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DNA Information

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DNA Information - strong evidences for a designer

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DNA Information

  1. 1. Hansruedi Tremp Information in DNA Evidential Apologetics 30.03.2015
  2. 2. Information in DNA1 – a Teleological Argument The evolution paradigm and naturalism are predominating the universities in the U.S. and Europe2 . The attempt to explain a theistic model based on the creation as it is displayed in Genesis 1 and 2 is suspect to be not scientific. In Europe at least it is forbidden to teach the creation model in schools3 . As Christians we have to assume our responsibility and give evidence of the higher probability of cre- ation by our mighty God who revealed Himself in the Bible. Hereafter I present as a theologian and computer scientist evidences of higher probability of design over naturalistic evolution based on the newest findings in genetics. Introduction Our knowledge about DNA and their functioning is increasing rapidly. Many scientists come to the conclusion that the neo-Darwinian theory cannot satisfactorily explain the origin of the enormous amounts of biological information in our organism.4 Based on this I’d like to dig deeper into the fol- lowing thesis statement. 1 Deoxyribonucleic acid 2 Jon D. Miller, Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto, “Public Acceptance of Evolution,” http://tnjn.org/con- tent/relatedmedia/2009/03/03/Science_evolution_2006.pdf (accessed March 3, 2015). 3 Wikipedia contributors, “Creation and evolution in public education,” http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?ti- tle=Creation_and_evolution_in_public_education&oldid=649035532 (accessed March 3, 2015). 4 John Sanford, Biological Information - New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary; Kindle Edition (Waterloo, NY, USA: FMS Publications, 2014), pos. 32. Page 1
  3. 3. Thesis Statement Information is a fundamental nonmaterial entity alongside matter and energy5 . Information is an or- dered mental construct which is used for certain purposes6 . The creation of information needs an in- telligent source7 . DNA contains information in building up and maintaining our body8 . From this fol- lows that the originator must be an intelligent mind9 . The Nature of Information What is information? It is not easy to answer this question. There are many different definitions and aspects to be considered. “We live in a technological culture familiar with the utility of information. We buy information; we sell it: … Our actions show that we not only value information, but that we regard it as a real entity, on par with matter and energy.”10 In the last decade our world has evolved into an information society. Information has become the most valuable resource11 . Matter, Energy, Information Physics distinguishes in the material area between mass and energy which are linked by means of Einstein’s equivalence formula: E = mc2 .12 Gitt13 demonstrates in his book that information is not a property of matter. He states: “The fundamental quantity information is a non-material (mental) en- tity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as 5 Werner Gitt, In the beginning was information: A scientist explains the incredible design in nature (Green For- est, Ark.: Master Books, Kindle Version, 2005), pos. 622. 6 Luciano Floridi, Information: A very short introduction, Very short introductions (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 56ff… 7 Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the cell: DNA and the evidence for intelligent design, 1st ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 339. 8 David P. Clark and Nanette J. Pazdernik, Molecular biology, 2nd ed. (Waltham, MA: Academic Press, Kindle Version, 2013), pos. 9134. 9 Floridi, 56. 10 Meyer, 15. 11 Michael H. Zack, “Developing a Knowledge Strategy,” in The Strategic Management of Intellectual Capital and Organizational Knowledge, ed. Chun W. Choo and Nick Bontis (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 255. 12 Ernan McMullin, “From matter to materialism … and (almost) back,” in Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics, ed. Paul Davies and Niels H. Gregersen (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 23. 13 Gitt. Page 2
  4. 4. sources of information.”14 The information is used to control the material processes. Information needs matter as a data-carrier and energy in storing and retrieving the information. But information exists independently of the underlying material data-carrier. The information is created by some- body; it can be collected, stored, copied into various instances, processed and distributed and finally destroyed.15 Organization of information Information needs a material carrier to be stored or transmitted. Well-known data carriers are DVD’s, hard disks in our notebooks, memory sticks etc. These form the hardware. The information builds the software and is encoded. Our computers use the binary system, e.g. on the lowest level we encounter only 0 or 116 . These basic codes are for instance in the hard disk represented by magnet- ized or not magnetized positions. If anybody decodes a hard disk he would discover millions of 0 or 1. But without the code system which was used when the information was encoded, nobody will be able to know their significance. With a common intellectual effort we are using such code systems today as ASCII17 , EBCDIC18 or UTF- 819 . These code systems allow us to recognize the characters20 . A group of certain bits represents a specific sign (character) as A, B, C, etc. For example, a group of 8 bits “00110101” means “5”. The code system is not attached to the data; it is a mental dimension which gives meaning to the amount of bits. Does an unordered, accidentally mixed soup of characters result in a well written story of Shake- speare? No, we have to use all the art of a language (such as syntax, grammars, style, etc.) to give 14 Gitt, pos. 668. 15 Floridi, 5. 16 Floridi, 70ff. 17 American Standard Code for Information Interchange, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASCII 18 Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EBCDIC 19 Universal Character Set, see unicode.org 20 I am actually not entering into the complex issue of encrypted data as this will add an additional level. Page 3
  5. 5. meaning to a well formed phrase. The same is true in the encoding of information21 in our comput- ers. There are clear definitions about the syntaxes (how to structure) and semantics (meaning of words, commands) to build up: - Data stores (e.g. databases, document collections, …) and - Programs in specific program languages In the example of a computer language, I point to the fact that creating a computer language is a heavily intellectual task and using it (e.g. programming) also! The goal of every information is to produce some result. It may help us make decisions, control the robots that assemble cars, send e-mails etc. This upmost level in the information hierarchy is named pragmatics22 . In every information we can therefore recognize the four levels: 1. Encoding the basic level on some data-carrier depending on the number of different states (for example 2 for the binary system) building signs (characters). 2. A given syntactic provides the rules for the formal structure and in arranging the signs. 3. The layer of semantics determines the meaning of a given sequence of signs depending on the context. 4. Using the information will lead to some effect; this layer is named pragmatics. Origin of information “There is no known natural law through which matter can give rise to information, neither is any physical process or material phenomenon known that can do this.”23 The creation of information needs a careful design on all the four different levels mentioned above. Only an intellectual effort of an intelligently thinking mind can afford this. Meyer concludes: “Indeed, whenever we find specified information and we know the causal story of how that information arose, we always find that it arose 21 Floridi, 56ff. 22 Gitt, pos 1031ff. 23 Gitt, pos. 1118. Page 4
  6. 6. from an intelligent source. It follows that the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the specified, digitally encoded information in DNA is that it too had an intelligent source.”24 Organizational Structure of the Information in the DNA One of the crucial questions is now if we encounter real information in biological organisms and es- pecially in DNA. Structure of DNA The DNA resides in every cell of our body. Every full grown person consists of about 50 to 75 trillion cells. The outer structure of each cell is different, depending on its location. A cell in an eye is differ- ent from a cell in one of our nails. Every cell contains a nucleus, where the human genome (the whole genetic information) resides. By the way: this is different in every person, which is why we can detect a criminal through DNA-analysis. In the nucleus there are 23 pairs of chromosomes, e.g. 46. Only the germ cells (the cells for reproduction) have 23 chromosomes. The chromosome contains double stranded molecules of nucleic acids. These contain millions of base pairs with which the infor- mation is encoded. Therefore the DNA is the hardware (like the hard disk) that carries the infor- mation (the data carrier, the storage medium on molecular bases)25 . In our computer systems, the encoding is 0 or 1 and is therefore called a binary system. The basic en- coding system in DNA is based on 4 different codes on molecular bases. The base carrier is a sugar phosphate backbone. On this we encounter the codes in the form of nucleobases26 : - Adenine (A) - Thymine (T) - Cytosine (C) and - Guanine (G) 24 Meyer, 347. 25 Clark and Pazdernik, pos. 1990ff. 26 Clark and Pazdernik, pos. 2004. Page 5
  7. 7. Each of these has a different molecular structure. In this double stranded DNA there are always pairs, namely A with T or G with C. The Result of the Human Genome Project In the Human Genome Project27 an international team worked from 1990 till 2003 with a budget of about 3 billion (3000 millions) USD. This project enabled scientists to discover the whole encoding of DNA, about 3 billion base pairs. If you printed this information, you would have a pile of books from here to the moon. The big question remains: what is the meaning of all this encoding information? The complexity is overwhelming and scientists are just beginning to decipher some of the functional- ity. The next steps show how this information is used to build proteins. About 2 % of all DNA are used for this kind of task. Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics About the syntax we know that there are always 3 base pairs coupled together. Such a triplet is named codon. On the semantic level there is a stringent relationship of a triplet to an amino acid which are used in building proteins. For example: The triplet GUG will bind the amino acid valine, as can be deduced from the genetic code table28 . A series of hundreds or sometimes thousands of tri- plets (codons) together make up genes which contain for example the information of the structure and color of your hair. Every information is used for some purpose. This level of information is named pragmatics. What is the pragmatics of at least 2% of the DNA-information? To build proteins. This process is absolutely fascinating and we can see very clearly that the DNA contains the information and building plan (this within the nucleus) which is used outside the nucleus. This happens in three basic steps29 : 1. Transcription: The information of a gene is copied on an RNA-strand. 27 See www.genome.gov 28 Clark and Pazdernik, pos. 2331. 29 Clark and Pazdernik, pos. 9404ff. Page 6
  8. 8. 2. Transport: The copied information on the RNA-strand is moved outside the nucleus. 3. Translation: the information on the RNA is used by the ribosome to build a protein. About 50’000 different kinds of proteins are known which are used to build our body or to carry en- ergy through our body. Myth of Junk DNA Most of our DNA does not encode proteins. Based on this, new-Darwinism concludes that the part of the DNA whose functionality is unknown is just junk and therefore a good proof for evolution. Jona- than Wells30 elaborates this theme in his book and demonstrates various new discoveries in which part of the non-protein-encoding DNA has important functions such as gene regulation.31 Actually there is good cause to believe that every part of the genetic code has its own functionality.32 Insights of Bioinformatics Nowadays the cell is viewed as a supercomputer – an information-processing and –replicating system of extraordinary fidelity33 . The field of bioinformatics34 tries to simulate biological processes con- trolled by DNA-information. But the whole system in a cell is much more complex than was thought some years ago: “”Nine of the papers included within these proceedings primarily investigated the nature of biological information. These papers, taken collectively, show us that within any living cell there is a vast amount of biological information, and more importantly – a huge array of information systems. The labyrinth of information networks within any cell greatly surpasses what scientists could have imagined a decade ago. We are experiencing an explosion in our awareness of what bio- logical information actually entails. It entails many types of information, encoded by many languages, 30 Jonathan Wells, The myth of junk DNA (Seattle, Wash: Discovery Institute Press, 2011). 31 Wells, pos. 1783. 32 Wells, pos. 1982. 33 Paul Davies and Niels H. Gregersen, eds., Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 5. 34 Pavel Pevzner and Ron Shamir, eds., Bioinformatics for Biologists (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Page 7
  9. 9. manifested at many different biological levels. … The information networks that enable life are ex- traordinarily complex, diverse, dynamic, and multi-dimensional.”35 Today no serious scientist denies the reality of real information in DNA. Conclusion Given the fact of the nature of information in the genetic code, an interesting agreement was made between 29 scientists at the symposium held at Cornell University in the spring of 2011: “1. Information is the key to understanding life. Within the simplest cell there exists an immense flow of information through a mind-boggling system of information networks. There is constant and multi- directional communication between proteins, RNAs, and DNAs, and these biological information net- works are in many ways comparable to the internet. 2. These biological information systems appear to greatly surpass human information technologies. Such information systems cannot possibly operate until all the countless components of the system are in place – including hardware, software, multiple languages, storage/transmission of communica- ble prescriptive information units, error testing/correction systems, designated senders/receivers, etc. Such systems must be comprehensive and coherently integrated before they can effectively op- erate. 3. The enormous amounts of information found within any cell, and the irreducibly complex nature of information systems, can no longer rationally be attributed to just the mutation/selection process. New perspectives are needed that might help us better understand the nature, origin, and mainte- nance of biological information.”36 Two concurrent theories are predominant in the discussion about the origin of our universe and es- pecially of life: 35 Sanford, pos. 69. 36 Sanford, pos. 12-32. Page 8
  10. 10. - Every species is evolved from lower developed species by mutations and natural selection, leading to the surviving of the fittest. - Intentional Design by somebody and creation of the basic species Which theory gives a better explanation and corresponds better to the given evidence? In the follow- ing there are two overwhelming reasons which make intelligent design look more conclusive: 1. The information in DNA requires an author who designed every aspect of encoding, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. 2. The irreducible complexity in the observed organism does not allow evolution. If only the slightest part of the DNA information is missing, an organ cannot work properly or the whole organism will die. If our reasoning points to intelligent design, then there must be an intelligent designer. But who is he? I deduce some attributes. First of all he must be extremely intelligent with a surpassing mind. No actual computer system can be compared with the complexity of the interactions within biological life. At the same time he is not only a wonderful engineer but also has a good sense for aesthetics. We innately perceive the wonders of nature and delight in them. The author may transcend our time and space continuum, as the information was designed before the first person was here. He is out- side our three dimensions of space as we cannot grasp him with our scientific methods. The whole design did not left on the drawing board. He realized it. This points to the power and might of this being. Who matches these attributes? In my view only the God of the Bible, as we can read: “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NASB) Page 9
  11. 11. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skill- fully wrought in the depths of the earth;” (Psalms 139:14-15, NASB) “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?” (Romans 11:33- 35) These are only a few verses, but the Bible describes and testifies to all the previously mentioned at- tributes: - He has surpassing wisdom and intelligence. - He transcends the time and space continuum, as he is the Eternal. - He is all powerful and mighty. Therefore God who revealed Himself through the Bible and Jesus Christ is the unique alternative, the intelligent designer and creator of Heaven and earth. My argument is a teleological one, as we cannot demonstrate directly the existence of God. “The tel- eological argument for the existence of God comes from the Greek word telos meaning “purpose” or “goal”. Teleology is the study of goals or ends. It focuses on: • the evidence of design in our world • the evidence of purpose in our world The teleological argument, while not able to “prove” the existence of God, demonstrates that there are countless pointers in our world which make it reasonable to conclude that the world exists be- cause of a Creator God. Page 10
  12. 12. This argument confirms the most basic Christian belief about God creating the world, that, in the words of Genesis 2:4: “The Lord God made the earth and the heavens.””37 37 Mark Water, The Bible and Science Made Easy (Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2001), 6. Page 11
  13. 13. Bibliography Clark, David P., and Nanette J. Pazdernik. Molecular biology. 2nd ed. Waltham, MA: Academic Press, Kindle Ver- sion, 2013. Davies, Paul, and Niels H. Gregersen, eds. Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Floridi, Luciano. Information: A very short introduction. Very short introductions. Oxford, New York: Oxford Uni- versity Press, 2010. Gitt, Werner. In the beginning was information: A scientist explains the incredible design in nature. Green For- est, Ark.: Master Books, Kindle Version, 2005. McMullin, Ernan. “From matter to materialism … and (almost) back.” In Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics. Edited by Paul Davies and Niels H. Gregersen, 12–37. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the cell: DNA and the evidence for intelligent design. 1st ed. New York: HarperOne, 2009. Miller, Jon D., Eugenie C. Scott, and Shinji Okamoto. “Public Acceptance of Evolution.” http://tnjn.org/con- tent/relatedmedia/2009/03/03/Science_evolution_2006.pdf (accessed March 3, 2015). Pevzner, Pavel, and Ron Shamir, eds. Bioinformatics for Biologists. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Sanford, John. Biological Information - New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary; Kindle Edition. Waterloo, NY, USA: FMS Publications, 2014. Water, Mark. The Bible and Science Made Easy. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2001. Wells, Jonathan. The myth of junk DNA. Seattle, Wash: Discovery Institute Press, 2011. Wikipedia contributors. “Creation and evolution in public education.” http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?ti- tle=Creation_and_evolution_in_public_education&oldid=649035532 (accessed March 3, 2015). Zack, Michael H. “Developing a Knowledge Strategy.” In The Strategic Management of Intellectual Capital and Organizational Knowledge. Edited by Chun W. Choo and Nick Bontis, 255–66. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Page 12