Christianity and Science, Current Events, Intelligent Design, Popular Books

The Life Dialogue: Information and the Cell

This is part of a series of posts on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. Check out other posts in the series here.

It is hard to underestimate the importance of the question: “Are we designed?” I’ve really started to realize the question’s reverberations even within the Christian community. Creationists definitely believe we are designed, as we were brought out of nothing by God into being. But theistic evolutionists often argue that the only design inherent in God’s creation was His plan to bring about sentience through evolution. Yet this evolution is blind and unguided. So on theistic evolutionism, we are not designed. Is there a middle ground? Can we say evolution mostly correct, but we are still designed?

Stephen Meyer argues that there is such a middle ground. In his enormously successful book, Signature in the Cell, he argues cogently for the position that there is more to life than “just matter and energy.” There is also information (85). If that is the case, then whence the information?

Essentially the argument goes as follows:

1) If there is information in our cells, its origin must be explained.

2) There is information in our cells.

3) Therefore, the origin of the information must be explained.

4) There are three possible explanations for information: chance, necessity, or design.

5) Chance and necessity are not sufficient explanations for information.

6) Therefore, the information is in our cell due to design.

In defense of premise 2, Meyer argues that there is information in the cell that we can detect because DNA isn’t simply random amalgamations of enzymes, rather, they are put in specific order so that they can regulate the production of proteins and RNA. Thus, they act as information which regulates activity of the cell.

3 follows from 1 and 2.

Chance doesn’t seem a sufficient explanation because not only is the generation of information highly improbable, it is also specified (it is information set in a certain way). Necessity won’t work because it presupposes information is already present. Therefore, the cell is designed.

To those Christians interested in the Intelligent Design, Theistic Evolution, Creationism debate, I highly recommend Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell.

A response to an attack on this post found here (search “On Intelligent Design”)



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


6 thoughts on “The Life Dialogue: Information and the Cell

  1. How does this argument play out in other fields of science? Couldn’t it be equally valid to say that because there is information in the fact that 2+2 =4, there must be a designer of such a fact?

    And then of course you will anticipate the atheist objection – maybe 2+2 just equals 4 on its own, and likewise perhaps darwinian processes are good at creating cells rich with information all on their own.

    Posted by jww | May 30, 2011, 6:30 AM
    • There is a distinction that your (thoughtful, as always) reply misses.

      Namely, the distinction of purpose. 2+2=4 is a mathematical equation. Without delving into a debate over realism versus fictionalism versus other views, the equation doesn’t, on its own, produce anything. This is particularly true if you agree that “2+2 just equals 4 on its own).”

      On the other hand, the information in the cell is there for a reason–it codes for the cell. It has functionality by nature. Rather than being an abstract object like a mathematical truth, it is a real, existent thing which codes for all life. I think the distinction is pretty huge.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 31, 2011, 8:53 AM
  2. Signature in the Cell is one of my favorite books. I lean toward the Intelligent Design side of things a lot given my background in software design. If I were to design a biological programming language, I simply couldn’t do any better than God has already done with DNA.

    Posted by American Testament (@atbom) | October 18, 2011, 11:24 PM
  3. I know this is probably out of the context of the post. But if we say that Theistic Evolution stands true. Why did God choose Evolution and not “magick” everything out (He clearly has the ability to do so. Pardon me if I sound amateurish and elementary. But I am a student in Biology and a fledgling Christian and am still searching for ways to reconcile my faith and science. This blog is really great though. You clearly have a formidable knowledge of common arguments and objections. I shall be a frequent lurker from now on! God bless!

    Posted by Nixchan | February 25, 2012, 8:29 AM
    • Thank you very much for your comment! You’ve touched on a point many bring up. You asked, “Why did God choose Evolution and not “magick” everything out”.

      Well, I would tend to respond with a question: Why should God work in that way? Too often, people forget that God is a person and loves creation. God takes joy in His creation and delights in it. Why fault God for enjoying the continuing development of life over a long period of time? I think that God may have chosen to work through longer periods of time simply because God may enjoy the creative process–drawing its beauty out as He worked in and through creation towards His ends.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 26, 2012, 11:53 PM

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