Intelligent Design

The Medium is Actually NOT the Message

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Dennis Venema writes at BioLogos:

The fact that several amino acids do in fact bind their codons or anticodons is strong evidence that at least part of the code was formed through chemical interactions

My grandchildren have a set of magnetic letters and a magnetic whiteboard to stick them to.  Suppose I stuck several letters on the whiteboard in the following configuration:


This is code just like the genetic code.  The word “dog” is not a dog.  The word “car” is not a car.  Those words signify dog and car.  That is the essence of a code, one thing arbitrarily signifying another.

Now, the letters that make up the code have an affinity for the whiteboard – they are magnetic and stick to it.  Using Venema’s logic could we not adjust his statement as follows

The fact that several letters do in fact bind to the whiteboard is strong evidence that at least part of the code was formed through electromagnetic interactions

I think we would all agree that the second formulation is just stupid.  The fact that the letters stick to the whiteboard plays absolutely no role in the meaning of the code.  Sure, it facilities the transmission of the code, but it is not the code.  So why isn’t the first formulation just as stupid?

8 Replies to “The Medium is Actually NOT the Message

  1. 1
    wd400 says:

    So why isn’t the first formulation just as stupid?

    In your second example there is no specificity — every letter binds to the whiteboard.

    In Venema’s example there is specificity — a particular amino acid binds to its (anti-)codon.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Minor point: University of Toronto’s Marshall McLuhan coined the expression, “The medium is the message.”

    What he meant was that the way you receive a message is part of the overall content of the message. There is a difference between hearing something by landline telephone, cell phone while shopping, loudspeaker, police loudhailer, a private note passed to you by a friend, happening to overhear a conversation or overlooking a note passed between others.

    His formulation was an exaggeration but he was trying to point people in the right direction in understanding communications theory: Different media create different cultures, expectations, demands.

    The meltdown legacy media are currently undergoing is testimony to this fact.

    I wrote about that here, and in many other places.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Theistic Evolutionist Recycles Anti-ID Argument Refuted Years Ago – September 2, 2016
    Excerpt: From there, Venema addresses biological matters. In particular, he attempts to refute Stephen Meyer’s contention that the genetic code is arbitrary, therefore designed. Well before Stephen Meyer wrote Signature in the Cell (2009), Venema argues, Meyer should have known of the work of Michael Yarus, who as far back as the 1980s was showing that chemical affinities between RNA and amino acids could have led to the genetic code naturally. From simple beginnings — entirely natural — today’s complex interactions between messenger RNA (mRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA) could have evolved by a process of “Direct RNA Templating,” or DRT:

    “I recall reading Meyer’s argument for an arbitrary code when Signature first came out in 2009, and being surprised by it. The reason for my surprise was simple: in 2009 there was already a detailed body of scientific work that demonstrated exactly what Meyer claimed had never been shown.[1] Though Meyer claimed that “molecular biologists have failed to find any significant chemical interaction between the codons on mRNA (or the anticodons on tRNA) and the amino acids on the acceptor arm of tRNA to which the codons correspond” this was simply not the case.”

    Overall, Venema’s tone is respectful and non-confrontational. That’s good. But now it is our turn to be surprised, because another “detailed body of scientific work” has already rebutted his argument. In fact, Dr. Meyer, along with Paul Nelson, addressed DRT in a paper in BIO-Complexity in August 2011, responding specifically to the claims of Michael Yarus (see Ann Gauger’s summary here at Evolution News). Not only that, Meyer responded to Venema directly when he brought up the same argument in his critical view of Signature in December 2010 (PDF here; see Meyer’s rebuttal and Venema’s response).
    Other authors have responded to DRT in our pages: Jonathan M. (August 2011), Evolution News (September 2011), and Casey Luskin (December 2011). That’s at least six who have replied to Venema’s sole empirical support for his argument. In each case, they did so with scientific evidence, not religious arguments or appeals to “apologetic” concerns. Why, then, is Dr. Venema resurrecting DRT as if it is something new? In his article there is not a single reference to any of our post-Signature writings, including the direct dialogue he had with Meyer in 2011 on this very point. How curious. That seems a missed opportunity for engagement.
    His omission is doubly regrettable when you consider that the DRT argument fails to address the very issue Venema claims it does: the origin of the genetic code.,,, (read more here)

    Can the Origin of the Genetic Code Be Explained by Direct RNA Templating?
    Stephen C. Meyer and Paul A. Nelson – 2011
    Excerpt: Although Yarus et al. claim that the DRT model undermines an intelligent design explanation for the origin of the genetic code, the model’s many shortcomings in fact illustrate the insufficiency of undirected chemistry to construct the semantic system represented by the code we see today.

    Ann Gauger offers a easy to understand outline of Meyer and Nelson’s preceding paper:

    In BIO-Complexity, Meyer and Nelson Debunk DRT – Ann Gauger
    Excerpt: While DNA carries information necessary to build cells, it performs no chemistry and builds no cellular structures by itself. Rather, the information in DNA must be translated into proteins, which then can carry out the various chemical and structural functions of life. But there is no direct way to convert a given DNA sequence into a protein sequence — no direct chemical association between DNA nucleotides and amino acids. Some sort of decoding mechanism is needed to translate the information encoded in DNA into protein.
    That decoding mechanism involves a whole host of enzymes, RNAs and regulatory molecules, all functioning as an elegant, efficient, accurate and complicated system for copying and translating the information in DNA into a usable form.,,, The problem is, this decoding system is self-referential and causally circular. Explaining its origin becomes a chicken and egg problem. As it stands now, you need the machinery that translates DNA into protein in order to make the very same machinery that translates DNA into protein.,,, There is no natural affinity between RNAs, amino acids, and codes. And the origin of life remains inexplicable in materialistic terms.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:


    In Venema’s example there is specificity — a particular amino acid binds to its (anti-)codon.

    How does the mere fact that one thing binds to another thing create specificity? When I walk on a hot street, tar binds to my shoe. Does that create specificity?

  5. 5
    wd400 says:

    No. The point is that codons bind directly to their amino acids and not to others.

  6. 6
    Allen Shepherd says:

    The fact that several amino acids do in fact bind their codons or anticodons is strong evidence that at least part of the code was formed through chemical interactions

    It is reasonable that the AA chemically bind to their condons/anticondons. That is part of the mechanics of making proteins from the code. What cannot be explained naturalistically is the fact that there is a code for a protein such as HB a or b that has nothing to do with the chemistry of DNA or AA, but of facilitating the binding of O2 to Fe++.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    I remember as recently as 5 years ago, when Darwinists would even go so far as to deny that information was really in DNA. They claimed that saying information was in DNA was just using a metaphor.

    I, and others, use to cite stuff like this in response:

    Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life – Hubert P. Yockey, 2005
    Excerpt: “Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.”;ss=exc

    Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life – Hubert P. Yockey, 2005
    “The belief of mechanist-reductionists that the chemical processes in living matter do not differ in principle from those in dead matter is incorrect. There is no trace of messages determining the results of chemical reactions in inanimate matter. If genetical processes were just complicated biochemistry, the laws of mass action and thermodynamics would govern the placement of amino acids in the protein sequences.” (Let me provide the unstated conclusion:) But they don’t.

    We’ve come a long way since then. Now I just cite the following for proof that information, in its full sense, resides in DNA:

    The information storage capacity of DNA vastly exceeds the best efforts of man to store information in his computers. In fact, just 4 grams of DNA, as of 2011, can ‘theoretically’ store the total world information content:

    Information Storage in DNA by Wyss Institute – video
    Quote from preceding video:
    “The theoretical (information) density of DNA is you could store the total world information, which is 1.8 zetabytes, at least in 2011, in about 4 grams of DNA.”
    Sriram Kosuri PhD. – Wyss Institute

    Researchers storing information securely in DNA – July 11, 2016
    Excerpt: Bachand was inspired by the recording of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets into 2.5 million base pairs of DNA—about half the genome of the tiny E. coli bacterium. Using this method, the group at the European Bioinformatics Institute could theoretically store 2.2 petabytes of information—200 times the printed material in the Library of Congress—in one gram of DNA.

    Demonstrating, Once Again, the Fantastic Information-Storage Capacity of DNA – January 29, 2013
    Excerpt: researchers led by molecular biologists Nick Goldman and Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Hinxton, UK, report online today in Nature that they’ve improved the DNA encoding scheme to raise that storage density to a staggering 2.2 petabytes per gram, three times the previous effort.,,,

    Moreover, the Darwinian claim that information is ’emergent’ from a material basis is now falsified.

    In quantum mechanics, information is shown to be its own independent entity that is separate from matter and energy:

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Quantum entanglement is a physical resource, like energy, associated with the peculiar nonclassical correlations that are possible between separated quantum systems. Entanglement can be measured, transformed, and purified. A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems. The general study of the information-processing capabilities of quantum systems is the subject of quantum information theory.

    In fact, in quantum mechanics it is information that is primarily conserved, not necessarily matter and energy that are primarily conserved:

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.

    Quantum no-deleting theorem
    Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    There is simply no materialistic explanation for quantum entanglement/information:

    Quantum correlations do not imply instant causation – August 12, 2016
    Excerpt: A research team led by a Heriot-Watt scientist has shown that the universe is even weirder than had previously been thought.
    In 2015 the universe was officially proven to be weird. After many decades of research, a series of experiments showed that distant, entangled objects can seemingly interact with each other through what Albert Einstein famously dismissed as “Spooky action at a distance”.
    A new experiment by an international team led by Heriot-Watt’s Dr Alessandro Fedrizzi has now found that the universe is even weirder than that: entangled objects do not cause each other to behave the way they do.

    Experimental test of nonlocal causality – August 10, 2016
    Previous work on causal explanations beyond local hidden-variable models focused on testing Leggett’s crypto-nonlocality (7, 42, 43), a class of models with a very specific choice of hidden variable that is unrelated to Bell’s local causality (44). In contrast, we make no assumptions on the form of the hidden variable and test all models ,,,
    Our results demonstrate that a causal influence from one measurement outcome to the other, which may be subluminal, superluminal, or even instantaneous, cannot explain the observed correlations.,,,

    Moreover, this quantum entanglement/information for which no materialistic explanation is possible is now found in DNA (and proteins):

    “What happens is this classical information (of DNA) is embedded, sandwiched, into the quantum information (of DNA). And most likely this classical information is never accessed because it is inside all the quantum information. You can only access the quantum information or the electron clouds and the protons. So mathematically you can describe that as a quantum/classical state.”
    Elisabeth Rieper – Classical and Quantum Information in DNA – video (Longitudinal Quantum Information resides along the entire length of DNA discussed at the 19:30 minute mark; at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper remarks that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it)

    Of related note: classical ‘digital’ information, such as what is found encoded on DNA in the A T C and G’s, is found to be a subset of this ‘non-local’ (i.e. beyond space and time) quantum entanglement/information by the following method:

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy. Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”

    Scientists show how to erase information without using energy – January 2011
    Excerpt: Until now, scientists have thought that the process of erasing information requires energy. But a new study shows that, theoretically, information can be erased without using any energy at all.,,, “Landauer said that information is physical because it takes energy to erase it. We are saying that the reason it (information) is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.

    New Scientist astounds: Information is physical – May 13, 2016
    Excerpt: Recently came the most startling demonstration yet: a tiny machine powered purely by information, which chilled metal through the power of its knowledge. This seemingly magical device could put us on the road to new, more efficient nanoscale machines, a better understanding of the workings of life, and a more complete picture of perhaps our most fundamental theory of the physical world.

    Matter, energy… knowledge: – May 11, 2016
    Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?

    If Darwinian evolution were a normal science, instead of being basically an unfalsifiable materialistic religion for atheists, the preceding line of evidence should have been more than enough to empirically falsify Darwinian evolution in its primary claim that information is ’emergent’ from a ‘random’ material basis.

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