Sir Isaac Newton once said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” How is this possible?
My soul is continually in my hand:(Psalms 119:109)
He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work.(Job 37:7)
The question of how the universe began and living creatures came to be is the subject of intense debate. Atheist cosmologists believe the universe popped into existence out of nothing—the result of a “quantum fluctuation” that occurred by chance. Atheist biologists say that life, in all of its variety and complexity, evolved from non-living matter by chance.
To them, chance is the god of atheism, and evolution is the handmaiden of chance.
According to the theory of evolution, over a billion years ago, life began in a primordial soup. Over time, “higher” (more complex) life forms “evolved” from “lower” (less complicated) forms by an unguided process of natural selection and random genetic changes, called mutations. Natural selection supposedly “chose” mutations better suited for survival, ultimately producing all living creatures.
After decades of nearly unchallenged supremacy, this view of reality is under serious attack. Discoveries in fields as diverse as biochemistry and astrophysics portray a finely tuned universe containing amazingly complex life forms. These discoveries have cast much doubt on the assertion that the universe exists by chance and that life randomly evolved from non-living matter.
Not surprisingly, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, atheists still defend evolution with a ferocity that casts them more as cheerleaders for their cause than impartial seekers of truth. They simply will not accept that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
In contrast to the mantra of atheism, the explanation offered by people of faith is that God created the universe and all life forms on Earth. As expressed in the Bible, man was created not by a lengthy process of evolution, but rather, “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).
From the order and complexity found in the universe and in living creatures, philosophers and theologians reach the conclusion that God exists. This is known as the design argument. As the writer of the book of Psalms expressed it, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psa. 19:1).
In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul expresses the argument as follows: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
Evidence of design can be found as far away as the most distant stars, and as close as the palm of your hand. Familiar and seemingly simple, the human hand is a marvel of functional utility and complexity that provides powerful evidence for the existence of God.
Anatomy of the Human Hand
The hand consists of 27 bones, including eight in the wrist, five in the palm, and 14 in the fingers and thumb. The narrow wrist bones form two rows of four bones that fit into a socket in the forearm bones. The hand moves by a sophisticated and coordinated relationship between bone, muscle, tendons, nerves and the brain.
Bones have no power to move themselves; they are moved by muscular exertion through tough cord-like fibers called tendons. One end of a tendon comes from the end of a muscle. The other end attaches to a bone.
Tendons attach the muscles of your forearm to the bones of your fingers. When the brain signals muscles in the arm, wrist and hand to move the hand, some muscles contract while others relax. Extensor muscles straighten the fingers. Flexors permit the fingers to bend and grip. The thumb has two flexors that help us to hold objects.
In comparison to primates (such as great apes or monkeys), humans have a longer opposable thumb. Partly because of this appendage, humans have a greater ability to manipulate and firmly grasp objects of various shapes.
“Compared to animals, human behavior with hand tools is fundamentally distinct. Exclusive elements of hand movement are attained only when the unique human hand’s muscular configuration and the brain’s disproportionately large hand sensory and motor function centers are integrated together” (Randy R. Guliuzza, Made in His Image: The Connecting Power of Hands).
The human primary motor cortex in the brain (which controls voluntary movements) is four times larger than a chimpanzee’s.
Despite all of the advances in engineering and computer technology, the development of a robotic hand that is as dexterous as a human hand still exceeds the grasp of modern science.
“‘A robotic hand which can perform tasks with the dexterity of a human hand is one of the holy grails of science,’ said Dr Honghai Liu, who lectures [about] artificial intelligence at the [Portsmouth] University Institute of Industrial Research. The Institute specialises in artificial intelligence including intelligent robotics, image processing and intelligent data analysis.” He adds, “Nothing which exists today even comes close” (ScienceDaily).
What is so amazing, so complex, about the human hand that makes it difficult for scientists and engineers to effectively replicate it in a robot or mechanical device of some kind?
Finger Movements: The astounding dexterity of human fingers is made possible primarily by the coordinated actions of seven muscles that control the index finger, five muscles unique to the thumb, and three other muscles that move the little finger.
Doctor Randy Guliuzza, national representative of the Institute for Creation Research, notes that neuromuscular control of the hand is so optimized that using your fingertips, you can “squeeze to crack an egg with about ten pounds of force and abruptly stop within the distance of the shell’s thickness—about 1/100 of an inch.” He adds, “Evidence shows that the central nervous system predicts the best outcome of every finger movement several movements ahead of its current state.”
An example provided by Dr. Guliuzza illustrates the point: “…skilled typists will visually process up to eight characters in advance and then—in anticipation—the forward plan for muscle movements will commit the finger muscles to an action about three characters in advance of actually striking the keys. Times between keystrokes are commonly as low as 60 milliseconds. Interestingly, speed is fastest if successive keystrokes are between fingers on opposite hands.”
“Thinking” Tendons: The bulky muscles that move the hand and fingers are located in the forearm, where they do not impede the dexterity of the fingers. The power of those muscles is transmitted to the hand through a complex network of tendons. For years, doctors and scientists believed that the central nervous system alone controlled muscle movements. Recently, however, researchers have learned otherwise.
A 2007 article authored by scientists with the Neuromuscular Biomechanics Laboratory at Cornell University stated, “Current thinking attributes information processing for neuromuscular control exclusively to the nervous system. Our cadaveric experiments and computer simulations show, however, that the tendon network of the fingers performs logic computation to preferentially change torque production capabilities [the power to rotate or twist].”
Carefully follow this next quote. What computer models and studies on cadavers have shown is “that the distribution of input tensions in the tendon network itself regulates how tensions propagate to the finger joints, acting like a switching function of a logic gate that nonlinearly enables different torque production capabilities” (ibid.).
The authors go on to state, “Moreover, this form of information processing at the macroscopic scale is a new instance of the emerging principle of nonneural ‘somatic logic’ found to perform logic computation such as in cellular networks.” They add that their “results highlight the biomechanical uniqueness and versatility of human fingers by showing that the nervous system and tendon network work synergistically to reach different regions of torque actuation” (ibid.).
What this technical language tells us is that the tendons connecting muscles to our fingers perform “logic computations” that actually regulate the degree of tension in fingers, and permit “a rich repertoire of finger joint [movement] not possible with simpler tendon paths” (Journal of Neurophysiology).
This research raises a question: Is this degree of complexity the result of blind chance and random mutation over millions of years, or does it make more sense to conclude that the hand was created “as is” by God?
And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.(1 Chronicles 28:9 NIV)
Grip Strength: Human grip strength is powerful evidence of design. The hand is structured such that it is capable of three basic grips: crushing, pinching and supporting.
According to the Institute for Creation Research, “Gripping involves three tendencies for the hand to twist on an axis, and six mechanical variables for each finger. Thanks to the sophistication of the hand/brain relationship and the size of brain capacity, grip combinations are nearly infinite and amazingly versatile.”
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that on average, adult males between the ages of 20 and 24 generate 121 pounds of “crushing” grip strength (similar to a handshake) in their right hands, and women in that same age group had 70.4 pounds of grip strength in their right hand (Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation).
But that does not even begin to describe the level of strength that human hands are capable of demonstrating. Over the centuries, the strongest of men have performed amazing feats of hand strength, including Samson, who slew a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judg. 15:16).
However, extraordinary grip strength is not necessary for mankind to fulfill the will of God. The hand strength of ordinary people is sufficient for them to engage in all those activities necessary to honor God and enjoy life as He intended.
Was this a chance occurrence?
The Marvel of the Human Hand
In his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Dr. Paul Brand, who was one of the foremost hand surgeons in the world, testifies to the wonder—the miracle—of the human body.
Dr. Brand explained that although many people think that fat serves no significant purpose, it does on the hand.
“Underneath the skin in the palm of the hand lie globules of fat with the look and consistency of tapioca pudding. Fat globules, so soft as to be almost fluid, cannot hold their own shape, and so they are surrounded by interwoven fibrils of collagen, like balloons caught in a supporting rope net…where stress occurs, such as on the palm of the hand, fat is tightly gathered and enveloped by fibrous tissue in a design resembling fine Belgian lace.”
When you grasp a hammer in the palm of your hand, each “cluster of fat cells changes its shape in response to the pressure. It yields but cannot be pushed aside because of the firm collagen fibers around it. The resulting tissue, constantly shifting and quivering, becomes compliant, fitting its shape and its stress points to the precise shape of the handle of the hammer. Engineers nearly shout when they analyze this amazing property, for they cannot design a material that so perfectly balances elasticity with viscosity.”
The skin of the hand is also well suited to the task of gripping and handling different kinds of objects.
Dr. Brand wrote, “If my skin tissue had been made harder, I might insensitively crush a goblet of fine crystal as I hold it in my hand; if softer, it would not allow a firm grip.”
The structure of human bones also reflects design.
“In 1867, an engineer demonstrated that the arrangement of bone cells forms the lightest structure, made of least material, to support the body’s weight. No one has successfully challenged his findings” (ibid.).
Although people take bone healing for granted, it is remarkable that “the skeleton is a growing organ. When I cut bone, it bleeds. Most amazing of all, when it breaks, it heals itself” (ibid.).
Another remarkable feature of a normal hand is its sensitivity. Dr. Brand states, “A normal hand can distinguish between a smooth plane of glass and one etched with lines only 1/2500 of an inch deep.” The fingertips have the ability to detect a difference of just three milligrams.
How extraordinary it is that the hand should be so well-suited for its purpose through all of these amazing features and abilities. Was this the product of chance or the creation of God?
Fingerprints Designed by God
What about fingerprints? If God designed the human hand, why do we have fingerprints? Do they perform a function, and if not, then why would God have created us with them?
Julien Schiebert and his colleagues at the Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris have demonstrated that our fingerprints help us to feel objects through vibrations.
As you move your fingers across a surface, you trigger vibrations that are picked up by nerves. Some of these nerves (called Pacinian corpuscles) are embedded relatively deep (about two millimeters under your skin). Yet, our sense of touch is so refined that we can feel texture differences as small as the width of a human hair, about 200 micrometers. Scientists have wondered how deeply embedded nerves could detect the subtle vibrations involved in the perception of fine differences in textures.
Using robotic fingertips designed to detect tactile information, French scientists discovered that the small ridges on the surface of our fingers (fingerprints) amplify and filter vibrations, which help transmit them to the deeply embedded nerves.
How much do fingerprints enhance our ability to detect tactile differences? Do they double it? Triple it? Scientists found that the vibrations from a patterned fingertip were 100 times stronger than vibrations from a smooth fingertip.
Thanks to fingerprints, our sense of touch is 100 times better than it would be if the surface of our fingers was smooth!
Researchers determined that fingerprints only do their vibration-filtering job when the finger is moving perpendicular (at right angles) to the fingerprint ridges. This means that if fingerprints all ran in one direction, filtering would only occur when fingers moved at right angles to the ridges. But because of the swirl and loop pattern of human fingerprints, every direction of movement activates filtering properties.
What about the fact that fingerprint patterns vary from person to person?
According to the leading researcher of the study, G. Debrégeas, “The nice thing is that pattern doesn’t matter. The distinctiveness of fingerprint patterns from one person to the next doesn’t seem to have an effect on filtering capabilities” (Science).
Problems with Evolution
The hand and its various functions provide much evidence in support of the belief that life was created by God. But is there evidence which is directly at odds with the theory that life evolved by chance?
In his book What Is Creation Science? biologist Gary Parker writes, “Using descent from a common ancestor to explain similarities is probably the most logical and appealing idea that evolutionists have. Isaac Asimov, well known science fiction writer, is so pleased with the idea that he says our ability to classify plants and animals on a groups-within-groups hierarchical basis virtually forces scientists to treat evolution as ‘a fact.’ In his enthusiasm, Asimov apparently forgot that we can classify kitchen utensils on a groups-within-groups basis, but that hardly forces anyone to believe that knives evolved into spoons, spoons into forks, or saucers into cups and plates.”
Evolutionist William Fix explains in The Bone Peddlers: Selling Evolution: “The older text-books on evolution make much of the idea of homology, pointing out the obvious resemblances between the skeletons of the limbs of different animals. Thus the ‘pentadactyl’ limb pattern is found in the arm of a man, the wing of a bird, and the flipper of a whale, and this is held to indicate their common origin. Now if these various structures were transmitted by the same gene-complex, varied from time to time by mutations and acted upon by environmental selection, the theory would make good sense. Unfortunately this is not the case. Homologous organs are now known to be produced by totally different gene complexes in the different species. The concept of homology in terms of similar genes handed on from a common ancestor has broken down.”
Thus, to believe in evolution, one would have to believe that separate gene complexes for each of these “similar” limbs all evolved independently by chance. The improbability of evolution is increased beyond comprehension, in light of the greater improbability that not one, but multiple separate gene complexes would have to have evolved independently.
Proteins and Evolution
The growth and functioning of muscles, including those that move the human hand, depend on proteins.
Did they evolve by chance?
A protein called titin (also known as connectin) is involved in the contraction of striated muscles, such as those in the human forearm which move fingers and generate grip strength. The diversity in the kind and function of proteins results from differences in the number and sequencing of amino acids. Like all proteins, titin is composed of a specific chain of amino acids. The average amino acid chain contains between 300 and 400 amino acids. Titin, the largest protein in the body, is made up of 34,350 amino acids.
Proteins must have the precise shape to accomplish their specific function or functions in the cell. A slight variation in the correct shape of the protein molecule type is detrimental for the cell.
Why should we think that these various amino acid chains did not just evolve?
The answer to that question is provided in part by Cambridge University educated Philosopher of Science, Dr. Stephen C. Meyer in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.
Dr. Meyer explains that to form a protein, amino acids must link together by forming a particular chemical bond known as a peptide bond. Otherwise, the amino acids will not fold into proteins. The probability of building a chain of 150 amino acids in which all linkages are peptide bonds is estimated to be 1 in 10 to the 45th power (for the sake of perspective, 10 to the 2nd power is 100, 10 to the 3rd is 1000).
In nature, there are both “left-handed” (L-forms) and “right-handed” amino acids. Each of these two types is produced with roughly equal frequency. A protein will not function unless all of its amino acids are left-handed. The odds that all of the amino acids in a peptide bond chain of 150 amino acids will be “left-handed” are also about 1 in 10 to the 45th power. Thus, the chances of forming a 150 amino acid chain in which all of the bonds are peptide bonds and all of the amino acids are L-forms is roughly 1 chance in 10 to the 90th power.
Proteins will not function unless they fold into stable structures. Among all possible amino acid sequences of 150 amino-acids in length, only 1 in 10 to the 74th power is capable of folding into a stable structure. This means that a random process will result in a functional protein about one time in every 10 to the 74th attempts.
Taking all of this together, the odds of a 150-amino-acid compound randomly assembling into a functional protein in a prebiotic soup is equal to the probability of having only peptide bonds (1 in 10 to the 45th), times the probability of only left-handed amino acids (1 in 10 to the 45th) times the probability of correct amino acid sequencing (1 in 10 to the 74th). The result is 1 in 10 to the 164th power, meaning that the odds of a 150-amino-acid compound randomly assembling into a functional protein in a prebiotic soup is 1 in 10 to the 164th power. How big is 10 to the 164th power?
Dr. Meyer says that the total number of all protons, neutrons and electrons in the entire observable universe is 1 in 10 to the 80th power! And if that is not unlikely enough to cast doubt on the evolution of protein, consider that the analysis above was for a protein chain containing 150 amino acids. By comparison, titin, comprised of 34,350 amino acids, is significantly more complex and thus far less likely to have formed by chance than the 150 amino-acid protein considered in the example.
To put this in perspective, the odds of being struck by lightning during your lifetime are 1 in 600,000 while your odds of being struck twice are 1 in 360 billion. Further, the likelihood of your house being hit by a meteor is 1 in 182 trillion—still a miniscule number compared to the chance that proteins evolved!
The human hand attests to the existence of the God who created heaven and Earth, and to His love for mankind. Each and every aspect of the hand serves a purpose, and each of its parts work in concert to produce what modern science cannot—an incredible combination of fluidity, strength, sensitivity and dexterity. The progress of science brings greater awareness of an extraordinary complexity that random processes did not—and could never—produce. To say otherwise is to deny the dictates of common sense and rob God of the glory that is His due.