Whether we live in a city or in the country, we all recognize that cities are hubs of activity that keep life going and hopefully thriving. A living cell is like a miniature city, and we see life functions in the cell that correlate with activities that maintain life in the city. We can learn some things by comparing cells and cities.
A city has a boundary called the city limits, and cells have a membrane marking their outer boundary. At the city center, we have a city hall and courthouse storing vital information and sending out directives to keep the city functioning. Cells have a nucleus that performs similar functions. The nucleus contains DNA that stores all the information for constructing and controlling the cell’s components and, ultimately, the entire body.
Both cells and cities must have a way to transport materials within their boundaries. In cities, streets, roads, and highways perform this function. Cells have a transportation system called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to move proteins around and perform other functions. Both cells and cities need an energy source to function. Cities get their energy needs from fossil fuels, solar cells, and electrical generators. Mitochondria, “the powerhouse of the cell,” convert food calories into chemical and heat energy to maintain the cell’s life.
Garbage trucks and sewers remove waste in the city. Cells have structures called lysosomes filled with digestive enzymes that eliminate toxic materials. Cities have factories that produce the products people need. Protein factories in the cell are called ribosomes, which manufacture new structures according to the genetic instructions in the DNA.
While the U.S. Postal Service and companies such as UPS and FedEx transport materials between cities, the Golgi apparatus does that for the cells. For example, Golgi bodies in the pancreas package insulin for transport to other cells, allowing them to convert sugar into energy. Cells and cities need places to store essential commodities, and vacuoles perform that function in the cells.
We live in a city that was not built by random chance. Our city has a history of design that allowed Niles, Michigan, to be founded and developed. Just as Niles was not merely a product of chance, so too the cell is not an accident. In this comparison, we have greatly oversimplified our explanation of the cell functions since cells are even more complex than cities. If cities require design and purpose by intelligent beings, living cells give strong evidence of purpose and design by a wise creator God.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Inspired by: “Cells function like miniature cities” by Sheryl Myers in the Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Indiana, February 25, 2023