By Scott Youngren / 40-minute read
What is the origin of DNA?
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Such are the words of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And a little “detective work” quickly eliminates the only alternative to God which atheists can cite as the cause for the information codified in living cells using sequences of DNA molecules: Natural laws.
Realizing specifically why natural laws are completely incapable of producing life is crucial to understanding why the theistic explanation must be the truth, no matter how improbable it may appear to an atheist:
Imagine if, one morning, you opened an email from a friend which read,
ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC
It is entirely besides the point that what your friend wrote is meaningless. What is more important to our “detective work” is WHY such a simple, regular, and repetitive pattern of letters is meaningless. According to information science (not to mention everyday common sense), in order for a set of symbols to contain meaningful information, it must be complex, irregular, and non-repeating, such as the symbolic sequence below:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
In the terminology of information science, a simple and repetitive pattern such as ABC ABC does not have the information bearing capacity necessary to contain a meaningful email message, or a set of instructions. The genetic code (the language of life) conveys instructions for an organism to develop, using a code consisting of four letters known as nucleotide bases. But if these symbolic sequences were created by natural laws, they would be very similar to the meaninglessly simple and repetitive message in your friend’s email. Nancy Pearcey eloquently elaborates on this point in her book Total Truth:
“…In principle, laws of nature do not give rise to information. Why not? Because laws describe events that are regular, repeatable, and predictable. If you drop a pencil, it will fall. If you put paper into a flame, it will burn. If you mix salt in water, it will dissolve. That’s why the scientific method insists that experiments must be repeatable: Whenever you reproduce the same conditions, you should get the same results, or something is wrong with your experiment. The goal of science is to reduce those regular patterns to mathematical formulas. By contrast, the sequence of letters in a message is irregular and non repeating, which means it cannot be the result of any law-like process.”
(Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (p. 195). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
In the primary text on the application of information theory to the origin of life titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how the simplicity and regularity of natural laws renders it mathematically impossible for such laws to produce life from non-life:
“The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”
(Yockey, Hubert P. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 72, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)
“The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws.”
(Yockey, Hubert P.. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 77, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)
The genetic code (the language of life) uses sequences of DNA molecules to convey sets of instructions for an organism to develop. But what is the origin of this information? Interestingly enough, the “detective technique” used by Charles Darwin leads us to the unavoidable conclusion that an intelligent agent (read: God) is responsible for the information contained in the sets of immensely complex instructions codified in the genetic code. In The Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer explains how Darwin felt that scientists should look for causes already known to produce the effect in question:
Darwin himself adopted this methodological principle. His term for a presently acting cause was a vera causa, that is, a true, known, or actual cause. Darwin thought that when explaining past events, scientists should seek to identify established causes—causes known to produce the effect in question. Darwin appealed to this principle to argue that presently observed microevolutionary processes of change could be used to explain the origin of new forms of life in the past. Since the observed process of natural selection can produce a small amount of change in a short time, Darwin argued that it was capable of producing a large amount of change over a long period of time. In that sense, natural selection was “causally adequate.”
(Meyer, Stephen C.. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2009) pp. 160-161. HarperOne. Kindle Edition.)
So what is the vera causa (in Darwin’s terminology) ALREADY KNOWN to produce information? In answer to this question, Meyer cites information scientist Henry Quastler:
“The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”
(Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization, (Yale University Press, 1964).)
At SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program) the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the scope of science. A long sequence of prime numbers in a radio wave from space, for example, is regarded by SETI as being a clear indicator of intelligent agency. This is because such a sequence is not the simple, regular, and repeating sort of sequence which occurs naturally.
Whenever we trace information back to its source, INVARIABLY, we come back to a conscious mind, not an undirected material process, as Meyer notes. The irregular and non-repeating nature of genetic instructions means that they could not have been accomplished by a law-like process.
How was DNA Created?
But one doesn’t need the assurance of scientists to understand why the information contained in the genetic code was BY NECESSITY produced by an intelligent agent. The meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no physical or chemical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship.
Atheism is grounded in the worldview known as materialism, which suggests that nothing exists other than matter (or stuff). According to materialism, there can exist no immaterial conscious entities (such as God or human souls) because all that exists are various arrangements of matter. But if it were true that nothing exists except matter, living things would be completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Meaning, however, is not a chemical or physical property, only a mental property. Put another way, a material thing such as a rock or a house isn’t about anything, and doesn’t mean anything.
That the meaning present in the genetic code is by necessity arbitrarily determined by a mind is further illustrated by the fact that a set of symbols can have entirely different arbitrarily assigned meanings in different languages. Yockey (in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life) eloquently explains this crucial point:
The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.”
In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.”
(Yockey, Hubert. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Location 132). Kindle Edition. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press.)
At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that the genetic code is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why the genetic code is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:
Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off,
“Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”
Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”
This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper:
“Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.”
This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well.
(Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0. (2015) pp. 166-167. Dallas, TX. Benbella Books, Inc.)
The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey echoes Ji’s above comments about the linguistic nature of the sets of instructions communicated in the genetic code, in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life. As Yockey explains, many of the principles of human language are also applicable to the genetic code in the most literal (not metaphorical or figurative) sense:
“Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”
(Yockey, Hubert. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Location 128). Kindle Edition. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press.)
Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, Gitt discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to the sets of instructions codified in the genetic code:
Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:
-The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,
-The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,
-The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,
-The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,
-The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein.
(Gitt, Werner. Without Excuse. (2011) pp.73-74. Atlanta, GA. Creation Publishers, Inc.)
The substitutive function of the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Again, there is no chemical or physical relationship between the symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship. In his book In the Beginning Was Information, Gitt elaborates on why the source of information is by necessity an intelligent agent :
…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.”
Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the non-material nature of information by defining it as an “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated:
“When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.”
It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information.
(Gitt, Werner. In the Beginning Was Information. (2005) Kindle Location 427. Green Forest, AR. Master Books. Kindle Edition.)
Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, was forced by the weight of the evidence to admit the following, in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:
“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”
(Wald, George. “Life and Mind in the Universe”. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry. March 15, 1984.)
Scientific explanations for the origin of dna
So why aren’t scientists shouting from the rooftops that they have discovered solid evidence for God from biology?
It is critical to understand that scientific authorities often have no desire whatsoever to interpret scientific observations in an objective or unbiased fashion. The late great Harvard University paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen J. Gould commented that:
“Unconscious or dimly perceived finagling is probably endemic in science, since scientists are human beings rooted in cultural contexts, not automatons directed toward external truth.”
(Gould, Stephen. Science. 05 May 1978: Vol. 200, Issue 4341, pp. 503-509)
In what “cultural contexts” are atheist biologists rooted, causing them to perpetrate “unconscious or dimly perceived finagling?” For one, in the cultural context that the material world is the most basic, fundamental plane of existence (the worldview known as materialism or naturalism). As discussed above, materialism is the philosophical view that nothing exists except for various arrangements of matter...or stuff. On this view, immaterial entities such as God and human souls are non-existent. Harvard University geneticist Richard C. Lewontin admitted to the pro-materialist and anti-God bias which is rampant in academic circles, in 1997:
“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
(Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons (review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.)
In a similar light, Nancy Pearcey highlights the presence of this intense naturalistic, anti-God academic bias in her essay How Darwinism Dumbs Us Down:
“The media paints the evolution controversy in terms of science versus religion. But it is much more accurate to say it is worldview versus worldview, philosophy versus philosophy…”
“Interestingly, a few evolutionists do acknowledge the point. Michael Ruse made a famous admission at the 1993 symposium of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ‘Evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism,’ he said—that is, it is a philosophy, not just facts.
He went on: ‘Evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically.’ Ruse’s colleagues responded with shocked silence and afterward one of them, Arthur Shapiro, wrote a commentary titled, ‘Did Michael Ruse Give Away the Store?'”
“But, ironically, in the process, Shapiro himself conceded that ‘there is an irreducible core of ideological assumptions underlying science,’ He went on: ‘Darwinism is a philosophical preference, if by that we mean we choose to discuss the material universe in terms of material processes accessible by material operations.'”
But refusing to consider anything other than material causes does not imply that only material causes exist. This would be a complete non-sequitur (Latin for “does not follow). Suggesting that material causes provide a complete account of causation is what is known in philosophy as a category error. The following two statements commit the same category error because they confuse material causes with a complete explanation of causation:
“Life is not caused by God, but rather, by natural processes.”
“Automobiles are not caused by people, but rather, by manufacturing processes.”
Natural processes and manufacturing processes are both material causes, but in no way provide a complete explanation of causation. Those inclined to doubt that much of the scientific community is ideologically committed to materialism (the philosophically unjustifiable stance that material causes provide a complete account of causation) are encouraged to read The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry. This book details the discussions of a secretive meeting (the public and media were barred) in Altenburg, Austria, in 2008, at which sixteen elite scientists met to discuss laying the foundation for “post-Darwinian research.” Sam Smith, Editor of Progressive Review, accurately summarizes the reason for the secrecy of this meeting in his commentary which is featured on the back cover:
“The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement.”
In this book, biologist Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) discusses the persistence of neo-Darwinian theory, despite its deteriorating plausibility, with journalist Susan Mazur:
Margulis: “If enough favorable mutations occur, was the erroneous extrapolation, a change from one species to another would concurrently occur.”
Mazur: “So a certain dishonesty set in?”
Margulis: “No. It was not dishonesty. I think it was wish-fulfillment and social momentum. Assumptions, made but not verified, were taught as fact.”
Mazur: “But a whole industry grew up.”
Margulis: “Yes, but people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not, they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”
(Mazur, Susan. The Altenburg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry. (2010) pp.274-275. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books.)
Leading atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel is commendable for his honesty regarding the psychological motivations behind his atheism. Like many other academics, Nagel is motivated to suppress knowledge of God due to a “cosmic authority problem”:
“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that… My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.”
(Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, pp. 130–131, Oxford University Press, 1997. Dr Nagel (1937– ) is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University.)
DO NOT BE DECEIVED!! Science cannot tell you anything. Only people can. If science told you something, you should be just as concerned for your mental health as if the walls of your house told you something.
There is a crucial distinction between scientific observation and experimentation, and the interpretation of those observations and experiments. Data in isolation does not provide any explanation. Only human interpretation of data can provide explanations. And it is foolish and intellectually lazy for one to hand over this interpretation to authority figures. Truth can only be established with sound logical arguments, not with authority opinion.
Whether life was created by an intelligent agent, or unintelligent processes is a meta-scientific question (“Meta” is the Greek word for after or beyond) or ontological question, not a scientific question. Roy A. Varghese brilliantly elaborates on this crucial point in The Wonder of the World:
If we ask what are the laws that govern the universe, we are asking a scientific question. If we ask why does a structure of laws exist, we are asking an ontological question. The data of science can, of course, serve as the starting point for ontological study but that study will require ontological and not scientific tools.
Now certain scientists might respond that they’re only interested in cold hard facts, not so-called meta-scientific or ontological ones. But it’s easy to show that even the most hard-headed experimentalist can’t get away from the ontological realm even for an instant. I ask:
How do you determine that something is a “cold hard fact?” You make a mental estimate by weighing the evidence for and against, and you try to find out if the premises warrant the conclusion or if known facts support the hypothesis.
All of these mental acts are ontological judgements. You can’t arrive at a judgement by pouring the facts into a test-tube or peering at them through an electron microscope. So even to do “hard” science, to generate, evaluate and categorize data, you need to go beyond hard facts and concrete reality.
(Varghese, Abraham. The Wonder of the World: A Journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God. (2003). Pp.127-128. Fountain Hills, AZ. Tyr Publishing.)
Just think about it…how would one support a claim such as, “We can only accept as true that which science can tell us,” using nothing but scientific experimentation and observation? With a chemistry experiment involving a Bunsen burner and test tubes? With a biology experiment involving a microscope and a petri dish, perhaps? The very premise that “science alone can reach conclusions“ is a conclusion that science alone cannot reach, and is therefore self-refuting. Craig Keener echoes Varghese’s above comments about the crucial role of meta-scientific interpretation in logical reasoning:
Views about whether any intelligence exists outside nature are interpretations, not data, hence belong to a different sphere of reasoning than purely empirical scientific expertise confers. As one scholar puts it, facts in isolation “are unintelligible and non-explanatory,” inviting explanation. Yet science as science in the strictest sense proceeds inductively, accumulating finite bodies of information and constructing patterns.
The interpretation that structures the information, by contrast, is ultimately meta-scientific. Even moving to the meta-scientific level may presuppose an intelligence that exceeds pure, random naturalism. Einstein believed that acceptance of the world’s “rationality or intelligibility” also entailed belief in “a superior mind,” which he defined as God.
(Keener, Craig. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. (2011) Kindle location 4891. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Publishing Group.)
How does evolution explain DNA?
Atheists frequently cite Darwinian evolution as an alternative to God. But the emptiness of this argument is immediately clear: Even if Darwinian evolution were 100% correct, it would only succeed in explaining the diversification of life, not the origin of life. Put another way, Darwinian evolution addresses the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest. The Darwinian mechanism of random mutation of genes and natural selection of genes, quite obviously, only applies to that which has genes to mutate and reproductive offspring to naturally select…namely, things which are already alive. Basic material building blocks such as hydrogen and carbon have neither genes to mutate, nor reproductive offspring to naturally select.
Physicist Amit Goswami hits the nail on the head when it comes to the fundamental impossibility of life emerging from non-living matter as a result of unintelligent natural processes, in his book Creative Evolution. Survival is goal or purpose, but material objects such as chemical compounds or rocks do not have any goals or purposes, only intelligent agents do. No material object has ever tried to survive. But if materialism is true, and nothing exists except for purposeless matter, why do we have living things which struggle to survive? Goswami writes:
“The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.”
“See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival! A paradox is a sure-fire sign that the basic assumptions of the paradigm are incomplete or inconsistent; they need a reexamination.”
(Goswami, Amit. Creative Evolution: A Physicist's Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Quest Books. Kindle location 859. Kindle Edition.)
Ultimately, the question of what is responsible for the origin of life boils down to the question of what produced the codified information present in the genetic code (DNA sequences). As Bernard-Olaf Kuppers, a member of the German Academy of Natural Sciences, states in Information and the Origin of Life,
“The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.”
(Kuppers, B. (1990) Information and the Origin of Life. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.)
And therein lies the next problem for those attempting to cite unintelligent, material causes for the origin of life. Even the simplest living organism is an information processing machine which uses the complex coding and decoding of a language that is akin to (but much more complex than) a computer language. The world’s most outspoken atheist, the Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins concedes this point in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:
“…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”
(Dawkins, Richard. River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life. (1995) p.17. Basic Books.)
Similarly, in an article for The Times (UK), Dawkins writes:
“What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”
So what is the relevance of mentioning the informational nature of living things? Informational exchange is fundamentally mental in nature. Coded information is ALWAYS the product of a conscious, intelligent mind. No exceptions. Period. Information scientist Henry Quastler, as cited above, puts it succinctly:
“The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”
(Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization, (Yale University Press, 1964).)
A simple illustration helps explain why unintelligent material processes are completely incapable of producing information. A computer is a material thing which can be made by arranging more simple material ingredients (plastic, silicon, aluminum, etc.). Unintelligent natural processes can, to a very limited extent, cause arrangements of basic material ingredients...such as when wind blowing sand on the beach causes orderly ripples to emerge.
But a software program on a computer cannot result from such mere arrangements of matter, because a software program is much more than just an arrangement of basic material building blocks...it is a set of codified informational instructions. In a 2002 article for The Guardian titled How We Could Create Life, renowned physicist Paul Davies (winner of the Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics) makes this point:
“Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce [Microsoft] Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”
How Did DNA Arise?
Atheism relies on mindless chemical and physical processes to explain life. But the insurmountable problem for atheism is that such mindless processes can never account for the fact that the genetic code is a language which utilizes the arrangement of symbols…just like a human language. Much as the chemistry of the ink and paper that constitute a newspaper cannot explain the arrangement of the letters in the words of a newspaper, the chemistry of a DNA molecule cannot explain the arrangement of letters in a DNA molecule. Michael Polanyi, a former Chairman of Physical Chemistry at the University of Manchester (UK), who is famous for his important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, emphasizes this point:
“As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule. It is this physical indeterminacy of the sequence that produces the improbability of occurrence of any particular sequence and thereby enables it to have meaning–a meaning that has a mathematically determinate information content.”
(Polanyi, Michael. Life's Irreducible Structure. Science, New Series, Vol. 160, No. 3834 (Jun. 21, 1968), pp. 1308-1312 Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1724152)
Indeed, it would be just as absurd to assert that mindless chemical or physical processes could write a newspaper article as it would be to assert that such processes could produce a DNA sequence. Physicist Paul Davies makes clear the distinction between the medium (the material aspect of an organism) and the message (the informational aspect of an organism). As an illustration, a song is an immaterial informational entity which may be stored on various material storage media, such as an iPod, a compact disk, an old vinyl record, or a cassette tape. But the song itself could not have been produced by unintelligent material processes, since it is not a material thing. Similarly, in regards to life, the unintelligent action of natural laws could possibly explain the material aspect of an organism, but not the informational aspect of the organism (the set of immaterial instructions codified in the genetic code). In The Fifth Miracle, Davies makes this point:
“The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently, they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules [such as even the most simple organism]. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics. Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [life emerging from unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”
(Davies, Paul. (1999) The Fifth Miracle. pp.254-255. New York, NY. Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
Again, only an intelligent agent (a mind) can produce codified information. Sir Issac Newton was really onto something when he wrote the following in what is regarded to be the most important scientific work of all time, The Principia:
“Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”
(Newton, Isaac, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.)
Similar to Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein came to perceive the natural world as the manifestation of the thoughts of God. Einstein wrote:
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.”
(From E. Salaman, A Talk With Einstein, The Listener 54 (1955), pp. 370-371, quoted in Jammer, p. 123).
So how do scientists with intense ideological commitments to atheism explain the above facts? Herein lies much of the entertainment value of this article: Ultra-elite atheist biologists such as Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Francis Crick (famous as co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix) hypothesize that life was brought to Earth by aliens in their spaceship. (Click here to watch a video of Richard Dawkins endorsing this hypothesis in an interview, and click here to read an article about how Crick endorsed this hypothesis in his book Life Itself). So, much like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life even among the biologists most ideologically committed to denying that one mind in particular (God) created life. This is what Sigmund Freud was referring to when he spoke of “the return of the repressed.”
Scott Youngren is a Christian apologist who has been blogging on the topic of scientific, philosophical, and experiential reasons for belief in the existence of God, at his website www.GodEvidence.com, for over 10 years. Many of Scott’s posts have been featured at the prominent Christian apologetics website thepoachedegg.net, which has received over 6 million page views and has been visited from nearly every country in the world, including countries where Christianity is restricted or banned altogether.
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