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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.)
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:
Here is another cool picture I found on the internet of MEMS technology used to make micro-scale gears:
Now, check out this close-up image of 20 micron (micrometer) scale gear (wait for it…) :
Now, let’s zoom out and see more of this gear (wait for it…) :
These gears function as a cock and release mechanism that propels this tiny leaf hopper forward. According to the article in Smithsonian.com
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.
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.