Tuesday 1 July 2008

Is DNA proof of intelligent design?

"Everything we know about coded information leads us to believe that it requires a designer. DNA is coded information, therefore DNA requires a designer."
I've heard statements similar to the above put forward as scientific evidence for an intelligent designer. Rephrased as a formal syllogism it becomes:
Coded information requires a designer; DNA is coded information; therefore DNA requires a designer.
But the first premise only tells part of the story. Coded information has been produced in vast quantities, by humans. Every instance of coded information, other than DNA, has been produced by humans. Are we to infer that the information in DNA was produced by humans?

The problem with the argument as initially phrased is that everything we know about coded information is probably not everything there is to know about it. Until Darwin, the same logic was used to show that the complexity of life requires a designer. It doesn't. There may well be something fundamentally simple and elegant - the equivalent of Darwinian natural selection - that will explain how coded information can arise naturally. Just because we don't yet know what it is, doesn't make positing a designer (intelligent or otherwise) at all valid.