“Overextending the Metaphor,” or “mixing reality with cognitive bias”

So over on SB, I noticed an advertisement for this page. Now, it’s just a funny observation how many PR people God needs. I mean, putting up ads is cool and all, but have you ever stopped to consider how much money is being spent on advertising for The Almighty? Anyway, on to the issue:

A quote from Antony Flew:

Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.

If you’re going to quote mine, at least follow the story, it’s from Antony Flew, right?  I’ll let you do your own homework on this. Suffice it to say he’s in no way promoting that personal, omnipotent, omniscient man in the sky, and is very mistaken in his understanding of DNA. Here’s why:

DNA in our cells is very similar to an intricate computer program.

There’s the metaphor, let’s see where they go with it.

The sequencing and ordering of these ones and zeros is what makes the computer program work properly

But the sequencing and ordering of the bases are not at all important. As I’ve stated previously, the most important aspect of DNA is it’s structure.

In the same way, DNA is made up of four chemicals, abbreviated as letters A, T, G, and C. Much like the ones and zeros, these letters are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. The order in which they are arranged instructs the cell’s actions

Instructs? It’s sentient? Cool, maybe I should sign up for courses.

What is amazing is that within the tiny space in every cell in your body, this code is three billion letters long!!

No, it isn’t. This is wrong for a few reasons. First, the haploid genome (one half of the genome) contains approximately three billion bases, so our genome is actually 6 billion bases. Secondly, this genome is broken up into 46 chromosomes, not one continuous molecule. Thirdly, it’s comprised of molecules, not letters. Lastly, some cells do not have DNA (mature erythrocytes come to mind) while others are polynucleated and/or have multiple copies of chromosomes (hepatocytes, myocytes, etc).

To grasp the amount of DNA information in one cell, “a live reading of that code at a rate of three letters per second would take thirty-one years, even if reading continued day and night.

So you think it’s just one huge polymer, you haven’t established that it is, in fact, informing on anything, only implied it through the metaphor.  It’s a sequence of molecules which is metaphorically similar to computer code, but it isn’t computer code. It wasn’t placed there in it’s exact form by any entity. It developed through the fairly well understood process (scientifically speaking) of evolution.

It has been determined that 99.9% of your DNA is similar to everyone’s genetic makeup. What is uniquely you comes in the fractional difference in how those three billion letters are sequenced in your cells.

Really, so environment has nothing to do with it? Even if we are 99.9% genetically similar, think of what kind of numbers 0.1% actually is; 0.1% of 3 billion or roughly three MILLION base pairs vary. What about epigenetic inheritance? Developmental trauma? Nope, those don’t mean anything with that all-powerful DNA. How about a fun little fact that a SINGLE base pair can make a very big difference. Lactase persistence is influenced by one of many possible single nucleotide differences. JUST ONE BASE DIFFERENCE means being able to drink milk as an adult or getting sick as a result of doing so.

The U.S. government is able to identify everyone in our country by the arrangement of a nine-digit social security number. Yet, inside every cell in you is a three-billion-lettered DNA structure that belongs only to you. This code identifies you and continually instructs your cells’ behavior.

Well, let’s wee what’s NOT wrong with this; U.S. government assigns us each a SSN, but how effective that is would be subject to intense debate. DNA isn’t comprised of letters, nor is it a code. It doesn’t instruct your cells how to behave, either. It is a regulated template for RNA synthesis. What happens to that RNA in the presence of other products which the DNA is a template for is what is important here. As for being unique to each person, I’ll agree, but only to the extent that there are differences in every cell, as well.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project (that mapped the human DNA structure) said that one can “think of DNA as an instructional script, a software program, sitting in the nucleus of the cell.”

Again, quote mining, I don’t care what Dr. Collins says to “think of DNA” as; IS it a script? No. Is it a software program? No. It is NOT. It is a metaphor; the phrase “think of it as” is not to be equated with “it is.” “Think of aquavit as the water of life” doesn’t mean aquavit is water, or that it is necessary for life. Dr. Collins tries to dumb down the science and wrap it in pretty packaging. Many would have us call this “framing science” when, in reality, it’s “framing falsehoods.” Little Johnny’s DNA isn’t written in FORTRAN.

Perry Marshall, an information specialist, comments on the implications of this. “There has never existed a computer program that wasn’t designed…[whether it is] a code, or a program, or a message given through a language, there is always an intelligent mind behind it.”

Yep, I knew this would happen; DNA is code, code is on a computer, so god. DNA isn’t a code, the cell isn’t a computer, and there is no reason to infer it was designed.

Just as former atheist Dr. Antony Flew questioned, it is legitimate to ask oneself regarding this three billion letter code instructing the cell…who wrote this script? Who placed this working code, inside the cell?

There are many reasons why this is not even wrong. First, it’s not instructing the cell, second, it isn’t a script, third, it it wasn’t written, fourth, it probably first worked in some way outside of a cell, fifth, what does Anthony Flew’s religion have to do with it?

It’s like walking along the beach and you see in the sand, “Mike loves Michelle.” You know the waves rolling up on the beach didn’t form that–a person wrote that. It is a precise message. It is clear communication. In the same way, the DNA structure is a complex, three-billion-lettered script, informing and directing the cell’s process.

Does it say that in the genome? Anywhere? With 3 billion assembled characters in a nice row, you’d assume it would spell out something eventually and you’d really expect it to not have all those replication errors. Where is the long stretch of DNA which tells us anything other than “CAT”? Right, it isn’t a code and if anything, the abundance of “CAT” indicates Ceiling Cat likes methionine…

How can one explain this sophisticated messaging, coding, residing in our cells?

Familiar with evolutionary biology? You see, you just need any self-replicating system. We have some really simple autocatalytic RNA models that work pretty well for that, actually. You just need one…

On June 26, 2000, President Clinton congratulated those who completed the human genome sequencing. President Clinton said, “Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, followed Clinton to the podium stating, “It is humbling for me and awe inspiring to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”

OK, so, from what evidence were they asserting that any deity is responsible for DNA?

When looking at the DNA structure within the human body, we cannot escape the presence of intelligent (incredibly intelligent) design.

Intelligent? What about using that homosexual molecule, thiamine? What about using cytosine that spontaneously converts into uracil? That’s just how stupid the building blocks said designer must have used happen to be. Let’s not get into ERVs and the problems that having a fused Chromosome 2 leaves us with. Intelligent? That god needs to go back to school, he failed bioengineering.

According to the Bible (which is itself incredibly complex)

Complexity does not imply it is correct, nor does simplicity; evidence is still required…

God is not only the Author of our existence, but he is the Relationship that makes our existence meaningful. All the intangibles in life that we crave…

You mean like knowledge, understanding, and compassion? Mr. Deity gives that? Where?

enough strength for any situation, joy, wisdom, and knowing we are loved…

Because if this deity didn’t, he would have killed us by now, right?

God alone gives these to us as we listen to him and trust him.

Trust this deity, lest he smite thee. Seriously, why trust a guy that makes a promise to take a group of people to safety, but only after making them wander around in the desert until all of the people he promised this to are all dead. Doesn’t seem very trustworthy… Turning a woman to salt because she looked back to see her home being destroyed?

He is our greatest, reliable guide in life. Just as he has engineered DNA to instruct the cell, he offers to instruct us to make our lives function well, for his glory and for our sake, because he loves us. Have you ever begun a relationship with God?

So, in addition to being remarkably human-like and violent, this deity is an incompetent engineer; I should want to know this deity, why?


0 Responses to ““Overextending the Metaphor,” or “mixing reality with cognitive bias””

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Join the best atheist themed blogroll!

RSS Adventures in Ethics and Science

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Blag Hag

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS denialism blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.


  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Greg Laden’s Blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Laelaps

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Lawful Good Wonk

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Pharyngula

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Tetrapod Zoology

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS White Coat underground

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Older stuff

wordpress stats

%d bloggers like this: