SEARCHING FOR THE ORIGIN OF LIFE
TIME AND INFORMATION
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Question from Chapter 12
What happens when DNA information is exposed to natural process over long periods of time?
Time and Information
Consider the effects of natural processes on manufactured objects such as tables or cars. A wooden table left outside in the weather for a century or two will degenerate into a pile of compost. A car will become a heap of rust if subjected to the same treatment. In both cases the information used on the raw materials (wood or steel) by the manufacturers, and the energy used to create the table or car has been lost or dissipated. Any energy or matter observed to be supplied by the environment has only had a destructive effect through time, and information is always lost. In each case the distinctive structure of the table or the car is gradually lost over time. If the process is allowed to go on for long enough all the structure will be lost. These processes can be summarised as:
Table (Matter) + Energy + Time NP® Compost
Car (Matter) + Energy + Time NP® Rust
Now consider the same process at work on living things. We all know that death is a fact of life. You get old and die. In a few centuries your body will be dust. All the DNA information in your cells and tissues will be lost.
Body + Energy + Time NP® Dust
DNA Information + Energy + Time NP® Loss of Information
What happens to DNA information over generations?
From One Generation to the Next
When a single celled living organism reproduces its DNA is copied using the complementary base pairing method. During this process the copy, check edit function of DNA polymerase ensures that an accurate copy is made. The cell then splits in two with each new cell taking one copy of the DNA. Therefore, each generation of the organism has the same information as the previous one. Occasionally a mutation will occur, and this will be passed on to the next generation when the cell divides. However, this is not evolution. As we saw in Chapter 11 all known mutations only produce variation of existing functions or loss of function.
Thus for each generation natural processes result in existing information being maintained or degraded, but no new information is added. The more generations the more likely information will be lost.
The process is a little more complex in a multi-cellular, sexually reproducing organism, as only the sex cells pass information to the next generation, but the same principle applies.
When a sexually reproducing organism, such a Galapagos finch, reproduces each sex produces cells with half the DNA information, i.e. one copy of each chromosome. When a sperm cell fertilises an egg cell the two half sets of chromosomes are combined to make full set, and the new individual thus formed has the same amount of DNA as each of the parents. Because of this splitting and regrouping of chromosomes the new individual has a different combination of information than either parent, which is why sexually produced offspring are similar but not identical to their parents. However, the offspring do not have more information than the parents.
If a mutation or copying error has occurred during the formation of sperm or eggs the information in the next generation may be different from that of the previous generation, but as we saw in Chapter 11, observed mutations only produce variation or degradation of information.
Over Many Generations
Each time a sexually reproducing organism has offspring, the DNA information will remain the same or will decrease. There will be some re-mixing of information, but not an increase in information. The more times an organism reproduces the more likely some information will be lost by mutation or copying errors.
Extending the time period, or increasing the number of generations, is only going to produce more of the same, i.e. maintaining or decreasing DNA information. More time will not produce more information. In fact, more time will only decrease information.
This means that Time is not the key to enabling evolution from simple to complex creatures. Time is the enemy of evolution.
This overall tendency to lose information and dissipate energy with time seems to be a basic Natural Property of the universe, which brings up an interesting thought. If the universe is observed to be losing information as well as dissipating energy as time progresses, what state was it in when it started?
This leading question has only one answer!
It would have been perfect, i.e. filled with optimal information, with best possible energy levels for making life. Such a universe could not have been the result of the Natural Properties of the present universe. All our observations of the present universe reveal dissipation of Energy and loss of Information. So how could we scientifically recognise if the universe, and all things in it, was a creation where information had been supplied from outside?
Is it possible to recognise a creation?
We will consider this question in the Chapter 14.
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