Professor John Lennox once said, “The moment you see a single letter of the alphabet, you know there’s a mind behind it. Isn’t it odd that we can see the 3.5 billion letters of the genetic alphabet in exactly the right order in the human genome and say, ‘chance and necessity?'” The idea that DNA contains an incredible amount of information isn’t a terribly controversial topic in of itself. It’s only when scientists seek to answer the question — where did that information come from? — that the conversation gets a bit heated. The idea of Intelligent Design is hotly debated. Yet, in biologist Stephen C. Meyer’s book, “Signature in the Cell”, the scientist seeks out to humbly answer the question of, “Where did the information in DNA ultimately come from?”
Originally published in 2009, Stephen C. Meyer’s book, “Signature in the Cell” is not terribly new. The book itself is a little over 500 pages plus a whopping 52 pages worth of notes! Overall, it’s a commitment to read, but the good news is that Stephen C. Meyer writes in such a way where even a complex topic like “the origin for information found in DNA” is still explained in a manner where someone like myself, who isn’t terribly interested in biology, can grasp.
The book itself is rather thorough, essentially taking the reader by the hand and walking them through the discovery of DNA itself to the knowledge of the information-bearing properties of DNA and the question of just where does that information come from.
As he explains: “…molecular biologists were discovering that living cells had been using something akin to machine code or software all along. To quote the information scientist Hubert Yokcey, ‘The genetic code is constructed to confront and solve the problems of communication and recording by the same principles found…in modern communication and computer codes.’…How did these digitally encoded and specifically sequenced instructions in DNA arise? And how did they arise within a channel for transmitting information?”
Meyer also takes time to explain how incredibly intricate and complex even the smallest cellular systems are. For example, he points out that DNA not only carries information, but that information needs to be translated:
“…the cell contains not just molecular repositories of genetic information, but a code for translating the information in the DNA molecule (and its RNA transcript) into the construction of a protein. But this requires some physical medium of information transfer…it became evident that the transcription of and translation of genetic information is mediated by a complex information processing system composed of many types of nucleic acids…and many specific enzymes.”
Ultimately, Stephen C. Meyer argues that the best explanation, when one follows the science, is that an intelligence outside of the evolutionary process is responsible for the origination of the information found in DNA:
“…low probability events by themselves do not necessarily indicate that something other than chance is at work. Improbable events happen all the time and don’t necessarily indicate anything other than chance in play…” He goes on to explain, “…any nucleotide base sequence that directs the production of proteins his a functional target within an abstract space of possibilities…the chemical properties of DNA allow a vast ensemble of possible arrangements of nucleotide bases. Yet within that set of combinational possibilities relatively few will…actually produce functional proteins…” and concludes by saying,
“…the specific arrangements of bases in DNA point to prior intelligent activity…”
While Stephen C. Meyer’s book is a fascinating read, one should be prepared that he does tend to dip into serious scientific weeds. Even with the diagrams, I did find it a little hard to follow on occasion. To his credit, however, he does do a great job in keeping such a deep and scientifically technical topic rather accessible to average joes like myself. Overall, I would recommend this book. It’s an interesting subject that raises great questions for both believers and skeptics alike.
Stephen C. Meyer on the digital information found in DNA: