Where Science and Faith Converge

Evaluating the Origin of Information

By Krista Bontrager - March 1, 2013

Starting an article is always the hardest step for me. As I sat at my desk just now, staring at a blank screen, I hoped that a thoughtful composition would magically materialize before my eyes.

I waited.
Nothing happened.

The keyboard was waiting for my fingers to animate it. But even more importantly, my fingers awaited my mind’s inspiration. Without a mind, this article would not become reality.

This simple story illustrates the problem facing the origin-of-life researchers mentioned in Fuz Rana’s lead article “Does New Approach Solve Origin-of-Life Problem?” Astrobiologist Sara Walker and physicist Paul Davies propose a new origin-of-life model that sees Earth’s first life as embedded with a set of instructions that controls the life-form and its development. Such an information-based system includes meaning and seems to imply intent toward a particular outcome. Origin-of-life researchers strive to explain the genesis of the information expressed by the nucleotide sequences that form DNA molecules. This precise ordering determines the specific operations that occur within a living cell. It appears as though cellular systems are the expression of intentionality.

But where does this information come from? Does such intentionality stem from an external source (such as a Creator) or is it inherent to the system itself (naturalism)? The answer to that question highlights the key difference between Walker and Davies’ approach and RTB’s creation model. In their search for a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life, Walker and Davies suggest a model where information is intrinsic to the first life and provides instructions for life to unfold. But this model does not really account for the origin of the information itself.

Reasons to Believe makes an alternative suggestion. Common experience teaches that any information-managed mechanism comes from an external intelligence. In other words, information implies an informationgiver, just as software requires a programmer, buildings require an architect, and a magazine article requires an author. All of these examples illustrate one key point: only a mind can express itself with intentionality and order information in a particular sequence to get intended results. These ideas receive extended treatment in Fuz’s groundbreaking book The Cell’s Design.

Resolution of origin-of-life models could be at hand. The more scientists investigate the fine details about Earth’s first life, the more they discover that it is exponentially more complicated than they initially believed. If naturalism is correct, then a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life will emerge. If the creation model approach is correct, then further investigation will continue to eliminate naturalistic scenarios. The prospect for testing models is why Reasons to Believe encourages vigorous origin-of-life research.

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