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The Evidence of DNA Points to a Creator

 

The passages below are taken from Lee Strobel’s book, “The case for a Creator,” which was published in 2004 by Zondervan.

    

       www.leestrobel.com

 

Human DNA contains more organized information than the Encyclopedia Britannica. If the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, most people would regard this as proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But when seen in nature, it is explained as the workings of random forces.

George Sim Johnson1

Einstein said, “God does not play dice.” He was right. God plays Scrabble.

Philip Gold2

 

In 1953, when Francis Crick told his wife Odile that he and a colleague had discovered the secret of life--—the chemical structure of DNA, where the instructions for building proteins were encoded---she didn’t believe him. Years later, she confessed to her husband: "You were always coming home and saying things like that, so naturally I thought nothing of it.”3

This time, he wasn’t exaggerating. He and James D. Watson would win the Nobel Prize for discovering the now-famous double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid, where the “language of life” is stored.

For more than fifty years, as scientists have studied the six feet of DNA that’s tightly coiled inside every one of our body’s one hundred trillion cells, they have marveled at how it provides the genetic information necessary to create all of the proteins out of which our bodies are built. In fact, each one of the thirty thousand genes that are embedded in our twenty-three pairs of chromosomes can yield as many as 20,500 different kinds of proteins.4

The astounding capacity of microscopic DNA to harbor this mountain of information, carefully spelled out in a four-letter chemical alphabet, “vastly exceeds that of any other known system,” said geneticist Michael Denton.

In fact, he said the information needed to build the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived--—a number estimated to be approximately one thousand million--—“could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written.”5

DNA serves as the information storehouse for a finely choreographed manufacturing process in which the right amino acids are linked together with the right bonds in the right sequence to produce the right kind of proteins that fold in the right way to build biological systems. The documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life, which has aired on numerous PBS television stations, describes the elaborate operation this way:

In a process known as transcription, a molecular machine first unwinds a section of the DNA helix to expose the genetic instructions needed to assemble a specific protein molecule. Another machine then copies these instructions to form a molecule known as messenger RNA. When transcription is complete, the slender RNA strand carries the genetic information. . .out of the cell nucleus. The messenger RNA strand is directed to a two-part molecular factory called a ribosome... Inside the ribosome, a molecular assembly line builds a specifically sequenced chain of amino acids. These amino acids are transported from other parts of the cell and then linked into chains often hundreds of units long. Their sequential arrangement determines the type of protein manufactured. When the chain is finished, it is moved from the ribosome to a barrel-shaped machine that helps fold it into the precise shape critical to its function. After the chain is folded into a protein, it is then released and shepherded by another molecular machine to the exact location where it is needed.6

 

It was this “absolutely mind-boggling” procedure that helped lead biology professor Dean Kenyon to repudiate the conclusions of his own book on the chemical origin of life and conclude instead that nothing short of an intelligence could have created this intricate cellular apparatus. “This new realm of molecular genetics [is] where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the Earth,” he said.7

It seemed fitting that when scientists announced that they had finally mapped the three billion codes of the human genome--—a project that filled the equivalent of 75,490 pages of The New York Times---divine references abounded. President Clinton said "scientists were learning the language in which God created life,” while geneticist Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, said DNA was “our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”8

Are such public bows to a Creator merely a polite social custom, meant only as a nodding courtesy to a predominantly theistic country? Or does the bounty of information in DNA really warrant the conclusion that an intelligent designer must have infused genetic material with its protein-building instructions? Are there any naturalistic processes that can account for the appearance of biological data in the earliest cells?

I knew where to go to get answers. One of the country’s leading experts on origin-of-life issues, who has written extensively on the implications of the information in DNA, resides in Washington state. He and I had already discussed the intersection of faith and science for Chapter Four of this book; now it was time to sit down with him again, this time in his new quarters at the Discovery Institute in downtown Seattle.

 

INTERVIEW #7: STEPHEN C. MEYER, PHD

Since our last discussion, philosopher and scientist Stephen Meyer had moved with his wife and three children to the outskirts of Seattle so he could focus on his role as Director and Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.9 He continues to keep one foot in academia, however, as professor of the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Meyer earned his doctorate at Cambridge University, where he analyzed scientific and methodological issues in origin-of-life biology. For his master’s degree, also from Cambridge, he studied the history of molecular biology and evolutionary theory.

He has written about DNA and the problem of the origin of biological information for the books Debating Design, published by Cambridge University Press; Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, published by Michigan State University Press; Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe; Signs of Intelligence; and Mere Creation. Lately he has been finishing a book called DNA by Design: The Signature in the Cell, which further expands on his analysis of biological information.

We got together on an unusually sultry summer day, had a pleasant lunch in an avant-garde Asian restaurant, and then settled into an office at the Discovery Institute. Meyer lowered his lanky frame into a plain wooden chair, his back to a half-opened window through which random traffic noises could be heard. It was nearly mid afternoon before we got started with our discussion.

It was clear that Meyer likes the give-and-take of interviews. Although Meyer is typically more professorial than pugnacious, I’ve never heard of him shying away from tough questions or even rhetorically bloody debates with fervent Darwinists.

In fact, I once hosted the videotaping of an intellectual shoot-out between Meyer and an atheistic anthropologist on the legitimacy of intelligent-design theories, and I remember walking away amazed at Meyer’s finesse in deftly dismantling the professor’s case while at the same time forcefully presenting his own. Maybe that’s a throwback to Meyer’s earlier years when he trained as a boxer, learning to overcome fears of taking a punch and how to jab away at an opponent’s weaknesses.

As for me, I wasn’t after blood in this interview; I was merely seeking straightforward answers to an issue that has befuddled origin-of-life scientists for the last five decades. Even though most Darwinists concede they are stumped on the question of how DNA and life itself came into existence,10 they don’t like Meyer’s conclusions on the matter. I didn’t care much about that; my criterion was simple: what makes the most sense from a purely scientific perspective?

 

THE DNA-TO-DESIGN ARGUMENT

I began our discussion by reading Meyer a quote that I had encountered in my research and scribbled in my notes. “According to Bend-Olaf Kuppers, the author of Information and the Origin of Life, ‘The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information,” I said. “Do you agree with him?”

“Oh, absolutely, yes,” Meyer replied. “When I ask students what they would need to get their computer to perform a new function, they reply, ‘You have to give it new lines of code.’ The same principle is true in living organisms.

“If you want an organism to acquire a new function or structure, you have to provide information somewhere in the cell. You need instructions for how to build the cell’s important components, which are mostly proteins. And we know that DNA is the repository for a digital code containing the instructions for telling the cell’s machine how to build proteins. Kuppers recognized that this was a critical hurdle in explaining how life began: where did this genetic information come from?

“Think of making soup from a recipe. You can have all the ingredients on hand, but if you don’t know the proper proportions, or which items to add in what order, or how long to cook the concoction, you won’t get a soup that tastes very good.

“Well, a lot of people talk about the ‘prebiotic soup’--—the chemicals that supposedly existed on the primitive Earth prior to life. Even if you had the right chemicals to create a living cell, you would also need information for how to arrange them in very specific configurations in order to perform biological functions. Ever since the l95Os and l96Os, biologists have recognized that the cell’s critical functions are usually performed by proteins, and proteins are the product of assembly instructions stored in DNA.”

“Let’s talk about DNA, then,” I said. “You’ve written that there’s ‘DNA-to-design argument.’ What do you mean by that?”

Meyer removed a pair of gold-rimmed glasses from his shirt pocket and put them on as he began to give his answer. “Very simply,” he said, “I mean that the origin of information in DNA--—which is necessary for life to begin--—is best explained by an intelligent cause rather than any of the types of naturalistic causes that scientists typically use to explain biological phenomena.”

“When you talk about ‘information’ in DNA, what exactly do you mean?” I asked.

“We know from our experience that we can convey information with a twenty-six-letter alphabet, or twenty-two, or thirty---or even just two characters, like the zeros and ones used in the binary code in computers. One of the most extraordinary discoveries of the twentieth century was that DNA actually stores information--—the detailed instructions for assembling proteins--—in the form of a four-character digital code.

“The characters happen to be chemicals called adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. Scientists represent them with the letters A, G, C, and T, and that’s appropriate because they function as alphabetic characters in the genetic text. Properly arranging those four ‘bases,’ as they’re called, will instruct the cell to build different sequences of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Different arrangements of characters will yields different sequences of amino acids.”

With that, Meyer decided to show me an illustration he often uses with college students. Reaching over to a desk drawer, he took out several oversized plastic snap-lock beads of the sort that young children play with. “It says on the box that these are for kids ages two to four, so this is advanced chemistry,” he joked.

He held up orange, green, blue, red, and purple beads of different shapes. “These represent the structure of a protein. Essentially, a protein is a long linear array of amino acids,” he said, snapping the beads together in a line. “Because of the forces between the amino acids, the proteins fold into very particular three-dimensional shapes,” he added as he bent and twisted the line of beads.

“These three-dimensional shapes are highly irregular, sort of like the teeth in a key, and they have a lock-key fit with other molecules in the cell. Often, the proteins will catalyze reactions, or they’ll form structural molecules, or linkers, or parts of the molecular machines that Michael Behe writes about. This specific three-dimensional shape, which allows proteins to perform a function, derives directly from the one-dimensional sequencing of amino acids.”

Then he pulled some of the beads apart and began rearranging their order. “If I were to switch a red one and a blue one, I’d be setting up a different combination of force interactions and the protein would fold completely differently. So the sequence of the amino acids is critical to getting the long chain to fold properly to form an actual functional protein. Wrong sequence, no folding--—and the sequence of amino acids is unable to serve its function.

“Proteins, of course, are the key functional molecule in the cell; you can’t have life without them. Where do they come from? Well, that question forces a deeper issue--—what’s the source of the assembly instructions in DNA that are responsible for the one-dimensional sequential arrangements of amino acids that create the three-dimensional shapes of proteins? Ultimately,” he emphasized, “the functional attributes of proteins derive from information stored in the DNA molecule.”

 

THE LIBRARY OF LIFE

I was fascinated by the process that Meyer had described. “What you’re saying is that DNA would be like a blueprint for how to build proteins,” I said, using an analogy I had heard many times before.

Meyer hesitated. “Actually, I don’t like the blueprint metaphor,” e said. “You see, there are probably other sources of information in the cell and in organisms. As important as DNA is, it doesn’t build everything. All it builds are the protein molecules, but they are only sub-units of larger structures that themselves are informatively arranged.”

“Then what’s a better analogy?” I asked.

“DNA is more like a library,” he said. “The organism accesses the information that it needs from DNA so it can build some of its critical components. And the library analogy is better because of its alphabetic nature. In DNA, there are long lines of A, C, G, and T’s that are precisely arranged in order to create protein structure and folding. To build one protein, you typically need 1,200 to 2,000 letters or bases--—which is a lot of information.”

“And this raises the question again of the origin of that information,” I said.

“It’s not just that a question has been raised,” he insisted. “This issue has caused all naturalistic accounts of the origin of life to break down, because it’s the critical and foundational question. If you can’t explain where the information comes from, you haven’t explained life, because it’s the information that makes the molecules into something that actually functions.”

I asked, “What does the presence of information tell you?”

“I believe the presence of information in the cell is best explained by the activity of an intelligent agent,” he replied. “Bill Gates said, ‘DNA is like a software program, only much more complex than anything we’ve ever devised.’ That’s highly suggestive, because we know that at Microsoft, Gates uses intelligent programmers to produce software. Information theorist Henry Quastler said as far back as the 1960s that the ‘creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”12

“But we’re talking about something--—the origin of information and life--—that happened a long time ago,” I said. “How can scientists reconstruct what happened in the distant past?”

“By using a scientific principle of reasoning that’s called uniformitarianism,” Meyer replied. “This is the idea that our present knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships should guide our reconstruction of what caused something to arise in the past.”

“For example ...” I said and paused, hoping to prompt an illustration that would help me follow him.

“For instance, let’s say you find a certain kind of ripple marks preserved from the ancient past in sedimentary strata. And let’s say that in the present day you see the same sort of ripple marks being formed in lake beds as the water evaporates. You can reasonably infer, then, using uniformitarian logic, that the ripple marks in the sedimentary strata were produced by a similar process.

“So let’s go back to DNA. Even the very simplest cell we study today, or find evidence of in the fossil record, requires information that is stored in DNA or some other information-carrier. And we know from our experience that information is habitually associated with conscious activity. Using uniformitarian logic, we can reconstruct the cause of that ancient information in the first cell as being the product of intelligence.”

As my mind tracked his line of reasoning, everything seemed to click into place--—except one thing. “However,” I said, “there’s a caveat.”

Meyer cocked an eyebrow. “Like what?” he asked.

“All of that is true--—unless you can find some better explanation.”

“Yes, of course,” he said. “You have to rule out other causes of the same effect. Origin-of-life scientists have looked at other possibilities for decades and, frankly, they’ve come up dry.”

Before we went any further, though, I needed to satisfy myself that other major possible scenarios fall short of the intelligent design theory.

 

THE MISSING SOUP

In 1871, Charles Darwin wrote a letter in which he speculated that life might have originated when “a protein compound was chemically formed ... in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc. present.”13 A few years ago a scientist summarized the basic theory this way:

The first stage on the road to life is presumed to have been the build-up, by pure chemical synthetic processes occurring on the surface of the early Earth, of all the basic organic compounds necessary for the formation of a living cell. These are supposed to have accumulated in the primeval oceans, creating a nutrient broth, the so-called “prebiotic soup.” In certain specialized environments these organic compounds were assembled into large macromolecules, proteins and nucleic acids. Eventually, over millions of years, combinations of these macromolecules occurred which were then endowed with the property of self-reproduction. Then driven by natural selection ever more efficient and complex self-reproducing molecular systems evolved until finally the first simple cell system emerged.14

 

“I hear scientists talk a lot about this prebiotic soup,” I said. “How much evidence is there that it actually existed?”

“That’s a very interesting issue,” he replied. “The answer is there isn’t any evidence.”

That’s highly significant, because most origin-of-life theories presuppose the existence of this ancient chemical ocean. “What do you mean, ‘there isn’t any’?”

“If this prebiotic soup had really existed,” Meyer explained, “it would have been rich in amino acids. Therefore, there would have been a lot of nitrogen, because amino acids are nitrogenous. So when we examine the earliest sediments of the Earth, we should find large deposits of nitrogen-rich minerals.”

That seemed logical to me. “What have scientists found?”

“Those deposits have never been located. In fact, Jim Brooks wrote in 1985 that ‘the nitrogen content of early organic matter is relatively low—--just 0.015 percent.’ He said in Origins of LifeFrom this we can be reasonably certain that there never was any substantial amount of ‘primitive soup’ on Earth when pre-Cambrian sediments were formed; if such a soup ever existed it was only for a brief period of time.”15

This was an astounding conclusion! “Don’t you find that surprising, since scientists routinely talk about the prebiotic soup as if it were a given?” I asked.

“Yes, certainly it’s surprising,” he replied. “Denton commented on this in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, when he said: ‘Considering the way the prebiotic soup is referred to in so many discussions of the origin of life as an already established reality, it comes as something of a shock to realize that there is absolutely no positive evidence for its existence.’16 And even if we were to assume that the prebiotic soup did exist, there would have been significant problems with cross-reactions.”

“What do you mean?”

“Take Stanley Miller’s origin-of-life experiment fifty years ago, when he tried to recreate the early Earth’s atmosphere and spark it with electricity. He managed to create two or three of the protein-forming amino acids out of the twenty-two that exist.”

I interrupted to let Meyer know that biologist Jonathan Wells had already told me how Miller’s experiment used an atmosphere that scientists now recognize was unrealistic, and that using the correct environment doesn’t yield any biologically relevant amino acids.

“That’s right,” Meyer continued. “What’s also interesting, however, is that Miller’s amino acids reacted very quickly with the other chemicals in the chamber, resulting in a brown sludge that’s not life-friendly at all. That’s what I mean by cross-reactions---even if amino acids existed in the theoretical prebiotic soup, they would have readily reacted with other chemicals. This would have been another tremendous barrier to the formation of life. The way that origin-of-life scientists have dealt with this in their experiments has been to remove these other chemicals in the hope that further reactions could take the experiment in a life-friendly direction.

“So instead of simulating a natural process, they interfered in order to get the outcome they wanted. And that,” Meyer concluded, “is intelligent design.”

Undoubtedly, obstacles to the formation of life on the primitive Earth would have been extremely formidable, even if the world were awash with an ocean of biological precursors. Still, is there any reasonable naturalistic route to life? Like a homicide detective rounding up the usual suspects, I decided to run down the three possible scenarios to see if any of them made sense.

 

SCENARIO #1: RANDOM CHANCE

I began with an observation. “I know that the idea of life forming by random chance is out of vogue right now among scientists,” I said.

Meyer agreed. “Virtually all origin-of-life experts have utterly rejected that approach,” he said with a wave of his hand.

“Even so, the idea is still very much alive at the popular level,” I pointed out. “For many college students who speculate about these things, chance is still the hero. They think if you let amino acids randomly interact over millions of years, life is somehow going to emerge.”

“Well, yes, it’s true that this scenario is still alive among people who don’t know all the facts, but there’s no merit to it,” Meyer replied.

“Imagine trying to generate even a simple book by throwing Scrabble letters onto the floor. Or imagine closing your eyes and picking Scrabble letters out of a bag. Are you going to produce Hamlet in anything like the time of the known universe? Even a simple protein molecule, or the gene to build that molecule, is so rich in information that the entire time since the Big Bang would not give you, as my colleague Bill Dembski likes to say, the ‘probabilistic resources’ you would need to generate that molecule by chance.”

“Even,” I asked, “if the first molecule had been much simpler than those today?”

“There’s a minimal complexity threshold,” he replied. “There’s a certain level of folding that a protein has to have, called tertiary structure, that is necessary for it to perform a function. You don’t get tertiary structure in a protein unless you have at least seventy-five amino acids or so. That may be conservative. Now consider what you’d need for a protein molecule to form by chance.

“First, you need the right bonds between the amino acids. Second, amino acids come in right-handed and left-handed versions, and you’ve got to get only left-handed ones. Third, the amino acids must link up in a specified sequence, like letters in a sentence.

“Run the odds of these things falling into place on their own and you find that the probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. That’s a ten with 125 zeroes after it!

“And that would only be one protein molecule--—a minimally complex cell would need between three hundred and five hundred protein molecules. Plus, all of this would have to be accomplished in a mere 100 million years, which is the approximate window of time between the Earth cooling and the first microfossils we’ve found.

“To suggest chance against those odds is really to invoke a naturalistic miracle. It’s a confession of ignorance. It’s another way of saying, ‘We don’t know.’ And since the 1960s, scientists, to their credit, have been very reluctant to say that chance played any significant role in the origin of DNA or proteins--—even though, as you say, it’s still unfortunately a live option in popular thinking.”

 

SCENARIO #2: NATURAL SELECTION

Random chance might not account for the origin of life, hut zoologist Richard Dawkins says that when natural selection acts on chance variations, then evolution is capable of scaling otherwise impossibly high peaks. In fact, that was the premise of his 1996 book Climbing Mount Improbable.

He suggested that a complex biological structure is like a sheer cliff that cannot be scaled in one big bound without intermediate stepping stones, as chance must do. People look at this towering peak and think evolutionary processes could never get them to the top.

The backside of that same mountain, however, has a gradual slope that makes for much easier climbing. This represents the Darwinian idea that nature provides small chance variations and then natural selection chooses the ones that are most advantageous. Over long periods of time, little changes accumulate into major differences. So while the mountain looks impossible to climb from the cliff side, it’s quite easy to scale via the smaller Darwinian steps of natural selection on the backside.17

In light of that insight, I asked Meyer: “Can natural selection explain how evolution managed to scale the mountain of building the first living cell?”

“Whether natural selection really works at the level of biological evolution is open to debate, but it most certainly does not work at the level of chemical evolution, which tries to explain the origin of the first life from simpler chemicals,” Meyer replied. “As Theodosius Dobzhansky said, ‘Prebiological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.”18

“How so?” I asked.

“Darwinists admit that natural selection requires a self-replicating organism to work,” he explained. “Organisms reproduce, their offspring have variations, the ones that are better adapted to their environment survive better, and so those adaptations are preserved and passed on to the next generation.

“However, to have reproduction there has to be cell division. And that presupposes the existence of information-rich DNA and proteins. But that’s the problem--—those are the very things they’re trying to explain!

“In other words, you’ve got to have a self-replicating organism for Darwinian evolution to take place, but you can’t have a self-replicating organism until you have the information necessary in DNA, which is ‘what you’re trying to explain in the first place. It’s like the guy who falls to a deep hole and realizes he needs a ladder to get out. So climbs jut, goes home, gets a ladder, jumps back into the bole, and climbs out. It begs the question.”

I raised another possibility. “Maybe replication first began in a much simpler way and then natural selection was able to take over,” I said. “For example, some small viruses use RNA as their genetic material. RNA molecules are simpler than DNA, and they can also store information and even replicate. What about the so-called ‘RNA first hypothesis’ that says reproductive life originated in a realm that’s much less complex than DNA?”

“There’s a mountain of problems with that,” he said. “Just to cite a couple of them, the RNA molecule would need information to function, just as DNA would, and so we’re right back to the same problem of where the information came from. Also, for a single strand of RNA to replicate, there must be an identical RNA molecule close by. To have a reasonable chance of having two identical RNA molecules of the right length would require a library of ten billion billion billion billion billion billion RNA molecules--—and that effectively rules out any chance origin of a primitive replicating system.”19

Although popular for a while, the RNA theory has generated its share of skeptics. Evolutionist Robert Shapiro, a chemistry professor at New York University, said the idea at this point “must be considered either a speculation or a matter of faith.”20 Origin-of-life researcher Graham Cairns-Smith said the “many interesting and detailed experiments in this area” have only served to show that the theory is “highly implausible.”21 As Jonathan Wells noted in my earlier interview with him, biochemist Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Center was even more blunt: “You have to build straw man upon straw man to get to the point where RNA is a viable first biomolecule.” 22

Jay Roth, former professor of cell and molecular biology at the University of Connecticut and an expert in nucleic acids, said whether the original template for the first living system was RNA or DNA, the same problem exists. “Even reduced to the barest essentials,” he said, “this template must have been very complex indeed. For this template and this template alone, it appears it is reasonable at present to suggest the possibility of a creator.”23

 

SCENARIO #3: CHEMICAL AFFINITIES AND SELF-ORDERING

Meyer pointed out that by the early l97Os, most origin-of-life scientists had become disenchanted with the options of random chance and natural selection. As a result, some explored a third possibility: various self-organizational theories for the origin of information-bearing macromolecules.

For example, scientists theorized that chemical attractions may have caused DNA’S four-letter alphabet to self-assemble or that the natural affinities between amino acids prompted them to link together by themselves to create protein. When I broached these possibilities, Meyer’s response was to bring up a name I had already encountered during my investigation.

“One of the first advocates of this approach was Dean Kenyon, who coauthored the textbook Biochemical Predestination,” Meyer said. “The title tells it all. The idea was that the development of life was inevitable because the amino acids in proteins and the bases, or letters, in the DNA alphabet had self-ordering capacities that accounted for the origin of the information in these molecules.”

I already knew that Kenyon had repudiated the conclusions of his own book, declaring that “we have not the slightest chance of a chemical evolutionary origin for even the simplest of cells” and that intelligent design “made a great deal of sense, as it very closely matched the multiple discoveries in molecular biology.”24 Still, I wanted to consider the evidence for myself.

“How did this chemical attraction supposedly work?” I asked.

“We’ll use proteins as an example,” he said. “Remember, proteins are composed of a long line of amino acids. The hope was that there would be some forces of attraction between the amino acids that would cause them to line up the way they do and then fold so that the protein can perform the functions that keep a cell alive.”

I interrupted. “You have to admit that there are examples in nature where chemical attractions do result in a kind of self-ordering.”

“That’s right,” Meyer said. “Salt crystals are a good illustration. Chemical forces of attraction cause sodium ions, Na+, to bond with chloride ions, Cl—, in order to form highly ordered patterns within a crystal of salt. You get a nice sequence of Na and Cl repeating over and over again. So, yes, there are lots of cases in chemistry where bonding affinities of different elements will explain the origin of their molecular structure. Kenyon and others hoped this would be the case for proteins and DNA.”

“What turned out to be the problem?” I asked.

“As scientists did experiments, they found that amino acids didn’t demonstrate these bonding affinities,” Meyer replied.

“None at all?”

“There were some very, very slight affinities, but they don’t correlate to any of the known patterns of sequencing that we find in functional proteins. Obviously, that’s a major problem--—but there was an even bigger theoretical difficulty. Information theorist Hubert Yockey and chemist Michael Polanyi raised a deeper issue: ‘What would happen if we could explain the sequencing in DNA and proteins as a result of self-organization properties? Wouldn’t we end up with something like a crystal of salt, where there’s merely a repetitive sequence?”23

When I asked Meyer to elaborate, he said: “Consider the genetic information in DNA, which is spelled out by the chemical letters A, C, G, and T. Imagine every time you had an A, it would automatically attract a G. You d just have a repetitive sequence: A-G-A-G-A-G-A-G. Would that give you a gene that could produce a protein? Absolutely not. Self-organization wouldn’t yield a genetic message, only a repetitive mantra.

“To convey information, you need irregularity in sequencing. Open any book; you won’t see the word ‘the’ repeating over and over and over. Instead, you have an irregular sequencing of letters. They convey information because they conform to a certain known independent pattern--—that is, the rules of vocabulary and grammar. That’s what enables us to communicate--—and that’s what needs to be explained in DNA. The four letters of its alphabet are also highly irregular while at the same time conforming to a functional requirement--—that is, the correct arrangement of amino acids to create a working protein.

“Here’s an example. If you go north of here into Victoria Harbor in British Columbia, you’ll see a pattern on a hillside. As the ferry approaches, you’ll realize it’s a message: red and yellow flowers spell out WELCOME TO VICTORIA. That’s an example of an informational sequence.

“Notice you don’t have mere repetition--—a W followed by an E, followed by another W and another E, and so on. Instead, there’s an irregular combination of letters that conform to an independent pattern or specific set of functional requirements---English vocabulary and grammar. So we immediately recognize this as informational. Whenever we encounter these two elements---irregularity that’s specified by a set of functional requirements, which is what we call ‘specified complexity’--—we recognize this as information. And this kind of information is invariably the result of mind--—not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes.”

“And this is the kind of information we find in DNA?” I asked.

“That’s correct. If all you had were repeating characters in DNA, the assembly instructions would merely tell amino acids to assemble in the same way over and over again. You wouldn’t be able to build all the many different kinds of protein molecules you need for a living cell to function. It would be like handing a person an instruction book for how to build an automobile, but all the book said was ‘the-the-the-the-the-the.’ You couldn’t hope to convey all the necessary information with that one-word vocabulary.

“Whereas information requires variability, irregularity, and unpredictability--—which is what information theorists call complexity--—self-organization gives you repetitive, redundant structure, which is known as simple order. And complexity and order are categorical opposites.

“Chemical evolutionary theorists are not going to escape this. The laws of nature, by definition, describe regular, repetitive patterns. For that reason one cannot invoke self-organizing processes to explain the origin of information, because informational sequences are irregular and complex. They exhibit the ‘specified complexity’ I talked about. Future discoveries aren’t going to change this principle.”

To me, this absolutely doomed the idea of chemical affinities accounting for the information in DNA. But Meyer wasn’t through. There was yet another devastating problem with this theory.

“If you study DNA,” he continued, “you will find that its structure depends on certain bonds that are caused by chemical attractions. For instance, there are hydrogen bonds and bonds between the sugar and phosphate molecules that form the two twisting backbones of the DNA molecule.

“However,” he stressed, “there’s one place where there are no chemical bonds, and that’s between the nucleotide bases, which are the chemical letters in the DNA’s assembly instructions. In other words, the letters that spell out the text in the DNA message do not interact chemically with each other in any significant way. Also, they’re totally interchangeable. Each base can attach with equal facility at any site along the DNA backbone.”

Sensing the need for an illustration, Meyer stood and reached over to the desk to grab another child’s toy--—a metal chalkboard with several magnetic letters sticking to it. Sitting back down, he put the chalkboard on his lap and maneuvered the letters until they spelled the word INFORMATION.

“My kids were young when I was first studying this, so I came up with this example,” he said. “We know that there are magnetic affinities here; that’s why the magnetic letters stick to the metal chalkboard.” To demonstrate, he picked up the letter R and let the magnetism pull it back to the board.

“Notice, however, that the magnetic force is the same for each one of the letters, and so they’re effectively interchangeable. You can use the letters to spell whatever you want. Now, in DNA, each individual base, or letter, is chemically bonded to the sugar-phosphate backbone of the molecule. That’s how they’re attached to the DNA’s structure. But--—and here’s the key point--—there is no attraction or bonding between the individual letters themselves. So there’s nothing chemically that forces them into any particular sequence. The sequencing has to come from somewhere else.

“When I show students the magnetic letters sticking to the metal chalkboard, I ask, ‘How did this word INFORMATION arise?’ The answer, of course, is intelligence that comes from outside the system. Neither chemistry nor physics arranged the letters this way. It was my choice. And in DNA, neither chemistry nor physics arranges the letters into the assembly instructions for proteins. Clearly, the cause comes from outside the system.”

He paused while the implications sunk in. “And that cause,” he stressed, “is intelligence.”

 

 “ALMOST A MIRACLE

Like a skillful boxer picking apart the defenses of his opponent, Meyer had adroitly dismantled the three categories of naturalistic explanations for the origin of life and information in DNA. We even discussed another option--—the possibility that some external force might be responsible for creating organization, much in the same way gravity creates a vortex as water drains from a bathtub. Meyer quickly dismissed that notion, pointing out that such forces may produce order but they can’t manufacture information.26

These dead-ends for naturalistic origin-of-life theories would not be a surprise to scientists in the field. When prominent origin-of-life researcher Leslie Orgel ran into another evolutionist at a Detroit conference several years ago, Orgel admitted the overwhelming difficulties he had encountered in trying to figure out how nucleic acids might have been naturally synthesized on the primitive Earth. Then Orgel candidly conceded, “There are equally overwhelming difficulties in the way of all theories.”27

In short, no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information necessary to life’s origin arose by naturalistic means. As Crick, a philosophical materialist, has conceded: “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.”28

For many researchers, the only recourse has been to continue to have faith that, as one scientist put it, some previously unknown “magic mineral” will be discovered to have had “exactly the right properties to cause the necessary reactions to occur to create a nucleic acid.”

“Maybe,” I said to Meyer, “someday scientists will come up with another hypothesis.”

“Maybe they will,” he replied. “You can’t prove something like this with one-hundred-percent certainty, because you don’t know what new evidence will show. That’s why all scientists reason in a way that’s provisional. Having said that, though, we do know that some possibilities can be excluded categorically. They’re dead ends. For example, I think you can categorically exclude the idea that self-organizational processes can provide new information. More evidence will simply not change that.”

“Some skeptics would claim you’re arguing from ignorance,” I pointed out. “Scientists admit they don’t know how life started, so you conclude there must have been an intelligent designer.”

“No, not at all. I’m not saying intelligent design makes sense simply because other theories fail,” he insisted. “Instead, I’m making an inference to the best explanation, which is how scientists reason in historical matters. Based on the evidence, the scientist assesses each hypothesis on the basis of its ability to explain the evidence at hand. Typically, the key criterion is whether the explanation has ‘causal power,’ which is the ability to produce the effect in question.

“In this case, the effect in question is information. We’ve seen that neither chance, nor chance combined with natural selection, nor self-organizational processes have the causal power to produce information. But we do know of one entity that does have the required causal powers to produce information, and that’s intelligence. We’re not inferring to that entity on the basis of what we don’t know, but on the basis of what we do know. That’s not an argument from ignorance.”

“Isn’t there a fundamental weakness to your argument, though?” I asked. “You’re arguing by analogy, comparing the information in DNA to information we find in language. Arguments based on analogies are notoriously weak. Advocates might emphasize the similarities between two things, but opponents will stress the differences.”

“I’ll admit that there is a way of speaking about the information in DNA that goes too far and then becomes metaphorical,” he began. When people talk about DNA as being a message, that could imply there was a receiver who could ‘understand’ the message. I’m not saying that DNA is this sort of semantic information.

“However, I’m not arguing by analogy. The coding regions of DNA have exactly the same relevant properties as a computer code or language. As I said earlier, whenever you find a sequential arrangement that’s complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or functional requirement, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence. Books, computer codes, and DNA all have these two properties. We know books and computer codes are designed by intelligence, and the presence of this type of information in DNA also implies an intelligent source.

“Scientists in many fields recognize this connection between information and intelligence. When archaeologists discovered the Rosetta stone, they didn’t think its inscriptions were the product of random chance or self-organizational processes. Obviously, the sequential arrangements of symbols was conveying information, and it was a reasonable assumption that intelligence created it. The same principle is true for DNA.”

 

THE BIOLOGIC BIG BANG

Meyer had made a convincing case that intelligence--—and intelligence alone--—can explain the presence of precise information within genetic material. By itself, this was impressive evidence for the existence of a designer of life.

As I looked down at my hand and tried to comprehend the vast quantities of complex and specific information inscribed in each cell, a slight smile formed at the corners of my mouth. The answer to the monumental question of whether there’s a Creator, I mused, might very well be as close as my own fingertips.

Meyer wasn’t finished, however. As he mentioned in our previous interview, he is convinced that the so-called “Cambrian explosion”---in which a dazzling array of new life forms suddenly appears fully formed in the fossil record, without any of the ancestors required by Darwinism--—also is powerful evidence of a designer. The reason: this phenomenon would have required the sudden infusion of massive amounts of new genetic and other biological information that only could have come from an intelligent source.

Among other places, Meyer makes that case in “The Cambrian Information Explosion: Evidence for Intelligent Design” in Debating Design, recently published by Cambridge University Press. Another extensive piece, “The Cambrian Explosion: Biology’s Big Bang,” appears in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education. Meyer coauthored this analysis with Paul Chien, chairman and professor in the biology department at the University of San Francisco, who worked with leading Chinese scientists on interpreting Cambrian fossils unique to China’s Chengjiang region; Paul A. Nelson, a philosopher of biology who earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago; and paleontologist Marcus Ross.

“The fossils of the Cambrian Explosion absolutely cannot be explained by Darwinian theory or even by the concept called ‘punctuated equilibrium,’ which was specifically formulated in an effort to explain away the embarrassing fossil record,” Meyer said. “When you look at the issue from the perspective of biological information, the explanation is that an intelligence was responsible for this otherwise inexplicable phenomenon.”

I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs to get comfortable. “This sounds fascinating,” I said. “Explain what you mean.”

Meyer clearly relished the opportunity to elaborate. “New developments in embryology and developmental biology are telling us that DNA as important as it is, is not the whole show,” Meyer began.

“DNA provides some but not all of the information that’s needed to build a new organism with a novel form and function. You see, DNA builds proteins, but proteins have to be assembled into larger structures. There are different kinds of cells, and those cells have to be ranged into tissues, and tissues have to be arranged into organs, and organs have to be arranged into overall body plans.

“According to neo-Darwinism, new biological forms are created from mutations in DNA, with natural selection preserving and building on the favorable ones. But if DNA is only part of the story, then you can mutate it indefinitely and you’ll never build a fundamentally new body architecture.

“So when you encounter the Cambrian explosion, with its huge and sudden appearance of radically new body plans, you realize you need 1ots of new biological information. Some of it would be encoded for in DNA--—although how that occurs is still an insurmountable problem for Darwinists. But on top of that, where does the new information come from that’s not attributable to DNA? How does the hierarchical arrangement of cells, tissues, organs, and body plans develop? Darwinists don’t have an answer. It’s not even on their radar.”

 

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE

Using radiometric techniques to date zircon crystals in Siberia, scientists have recently been able to increase their accuracy in pinpointing the time frame of the Cambrian explosion, whose beginning they have determined to be some 530 million years ago.

Paleontologists now think that during a five-million-year (or even [shorter) window of time, at least twenty and as many as thirty-five of the world’s forty phyla, the highest category in the animal kingdom, sprang forth with unique body plans. In fact, some experts believe that “all living phyla may have originated by the end of the explosion.”30

To put this incredible speed into perspective, if you were to compress all of the Earth’s history into twenty-four hours, the Cambrian explosion would consume only about one minute.31

“The Cambrian explosion represents an incredible quantum leap in biological complexity,” Meyer said. “Before then, life on Earth was pretty simple—one-celled bacteria, blue-green algae, and later some sponges and primitive worms or mollusks. Then without any ancestors in the fossil record, we have a stunning variety of complex creatures appear in the blink of an eye, geologically speaking.

“For example the trilobite--—with an articulated body, complicated nervous system, and compound eyes--—suddenly shows up fully formed at the beginning of the explosion. It’s amazing! And this is followed by stasis, which means the basic body plans remained distinct over the eons.

“All of this totally contradicts Darwinism, which predicted the slow, gradual development in organisms over time. Darwin admitted the Cambrian explosion was ‘inexplicable’ and ‘a valid argument’ against his theory. He insisted ‘natura non facit salturn--—nature takes no leaps.’ He thought he would be vindicated, however, as more fossils were discovered, but the picture has only gotten worse.

“The big issue is where did the information come from to build all these new proteins, cells, and body plans? For instance, Cambrian animals would have needed complex proteins, such as lysyl oxidase. In animals today, lysyl oxidase molecules require four hundred amino acids. Where did the genetic information come from to build those complicated molecules? This would require highly complex, specified genetic information of the sort that neither random chance, nor natural selection, nor self-organization can produce.”

In my interview for Chapter Three, biologist Jonathan Wells had satisfactorily answered my objections to the Cambrian explosion, one of which was that transitional organisms may have been too small or soft to have left a legacy of fossils. Still, another possibility came to mind.

“Maybe,” I suggested, “some unexplained environmental phenomenon caused a sudden spate of mutations that accelerated the creation of new organisms.”

“That doesn’t solve the problem,” Meyer replied. “First, even assuming a generous mutation rate, the Cambrian explosion was far too short to have allowed for the kind of large-scale changes that the fossils reflect.

“Second, only mutations in the earliest development of organisms have a realistic chance of producing large-scale macroevolutionary  change. And scientists have found that mutations at this stage typically have disastrous effects. The embryo usually dies or is crippled.”

Geneticist John F. McDonald has called this “a great Darwinian paradox.”32 The kind of mutations that macroevolution needs--— namely, large-scale, beneficial ones--—don’t occur, while the kind it doesn’t need---large-scale mutations with handful effects or small scale mutations with limited impact--—do occur, though infrequently.

I brought up another idea that has been offered by some evolutionists. “Why couldn’t mutations have occurred in an inactive part of the DNA, sort of a neutral area that wouldn’t have had any immediate impact on the organism?” I asked. “Then, after a long period of time during which these mutations could accumulate, a new gene sequence could have suddenly kicked in and created an entirely new protein. Natural selection would then preserve any beneficial effects this would have on the organism”

This theory wasn’t new to Meyer. He responded by saying, “Keep in mind that these mutations would have had to occur by random chance, since natural selection can’t preserve anything until it confers a positive benefit on the organism. The problem is that the odds of creating a novel functional protein without the help of natural selection would be vanishingly small. There are now a number of studies in molecular biology that establish this. So this so-called ‘neutral theory’ of evolution is another dead end.

“There’s really only one explanation that accounts for all the evidence. In any other field of endeavor, it would be obvious, but many scientists shy away from it in biology. The answer,” he said, “is an intelligent designer.”

 

FITTING THE “TOP DOWN” PATTERN

The puzzle of the Cambrian Explosion quickly falls into place once the possibility of a purposeful Creator is allowed as one of the explanatory options. Even one of the explosion’s most vexing features--—its so-called “top down” pattern of appearance--—is efficiently explained by intelligent design.

Said Meyer: “Neo-Darwinism predicts a ‘bottom up’ pattern in which small differences in form between evolving organisms appear prior to large differences in form and body plan organization. For instance, you might imagine that pre-Cambrian sponges would have given rise to several different varieties. These varieties would have evolved over time to produce different species. As this process continued, wholly different creatures with completely new body plans would have emerged in the Cambrian era.

“Instead, however, fossils from the Cambrian explosion show a radically different ‘top down’ pattern. Major differences in form and body plans appear first, with no simpler transitions before them. Later, some minor variations arise within the framework of these separate and disparate body plans.

“This has completely stumped neo-Darwinists. Others have tried to explain it away by proposing big leaps of evolutionary change--— the so-called punctuated equilibrium idea--—but even this can’t account for the ‘top down’ phenomenon. In fact, punctuated equilibrium predicts a ‘bottom up’ pattern; it just asserts that the increments of evolutionary change would be larger. Yet if you postulate intelligent design, the ‘top down’ pattern makes sense, because it’s the same pattern we see in the history of human technological design.”

“Can you give me an example?” I asked.

“Sure--—think about cars or airplanes,” Meyer replied. “They also manifest a ‘top down’ pattern of appearance. In both cases, the major blueprint or plan appears fairly suddenly and remains essentially constant over history.

“For instance, all cars have a basic organizational plan that includes a motor, a drive shaft, two axles, four wheels, and so forth. After the basic invention came about, then variations have occurred on the theme over time. That’s an example of ‘top down’ change. The original blueprint was the product of intelligence, and the continuity through the years is explained by an idea being passed from generation to generation of automotive engineers.

“In a similar way, why couldn’t the body plans of the Cambrian animals have originated as an idea in the mind of a designer? This would explain why the major differences in form appear first and then subsequent small-scale variations only come later. In fact, intelligence is the only cause we know that produces the kind of ‘top down’ pattern we see in both the fossil record and in human technology, as illustrated by everything from cars and airplanes to guns and bicycles.33

“Intelligence also explains the origin of the layers of information necessary to create the new body plans in the Cambrian animals. As I mentioned earlier, to build a new animal you need DNA to create the proteins and additional information to arrange the proteins into higher level structures. We find the same layering or hierarchical form of organization in human technologies, like a computer’s circuit board. Humans use intelligence to produce complex components, such as transistors and capacitors, as well as their specific arrangement and connection within an integrated circuit.

“Once you allow intelligent design as an option, you can quickly see how it accounts for the key features of the Cambrian phenomenon. No other entity explains the sudden appearance of such complex new creatures. No other entity produces ‘top down’ patterns. No other entity can create the complex and functionally specific information needed for new living forms. No other explanation suffices.”

“But intelligent design sounds like such an outmoded concept,” I said. “William Paley famously compared biological systems to the workings of a watch more than two hundred years ago. That’s old news."

I had struck a nerve. Meyer uncrossed his legs, planted both feet on the floor, and spoke with conviction. “I think the opposite is true,” he insisted. “We’ve learned a lot about biology since the Civil War. Evolutionists are still trying to apply Darwin’s nineteenth-century thinking to a twenty-first century reality, and it’s not working. Explanations from the era of the steamboat are no longer adequate to explain the biological world of the information age.

“Darwinists say they’re under some sort of epistemological obligation to continue trying, because to invoke design would be to give up on science. Well, I say it’s time to redefine science. We should not be looking for only the best naturalistic explanation, but the best explanation, period. And intelligent design is the explanation that’s most in conformity with how the world works.”

 

A HALLMARK OF MIND

As our interview was drawing to a close, Meyer’s reference to the twenty-first century prompted one last line of inquiry. “Fast forward ten or twenty years,” I said. “What do you see?”

“I think the information revolution taking place in biology is sounding the death knell for Darwinism and chemical evolutionary theories,” he said as he removed his glasses and slipped them into his pocket.

“The attempt to explain the origin of life solely from chemical constituents is effectively dead now. Naturalism cannot answer the fundamental problem of how to get from matter and energy to biological function without the infusion of information from an intelligence.

“Information is not something derived from material properties; in a sense, it transcends matter and energy. Naturalistic theories that rely solely on matter and energy are not going to be able to account for information. Only intelligence can. I think that realization is going to progressively dawn on more and more people, especially younger scientists who have grown up in the age of information technology.

“Today we buy information, we sell it, we regard it as a commodity, we value it, we send it down wires and bounce it off satellites---and we know it invariably comes from intelligent agents. So what do we make of the fact that there’s information in life? What do we make of the fact that DNA stores far more information in a smaller space than the most advanced supercomputer on the planet?

“Information is the hallmark of mind. And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that’s far greater than our own--—a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who’s amazingly creative. There’s no getting around it.”

The cacophony of street noise coming through the half-opened window was getting louder now that rush hour was approaching. Meyer’s wife was graciously cooking a salmon dinner for us at their house, and it was time to get on the highway before it got clogged with traffic. As we ended our discussion, Meyer excused himself for a quick meeting in another office, giving me some time to reflect.

Meyer’s two rhetorical questions near the conclusion of our discussion effectively summed up the issue. 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.

What else can generate information but intelligence? What else can account for the rapid appearance of a staggering variety of fully formed, complex creatures that have absolutely no transitional intermediates in the fossil record? The conclusion was compelling: an intelligent entity has quite literally spelled out evidence of his existence through the four chemical letters in the genetic code. It’s almost as if the Creator autographed every cell.

I sighed and slumped back in my chair, a bit exhausted from my whirlwind of travel and interviews. The case for a Creator was accumulating at a remarkable pace, and I could sense I was approaching the conclusion of my quest. But I also knew there was at least one more expert I needed to consult.

In the closing minutes of our conversation, Meyer had mentioned the word “mind” and referred to conscious activity. As beguiled as I was by DNA, I was equally intrigued by the human brain. Weighing three pounds, it has ten thousand million nerve cells, each sending out enough fibers to create a thousand million million connections. That’s equal to the number of leaves in a dense forest covering a million square miles.34

Yet how does all of that circuitry create the unique phenomenon of human consciousness? How does raw biological processing power enable me to reflect, or form beliefs, or make free choices? Is my consciousness only attributable to the physics and chemistry of my brain, or have I also been endowed with an immaterial mind and soul? And if there is persuasive evidence of a soul, what could this tell me about the existence of a Creator--—and an afterlife?

I pulled out a small notebook and scribbled myself a note to contact an expert on consciousness as soon as I returned to Los Angeles. I started to slip the pad into my shirt pocket, but instead I stopped and looked at the reminder I had just written.

It was also a reminder of something else. Those few words--—a fragment of a sentence--—represented information that has its source in my intelligence. How intuitively obvious that a dense array of far more complicated biological assembly instructions must, too, have heir origin in a mind. (219-245)

 

 

Notes

1. George Sim Johnson, “Did Darwin Get It Right?” The Wall Street Journal (October 15, 1999)

2. Quoted in Stephen C. Meyer, “Word Games: DNA, Design, and Intelligence,” in William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner, Signs of intelligence, 102.

3. Nicholas Wide, “A Revolution at 50; DNA Changed the World. Now What?” New York Times (February 25, 2003).

4. See: Nancy Gibbs, “The Secret of Life,” Time (February 17, 2003).

5. Michael Demon, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 334.

6. Unlocking the Mystery of Life, produced by Illustra Media, available at: www. illustramedia.com

7. Ibid.

8. Quoted in Larry Witham, By Design, 172.

9. The Discovery Institute is a think tank that deals with a wide variety of projects in the fields of technology, science and culture, legal reform, national defense, the environment and the economy, the future of democratic institutions, transportation, religion and public life, foreign affairs, and other areas. See: www.discovery.org.

10. See: Fazale R. Rana and Hugh Ross, “Life from the Heavens? Not This Way,Facts for Faith, Quarter 1, 2002, an account of a 1999 international conference on the origin of life, where the mood among Darwinists was described as full of frustration, pessimism, and desperation.

11. See: Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Information and the Origin of Life (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990), 170—72.

12. Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), 16.

13. Francis Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (New York: D. Appleton, 1887), 202.

14. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 260.

15. See: J. Brooks, Origins of Life (Sydney: Lion, 1985).

16. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 261.

17. See: Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount improbable (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996).

18. See: S. W. Fox, editor, The Origins of Prebiological Systems and of their Molecular Matrices (New York: Academic Press, 1965), 309—15.

19. For a summary of other arguments against the “RNA first” hypothesis, see: “Stephen C. Meyer Replies,” First Things (October 2000).

20. Robert Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (New York: Summit, 1986), 189.

21. Ibid.

22. See: Gerald F. Joyce, “RNA Evolution and the Origins of Life,” Nature 338(1989), 217—24, and Robert Irion, “RNA Can’t Take the Heat,” Science 279 (1998), 1303.

23. Jay Roth, “The Piling of Coincidence on Coincidence,” in: Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Varghese, editors, Cosmos, Bios, Theos (Chicago: Open Court, 1992), 199.

24. Interview in Unlocking the Mystery of Life.

25. See: Michael Polanyi, “Life’s Irreducible Structure,” Science 160(1968), 1308—12.

26. For a more detailed critique of this theory, see Hubert P. Yockey, “Self-Organization, Origin of Life Scenarios, and Information Theory, Journal of Theoretical Biology 91(1981), 13—31, and Stephen C. Meyer, “DNA and the Origin of Life: Information, Specification, and Explanation,” in John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer, editors, Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State Univ. Press, 2003). 252—55.

27. Robert Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, 188.

28. Francis Crick, Life itself, 88.

29. Robert Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, 189.

30. See: J. W Valentine et al, “Fossils, Molecules, and Embryos: New Perspectives on the Cambrian Explosion,” Development 126 (1999).

31. See: Chi Lili, “Traditional Theory of Evolution Challenged,” Beijing Review (March 31—April 6, 1997).

32. John F. McDonald, “The Molecular Basis of Adaptation: A Critical Review of Relevant Ideas and Observations,” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 14 (1983).

33. See: Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

34. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 330.

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