What do a human, a rose, and a bacterium have in common? They are living organisms and each of these organisms — along with everything else that is alive on Earth is either a single living cell, like a bacterium – or can be up to a 100 trillion cells working together as a fine tuned ensemble, like an average human. The cell is the building block of life. Each cell is able to process energy, perform certain functions and replicate itself.
Every cell in every organism contains the complete molecular blueprint for that organism stored in a large molecule we know as deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. Using a 4 letter alphabet its DNA encodes the directions for characteristics as diverse as the color of a person's eyes or the scent of a rose. The cell’s DNA also includes all instructions to build every molecule needed to make a complete copy of itself.
The cell is run by complex molecular machines. These machines, which themselves are built from molecules specified by the DNA, allow the information stored in the DNA to be read and sent as work orders to molecular assembly lines called ribosomes where any complex protein can be assembled from any combination of specified amino acids.
So what a cell does is completely determined by what its DNA tells it to do. The cell is basically a very advanced biological information processing system, where all information to be processed is stored in the DNA.
So from a software engineering point of view the cell is very similar to a computer or a modern day smartphone. As a smartphone can only do what the software tells it to do, so a cell can only do what the DNA tells it to do. Give a smartphone a different app and suddenly it can read your email, give you a current tide table or calculate the payments for a mortgage. Give DNA different information and the organism will be able to support the growth of legs or wings or be able to live under water.
In the words of Bill Gates: “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”
So the obvious question becomes – where does the information in the DNA come from?
Undoubtedly evolutionists will claim that it evolved via natural selection and mutations through a complex tree of life ultimately going back to the very first, simplest living cell. I think they are many valid objections against this theory but for now I do not want to argue that. Nor do I even want to question how it is possible that all these complex molecules and molecular machines needed to make the first living cell all came about at the same time. Instead I want to just focus on the question how the very first and simplest living cell got the information in its DNA to build all it needed to survive and duplicate. Molecular biologists agree that even the absolute simplest living cell has about 500 different complex molecules it needs to be able to build. That would require at least about 500,000 DNA letters of instruction. To give you a reference, this is equivalent to about 2500 printed pages of text. So, where did this information come from? And please realize that before the first cell there was no life. Therefore natural selection or Darwinian concepts cannot apply.
So where did the information in the DNA of the FIRST cell came from? We actually know a lot about information - we use it all the time in our daily lives. The words on my slides here are information – they make sense to you because they follow the commonly agreed conventions of the English alphabet and the order of the letters and words are deliberately chosen to convey a message. Similarly we see information used in radio and tv broadcasts, the internet, phone calls, morse codes, ascii codes used with computers and so on. The common factor between all these examples of information is that it always comes from an intelligent source. This is our common and repeated experience. This is such a well-accepted concept that it even forms the basis for scientific endeavors, like SETI – the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – where astronomers use massive radio telescopes to listen to regions in space from where they hope to receive radio signals that carry more than just noise. Like in the movie Contact where the characters of the movie are able to distinguish a signal from a distant alien civilization from a random noise, because it conforms to the pattern of the prime numbers.
So it stands undisputed and well supported that all information comes from an intelligent source, therefore we can make the following argument:
1. All information comes from an intelligent source
2. DNA in the first living cell contains extensive information
→ Therefore the information in the DNA of the first living cell came from an intelligent source
Let me summarize this in the words of Jonathan Wells: “The secret of DNA's success is that it carries information like that of a computer program, but far more advanced. Since experience shows that intelligence is the only presently acting cause of information, we can infer that intelligence is the best explanation for the information in DNA.”
If you've enjoyed this article, see our five-minute apologetics video on the Argument from Information!