In 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick achieved what appeared impossible—discovering the genetic structure deep inside the nucleus of our cells. We call this genetic material DNA, an abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid.
The discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure opened the floodgates for scientists to examine the code embedded within it. Now, more than half a century after the initial discovery, the DNA code has been deciphered—although many of its elements are still not well understood.
What has been found has profound implications regarding Darwinian evolution, the theory that all living beings have evolved by natural processes through mutation and natural selection.
As scientists began to decode the human DNA molecule, they found something quite unexpected—an exquisite “language” composed of some 3 billion genetic letters.
It’s hard for us to fathom, but the amount of information in human DNA is roughly equivalent to 12 sets of The Encyclopaedia Britannica— an incredible 384 volumes’ worth of detailed information that would fill 48 feet of library shelves!
Yet in their actual size—which is only two millionths of a millimeter thick—a teaspoon of DNA, according to molecular biologist Michael Denton, could contain all the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived on the earth, with “enough room left for all the information in every book ever written” ( Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1996, p. 334).
Who or what could miniaturize such information and place this enormous number of “letters” in their proper sequence as a genetic instruction manual? Could evolution have gradually come up with a system like this?
DNA contains a genetic language
Let’s first consider some of the characteristics of this genetic “language.” For it to be rightly called a language, it must contain an alphabet or coding system, correct spelling, grammar (a proper arrangement of the words), meaning (semantics) and an intended purpose.
Scientists have found the genetic code has all of these key elements. “The coding regions of DNA,” explains Dr. Stephen Meyer, “have exactly the same relevant properties as a computer code or language” (quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 2004, p. 237, emphasis in original).
The only types of communication considered high-level are human languages, artificial languages such as computer and Morse codes, and the genetic code. No other communication system has been found to contain the basic characteristics of a language.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, commented that “DNA is like a software program, only much more complex than anything we’ve ever devised.” Can you imagine something more intricate than the most complex program running on a supercomputer being devised by accident through evolution—no matter how much time, how many mutations and how much natural selection are taken into account?
DNA language is not the same as the DNA molecule
Recent studies in information theory have come up with some astounding conclusions—namely, that information cannot be considered in the same category as matter and energy. It’s true that matter or energy can carry information, but they are not the same as information itself.
For instance, a book such as Homer’s Iliad contains information, but is the physical book itself information? No, the materials of the book—the paper, ink and glue contain the contents, but they are only a means of transporting it.
The same principle is found in the genetic code. The DNA molecule carries the genetic language, but the language itself is independent of its carrier. The same genetic information can be written in a book, stored on a compact disk or sent over the Internet, and yet the quality or content of the message is not changed by changing the means of conveying it.
As evolutionary biologist George Williams explains: “The gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it’s not the message” (quoted by Phillip Johnson, Defeating Darwinsim by Opening Minds, 1997, p. 70).
This type of high-level information has been found to originate only from an intelligent source. As Lee Strobel explains: “The data at the core of life is not disorganized, it’s not simply orderly like salt crystals, but it’s complex and specific information that can accomplish a bewildering task—the building of biological machines that far outstrip human technological capabilities” (p. 244).
The precision of this genetic language is such that the average mistake that is not caught turns out to be one error per 10 billion letters. If a mistake occurs in one of the most significant parts of the code, which is in the genes, it can cause a disease such as sickle-cell anemia. Yet even the best and most intelligent typist in the world couldn’t come close to making only one mistake per 10 billion letters—far from it.
So to believe that the genetic code gradually evolved in Darwinian style would break all the known rules of how matter, energy and the laws of nature work. In fact, there has not been found in nature any example of one information system inside the cell gradually evolving into another functional information program.
We therefore have in the genetic code an immensely complex instruction manual that has been majestically designed by a source far more intelligent than human beings.
Even one of the discoverers of the genetic code, the agnostic and recently deceased Francis Crick, after decades of work on deciphering it, admitted that “an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going” ( Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, 1981, p. 88, emphasis added).
Evolution fails to provide answers
It is good to remember that, in spite of all the efforts of all the scientific laboratories around the world working over many decades, they have not been able to produce so much as a single human hair. How much more difficult is it to produce an entire body consisting of some 100 trillion cells!
Dr. Meyer considers the recent discoveries about DNA to be the Achilles’ heel of evolutionary theory. He observes: “Evolutionists are still trying to apply Darwin’s nineteenth-century thinking to a twenty-first century reality, and it’s not working … I think the information revolution taking place in biology is sounding the death knell for Darwinism and chemical evolutionary theories” (quoted by Strobel, p. 243).
Recently, one of the world’s most famous atheists, Professor Antony Flew, admitted he couldn’t explain how DNA was created and developed through evolution. He now accepts the need for an intelligent source to have been involved in the creation of the DNA code.
“What I think the DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinary diverse elements together,” he said (quoted by Richard Ostling, “Leading Atheist Now Believes in God,” Associated Press report, Dec. 9, 2004).