The Information Mystery
Paul Davies, in his book The Fifth Miracle, has identified specified complexity as the key to resolving life’s origin. He writes:
‘Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity. To comprehend fully how life arose from non-life, we need to know not only how biological information was concentrated, but also how biologically useful information came to be specified’
Indeed it is the origin of the digitally coded genetic information within the DNA molecule which provides both the enduring mystery of modern biology and the most compelling argument for design in nature. That sort of information carries the potential to generate every living creature which has ever lived and to confer on each one a unique identity. Bill Gates of Microsoft has described the information in DNA as far more complex than any of his software programmes and, of course, he employs software engineers to design them.
Each cell in our bodies contains about 2 meters of DNA. It has been estimated that if we could join up all the DNA in one human body, which contains about 50-100 trillion cells - into a single chain, it would reach to the moon and back up to 200,000 times! Each molecule of DNA has about 3 billion units of information which is carried in just 4 repeating chemical units or ‘base pairs’. But the units do not repeat randomly or repetitively. Each series of three units codes specifically for particular amino acids which are assembled into proteins and ultimately contribute to the unique characteristics of each individual.
DNA is part of the most sophisticated system of information processing and transfer in the world. It easily outstrips the computerised systems of our age. Occasionally errors arise in DNA transcription, sometimes with devastating consequences for the individual involved. But the extent, precision and durability of the system are truly breath-taking.
Now this poses a fundamental question. Where does this very complex and highly specific information come from? All our experience tells us that functional information only arises from prior intelligence. The information in a letter comes from the mind of its writer. An article in a newspaper comes from the mind of the journalist who wrote it. The information in a PC comes from the mind of the software engineer who designed it. There is no known example anywhere of functional information arising randomly or by chance. We only get information from prior intelligence.
So the conclusion about the information content of DNA is obvious. It can only have arisen from a prior designing intelligence. Of course all scientific conclusions are tentative, but it is not helpful to say that we might someday find an explanation for the origin of information which does not involve intelligence. On this basis, no sensible scientific conclusion could ever be drawn from the data available to us.
The origin of the information in DNA alone is sufficient grounds for proposing the Theory of Intelligent Design.
Dr Alastair Noble
Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design UK
Thumbnail - courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net
DNA strands - licence to use held by C4ID