What is DNA?
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. As the name suggests it is found in the nucleus of almost every cell of and organism. This molecule contains coded information on how to design any organism from raw materials and tells it how it should function. With the help of proteins it can replicate itself.
What is information?
Information is not the transmission of a signal across a communication chanel but the actualization of one possibility to the exclusion of others. This presupposes a multiplicity of distinct possibilities, one of which might happen. When this happens, information becomes specified -- it is a choice made by an intelligent agent. How do we recognize that an intelligent cause has made a choice? William Dembski states that Actualization-Exclusion-Specification, constitutes the general criteria. For example, if I see a bottle of ink spilled on paper on a table under a tree, this opens up possibilities-- wind may have toppled bottle, a squirrel may have bumped the ink bottle, a human been may have spilled it accidentally and purposefully (this is unspecified information). If, however, I see writing on the paper, this is specified information which tells me that a human been was here and chances are that he or she spilled the ink, but not necessarily so, since the ink could have been spilled by another agent before or after the written message. But I know for sure that an intelligent cause has written on the paper because neither the wind nor the squirrel could have written it."Specification is the only means available to us for distinguishing choice from chance, directed contingency from blind contingency." In the final analysis with regard to evolutionary biology, natural causes can explain the flow of complex-specified-information but they cannot originate (CSI). (Webpage: Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information, Dembski, William A.)
How did DNA originate?
"...the odds against DNA assembling by chance are 1040,000 to one [according to Fred Hoyle, Evolution from Space,1981]. This is true, but highly misleading. DNA did not assemble purely by chance. It assembled by a combination of chance and the laws of physics. Without the laws of physics as we know them, life on earth as we know it would not have evolved in the short span of six billion years. The nuclear force was needed to bind protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms; electromagnetism was needed to keep atoms and molecules together; and gravity was needed to keep the resulting ingredients for life stuck to the surface of the earth." --Victor J. Stenger*
(Origin.org) has posted a well reasoned paper - "DNA, Design and the Origin of Life" by Charles Thaxton. He brings out the difference between natural causes and specified information.
He takes as an example a snowflake to explain natural causes.
A snowflake is specified but has low information content. It is caused by the nature of the water molecule, atmospheric conditions and a single structure repeated over and over again. [Here I would add that it is a fractal design and no single snowflake is exactly like any other because it follows the laws of fractal geometry (see www. brogilbert.org/God of Chaos). Thaxton goes on to say that we can only infer an intelligent cause for it only in a remote sense as something beyond the natural causes.
Living organisms, however, are specified complexity. The "letters" of the genetic code are made up of four chemicals arrange in such a way as to spell out a complete organism and how it should function. The amount of information in a single cell organism such as E. Coli is staggering. The E. Coli bacteria is microscopic in size. If we were to print out the genetic code of this organism we would overfill one of the largest library in the world with books. And the chemicals are not the cause of the code, but they are the vehicles of the code, like paper is the matter upon which information is written.
Michael Denton in his book (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1986. p.250) has this to say about specified complexity, "Molecular biology has shown that even the simplest of all living systems on the earth today, bacterial cells, are exceedingly complex objects. Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10-12 gms, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms,[100,000,000,000] far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world."
(Charles Thaxton concludes)
"Since life is at its core a chemical code,
the origin of life
is the origin of the code."
Cambrian Information Jump