Imagine offering a large cash prize to any research group that can achieve the goal of making a flower grow out of a bucket of dirt. If you wonder what’s the challenge in that — “We grow flowers out of dirt all the time!” — you’d better read the fine print. For this challenge allows you to start with nothing more than the bucket of dirt, along with all the water and air you want.
Sometimes, we can take for granted the most commonplace things, when in reality these may be exhibitions of the highest wonder. After a hard winter in the Midwest, the ground is frozen, the trees are bare, the grass is brown, and not a flower can be found. But then something wonderful unfolds as the season cycles towards spring — warmth from the sun thaws the ground and the landscape begins to transform from the shadow of death to life. In the woods near our house, springtime brings forth thousands of bluebells, carpeting the ground that has appeared dead for months. Soon, daffodils blossom around the house, followed by tulips and phlox, and the yard quickly fills with yellow dandelions, alas. (Dandelions are mostly considered a nuisance weed where I live.)
A Challenge for the Researchers
So, what’s so hard about producing a flower from a bucket of well-watered dirt? Naturally, it seems to happen prolifically, but of course it all starts with a seed. So, the challenge for the researchers is to produce a seed that grows into a flower, using the available ingredients of dirt, water, and air. Game on!
From a cursory examination, a seed may seem like a fairly simple little thing, but more analysis reveals layers of functional complexity. The following highlights this:
Seed development is a complex process that requires coordinated integration of many genetic, metabolic, and physiological pathways and environmental cues. Different cell cycle types, such as asymmetric cell division, acytokinetic mitosis, mitotic cell division, and endoreduplication, frequently occur in sequential yet overlapping manner during the development of the embryo and the endosperm, seed structures that are both products of double fertilization.Ricardo A. Dante, Brian A. Larkins and Paolo A. Sabelli, “Cell cycle control and seed development,” Frontiers in Plant Science, Volume 5 (2014).
To claim that researchers in synthetic biochemistry have no idea how to form even a single cell out of prebiotic materials, let alone the complex interactions of many cells within a seed, is no exaggeration. If a well-equipped research facility, staffed by the world’s best scientists, couldn’t produce a seed or even a single living cell from raw materials, what basis is there for assuming unguided natural processes could do it?
As Time Goes By
Time is not the golden ticket for nature to succeed at producing a complex, functional arrangement of atoms resulting in a living cell. Our observations of natural processes demonstrate that over time, natural processes degrade all complex, functional systems. New cars gradually turn into rusty wrecks; a newspaper left outside turns to pulp with no legible information; an unfortunate opossum killed on a country road isn’t regenerated by sunlight and rain but suffers decomposition. The more time passes, the more such systems dissolve, until they blend with the surrounding environment to become unrecognizable. Nature relentlessly degrades information-rich systems, inexorably moving them towards an equilibrium characterized by homogeneous mixtures, nearly devoid of information.
If nature has shown itself time and time again to be an agent of decay, what has science discovered concerning the development of cells? Just this, that every cell comes from a preexisting cell. The supposition of materialism, that at some point in the early history of Earth a cell arose from “dirt,” is utterly without observational support. To suppose that the unguided effects of some combination of gravity and the electromagnetic force brought together millions of atoms of dirt, water, and air into the phenomenally complex, interdependent, functional structures and mechanisms of a living cell, is not supported by science. Such a belief ignores and defies centuries of scientific observations and study. It is a fantasy requiring an a priori commitment to an idea, akin to believing the Earth is flat.
Far Beyond Human Limits
The marvel of the seed extends beyond its ability to grow into a flower or other type of plant. The design of the seed includes producing myriads of other seeds via successive generations of growth.
Given our observations of nature, and realizing that the intelligence required to produce a seed from the raw materials of Earth far exceeds human limitations, what shall we conclude produced such marvels as the welcome sight of springtime flowers? Ascribing their origin to intelligent design is a rational conclusion consistent with the facts.