The Extreme Complexity of Photosynthesis and The Failed Attempts to Duplicate it


Article #350

by Bill Nugent


We’ve all seen them as we’ve driven down the road. We look to the right and we see acres of solar panels. They’re called solar farms. Solar energy has been around since the 1950s. Brilliant teams of scientists and engineers have tried to improve solar energy technology but even after all these years it’s still barely competitive with fossil fuels.

Scientists have been able to capture solar energy to make electricity. Photosynthesis is the ability of plants to transform solar energy to chemical energy. This is far more complex.

In this article I want to talk about a miracle. I want to talk about the miracle of microscopic solar energy panels. Every green leaf and even some single-celled organisms, such as cyanobacteria, have solar energy structures. For more than a century, scientists have desired to duplicate a plant’s ability to convert light energy into chemical energy. It would solve humanity’s food and energy needs. Man’s many failed attempts to build a practical artificial photosynthesis apparatus gives indisputable proof that only the creator could design and build the photosynthesis we see in plants.

You remember from biology class that light comes into a cell, it’s absorbed by the chlorophyll and the light energy breaks down a water molecule. The breakdown of the water molecule releases oxygen which is excreted from the cell and that becomes the oxygen that we breathe. The cells uses the hydrogen from the water molecule and the carbon from carbon dioxide to build carbohydrate which is a very familiar term to all of us because that’s the major component of the food we eat.

Make no mistake, photosynthesis is an immensely complex chemical step by step process that man in all his brilliance has not been able to fully duplicate despite decades of prodigious effort. God invented solar energy panels when he created green plants and cyanobacteria.

If you open any biology textbook from any secular elementary School you’ll read about the baseless claim that photosynthesis evolved very early on planet earth. What is implied by this is that photosynthesis molecules and structures could form by accident, by the random churning of atoms in the primordial ooze of the early earth.

They make it sound so simple. Photosynthesis occurs in the microscopic chloroplasts of green leaves. Single-celled cyanobacteria, which are far smaller than green leaves, have photosynthesis mesosomes in their cellular structure.

The microscopic solar energy farm in a cyanobacteria uses chlorophyll which is a very large, complex molecule. I invite you to do an internet search of biosynthesis of chlorophyll. You’ll be amazed by the complexity and number of the biological steps it takes for just the chlorophyll molecule to be formed in the cells of green plants and bacteria.

I read in one source that it takes 15 steps involving dozens of enzymes just to produce the chlorophyll molecule in a cyanobacterium. Evolutionists consider cyanobacteria to be “simple” single-celled organisms. The chlorophyll they utilize is called bacteriochlorophyll. (See: “Action Spectra of Chlorophyll a Biosynthesis in Cyanobacteria,” Yang et al. Tsingshua U. Beijing PRC, 2008.)

Chlorophyll is just one factor in photosynthesis. To say that such a complex chain of chemical steps could happen by chance is absurd. All of the enzymes utilized to produce chlorophyll are themselves complex molecules. For all of these complex molecules involved in the many steps to synthesize chlorophyll to form by chance, by random churning of atoms, is of such small probability that it would never happen, even in a trillion years.

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass . . . “ (Genesis 1:11).

It comes down to what famed microbiologist Dr Michael Behe calls irreducible complexity. Irreducible complexity means that the entire photosynthesis apparatus must form all at once or not at all to be useful to the organism. This is true of even the simplest cyanobacteria and also true of the complex chloroplast structures of green plants. If there is just a partial formation of photosynthesis it is totally useless to the cyanobacteria or the leaf.

I mentioned that it takes 15 steps to form chlorophyll in bacteria. What if by some random happenstance one or two of these steps forms by random churning of atoms? That partial formation of chlorophyll would be useless because it would not form chlorophyll and would not convert light energy into chemical energy.

Dr. Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity is just one of many concepts that totally refute Darwinian evolution. Dr. Behe, in his book Darwin’s Black Box defines and discusses irreducible complexity. All of the individual parts would have to form all at once and then they would have to be assembled to be something useful in the cell or leaf. There’s no conceivable step by step Darwinian process for photosynthesis to form randomly by processes unguided by intelligence. There had to be an intelligent designer of photosynthesis. There had to be an intelligent designer of all structures of living cells and organisms.

I’m sure you’ve heard or read that there are many attempts by scientists to create artificial photosynthesis. Scientists have attempted to build a practical machine with the ability to take light energy and convert it into chemical energy.

If scientists are able to develop artificial photosynthesis they could use that to produce carbohydrate food. Actually most of them are trying to develop photosynthesis in order to produce energy to use as fuel to run engines and to compete with, and ultimately replace, fossil fuels. Literally hundreds of thousands of laboratory hours have gone into trying to produce artificial photosynthesis.

An article titled Artificial Photosynthesis from Science Direct, published in 2019, discusses artificial photosynthesis. It’s available on Science Direct’s website and it discusses the extreme measures that scientists have gone through to develop it. Here’s a quote from this article “Artificial photosynthesis, which is described as ‘Chemistry’s Greatest Challenge,’ attempts to replicate the natural processes of photosynthesis, and, at least in the near future, the goal of artificial photosynthesis is to use sunlight energy to make high-energy chemicals to store energy. A challenge in artificial photosynthesis is to use cheap environmentally friendly compounds. Many components currently proposed for use in artificial photosynthetic systems are expensive, toxic, inefficient or non-durable.”

The article describes the extreme difficulty that teams of scientists and engineers have had to produce even a basic photosynthesis system that can produce fuel. Yet proponents of evolution expect us to believe that the microscopic photosynthesis structures in cyanobacteria or leaves can form by accident over long periods of time.

Microbiologist Harold Morowitz has done a probability analysis on the probability of random formation of a single living cell. The probability would be so vanishingly small that, given Morowitz’s numbers, a cell would not randomly form by any conceivable step by step process in a trillion years even if all the universe was composed of primordial ooze. It simply would not happen.(See booklet Creation Versus Evolution by Ralph O. Muncaster p. 21.)

The take away from all of this is to show that photosynthesis was designed and built by God and that it is evidence for the existence of God. Many scientists are coming around to the same conclusion and they are becoming proponents of the Intelligent Design Movement. These scientists hesitate to call themselves creationists because they would immediately be accused of being driven by religious motives and their scientific credentials would be insulted by their atheist evolutionist colleagues.

Many scientists who believe in intelligent design and have jettisoned the Darwinian evolutionist hypothesis have gone so far as to publicly sign a statement online at the website that states that they are skeptical of darwinian evolution as a theory that could account for the complexity of life.

Many scientists are taking a new look at Christianity.

God provided for forgiveness of sins by sending Jesus Christ who came in fulfillment of over 300 Old Testament prophecies. The biblical prophets foretold that Christ would suffer and die, taking upon Himself the penalty we deserved for our sins. This is called substitutionary atonement. One Old Testament prophet wrote of Christ:“He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 NASB). After He paid the penalty for our sins, Christ was raised from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who call upon Him. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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