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The DNA Code Takes My Breath Away; Here’s Why

Image credit: lisichik, via Pixabay.

Writing about the science of purpose here in previous posts, I have pointed out that the world abounds in the self-evident acting out of purpose, from bees building hives to vipers injecting venom to subdue their prey, to the pollen of springtime that drifts through the air to fertilize pine cones and neighboring evergreens. Most every child by age eight knows much about these things.

Trival? Not at All

These examples may seem trivial, as if they were just “the way things are,” not proving anything. But this is not so.

I will tell you about something that takes my breath away. 

Most everyone knows about DNA, that it is the blueprint or code for all of life. To get just a little bit technical, DNA is indeed a code that is translated into a different language, that of amino acids, which build proteins which build living things. All codes behave this way. The code of Morse is a simple matter of dots and dashes, but with those two symbols you can speak any language (assuming it is transliterated into Latin letters). We English speakers all use the code of 26 letters that we call the alphabet, and from those letters you can make up any combination of words. And yet the letters themselves have no intrinsic meaning. The noun S-T-O-P means that same thing in English that the noun A-L-T-O means in Spanish, but if you cannot speak one of the two languages then you cannot make sense out of the combination of letters that you are reading. That is, quite literally, you cannot translate the code of the four letters into something that refers to the real world.

Now Consider This

There are only four letters in the “alphabet” of DNA. They are A, G, C, and T. Yet those four letters can be translated into the 22 amino acids that make up virtually all protein in all living things on planet Earth. Think very large: every single organism in every single environment, from the beginning of life some 4 to 5 billion years ago until today, has been encoded by just those four letters of the DNA alphabet.

That is right. Your life, every beat of your heart, and every breath you take, is based on a code. The Oxford mathematician John Lennox put it this way in his conversation with Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, and Peter Robinson in a recent episode of Uncommon Knowledge: “The information required is linguistic, and linguistic language is not produced by random processes.”

Putting it another way, I wrote a poem about this very subject. It is in my book Telos (p. 172):

What lies beneath our senses

We must perforce surmise

To discern the microscopic

And what it does comprise.

The minute have that unique skill

That comes to those so numerous

And mislead us to overconfidence

As if to only humor us.

The trick it seems is to rely

On countless combinations

That far exceed the power of

Our most earnest calculations.

So life itself should at last emerge

Amidst these concatenations

With purpose that could not occur

From mere “atomic co-locations.”

Such innate power brought to light

By what it had forebode

A lengthy written discourse

Concealed in its code