So Easy Even a Cave Man Can Do It
By Jack Kinsella
In a research project that lasted close to three years, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute created cells that were able to grow naturally, by inserting artificially created genetic material which was chemically printed and assembled in forced conditions into a cell.
Put another way, the Venter Institute claims that it created life. Well, sort of. It would be more accurate to say that they restored life. The Venter team used the ‘corpse’ of a bacteria, mycoplama mycoides (more about that later) which they reprogrammed at the genetic level.
(Think Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein”. The Frankenstein monster was made out of body parts stitched together and reanimated. Their duet, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” keeps replaying in my head.)
But I digress…Peter Boyle’s Frankenstein Monster wasn’t a ‘new’ life or even a ‘new’ creature — how would you portray the creation of new life from scratch in a movie? The answer is, you really can’t.
Such a movie would have no frame of reference for the audience. How does a human mind conceive of something that cannot exist? The answer remains the same. It can’t.
It was the father of godless Communism, Vladimir Ilyanovich Lenin, who accidently offered the most startlingly obvious proof of the existence of God. Lenin theorized that all man could learn about the universe is that which is physical — there is no immaterial or spiritual existence.
To prove his argument, Lenin challenged doubters to try and imagine a new prime color for the rainbow. Try and visualize a color no one has ever seen before.
Lenin’s argument was since nothing can be conceived which does not exist, nothing can exist outside the material universe.
The concept of God is that of an immaterial Being that exists outside of space and time. His existence had no beginning and it has no end. He is everywhere at once, yet He resides in Heaven. He is all-knowing, all-seeing and all powerful.
He created everything out of nothing, yet He exists above and distinct from all creation. Before anything was, He is.
What is the human frame of reference for an immaterial Spirit-Being that fits that description? This is a big universe filled with everything imaginable. If God didn’t exist, could we have imagined Him?
Can we imagine a new prime color for the rainbow? Poor Vladimir Lenin! He’s gone on to his ‘reward’ — so to speak.
If Lenin went where his doctrine dictated, he is now explaining to Satan how he formulated the most iron-clad philosophical proof for the existence of God ever conceived.
I hope that Heaven has instant replay. Now, that would be entertainment! But once again, I digress.
Back to the Frankencritter…
Venter’s Frankencritter is constructed from ‘body parts’ on the frame of the mycoplasma gentitalium, the tiniest known free-living bacterium. The mycoplasma gentitalium has just 485 genes, fifteen of which Venter’s team deleted as superfluous.
Venter’s team took parts from mycoplasma gentitalium and combined it at the genetic level with parts from its cousin, mycoplama mycoides.
In the process, Venter deleted some 14 genes from mycoplama mycoides, writing new code to go with existing genes, (and even adding a watermark signature cipher that contains the URL of a website and three quotations — that Venter hopes to patent as a copyright)
The genome was inserted into genome-free bacteria, and the resulting bacteria colonies ALL contained the synthetic genomes, including the copyright watermark. The Frankencritter was able to reproduce itself! That makes it the very first living creature since creation that had no ancestor.
The reaction from the secular humanist community was immediate and unsurprising. At the heart of almost all debates about the existence of God is the question of creation vs. evolution. And the argument from evolution exists on the shifting sand of new discoveries resulting in evolving facts.
So the argument from Creationism always had the upper hand in one regard. The existence of life. Life has always been the one unassailable argument in favor of Divine Creation. The spark of life that animates what is otherwise a collection of chemicals — that is what was always the major chink evolution’s armor.
“Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” (Take that humanist!)
“Well, maybe a tree. But Craig Venter can make a bacterium that reproduces itself!” (Take that, Christian!)
Lost in the debate about whether or not Venter’s team created life or merely engineered a genetic Frankenstein bug, is the fact that Venter’s team was responsible for the existence of a living creature that had no ancestor!
That is an established fact. But what is fascinating is any suggestion that it disproves the notion of a Creator God. Back things up with me for a second and look at what this really proves.
Dr Venter’s team wrote new programming code based on the machine language already encoded into all existing DNA. Venter’s programming instructed the bacteria to divide and reproduce spontaneously, which is the basic definition of life.
Rocks can’t reproduce. They are not alive. Plants reproduce. They are alive. So are bacteria — because they reproduce. They reproduce because of their genetic programming.
Taken to its most extreme meaning, Venter’s ability to code a brand-new genetic creature proves only that the primordial ooze theory could have brought forth the first living organism. But it falls far short of disproving a Creator — it DEMANDS one.
Venter put a copyright on his gene to ‘prove’ life is possible without a Creator God. But it couldn’t have happened WITHOUT Venter. And what’s more, Venter had to use existing, intelligent, logical and humanly- readable language already there to make any of it happen.
Here’s what it really proves. Life is so simple even a caveman can do it. But first the caveman had to find out where God wrote down the instructions. To argue otherwise is akin to following a recipe for baking a cake and then claiming the resulting cake disproves the recipe had an author.
“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalms 139:4)
2016 update: How Craig Venter is fighting ageing with genome sequencing.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 24, 2010.