In July 1948, Claude Shannon of Bell Labs published his seminal paper “A Mathematical Theory of Communication.” This is THE definitive work on engineering communication theory. It laid the groundwork for the information age we live in today.
59 years later, in April 2007, I gave a lecture to 120 engineers at Bell Labs, which is now a division of Alcatel-Lucent Technology in Warrenville, Illinois. These engineers design servers, software, data networks, fiber optic equipment, microwave stations, and devices for cell phone and Internet communication.
These guys tracked perfectly with every point. They knew who Claude Shannon was. They all knew how data is encoded, how it’s sent in streams of 1’s and 0’s, and decoded on the other side. It was kind of nice to not have to explain things like “information entropy” and “redundancy” and “encoding” and “decoding” and “OSI 7-layer model.”
Since the audience had a strong technical background, I didn’t dumb it down. I gave a geek version of my talk on DNA and Information Theory, linking Claude Shannon’s work to modern biology and its implications for design in living things.
The folks in the audience did not miss a beat. They were sharp. I understand one guy was a Bell Labs Fellow and holds over 50 patents. That day there were people from every major race, color and religion.
–> Would you like know the most interesting thing of all?
Nobody at Bell Labs had any significant disagreement with any of the technical aspects of what I presented. None. They tracked 100%. The science aspect of my argument for design is airtight.
When it was done, almost all the questions were theological and philosophical questions, not scientific ones. Questions like “Why would God do it that way” or “If God exists then why…”
(You can listen to the recordings of this talk at http://evo2.org/lucent and hear the entire presentation including the Q&A for yourself. You’ll also find videos that show my Power Point slides.)
My point is this:
To a person with a technical degree (Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology) who uses this knowledge in his or her work every day, my definitions are crisp and clear and fully accepted in the engineering disciplines. Such people typically have no argument with any of the technical details.
You may not be aware of this, but there is also nothing controversial about Shannon’s work. It has been thoroughly vetted and accepted. It makes the modern world possible. Scientific American called it “The Magna Carta of the Information Age.”
Seldom will a person with a background in digital communication even attempt to debate this.
But then there are the others… :^>
In August 2005 I was pulled into a debate on the Infidels Forum, the largest atheist discussion board in the world. That particular discussion thread has been open ever since, and is now the most viewed, longest-running thread in the history of the entire Infidels site.
So anyway, a guy whose screen name is “Robert Webb,” who himself was an atheist and some kind of Information Technology specialist, shows up in the forum around January 2008 and says, “Look guys, Perry’s right. DNA is a code. And I’m sorry but he’s right. There’s no such thing as a naturally occurring code, by his definition. His first two points are correct, and you’ll never win this argument. I just don’t accept the conclusion, which is his third point.”
He got BLASTED by his atheist brethren for saying this. Some even accused him of secretly being on my side.
(I’ll tell you more stories about this debate in a future installment.)
People who understand the world of 1’s and 0′ have no objection to my argument. To be frank, almost everyone who argues against it are regular guys who’ve never studied Information Technology or programming.
Case in point: Do a Google search on “Atheist’s Riddle” and start clicking on the sites that come up.
As you go down through the search results, ask yourself how many of the websites you find are loaded with emotional tirades and “Perry Marshall is a stupid idiot / fool / moron / silly creationist” yada yada yada?
And… how many do you find from technical professionals who present a careful, balanced, thorough technical discussion?
Seriously. Do it. Go take a look for yourself. Right now.
What did you find?
I rest my case.
This is how people behave when they are losing an argument.
All those websites prove is that there are a lot of uninformed people voicing their opinions on the Internet, angrily insulting specialists who have mastered a scientific discipline.
I know communication theory because I studied control systems and communications in college where I got an Electrical Engineering degree; I advised customers who purchased industrial networking equipment for nine years, wrote dozens of magazine articles and white papers, and published a book, “Industrial Ethernet” now in its 2nd edition, published by ISA.
The question you may naturally ask is, “OK that’s fine, you convinced the engineers. But what about the biologists?”
Let’s not forget, the people who cracked the Genetic Code and defined it as a such were mostly biologists, not engineers. And yes, the pattern in DNA is definitely and literally a code.
I don’t know of a biologist who’s produced an example of a naturally occurring code.
Of course there are many biologists who believe that DNA somehow emerged spontaneously. But none of them have proven this, and I would argue that the Origin of Life field has made less progress in the last 50 years than almost any other branch of science.
Naturalistic theories continue to hit brick walls at every turn.
The biology profession is an industry just like any other industry. It has politics and fiefdoms and areas of mediocrity and stagnation just as in every other profession. Biology has been mired in an assumption of “evolution through random accident” that is faring rather poorly these days, especially in light of recent discoveries. There is considerable dissent in the field right now.
In 2004, I came to this question as an outsider. I was seriously looking for answers and I was disturbed at how incredibly sloppy most of the arguments were – on both sides. I was appalled at the lack of precision and rigor of most of the books I read.
I thought, “Many of these biology books seem to get away with a level of slop that would get most engineers fired.” After all, engineers have to design things that work. People have to take those products off the shelf and use them and enjoy them. They have to be reliable and easy to manufacture.
If a product becomes a warehouse of warranty returns because some part always fails after 6 months, the engineer is going to be in deep yogurt. Or if an engineer only hypothesizes about how something might be produced but never develops a process that produces it, he’s gonna be out of a job real quick.
How do biologists get away with this?
Do you suppose engineers – who design things for a living – might be better at recognizing design than others?
Biology has much to teach engineers. Orville and Wilbur Wright, who invented the airplane in 1904, spent countless hours watching birds fly at Kitty Hawk, and got ideas and inspiration for their glider.
Engineering likewise has something to say to biology. Engineering gave us the information age. And remember, Claude Shannon published his paper five years before DNA was discovered. And then here we are in the 21st century with cell phones and Wi-Fi and satellite communications.
Suddenly today we find that the genetic code is incredibly similar to the commands that transport data across the Internet. Error correction codes, redundancy, layers of information, modularity and digital data.
Except that DNA is a lot more elegant and it stores even more data in less space.
Information Technology is one of the most evolved branches of science today. And everything we know about information and communication theory infers that DNA was designed.
Let’s stop assuming it’s the result of a cosmic accident. That approach hasn’t been working very well, and it’s not even science. It’s produced a string of failed theories like “Junk DNA” and stories of how beautiful, self-replicating machines supposedly emerged from slime, by accident.
It takes a lot of faith to believe that – especially when nobody’s ever seen it.
Let’s ditch that theory and get on with recognizing and studying the immense beauty of DNA’s design.
Listen to my Bell Labs lecture (2 parts) and hear the engineers’ Q&A, or watch the presentation on video at http://evo2.org/lucent/