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Information: A modern scientific design argument

By Russell Grigg

Dato for offentliggørelse
17 Apr 2010 18:40

First published in:

Creation 22(2):50-53
March-May 2000

All the design in living things is encoded in a sort of recipe book with lots of information. Information describes the complexity of a sequence - it does not depend on the matter of the sequence. It could be a sequence of ink molecules on paper (book) - however the information is not contained in the molecules of ink but in the patterns. Information can also be stored as sound wave patterns (e.g. speech), but again the information is not the sound waves themselves; electrical impulses (telephone); magnetic patterns (computer hard drive).

The anti-theistic physicist Paul Davies admits: 'There is no law of physics able to create information from nothing'. Information scientist Werner Gitt has demonstrated that the laws of nature pertaining to information show that, in all known cases, information requires an intelligent message sender, a conclusion rejected by Davies on purely philosphical (religious) grounds. Thus a modern version of the design argument involves detecting high information content. In fact, this is exactly what the SETI project is all about — the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence involves trying to detect a high-information radio signal, which they would regard as proof of an intelligent message sender, even if we had no idea of the nature of the sender.

In living things, information is all stored in patterns of DNA, which encode the instructions to make proteins, the building blocks for all the machinery of life. There are four types of DNA 'letters' called nucleotides, and 20 types of protein 'letters' called amino acids. A group (codon) of 3 DNA 'letters' codes for one protein 'letter'. The information is not contained in the chemistry of the 'letters' themselves, but in their sequence. DNA is by far the most compact information storage/retrieval system known.

Now consider if we had to write the information of living things in book form. Dawkins admits, '[T]here is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopaedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over'. Even the simplest living organism has 482 proteincoding genes of 580,000 'letters'.

Let's suppose we had the technology to go the other way, and store books' information in DNA - this would be the ideal computer technology. The amount of information that could be stored in a pinhead's volume of DNA is equivalent to a pile of paperback books 500 times as tall as the distance from Earth to the moon, each with a different, yet specific content.4 Putting it another way, a pinhead of DNA would have a billion times more information capacity than a 4 gigabyte hard drive.

Just as letters of the alphabet will not write the Annals of Ennius by themselves, the DNA letters will not form meaningful sequences on their own. And just as the Annals would be meaningless to a person who didn't understand the language, the DNA 'letter' arrangements would be meaningless without the 'language' of the DNA code.



1. Gitt, W., In the beginning was Information, CLV, Bielefeld, Germany, 1997.
2. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton, NY, USA, p. 115, 1986.
3. Fraser, C.M. et al., The minimal gene complement of Mycoplasma genitalium, Science, 270(5235):397–403, 1995; perspective by Goffeau, A., Life With 482 Genes, same issue, pp. 445–446.
4. Gitt, W., Dazzling Design in Miniature, Creation 20(1):6, 1997.