Lisa had to force herself not to roll her eyes. "I could say the other colored moths were eaten, too. And the two-headed ones died off. But you're misunderstanding the example. The change in color of these moths was not from mutation. The species already had a black gene. A few black moths were born each generation, but they were mostly eaten, maintaining the general population as white. But once the trees blackened, then the few black moths had an advantage and filled the population as the white moths were consumed. That was the point of the example. Environments can influence a population. But it wasn't a mutational event. The black gene was already present."
Anna was smiling at her.
Lisa realized the woman had been testing her knowledge. She sat straighter, both angry and conversely more intrigued.
"Very good," Anna said. "Then let me bring up a more recent event. One that occurred in a controlled laboratory setting. A researcher produced a strain of E. coli bacteria that could not digest lactose. Then he spread a thriving population onto a growth plate where the only food source was lactose. What would science say should happen?"
Lisa shrugged. "Unable to digest the lactose, the bacteria would starve and die."
"And that's exactly what happened to ninety-eight percent of the bacteria. But two percent continued to thrive just fine. They had spontaneously mutated a gene to digest lactose. In one generation. I find that astonishing, a? That goes against all probability of randomness. Of all the genes in an E. coli's DNA and the rarity of mutation, why did two percent of the population all mutate the one gene necessary to survive? It defies randomness."p>
Lisa had to contend that it was strange. "Maybe there was laboratory contamination."
"The experiment has been repeated. With similar results."
Lisa remained unconvinced.
"I see the doubt in your eyes. So let's look elsewhere for another example of the impossibility of randomness in gene mutation."
"Back to the beginning of life. Back to the primordial soup. Where the engine of evolution first switched on."
Lisa recalled Anna making some mention before about the story of the Bell stretching back to the origin of life. Was this where Anna was leading now? Lisa pricked her ears a bit more, ready to hear where this might lead.
"Let's turn the clock back," Anna said. "Back before the first cell. Remember Darwin's tenet: what exists had to arise from a simpler, less complex form. So before the single cell, what was there? How far can we reduce life and still call it life? Is DNA alive? Is a chromosome? How about a protein or an enzyme? Where is the line between chemistry and life?"
"Okay, that is an intriguing question," Lisa conceded.
"Then I'll ask another. How did life make the leap from a chemical primordial soup to the first cell?"
Lisa knew that answer. "Earth's early atmosphere was full of hydrogen, methane, and water. Add a few jolts of energy, say from a lightning strike, and these gases can form simple organic compounds. These then cooked up in the proverbial primordial soup and eventually formed a molecule that could replicate."
"Which was proven in the lab," Anna agreed, nodding. "A bottle full of primordial gases produced a slurry of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins."
"And life started."
"Ah, you are so eager to jump ahead," Anna teased. "We've only formed amino acids. Building blocks. How do we go from a few amino acids to that first fully replicating protein?"
"Mix enough amino acids together and eventually they'll chain up into the right combination."
"By random chance?"
"That's where we come to the root of the problem, Dr. Cummings. I might concede with you that Darwin's evolution played a significant role after the first self-replicating protein formed. But do you know how many amino acids must link up in order to form this first replicating protein?"
"A minimum of thirty-two amino acids. That's the smallest protein that holds the capacity to replicate. The odds of this protein forming by random chance are astronomically thin. Ten to the power of forty-one."
Lisa shrugged at this number. Despite her feelings for the woman, a grudging respect began to grow.
"Let's put these odds in perspective," Anna said. "If you took all the protein found in all the rain forests of the world and dissolved it all down into an amino acid soup, it would still remain vastly improbable for a thirty-two-amino-acid chain to form. In fact, it would take five thousand times that amount to form one of these chains. Five thousand rain forests. So again, how do we go from a slurry of amino acids to that first replicator, the first bit of life?"
Lisa shook her head.
Anna crossed her arms, satisfied. "That's an evolutionary gap even Darwin has a hard time leaping."
"Still," Lisa countered, refusing to concede, "to fill this gap with the Hand of God is not science. Because we don't have an answer yet to fill this gap, it doesn't mean it has a supernatural cause."
"I'm not saying it's supernatural. And who says I don't have an answer to fill this gap?"
Lisa gaped at her. "What answer?"
"Something we discovered decades ago through our study of the Bell. Something that today's researchers are only beginning to explore in earnest."
"What's that?" Lisa found herself sitting straighter, forgoing any attempt to hide her interest in anything associated with the Bell.
"We call it quantum evolution."
Lisa recalled the history of the Bell and the Nazi research into the strange and fuzzy world of subatomic particles and quantum physics. "What does any of this have to do with evolution?"
"Not only does this new field of quantum evolution offer the strongest support for intelligent design," Anna said, "but it also answers the fundamental question of who the designer is."
"You're kidding. Who? God?"
"Nein."Anna stared her in the eye. "Us."
Before Anna could explain further, an old radio wired to the wall sputtered with static and a familiar voice rasped through. It was Gunther.
"We have a trace on the saboteur. We're ready to move."
Gray steered the BMW around an old farm truck, its bed piled high with hay. He slipped into fifth gear and raced through the last hairpin turn. Cresting the hill, he had a panoramic view of the valley ahead.
"Alme Valley," Monk said beside him. He clutched tight to a handhold above the door.