Scenario #3: An archaeologist is digging in the desert when she unearths a stone tablet with writing on it. She immediately knows that a human civilization used to inhabit the area around that location.
Explanation: In Scenario #3, the reason the archaeologist knows that humans inhabited that area is by the presence of language. Other animals have ways of communicating with one another. Dogs bark to warn of danger, bees “dance” to point to food sources, dolphins have calls that “introduce” their pod to another one, but these are all considered “low-level communication,” not language. Complex language, spoken or written, has only ever been created on the Earth by human beings (i.e. the source of high intelligence on the planet); therefore, those things which contain evidence of language are necessarily a product of high intelligence (i.e. human beings).
What is it that defines language as separate from communication? First of all, language itself, as defined by the people who study language itself for a living, is a communication system through which specific and intentional meaning is transmitted by the use of arbitrary symbols (sounds or words). But language is more than this definition. Language also must contain morphology (rules for word formation); syntax (rules for word arrangement); and semantics (word meanings in specific contexts). Most languages also have a written coding system (alphabet), arbitrary and separate from the sounds of the language. The symbols themselves have a material form but they are abstract. i.e., they are not connected in any way to the concept they represent beyond the fact that the speakers agree on the meaning. The letter “a” has no connection whatsoever with the multiple sounds that are associated with it. Bat, Father, Dead, Stairs, Language, Creation, Dollar, all contain the letter “a”, but all represent different sounds altogether in context. Language is also creative and adaptable. That is, it can change over time to accommodate to new experiences. Language can be infinitely flexible and variable, words can be combined and split apart, speech can be reordered, etc.
DNA is the programming “blueprint” by which the specified complexity of the human body and all life is built and maintained. However, DNA itself deserves a closer inspection, because on its own, DNA is a marker that points to the existence of God. By the definition of language, DNA transmits specific and intentional meaning (the blueprints and programming for life) through its coding. The coding is a set of arbitrary symbols (a four-letter alphabet, ACGT) that are combined together in different ways to convey different information (semantics). DNA also has specific rules for “word” formation and arrangement (morphology). For example, A only ever pairs with T, and C only ever pairs with G. There are “starts” and “stops” in the genetic code, acting as word breaks and punctuation (syntax). The ways in which the letters and words are combined and the specific context of their combinations change the meaning for the body. The DNA letters combine to make words, the words combine to make sentences, and those sentences tell the cell to make proteins, which perform specific functions in the body.
The DNA symbols themselves have a material form but they are not connected in any way to the concept they represent (alphabet). There is nothing inherent in Guanine, Cytosine, Adenine, and Thymine that convey specific information about how to form a human body, or an oak tree, or a mosquito, or a duck, but when they combine together in specific and intentional ways, they create the blueprints for all life on the planet. In other words, information conveyed by a source cannot be considered in the same category as the source that conveys it. For instance, a book such as the Bible contains information, but is the physical book itself information? No, the materials of the book—the paper, ink, leather, and glue contain the contents, but they are only a means of transporting it. If the information in the book were spoken aloud, written in chalk or electronically reproduced in a computer, the information would not change. The same principle is found in the genetic code. The DNA molecule carries the genetic language, but the language itself is independent of its carrier. The same genetic information can be written in a book, stored in a computer or sent over the Internet, and yet the quality or content of the message has not changed by changing the means of conveying it.
Finally, DNA is infinitely creative and adaptable. In much the same way that the human mouth can only make a finite number of sounds and written systems of language contain a finite number of symbols but language is infinitely variable, the same four-letter alphabet composes the genetic code of all life on the planet, from the smallest virus to the most complex person. Furthermore, DNA can change and adapt to different environment changes. Bacteria adapt to become resistant to medication, people can intentionally breed plants to change the types of crops or flowers they produce, etc.
The language of DNA is so complex that it took humans until around the year 2000 to map the 3 billion lines of genetic code in the human genome, and even with the genome map transcribed, scientists still had little idea about how it was used, controlled or organized, much less how it led to a living, breathing human. Over the past decade, scientists have managed to find out that around 1.5% of the genome codes for protein, another 8.5% acts as start and stop markers (punctuation in the genetic sentences), and that roughly 80% has what the international genetic research initiative ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) calls “functional elements,” scientific jargon for, “it does something.” In other words, DNA is so complex that a multinational team made of some of the best geneticists in the world can’t figure out what more than three fourths of our genetic code says or does or how it works.
In light of all this, DNA clearly meets the criteria of a complex language. And although absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, the fact that no language has been created on this planet apart from a human source, except for the genetic code, and humans can barely figure out what 10% of the genetic code says and does, is strong support for the contention that the genetic code as a language must have been designed by a being much more intelligent than humanity, i.e. a God.
Donna E. Lane