This article is from
Creation 34(1):16–17, January 2011

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And then there was life


iStockPhoto.com And there was life

What is the difference between figure 1 and figure 2? Both are patterns of light and dark. Both are arrangements of the same 12 particular shapes in the same groupings. Both exhibit a complexity of arrangement. The probability of either arrangement arising by chance is similar. Neither arrangement has been produced by any action of the properties of the material they appear on.

But there is a world of difference between the two, and that difference is equivalent to the difference between the imagined ‘primordial soup’1 of non-living chemicals, and a living cell. This is because a living cell is not a random collection of chemicals, but an incredibly complex machine controlled by information stored in a computer-like program.

A living cell is not a random collection of chemicals, but an incredibly complex machine controlled by information stored in a computer-like program.

The essential difference between the figures is simply that figure 2 carries information while figure 1 does not. This difference has nothing to do with the material the figures are made of. That is, the difference cannot be detected by physical means. It is immaterial, existing only in the reader’s mind, and then only if the reader speaks English. That is, only if the reader understands the inherent code.

Could the arrangement of figure 2 arise by chance? Yes, but then it would not necessarily carry information. Consider a set of letters randomly selected that made the pattern “I LOVE YOU”. It would not actually be carrying the information we might like, because the letter “I” (for example) would be just a letter like any other. It would not represent anything, such as the concept of a particular person. There would be no ‘sender’ (because it is random), no intended recipient, no code, and therefore no meaning—it would just be a pattern of shapes no more significant than any other.

Figure 2 carries information only if the pattern of shapes conforms to an agreed code; that is, if it is specified by a set of rules, such as the rules of the English language, and represents the concept of something not physically present. Furthermore, it only carries information if that code can be interpreted by another party or process, through some decoding ‘machinery’ in a recipient. In other words, the pattern needs to be filtered through a set of rules which can then be used to put the information into action. Only then does it become meaningful, because meaning does not arise from the arrangement, but from the interpretation, or decoding, of the arrangement. That is what happened when you decoded the pattern in figure 2.

A living organism requires information to function.

While a required arrangement (such as figure 2) might arise by chance,2 its rules of interpretation cannot, since the rules for coding and decoding are likewise non-material, an abstraction, and therefore can only be formulated and understood by an intelligence.3 Neither can the specification for arriving at the particular arrangement in the first place arise by chance, again because the rules for the specificity (the ‘language’ that determines the arrangement of the letters) cannot arise from any property of matter. Thus these rules are also the work of intelligence, or mind.

Information, therefore, cannot arise from inanimate matter by chance.

However, a living organism requires information to function. This is because a living organism requires carefully specified materials and processes, not only for itself, but for its replication. In fact, reproduction is part of the definition of a living thing. Replication assumes instructions for the process of building the replicant from scratch, all the while maintaining a functioning organism, and thus needs still more information than that needed simply to live.

It is obvious that the specifications, or information, for all the processes needed for an organism to grow, live and reproduce must have been previously conceived and stored before the organism could begin its life. It is now stored in and interpreted by its DNA, but none of it could have occurred by chance ‘in the beginning’, since no ‘primordial soup’ or primitive organism can generate information, or a code system for storing it. Further, a random arrangement of DNA nucleotides would not carry any information. Since the source of all information is a mind, this situation is an absolute indicator that the source of life was in a mind rather than in non-thinking materials or chemical or physical processes. This implies an intelligent, volitional Designer.

Trying to put a living thing together using only materials, without information, is like soldering wires together to try to produce a computer program. Just as a robot without a program is no better than a statue, so a cell containing its biotic chemicals without its instructions—its DNA—would be no better than disorganized ‘primordial soup’. It’s no wonder that Craig Venter produced his ‘synthetic life’ using the information and reading machinery of previously living cells.4

A living cell lives, not because it contains bio-chemicals, but because it can carry out its encoded instructions for life processes—processes for making and deploying those bio-chemicals. Thus, a living cell lives on information; information necessarily conceived in the mind of its Creator, before life began.

First there is information, and then there is life.

Posted on homepage: 29 April 2013

References and notes

  1. This is being generous to the evolutionists, because a real primordial soup could not even produce the right building blocks or link them together. See for example creation.com/blocks. Return to text.
  2. The probability is very small. If you were about to play a word game and picked up 15 letters, you would expect a random arrangement like figure 1. If you decided beforehand to ‘expect’ a particular pattern (such as figure 2), you would be extremely surprised if that pattern turned up, in order, as you picked up random letters. The DNA for the required molecules and processes for life has far more complexity than that simple phrase, so could not arise by chance. See also Smith, C., Fantastic voyage, Creation 30(1):20–23 2007; online version creation.com/voyage has CMI animations of cell machinery. Return to text.
  3. Rules for the organization of matter cannot arise out of properties of the matter so organized. See Gitt, W., with Compton, B., and Fernandez, J., Without Excuse, Creation Book Publishers, 2011; creation.com/store. Return to text.
  4. See Sarfati, J., Was life really created in a test tube? And does it disprove biblical creation? creation.com/venter, 25 May 2010. Return to text.