Lost in translation
The genetic information code points to an intelligent source
Published: 6 May 2010 (GMT+10)
The Kingston Trio song “Desert Pete” reached its peak Billboard position (# 33) in 1963. The tune described a traveler in the desert that encounters an old water pump and a baking powder tin with a note in it. The writer of the note explains that buried underneath the sand he has placed a jar with water in it, and if the traveler primes the pump with its contents, they will be able to have all the water they desire. He warns however;
“Now there’s just enough to prime it with
so don’tcha go drinkin’ first
You just pour it in and pump like mad,
buddy, you’ll quench your thirst … ”
This amusing tune speaks of loving your neighbor in a practical way (one person taking the time to leave the water jar) and also of confidence in your fellow man (the other man’s step of faith by trusting that the instructions left are correct and that the water will not be wasted unnecessarily).
Send and receive
But what if the traveler was unable to read the note (either because they were of a different culture or simply illiterate)? What good would the information have been without someone that could understand it?
Obviously in any form of communication (whether Braille, Morse code, spoken language etc) there must first be a transmitter and then a receiver that understands the specific code used or else the communication is useless, literally “lost” in translation. If Desert Pete’s traveler had been Chinese (and didn’t understand English) he might have perished!
Origin of a code
Atheistic evolutionists are committed to a materialistic origin of life. As such, there should be no non-material quantity to the universe. However, modern science shows us that the study of biology is largely a study of information science, as all living things contain vast libraries of information in the form of a genetic code (DNA).
So committed evolutionists must believe (for the origin of life to have occurred naturalistically) that a code system originated by chance, with no outside intelligence. But experimental science has shown this is false. Information is non-material; it is a metaphysical entity, and has only been observed to be derived from an intelligent source. An example can be demonstrated simply.
Pretend I take a piece of chalk and write a message on a blackboard; “Hi, my name is Cal”. If I asked you “Where did the information come from?” would you say “From the chalk”? If I were to rub the message off the board and show you the chalk on my hand would you say there is any information in it? No.
Obviously information was carried on the material of the chalk (because of the arrangement) but chalk has no inherent information content. The information can be traced back to the mind (me) that formulated the message, not the matter (calcium carbonate). Similarly, DNA is comprised of sugar, phosphates and bases, but the matter that it is made of does not contain the information, the arrangement of it does.
So information is 1) metaphysical (it is not a part of the matter it is carried on) and 2) only ever been observed to be created by intelligence. This is a huge challenge to the atheistic paradigm, and many atheistic evolutionists committed to their faith are aware of the challenge and trying desperately to solve it.
“To stem the growing swell of Intelligent Design intrusions, it is imperative that we provide stand-alone natural process evidence of non trivial self-organization at the edge of chaos. We must demonstrate on sound scientific grounds the formal capabilities of naturally-occurring physicodynamic complexity.”1
One scientist has identified what he calls the “null hypothesis” to naturalism,2 shown below.
Can we falsify any of the following null hypotheses?
Neither spontaneous combinatorial complexity nor “The Edge of Chaos” can generate:
- Mathematical logic
- Algorithmic optimization
- Cybernetic programming
- Computational halting
- Integrated circuits
- Organization (e.g., homeostatic metabolism far from equilibrium)
- Material symbol systems (e.g., genetics)
- Any goal-oriented bona fide system
- Formal function of any kind
- Utilitarian work
He acknowledges the more honest we are about current discoveries within living things, the further away from naturalistic explanations we get;
“ … science has an obligation to be honest about what the entire body of evidence clearly suggests. We cannot just keep endlessly labelling abundant evidence of formal prescription in nature “apparent”. The fact of purposeful programming at multiple layers gets more “apparent” with each new issue of virtually every molecular biology journal.”3
So the ever increasing accumulation of observable evidence is going in the wrong direction! All living things operate and replicate using vast quantities of coded information which is stored, read, transcribed and translated. All of these processes shout out purposeful, intelligent sophisticated programming (far more advanced than any technology we’ve yet conceived), not blind, purposeless, naturalistic processes.
Aside from the fact that no one has observed a code system spontaneously generating, it is even beyond our imagination to concoct a story of how matter could formulate a code. So, far from the average lay person’s belief that scientists have the origin of life figured out, the honest scientists who understand the problem are admitting that they don’t know at all.
“At the same time, we have spent much of the last century arguing to the lay community that we have proved the current biological paradigm. Unfortunately, very few in the scientific community seem critical of this indiscretion. One would think that if all this evidence is so abundant, it would be quick and easy to falsify the null hypothesis put forward above.”4
But the problem is even more dire than most people know. Not only must the committed materialist believe that a code system spontaneously generated, they must also believe that a translation device specific to that exact code must also have “evolved” through natural causes! (The coded information in the DNA of living things is only useful when translated and expressed in specific structures and functions).
This is truly a dizzying prospect, as not only is the process of translation itself (in all of our experience) another activity that can always be traced back to an intelligent source,5 but what is the chance (in the infinite amount of “translators” that might have evolved) for it to be the exact one that matched the code that evolved?
It’s like the note in Desert Pete. Even if the note could have written itself somehow, what good is the note if there were no one to understand it? What good are instructions if no one is receiving them? The faith needed to believe that a code system spontaneously came into being is far fetched, but the concept that “matter” developed a “mind” capable of understanding it goes beyond faith and into the realm of fantasy.
A step of faith
Faith in Jesus Christ is based on trust in God’s word. The Bible is a credible message given to us from the past from one who foresaw our needs and cares and wants the best for us. It has not, as some critics say, been lost in translation, but a message that has been faithfully passed on for hundreds of years. However, it is not a blind leap, but an intelligent step forward based on evidence and logic.
Belief in atheistic evolution is a blind faith. It is a belief based in non-observed, unproven scientific processes, while philosophically denying hope, purpose, justice or ultimate meaning to life.
The explorer in this life faces the same options as the desert traveler. Live a life full of short term gratification (drink the water in the jar) or enjoy the full life of abundance (put your faith in an unseen source). The results of non-belief lead to ultimate ruin, but the step of faith leads to eternal life.
As Pete says;
“You’ve got to prime the pump, you must have faith and believe
You’ve got to give of yourself ’fore you’re worthy to receive
Drink all the water you can hold, wash your face, cool your feet
Leave the bottle full for others, thank you kindly, Desert Pete”
- Abel, D.L., The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity, International Journal of Molecular Sciences 10:247–291, 9 January 2009 P-I-P-E doi:10.3390/ijms10010247 Return to text.
- <www.mdpi.com/search?s_authors=David Abel> Return to text.
- Same as 1 (italics in original). Return to text.
- Same as 1 Return to text.
- Even though non living computers can translate information, that process can only happen because of the programming of translation software by intelligent designers. Return to text.
Great piece. I had a discussion with an engineer last week, and made the same point: the dna coded information isn’t material, so how could naturalistic evolution explain it? The engineer had no response.
Hi Graham, thank you for your email.
Yes, information as an entity is an incredible problem for evolutionists to explain, and this certainly isn’t a God of the gaps type of argument (“we don’t know so God must have done it”). We do know where information comes from (an intelligent mind). So the more sophisticated the information the more sophisticated the mind that created it must be.
I have never seen this question answered by an evolutionist personally. If you would like to learn more about information theory I suggest Dr Werner Gitt’s book “In the beginning was information” available on our website.
Creation Ministries International
Aside from the fact that no one has observed a code system spontaneously generating, it is even beyond our imagination to concoct a story of how matter could formulate a code.
I have heard Carl W. make allowances for the possibility of information gain in the (nylon bug?). I don’t know a lot about this but I’m curious to know if that admission is compatible with the above statement.
Editor: Here is the article about nylon digestion. It has nothing to do with the origin of the genetic code, which this article is about, because the genetic code already exists in the bacteria.
There’s one other piece to this that makes it even more difficult. You correctly note that both transmission and reception of DNS’s information must be explained. However, they also must have evolved AT THE SAME TIME.
The object doing the understanding would be useless (and thus selected against) without the information, and the information would be useless (and thus selected against) without the capacity to understand it.
And, going just one step further: The VERY FIRST life form in the evolutionary tree must have included both the transmission capability and the reception capability. The species encompassing any entity that had one without the other would have gone extinct at the same instant as it died!