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Irrational Claims In Scientific American About The Origin Of The Genetic Code

In its April 2004 edition Scientific American magazine carried an article co-authored by bioinformatics* expert Stephen J. Freeland and evolutionary geneticist Laurence D. Hurst.

In their article, titled “Evolution Encoded,” the researchers described their investigation of the genetic code”s ability to reduce errors to a minimum. The way the researchers titled their study, which actually provided no support for the theory of evolution, “Evolution Encoded,” showed they were embroidering the facts in the light of their own preconceptions.

In their study, the scientists sought an answer to the question “How productive is the genetic code in terms of its ability to reduce errors (genetic mutations) to a minimum?” They performed a statistical analysis by designing alternative codes for the genetic code. The scientists subjected no less than 2.5 × 1018 alternative codes to examination based on a number of technical assumptions in their production. As a result of this investigation they concluded that the genetic code was the best out of a million alternatives.

Another feature in the article dealing with the genetic code was the way it revealed 16 variations in the living world.

A largely standard genetic code is used in the living world. However, some codons (nucleotide triplets) can be coded in different ways in some organisms. For example, most organisms read the codon “CUG” as leucine amino acid, whereas several species of the fungus Candida read it as serine amino acid.

In Freeland and Hurst”s article these variations, which were first revealed in the 1990s, are portrayed as signs of evolution and are claimed that the genetic code has accelerated evolution. This evolutionary claim, however, is the product of a blind devotion to materialism and possesses no scientific justification. In fact, the genetic code completely undermines chance-based explanations and as an information-based processing system deals one of the most lethal blows to materialism. After providing information about variations, the researchers make meaningless statements along the lines of “It can evolve. This means that it probably did evolve,” an indication that they have rejected intelligent design right from the outset and are seeking an explanation compatible with materialist dogma. The invalidity of these researchers” dogmatic perspective is set out below by revealing the true origin of the genetic code.

The Genetic Code

The genetic code expresses rules used in the coding of information in the cell, and is used in protein synthesis. Proteins are molecules which play various roles in cell activities. They are chains that form when the molecules known as amino acids are placed end to end. There are twenty amino acids in our body. The number of proteins that amino acids build by being added end to end is in the tens of thousands. Proteins are folded up by assuming particular three-dimensional shapes according to the amino acids that comprise them. The form of the protein is of critical importance in terms of its function. Any error that might arise in the structure of the protein will lead to its failing to bind to the relevant molecules, as a result of which breakdowns in the life of the molecule, or even fatal consequences, will emerge.

The data regarding tens of thousands of proteins in our cells is stored in the DNA molecule, which consists of two threads spiralling round one another. Nucleotides in the form of steps join the two strands together. These nucleotides come in four types, and are indicated by the first initial of their names; A, T, G and C. There are some 3.1 billion nucleotides set out, one after the other, in a human being”s DNA. These are also “chemical letters” that store the information regarding the proteins synthesised in the cell. These letters are grouped in such a way that each one contains the information for one protein. These groups are known as “genes.” A gene may consist of from 50 to 2000 nucleotides. The letters giving rise to genes also produce triple codons. To give an analogy, codons resemble words, and genes sentences.

In order for protein synthesis to take place, the information in the DNA in the cell nucleus has to be copied and carried to the organelle (ribosome) where protein synthesis happens. This process takes place thanks to cellular machines. At this point, the information in the DNA “is read and translated” thanks to the genetic code.

The synthesis of protein in the cell takes place using two separate “alphabets.” The first of these is the DNA”s alphabet. The data of the protein are encoded in the DNA by the letters A, T, G and C. The letters of the other language are the amino acids that build-up the proteins.

The information in a gene that stores the information about a protein is copied on the DNA molecule in a process known as transcription. It is carried by the mRNA (messenger RNA) molecule to the cell”s organelle known as the ribosome. The letters on the mRNA are read in threes, in other words codon by codon. At this point, the tRNA (transfer RNA) molecule brings together the amino acid corresponding to each codon to be added to the protein chain. The amino acids continue to be brought up and strung together as long as the codons are read, and the relevant protein is finally produced. This is at the same time a translation process. The relevant amino acid corresponding to every codon is inserted, in other words, the information written in the DNA language is written in protein language by the use of amino acids. This resembles the translation of a Spanish text into English.

The Genetic Code and Intelligent Design

Let us imagine that the pilot of a small passenger plane flying over an island in the ocean sees some rocks strung out on the shore. The pilot loses altitude and sees that these have been so laid out as to read “HELP!” in huge letters. There can be no doubt that the rocks here contain coded information. The word “code” refers to “a collection of symbols and the rules used in the way these carry information and are altered.” The call for help is formed using letters from the Latin alphabet (symbols) set out according to the linguistic rules of English. The coded information encountered by the pilot does not stem from the rocks themselves. A human being must have come to that shore at least once, and that person used the thoughts in his or her mind to set information out on that shore using rocks.

There is sufficient information in a single human DNA molecule to fill around 1 million pages of text. This information is constantly processed, according to the rules of the genetic code, in the cell”s vital functions. With regard to the source of the information, the situation in the genetic code is no different to that in the rocks on the shore. In the same way that the source of the information in the message on the shore cannot lie in the rocks themselves, so the source of the information in the genes does not lie in the nucleotides. Information theorists have concluded that information cannot stem from matter, and that the sources of information and matter have to be examined separately. Hubert Yockey, a prominent information theorist and biophysicist, says “Like all messages, the life message is non-material but has an information content measurable in bits and bytes.” (1) Dean Overman has said the following on this subject:

The information contained in the genetic code, like all information or messages, is not made of matter … The meaning is not a property of the arrangement of the symbols or alphabet of the code. The message or meaning in the genetic code is non-material and cannot be reduced to a physical or chemical property … [m]aterialism does not explain the meaning in the code. (2)

There exists no physical law that could enable the genetic law to come into being by itself. Professor Werner Gitt, director of the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig), , says this about this fact:

A coding system always entails a nonmaterial intellectual process. A physical matter cannot produce an information code. All experiences show that every piece of creative information represents some mental effort and can be traced to a personal idea-giver who exercised his own free will, and who is endowed with an intelligent mind…. There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter… (3)

The fact that with its ability to store information in DNA the genetic code functions like a computer further increases the meaninglessness of these dogmatic explanations. According to calculations made by Led Adleman of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, “One gram of DNA can store information as a trillion compact discs.” (4) Furthermore, the genetic code, which functions like a computer program, goes far beyond technology. The Windows code, one of the world”s most complex computer programs, can have two electronic states – on or off. The DNA code, on the other hand, consists of analogue segments that can contain infinite variations in state. That means that the DNA logic is thousands of times more complex than that of Windows, written and tested by thousands of people. Bill Gates, president and administrator of Microsoft, writes in his book The Road Ahead:

Human DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we”ve ever created. (5)

The nonsensical nature of Freeman and Hurst”s attempt to account for the variations in the genetic code, so far superior to technology, from a chance-based perspective, can thus be seen. That is because the slightest change in the rules of interpreting the code will evidently mean the end of the metabolism by giving rise to numerous simultaneous changes in the living thing”s genetic make-up. To maintain, nonetheless, that the variations in the genetic code emerged by chance is like claiming that a computer loaded with the Windows XP program thrown out of a window could give rise to very different computers all functioning with 16 different and perfectly working programs.

Scientific Findings Refute the Genetic Code Evolution Scenario

There is absolutely no possibility that genetic information and the genetic code, which so clearly bear the signs of intelligent design, could have emerged in a chance-based manner through natural selection. Huberty Yockey, the prominent information theorist and biophysicist, measured the amount of information needing to be contained for life to be possible in even the smallest genome and revealed that the odds of this coming into being by chance were 1 in 10186,000. (6) Yockey calculated that in order for the genetic code to have come into being by chance natural selection would have to discover 1.40 x 1070 different genetic codes before reaching a universal code. Events with a less than 1 in 1050 chance of happening are regarded as practically impossible anywhere in the universe. (7) That means that the chance of the genetic code emerging by chance is “0”. Science definitively rejects materialist scenarios regarding the origin of the genetic code. The effect of this on evolutionists who have adopted materialism can be seen in the words of Sir John Maddox, who edited the famous scientific journal Nature for 20 years:

It is disappointing that the origin of the genetic code is still as obscure as the origin of life itself. (8)

The terms “obscure” and “disappointing” in that extract must not be thought of a stemming from an insufficiency of scientific findings. As shown above, far from being obscure, the origin of the genetic code is crystal clear. That origin is intelligent design. The genetic code is just one example of God”s flawless creation. Those who accept that evident truth feel no disappointment whatsoever, but on the contrary follow the findings of modern science that confirm the fact of creation with great excitement. Those, on the other hand, who seek to keep their materialist philosophies alive with irrational scenarios are condemned to a life of disappointment within a hopeless wait.


The words below belong to Henry Bourne of the University of California at San Francisco, a researcher into cell signalling and give a good idea of the position regarding cell functioning:

We are exploring a vast, vast, vast continent… and we know only a few ports, a handful of rivers and a couple of mountain ranges. (9)

When the complexity of the genetic code is added to this, it can be seen that information regarding the code and its variations discovered only in recent years is still very fresh. Scientific research shows that the complexity of life is far greater than ever imagined, in the light of which it is evident that the variations in question are a still mysterious part of that complexity. That being the case, Freeman and Hurst”s endeavours to explain variations through evolution consist of an as yet unripe interpretation.

However, whatever the role of variations in supporting life, the fact that information and matter have different origins and that coded information is always the product of a mind, leave this materialism-based interpretation totally groundless. We advise Scientific American magazine to abandon its blind support for materialism and to accept that the information in the origin of life points to intelligent design.

*Bioinformatics may be defined as the use of information technologies (all computer procedures) in the resolution of biological problems.

1. Hubert Yockey, “Information in Bits and Bytes,” BioEssays 17:85 (1995).
2. Dean L. Overman, A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization, (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997.
3. Werner Gitt, In the Beginning Was Information, CLV, Bielefeld, Germany, pp. 107, 141.
4. John Whitfield, “Physicists plunder life”s tool chest”, 24 April 2003,
5. Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation, The Road Ahead, [1995], Penguin: London, Revised, 1996, p.228.
6. Hubert Yockey, Calculating Evolution, vol. 3 No. l, p. 28 (Cosmic Pursuit, 2003)
7. Emil Borel, Elements of the Theory of Probability, Prentice Hall, Eaglewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1965.
8. “The Genesis Code by Numbers,” Nature, 367:111, January 1994.
9. Alison Abbott, “Alliance for cellular signaling: Into unknown territory”, Nature 420, 12 December 2002, pp. 600 – 601.

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