Researchers have found a second layer of information embedded in DNA, refueling a debate between proponents of Darwinism and intelligent design.
Since the 1960s, scientists recognized that the order of molecules in DNA represented a particular code that governs the development of gene-forming proteins. Now, researchers from the University of Washington have discovered a second set of instructions in DNA that governs how those genes function.
Until recently, much of the DNA chain was thought to serve no useful purpose. Then, about a year ago, a multinational team of scientists found this so-called junk DNA actually serves useful functions at precise times in the life of each cell. They suspected finding these functions might lead to the discovery of entire layers of information embedded in the genetic code, and the new research confirms that suspicion.
The findings, published in the journal Science, show that the two languages, or layers of information, in DNA work together to describe the structure and sequence of proteins and provide instructions to control genes formed by those proteins.
The University of Washington press release announcing the discovery claimed the two languages evolved together, reflecting an underlying assumption of Darwinian evolution. But supporters of intelligent design assert that the previously unsuspected layer of complexity points to the hand of an Intelligent Designer and highlights the wonder of creation.
The fact that DNA contains two separate sets of instructions that cannot interfere with each other reveals something greater than just random chance, intelligent design advocates argue. “Usually one thinks of a spy or prisoner of war who can conceal a second message with meaning B in a message with meaning A as showing unusual skill and intelligence,” said Dr. Angus Menuge, a professor at Concordia University Wisconsin who has studied the intersection of science and theology. “Both messages have to make sense in their own terms and not somehow interfere with each other.”
Discovering a new layer of information in DNA suggests the possibility of even more discoveries as researchers look for further patterns in complexity. But Menuge realizes that scientists with an almost religious adherence to Darwinism may not be able to see what that complexity points to: “Of course, the more obvious the evidence for design is, the more some will say isn’t it amazing what natural selection can do.”