Building Blocks of Living Things

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, October 30, 2014 3 comments

by Steve Risner

It was understandable to believe the cell, which seemed to be nothing more than a bag of goo with a dot in the center, could arise through the proper combination of chemicals when Darwin published his famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November of 1859. The microscope had certainly revealed to us the secret world inside our tissues and even in our drinking water by that time, but real advancements in the magnification abilities of the microscope didn’t begin to pick up steam until some 25 to 30 years later. Cells are often referred to as the building blocks of life. So Darwin surmised that the cell, a simple bag of goo that was found in both plants and animals, could have a simple beginning in a vat of pond scum that was jolted by a bolt of lightning or some other energy source. But is the cell really a simple bag of goo? Or is the cell a mysterious factory that we still have a fairly limited understanding of when compared to all its complexities?

Ranging in size from 1-100 micrometers (that’s millionths of a meter), cells are the fundamental units of life. It makes no difference if we’re talking about a single celled paramecium or a multicellular sponge or an organism made up of trillions of cells like the human body, all living organisms are made of and rely on cells to function normally. Cells do everything from providing structure and stability to making energy and a means of reproduction for a living thing. There are two primary types of cells—prokaryotes and eukaryotes. These are distracting terms, so let’s not get hung up on them. Essentially, we’re talking about whether a cell appears to have a well-defined nucleus or not. All plants, animals, fungi, and protists (single or multi celled organisms) are eukaryotes, which means they all have a well-defined nucleus in their cells. Bacteria and archaea (single celled microorganisms) do not generally have this characteristic. A cell, whether it has a nucleus or not, contains genetic material in the form of nucleic acids—that is DNA and RNA. An exception to this would be our red blood cells, which have had their nucleus removed so they are smaller and more pliable. But every cell of your body (except red blood cells) contains all the information required to build another you!

The life spans and functions of cells within the human body range tremendously. Cells in the gut can live for only a few days while neurons (cells that make up nerves) are present before you’re born and will persist until your life on earth is extinguished. Stem cells that make blood cells among other things live fairly long lives but skin cells do not. In terms of function, some cells create structure for us, giving us hair and skin or bone. Some cells aid in structure by creating bonding agents (like glue). Cells make all the chemicals your body uses to make energy, heal, and function normally.

They convert the food we eat and air you breathe into useful chemicals that help us stay warm, walk across a room, digest more food, regulate our internal systems, fight infection, etc. The list literally is beyond imagination and we know far less than we don’t know. Eyesight is a function of cells. Taste is a function of cells. Having a pimple is the function of cells. Feeling hungry is the function of cells. Knowing where your right index finger is right now is the function of cells. Being aware that you stubbed your toe is the function of cells. Earwax is the function of cells. You get the idea, right?

I’ve often said that a cell is more complex than a Ford plant and is smaller than the naked eye can see. How’s that for complicated! Some Ford factories cover 1.5 square miles and most have millions and millions of square feet of floor space. The average cell of the body is 50 millionths of a meter in diameter and a cell has so many different things happening inside it all the time it boggles the mind. There are easily over 30 different named structures in a generic cell. These structures, called organelles, are miniature varieties of the organs that you have inside in your body. They make energy, convert one chemical into another either for use or for elimination, create structure, or something else. Most cells are highly specialized, which means they serve a very specific function. However, because your body is an unbelievable marvel, sometimes cells or even entire organs can adapt to have a new function.

In my opening paragraph, I indicated that Darwin, because he had no way of knowing otherwise at the time, believed a cell was a bag of goo whose genesis was spontaneous. He was unaware of the unfathomable complexities found inside these microscopic little factories. They literally hold us together and make everything we need for life from raw materials we breathe or eat. God designed an unimaginable machine and gave it life. As Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.”

After writing this, I realize I’ve only finished an introduction to the cell and haven’t addressed anything specific. It seems that my next blog topic has already been chosen. Stay tuned next week to read some of the amazing things cells do—and for a video that will blow your mind. The mystery of the cell, its origins, its functions and how it relates to other cells will be the topic of our next discussion.


Unknown said...

Amen! Here's a great YouTube presentation showing some of the cell's amazing complexity
Drew Berry: Animations of unseeable biology

Unknown said...

Amen! Here's a great YouTube presentation showing some of the cell's amazing complexity
Drew Berry: Animations of unseeable biology

ohiosnuccadoc said...

Thanks for reading, Paul, and thank you for the video! That type of thing blows me away and completely makes the evolutionist seem naive in believing these amazing machines came about by lucky mistakes.