By Hendrik van der Breggen
DNA and Intelligent Design
Here is an argument for an intelligent designer.
Premise 1: According to Bill Gates (of Microsoft fame), “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we've ever created.”
Premise 2: We know (from experience) that the human mind—an intelligent cause—is the source of the highly-sophisticated computer software thus far created.
Premise 3: We know (also from experience) that explanations which appeal to non-intelligent causes have much trouble explaining the origin of life/DNA.
Conclusion: Therefore, as culture commentator Charles Colson points out (via rhetorical question): "If Windows XP points to Bill Gates, how much more do the marvellous complexities of DNA point directly to God, the great Intelligent Designer?"
The truth of the third premise is a surprise for many non-scientists, so consider the following credible sources as a sub-argument for it.
Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA): "An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have to be satisfied to get it going." (1981)
Klause Dose (Mainz Institute for Biochemistry): "More than 30 years of experimentations on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussion on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance." (1988)
Leslie Orgel (Salk Institute for Biological Studies, comparing the question of life’s origin to a mystery novel): "We are very far from knowing whodunit." (1998)
Paul Davies (theoretical physicist turned origin-of-life investigator): "[S]cientists are currently stumped...The problem of how and when life began is one of the great outstanding mysteries of science." (1999)
Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross (reporting on the International Conference on the Origin of Life): "Some 45 years of well-funded investigation have led to one dead end after another. The same intractable problems still remain, with no glimmering of resolution in sight." (1999)
Nicholas Wade (New York Times science-writer): "Everything about the [naturalistic] origin of life on Earth is a mystery, and it seems the more that is known, the more acute the puzzles get....The [naturalistic] genesis of life on earth…remains an unyielding problem.” (2000)
Antonio Lazcano (president of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life): “Life could not have evolved without a genetic mechanism….Precisely how the first genetic machinery evolved also persists as an unresolved issue.” (2006)
Back to our main conclusion: I think Colson may be overstating the case about DNA pointing directly to God. Nevertheless, it seems to me, DNA’s code/language constitutes at least some good evidence of intelligent design which can be used, quite reasonably, as part of a larger cumulative case argument for God’s existence.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Providence College, Otterburne, Manitoba.)