In part 1, we saw that information can be defined as an encoded, symbolic message entailing an expected action and intended purpose. And we looked at several examples and how they fulfill each of the four requirements. We here examine the laws of nature that pertain to the origin and transmission of information.
Laws of Information
Laws of nature describe the systematic and predictable way that God normally upholds His creation. Only God can violate a law of nature, and so these laws inform us of what is naturally possible. There are many laws of nature, each of which deals with a specific aspect of creation. For example, there is the law of biogenesis, which states that life always comes from life, never from non-life. We also have the law of conservation of energy. This law states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only transformed from one type to another.
Laws of nature are discovered by repeated experiments under a variety of different conditions. When we perform thousands of experiments that all reveal the same underlying consistency, we have confidence that we have discovered a law of nature. For example, scientists have performed many different types of experiments in which energy is converted from one form to another. They have measured the total energy before and after the transformation, and have found that in all circumstances, the total energy is unchanged. Since this happens in all circumstances without exception, and since many such experiments have been performed, we have good reason to believe in the law of conservation of energy.
Likewise, when information is defined as above, we find that it obeys certain natural laws. Dr. Werner Gitt is an expert in information theory and has written about the laws of nature that pertain to information in his book, In the Beginning was Information. He states, “There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter.” In other words, it appears to be law of nature that information does not spontaneously originate in matter. Atoms do not generate information. No combination of mere atoms will create information. So, if information does not come from matter, where does it come from?
Dr. Gitt states, “When its progress along the chain of transmission events is traced backwards, every piece of information leads to a mental source, the mind of the sender.” Information always originates in a mind. This is apparently a law of nature because there are countless examples of information originating in a mind, with no known exceptions. The mind creates information – encoded symbolic messages entailing an expect action and intended purpose. The message might be sent to another mind, or to an unthinking machine. So, the receiver of the information may or may not be a mind. But the original sender of information is always a mind.
The qualifying word “original” is necessary because non-mental processes can send information that they have received, but they cannot create it. A computer can send information to another computer, but only information that it received. And where did the sending computer get its information? Perhaps it received it from another computer, which received it from another, and so on. But ultimately, when we trace this chain of transmission events backwards, in all cases the original sender will be a mind. This law of nature has no known exceptions.
A mind is not necessary to copy, transmit, or lose information – only to create it. A Xerox machine can copy information. So can a computer. A computer might even lose information, for example, if the hard drive fails. But a computer cannot generate brand new information. Even duplications do not result in new information. Suppose a computer glitch caused a paragraph in an electronic article to be duplicated, so that there are now two identical paragraphs. Do we have any new information? Could we learn anything new from the second paragraph that we could not learn from the first? Clearly not. The article will be longer now, but it contains no new information from the unaltered article.
So, when you read a book with actual information, you can rest assured that such information originated in the mind of the author(s). The book may be a copy of a copy of a copy. And the process of copying information does not require a mind. But the origin of the information does. Any non-mental copying process will never add information to a book; this violates the law of nature that states that information does not originate by itself in matter, and the law of nature that states that information always originates in a mind.
Machines and Information
Can artificial machines ever generate brand new information? For my doctoral research, I used the SOHO spacecraft which observers the sun and transmits images back to Earth. From these images, I was able to learn a lot about the sun, and even make some new discoveries. These discoveries were all made possible because the information SOHO transmitted. Isn’t this new information that SOHO created based on what it observed?
Actually, no. SOHO only transmitted information that was already programmed into it by its makers. At the most basic level, computers use only two code symbols: zero and one. Human beings have decided that zero will represent false, and one will represent true, and have programmed computers to use the symbols in this fashion. These two bits of information were programmed into SOHOs computer, and it merely transmitted this information back to Earth based on what it observed. At the simplest level, for each pixel on its digital camera, it transmits its onboard information back to Earth: one if this pixel detects light, and zero if it does not.
Of course, the details are more complex because there are values for intensity and so on. But the point is that any information transmitted by the spacecraft was already stored in its computer. SOHO algorithmically responds to what it observes, transmitting back information stored within it, and from the patterns of this information we can learn something new about the sun. But SOHO has never created any new information. It has never written a novel or invented a new proof of Fermat’s last theorem. Without a mind, it cannot do these things as it would violate laws of nature.
Biology and Information
Biology is not exempt from laws of nature. Living beings experience the law of gravity just as non-living beings do. Both life and non-life cannot violate the law of conservation of energy. And, likewise, neither life nor non-life can violate the laws of information. So, when biologists discovered that living beings have information in their DNA, what can we conclude about the origin of that information? It must have originated in a mind.
But does DNA really contain information? DNA looks a bit like a twisted ladder, and on the rungs of this ladder are nucleotide base pairs. There are four different bases used in living organisms, respectively abbreviated by the letters, G, C, A, and T. These four bases form the alphabet of the language used by the cell in its activities. Interestingly, a group of three consecutive bases is called a ‘codon,’ and each codon symbolically represents either an amino acid, or the instruction to start or stop the production of a protein (a chain of amino acids). Since they employ a symbolic code, the base pairs in DNA pass the first test of information.
Furthermore, there is a language convention with an alphabet, words, and sentences. G, C, A, and T are the ‘letters’ of the cellular language, and codons are the ‘words.’ The start and stop codons essentially mark the beginning and ending of ‘sentences’ respectively. So DNA passes the second requirement of information.
The instructions in the DNA are copied to RNA strands, which use a slightly modified alphabet (U instead of T), and these RNA strands are then read by cellular structures called ribosomes. Ribosomes make amino acids and string them together in the order specified by the instructions in the RNA, thereby forming a protein. So, there is an expected action built into the DNA; the action is the production of proteins, the very proteins that comprise the cell and allow the cell to function. So DNA passes the third requirement of information.
And, there is an intended purpose: life. The reason for the instructions on the DNA is so the cell can produce the proteins it needs to survive. The cells in our body are specialized, each performing certain functions in tandem with other cells that perform different functions, so that the person may live. So, the instructions in DNA pass the fourth requirement, and therefore qualify as information. As such, the laws of information apply.
In the Beginning was Information
Where did the information in your DNA come from? It was copied from your parents (you get some information from each parent), who got their genetic information from their parents, and so on until we get back to Adam and Eve. They got their genetic information from the mind of God. This is consistent with the laws of nature pertaining to information. The information in the DNA of all organisms on Earth originated in a mind – the mind of God. The information is copied by the cellular machinery which is non-mental, and therefore cannot add new information. But some information has been lost due to mutations and the fact that each parent contributes only half of his or her genetic code to each child. Mutations can cause duplications in which a segment of DNA is accidentally repeated. But this doesn’t add any new information, just as a computer glitch which duplicates a paragraph does not add new information to the article. Genetics and information theory are consistent with biblical creation.
But notice that these branches of science are not consistent with Darwinian evolution. Modern Darwinists believe that the information in our DNA formed by natural processes – mutations culled by natural selection – over billions of years. But this would violate a law of nature. Information never arises by itself in matter; it always originates in a mind. So to suppose that all the information in our DNA arose naturally is disallowed by science as we understand it.
With all this scientific evidence for creation, what is an evolutionist to do? One solution would be to give up evolution. Some people do take this option. There are a number of creation scientists who started out as evolutionists. On the other hand, many evolutionists are very reluctant to give up their belief. And so, they can always invoke a rescuing device to protect their cherished faith from all the scientific evidence to the contrary.
In this case, perhaps the best rescuing device that can be offered is to believe that the law of nature that requires information to always originate in a mind, is not really a law at all. Clearly, it is almost always true, but an evolutionist must believe that there are exceptions, albeit ones that have not yet been observed. But such an expectation is not rationally justified; it amounts to wishful thinking rather than a reasoned expectation.
Furthermore, evolutionists do not maintain this wishful thinking consistently. Presumably, even the most ardent evolution advocate believes that articles, such as this one, have an author and are not merely a collection of typos that have accumulated over millions of years. But this belief is only justified if information does not generate spontaneously in matter. Researchers involved in the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) analyze radio waves from outer space, hoping to find an indication of intelligence. But many objects in space emit radio waves; stars, pulsars, galaxy cores, and so on. How do SETI researchers expect to distinguish an intelligent source from all these natural sources? The answer is simple: an intelligent radio broadcast would contain information. But this procedure only makes sense if information always comes from a mind. The biblical creationist finds the evidence from information theory to be fully consistent with the Bible. Science confirms creation.