Where Did the Information in Cells Come from?
By Thomas F. Heinze,
Schoolbooks and the media often imply that chemicals got together to form life with no intelligent intervention from a creator needed. Is that true?
The DNA of even the most simple cell has at least as much information as a thousand page encyclopedia. Where did the information packed into each tiny cell come from? Do chance, matter, or energy compose information or does it always proceed from an intelligent source?
The nature of information
What is information anyway? The principle definition in my dictionary is, "knowledge communicated or received…."1 Speaking of the information in DNA, Philip Johnson explains,
"By information, I mean a message that conveys meaning, such as a book of instructions.…Information is not matter, though it is imprinted on matter.… Instructions in the fertilized egg control embryonic development from the beginning, and direct it to a specific outcome."2
Professor Werner Gitt, who works in the field of information science writes: "There is no known natural law through which matter can give rise to information, neither is there any physical process or material phenomenon known that can do this."3 This statement, if true, destroys the whole basis of the idea that no intelligent designer was involved in the formation of the first life. Is it true? In our every day experience it takes intelligence to produce not only information, but also to create the alphabets, languages and codes which carry information. Every language or code we have ever come across, and the information spoken or written in it originated in a mind. It did not spontaneously arise from chemicals.
Recognizing this, some people, to avoid believing in an intelligent Creator, claim that no real information is associated with DNA. No evidence backs up their claim, and a Nobel Prize winning scientist destroys the argument:
"In all modern organisms, DNA contains in encrypted form the instructions for the manufacture of proteins. More specifically, encoded within DNA is the exact order in which amino acids, selected at each step from 20 distinct varieties should be strung together to form all of the organism's proteins."4
Can matter compose information?
Many evolutionists claim that life arose from an organic broth, but how could organic broth know the precise order of each of the amino acids of even one protein, let alone the hundreds or thousands of proteins that a "primitive" cell would have to have to survive? The term "organic broth" refers to a random mixture of whatever chemicals happened to be there. Many today claim that RNA came first, rather than DNA or protein and that RNA then produced the first cell. They claim that organic broth, or perhaps clay, somehow burped out a whole strand of RNA or of a simpler pre-RNA. They think that the broth or clay passed on to the RNA either the ability to evolve information, or all the encoded information necessary for making a cell. It might have about the same chance of happening, as an accident dumping a truck full of old fashioned lead printing type onto the street so that the letters fell out in exactly the order of the letters in an Encyclopedia, or else they fell there all mixed up, but with the ability to become sorted out by natural selection. Ideas like this are not science! People who trust in them have faith, but a faith based only on dogma and contrary to the evidence.
I write books, and for 12 years directed a publishing house. Could I have simply dipped paper in ink or organic broth and saved the trouble of writing, rewriting, correcting and rewriting? The quantity of information in even a very minimal cell is at least comparable to that of an encyclopedia. Where did the information come from?
When authors propose that RNA or DNA evolved from chemicals, they often imply that the material that contained the information would have determined what instructions the RNA contained; that if they can think of a way in which RNA might have been produced in nature, they would have explained the information it carried. If clay or organic broth did contain information, how would it have known to pass on the ability to make many different proteins instead of several copies of one protein? And, out of the millions of possible proteins, why would clay have chosen just the ones which were needed to produce a living cell? Clay that could produce RNA which was able to self replicate and to catalyze the production of proteins would seem to have been more intelligent than all of today's origin of life scientists put together. They can't produce an RNA, let alone one with these special capabilities.5
The DNA and RNA codes are determined by the arrangement of four nucleotides in different orders like a four letter alphabet. If that doesn't sound like enough letters, remember that any message can be written with computers or in Morse Code, and they only have two letter alphabets. To arrange letters or code into intelligent sets of instructions requires an intelligence. Those same four nucleotide bases that form the "letters" of the DNA code, can be arranged to spell out the instructions for making all the different proteins. Where did the information they carry come from?
Believing that the material called DNA or an imaginary pre-RNA would accidentally come with the correct instructions already on it is a bit like believing the following fanciful explanation of how an encyclopedia could be made in nature: "A storm on the Nile ground up some of the papyrus reed that the ancients used to make paper. The waves deposited a bit of it on a flat rock where it dried. Now peel it off the rock. Look! It made a sheet of paper! The first encyclopedia must have been made when a number of these sheets came together." Atheists purposely side step the really difficult question which is not where paper or RNA came from, but where the information came from!
Someone may counter, "Natural selection directed self replicating pre-RNA in the accumulation of information." If natural selection could work on a non living chemical like RNA, it could only select for better RNA, not for the completely different sets of instructions needed to make DNA and proteins.
Information is independent from the material that caries it
We know from experience, however, that the paper, computer, or whatever a message is written on does not determine the message. The idea that RNA would automatically have contained the information necessary for life rather than gibberish is anti science, not science. Information comes from a mind. My old Encyclopedia Britannica was on a CD. Now I consult a copy on the Internet. The material does not determine the message. The same sheet of paper can be used to draw a comic strip or write a chemical formula. The same stretch of DNA that carries the commands for brown hair can just as easily hold the commands that will make blondes. Or teeth for that matter! DNA's information is real meaningful information. RNA makes copies of portions of it, but the same information has been transcribed onto computers in the Human Genome Project, and printed out on paper. Information copied onto computers from DNA carries the same information as the DNA from which it was copied.
Information has also been copied in the opposite direction. High school student Viviana Risca won a $100,000 scholarship from the Intel Science Talent Search for writing the words: "JUNE 6 INVASION: NORMANDY." Why the prize? She wrote them in DNA, using its chemical code!6 The same message that another person can scribble on a napkin at the restaurant or type into a computer, Viviana Risca and others have learned to "write" in DNA. The material that caries the message does not determine the message. Minds determine messages.
If a language and letters or some other kind of code had somehow been provided, perhaps chance action could, if given enough tries, put a few letters together in a sentence. The first cell, however, had to have a huge carefully planned instruction book that could make many complex substances and use them to build the molecular machines that do the work of the cell. How did the "letters" get into the correct order to code for the hundreds of precise proteins which were essential to the life of the first cell? If there had been no intellect involved, would not chance have arranged them in one of the billions of possible orders of nonsense?
Some have written computer programs which they claim can gradually make messages by random processes. They are pulling your leg! If it was true, your computer would already be doing it. Theirs chooses the right letters because they used their intelligence to write a program that would choose letters. I remember when people joked that computers with no system or program could only be used as anchors. Computers are lighter weight now, so unprogrammed computers don't even make good anchors any more. In large quantities, unprogrammed RNA or DNA might be useful as dog food, but it certainly could not direct the life of a cell.
Others have claimed that the amount of information depends only on the number of letters; that if you add random letters, instead of creating typographical errors, you increase the information. But not in the book they wrote! Neither does sprinkling ink here and there on a blank page produce meaningful information. Sprinkling ink on a page of writing is even worse. The more ink is sprinkled, the more information is covered up. Random ink blots obliterate information, they don't add any. Those who claim the contrary confuse static with message in a desperate attempt to save their atheistic faith.
Only minds compose information
Scientists with the SETI institute are using huge radio telescopes to search for messages from intelligent beings out in space. (The letters "SETI" mean Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence.) They correctly state that intelligent messages are created only by intelligent beings. The first step in their search is to separate between static and message. So far all they have found is static, but if they find a message from space, they will have shown that there are intelligent beings out there somewhere. If exceptions existed, and intelligent messages could be sent out without any intelligence involved, their whole search would be meaningless.
Dr. Charles Thaxton writes:
"If the inference for an intelligent cause for DNA (and for life too, if DNA is truly necessary for life) is in error, than we would likewise be in error to infer the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence upon receipt of intelligible radio messages from deep space. More important, our knowledge of past civilizations provided by archaeologists would be in jeopardy. These supposed 'Artifacts' might be, after all, the result of unknown natural causes. Cave paintings, for example…may not be the result of early humans.…Indeed, excavated ancient libraries could not be trusted to contain the works of intelligent men and women."7
The evidence that an intelligent Creator invented DNA is reinforced by the fact that its information packaging system has been miniaturized to the greatest extent possible.8 This is true not only of human DNA, but also of that in "primitive" cells.
After a number of intelligent scientists had worked for many years developing ever better microfilm they fit the entire Bible on one 32 X 33 mm film. Amazing! However, that space covered with DNA would hold information equivalent to 7.7 million Bibles!9 Biology books often imply that the information in DNA just formed of itself with no input from any intelligent source. That is not biology, it is not science, and it is not true. If it were true, why did it take generations of intelligent scientists thousands of man hours to develop the millions of times less efficient microfilm?
The evidence is overwhelming. The information
in DNA was put there by a Creator who is so intelligent that we should
listen to everything He has to say.
1 Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 2000, p. 678.
2 Philip Johnson, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism, 2000, p. 123, 134.
3 Werner Gitt, In the Beginning Was Information, 1997, p.79.
4 Christian de Duve, "The Beginning of Life on Earth," American Scientist, Vol. 83, Sept-Oct. 1995, p. 430.
5 Peter D. Ward, Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth, Why complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, 2000, p. 65, see also p. xix, 63-64, 60.
6 Gungan Singha, Popular Science, June 2000, p. 83.
7 Charles B. Thaxton, "In Pursuit of Intelligent Causes" Origins & Design, Summer 2001, p. 28-29.
8Andrzej Stasiak and John H. Maddocks, "Best packing in proteins and DNA," Nature, Vol. 406, July 20, 2000, p. 251-252. See also Werner Gitt, In the Beginning Was Information,.1997, p. 195.
9 Werner Gitt, In
the Beginning Was Information,
1997, p. 192-194.
Adapted from information in the book Answers to my Evolutionist Friends, How Life Began, by Thomas F. Heinze, published in 2002 by Chick Publications, 160 pages, $8.50. or read it free at: