(First of a three-part series on DNA, the Language of God)

by Jack Hoehn | July 7, 2019

He said to me, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true…
I am the Α and the Ω [the A and the Z], the beginning and the end [of God’s alphabet].”[1]
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through [the Word] all things were made;
without [the Word] nothing was made that has been made.
In [the Word] was life…[2]

1.1           Words Are a Code

Intelligent beings can use signals to transmit information. Before a child learns words, you could visually refer to something by pointing. Creatures with the FOXP2 gene (and the many others needed to work with it) are gifted with the ability to make sounds that can transfer audible signals. Pointing at one animal we can vocalize “dog,” and pointing at a different one we can vocalize “cat.” “Come here, kitty,” spoken becomes intelligible if you understand the “code” of English. But this same information can be processed even by the deaf or dumb. And I have just given this information to you in total silence as you read this paragraph using the signals of a code called an alphabet.

Information can be transmitted with marks pressed into moist clay with a reed, chiseled into stone with iron, written with pigments on leather, on paper with ink and a goose quill, or printed with carved wood or cast metal type then inked to a sheet of newsprint.

With intelligence these meanings can also be turned into dots and dashes of Morse code. This binary code (everything communicated with just two signs—a dot or a dash or combinations of them like … — …  which means SOS[3]). Another binary code can be made using switches that are either on or off. This machine binary code of ones or zeros (1=on, 0=off) can still transmit intelligently the same information as Morse code (in this case SOS in UTF=8 would be communicated with 8 switches off or on, 8 bits–making 3 bytes–like this:  01010011   01001111   01010011). Using this type of code in a computer intelligently programmed to understand it, you could send an alphabet, or an image, or sounds of speech or even music to another intelligently designed computer that can translate the combinations of 1s and 0s back into letters, numbers, words, sounds or images we can understand. All that is required for information to be communicated is that the code be understood by the one sending the information and the one receiving the information.

1.2           Code for Pie

I’ll transmit the information needed to make a lemon pie with this code:

1-baked 9” pie shell
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 lemons, juiced
Mix together in saucepan.  Add: 1½ cups water
Blend until smooth, bring to a boil over medium/medium high heat, stirring.
Boil about 1 minute, continuing to stir, then remove from heat.
Add:  2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
Stir to melt butter, taste and add 1-2 tablespoons; more lemon juice, if needed.
Cool till warm, pour into pie shell, chill in fridge.
Top with whipped cream.

Sharing this information doesn’t give you a pie, but if you have a bowl, mixer, oven, and ingredients and understand the English alphabet and numerical codes–by following the intelligently designed steps, you can reproduce a pie whenever you need one.

Pies are not made by having the ingredients; pies are not made by having an oven or a mixing bowl, pies are made by having correct instructions on which ingredients, in which combination, at what temperature, in which order. Perhaps by lucky chance a child playing in the kitchen, without that information, might just by random luck over long periods of time make one perfect pie. But in order to make 100 or 1,000 pies, in order to make a reproducible pie, in order for many other children to make this perfect pie, one absolutely must have that precise information recorded and followed exactly next time if you wish to reproduce pies. Even if random chance might implausibly create one great pie, you can never reproduce pies without precise information, without a recorded reproducible intelligently designed set of information and all the necessary machines.

1.3           Alphabet of Life

Unlike the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (the first two letters Aleph and Bet gifting the name Aleph-Bet or alphabet) or the 26 letters we use for English, the alphabet of life has only four letters. We call them A, T, C, G after the four nitrogen-containing molecules (“nucleotide bases”) that make up the large chain of them called DNA.[4] This life code is present in all living organisms since the dawn of creation, but its discovery and decoding has roughly happened during the past 73 years of my own lifetime.

That the complex molecule DNA was in all living cells in combinations known as genes or chromosomes was discovered in the 1940’s. I was seven years old in 1953 when Watson and Crick discovered how this giant molecule was arranged as a “double helix.” Figuring out the code and unwinding the double helix began with Fred Sanger in the late 1970s after I graduated from medical school. In the 1990’s when I had finished my 13-year career as a medical missionary in Africa and was already taking care of patients in Walla Walla the “Human Genome Project” took Sanger’s methods and improved and automated it, taking years and billions of dollars to complete.

Today any lab can have a machine from portable size to as large as a cell phone that plugs into a laptop computer and can read the code of the language of life found in every living cell. From the most archaic bacteria even without a nucleus, to every fossil young enough to still have the DNA recoverable (including Neanderthals and dinosaurs) and to every human alive today, the DNA code can now be read or sequenced.

1.4           Stop and Wonder

Look at the DNA code/language and its cellular machines. This language appears, according to materialists, in the most ancient life-forms we study, with unknown origin. Yet author Adam Rutherford rhapsodizes, “The elegant double-helix structure (is) the most beautiful molecule in biology.”[5]

Biochemists understand that “DNA is a remarkably stable medium for the storage and replication of genetic information, and it carries out this role in all living cells.”[6]

DNA is the most compact and durable data storage medium known to science. “We believe this is the highest-density data-storage device ever created,” said Yaniv Erlich, computer science professor at Columbia University[7] (emphasis mine). A perfect, optimal data storage medium appearing magically at the beginning of all life? How convenient.

But its replication to translate the information into useful proteins is by a similar but very temporary and unstable RNA molecule that quickly dissolves as needed to recycle, to be re-coded by the DNA template, to make more new proteins dictated by the stable DNA. Stable, elegant, beautiful, conserved DNA; unstable, useful, recyclable RNA? How convenient.

1.5           DNA Talks

For $100 you can submit your saliva sample or cheek swab to some company such as “23andme.com,” [8] and have your DNA sequenced and studied for known disease tendencies or ancestral information. My own DNA test confirmed what family history had already told me, that 3% of my genome matches the native American pattern of my Cree squaw and her Hudson’s Bay Company English husband ancestors. How did the testing company know I have Native American ancestors?

Because although all humans everywhere come from the same set of ancient human DNA, the occasional minute changes in the ATCG code are preserved in the descendants of each human who had a non-fatal change (a “mutation”) of the code to pass on to their descendants.

1.6           Little Unique Differences

For example, each human male has a shorter-than-normal chromosome[9] called the Y-chromosome, from his father. Although it is the smallest of the 23 pairs of chromosomes and paired with the much longer X-chromosome from his mother, there are still 60 million letters or nucleotides (A, T, C, Gs) in this chromosome’s code. Sometime in the past in a male testicle in Northern Siberia a single letter of those 60 million “letters” changed as the man’s nucleus split into a copy to make his sperm cells. The single mutation or copying error was from a single C to a T.

Normally DNA copying errors are corrected by the “elaborate biochemical proofreading apparatus…supposed to correct such copying errors.”[10] But every once in a while, such an error does not fatally upset the life-directing information in the code and is missed without correction. The sperm with this single letter mutation fertilized his wife’s egg and their son had this mutation, as did all of his sons, and all of those sons’ sons.

Today in all Native Americans from the Bering Straits to Tierra del Fuego and in the rare bones of ancient native Americans when DNA can be recovered, 50% of males have this uncorrected single letter (out of 60 million letters) mutation. If you have a T at this exact spot where other human males have a C, you likely have Native American ancestry—an insignificant change in the code not found in African, Middle Eastern, European, or other Aboriginal humans.

There are similar unique mutations in the billions of other letters in human DNA.  They are passed on to every child of the mother or father who had this minor and usually inconsequential change, and make a DNA fingerprint unique to that ancestry.[11] The minute single-letter changes, ones in billions of letters in all the chromosomes, tell us you have Native American ancestors because this unique pattern.

1.7           Who Wrote the Code?

Secular accounts of DNA start with the DNA codes that have been sequenced[12] and then begin to analyze where the code is all the same, where in the world and with which isolated people groups changes come, how they seem to mix and match into each unique human present today. They start with the DNA alphabet and begin to unravel the story told.

But, where did the original DNA alphabet/code come from? Accounts I have recently read[13] begin with assertions that are truly just “hand waving” about the origin of both the code, and the machines necessary for DNA to function. They say things such as “There is definitely no beginning…no moment of creation…no breath of God…no cracking of a cosmic egg.” That is the confident proposition of DNA explainer Adam Rutherford[14]. But how in the world does he know that, except that Richard Dawkins thinks it is so?

Let’s grant materialists the chemistry necessary (although the origin of the organized rational chemical world we live in is its own creation story), but who wrote the recipe for life and who provided the micromachines necessary to read and process that DNA code? Life does not exist without DNA code. We see changes in the code, the changes over time being the so-called “evolution” of life. But how can changes in the code explain the origin of the code? Frankly, they can’t.

(To be continued.  This is the first of a three-part series on God’s Alphabet.)
(Part 2 is here.)

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Paraphrase combining NIV, Greek Orthodox 1904, and God’s Word (GW) translations of Revelation 21:5, 6.

[2] John 1:1-4 with pronoun “him” replaced with “[the Word]” those pronouns refer to for emphasis.

[3] Morse code for SOS, which in turn means universally to those knowing Morse, HELP!  (“Save Our Souls”).

[4] A=adenine, T=thymine, C=cytosine, and G=guanine each attached to a sugar molecule called deoxyribose. These molecules attach to each other in giant chains of code called deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA. Similar combinations of ribonucleic acid or RNA reproduce parts of the DNA into usable segments of information.

[5] Adam Rutherford, “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived—the human story retold through our genes,”  New York: The Experiment. 2017.

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428996/  (Emphasis mine.)

[7] http://datascience.columbia.edu/researchers-store-computer-operating-system-dna

[8] Other popular options are: “Genographic.NationalGeographic.com,”or “ancestry.com” and more.

[9] Chromosomes are groups of DNA visible with a microscope in 23 pairs from the nucleus of each human cell.

[10] See this Atlantic Monthly article for the source of this explanation and more details:  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/04/the-genetic-archaeology-of-race/302180/.

[11] This DNA fingerprint discovered by the National Geographic Genographic Project in Jack’s DNA is supported by his known ancestry.  Isaac Batt (c. 1725-1791) was an early Hudson’s Bay employee who took a Cree girl as his canoe mate and tent mate, as documented in Hudson’s Bay records. Jack’s ancestry is traceable by historical documents from them down to his Canadian grandfather and mother.

[12] By 2017 over 500,000 human genomes have been sequenced.  New technology will increase this number exponentially this year and in years to come.

[13] This article is based on two major recent explanations of the DNA language:
Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene—an intimate history (New York: Scribner), 2016;
Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived—the human story retold through our genes (New York: The Experiment), 2017.

[14] Rutherford, page 14.


Jack Hoehn is a frequent contributor to both the print and online versions of Adventist Today. He has served on the Adventist Today Foundation board since 2012. He and his wife Deanne live in Walla Walla, Washington. He has a BA in Religion from Pacific Union College, and an MD from Loma Linda University. He was a licensed minister of the Adventist church for 13 years when serving as a missionary physician in Africa. 

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