Reasons to Believe

Bacteria Organized by Design, Part 1 (of 2)

I am not a very organized person. One look at my office would attest to that.

Occasionally, I reach the point where I can’t take the clutter any longer and decide to roll up my sleeves and put things in order.

Putting things in order requires a lot of energy. One has to decide what to keep and what to discard, determine where things belong, design a system so that things can be readily retrieved in the future, etc. Then comes the “fun” part: actually doing the work of turning the chaos into order. That’s usually when I lose motivation.

Bringing about order within living systems also takes energy and effort. Recent research by a team of microbiologists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom has uncovered one of the energy sources bacteria use to establish and maintain the molecular-scale organization found within their interior.1 This latest work provides understanding about the fundamental structure of microorganisms. It also highlights one of the reasons I am convinced that life stems from the hand of a Creator.

Order and Organization

As I describe in my book The Cell’s Design, the recognition that bacteria display a high level of internal organization at the molecular level represents one of microbiology’s most important advances in the last decade or so. This emerging view supplants the traditional understanding, which considered bacteria to be, in effect, “vessels” that housed an assortment of freely diffusing molecules randomly dispersed throughout the cell. (Go here to read a short article I wrote about bacterial organization.)

Finding the Energy

The Newcastle University researchers recently learned that the proton motive force across cell membranes serves as one of the key energy sources for establishing the localization—and hence, internal organization—of proteins (particularly those involved in cell division) for a wide range of bacteria. The proton motive force, in essence, represents an electrical potential (or voltage) across the cell membrane.

It appears that within these proteins exists structural regions (such as alpha-helicies) that possess charge separation as well. The researchers think that this allows these protein domains to find and bind to regions of the cell membranes possessing the opposite voltage.

Because a number of microbes make use of the proton motive force to organize proteins inside the cell, this strategy may well be universal.

Intelligently Designed Bacterial Organization

The exquisite organization of bacteria highlights the complexity of some of the simplest life-forms on Earth. It also indicates that these organisms are the work of a mind. Organization and order doesn’t come about by accident, but by expending energy to execute a well-thought out plan. (The use of the proton motive force to provide the energy to localize proteins within bacteria is an elegant approach.) Consequently, it only makes sense to conclude that life stems from the work of a Divine Mind.


Part 1 | Part 2

Subjects: Biochemical Design

Dr. Fazale Rana

In 1999, I left my position in R&D at a Fortune 500 company to join Reasons to Believe because I felt the most important thing I could do as a scientist is to communicate to skeptics and believers alike the powerful scientific evidence—evidence that is being uncovered day after day—for God’s existence and the reliability of Scripture. Read more about Dr. Fazale Rana

Endnotes:

1. Henrik Strahl and Leendert W. Hamoen, “Membrane Potential is Important for Bacterial Cell Division,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 107 (2010): Early Edition, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005485107.