What is a code? We live in a code filled world, with computer codes, genetic codes, bar codes. But what exactly is a code? Is it the matter it’s written on? Or is it something entirely different?
Codes are written in a language using a language convention. There may be two letters, as in 0 and 1 binary, which every computer fundamentally uses, or 26 letters like the English language, or four letters of the genetic code (cytosine, guanine, adenine, and thymine).
A.E. Wilder-Smith used to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of language in European university halls filled with various nationalities, by asking the audience what a particular word meant. Words are used by different languages to mean different things. For example, “kinder” means one thing in English (to be more kind), and another in German (child). Theoretically it could be made to mean anything anybody wants, or chooses. The meaning is only an agreed upon convention for the purposes of communicating an idea.
Think of the significance of this for the origin of life. The meaning assigned to each base pair sequence in DNA is arbitrary. “GACT” means nothing outside the entire context and design of the whole organism, just as 011000100100 binary code means nothing until an engineer assigns it meaning and then designs the computer, operating system, language and program to carry the meaning. The computer engineers could have assigned meaning to any sequence in almost an infinite number of ways. It just so happens that early inventors made some arbitrary decisions and the rest was built upon that.
It is the same thing with languages in general. Someone simply decided that a hash tag would mean this, a dot would mean end of a sentence, etc. It could have just as easily been a hashtag for a sentence punctuation and a dot for a hash tag.
In every living cell, the RNA “reads” the DNA and transports the information throughout the cell, where other organelles and structures are designed to carry out the instructions. The code is nothing without the whole system and language conventions invented to do so in the first place.
In fact, we now know that if you knock out the DNA in one “kind” of organism, such as a frog, and replace it with the code, the DNA sequence from another “kind”, like a reptile, no individual organism will result. The cells may divide for a time if the match is good enough, and the environment is right, but only into a blob of cells, like a cancer tissue culture. That is why one individual sheep can be cloned, but sheep DNA can’t be put into another “kind”, can’t be put into a rabbit zygote for example and produce any individual organism. The language of the DNA isn’t the same. Some sequences of code may mean the same thing within the DNA, but that’s not an argument against design, just the manifestation of using the same design in two places. Periods mean the same thing in German as they do in English.
In summary, the reality we observe (not the imagined evolutionary story which happened “once upon a time a long time ago”, or millions of years ago), the observable (read scientific in the true sense of the term as defined by Francis Bacon) reality is that codes and languages ALWAYS come from intelligence, and are ALWAYS chosen by someone, to carry the meaning he/she/they designed them to carry. Genetic and other codes are not caused by nature or natural law at all. The natural world is manipulated to carry the ideas, the information, it is not the source of the information.
God decided what the language would be, and he “wrote” down “all the words” of who I would be. Psalm 139:16 says
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” NIV
Before late in the 20th century, we had no idea about DNA, the so-called “book of life.” There is much more, but I’ll leave that for another blog.