The Incredible Cell

The simplest conceivable cell – the smallest possible self-replicating organism – is immeasurably more complex than the most sophisticated designs of human science and engineering.

To the high school student, looking at a cell through a microscope may not be very awe-inspiring. At modest magnifications, the cell looks like an ill-shaped blob containing blobby structures.

How did the first cell arise from the molecular soup assumed to exist on the early planet earth? Oparin’s 1924 book, The Origin of Life, painted a picture of oily droplets acting like cell walls, an accumulation of complex molecules inside, until there was just the right amount and type of compounds to allow self-sustainment and replication. The details were fuzzy, of course. Clearly, Oparin wasn’t aware of the structure of DNA or of the level of complexity involved in cellular function that was discovered later in the century.

According to evolutionary physicist Freeman Dyson (see reference below): “The Oparin picture was generally accepted by biologists for half a century. It was popular not because there was any evidence to support it, but rather because it seemed to be the only alternative to biblical creationism.”

What an amazing admission! This is science? We must embrace a theory apart from evidence, simply because we cannot stomach the possibility of a non-materialistic answer?

Complexity abounds at the molecular level – a complexity not seen in any non-living structure in the universe.

Example: Consider the functional operation and working components of a typical cell. Then extrapolate in your imagination from the probability story begun in the previous article. (The paragraph below is paraphrased from Denton’s book, p. 328-9.)

“The cell wall is a wonderfully robust and complex structure with millions of openings to allow the flow of materials in and out – and restrict the flow of inappropriate materials. Countless conduits and corridors are organized between cellular structures that include the central memory bank in the nucleus and various assembly and processing plants. The nucleus is a geodesic dome containing orderly arrays of the most complex molecules in the universe – DNA. A huge collection of raw materials and products moves along the corridors within and to the extremities of the cell. Complex molecular machinery – proteins – consist typically of 3,000 atoms arranged in precise 3-D topology. Any given protein is well beyond man’s capacity to manufacture. Materials and products flow in perfectly regulated timing. Control systems are based on artificial languages and decoding systems that are just now starting to reveal some of their mysteries to herculean efforts in genetic science. Assembly of cellular components and tools is performed with amazing precision. Errors occur at the rate of far less than 1 in a billion replications and corrective systems are in place to fix the problems.”

There is an enormous body of scientific literature that documents the complexity of a “simple” cell. Any summary is woefully inadequate, but I’ll devote just a few words to it.

The cell’s membrane is designed to be selective — allowing nutrients to enter and waste to exit. The membrane enclose a vast array of structures and molecules. Chemically, the cell contains water, inorganic ions (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chlorine, etc.), metabolites, proteins, DNA, RNA, phospholipids, other lipids, and polysaccharides. There are about 500 carefully regulated chemical reactions that constitute the metabolic system. Much research has been done just to sort out the metabolic chemical pathways.

Specific chemical reactions are restricted to specific regions (organelles) within the cell so they don’t interfere with each other. These subcompartments have their own membranes to allow isolation. For example, the mitochondria is a structure that contains all of the enzymes needed to produce the cell’s ATP — the principal molecular energy carrier. The ribosomes are the manufacturing centers for proteins. Intricate chemical “decision processes” dictate the flow of materials in and out of the organelles.

I don’t want to go further in this description. I’m not even touching the surface. Please just go to your favorite encyclopedia and read about the cell. The deeper you get into it, the more amazed you will be at the complexity. For now, consider the blind faith of the individual who has no evidence whatsoever that living cells arose from inanimate matter and can’t even fantasize how that might have occurred.

Please note: The argument is not simply that evolutionists haven’t quite figured these things out. Rather, they have NO THEORY (zero, zilch, nada) for a naturalistic origin of the cell’s structures or of the cell itself. Additionally, I am making an affirmative argument for design. ANYTIME you observe a brilliantly functional machine which is chock full of information, the presence of design is obvious and the necessity of a Designer follows. The cell’s information content (not to mention its sophisticated functionality) far exceeds that of man’s most complex computers, structures, machines, and systems.


Freeman Dyson, Origins of Life, Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, 1986.


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