Elegant Biology: New Perspectives For Your Information

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biological information new perspectives

Are you astounded by the complexity of biological information? Do you marvel at the magnificence of the human cell? Are you excited by scientific breakthroughs, watershed moments, and paradigm shifts?

Get ready for a shift.

I recently had the privilege to meet Dr. J.C. Sanford at the 2013 Ratio Christi Symposium at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Sanford is semi–retired and works as a Courtesy Associate Professor in the Department of horticulture at Cornell University. He holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding/Genetics form the University of Wisconsin and is the author of Genetic Entropy and The Mystery of the Genome.

Information is the Key

During our brief conversation, I was able to learn several things about biological information and the process of communicating new discoveries.

But this brief isn’t about the information he gave me,

It’s about the information in his cells which enabled him to give me information.

Biological Information: New Perspectives is the product of a 2011 symposium at Cornell University and explains the findings in 24 scientific papers by 29 scientists specializing in fields to include:

  • Information theory
  • Computer science
  • Numerical simulation
  • Thermodynamics
  • Evolutionary Theory
  • Whole organism biology
  • Developmental biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Genetics
  • Physics
  • Biophysics
  • Mathematics
  • Linguistics

(CLICK HERE to view an introduction titled “Biological Information–What Is It?)

The 563-page book is extremely technical. Fortunately, they published a companion booklet–Biological Information–New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary–to make the material more accessible (hey, if a guy like me can understand it. . .).

While I have been unable to locate a way for you to view the Synopsis and Limited Commentary, I have linked the article titles to available online content.

Three Important Points

The Introduction contains three important points which all the scientists agreed on:

  1. Information is the key to understanding life.
  2. Such information systems cannot possibly operate until all the countless components of the system are in place.

The third point sums up the conclusion from their findings:

3. “The enormous amounts of information found within any cell, and the irreducibly complex nature of information systems, can no longer rationally be attributed to just the mutation/selection process. New perspectives are needed that might help us better understand the nature, origin, and maintenance of biological information”1

The contributors believe that due to the evidence presented in Biological Information – New Perspectives, “it is necessary that biologists begin to re-examine neo-Darwinian theory.”2

In other words, there is more to biology than mutation and selection.

And information is the key.

The remainder of this brief is intended to whet your whistle by sharing what I gleaned from the Limited Synopsis and Commentary.

Snippets

“Biological Information – What Is It?” – Werner Gitt, Robert Crompton Jorge Fernandez

  • Biological information entails language, meaning, and purpose
  • Information itself is a non-material entity–it is neither matter nor energy
  • Mere matter cannot create information systems3

“Pragmatic Information” - John W. Oller, Jr.

  • Biological information systems depend on a “deeply layered heirarchy of inter-connected sign systems.”
  • The complexity of biological signaling systems grows exponentially with each ascending heirarchy
  • The chances for meaningful combinations of data also drops exponentially
  • The higher the heirarchy, the more intelligence required4

“An Ode to the Code: Evidence for Fine-Tuning in the Standard Codon Table” – Jed C. Macosko and Amanda M. Smelser

  • The genetic code is not arbitrary, it is incredibly optimized and must have been so even before the first living cell5

“The Membrane Code: A Carrier of Essential Biological Information That is Not Specified by DNA and Is Inherited Apart From It” – Jonathan Wells

  • Darwinian theory cannot explain the origin of biological information in cell membranes6

“A New Model of Intracellular Communication Based on Coherent, High Frequency Vibrations in Molecules” – L. Dent

  • A possible new vibrational communication system suggests that molecules may interact at a distance, which would transcend DNA-based genetics7

“Multiple Overlapping Genetic Codes Profoundly Reduce the Probability of Beneficial Mutation” – George Montanez, Robert J. Marks II, Jorge Fernandez, and John C. Sanford

  • The genome has multiple overlapping codes
  • Beneficial mutations must be extremely rare
  • This complexity makes the genome seemingly impossible to “improve” via Darwinian processes8

biological information new perspectives

Who Cares?

What is the significance of these findings?

  • Inanimate matter cannot give rise to complex information systems without a guiding force.
  • High-level languages embedded throughout all biological systems suggests an underlying intelligence.
  • The genetic code must have already been established before the first living cell.
  • Neo-Darwinian theory cannot explain newly understood codes such as the membrane code, splicing code, methylation code, histone code, and epigenetic code.9

There are many more fascinating discoveries to share.

Would you like to see a Part 2 to this post? Please let me know in the comments.

Related Briefs

1 J.C. Sanford, Ph.D., Biological Information – New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary (Waterloo: FMS Publications), 2.
2 Ibid., 2-3.
3 Ibid., 4.
4 Ibid., 5.
5 Ibid., 6.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid., 7.
8 Ibid., 8.
9 Ibid., 4-7.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jason B. Ladd

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Christian, husband, father of five, and Marine fighter pilot. Seeking Peace, Waging War, Defending the Faith. What are you fighting for?
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  • arkenaten

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo4.html#p1705
    It seems that Sanford is a Young Earth Creationist; a proponent of Intelligent Design.

    He states during his testimony during the inquiry at Kansas that where scientific knowledge currently has no answer he is quite happy to fill the space with a god.

    And he does not believe in common descent.

    People like this are really worrying, because the next step is the Bible, and he alluded to such during his cross-examination. Oh, dear….

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Douglas, thank you for this link. This is a wonderful example of someone who jettisoned a long-held worldview for the truth of Christianity. His answers under aggressive cross-examination display the kind of rationality a Christian must use to adequately address questions about the relationship between science and faith. I would much rather hear your challenges against the ideas, rather than the man. Let’s keep this a “no ad hominem” zone.

      While making “God of the gaps” or “atheism of the gaps” arguments is too oversimplified to be productive, we can all agree that there are gaps in human understanding. And hopefully we can agree that the pursuit of truth is a worthy endeavor. May we all seek it earnestly and follow it where it leads.

      • arkenaten

        The one view he expressed, which I felt was valid, was that there must come a point where science ( and presumably scientists) say “We don’t know”.

        As a flat out atheist, I am perfectly okay with this.

        There have been times throughout history where people have been faced with many an issue and had to concede that they didn’t know….then.

        Yet much of that which we can now call historical science we do have answers for.

        But the main issue central to the Kansas hearings seems to be what must be done about the ‘We don’t know’ gap?

        For those in favour of the Minority Report the answer was God. And in context, not just any old god, but the tacit implication being it must be the Christian god ( as these were Christians)
        Even though the proponents were hesitant to include this option in the supposedly neutrality of scientific endeavour, when pushed, Sanford, for example, expressed his Christianity and Young Earth Creationist views and suggested the supernatural should not be discounted.

        Ultimately, his beliefs fall back on the biblical genesis foundation, for which scientific evidence refutes.
        Even archaeological evidence dismisses claims that afford any veracity to the Pentateuch.

        In fact, for Sanford to admit that he believes the earth is around 10,000 years old is mind-numbing, as this implies he is a proponent of dinosaur /human co-existence .

        Worse, it involves such nonsense as no death before ”Adam’s Fall” and a belief that dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex were herbivores, and were included on The Ark ( another piece of Creationist nonsense) which is utterly incredulous.

        I am sorry, Jason, but ”god” help people who are inculcated with this diatribe.

        To hold such views is nuts enough but to want to teach such views on the basis of biblical interpretation to children is tantamount to abuse.

        I would advise ( when you have the time) you read through the testimony from Part 1.

  • Ellie

    Fascinating Stuff!!! (that’s the technical word for it :) ) I shake my head at scientists who think they know more than God and in my humanity I would like to be there as they stand in front of the Throne and debate God as to why He is wrong. It takes more faith to believe that man and woman came from two separate mud clumps at the exact same time, in the exact same location than it does to believe God designed us. Great thought provoking post – love it!

    • arkenaten

      It takes more faith to believe that man and woman came from two separate mud clumps at the exact same time, in the exact same location than it does to believe God designed us.

      You mean as opposed to being made from dust and a spare rib?

      Yeah, that sounds…..about right. ;)

  • Ray McClendon

    Hey Jason! Great post brother… Before you post a part two to this, check out Francis Collins: The Language of God. He’s the geneticist that headed up the Human Genome Project that was the first to map out the entire strand of human DNA with those Cray systems. The project that brought him full circle back to faith is summed up in his finding that if you were to print out all of the information in every single cell in the human body and “printed it out” in 12 pt font, single spaced letters on 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper, you would require so many realms of paper that, stacked on top of each other, would be as high as the Washington Monument! Then, to deliver that “speech” at a microphone speaking at an avg rate, it would take you 33 years to give it. That’s all the information in EVERY SINGLE CELL. How it is arranged mathematically, tells this cell to be a strand of hair, that one a bone cell, or tissue, or cartilage, or nail, or organ… “Every knee shall bow…” It’s only a matter of time and circumstance. Keep up the good work and THANK YOU for all of your service.

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Great, thanks for pointing us to the work of Francis Collins. Another great book on this topic is In the Beginning Was Information by Werner Gitt. Thanks for reading, and for the comment !

  • Lele Lu

    This so cool. My major is neuroscience, so I can say without a doubt there is a Creator,

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      I find it fascinating to hear stories about people whose faith began by marveling at the wonder of biology. For one person I know, it was as simple as looking at the human hand. It would be cool to hear about more facets of neuroscience and how it can lead to faith.

  • http://rebecajones.wordpress.com/ Rebeca Jones

    Yes, definitely do a part 2! Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to put this information out there. I don’t usually have the time for my own in depth study of these sorts of topics, though they fascinate me. Your links make it so that I can look into it as time permits. It is much appreciated!

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Thanks for your input. And also thanks for all your engagement with FIGHTER FAITH!

  • Sam Hall

    I likewise commend you for the considerable time you put into gathering this information. Excellent!

  • wildninja

    Yes, please! I enjoy your posts and am glad to find a like mind online– although you take the time to be well-organized and cite your references. Once finished with my M.A. a couple of years ago, I loved the freedom of being more stream of consciousness on my blog.

    I often read your posts and think, “wow! I was just thinking about that.” This was especially true of your posts on Ravi Zacharias’ book– love that brother. Keep up the good work.

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve received a few positive responses, so I’ll have to whip up a Part II To the Biological Information brief. Glad you’re finding the briefs valuable. Thanks for your readership!