Why natural laws cannot produce life
Can’t the origin of life from non-living matter be the result of natural laws? Atheists would tend to provide a ‘yes’ answer to this question. But Nancy Pearcey skillfully explains why natural laws cannot give rise to the vast amount of information contained in DNA (the language of life), in her book Total Truth:
“…In principle, laws of nature do not give rise to information. Why not? Because laws describe events that are regular, repeatable, and predictable. If you drop a pencil, it will fall. If you put paper into a flame, it will burn. If you mix salt in water, it will dissolve. That’s why the scientific method insists that experiments must be repeatable: Whenever you reproduce the same conditions, you should get the same results, or something is wrong with your experiment. The goal of science is to reduce those regular patterns to mathematical formulas. By contrast, the sequence of letters in a message is irregular and non repeating, which means it cannot be the result of any law-like process.”
“To illustrate the point, let’s invoke an imaginary Scrabble game… but this time when you organize the letters, you decide to follow a certain formula or rule (an analogy to laws of nature). For example, the formula might require that every time you have a D, it is followed by an E. And every time you have an E, it’s followed by a S, then an I, then a G, and an N. The result would be that every time you started with D, you would get DESIGN, DESIGN, DESIGN, over and over again. Obviously, if the letters in a real alphabet followed rules like that, you would be limited to spelling only a few words—and you could not convey very much information. The reason a real alphabet works so well is precisely that the letters do not follow rules or formulas or laws. If you know that a word begins with a T, you cannot predict what the next letter will be. With some minor exceptions (in English, q is always followed by u ), the letters can be combined and recombined in a vast number of different arrangements to form words and sentences.”
Natural laws only produce regular and repeating sequences, with low information content, such as the symbolic sequence below:
ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC
But, in order to store the vast information content needed to provide a set of biological instructions, genetic code must necessarily use irregular and non-repeating sequences. Below is an example of an irregular, non-repeating symbolic sequence which has much higher information content than the above symbolic sequence:
“In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”
Information scientist Henry Quastler put it best: “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Whenever we trace information back to its source, invariably, we come back to a conscious mind. The irregular and non-repeating nature of the specified complexity in DNA means that it cannot have been accomplished by a law-like process.
At SETI (The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program) the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the scope of science. A long sequence of prime numbers in a radio wave from space, for example, is regarded by SETI as being a clear indicator of intelligent agency. This is because such a sequence is not the regular and repeating sort of sequence which occurs naturally.
In the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, physicist Hubert Yockey points out that it is mathematically impossible for natural laws to produce a DNA sequence because their information content is far too low:
“The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin (1985, 1987a) has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”
“The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws.”
And in a 2002 article for The Guardian titled How We Could Create Life, physicist Paul Davies makes a similar point to Yockey:
“Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce [Microsoft] Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”