Conversations between proponents and (thoughtful) critics of intelligent design often have a quality of talking past each other. On a podcast episode of ID the Future, University of Pittsburgh physicist David Snoke offers a helpful explanation of why that might be. Listen to it here.
Most people who think about science are accustomed to scientific explanations being historical in nature. Explaining why something exists means recounting the steps by which it became what it is. Well, what about the biological information in DNA? How did that come to be?
The problem is that scientific thinking that’s open to the design hypothesis must be prepared to break the “history” rule. Information implies an author, but, says Dr. Snoke, “By definition, good information-carrying systems are intrinsically history-erasing systems.”
If you think about this for a moment, you already know it. Every time we compose meaningful text, we seek to erase its history. I’m doing that right now. I will keep doing it until I hit the “Publish” button, and maybe even after. As Snoke points out, he writes papers not in the order in which the paper will appear as finally published in a journal, but quite otherwise. He might, for example, write the conclusion first, or prepare the figures first. Often if you’re writing, a particular phrase or sentence comes to you to begin with, and it might be something that fits right in the middle of the article or whatever you’re working on. The initial inspiration, before you’ve written a word — which of course is also part of the history, likely the most important part — might be hard to recognize in the finished piece.
Writing that retains a strong sense of just how and in what order it was conceived and composed would be a total mess. For it to be effective, that history must be carefully erased.
So if DNA reflects a designer’s purpose, then to ask for its history, clearly reflected in the artifact itself, is a contradiction. Objectively considering the question of life’s origins requires being open to the possibility that, as far as the artifact is concerned, its history is largely effaced.
To demand history may be to prejudice the evidence before you’ve even looked at it. I understand that evolutionists assume that DNA reveals its history, thus giving evidence of the common ancestry of all creatures. But that’s an assumption, and it guarantees you’ll find what you expect to find.