The phenomenally complicated programme of cellular ‘death’, otherwise known as apoptosis, is the chief source of occupation for tens of thousands of scientific researchers. The believer in biblical creation happily ascribes praise to the omniscient Creator for the incredible designed complexity that is apparent. Conversely, the person who subscribes to methodological naturalism faces the significant challenge of accounting for the origin and evolution of apoptosis. The oft-claimed conservation of various apoptotic components, from the very ‘earliest’ life-forms, does not suffice as an explanation. ‘Apoptosis-style’ demise is now recognised in unicellular eukaryotes and even bacteria and, in recent years, a handful of evolutionists have published hypotheses in the scientific literature in which they have attempted to explain the simultaneous evolution of apoptosis and endosymbiosis. The latter, itself is an unproven hypothesis for the origin of the first unicellular eukaryotic cells, including the origin of mitochondria. An examination of these evolutionary ideas, for a naturalistic origin of apoptosis, forms the main focus of this paper.
* Items with an asterix, the first time they are mentioned, are defined in a glossary at the end of the article.
Apoptosis* or ‘programmed cell death’ is a ubiquitous cellular phenomenon in living organisms. An earlier paper described this process in detail, contrasted it with necrotic cell death and provided a framework in which to understand cell ‘death’ from a young-earth creationist perspective.1,2 Readers are advised to familiarise themselves with that paper in order to better appreciate the arguments presented here. Some scientists have recently questioned the distinction between apoptosis and necrosis—since this relates to the author’s previous arguments, an appendix includes further discussion. Apoptotic phenomena have been described in severalunicellular eukaryotes*. The alleged evolutionary conservation of apoptosis, from the ‘earliest’ eukaryotic cells, would therefore appear to be problematic on theoretical grounds. Not only must evolutionists explainhow apoptosis evolved before the ‘invention’ of multicellularity, but they are faced with explaining howsingle cells—that have acquired a functional apoptotic response—pass on this more advantageous, advanced genetic complement to their progeny? In what follows, some evolutionist attempts to grapple with apoptotic origins are reviewed. A major component of these ideas is the hypothesis of endosymbiosis*….
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