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

(Part 1 is here.)

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]

Part 1 discusses the fact that life depends on complex information that is a code and recipe for life recorded in the DNA of all cells. DNA is elegant, efficient, optimal, and complex. There is no naturalistic mechanism known for the origin of a code without a Coder.

1.1           Mitochondria

Small segments of DNA code exist outside of the nucleus in the mitochondrial machines found in cells, and the female reproductive cells or ova pass on not only the DNA of the mother’s nucleus, but (unlike the little sperm which is only nuclear DNA) the ova also pass on the mitochondrial DNA. This “outside of the nucleus” DNA is passed on to all of a woman’s children, and the woman’s daughters in turn pass it on to their daughters, who then pass it on to their daughters, ad infinitum. These mitochondria and their DNA are found in ancient cells that are scientifically dated to two billion years ago! You don’t have to agree with the dating to appreciate that they are found in all life, even the most ancient life forms.

Listen to the language used in describing mitochondria, this necessary cellular machine: “There’s a minuscule but terribly important bit of DNA that is not in the nucleus, but instead sits inside the mitochondria—the tiny but powerful energy generation units that all complex life relies on. They were almost certainly acquired about 2 billion years ago…”[3](Emphasis mine.)

Terribly important,” “powerful energy generation units,” “all complex life relies on,” found in every two- or more-celled life found for at least 2 billion years[4]. How were these tiny powerhouses “acquired”? And where did the recipe, the code, the information in their DNA needed to make a reproducible working “tiny powerhouse” come from?

There are no secular answers except chance, luck, or “from somewhere else,” but that “from somewhere else” (the so-called “panspermia hypothesis”[5]) only answers a mystery with a mystery. DNA is code for the transmission of information. Code, language, words always come from an intelligence, a mind; they communicate specific information in an intelligent, useful, purposeful manner.

1.2            DNA Protection

Ultraviolet, gamma-rays, x-rays, or chemical toxins can damage DNA. When this happens during transcription of proteins or DNA duplication for making new cells, to prevent corruption of the code, the damaged DNA must be detected and repaired. Otherwise, cell death results.

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to those studying those cellular error detection and repair mechanisms. “Damage to DNA alters the spatial configuration of the helix, and such alterations can be detected by the cell. Once damage is localized, specific DNA repair molecules bind at or near the site of damage, inducing other molecules to bind and form a complex that enables the actual repair to take place… After DNA damage, cell cycle checkpoints are activated. Checkpoint activation pauses the cell cycle and gives the cell time to repair the damage before continuing to divide… DNA [has] repair mechanisms that in their basic form have been inherited by all extant life forms from their common ancestor.”[6]

DNA repair mechanism necessary for all extant life forms has been there from their hypothetical earliest common ancestor? How convenient.

Everything in the code of life is elegant, compact, purposeful, necessary, ancient, preserved, repaired. And no materialist knows how this intelligent design could appear just when needed. Materialists faced with the impossibility of random production of life’s codes are forced to stretch their imagination to import the life codes from some other source equally or more magical and mysterious than any of the ancient creation myths.[7]

1.3           Designed to Evolve

Regardless if God created DNA, or if you prefer to believe that it came in “frozen octopi meteorites,” only 1-2% of the human nuclear DNA are the 46 genes. The 98-99% “non-coding DNA” is information for the cellular machinery with “many crucial regulatory elements”[8] that control the deployment of those genes and their proteins.

In ignorance this critical “non-coding DNA” was once infamously labeled “junk DNA.” It was falsely presumed to be “trial-and-error left-overs” of evolutionary experiments gone wrong! It is now clear that non-coding DNA is essential for the expression of the information stored in our genes. It has the promoters, enhancers, blockers, and protectors of DNA. It contains the instructions for forming the RNA molecules that transfer and assemble life’s proteins. Telomeres, satellite DNA, introns—and more discoveries are happening today and tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. These functions just happened? How convenient.

That living things evolve, change, adapt and diversify is known by all of us. You, for example, have “evolved” from your mother’s egg and your father’s one energetic sperm permitted to join with it. You are even this moment “evolving.” You are growing, changing, adapting, maturing, aging and each of us will be different in 10 years from what we are now (for some of us that will be 10 years better, for others not so much). But life evolves, adapts, changes, modifies not only during one lifetime, but life has adapted, changed, modified over centuries and millennia of life’s history. Animals and plants of past ages are similar but different to animals and plants now living.[9]

From a genetic Adam and a genetic Eve come Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Jews, Arabs, Chinese, Swedes, and Aboriginals. This diversification of types of “human” is possible by precise mechanisms, by machinery present in the DNA of our cells.

Darwin was not wrong to observe that creatures can adapt, change, modify, evolve. He didn’t know that this happened by mutations of the DNA code, but he correctly deduced that any beneficial changes could be selected by enhanced survival of helpful changes.

Elephant-like animals can enlarge as the environment permits, or shrink as the environment changes, as large mammoths marooned on small islands off the coast of California did when only the smaller ones survived and reproduced so they became a now extinct race of “pygmy mammoths.”[10] Elephants lightly haired can survive and multiply in the warm tropics (Indian and African elephants), but elephants with thicker wooly hairs are more likely to survive on the tundra close to ice age glaciers (mastodons and mammoths).

All this change, adaptation, modification, evolution is due to the ability of cellular DNA codes to respond to changes in the environment. Beyond random mutations cellular DNA has mechanisms (genetic transposition, horizontal transfer, symbiogenesis, genome duplication) that can make beneficial changes that natural selection can act upon. Survival of the fittest is a fact, but how the animals and plants are permitted to change and adapt and diversify is by mechanisms that appear to be present from the earliest beginnings of life on earth. Mechanisms that are designed into the DNA code for life. How convenient.

1.4           Great Controversy for Bacteria

The most ancient bacteria appear to have been attacked by viruses and bacteriophages.[11] Viruses and bacteriophages are shorter, simpler strands of DNA that function to destroy cells. Even the most ancient bacteria appear to have had so-called “immune mechanisms” to defend themselves against viruses and bacteriophages.[12]

To me this suggests a “great controversy in life” started with the first created cells. How did those early oxygen-forming bacteria defend themselves from attempted destroyers?

The DNA of all cells is intelligently designed to contain segments known as CRISPR.[13] The P in CRISPR is for “Palindromic” and means this area of DNA code can be read both forwards and backwards, like a palindrome in the English words “senile felines”—you can read those letters from left to right or from right to left with the same meaning, so the CRISPR is code that can be read from either end, left to right or right to left.

As Jennifer Doudna (American biochemist who has been awarded almost every prize in genetics except a deserved Nobel Prize for her discoveries!) explains, CRISPR palindromic segments are not random; these areas of the genome have “DNA repeating itself with… precision and uniformity, where every repetition was truly identical and always separated from its neighbor by a similarly sized, random spacer sequence.”[14]

CRISPRs are present in every ancient form of life, meaning that from the beginning this tool was created in the DNA for something important. That importance was an amazingly complex means of defending against destruction by viruses and bacteriophages.

This mechanism was “far more complex than anyone had imagined possible for simple, single-celled organisms…this part of the bacterial immune system placed bacteria on an equal footing with humans by showing that we both have incredibly complex cellular reactions to infection.”[15] This “incredible complexity” is materialistically unimaginable, but voilá, there at the beginning of life it simply exists. How convenient.

Genes next to CRISPR areas, “CRISPR-associated (cas) segments”, were discovered to function as virus-destroying agents. One type, known at CRISPR-cas9, eventually was discovered as a very efficient knife to cut up and destroy viral DNA in the battle of viruses against bacteria.

1.5           DNA Scissors Making New Genes

Jennifer Doudna and her associates discovered CRISPR-cas9 as a created defense tool in the DNA of cells. That was very interesting           and showed us foresight and design, but now they went a step further. They found that CRISPR-cas9 could be used as a tool! CRISPR-cas9 could be repurposed not only to cut apart viruses, but it could be used to cut apart any DNA of any living cell.

They could do this exactly where they wanted it to be cut, like a pair of genetic scissors, then insert new DNA even from a different species or from another virus-like particle, into that cell’s DNA. That new DNA would become part of the code or language of that cell. And when the DNA reproduced, that would mean that the daughter cells would have the newly cut and spliced DNA of their mother or father.

You could take a jellyfish cell, cut the DNA where you wanted to, and splice in a green fluorescent-producing gene. The jellyfish cells reproducing after this engineering would be fluorescent green! Intelligent designers can make new genes by cutting and splicing old genes together in new combinations.

The tool Jennifer Doudna discovered has now opened the world of created life to genetic re-engineering by hundreds and thousands of intelligent designers in laboratories all over the world. They are not creating new life; they are modifying life, altering it, evolving it, almost at will. Doudna’s book discussing this new power and its possible implications is interestingly called “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.”27 This ability was discovered by Doudna and her team starting in 2008 and definitively published in 2012. Could this way of “cracking into creation” have been understood by super-human intelligences (fallen angels) interested in attacking or manipulating God’s creation long before modern times?

 

 

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

(Part 3 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] Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes (New York: The Experiment. 2017), 33-34.

[4] Those assertions assume a scale of life starting 4 billion years ago on a planet created 4.8 billion years ago in a universe started 13.8 billion years ago. The age of the universe, earth, and life are not the issue here; the issue is that life of any age depends on a DNA code, and mutations and changes in that code cannot explain the origin of the code. Nor do they explain the origin of the amazing cellular organs like mitochondria necessary to let DNA produce proteins for any complex life.

[5] Here is what NASA explains in their article, “The Search for Panspermia”:  …scientists approach the question of how life began …  generally involve attempts to understand how non-biological molecules bonded, became increasingly complex, and eventually reached the point where they could replicate or could use sources of energy to make things happen…  Researchers have been working for some time to understand this very long and winding process, and some have sought to make synthetic life out of selected components and energy…but many unexplained mysteries remain at the heart of the processes. And nobody is expecting the origin of life on Earth (or elsewhere) to be fully understood anytime soon. To further complicate the picture, the history of early Earth is one of extreme heat caused by meteorite bombardment and, most importantly, the enormous impact some 4.5 billion years of the Mars-sized planet that became our moon. As a result, many early Earth researchers think the planet was uninhabitable until about 4 billion years ago… some researchers are skeptical about the likelihood of DNA-based life evolving in the relatively short window between when Earth became cool enough to support life and the earliest evidence of actual life. So what else, from a scientific as opposed to a religious perspective, might have set into motion the process that made life out of non-life? One… answer … invokes panspermia, the sharing of life via meteorites from one planet to another, or delivery by comet. https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/news/in-search-of-panspermia/    (Unlike NASA, Adventist Today articles are not hamstrung by forbidding possible rational answers suggested by “the religious perspective.” The answers postulating a creation are to me at least as rational as postulating imaginary magical life, from completely unknown sources, delivered by fantastic imaginary mechanisms such as frozen octopi traveling for untold light years magically crashing into earth just at the right time as the origin of life on earth. Yes, they are serious. Yes, it shows how strongly the scientific evidence could be seen to supports the origin of life as a creation event. See:   https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/viruses-et-and-the-octopus-from-space-the-return-of-panspermia for the “science” and   https://evolutionnews.org/2018/05/more-on-alien-octopi-new-paper-admits-failure-of-evolution-to-explain-life/ for the Intelligent Design commentary.)

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_repair

[7] Wikipedia has a list of the many creation accounts found in different cultures and ages. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths

[8] https://phys.org/news/2017-02-mysterious-scientists-dark-genome.html

[9] Even Adventism’s Ellen White noted, “Relics found in the earth do give evidence of conditions differing in many respects from the present…” (although she never accepted long time scales involved..). Christian Education, page 191.

[10] https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/historyculture/pygmymammoth.htm

[11]   https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-where-did-viruses-come-fr/ “The fact that some viruses that infect humans share structural features with viruses that infect bacteria could mean that all of these viruses have a common origin, dating back several billion years.”

[12]  RNA Biol. 2014 Feb 1; 11(2): 156–167. CRISPR adaptive immune systems of Archaea.  Introduction: “CRISPR adaptive immune systems are present in most archaea and in many bacteria where they primarily target and degrade invading genetic elements.”

[13] An acronym for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,” which is why they are called CRISPR!

[14] Jennifer Doudna (with Samuel Sternberg). A Crack in Creation—Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), 42.

[15] Doudna, page 59. Emphasis mine.


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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