Until recently nobody knew just how big a task faced a process of evolution if it was to produce even the simplest forms of life. Just how many ‘genes’ (genetic instructions) were necessary to make the simplest cell actually ‘live’?

But now we know! 

According to a recent report in The Guardian (25 March, 2016), scientists have “stripped back life to the simplest living cell”. They have discovered that such a cell requires a minimum of 473 genes.  Quoting from the report:

“A newly created cell [in their laboratory] can survive and replicate with just that number [473 genes]. The finding…[will] provide the basis for a new generation of made-to-order organisms designed to produce antibiotics, fuels and drugs.”

But researchers admit that they do not understand fully the biological functions of 149 of the genes that keep their creations alive. Using an analogy, to arrive at the “simplest cell” one scientist compared their research method to removing more and more engine-sized parts from a Boeing 777 aircraft until it cannot fly!

The complexity of ‘Life’

Nobody doubts the tremendous skill and scientific knowledge that’s necessary to make these ‘ground-breaking’ discoveries about how the very simplest things can actually ‘live’, even if that knowledge still has huge gaps. But what is so easily overlooked by the casual reader is that every one of those 473 genes is a complex code of instructions that statistics prove cannot exist just by chance!

The more that scientists discover about how ‘Life’ works, the more complex it is found to be and even more is left to discover. Life is nowhere near as simple as building a model made of Lego pieces, even with clear instructions! Or, as another writer once put it, to expect ‘Life’ to come into existence unaided is like expecting an aircraft to build itself inside a hanger full of all its parts when you turn on a fan!

A long way to go!

Unfortunately, many people reading about the creation of this ‘simple cell’ will see it as casting “fresh light on the evolutionary process”, confirming that science now has all the answers, or will have them soon. But this synthesised cell, while it may rightly be hailed as “a bio tool for drugs and fuel”, only has 473 genes, whereas we (and tiny fruit flies) have at least 20,000!!

Well did the writer of the report in The Guardian use such words as “created” and “designed”, because this synthesised cell needed to be very carefully designed and created by very clever people.  Not only that, apparently its design had to reflect the environment in which it ‘lives’. So it’s hardly surprising to be told by these same scientists that “we are probably at about the 1% level of our understanding of the human genome”.

Yes, we have a very, very long way to go before we really know everything about living things, us included. Perhaps we never will.

Hope for the future

This amazing scientific achievement tells us that nothing in the living world can be called ‘simple’, even the very smallest cell. The logical explanation for the existence of ‘Life’ is that it is the product of an Intelligent Designer, which the Bible calls ‘God’. What’s more, the Bible tells us the purpose of ‘Life’ and where it is leading.

Science hasn’t told us how life was originally created and it will never tell us why we exist. The production of new antibiotics, fuels and drugs may bring short-term benefits, but such things never give us any hope of a perfect future.

But the Bible does!!