by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
When you look at some object, how do you know it is natural or man-made? What if you were walking through the woods and you saw a mark on a tree? It is dark from moss, like the other patches on the trunk, but you immediately say that it is man-made. One reason for the conclusion is that natural events don't normally form letters. Now, it is true that we sometimes see natural things and say, "That looks like a letter!" but this is something more. Information is being communicated. A married couple whose last name starts with "L" and whose first initials are "A" and "M" want to tell whoever sees this that they are in love.
Suppose you head out to rake leaves and you saw the word "FALL" laid out in leaves on the ground. I doubt you would think, "Look at how these leaves just happened to drift down to form the word "FALL!" even if it does make a great pun. Once again, it is the fact that information is being conveyed that convinces us that what we are seeing is man-made.
Information is an interesting concept to study. It is neither matter nor energy; yet, it requires matter and energy to exist and to be communicated. Dr. Werner Gitt defines information in five levels:
- Statistics - These are counts, such as hearing three taps, a pause, and then the taps repeat.
- Syntax - On this level, we have a set of symbols and a syntax that defines the order the symbols are to be given. Thus, Morse Code is more than a series of taps.
- Semantics - On this level, knowledge is transferred by the syntax. A telegraph message exists on this level.
- Pragmatics - These are the actions taken by following the message found in the semantics. Thus, the stockbroker sells shares of stock because of the telegraph message received from his client.
- Finally, we have the resulting purpose or accomplishment that came about from actions taken. The client avoids losing money from a bad stock investment.
The higher the information level, the more confident we are that the object containing the information is not the result of random events. I may see a cloud formation and remark that it looks just like a horse. I might suspect that it was edited because it is too much like a horse, but even if it wasn't edited, we would conclude that it is most likely a natural occurrence because no information is being transferred. At best, we are not beyond level 1 on the scale of communication.
Compare the cloud formation with a clay tablet with Egyptian hieroglyphics on it. Here I see various numbers of symbols in an order with apparent syntax. I can even conclude that there is a message being conveyed by the syntax, even though I can't read it. While information clearly exists and this is not a natural formation; at the same time, communication did not occur because the receiver (me) failed to understand the message.
Dr. Gitt has a useful chart showing the five levels and what is required for the send and the receiver in order for communication to take place.
Whenever there is transmitted information present, there is always a sender. In the case of the clay tablet, I might not know who wrote the tablet or for what purpose, but I can say with certainty that someone created that tablet with a purpose in mind.
In the human body, there are approximately 30 trillion cells. On any given day, approximately 3x1024 events take place. I don't know if you've ever worked in a kitchen directing the tasks of several people, but it is hard work. But this doesn't come close to the coordination taking place within your own body.
The amount of information your brain can store is unknown, but it is estimated to be between 10 terabytes and 2.5 petabytes ["Your Brain’s Technical Specs," Slate, 24 April 2012]. In other words, your brain has a capacity similar to the world's largest libraries -- roughly 20 million books. If that estimate is correct, consider how densely packed that information is. I can't carry 100 physical books around, but I walk around with the capacity to hold 20 million books? No wonder I lose track of things! That I can recall information quickly is a wonder in itself.
The DNA in a single cell is about six feet long when laid end-to-end; yet, it is only two nanometers wide. If you laid all your DNA in your body end-to-end, its length would reach from here to Uranus! Scientists only daydream of compacting information to the size of DNA. There are 4 letters in the DNA coding structure (ATGC). They are set up in your DNA such that they are self-replicating and have automatic error-correction. The human genome has six billion letters. Just the coding in chromosome 1 has enough letters to fill up 200,000 pages! And yet, a cell is able to copy all the information in all its DNA in about 20 to 80 minutes over and over again, rarely ever making a mistake. It is estimated that one mistake occurs for every 10 billion letters that are copied ["DNA Replication," Basic Biology]. That is roughly equivalent to duplicating a thousand books in 20 to 80 minutes and almost never making a mistake.
That was level 2 of communication. On level 3, we are just now learning what the various sections of DNA mean. It is complex because it turns out that DNA is multi-purpose. “One of the intriguing things about DNA sequences is that a single sequence can “encode” more than one piece of information depending on what is “reading” it and in which direction ...” ["BioEssays Editor: “‘Junk’ DNA… Full of Information!” Including Genome-Sized “Genomic Code"," Evolution News & Science Today, 18 November 2019]. This reuse of code segments was predicted because computer programmers do this all the time to reduce and simplify programming tasks. But as a computer scientist, I find the encoding in DNA mind-boggling because it would take a tremendous amount of effort just to overlap two segments of code to do two different things depending on where you start. But when you add in that some segments are read backward and have meaning, I start getting a headache. “This would be very difficult to explain by random mutation and natural selection because if you randomly mutate one message you are going to invariably destroy the other one if it’s layered on top.” [David Klinghoffer, "Meyer on “Nested Coding”: Another Successful Design Prediction," Evolution News & Science Today, 7 January 2020].
Actually, it is more complex than what I've presented so far. Have you ever wondered how the one set of DNA you have is able to produce the variety of cells you have in your body. The brain cells don't look anything like the heart cells or the kidney cells, yet the same code directs the operations of all the various cells that you have. Recently it was discovered that the DNA folds itself in different ways in the different cells, which changes the reading of the code. The folds also change over time, which is how we grow from children into adults and then stop our development.
Every cell you have holds more information than a large computer and is packaged in a much smaller space. But we know a computer is designed, and some say the cell just happened? Do you realize that every one of your cells is a complex factory with coordinated actions and responses that target a set purpose?
Notice that all five levels of communication are taking place in your cells, from encoding to actions with purpose. If there is information being transferred, then there is a sender.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20).