The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 4

Mt. Rushmore taught us important lessons about how to identify something that was made by an intelligent designer vs. naturally occurring randomness. The faces’ complexity, specificity, and recurrences in other places such as photographs and paintings combined with historical records—even if there was no record of their carving—tell us those presidential images did not appear in that mountain by chance. They were intentionally made by someone. They function as both “information” and evidence of intelligence. Likewise, the best explanation (abductive reasoning) of the complexity, specificity, and recurring likenesses of DNA tell us that DNA was intentionally designed by someone outside of nature. The “recurring” likeness of DNA is found in modern technology. The computer is a marvel production of human intelligence. It is no wonder that this greatest “creation” of the human mind so closely mimics the creation of God within mankind. Remember, man was created imago Dei—in the image and likeness of God.

This blog entry is devoted to building upon that foundation by looking at some examples of the similarities between DNA and technology. This one is a bit long, but if you hang in there, I trust it will be worth the effort! I put in some really interesting pictures and resources to season it for you.

dna-binary

The Code

Here again is the quote by Bill Gates, in order to complement the claim from a non-religious viewpoint (Note that I am using Bill Gates as an “authority” because he is arguably THE most well-known representative for computer operating systems.):

“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software every created.”

If you are a bit “rusty” on your biology and haven’t watched the video I mentioned in Blog #3, please do that now. It quickly and creatively explains some fundamental aspects of DNA. For my purposes, you need to know that the Genetic Code in DNA is comprised of four chemical bases that molecular biologists have assigned the characters, “T, C, A, and G.” My very simplified explanation is that how these chemicals are arranged within the DNA strand tell your cells what to become and what to do. In the womb, you are “built.” All of the biological components—the heart, the lungs, the brain, lymph nodes, and etc.—are formed into systems—circulatory, respiratory, nervous, immune, and etc.— needed for life are constructed. They are constructed simultaneously and interdependently.

Computers, though not self-generating like DNA (see why Bill said DNA is “far, far more advanced”), operate using a code. Computers use electrical charges, voltage, that have been assigned the characters “1” and “0” by electrical engineers. (The picture below is taken from an excellent slide show explaining DNA and computer technology. Check it out here.)

dna-binary-chart

Note that computers accomplish their myriads of tasks using two characters (binary) while DNA is made up of four characters. Mathematically, this puts the potential functionality of DNA on orders of magnitude beyond computers!)

The sequential arrangement of these 1’s and 0’s were standardized in what is known as ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Assigned sequences of 1’s and 0’s equate to letters of the alphabet. That means, after having loaded and opened a word processing program, when you push a key on your keyboard, a voltage is passed along to the computer such that a set pattern of 1’s and 0’s are generated internally, and put into memory, awaiting the next command.

ascii-chart

The base elements of binary logic can serve their function only because there is an internal group of systems within the computer. Where organisms have organs within biological systems, computers have components within electronic systems—power supply, input/output devices like disk drives and keyboards, the CPU (central processing unit), and memory—all interconnected through conductive traces which function like nerves and blood vessels for transport between systems.

pc-architecture-blocks

The Hardware

Thus far I’ve shown you the most basic concepts of computer architecture. Next I’ll show you the fascinating world of the hardware, the physical make-up of how this technology works. This is like the laboratory looking under the microscope at your cells, because it is using microscopes.

As a Failure Analysis Engineer, I have to get at the internal “guts” of the chip (integrated circuit). To do that, we use acid to dissolve the chip’s outer shell and expose the “die.” It looks like this:

decap-die

Those tiny gold strands in the middle are wires that connect the outside world to the electronic circuit inside. Here is what the circuit looks like under a microscope:

die-picture

You can make out some of the separate circuits by noticing the outlined sections of squares and rectangles. That shows the various circuits that are made up of sections designed with independent functions. The above chip is a relatively simple one and likely an analog, not digital, The partial chip below is more complex and shows the parts of a CPU with the blocks outlined for you:

digital-die-pic

The purpose of this detail is to simply emphasize the organization, purpose, and structure—both physically and logically—that goes into the inner workings of a computer, which mimics the inner workings of biology and DNA. The physical design shown in the previous pictures works because an electrical design engineer, trained in the principles of electronic theory, produced an electrical diagram with functionality. To most of us, the schematic diagram below means nothing and might as well be ancient hieroglyphics painted on a pyramid wall. But to electrical engineers, it is information that all makes perfect sense. (By the way, the picture below would more likely represent the simpler, analog die above and not the complex digital, computer circuit. Also, for any electrical engineers reading this, I recognize that analog circuits are in many ways more difficult than digital circuits. By “complex” I mean the number of functions that typical digital circuits perform is greater which requires more and smaller components.)

schematic

The “Guts” of the IC

My final dive into the semiconductor world is the deepest I can go with my training. For a physical reference, the dimension of the IC I showed you earlier could likely be about 5 millimeters by 5 millimeters. Now I want to show you what a single transistor looks like.

The left slide shows what a simple “inverter” looks like. The leftmost image in that slide is the physical layout, the other two symbols shows the electrical schematic equivalent. An engineer sees this and recognizes that whatever logic value enters the circuit simply changes to its opposite. In other words, a “1” is changed to a “0” and vice-versa. The image on the top right is a physical cross section of a transistor taken with a Scanning Electron Microscope. The individual chemical components and their functions have been outlined for you. The lower image is just a diagram of it. Note that the scale of the physical dimension is 100nM (nanometers). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter! The width of a strand of DNA is about 2 nanometers. A carbon or oxygen atom is about 0.15 nanometers.

So, from the concepts of computer architecture, the coding of information with instructions, to the physical dimensions we see similarity between biology and technology! The similarities are uncanny, which leads us to conclude that the best possible explanation for biology is an intelligent Design Engineer!

Some Really Cool Mechanics

Just for fun, to wrap up this blog entry. I want to show you another comparison to marvel. Don’t worry, it is not as involved or lengthy. The Scanning Electron Microscope is such a cool instrument to see these things.

The technology that gave us the physical properties of transistors lead to what is called “Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems” or MEMS. When I worked for Texas Instruments at the turn of the latest century, they were producing their DLP© technology which gave the world amazing clarity in cinematic and projector technology. The specialized chip uses micrometer sized mirrors for each pixel. Those mirrors are mounted to hinges which move, directing the reflected light and turning the mirror on or off. (If you are interested, you can read more detail on TI’s website.) Here are two Scanning Electron Microscope images of the mirrors. Some mirrors (the squares with the hole in the middle)are missing, which shows their hinges:

mirrors-low-magmirrors-high-mag

Here is another cool picture I found on the internet of MEMS technology used to make micro-scale gears:

gears

Now, check out this close-up image of 20 micron (micrometer) scale gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-high-mag

Now, let’s zoom out and see more of this gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-low-mag

gear-jumping

These gears function as a cock and release mechanism that propels this tiny leaf hopper forward. According to the article in Smithsonian.com bug

The reason for the gearing, they say, is coordination: To jump, both of the insect’s hind legs must push forward at the exact same time. Because they both swing laterally, if one were extended a fraction of a second earlier than the other, it’d push the insect off course to the right or left, instead of jumping straight forward. 

(The article also mentioned):

To the best of our knowledge, the mechanical gear—evenly-sized teeth cut into two different rotating surfaces to lock them together as they turn—was invented sometime around 300 B.C.E. by Greek mechanics who lived in Alexandria. In the centuries since, the simple concept has become a keystone of modern technology, enabling all sorts of machinery and vehicles, including cars and bicycles.

 

I highlighted “the reason for” to again show that scientists are compelled to use terminology of intelligence and purposeful design. I argue they do so NOT because it has the “illusion of design” as Darwin said, but because nature actually has been designed at every level.

Concluding Remarks

I had mentioned that DNA is “orders of magnitude” more advanced than computers. I want you to try to grasp the magnitude of scale at play in this discussion. Indeed, DNA and the world of biology mimics computer technology and thereby proves the same complex and specific architecture exists in two completely different environments, proving an intelligent designer is behind it all. But that is just “scratching the surface.”

What we see in nature are complex and functional systems working from the subatomic level to the cosmological level, both ends of which appear to go on infinitely. You and I can know and observe these things because we are alive and have the brains to do so. We are alive because we have the biological systems working in concert with an environmental system arranged to sustain life. Our bodies can breathe and eat because our planet has its own complex chemistry of air, seasons, and nutrients. Our planet is able to do this because of its place within our solar system which is governed by complex laws of physics, chemistry, and things we really do not yet understand. As humans, the supreme creatures made in the image of God, we are the only creatures capable of exploring the Creation and discovering these things. We are doing what we were created to do—bring glory to God and enjoy him forever! (Hat tip to the Westminster shorter catechism question 1.)

What science is doing for us is showing the great complexity and specificity of the natural world at every level. In so doing, it is showing us that the most reasonable explanation is that a supreme, intelligent Being has designed it all and brought it all into existence. The scientific explanation of origins—randomness and chance—that has dominated the modern era is untenable and short-sighted.

There always seems to be a pendulum swing. The pendulum of enlightenment is swinging in the Christian’s favor. It would behoove us and bring glory to God if we would lay hold of these things and present them to our world. Before modernity, the world largely accepted Theism as the intuitive explanation for our world (Romans 1:18-ff). As humanism and the Age of Reason gave rise to Scientism, the world seemed to gain the upper hand in the cultural war for truth. Christianity, as Theists, appeared to be operating from “blind faith” hanging on to a passé world view, ignorant and unsophisticated. Ironically, the science of Darwinism is now passé. He, comparatively, knew nothing of microbiology, genetic codes, etc. at work within the cell. His followers today have their own “God of the gaps” to explain scientific mysteries. Theirs is “chance and time.” Post-modernity science is pointing to the conclusion that Theists had it right all along. They were just unable to explain it “scientifically.” May we Christians equip ourselves with the latest information to put us on the leading edge of the pendulum rather than the trailing edge. Let us use recent scientific discoveries to buttress the truth of God’s word and confront our world—not with medieval knowledge, but cutting-edge knowledge.

Having shown that science does indeed reveal the “fingerprints of God,” the next blog will show that we can know WHO the Intelligent Designer is.

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The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science – part 3

Thus far in these blogs I have argued from Stephen Meyer’s position that proving God scientifically requires the use of abductive reasoning. Furthermore, the religious skeptic’s demand that God must be “proven scientifically” or else God does not exist, must be handled judiciously and not taken at face value. The common notion of materialism— Only what is material, what can be seen and measured, is real; therefore, if God cannot be observed, He does not exist—is untenable and myopic. The broad discipline we know as “Science” does not recognize such a limited approach to understanding the world around us. The scientific studies of origins and forensics demonstrate this. If the skeptic is willing to acknowledge the different, but still scientific method of historical science—piecing together present day clues to prove past events—as the right tool for this job, then his demand for scientific proof of God can be satisfied. If our hypothetical skeptic is willing to accept that argument, then we can continue. This blog entry will take the next step by looking at intelligence as scientific evidence for the existence of God.

einstein

We Are All Einsteins…Sort of

Is intelligence a substance? We all know it is not matter. But does it exist? I would like to ask the skeptic if intelligence is real. Perhaps I could make it personal and ask him if he possesses intelligence. If he says “no,” then that is going to be embarrassing for him and we should politely end the discussion. If he says “yes,” then he agrees that intelligence is recognizable, albeit not material. I could go on with him to acknowledge that according to some sectors of the scientific community, intelligence is even measurable (MENSA). Education systems around the world measure intelligence, or its compatriot, knowledge, through assigning scholastic grades. The points of this line of reasoning are to show that immaterial things do exist and that intelligence is particularly important in proving, or recognizing, the existence of God.

Consider the symbiotic relationship between intelligence and information. These two words occupy the same category of thought to the degree that one sub-definition of intelligence is information. For instance, whenever we speak of “military intelligence” we mean “information” about the enemy. Information presumes intelligence. That is, information is data that has a purpose. It is intended to communicate. An intelligent source intends to use that information for a purpose. It either is intended to inform another intelligent being or to control an inanimate object. Again, Stephen Meyer helps here when he defines information as “A sequence of characters or arrangements of something that produces a specific effect” (Signature of the Cell, pg. 91).

detour-ahead

[Just a brief excursion: By contrast, the scientific community has proposed “chance” as the source, or cause of all things—ergo, including intelligence. Ironically, Darwin acknowledged the intuitive rationale for an intelligent designer. Neo Darwinist Richard Dawkins echoes that tenet of Scientism: “The beauty of biology, really, is the illusion of design.” That notion is inescapable. I think back on all of those National Geographic Nature documentaries we watched when our kids were young. Consistently, the narrator would refer to some creature’s distant ancestor “deciding” to change some anatomical feature in order to stay alive: “The great-horned watcha-madoodle grew that horn so that he could better dig for his favorite beetle and survive the ice-age.” It is rampant. In defending science, atheist and religious antagonist Jerry Coyne says, “We [scientists] may reach the limits of explanation for several reasons: because the evidence eludes us…or because our brains aren’t configured to puzzles out the answers” [highlights are mine] (Faith vs. Fact, pg. 227).

To “configure” indicates a configure-ATOR, an intelligent being having a design and purpose. Thankfully, Douglas Axe has written a very helpful book, in layman’s terms, that validates humanity’s common intuition that our world had to be designed purposefully. I HIGHLY recommend it. It is: Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed. ]

dna

What do Bill Gates and Teddy Roosevelt Have to do with DNA?

Meyer’s definition of information is patent in the very sentence I am writing and that you are reading. The sentence can exist because there is an alphabet; but the alphabet is not information. It is useless by itself. But it has the potential for a limitless amount of information. The letters become information when they are arranged in a purposed, particular sequence. Mathematician Claude Shannon is considered the originator of “information theory.” His work paved the way for the information age. If Jack Kilby—the inventor of the Integrated Circuit (IC)—is responsible for laying the groundwork for the hardware side of modern computing, then Claude Shannon is responsible for laying the groundwork for the “intelligence” within computers. Meyer says, “Shannon had taken nineteenth-century mathematician George Boole’ system of putting logical expressions in mathematical form and applied its categories of ‘true’ and ‘false’ [Boolean Algebra] to switches found in electronic circuits…His master’s thesis…became the foundation for digital-circuit and digital computer theory.” So, how does all of that relate to our topic? Enter DNA.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation and personal computer operating system mogul, once said,

DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created” (The Road Ahead, pg. 228. I found this quote through multiple secondary sources on the internet. The citation is credited to: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/he-said-it-bill-gates-on-the-genome-as-software/ accessed September 5, 2016).

The molecule known as “DNA” (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) is the built-in “operating software” for organic development. Meyer explains the “sequence hypothesis,” whereby “the chemical parts of DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code” (Signature, pg. 12). It is pretty much common knowledge in our day that ALL features of ALL living things are the way they are because of DNA coding. That is astounding! What may be even more astounding, if that is possible, is how DNA works to replicate itself. There is no way I can fully explain it here. There’s a great video that simulates the process, embedded on Meyer’s website here. Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can we know if the information got there by natural means or by design?” I’m glad you asked.

mt-rushmore

The proof that the encoded instructions within DNA was intentionally crafted by a designer rather than by chance through natural causes lies in Mt. Rushmore! Okay, not exactly. But Mt. Rushmore provides a great illustration of the proof. Below are two faces observed on Mt. Rushmore. One was formed by chance through natural processes. The other was skillfully crafted by an intelligent designer. Can you tell which is which?

nature-face          roosevelt-2

If you guessed that chance and natural causes formed the face on the left and an intelligent designer caused the face on the right, then you would be correct! Good job. But, how did you know that? Douglas Axe would likely say that it is intuitive. And that would be correct. A more sophisticated response is: “If an object or event is both complex and specified, then we should attribute it to intelligent design…We typically attribute to necessity highly probable events that recur repeatedly in a regular or lawlike way” (Meyer, Signature pg. 354). One face on Mt. Rushmore is convincing enough, but FOUR faces side-by-side just “seals the deal.” Meyer teaches us there is still more to be gleaned from his Mt. Rushmore analogy.

The evidence that Mt. Rushmore was planned and executed by an intelligent designer increases exponentially due to the fact that we can recognize the faces as those of former U.S. presidents. Meyer says,

Observers recognize a pattern in the shapes that they know from an independent realm of experience, from seeing the faces of ex-presidents in photographs or paintings” (pg. 353).

TRoosevelt    We look at a picture of Teddy Roosevelt, then look at  Mt. Rushmore,  look at Mt. Rushmore, and then back at the picture. We observe that the images are of the same person. Therefore, we reasonably conclude that the best explanation for the faces on the mountain is NOT because they happened to appear randomly, by chance from erosion, but they were carved by someone.

From these points we identify three ways to determine if something exists because of intelligent design or by chance. The first is probability. The probabilities of DNA occurring by by chance are low, more like “zero.” Meyer’s research shows, “the probability of producing all the necessary proteins needed to service a minimally complex cell is 1 in 1044 multiplied by itself 250 times, or 1 in 1041,000” (Signature, pg. 213). For reference, the estimated number of protons, neutrons, and electrons in the observable universe is 1080 (Signature, pg. 212)! The 1 in 1041,000 number is the odds for having the bare minimum components of a cell. The complexity found in DNA would far exceed that. Secondly, repeated, complex patterns that achieve a goal or function indicate design. Thirdly, when those patterns have a corollary from a different context, or realm, then we see design.

The amazing functionality of the recurring codes in DNA has such a corollary in computers. I personally find the similarities to be mind-boggling. As if the programming and software likenesses weren’t enough evidence, we also see that both DNA and computers require physical environments in which to carry out their purposes. Organisms and computers have hardware in which to run the software. Imagine your personal computer becoming self-aware. Imagine the computer taking a look at itself and discovering it has systems within itself, a power supply, disk drive, memory cells, and electrical circuits. Then it goes further and learns that its entire computing process is made up of organized, logical, bits of electrical energy arranged in patterns of “1’s” and “0’s.” As 21st Century people, we know that such a computer did not just happen, but is the culmination of the work of Engineers from many disciplines. We humans are like that self-aware computer discovering the marvelous intricacies of how we were marvelously designed.

The next blog entry will continue with this comparative analysis. I will give examples of the similarity between these biological wonders and modern technology, in order to drive home the point that mankind’s science is overwhelmingly obvious proof of the Fingerprints of God in nature.