The Amazing Design of Living Things
1, 2. (a) What shows that scientists recognize the need for a designer? (b) Yet how do they then reverse themselves?
WHEN anthropologists dig in the earth and find a triangular piece of sharp flint, they conclude that it must have been designed by someone to be the tip of an arrow. Such things designed for a purpose, scientists agree, could not be products of chance.
2 When it comes to living things, however, the same logic is often abandoned. A designer is not considered necessary. But the simplest single-celled organism, or just the DNA of its genetic code, is far more complex than a shaped piece of flint. Yet evolutionists insist that these had no designer but were shaped by a series of chance events.
3. What need did Darwin recognize, and how did he attempt to fill it?
3 However, Darwin recognized the need for some designing force and gave natural selection the job. “Natural selection,” he said, “is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good.”1 That view, however, is now losing favor.
4. How are views on natural selection changing?
4 Stephen Gould reports that many contemporary evolutionists now say that substantial change “may not be subject to natural selection and may spread through populations at random.”2 Gordon Taylor agrees: “Natural selection explains a small part of what occurs: the bulk remains unexplained.”3 Geologist David Raup says: “A currently important alternative to natural selection has to do with the effects of pure chance.”4 But is “pure chance” a designer? Is it capable of producing the complexities that are the fabric of life?
5. What recognition does an evolutionist give to design and to its originator?
5 Evolutionist Richard Lewontin admitted that organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed,” so that some scientists viewed them as “the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer.”5 It will be useful to consider some of this evidence.
6. Are single-celled organisms really simple?
6 Let us start with the smallest of living things: single-celled organisms. A biologist said that single-celled animals can “catch food, digest it, get rid of wastes, move around, build houses, engage in sexual activity” and “with no tissues, no organs, no hearts and no minds—really have everything we’ve got.”6
7. How and for what purpose do diatoms make glass, and how important are they to life in the seas?
7 Diatoms, one-celled organisms, take silicon and oxygen from seawater and make glass, with which they construct tiny “pillboxes” to contain their green chlorophyll. They are extolled by one scientist for both their importance and their beauty: “These green leaves enclosed in jewel boxes are pastures for nine tenths of the food of everything that lives in the seas.” A large part of their food value is in the oil that diatoms make, which also helps them bob buoyantly near the surface where their chlorophyll can bask in sunlight.
8. With what complex shapes do diatoms cover themselves?
8 Their beautiful glass-box coverings, this same scientist tells us, come in a “bewildering variety of shapes—circles, squares, shields, triangles, ovals, rectangles—always exquisitely ornamented with geometric etchings. These are filigreed in pure glass with such fine skill that a human hair would have to be sliced lengthwise into four hundred slices to fit between the marks.”7
9. How complex are some of the houses radiolarians build?
9 One group of ocean-dwelling animals, called radiolarians, make glass and with it build “glass sunbursts, with long thin transparent spikelets radiating from a central crystal sphere.” Or “glass struts are built into hexagons and used to make simple geodesic domes.” Of a certain microscopic builder it is said: “One geodesic dome will not do for this superarchitect; it has to be three lacelike fretted glass domes, one inside another.”8 Words fail to describe these marvels of design—it takes pictures to do so.
10, 11. (a) What are sponges, and what happens to the individual cells when a sponge is completely broken up? (b) What question about sponge skeletons do evolutionists find unanswerable, but what do we know?
10 Sponges are made up of millions of cells, but only a few different kinds. A college textbook explains: “The cells are not organized into tissues or organs, yet there is a form of recognition among the cells that holds them together and organizes them.”9 If a sponge is mashed through a cloth and separated into its millions of cells, those cells will come together and rebuild the sponge. Sponges construct skeletons of glass that are very beautiful. One of the most amazing is Venus’s-flower-basket.
11 Of it, one scientist says: “When you look at a complex sponge skeleton such as that made of silica spicules which is known as [Venus’s-flower-basket], the imagination is baffled. How could quasi-independent microscopic cells collaborate to secrete a million glassy splinters and construct such an intricate and beautiful lattice? We do not know.”10 But one thing we do know: Chance is not the likely designer.
12. What is symbiosis, and what are some examples?
12 Many cases exist where two organisms appear designed to live together. Such partnerships are examples of symbiosis (living together). Certain figs and wasps need each other in order to reproduce. Termites eat wood but need the protozoa in their bodies to digest it. Similarly, cattle, goats and camels could not digest the cellulose in grass without the help of bacteria and protozoa living inside them. A report says: “The part of a cow’s stomach where that digestion takes place has a volume of about 100 quarts—and contains 10 billion microorganisms in each drop.”11 Algae and fungi team up and become lichens. Only then can they grow on bare rock to start turning rock into soil.
13. The partnership between stinging ants and acacia trees raises what questions?
13 Stinging ants live in the hollow thorns of acacia trees. They keep leaf-eating insects off the tree and they cut up and kill vines that try to climb on the tree. In return, the tree secretes a sugary fluid that the ants relish, and it also produces small false fruit, which serves as food for the ants. Did the ant first protect the tree and then the tree rewarded it with fruit? Or did the tree make fruit for the ant and the ant then thanked it with protection? Or did it all chance to happen at once?
14. What special provisions and mechanisms do flowers use to attract insects for pollination?
14 Many cases of such cooperation exist between insects and flowers. Insects pollinate flowers, and in return flowers feed insects pollen and nectar. Some flowers produce two kinds of pollen. One fertilizes seeds, the other is sterile but feeds insect visitors. Many flowers have special markings and smells to guide insects to the nectar. En route the insects pollinate the flower. Some flowers have trigger mechanisms. When insects touch the trigger they get swatted by the pollen-containing anthers.
15. How does the Dutchman’s-pipe ensure cross-pollination, and what questions does this raise?
15 For example, the Dutchman’s-pipe cannot pollinate itself but needs insects to bring in pollen from another flower. The plant has a tubular leaf that envelops its flower, and this leaf is coated with wax. Insects, attracted by the smell of the flower, land on the leaf and plunge down the slippery slide to a chamber at the bottom. There, ripe stigmas receive the pollen that the insects brought in, and pollination takes place. But for three more days the insects are trapped there by hairs and the waxed sides. After that, the flower’s own pollen ripens and dusts the insects. Only then do the hairs wilt, and the waxed slide bends over until it is level. The insects walk out and, with their new supply of pollen, fly to another Dutchman’s-pipe to pollinate it. The insects do not mind their three-day visit, since they feast on nectar stored there for them. Did all of this happen by chance? Or did it happen by intelligent design?
16. How do some Ophrys orchids and the bucket orchid get themselves pollinated?
16 Some types of Ophrys orchids have on their petals a picture of a female wasp, complete with eyes, antennae and wings. It even gives off the odor of a female in mating condition! The male comes to mate, but only pollinates the flower. Another orchid, the bucket orchid, has a fermented nectar that makes the bee wobbly on its feet; it slips into a bucket of liquid and the only way out is to wriggle under a rod that dusts the bee with pollen.
17. How do leaves and roots work together in nourishing plants?
17 Green leaves of plants feed the world, directly or indirectly. But they cannot function without the help of tiny roots. Millions of rootlets—each root tip fitted with a protective cap, each cap lubricated with oil—push their way through the soil. Root hairs behind the oily cap absorb water and minerals, which travel up minute channels in the sapwood to the leaves. In the leaves sugars and amino acids are made, and these nutrients are sent throughout the tree and into the roots.
18. (a) How does water get from roots to leaves, and what shows that this system is more than adequate? (b) What is transpiration, and how does it contribute to the water cycle?
18 Certain features of the circulatory system of trees and plants are so amazing that many scientists regard them as almost miraculous. First, how is the water pumped two or three hundred feet above the ground? Root pressure starts it on its way, but in the trunk another mechanism takes over. Water molecules hold together by cohesion. Because of this cohesion, as water evaporates from the leaves the tiny columns of water are pulled up like ropes—ropes reaching from the roots to the leaves, and traveling at up to 200 feet an hour. This system, it is said, could lift water in a tree about two miles high! As excess water evaporates from the leaves (called transpiration), billions of tons of water are recycled into the air, once again to fall as rain—a perfectly designed system!
19. What vital service is performed by the partnership of some roots and certain bacteria?
19 There is more. The leaves need nitrates or nitrites from the ground to make vital amino acids. Some amounts are put into the soil by lightning and by certain free-living bacteria. Nitrogen compounds in adequate quantities are also formed by legumes—plants such as peas, clover, beans and alfalfa. Certain bacteria enter their roots, the roots provide the bacteria with carbohydrates, and the bacteria change, or fix, nitrogen from the soil into usable nitrates and nitrites, producing some 200 pounds per acre each year.
20. (a) What does photosynthesis do, where does it happen, and who understands the process? (b) How does one biologist view it? (c) What may green plants be called, how do they excel, and what questions are appropriate?
20 There is still more. Green leaves take energy from the sun, carbon dioxide from the air and water from the plant’s roots to make sugar and give off oxygen. The process is called photosynthesis, and it happens in cell bodies called chloroplasts—so small that 400,000 can fit into the period at the end of this sentence. Scientists do not understand the process fully. “There are about seventy separate chemical reactions involved in photosynthesis,” one biologist said. “It is truly a miraculous event.”12 Green plants have been called nature’s “factories”—beautiful, quiet, nonpolluting, producing oxygen, recycling water and feeding the world. Did they just happen by chance? Is that truly believable?
21, 22. (a) What did two famous scientists say in testifying to the intelligence in the natural world? (b) How does the Bible reason on this matter?
21 Some of the world’s most famous scientists have found it hard to believe. They see intelligence in the natural world. Nobel-prize-winning physicist Robert A. Millikan, although a believer in evolution, did say at a meeting of the American Physical Society: “There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends . . . A purely materialistic philosophy is to me the height of unintelligence. Wise men in all the ages have always seen enough to at least make them reverent.” In his speech he quoted Albert Einstein’s notable words, wherein Einstein said that he did “try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifest in nature.”13
22 Evidence of design surrounds us, in endless variety and amazing intricacy, indicating a superior intelligence. This conclusion is also voiced in the Bible, where design is attributed to a Creator whose “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”—Romans 1:20.
23. What reasonable conclusion does the psalmist express?
23 With so much evidence of design in the life around us, it does seem “inexcusable” to say that undirected chance is behind it. Hence, for the psalmist to credit an intelligent Creator is certainly not unreasonable: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made. The earth is full of your productions. As for this sea so great and wide, there there are moving things without number, living creatures, small as well as great.”—Psalm 104:24, 25.
[Blurb on page 151]
“Seventy separate chemical reactions [are] involved in photosynthesis. It is truly a miraculous event”
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The Amazing Designs of Seeds
Seeds Ripe and Ready to Go!
A variety of ingenious designs send seeds on their way! Orchid seeds are so light that they float off like dust. Dandelion seeds come equipped with parachutes. Maple seeds have wings and flutter off like butterflies. Some water plants equip their seeds with air-filled floats and off they sail.
Some plants have pods that snap open and the seeds are catapulted out. The slippery seeds of witch hazel are first squeezed, then shot out from the fruit, like watermelon seeds that children squirt from thumb and forefinger. The squirting cucumber uses hydraulics. As it grows the skin thickens inwardly, the fluid center comes under increasing pressure, and by the time the seeds are ripe the pressure is so great that it blows the stem out like a cork from a bottle, and the seeds shoot out.
Seeds That Measure Rainfall
Some desert annuals have seeds that refuse to sprout until a half inch or more of rain has fallen. They also seem to know which direction the water comes from—if it rains down from above they will sprout, but if it is being soaked up from below, they will not. In the soil there are salts that prevent the seeds from sprouting. It takes rain from above to leach out these salts. Water that is soaked up from below cannot do this.
If these desert annuals started growing after only a light shower, they would die. It takes a heavy rain to put enough moisture into the soil to save the plants from later dry spells. So they wait for it. Chance—or design?
A Giant in a Tiny Package
One of the smallest seeds has packaged within it the biggest living thing on earth—the giant sequoia tree. It grows over 300 feet high. Four feet above the ground its diameter may be 36 feet. One tree may contain enough wood to build 50 six-room houses. The two-foot-thick bark is flavored with tannin that repels insects, and its spongy, fibrous texture makes it almost as fireproof as asbestos. Its roots cover three or four acres. It lives over 3,000 years.
Yet the seeds that a sequoia tree rains down by the millions are not much bigger than a pinhead surrounded by tiny wings. A puny man standing at a sequoia’s base can only gaze upward in silent awe at its massive grandeur. Does it make sense to believe that the shaping of this majestic giant and of the tiny seed that packages it was not by design?
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The mockingbird is famous as a mimic. One imitated 55 other birds in an hour. But it is the mockingbird’s original compositions of melodious outpourings that keep listeners spellbound. Surely they go far beyond the few simple notes needed to declare territorial claims. Is it for their pleasure—and ours?
The musician wrens of South America are no less amazing. Mated pairs sing duets, as do other tropical bird pairs. Their performances are unique, as one reference book notes: “The female and male sing either the same songs together, different songs, or different parts of the same song alternately; they may be so exactly timed that the total song sounds as though uttered by one bird.”a How beautiful are these soft musical dialogues as the mated wrens communicate with each other! A mere accidental occurrence?
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No designer needed?
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Designs in glass skeletons of microscopic plants
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Radiolarians: designs in glass skeletons of microscopic animals
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Many flowers have signposts to guide insects to hidden nectar
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Some flowers have waxed slides to trap insects so that pollination can be accomplished
Why does this orchid have the likeness of a female wasp?
[Picture on page 147]
The cohesion between water molecules, it is said, could lift water in a tree two miles high!