Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The DNA Enigma

As the evolution war rages on 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwin, it's important to note that the media has confused a fundamental issue, according to Dr. Stephen Meyers, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, and that is, Intelligence Design (ID) theory is not based on theistic belief. Rather, just like evolution, ID is also based on science.

"They’ve confused the evidence of the Intelligence Design (ID) theory with the implications of the ID theory. The theory may well have implications that are supportive of theistic belief, but the theory is not based on theistic belief. It’s based on the discovery of digital code in cells, miniature machines in cells, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry and standard ways of scientific reasoning about the remote past and the history of life."
Both theories are based on what we know about the cause and effect structure of the world, on Darwin's own method, and applying that method to evidence that Darwin did not yet know about, which reaffirms the case for design based on the discoveries of modern biology.

Why is this important?

Because the knowledge landscape has changed considerably since Darwin, as the information age has come to biology. This has illuminated the complexities of DNA - "double helix" structure of DNA which carries our genetic code - which has raised questions that scientists and evolutionary theory cannot begin to answer. For example, explaining the origins of the information and the amazing depth of digital technology found in each and every living cell: "nested coding of information, digital processing, distributive retrieval and storage systems, hierarchical filing system, design patterns or design logic executed with engineering elegance, and genomic operating systems." Not to mention the calculation of the probability of a protein assembling itself from its units is infinitesimally small.

And most importantly, pre-biotic natural selection presupposes information, but where did that information come from? Darwin did not address this question.

We know that proteins (peptides, enzymes, hormones, transmitters, etc.) are analog. It is a digital to analog conversion as the digital information on the genome is read as words to provide the instructions to make a particular protein.

On the other hand, DNA is digital, in that the genetic instructions in a biological cell, are coded as a language using the four nucleotide bases or characters (A, T, G and C) as an alphabet. This four-letter alphabet is used to make sentences of three letter words. which are called codons. DNA can form digital strings of information because the four nucleotides can be linked to each other in any order.

What is DNA enigma? Or the origin of the biological information necessary to build the first living cell?

What, who, how is/are the characters sequentially ordered?

Claude Shannon an engineer and mathematician, known as "the father of information theory"defines information in statistical terms as a measure of improbability, the more improbable a sequence is, the more information it conveys. The top string of characters in the image (left) illustrates complexity, and conveys more information, however the bottom string, is an example of what William Dembski called specified complexity, which enables that sequence to carry or convey functional information.

The specificity of shape in the protein derives from specificity of sequence in amino acids which in turn derives from specificity of sequence of information, the instructions, the digital code stored along the spine of the DNA molecule. In other words, the arrangement of characters matter.

Dr. Meyers uses magnetic letters on a magnetic chalk board as an analogy to what's going on in the DNA molecule. The backbone of the DNA molecule corresponds to the magnetic chalkboard, the nucleotide bases or characters correspond to the magnetic letters. The magnetic forces of attraction at work that bond the letters to the chalkboard operate much the same way when nucleotide bases stick to the backbone in a DNA molecule. However, the magnetic forces of attraction do not explain the sequential order or arrangement of the characters in both the DNA molecule and the magnetic chalkboard.

In other words, it's not the chemistry or physics that produces the sequences that conveys the instructions, it something extraneous to the physics and chemistry of the system, and that extraneous something remains a mystery.

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