Light in the Dark | Tomorrow’s World — March/April 2024

Light in the Dark

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Explaining bioluminescence is a mountain of a task for evolutionists. The remarkable phenomenon presents illuminating evidence of the Master Designer.

Just off the coast of Cape Horn, near the southernmost tip of South America, a 23-year-old scientist was languishing on the deck of an eighteenth-century sailing vessel. He had started out seeking high-seas adventure as the ship naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle—however, his adventure was periodically marred by intense seasickness. Later, from Sydney, Australia, he would write to a relative, “I hate every wave of the ocean, with a fervor, which you, who have only seen the green waters of the shore, can never understand.”

However, one night was different. In the blackness of the night of October 24, 1832, eventual evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin was captivated by a brilliant sight. Darwin recorded the incident in his journal:

The night was pitch dark, with a fresh breeze. — The sea from its extreme luminousness presented a wonderful & most beautiful appearance; every part of the water, which by day is seen as foam, glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, & in her wake was a milky train. — As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright; & from the reflected light, the sky just above the horizon was not so utterly dark as the rest of the Heavens (“Charles Darwin’s Ocean Upwelling,” Smithsonian Institution,, February 2015).

Luminous Beings

Darwin saw a phenomenon called bioluminescence—living organisms emitting visible light produced by an internal chemical reaction. In this case, the pale blue glow he saw was produced by plankton called dinoflagellates (“dinos”), named for their dinosaur-looking spines. These microscopic organisms produce a chemical reaction when a molecule called luciferin gains electrons from oxygen, assisted by an enzyme called luciferase. The result is a small packet of light called a photon.

The chemical reaction can be compared to a wood fire using oxygen to “oxidize” a log, producing light and heat. However, our small dinos produce light without heat. The “cool” light is triggered by the agitation of water against the dinos’ protruding spines. Millions of split-second photon flashes released by the millions of organisms appear together as a steady glow that lights the sea surface.

Each photon of light is produced by a chain of complex factors: spiny protrusions that mechanically harvest water movement, “gears” that trigger a cascade of chemical changes inside the cell, perception of these changes by the wall of an internal “sack” or organelle, and, finally, the heat-free “fire” that produces light. What part of this whole cascade would develop independently and not be weeded out by natural selection? Random chance here would start to look like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle putting itself together by an experimenter shaking the box.

Random Chance or Creation?

However, when young Darwin observed bioluminescence in so many different organisms, he was not likely thinking of microscopic spines and layer upon layer of chemical reactions. In fact, the many classes of organisms that produced bioluminescence caused Darwin considerable discomfort. He wrote that he had difficulty explaining how so many evolutionarily unrelated random organisms had this light-producing capacity.

Normally, evolutionists simplify the overwhelming improbability that random chance could design complex traits by lumping organisms together into “evolutionary trees.” However, the Smithsonian Institution elaborates on the compounding problem: “The number of species that bioluminesce and the variations in the chemical reactions that produce light are evidence that bioluminescence has evolved many times over—at least 40 separate times! This number continues to grow as research makes new discoveries. In 2018, scientists discovered the ray-finned fishes themselves evolved bioluminescence 27 separate times. That’s quite an increase from the handful of times that were known before” (“Bioluminescence,” Smithsonian, April 2018).

Bioluminescence commonly occurs on land in fireflies, glow worms, fungi, and bacteria. But most deep-sea life has the capacity to produce this light; it has been observed in at least 10,000 species, with undoubtedly many more to come (Aubin Fleiss and Karen Sarkisyan, “A brief review of bioluminescent systems,” Current Genetics, August 2019). So, what is the probability that bioluminescence, with its complex set of factors, could have woven itself together from scratch by random chance 40 or more separate times? If you found a comparatively less complex wristwatch on the seashore, wouldn’t it stretch the imagination to assume the glass, gears, springs, and metal casing all joined themselves together by the random slapping of sea waves? How about trying that explanation for more than 40 different wristwatches?

The Hand of God Is No Dilemma

Explaining bioluminescence is a mountain of a task for evolutionists. Evolutionist Anthony Campbell attempts to solve the problem with the single enzyme luciferase. In a 2012 issue of Luminescence, he makes this massive leap: “All that is needed is a solvent cage, within which are just a few critical amino acids” (“Darwin shines light on the evolution of bioluminescence,”, November 2012).

This is a huge oversimplification, considering that even the simplest enzyme is an exceedingly complex and intricate protein that functions like a key—essentially a bundle of encoded information—which, by definition, essentially requires design and is irreducibly complex. Furthermore, environmental triggers can cause this key to change, “folding” into a different key or turning off and on.

For further explanation of how cells manufacture enzymes and proteins, see chapter 4 of Evolution and Creation: What Both Sides Miss by Mr. Wallace Smith. You can read it online right here at Tomorrow’s World or order your free copy from the Regional Office nearest you.

Campbell attempts to base his leap of reason on research, but his simplification contains a notable flaw. Ironically, experimenters use intricately designed lab experiments in their attempts to show how precursors of complex structures could result from random chance. Even from within their own scientific circles, researcher Clemens Richert has expressed concern that reasoning people may start to ask “what replaced the flasks, pipettes and stir bars of a chemistry lab during prebiotic evolution, let alone the hands of the chemist who performed the manipulations.” Richert even warns that these experiments may damage the argument and trigger the “’Hand of God’ dilemma,” as he calls it (“Prebiotic chemistry and human intervention,” Nature Communications, December 12, 2018).

The Light of the World

Creation bears witness of the works of God’s hands. From countless billions of organisms on land and in the sea, to the chemistry of bioluminescence and its incredibly complex enzyme—all point to a Master Designer (Psalm 19; Isaiah 6:3; Romans 1).

Yet the history of mankind is full of counterfeit lights (Matthew 24:24). In every form imaginable, lies have been woven into the world’s traditions, myths, histories, and religions (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9). Whether the lies of hijacked Christianity (Matthew 7:15–16), Darwin’s theory of evolution (Psalm 10:11; 14:1; 53:1), or reborn humanist paganism (Romans 1:23–24, 28), we can take heart that all counterfeits will ultimately crumble before the true light that will pierce the darkness (Isaiah 60:1–3, 19–22). Creation bears witness of a magnificent and powerful Creator and Designer.

Who do you think your Creator is? Does that creator really match what Scripture says Jesus Christ was, became, and will be? If not, like Darwin standing in the dark, you may have your turn to be shaken and confused when the Creator of all light returns to planet Earth to establish His kingdom.


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