The case for God is not a case of the God of the gaps

Posted on October 9, 2017 By

the god of the gaps

We don’t know how life came to exist, so let’s just give up and assume that God did it!” Atheists are fond of portraying theism as the God of the gaps,  or a means of filling in gaps in current scientific knowledge. But, quite to the contrary, what we currently know about biology leads inexorably to the conclusion that life was created by a mind (read: God). Geneticist Francis Collins, the leader of the Human Genome Project and currently the director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, put it best:

There are good reasons to believe in God, including the existence of mathematical principles and order in creation. They are positive reasons, based on knowledge, rather than default assumptions based on a temporary lack of knowledge.

What is one of these positive reasons which is based on knowledge (rather than a lack of knowledge)? A good place to start would be the fact that DNA, the language of life, conveys meaning through symbolic representation, in a very similar manner to human language. And meaning is something which can only exist in the mind of a conscious and intelligent agent.

Atheism is grounded in the philosophy known as materialism, which suggests that all that exists is various arrangements of matter and energy. But if it were true that nothing exists except matter and energy, living things would be completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among such properties will you find a property known as meaning. Put another way, material things such as rocks, thunderstorms, or the chair you are sitting in cannot be about anything. Meaning is not a property of mindless matter and energy, and can only be assigned by a conscious and intelligent agent, period.

Many of the principles of human language apply to DNA, the language of life.

In the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the question of the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Lifephysicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how many of the principles of human language are also applicable to DNA, the language of life:

Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies. [1]

Symbolic representation is necessarily the product of a mind.

Symbolic representation, such as the complex set of instructions symbolically communicated by DNA, requires a conscious and intelligent agent. Such is the case because the meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that a set of symbols can have entirely different meanings in different languages. Yockey (in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life) eloquently explains this crucial point:

The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.” In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.” [2]

DNA is a literally like a human language. This is no metaphor.

At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that DNA is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why DNA is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:

Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off, “Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”

Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”

This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper: “Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.” This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well. [3]

It is a case of the God of what we know, not the God of the gaps.

The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, he discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to DNA, the language of life:

Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

-The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

-The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

-The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

-The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

-The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein. [4]

The substitutive function of the the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Symbolic representation is by necessity a mental process. As information scientist Henry Quastler put it, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Biologists with less rigid ideological commitments to atheism (or at least more intellectual integrity) have been frank enough to admit the necessity of mind (a conscious and intelligent agent) in the origin of life. The Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, admitted the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.[5]

DNA is a language (because it utilizes abstract, substitutive, symbolic representation) that is very similar to a computer language. Microsoft founder Bill Gates writes, “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any we’ve ever created.” Natural processes do not create anything even vaguely resembling a computer program. Gitt makes this point clear in his book In the Beginning Was Information:

…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.” Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the non-material nature of information by defining it as an “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated: “When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.” It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information. [6]

Atheism relies on mindless material processes to explain life. But the insurmountable problem for atheism is that such mindless processes can never account for the fact that DNA is a language which utilizes arrangements of symbols with arbitrarily assigned meanings…just like a human language. Much as the chemistry of the ink and paper that constitute a newspaper cannot explain the arrangement of the letters in the words of a newspaper, the chemistry of a DNA molecule cannot explain the arrangement of letters in a DNA molecule. Michael Polanyi, a former Chairman of Physical Chemistry at the University of Manchester (UK), who was famous for his important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, emphasizes this point:

As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule. It is this physical indeterminacy of the sequence that produces the improbability of occurrence of any particular sequence and thereby enables it to have meaning–a meaning that has a mathematically determinate information content. [7]

Like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life among atheists

Indeed, it would be just as absurd to assert that mindless physical or chemical processes could write a newspaper article as it would be to assert that such processes could produce a DNA sequence. Ultra-elite atheist biologists such as Richard Dawkins, from Oxford University, (author of The God Delusion) and Francis Crick (famous as co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix) surely know this, which is why they hypothesize that life was brought to Earth by aliens in their spaceship. (Click here to watch a video of Richard Dawkins endorsing this hypothesis in an interview, and click here to read an article about how Crick endorsed this hypothesis in his book Life Itself). So, much like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life even among the biologists most ideologically committed to denying that one mind in particular (God) created life. As David Berlinski sardonically points out, this is what Sigmund Freud was referring to when he spoke of “the return of the repressed.”


1. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 128-129). Kindle Edition

2. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 137-138). Kindle Edition

3. Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 167). Kindle edition

4. Gitt, Werner. Without Excuse, p. 73

5. Wald, George. Life and Mind in the Universe. Source: International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Volume 26, Issue Supplement 11, 16 APR 2008

6. Gitt, Werner. In the Beginning Was Information (Kindle Locations 427-428). Kindle Edition

7. Michael Polanyi, Life’s Irreducible Structure. Source: Science, Jun. 21, 1968, pp. 1308-1312

 

 


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