Does DNA prove a god exists?
Many religious apologists have argued that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) proves a god exists. This article describes an argument they often employ regarding this claim and addresses issues with it.
There are plenty of variations, but this is the general structure of the argument as used by many religious apologists:
P1: Only an intelligent mind can create information.
P2: DNA is information.
C1: Therefore, DNA could only come about from an intelligent mind.
P3: DNA predates natural forms of intelligence.
C2: Therefore, only a supernatural intelligence (a god) could create it.
Religious apologists usually follow up this argument with other arguments for why only their god could be the one to create DNA.
I agree with preposition 1; only an intelligent mind can create information, but preposition 2 has a lot of unanswered questions like, is DNA information? what is information? and, how can we tell the difference between information and non-information?
Information is that which increases understanding. Words and numbers are often used to help increase understanding, so they can be information, but that doesn't mean they're always information. For example, if you write a text message to your friend where you describe your day, that message is information, because the message allows your friend to know what your day was like. However, if you sent your friend a text message of words typed at random, that message would not be information, since no understanding can be gleaned from it.
Usually it's pretty obvious what is information and what isn't, but sometimes something can look like information when it isn't. A text message of "hi" from one person to another is a small piece of information, but if a lightning bolt strikes the ground and leaves behind a scorch mark which looks like the word "hi," it is informationoid; it looks like information, but isn't. Despite the visual similarities, the lightning bolt is an unguided unthinking natural phenomena, and, therefore incapable of conveying meaning or understanding. We frequently see things in nature which are informationoid like rocks, plants, and clouds which appear to look like the letters, numbers, and symbols people use as information.
Because of this, I have a problem with P2. If DNA is the result of unguided natural forces as scientists hypothesize based on the available evidence, then it is not information. It also means that conclusion 1 becomes circular reasoning. How do we know DNA is information? Because it came from an intelligent mind. How do we know it came from an intelligent mind? Because it's information. This is faulty logic. If you want to claim that DNA is information, you must demonstrate that it is not informationoid as all the evidence suggests.
Now, if, for the sake of argument, we assume that a god did create the universe, then determining if DNA is information depends on what type of god we're considering. If we posit a deist god, one who set the universe in motion by creating fundamental laws which allowed the world to progress and evolve on its own, but didn't personally craft every thing in existence with a specific purpose, and doesn't care which sports teams win, then DNA still arose from natural unguided forces that god created. So, for a deist god, DNA would still not be information. If we consider a very involved "hands on" type of god, one that personally created DNA to be a recipe for living things, in that case, DNA would be information. However, if we assume a god created DNA, it raises a whole new set of questions of why genomes appear to be crafted, not through intelligent design, but through mutation guided by natural selection.
I agree with preposition 3. All the evidence points to DNA arising billions of years ago, while conscious intelligence capable of creating information appears to have only arisen millions of years ago. Conclusion 2 is also based on the presumption that DNA is information, so, unless P2 can be demonstrated, it too is faulty.