By L. Alfred James
Most people suspect that there is some kind of supernatural realm that transcends this physical universe. In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen several lines of evidence that confirm these suspicions. However, we have not yet addressed a huge question that is dying to be answered: What kind of supernatural realm exists? Should we believe that there is a personal God, a being who has thoughts, feelings, and free-will like us? Or is the supernatural realm primarily occupied by spiritual forces like Karma, luck, fate, the “force behind the kami” or “the law of attraction”?
This is an important question because, if there is a personal God, it immediately narrows down the list of “possibly true religions” to just a few, primarily Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or deism. Most forms of the great eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.) and most of the tribal religions of the world believe that the ultimate source of reality is actually some kind of force or energy, not a person of any sort.
There are numerous lines of evidence indicating that there is a personal God. My own favorite, because it is so easy to understand, is based on the nature of DNA. In case you are not aware, the information content in DNA is absolutely amazing. Indeed, even atheistic scientists admit that DNA really does carry very specific and very complex information. For instance, Richard Dawkins, referring to those segments of DNA that we call “genes” makes a remarkable observation:
After Watson and Crick, we know that genes themselves, within their minute internal structure, are long strings of pure digital information. What is more, they are truly digital, in the full and strong sense of computers and compact disks, not in the weak sense of the nervous system. The genetic code is not a binary code as in computers, nor an eight-level code as in some telephone systems, but a quaternary code, with four symbols. The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular-biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer-engineering journal.1
Dawkins rightly compares the precisely arranged chemical bases in DNA to the precisely arranged zeros and ones in a computer program. Thus, DNA is a carrier of information, just like digital code. This is a universally accepted fact within the field of biology. Among scientists, one finds truly universal agreement with this assessment. Even standard biology textbooks apply the concept of ‘information’ over and over again to DNA.2
Moreover, DNA is an extremely efficient form of information storage. According to the biochemist Michael Denton, one single teaspoon of DNA has the capacity to hold all of the information needed to build all of the proteins for all the species of organisms that have ever lived on the earth. And this teaspoon of DNA would still have ‘enough room left for all the information in every book ever written by the human race.”3 (Denton 1986:334). That means one teaspoon of DNA could store every word in every book ever written.
So, DNA can store enormous amounts of information. And the information we understand so far (and there is much that we don’t yet understand) is very complex and very specified. This fact strongly suggests an intelligent creator of DNA, largely because there is only one thing that we have ever observed to produce complex and specified information like this: an intelligence.
We never seriously propose that nature or natural forces are the cause of complex specified information. Yes, I’ll admit that nature can duplicate complex information. For instance, natural forces duplicate the genetic code during cell division. But natural forces cannot generate complex and specified information. They cannot originate it. They cannot create it.
Think of it like this: Suppose I take a copy of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, and duplicate it on a copy machine. That is not an act of creation. It is an act of duplication. I’m not originating the information in that book. William Shakespeare originated it. I just duplicated it. (Hence, no one should think that I’m a creative genius.) Likewise, I admit that natural processes can duplicate complex information (as mentioned, it happens every time a cell divides and produces two cells). But nature does not originate complex specified information.
Thus, there is no natural explanation for the information that is in DNA. There is no natural process that has been empirically demonstrated to actually produce anything even remotely close to what we find in DNA. To claim otherwise is like saying that fluctuations in temperature, moisture, and wind currents somehow produced the hieroglyphics of Egypt, the cuneiform writings on ancient Mesopotamian stone tablets, or the inscriptions on the Washington Monument. Nature just can’t do that sort of thing.
The only reasonable explanation for the information content of DNA is that some kind of intelligence produced it. But here’s the rub: Intelligence implies personal agency. Intelligence cannot exist unless it is an attribute of some being that is a person. Thinking that intelligence can exist completely separate from a person is like thinking that an instance of the color red can exist completely separate from an object. Color does not actually exist without objects. Likewise, intelligence does not exist without conscious personal beings.
As I said, there are other ways to argue for a personal God: The timeless nature of the cause of the universe, the existence of objective moral values, the fine-tuning of the universe (which also clearly requires an intelligent agency), and the creation of personal beings like ourselves. All of these together make it virtually certain that the Creator is a person, not just a cosmic-spiritual force.
Again, this has huge implications for which religion we think is actually true. It means that the supernatural realm is not merely a realm of purely impersonal forces controlling our lives (such as Karma or fate). Rather, there is a Being who is a person; a being who is like us; a being with whom we can have a relationship. This being is God.
1. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 17 (emphasis added).
2. E.g., see Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece, Biology, 8th ed. (San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, 2008), 249.
3. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Chevy Chase, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986), 334.