“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” – Bill Gates
I’m currently writing this blog on WordPress, which is a web-based program. I am accessing WordPress through Google Chrome, which is another program. I use Google Chrome in either Windows 10 or Ubuntu Linux, depending on which device I am using at the moment. All of these are programs, also known as software. I work in IT, and a part of my job is packaging up software for deployment. I also have had classes in Assembler, Pascal, Basic, and Powershell, and have learned vbscript, DOS, HTML, and even a little bit of Java. In Bill Gates words, NONE of these compare to how advanced DNA is.
There’s even been recently AIs (Artificial Intelligence) being programmed. Yet they still don’t compare to the information in DNA.
Another amazing thing about DNA is that it can store information better than anything that our greatest minds can come up with. I remember when the news came out several years ago that techs at Harvard were able to store 700 terabytes of data on a gram of DNA!
Technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Today, scientists can store information in a DNA molecule, just like we do with computers, DVDs, and thumb drives. DNA’s capacity to store information, however, is vastly greater than any DVD or thumb drive your company’s IT guy would carry. Harvard researchers were able to cram 700 terabytes of data onto one gram of DNA. That’s 148,936 DVDs of data. You could binge watch your favorite TV shows for the rest of your life and never see a rerun. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Microbiologist Michael Denton explains DNA’s storage potential:
The capacity of DNA to store information vastly exceeds that of any other known system; it is so efficient that all the information needed to specify an organism as complex as man weighs less than a few thousand millionths of a gram. The information necessary to specify the design of all the species of organisms which have ever existed on the planet, a number…of approximately one thousand million, could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written.
Did you catch that? A teaspoon of DNA—smaller than the size of a typical thumb drive—can hold all the design blueprints for every species on earth and every book ever written. That’s amazing!
Science Magazine says that DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room.
Alan continues. I read this several times and I don’t think anything can be added to it. He is clear and concise to the point.
The implications of this new technology are fascinating. Based on this discovery, I wonder if researchers have been able to draw further conclusions about DNA. I think there are at least two truths that become evident.
First, the reason why scientists are able to cram DNA full of information is that it’s already working as a storage medium for information. Information, by the way, is not merely random bits of data. For something to qualify as information it must be complex and specified. By complex, I mean that the arrangement of its contents isn’t simple enough to be explained by chance. Merely being complex, though, isn’t sufficient to qualify the data as information. The contents must also be specified. This means the contents’ pattern communicates a meaningful message (e.g. it has a set of instructions, contains data that depicts something, provides blueprints for the construction of something, etc.).
DNA is both complex and specified. The arrangement of information is incredibly complex, making it impossible to account for its arrangement merely by chance. Furthermore, DNA is highly specified, containing the design blueprints to manufacture the proteins that make up your body. Therefore, the content of DNA qualifies as information.
Second, the source of the information in DNA must be external to the medium in which it’s stored. Consider someone writing a letter to a friend with an ink pen. Neither the ink in the pen nor the letters on the page are the source of the message. There’s nothing intrinsic to the ink, the paper, or the characters that creates what’s being communicated. The ink doesn’t naturally arrange itself into letters, and the letters don’t naturally arrange themselves into sentences that are meaningful to the reader. The message is in the mind of the author, and he communicates that message using the medium of ink, letters, and paper.
The same is true of the bits of zeros and ones that make up binary computer code. Those two characters don’t naturally arrange themselves into a sequence on your computer. Instead, there are programmers who write code to make computer programs. The source of the code is in the minds of the computer engineers, and they use the characters of computer language to write their program. The information goes from their minds into the computer code.
The same is true of DNA. Instead of the two-character code (zeros and ones) used by computers, DNA uses a four-character code we represent with the letters T, G, C, and A. With these four characters, DNA can store the design blueprints for every part of your body. The four letters are not in and of themselves the source of the blueprints, though. They don’t automatically arrange themselves into the proper sequence that results in the creation of proteins. The source of the plan for these body parts must be external to the DNA letters. That means there is something—or someone—who takes the ideas from their mind and puts it into DNA.
Even if you don’t know who that someone is, we can be confident there is a mind behind what’s coded in DNA. That’s because you can’t get computer programs arising by chance without a programmer. It follows, then, that you can’t get the design blueprints for your body—something magnitudes more complex than a program—arising by chance without a designer either.
Just as there is incredible fine-tuning in our universe, there is incredible fine-tuning in DNA. The evidence is so strong, that it even convinced, Antony Flew, who was one of the world’s leading atheists for several decades, to believe in the existence of God (which he wrote about in his book There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.)