Oblivious to the Obvious: The Amazing Design of DNA

By L. Alfred James

Oblivious to the Obvious: The Amazing Design of DNAIn the 1983 movie, The Man with Two Brains, Steve Martin plays Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, a widowed brain-surgeon who falls in love with one of his patients. But he is unsure about this new relationship, so he is (supposedly) seeking guidance. Looking at a painting of his deceased wife he asks her for a sign: “Becca, if there’s anything wrong with my feelings for Dolores, just give me a sign.” In response, the painting whirls around, a wind blows wildly through the house, the earth quakes, the lights flicker on and off, and a disembodied voice shrieks, “NOOOO!” Becca’s disapproval is patently obvious.

Funny thing, though. He fails to see it. He doesn’t realize that all of this supernatural activity (including the screaming voice) is the very sign that he was asking for. Indeed, once the chaos settles down he looks like he is still waiting for a sign. Quietly, he responds, “Just any kind of sign…I’ll keep on the lookout for it.” Then he puts the painting in the closet.

This is a perfect illustration of how, as fallible human beings, we often see only what we want to see. Dr. Hfuhruhurr really wants to move forward with this relationship. So he is oblivious to the obvious: his wife’s spirit completely disapproves and she has made her disapproval stunningly clear.

Now, shift your attention with me to something else that is stunningly clear: the DNA that is found in every cell of our bodies was clearly designed. It is not simply the product of natural forces. Rather, it is profoundly complex and profoundly precise. It contains the assembly instructions for every protein that our body produces, digital blueprints for constructing thousands of different materials that your body uses every day for energy, growth, and repair.

We do not know exactly how much information our DNA contains, but we know that it is an overwhelming amount. The storage capacity of DNA in one single human cell is approximately 1.5 gigabytes1. When you consider that there are about 100 trillion cells in the human body, this means that each human being is carrying around 150 trillion gigabytes (or 150 billion terabytes) of digital storage capacity.
And these assembly instructions must be precisely correct. The digital code is very exact, and very unforgiving of errors. To avoid getting technical I’m going to oversimplify this a little, but (broadly speaking) here is how you can think of it: Proteins are extremely long chains of amino acids—typically hundreds of amino acids—strung together in a very precise sequence. If any of them are out of order, or if the incorrect amino acid fills a particular “slot” in the chain, then that sequence is not exactly correct. Guess what happens then? The protein fails to function properly.

Proper function is essential because our proteins all have very important jobs to do. In fact, some of them are called “molecular machines.” According to biochemist Bruce Alberts this name is appropriate because these machines are comparable to machines in a factory:

We have always underestimated cells…The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines…Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.2

Again, these machines are made from the assembly instructions in our DNA. Thus, the code in the DNA must be perfectly correct, just like the code that makes your computer software function. What happens if your computer’s software code has only one single incorrect character? It malfunctions. (Again, I know I’m oversimplifying a little here, and there are some exceptions, but this is the case the vast, vast, vast majority of the time.) The same thing happens with one single “character” in DNA (a nucleotide) is out of place. The resulting protein malfunctions.

In light of this, it is shockingly obvious that the DNA within our cells is the product of some awesomely intelligent Designer. We have a huge amount of information woven into our bodies (up to 150 trillion gigabytes). And this information must be exactly correct or things go haywire.

Nonetheless, certain biologists are somehow able, like Dr. Hfuhruhurr, to remain amazingly oblivious to the obvious. They are determined that they will believe we are the product of blind natural forces. They are determined to continue their love affair with evolutionary theory. For instance, Richard Dawkins once opined, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.3” Likewise, Francis Crick (the Nobel Prize winner) once said, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.4

This is shocking. That is like Dr. Hfuhruhurr saying, “I must keep in mind that my wife really approves of this relationship, even if it looks like she doesn’t.” It is like saying, “I won’t believe human beings are designed, no matter how powerful the evidence is.” It is remaining oblivious to the obvious.

1. https://bitesizebio.com/8378/how-much-information-is-stored-in-the-human-genome/
2. Bruce Alberts, “The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines: Preparing the Next Generation of Molecular Biologists.” in Cell 92 (6 February 1998): 291.
3. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1996), 1.
4. Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit (New York: Basic Books, 1998), 138.

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