It’s Nobel Prize season, a time to salute good scholarship and, even more, to marvel at the structures built into nature that the winners have discovered. This year’s Nobel prize for medicine goes to three scientists who discovered how chromosomes stay together and keep their integrity even after the cells split. It seems the strands of genetic material have little caps on their ends:
Elizabeth H. Blackburn of the University of California at San Francisco, Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Jack W. Szostak of Harvard Medical School in Boston were awarded the $1.4 million 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. It was the first time two women shared the prize. . . .
The scientists won for a series of experiments they conducted in the 1970s and 1980s that showed that the long, intricate molecules known as chromosomes, which carry genes inside every cell, have protective structures on their ends — often likened to the plastic tips on shoelaces — called telomeres, which are replenished with an enzyme dubbed telomerase.The work “solved a major problem in biology” and has led to groundbreaking insights into the aging process and potentially to new treatments for cancer and many other health problems, the Nobel Assembly said.
“This is a fundamental biological mechanism,” said Rune Toftgard of the Karolinska Institute.
In time and after multitudes of cell divisions, those caps degrade, leading to the degeneration of the cells, as we aging folks are experiencing. Knowing about these caps mean that some of those effects might conceivably be reversed, and knocking off the caps might help us defeat the uncontrolled cell division that is cancer.
But those caps are absolutely necessary for life and reproduction. I suppose an atheist materialist would have to say, “Isn’t it lucky that chromosomes randomly generated those little caps?”
But surely this is an example of irreducible complexity. Those little caps couldn’t have evolved, because to have evolution, you must have reproduction. These are necessary for reproduction, which means they have must have first appeared fully-formed.