Sunday, August 31, 2008

Biology + Computer Science = Proof of God ?

I am a Computer Scientist, or so I claim. I am working on my PhD in Computer Science and recently took a class on Bioinformatics. Here I learned about the mysterious world of DNA. Certainly I am no expert in the field, but what a complex system we have found in finding DNA. Most living things have DNA (or RNA in some form or another) which is changing through time and encodes what we are made of. The DNA is translated through multiple steps into proteins. These proteins bend around into varying shapes, which shapes are not constant through time and are part of metabolic pathways. This is about where my knowledge ends of the whole process of DNA up to what the functions of a cell are.

I do not know how accurate the comparison is, but I see DNA in a similar way to computer languages, like Perl or Java. Computer languages are a set of very simple instructions that a human understands, which are compiled into binary which tell the CPU how to manipulate variouos memory locations in a computer. Computer languages are built on top of the mechanics of a computer system. The entire process of designing a computer, building a computer, designing a computer language, specifying all of what a language understands, building a compiler for the language, and finally building a computer program from that language which works properly is a very organized process. Chaos does not create the final process, but it is endless hours of planning, organizing logically and testing to be sure that what one has created has no major, show stopping flaws. In the end all you or I may see is something like the text on this screen transmitted perhaps 100 of miles through wires to be displayed on your computer screen.

As I see it DNA has a set of rules that it follows (though scientists have not discovered all of them) and is part of a large, complex process that makes the encoding of life possible to be passed on to the next generation. This entire process as well as all other components of a living organism, such as reproduction, eating mechanisms, having food available, and aging are all necessary parts of even the most simple, single cell living organisms. I do not understand how the world could make the leap from no life on earth to a single living cell that was capable of encoding its being and reproducing without an creator involved in the process. In my limited experience, chance does not bring about large scale organization.

I believe there is a God and that the complexities of biology, for example, show that God was involved in the creation of life as we know it.


Scott said...

Even Darwin believed there was a God in the Origin of Species!

Tim said...

Darwin was Christian at first and agnostic later. He blamed the death of his favorite daughter for his agnosticism.
Scientist's understanding of how the first cell was formed is extremely limited. We just don't know a lot about it. Scientists are usually very open about this lack of knowledge.
Neil Shubin, in his recent book "Your Inner Fish," discusses DNA in great detail.
One of his examples of DNA: humans have a whole host of genes for smelling. These are the same genes that other mammals have. But a large number of the human genes are broken. Small mutations render them useless. So we have the genes, but they're not functional. Most mammals are at least partially nocturnal, and so they rely more on smell and less on sight. Humans have better vision, but over time we've lost parts of our sense of smell (probably the parts that weren't important for survival).
He gives several other examples like that.
In any case, some really cool stuff. Do you get to study mutations at all?
Hope you have fun working with it.

Tim said...

Other things in nature, other than life, are also complexly organized. The shape of a crystal. The formation of a snowflake. And those are a lot less messy than biology.
Personally, I think it's a mistake to say, "we don't know how x happened, therefore God did it." It's possible for there to be a scientifically valid reason for something, and for it to still come from God...but if we rely on a God of the Gaps for our faith, those gaps will get filled in, and our faith will diminish. A strong testimony should be based on what we've learned from the spirit.
I think God works through science, and science will tell us how he did things. A general authority (Elder Howard) once said, in response to a question about evolution, that God does things gradually. I see that method in science and in the gospel.

Brentwell said...

Well said Tim. A proof of God should not be the edges of scientific understanding. Science and religion are not at odds, they just go about seeking truth in different ways and for the most part answer different questions (perhaps overlapping in the creation of man and the world).

God is best found through seeking him out, especially in prayer.