The famed double-helix DNA typically includes three billion rungs of a digital, error-correcting code. A digital (symbolic) code derives its significance from arbitrary, but consistent, definitions. A digital language requires context; conventions external to the code itself. An effective digital code demands careful, skillful design.
The genetic alphabet is a 3-out-of-4 design employing four nitrogenous bases: Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine for DNA (Uracil is substituted for Thymine in the RNA). These bases will be abbreviated as A, U, G, and C in the chart in Figure 1. Sugar molecules (ribose or deoxyribose) bind the chemical alphabet; phosphate molecules bind the sugar molecules together to form the now- famous double helix.
There are 20 amino acids that are assembled into the over 100,000 various functional proteins observed. The DNA/RNA code is shown in Figure 1.
The genetic alphabet of the four nitrogenous bases are taken three at a time to form one of 64 possible triplets. Each triplet has a specific meaning: 61 specify one of the 20 amino acids; three are used as punctuation codes to parse its sentences. UAA, UAG, and UGA are used as "stop" codes; GUA and GUG, depending upon their position in the molecule, can also act as "start" codes.
There is also redundancy, in the form of homonyms (alternative codes for a given amino acid), to improve its error-correction characteristics.
(It is interesting that evidence to date indicates that this alphabet and its associated codes have not changed throughout the history of the earth.)
These codes are stored in the DNA "master blueprint" and copied by transcription machinery into the working copy RNA, which is then translated into the "sentence" which assembles the amino acids into the necessary proteins. The translation process is similar to a magnetic recording head reading a computer tape. Most proteins involve a specific amino acid chain between 100 to 500 amino acids long.
The Transcription Process
Recent articles reviewed the remarkable transcription process.1 While the unwinding and rewinding of the DNA takes place, an equally sophisticated process of reading the DNA code and "writing" new strands occurs. The process involves the production and use of messenger RNA.
The DNA coding sequences are separated by intervening sequences, which must be detected and removed. (These are similar to the "equidistant letter sequences" that we find hidden in the Biblical texts.2 ) The remaining coding sequences are then spliced together to form the messenger RNA molecule.3
An Example of Specificity
The DNA/RNA coding system must arrange the amino acids into specific sequences to form each required protein. While similar to letters of an alphabet in sentences, only a specific sequence of amino acids will produce the essential result. The precision of this sequence is its specificity. Since they involve a fixed alphabet in very specific sequence, it is quite straightforward to mathematically analyze the specificity.
One of the most important proteins - perhaps the most important - is hemoglobin. It is responsible for both the red color of our blood and for the oxygen chemistry based on our breathing. TheTorah notes that "life is in the blood."4
The formula for hemoglobin is detailed in Figure 2:
In the chart there is only one specific sequence of the amino acids that is hemoglobin. Hemoglobinopathy occurs if even one amino acid is replaced; it is usually lethal. (Sickle cell anemia being but one example.)
Using the formula for alternate linear arrangements6of these amino acids indicates that there are about 10650 permutations possible, but only one of them is hemoglobin.
(The actual number is 7.4 x 10654. There are
indications that some of the amino acid positions may be "neutral," like spaces,
which are less significant. The current research indicates that these may
be up to 10% of such positions, which would indicate that there are only 516
rather than 574 significant amino acid positions, in which case the specificity
would reduce to 7.9 x 10503.)7
This is still a pretty good finite approximation for infinity! The likelihood of this specific sequence occurring by chance is clearly absurd.8
(In speculating about obtaining this precise sequence by 10500+ random trials, remember that there have been only about 1017 seconds in the generally accepted age of the universe, so you would have had to work rather quickly. Also, realize that there are only about 10 66 atoms in the universe, so you can't waste material on false tries!)
Think about it. It isn't just unlikely; it really is impossible. It was very skillfully designed. If you really want to be a skeptic, you need to practice like the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass , who said:
"I practice believing impossible things at least twice day...[check]"
It takes a lot of commitment to blindness and fallacies to be an atheist. There are, of course, no dead atheists (James 2:19).
If someone claims to be an atheist, ask him to prove it. It must include a claim to know everything - since God could be hiding behind any area of knowledge the claimant has overlooked...
I personally don't have the guts to gamble my eternity that the Bible might be wrong.