Scientists Who Set Out to Create Simple Genome Astonished by Sheer Complexity of Life

DNA-genesDescribing their findings as “humbling,” researchers who set out to create a “minimal genome” have concluded that the basic elements of life are enormously complex and remain full of unsolved mysteries.

In an article titled “Design and synthesis of a minimal bacterial genome,” a team of more than 20 scientists share the results of years of research on cellular genomes. The scientists, in an attempt to better understand the basic requirement for life, took a bacterial genome and stripped it down of all genes they deemed unnecessary.

“We set out to define a minimal cellular genome experimentally by designing and building one, then testing it for viability,” the scientists explain in their paper, which was published last week in the journal “Science.” “Our goal is a cell so simple that we can determine the molecular and biological function of every gene.”

That goal—to engineer a minimal genome with as few genes as possible—proved to be a difficult task.

“The minimal cell concept appears simple at first glance but becomes more complex upon close inspection,” the researchers confessed. “In addition to essential and nonessential genes, there are many quasi-essential genes, which are not absolutely critical for viability but are nevertheless required for robust growth.”

After designing, constructing, chemically synthesizing, and repeatedly testing the viability of bacterial genomes, the scientists finally produced a “bare-bones” bacterium. The only problem: it’s not so simple after all. Not only is the stripped-down genome made up of 473 genes, but 149 of those genes are completely unknown.

“We’ve discovered that we don’t know a third of the basic knowledge of life,” said Craig Venter, a co-leader of the research team, according to a report in “The Atlantic.” “We expected that maybe 5 percent of the genes would be of unknown function. We weren’t ready for 30 percent. I would have lost a very big bet.”

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“We’re showing how complex life is, even in the simplest of organisms,” Venter said. “These findings are very humbling.”

The fact that researchers do not understand such a significant portion of this minimal genome illustrates how little scientists know about life’s basic building blocks.

“These are key biological functions affecting all of life that we don’t understand,” said Venter.

Ann Gauger, a senior research scientist at Biologic Institute, says these findings underscore another important point: due to its sheer complexity, a minimal genome could not have sprung into existence without an intelligent designer.

“Where did the cell come from in the first place?” Gauger asked in an article published last week. “It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Given the number of things the cell has to do to be a functioning organism, where does one begin?”

“Irreducible systems are evidence of intelligent design, because only a mind has the capacity to design and implement such an information-rich, interdependent network as a minimal cell,” she wrote.

“It won’t happen without a designer,” Gauger concluded.


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  • Skeptic NY

    “Where did the cell come from in the first place?” Since I’m ignorant, don’t understand science and am too lazy to look it up therefore “god (or Odin or…) did it”. Is that the moral of the story here?

    • Amos Moses

      The moral is men think they are wise, and become as fools. To think man cant do it,,, but it happened by accident……..therefore………What exactly?

      But we are lazy?

      • Balerion

        The wise admit that there is much that they do not know, while the stupid continue to insist that everything we need to know can be found in some dusty 3000 year old book.

        • Skeptic NY

          A 3,000 year-old dusty book filled with violence, scientific ignorance, intolerance and immorality.

          • Amos Moses

            Again, no evidence….. But so are history books and any book on nature…. so what is your point.

            You have none.

          • John N

            You are right, Amos, in that historical books like the bible are frequently filled with violence, scientific ignorance, intolerance and immorality.

            That’s why most of us we don’t use them as moral compass any more.

        • Amos Moses

          “while the stupid continue to insist that everything we need to know can be found in some dusty 3000 year old book.”

          When that book is continually proven right, the stupid position is to dismiss it.

          • Balerion

            HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Skeptic NY

        Yes not only is it lazy and willfully ignorant it’s dishonest. The honest answer (a scientist’s answer) is “I don’t know but I will investigate”. Not “I don’t understand and can’t imagine how therefore my god did it”. Yes that’s LAZY. And btw if you want to know the current theories on HOW google and a library or university are your friends. But you’re LAZY and “happy” with “god did it”.

        • Amos Moses

          ” Not “I don’t understand and can’t imagine how therefore my god did it”

          Science would not exist without those who believe the bible….. and no it is not lazy…. it is accurate. Proven again and again. Lets take the principles of asepsis……. ALL outlined in the bible. The multiverse/higher dimensions of being,,, that physics is only now beginning to fathom…. ALL in the bible.

          No, the intellectual, lazy and bankrupt position is to say the bible is of no value when you know nothing about it.

          Almost EVERY significant scientific idea came from christians and christianity…..that is how intellectually lazy your position is.

          • John N

            Oh, did it? Well, if good scientific ideas came from christians, that was not because they were good christians, that was because they were good scientists.

            After all, they did not let their god interfere with their scientific work.

          • Amos Moses

            “Well, if good scientific ideas came from christians, that was not because they were good christians, that was because they were good scientists.

            After all, they did not let their god interfere with their scientific work.”

            And your evidence….. right… you have none.

            No, they were good scientists BECAUSE they were good christians.. You got it bassackwards.

          • John N

            Plenty of evidence. Check their work. Show us where did they postulated any gods, use any gods, or find any gods.

            None found? Correct.

            Because they were good scientists.

          • Amos Moses

            “Show us where did they postulated any gods, use any gods, or find any gods.”

            There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible that in any profane history.
            Isaac Newton

            God is the same God, always and everywhere. He is omnipresent not virtually only, but also substantially, for virtue cannot subsist without substance.
            Isaac Newton

          • John N

            Nice quotes. You surely do know how to mine them.

            But I was referring to actual scientific work … like scientific theories, mathematical or physical laws, great insights … you know, that what scientist are remembered for.

          • Amos Moses

            You are a known liar…. you have not changed… when you finish what you said you could do previously then maybe we will talk….. or have you forgotten your previous failure.

            Quote mine this………………..

            “Present me one example of a prophecy for wich there us not a more reasonable explication than divine foreknowledge, and I’ll admit your god might be existing. And then I’ll present you one example of a prophecy that went completely wrong, and you will then admit your god is inexisting. ”

            And you could not do either one.
            Liar and a phony…………………………….. i gave you over 300…….. liar and a phony.
            We are done here…………….

          • John N

            No. You gave me bible references. Guess you’re too lazy to do your own research.

            And after all, I gave a better explanation for the lot of them. You didn’t like it, but that’s your problem.

            And now, you just quit again. Fine. I presume you do not have any examples of scientists referring to god in their work, just like I predicted.

    • hytre64

      The moral of the story here is… Scientists thought that they could find the irreducible minimum of life, that it would be simple enough that statistical random chance could explain it. Instead, what they found was incredible complexity that could not be reduced and points to a Creator (ie. an Intelligent Designer for life).

      • John N

        >’Scientists thought that they could find the irreducible minimum of life, that it would be simple enough that statistical random chance could explain it’

        Wrong. They tried to reduce the number of genes for an existing organism to the viable minimum (minimal cellular genome).

        >’ Instead, what they found was incredible complexity that could not be reduced and points to a Creator (ie. an Intelligent Designer for life).’

        Wrong again. No ‘irreduciable complexity’ has ever been found in living organisms, and neither is it found now. Did you actually read the article or are you just making stuff up?

      • gogo0

        even if what you said was true (it’s not), it points scientists to “wow that’s interesting! we’ve got more work to do”, not any imaginary being or pantheon

    • bowie1

      It’s about the complexity of even the most basic, minimal aspect of life that could not just arise spontaneously.

      • Skeptic NY

        It’s called the Argument from Incredulity and the Argument from Ignorance. Lazy and dishonest fallacies that are getting tiresome. I don’t understand or I don’t know how therefore god did it. Just like when early humans did not understand thunder and lightning and 1,000s of other things, therefore “god did it”. Your “God of the Gaps” arguments are an ever receding band of ignorance & dishonesty.

        • bowie1

          Which leaves you with the weak argument that life “just happened”. Isn’t that lazy man’s way out to turn the table around on you?

          • Skeptic NY

            It’s called abiogenesis. Again, Google is your friend. Tons and tons of peer reviewed literature and hundreds of peer reviewed experiments to look up and read and expand your very limited knowledge base. But again you’re too LAZY to do so. One more thing. You just inferred a fourth logical fallacy – also DISHONEST and LAZY. It’s called SPECIAL PLEADING. Look it up but you’re too lazy to do so.

          • bowie1

            Abiogenesis…but what caused to happen? Did it just “happen” or was there a logical intelligence behind it? Abiogenesis Vs Genesis is where we differ.

          • John N

            Why should it have been caused? By what? Who caused that cause? And who caused the cause of that cause? Turtles al the way down?

            And have you got any evidence for such a cause?

          • bowie1

            Logic and Reason. If you start with a state on non-existence how does existence even come into existence with even the most basic of material? You get into a whole irrational state of affairs to try and explain it.

          • John N

            Logic and Reason?

            Logic and Reasons tells us to stick to the evidence at hand. There is none for an immaterial intelligent being.

            Logic and Reason also tells us to check the premises. Nothing in any hypothesis of abiogenesis tells us live came from a state of non-existence. Biologic live just came from organic chemicals, which were formed by inorganic chemicals, which formed billions of years ago by he first stars. Life is not a ‘magical substance’ added by some deity. That would be irrational to try and explain it.

          • bowie1

            “Biologic live just came from organic chemicals, which were formed by inorganic chemicals, which formed billions of years ago by he first stars.”
            So, where did these first stars come from? How did they come into existence?

          • John N

            You could read a book, you know. Or Wikipedia. It is all there.

            And I can assure you, no intelligence required.

          • bowie1

            They can explain it until the cows come home, but atheism is a totally irrational worldview that depends on magic to make it happen and not even then. There MUST be a first cause who has no first cause himself – creation of time and space, etc. REQUIRES it. I learned all about it (creation, evolution, etc.) in my public school days, and other secular sources since then.

          • gogo0

            I wish I could vote you up for humor.
            the irony and cognitive dissonance in your comment is incredible

          • John N

            Atheism us the lack of belief in any deity. No magic involved.

            The theory of evolution is a scientific theory that explains the fact of evolution. No gods involved. No atheism involved either.

            Your belief there MUST be a first cause because creation REQUIRES it is a circular argument. Drop the ‘creation’ part, for which no evidence has ever been found, and you don’t need a first cause except for what caused the present universe, i.e. the Big Bang.

            If your public school education taught you creation besides evolution, I seriously doubt the quality of that education. Did they teach you astrology as well?

          • bowie1

            Creation, has several definitions not all of them supernatural as follows: the act of producing or causing to exist; the act of creating; engendering an original product of the mind, especially an imaginative artistic work. P.S. I don’t recall that creationism was part of the curriculum although the theories have changed since then e.g. big bang theory replacing other ones.

          • Amos Moses

            “Again, Google is your friend.”

            Google motto is “Don’t be evil” and yet Google is about as evil as you can get. Much sin and deception has been done under the guise of “Its just business”.

          • Amos Moses

            “It’s called abiogenesis.”

            Its called “an accident”…………..

          • Amos Moses

            “It’s called SPECIAL PLEADING”

            Which is what you are doing………….

          • gogo0

            “god created everything” is the exact same argument as “it just happened”, except with the additional quandary of “how did god happen?” that is explicitly ignored by saying “god didn’t need to happen”

          • bowie1

            “It just happened” seems to be the atheist argument.

          • gogo0

            “god did it” is the same as “it just happened”. how did god “happen”?
            people continue to investigate and research to find out how and why life exists. no one is saying they know how life happened except theists

    • cadcoke5

      People generally know how to distinguish the work of an intelligent designer, from those of random chance. When you are driving down the street, and happen to see a good looking house on the side of the road, do you conclude, “That is the work of a good architect”, or do you think, “I don’t know how a random series of volcanic eruptions, tornado’s, lighting strikes, managed to assemble these elements this way. But it must have happens by random actions like that.”

      And while you might see a shelter like a cave, formed by natural forces, that is quite a different matter from a house, with its glass windows, electrical wiring, furniture, etc.

      Don’t forget that the subject of the story is about putting a minimal gene that was “designed” by scientists, into a pre-existing living complex cell. Even their “design” effort was without them understanding 1/3 of the genes. They were just copying part of someone else’s design for the DNA. Perhaps, with further study, they will start to understand the DNA language there. But, even the existence of that DNA language, is evidence of an intelligent designer.

      We can examine how likely a particular set of chemicals, like a few amino acids, is to form, by putting the right chemicals together, and carefully controlling the environment. Then, we must stop the process at the right time to avoid the destruction of those chemicals. Then, when we extrapolate what the odds are for a “simple” self-reproducing cell to form, we are left with the problem of how such extreme odds can happen. Some atheists are pointing now to their faith that there in an infinite number of universes. They don’t see any evidence of these universes other than the fact that things look so impossible, and that is the only option besides God. It sounds like the “Infinite Improbability Drive” from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Push the button, and against all odds, your space ship suddenly arrives at your destination on the other side of the galaxy by random chance.

  • Quantz

    This isn’t much of a story really, it’s just the logical fallacy called Argument from Incredulity.

  • gizmo23

    Let’s say there is a “designer”, that doesn’t mean the God of the Bible did the design work

  • Ken M

    The founders of modern science such as Kepler and Newton discovered that the more they learned of how the universe operated, the more impressed they were with God. They would laugh at the pseudo-intellectuals of today who seriously think that something as complex and beautiful as the universe could happen by accident. People that blind could believe that a chimpanzee could by accident type out an encyclopedia on a computer.

  • Crusader777

    This is one reason our founding Fathers had the insight to say our rights came from our “Creator” as this is one of God’s favorite names. Evolution takes way more faith to believe than Christianity, as how can the super complex environment we live in that is full of “chicken and egg” problems for evolutionists have ever come from some premortial “Goo”. Take away the time factor they falsely use to prove the theory and you have NOTHING.
    I am proud to say God created me in His image and that I enjoy His creation every day!

  • Amos Moses

    Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves To Another Universe At Death.