock the other out of the ring.

But in the meanwhile, we are coming to understand more and more about
the beautiful and intricate processes that are involved with the phenomenon we
call life.

Both science and religion should approach the questions of the development
of life with humility. We still have much to learn, and the more that we do learn
about life, the question should not be whether or not a Creator was involved, but
rather, was there ANY part of this wonderful process that did NOT need the
involvement of a Creator?

I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.