Sunday, January 27, 2008

Origin of Life Problem #2 – Which Came First, DNA or Proteins?

Hi everyone from my family and I, in our warm, cozy Burnsville home. However, this was not the case last weekend. The problems started when I had installed a new thermostat in our home. It worked fine for a couple of days. But on Saturday morning I woke up to a 59 degree home, with it being 20 degrees below zero outside. I tried everything, but it looked hopeless – with the possibility of a major financial hit if we needed a new furnace. We barely staid warm through the weekend, thanks to a gas fireplace and a couple of space heaters. But my brother Bill came to the rescue last Sunday night. He was able to find a lose connection in the thermostat, and somehow he was also able to get our fan working. And we have been warm and cozy ever since. Whew!


Today's topic is to discuss one of the many problems that arises in atheistic science's examination of a living cell – the problem of what came first, the cell's DNA which gives instructions to make proteins, or proteins, which allow the DNA to reproduce? First, let me this tie together with n the topic of the complex and vast amount of information that is contained in DNA. The problem is that science uses only natural means for explaining the creation of the first living cell. This is an incredibly large problem, because it involves science trying to explain the cell's DNA and the vast amount of information it contains only by looking at nature's random paths. I like a quote of Bill Gates when he said when asked about the complex nature of DNA, "DNA is like a computer program, but far,
far more advanced than any software we've ever created." Now Chuck Colson also had an interesting comment about DNA in his How Now Shall We Live book (p. 75), where he notes: "It's true that DNA is composed of ordinary chemicals (bases, sugars, phosphates) that react according to ordinary laws. But what makes DNA function as a message is not the chemicals themselves but rather their sequence, their pattern. The chemicals in DNA are grouped into molecules (called nucleotides) that act like letters in a message, and they must be in a particular order if the message is going to be intelligible…" Anyone who has ever done the simplest of computer programs knows what will happen if there are small amounts of random code added to what you've written. Adding anything other than what the Programmer intends only causes chaos, and will destroy whatever working program was there in the first place. This leads me to believe that DNA, and the information it contains as directly created by God. Everything we know about nature makes it obvious that chemicals sloshing around together can create neither life nor information, no matter how much time you are given.


DNA is soooo amazing, it deserves a little further discussion. DNA is in each of the 300 trillion cells of the human body. And I believe this is correct, DNA has 3 billion units of information within it. These 3 billion units are what Mr. Gates described as being similar to a software program. A cell needs over 75 "helper molecules", all working together in harmony, just to make one protein as instructed by the DNA. And the cell is also fast. Not just fast, it is faster than even the fastest of manmade super-computers. As one writer noted, Interpreting a DNA program and translating it through a code into a physical molecule, the cells collectively function at almost a thousand times the processing speed of IBM's new Blue Gene/L state-of-the-art supercomputer. Again, the cell's speed with the enormous amount of information that it contains is something that is obviously designed. And the cell's Designer has a far greater intelligence than our current level of understanding. This Designer is the Triune Christian God.


Now allow me to get back to the original question, of which came first DNA or Proteins? So here is the problem: DNA contains the information that creates the recipe for amino acids to form into proteins. And replication of DNA requires a lot of very complex protein machinery and that protein machinery needs a lot of DNA to store the instructions for how to make it. This account brings to mind the old riddle: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? DNA holds the recipe for protein construction. Yet that information cannot be retrieved or copied without the assistance of proteins. Which large molecule, then, appeared first in getting life started--proteins (the chicken) or DNA (the egg)?


It appears that the first living cell had everything working together in it: DNA, proteins, and RNA. So how was this incredibly fast, a large storehouse of instructions and information, a miniature factory created? The answer is as clearly before us as the heavens in the sky – it is God who is responsible for all life. And this is what is really amazing – all life is one. There is one language used in all of life, whether it be a plant, an animal, bug, or something microscopic, they all use the same language, the same dictionary, and the same Programmer's code. The genetic code is the same in every creature. As one writer states: the unity of life is an empirical fact. And so, there is a universal language contained in every cell of every living creature. And this language speaks loud and clear to me, and I hope also to other believers: DNA is a message from an outside, higher source of Intelligence. Those of us living today in the 21st century, now know that there is a complex message inside each one of us, and in all of life. This message, the very DNA inside each of our cells, is a message from God telling us that He is here. Give glory to God, the Creator of all of life.


edward oleander said...

Hi Tom,
You point to the complexity of DNA and say that it had to be designed, and that the Designer HAD to be your Christian God.

Two points:
1) You have just verified my contention that IDers and Creationists are one and the same.

2) If you are right, then we have to look at the possibility that your God is not as kind and loving (or as brilliant) as you might want to believe. There are ALL sorts of things wrong with our DNA. It breaks easily, and it has lots of useless info that can only cause harm to the host when it goes bad.

Bad DNA is responsible for immeasurable human suffering. Why should that be so? Why do we still have inactive genes more suited to fish than people? Why do we maintain information on diseases and the digestion of materials that haven't been around for millions of years? These "leftovers" can only cause harm, since they get mis-copied and result in millions of birth defects.

What are the true motives of anyone who would design such a flawed system?

tom wolff said...

Hey Ed,

Yes, DNA is complex. But I was pointing to something much larger than just complexity. A snowflake is complex. DNA contains the instructions to build a brain. It has instructions to build our central nervous system. When and where to start. And when to stop. Do you see the difference? There is nothing about DNA that shows that the Darwinian force of randomness had anything to do with its creation. It is so obviously designed by a Higher Intelligence (and yes, I am speaking about the Triune God) that it is laughable to dismiss it as merely being complex, as you have done. DNA is not only the instruction book on how to make the most intricate parts of every living being, but also creates the proteins, and then gives them their instructions on where to go, and what to do. Even Bill Gates' comment that DNA is like a computer program, does not come anywhere close enough to do it justice.

You mention that DNA is responsible for "immeasurable human suffering". Lets leave your hyperbole and overstatement aside. But what are you talking about? As someone in the medical field, you must realize the amazing nature of the human body. And how the 10 trillion cell human being is created with a sperm and an egg without going through 10trillion trial and errors? The DNA allows cells to reproduce, grow replacements when needed, and for 70 plus years for the great majority of us, the system put together by God through our DNA works very well.

Do some people have genetic diseases? Of course. But if you are saying that this somehow shows that random forces put the whole DNA scheme in place, then I say you are ridiculous. You are ignoring the beauty and light of what DNA is and does, by focusing on a tiny blemish of genetic diseases. I have an understanding of why God allows these sort of things in our world. You should do some digging into the topic, to see if you can also learn why.

edward oleander said...

Please enlighten me...

"a tiny blemish" you say? If you cooked one meal a month which poisoned a family member would you say that is insignificant?

About 1 in 33 children are born in the USA with birth defects. About half of those are known to be genetically linked. That number rises every time we find genes that are linked to specific diseases, and it doesn't include vast numbers of people who have genetic factors that contribute significantly to diseases later in life. New research comes out yearly showing genetic links to diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease, the list goes on and on.

You speak of me putting aside hyperbole and overstatement when you should be putting aside wishful thinking and willful ignorance. Not wanting to admit that our DNA is seriously flawed won't make it go away.

If a pharmaceutical company produced a drug that killed or caused serious lifelong deficits in 1% of it's users, that company would be sued into oblivion in no time. I would think that God could do better than Pfizer...

I wouldn't have such trouble with ID/Creationism if Christians didn't insist that God is all-powerful. As flawed as the human body is, it is a wonder compared to the ecology of the universe as a whole. What you see as a "fine tuned" universe I see as a universe so full of design errors that the tiniest imbalance can crush life as we know it in an instant. We do NOT live in a friendly universe. Our universe makes far more sense if seen as a series of events governed by consistent Laws of Physics. As a piece of design, our universe makes Rube Goldberg look like Albert Einstein. If todays theories are right, then our universe is only one among a nearly infinite number. It stands to reason that at least one universe would come together in a manner that can support life under at least some conditions.

When you insist on an intelligent Creator, you must also be able to defend the motives and purposes of that Creator. You need to explain to me why an all-powerful God would make so many glaring mistakes in both the universe and in the life forms in that universe.

Please start with nipples on men.

I'm also waiting for even the beginning of an answer to HOW God accomplished all of this. At least evolution is trying to describe how everything happened. ID/Creationism says NOTHING about how anything happened.

Your turn,

tom wolff said...

Hey Ed,

Let’s first make sure it is clear what we are talking about. In my original post and response I pointed to DNA as an obvious example showing that God designed living creature’s DNA. DNA is like a computer chip, and a software program. It contains 3 billion units of information. And the information that is contained in DNA is impossible for Darwinism to explain because Darwinism is founded upon the random process of variation. And this much information cannot be explained by the random process of Darwinism. DNA’s information is so incredible, yes, so amazing that it can build the human brain. DNA stands as Exhibit 1 for proof of God as Designer in the world around us.

Your response said nothing about my original point: the fact that DNA is clearly designed. You claimed that there are lots and lots of genetic diseases that are affecting lots of lots of people (without giving any citations for the statistics you provided), and this somehow makes the obviously designed features of the human body less amazing. Yes, it is a heartbreaking thing when anyone is struck by any disease, let alone an innocent child. But this is part of the world that we were born into. And yes, it is part of God’s plan. I would explain more about this to you, but frankly you are not open to learning more about God or His plan. Because you are closed to learning about the fear of God, and the truth of Jesus Christ, to spend any of my time explaining the Scriptures to you on this would be a waste of both of our times. And so, I will only say that the fact that there is tragedy in lives around us should focus our attention upon our repentance and salvation. If you like, read Luke 13:1-:5. But you probably won’t take the time to read or try and understand wisdom from the Great Rabbi. And so, again we need to end this part of our discussion.

But let’s get back to the natural. First, even your ‘statistics’ leave only 1.5% of serious genetic birth defects. So this means 95+% of normal healthy babies, right? Am I missing something here? The great majority proves my point. The human body is self-repairing, self-organizing, and runs on average today over 77 years (source Wikipedia, Mortality), without problem for the majority of people. DNA is not “seriously flawed”. Its operators are the one’s who take for granted the amazing gift we are given.

You can say there is a genetic link to things like diabetes and heart disease. But c’mon Ed get serious. Look at the Top 10 List of Causes of Death (Source: Wikipedia, Mortality), and you see the impact of a person’s choice and its effect on a person’s lifespan: The Number one and two causes of death is heart disease and vascular disease. Are you claiming the genetic link is stronger than a person’s choice in being overweight, regular eating of meats, smoking and drinking? Respiratory infection is the 3rd leading cause of death, and this sounds like a link to smoking and air pollution to me, more than a genetic cause. And the 4th leading cause of death is HIV/Aids. It’s too sad to see this reason for death this high…

Ed, both you and I know that we are making poor choices with what we eat. We are both educated, with at least some natural degree of intelligence (). And yet, we both continue to make these choices every day despite what we know is our ultimate destination: an early grave. You can hide behind genetics if you want. I know it is my choices that are the main cause for my being overweight, and what this means, a greater likelihood of diabetes and heart disease.

So the summary of my response to your (unsupported) claim that DNA is “seriously flawed” is that it is flawed only by what we as the human race individually and collectively do to our bodies. But this in no way takes away from the amazing bodies and the tremendous gift of life that we are given. And so, I will repeat that all of creation, including our DNA points to God as our Creator. When the Human Genome project was completed, President Clinton described our DNA as “the language of God”. This was a very thoughtful description by President Clinton. But you can focus on the tiny blemish of a few problems for the smallest of percentages in the human race. But where there are those in need, don’t you agree that this also provides opportunities of service, which is shown in your own life. The poorest of India ignored by everyone around them provided an opportunity of service for Mother Theresa. You can call this “wishful thinking”. I see it as a call for my family and I to serve.