The Design of ReproductionIt is difficult to look at a newborn baby and not be overwhelmed with the wonder of human reproduction. As science learns more and more about every step in the process of conception, pregnancy, and birth, the complexity of every part of the system becomes more apparent. Several new studies of the sperm have added to our understanding and wonder in this area of study.
Most of us took biology classes in which the process of reproduction was explained in terms of Darwinian evolutionary theory and the notion of survival of the fittest. The idea was that when sperm were ejaculated into the female's reproductive system, they began a desperate competitive swim with the female egg being the goal. The sperm that went the fastest and was the strongest would be the one that would penetrate the egg and fertilize it thus carrying its genetic material on to its offspring. New evidence indicates that this model is incorrect.
Dr. Harry Moore at the University of Sheffield in England has been studying the reproductive systems of the wood mouse. What he has discovered is that the sperm have small hooks on them that hitch onto other sperm cells (Popular Science, October 2002, page 37). This ends up with trains of sperm cells containing thousands of sperm cells. These trains can travel nearly twice as fast as the sperm could travel on their own. The sperm are cooperating and even behaving in a way that allows the lead sperm cells to do the fertilizing, which means the sperm to the back of the train are actually sacrificing themselves so that fertilization can occur.
The important thing to observe here is that the sperm are not little humans who say to each other "let's make a train so that we can get there faster and make sure reproduction occurs." These are single cells that are accomplishing their mission because of a design feature that allows a higher chance of survival to occur than would be possible if each sperm cell was on its own and having to compete with other sperm cells. A design feature is something that does not happen by chance. What is happening is something that an intelligence built into the system to enable the system to operate.
In Science News (March 2, 2003, page 19) is a remarkable report of the discovery that human sperm have an olfactory receptor that essentially enables it to smell chemicals secreted by the egg it seeks to fertilize. The receptors in the sperm that do this are the same molecules that nerve cells in the nose use. It appears that the egg secretes a chemical when it is ready to be fertilized, so if the sperm is in the vicinity of the egg it knows which way to swim and how fast. It has never been clear how sperm find the eggs they fertilize, but it now appears that there is a system designed to enable this to take place in a very directed way. There is huge interest in this because it could be a way to develop new kinds of contraceptives.
An older study has now gotten additional backing that shows that pregnancy reduces the probability of breast cancer. A protein called P53 is released in women due to the presence of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. This protein prevents cells from being vulnerable to radiation and chemical factors that would scramble DNA and make cancer more likely. This may explain in part why some researchers have wondered if there was a connection between abortion and breast cancer, but it again shows that there is a design that is built into the human reproductive system to bring benefit to the mother while she is producing new life.
In Psalm 139:14, David writes "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that my soul knoweth right well." David's statement that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" is true in a wide variety of ways. The more man learns about how the system works, the more wisdom and design he sees which denies that reproductive systems are accidental in nature. God's works are in fact marvelous and testify eloquently to His wisdom in all that He does.
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