The most famous, passionately argued, longest-running debate

angry_carlos_hernandez_landeroIn June 2005 I delivered my lecture “If you can read this I can prove God exists” and posted it on my website.

Today, I have to thank a brotherhood of evangelical atheists for making it world-famous. It became the longest-running, most viewed thread on the largest atheist discussion board in the world.

They never successfully countered it.

A few months after I posted my talk, a gentleman named Rob sent me an email that said, “I see right through your sophistry and pseudoscience…” and an intense discussion began.

After a couple of weeks he got flustered, so he went to the largest atheist discussion board in the world, Infidels. He posted a link to my talk and basically said, ‘be nice to this guy while you rip him to shreds.’

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous. I was nervous. (Wouldn’t you be?) One of me, dozens of them. One slip of the foot and they’d eviscerate my sorry carcass like a pack of wolverines.

If you’ve spent any time on Infidels, you’ve seen – it’s not like those guys are real big on manners. The anger and hostility is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The Infidels website is six thousand pages of rage and spitting vitriol.

It’s do-or-die time. If there’s a hole in my theory, sooner or later these guys will find it.

And I really did fear that at some point someone would pin me down on some technicality. Or at the very least, that I would screw up or say something I didn’t mean and there would be some disaster I’d have to recover from.

Nope. That’s not what happened. What happened was actually a little surprising.

Let’s just say… they used to intimidate me. They don’t anymore.

I called their bluff.

Before this happened, I couldn’t have imagined that any group of self-respecting, educated men and women would actually try to tell me that DNA isn’t really a code. But that’s exactly what they did. (It is formally, scientifically and literally a code. See explanation here.)

They tried to tell me DNA was not a code – then tried to tell me a snowflake is a code – at the very same time!

They mocked me for taking science books and dictionaries literally. They called me every name in the book. One guy got so furious that the moderator had to delete his posts and ban him from the forum.

But after years of trying, they have not punched a single hole in the argument.


The argument begins with an open question “Did DNA come from natural processes, or was it designed?” and it goes like this:

1. The pattern in DNA is a code (by definition)

2. All other codes we know the origin of are designed (by observation)

Therefore we can explore five possible conclusions:

a) Humans designed DNA
b) Aliens designed DNA
c) DNA occurred randomly and spontaneously
d) There must be some undiscovered law of physics that creates information*
e) DNA was Designed by a Superintelligence, i.e. God.

(a) requires time travel or infinite generations of humans. (b) could well be true but only pushes the question back in time. (c) may be a remote possibility, but it’s not a scientific explanation because it doesn’t refer to a systematic, repeatable process. It’s nothing but an appeal to luck. (d) could be true but no one can form a testable hypothesis until someone observes a naturally occurring code.* So the only systematic explanation that is consistent with science is (e) a theological one.


3. To the extent that scientific reasoning can prove anything, DNA is proof of design.


That’s it. That’s the argument. It’s that simple.

It’s so elegant, it’s irrefutable. It’s airtight.

There is nowhere for the atheist to go, except to say “I don’t know.”

Which is the truth. We don’t know, we can only infer.

All these guys understand that once they admit they don’t know, I’ll say, “Congratulations. Welcome to the world of agnosticism. Honest inquiry is now possible.”

Die-hard members of Infidels are profoundly committed to their atheist beliefs. They are just as devout as members of any religious sect. They won’t go there.

So they just endlessly argue that DNA really isn’t a code…. or it’s only a code in our imaginations…. or that rocks and snowflakes and cosmic rays are codes. Or that it’s not permissible for rational people to draw these sorts of silly conclusions.

I spent five years answering every single question and addressing every objection. I posted an exhaustive Q&A summary at You can click to six different pages that carefully address all the major arguments.

I noticed that one by one, the ‘smart ones’ dropped out. The moderator refuses to answer any of my questions, even though I’ve answered every single one of his.

One guy said, “If you quote Hubert Yockey one more time, I’m going to scratch your eyes out.”

One guy, screen name “Robert Webb” eventually showed up. He’s an atheist but he’s also a computer programmer and he called them on it. He said, “Perry’s definitions are correct, points #1 and #2 are right and you’re never going to prove him wrong.” They lashed out at him for saying that, and accused him of secretly arguing my side.

So far as I can tell, most of the ones who are still hanging in there haven’t actually read or listened to my presentation. They just go around in circles and call me names.

I stop by every few months and answer questions. Meanwhile this has become the most viewed, longest-running thread in the history of Infidels.

I have proven God exists, and… the place where this has been most thoroughly articulated is the largest atheist website in the world.

I love it!

God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

I’ve learned a lot from this. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve observed:

1. When people are backed into a corner and do not want to change their beliefs. They go into denial. No amount of logic, evidence, scientific findings or proof can change their minds. I guess somehow I had thought that if you put enough peer-reviewed, non-controversial textbooks, definitions and examples in front of them they would admit that I could be right.

Nope… not the case. If someone doesn’t want to believe something, there is nothing you can do to change their minds.


2. Most people do not know that science is based on inference. The idea that there is a law of gravity is inferred from 100% consistent observations. You can’t literally prove it. Belief in all scientific laws rests on faith in something you cannot prove: Namely, that the universe operates according to fixed discoverable laws.

3. Many people also do not know that the core belief of science – that the universe operates according to fixed discoverable laws – was originally a religious idea. To the best of my knowledge, this idea was first introduced 3000 years ago by Solomon, who wrote “Thou hast ordered all things in weight and number and measure.” (Wisdom of Solomon 11:21)

4. People who are well informed about things like the inner workings of computer systems – hardware and software engineers, for example – almost never challenge me on Information Theory. When I gave three different lectures at Lucent Technologies / Bell Labs, for example (the company where Claude Shannon first developed information theory), nobody accused me of applying the theory incorrectly.

The ones who argue are science wannabes, not professionals. People who think that watching the Discovery Channel or the latest Evolution show on PBS makes their opinions scientific.

5. When people feel threatened they abandon facts and resort to name-calling and emotional tirades. They accuse you of practicing “pseudoscience” and they say that you’re an “idiot” and a “creationist”.

They quote passages from the latest Richard Dawkins bestseller as though it were a Holy Book.

6. The real reason some people believe that life was caused by random accident is they have a very, very hard time fathoming that an all-knowing God would allow the world to be so messed up. This is a moral judgment, not a scientific position. “Accidents happen, therefore it’s all an accident.”

This at least appears to relieve them of having to explain why there is evil in the world. (Perhaps that’s true. But the problem is, it leaves them with no objective definition of what is good.)

7. Theologians gave birth to science in the middle ages. People who believed the world operated according to fixed, discoverable laws, began to search for those laws. People like Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Mendel, Boyle, Maxwell and even Einstein saw science as a way of studying the mind of God.

Science itself got started in ancient Rome, Greece, China and in Islam – but it never went anywhere in those cultures. Why? I would like to suggest that none of those cultures had a theology that described a systematic universe. But Christianity did teach that the universe was systematic and discoverable and that’s why science succeeded in the West after failing everywhere else.

8. Because of my websites and, I have had literally thousands upon thousands of email conversations with people about science, religion, morality, and all of kinds of deep questions. People from literally every single country in the world, every religion, every race and belief system you can imagine.

And I can assure you – NOBODY argues more stridently than the atheists. Nobody.

Militant atheism is most zealous form of religious fundamentalism in the world today. And yes, based on all my conversations and experiences I do classify atheism as an extremist religion. I’ve heard all the usual objections to that but I just don’t buy them. Modern atheism is not the least bit interested in discovering the truth, it’s only interested in making disciples.

A common stereotype of Muslims, for example, is that they are dogmatic and belligerent. But almost none of the Muslims I have ever encountered are actually like that! Atheists overwhelmingly are.

They’re combative and not only do they fail to show respect, they display burning contempt and derision for religious people. Atheists are more dogmatic about what they believe than anyone else I’ve ever encountered. Again, that’s my own experience from answering thousands of emails and debating in the Infidels forum.

9. Many people perceive science and religion as being in a war with each other. It’s a false war that has been largely invented and perpetrated by a tiny minority of extremely angry people. These people have perpetrated a lot of myths, too – for example they tell you that people believed the earth was flat until 500 years ago.

Wrong. People have known the earth was round for 2500 years.

You may not have known that prior to the mid- to late-1800’s there was far less hostility between science and religion. Yes there are the Galileo vs. the Church stories, but we have an exact reversal of that today: Scientists who are persecuted by secular institutions because of their religious beliefs. I predict that some day the present hostility will subside.

10. Atheists are very good at going on the attack. But they are astonishingly weak when they are called to defend what they believe (i.e. that life was a random accident; that the big bang happened for no particular reason at all; that there’s an infinite number of other universes somewhere.) I’ve found that when I press them for answers, they usually at some point suddenly vanish, never to return.

A very popular biologist, author and prominent atheist spokesman (he is referenced more than 200,000 times on the Internet and was a featured speaker at the 2010 World Atheist Conference in Melbourne Australia) subscribed to this very email series you’re reading right now. He sent me an email just the other day. He said:

“You’re insane, and you’re ignorant. You can stop sending me your foolish twaddle, your info is now in my filters.”

I kindly asked him if I could post his name and his comments on my website. No response.

That’s it. Total refusal to engage.

You know why?

Because he knows he can’t win.

I realize that I am not being terribly kind to atheism here (though I am not being unkind to anyone either). The atheist belief system needs to be punched in the face by people of all beliefs, and forced to account for itself. The infidels debate and this website is an open challenge for atheists to provide evidence for the things they believe in.

Tossing around words like “rational inquiry” and “science” and “non-sequitur” is no substitute for sound reasoning, actual practice of science, and the use of logic.

If atheism is going to wear the robe of science and reason, it’s time for us to expect it to answer science questions, not evade them. We need to demand reasons, not non-reasons. Open factual discussion, not name-calling and childish behavior from anonymous cowards.

And… if the atheist doesn’t know, let’s allow him to admit he doesn’t know, and be kind to him when he makes that admission.

And once he is open to following the evidence wherever it leads, let us welcome him into the world of honest and rational inquiry.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: I used to say: “If you doubt what I am saying here – go to the Infidels site and see for yourself. Read every single post in the 5+ year thread.” (They took it down and refused my requests to make it public. Screen shot at Read every reference you can find to this anywhere on the Internet. If after that you still think that my argument has been dismantled by the Infidels and I’m doing a cover-up job, then come back here and post your questions. Please read the FAQ first.

*P.P.S.: I have a multi-million dollar prize for Origin Of Information at

316 Responses

  1. vachan k.v says:

    When did I ever say that there are no beneficial mutations?
    Hmm you Challenged Me To Give Empirical Evidence That Mutations are Beneficial
    You Are Person Who Compared mutation To Noise
    Noise Destroys Information
    So even Mutation Does!!!!!!
    You Were The Person Who Told IT’s Written like That In Your front page!!!!!
    Beneficial Mutation Propogate In gene Pool And Harmful Mutations Gets Eliminated From The Gene pool So We Can recognize it
    A average healthy human At least has 200 Mutations!!!!!!!

    • Vachan,

      I said RANDOM mutations are never beneficial.

      Evolution is driven by ENGINEERED mutations and an evolutionary algorithm.

      You still have not read what I said.

      Go back and read the articles on this site and come back when you’re ready to discuss this properly.

  2. vachan k.v says:

    Purpose Of Life In Whole
    You Answer was Like Different parts of Engine Has Different Jobs
    But Car Has Whole has a Purpose
    It’s Used For transport
    What’s the Purpose Of Life in Whole!!!!!!????

    • Vachan,

      See – the parts of the thread immediately above as well, for context – on teleology in living things.

      What is the purpose of life?

      You are aware that atheists deny that there is any purpose. The existence of all goal-seeking systems and the functions of all codes refutes this.

      The question of what is the purpose of life is a philosophical and religious question. Once you are able to conduct a scientific discussion with me I will be happy to address this. I deleted your “fools gold” post because it’s insulting and adds nothing to our conversation.

      Please come forward with verifiable scientific statements. And make sure you have read and understood the content on this site before commenting on it.

  3. vachan k.v says:

    I deleted your “fools gold” post because it’s insulting and adds nothing to our conversation.
    I Doubt That!!!!!!
    See i Just Meant To Say That
    If Both Have Exactly Similar Properties Doesn’t Mean That Both Should Have Similar Origin
    All That Glitter’s Is Not Gold

  4. vachan k.v says:

    You are aware that atheists deny that there is any purpose.
    Actually There Is one Goal In Evolutionary Way
    Spread Your genetic Material As Much As Possible In The Gene Pool
    i Don’t Know How Much Morality it has?????
    But In The Way Of Evolutionary Thinking
    That Gives Your Gene A Better Chance Of Survival!!!!!!!!

  5. Andreas says:

    Dear Sir,

    I guess this debate can be seen as an interesting social study (for me nothing more), which was invoked when it was referred to the Infidels (or at least accelerated). A sort of mine-is-bigger-than-yours on an epic scale. It seems immediately after the polarization occurred, defenses were taken up(as you would expect) with offence at the ready. You need to take a step back and examine the territory you find yourself in and you will understand that both are not only fighting for the intellectual high-ground, but also defending their core beliefs(by implication or directly), and therefore prejudice and subjectivity both abound in abundance.

    I will point out a few high-level points to your argument(the semantics is quite irrelevant).

    1. When giving the list of possible explanation(s) for the genetic information stored in our DNA, you of course realize that you chose each item for its ridiculousness(in your eyes) except the one you want to promote. Easy, isn’t it? Therefore you have a huge head start in your own race. You realize of course that the one item you left out is a very viable explanation? I will not name it here. Therefore you have simply invoked the age old principle of [theo]logical deduction: since known science, evidence and reason (scripture?) cannot explain something, it therefore must be god.

    2. You seem to invoke a lot of scientific evidence and principles. Where did you study natural biology or molecular genetics?

    3. The way you interpret inference means that nothing can ever be proven, only inferred. Yet you sight the genetic information markers in our DNA as “proof” of design and god’s existence?

    You have proved absolutely nothing – I did not hear a papal creed being echoed that at last the existence of god has been proven. Even though I must admit the base premise of your argument is interesting and well argued, it is ultimately flawed, which therefore makes the whole argument a waste of time.

    • 1. You make it sound as though arriving at a conclusion of “God” is somehow cheating. You are welcome to any flaws in my logic.

      If logic leads you to God then I ask you, what is wrong with that? On what moral basis do you judge that as wrong?

      2. I am not a biologist. I have an electrical engineering degree and wrote an Ethernet book. This website concerns the application of communication theory to biology – bioinformatics. I have stacks of biology books in my library – the Internet and the world’s books are just as available to me as to any biologist.

      If there is any flaw in my analysis you and others are welcome to come here and point it out.

      3. I have made it very clear that I only have 100% scientific inference, not deductive proof.

      If there is any flaw in my argument I again invite you to point it out.

  6. Andreas says:

    Sorry to quote:

    “A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality. DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids – the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur wherever they can.

    For those unfamiliar with thermodynamics, it’s the Big Brother of all energy equations and science itself. You can apply quantum mechanics at certain scales, and Newtonian mechanics work at the right speeds, but if Thermodynamics says something then everyone listens. An energy analysis by Professors Pudritz and Higgs of McMaster University shows that the first ten amino acids are likely to form at relatively low temperatures and pressures, and the calculated odds of formation match the concentrations of these life-chemicals found in meteorite samples.

    They also match those in simulations of early Earth, and most critically, those simulations were performed by other people. The implications are staggering: good news for anyone worried about how we’re alone, and bad news for anyone who demands some kind of “Designer” to put life together – it seems that physics can assemble the organic jigsaw all by itself, thank you very much, and has probably done so throughout space since the beginning of everything.

    The study indicates that you don’t need a miracle to arrive at the chemical cocktail for early life, just a decently large asteroid with the right components. That’s all. The entire universe could be stuffed with life, from the earliest prebiotic protein-a-likes to fully DNAed descendants. The path from one to the other is long, but we’ve had thirteen and a half billion years so far and it’s happened at least once.

    The other ten amino acids aren’t as easy to form, but they’ll still turn up – and the process of “stepwise evolution” means that once the simpler systems work, they can grab the rarer “epic drops” of more sophisticated chemicals as they occur – kind of a World of Lifecraft except you literally get a life when you play. And once even the most sophisticated structure is part of a replicating organism, there’s plenty to go round.”


    Follow the trail on this, might be interesting for you, there is vast tomes on the subject. I don’t know if you got YOUR idea from the goodnewsmagazine(May 2005) or vica-versa, but they have an article on your hypothesis at Regardless, the mere fact that your hypothesis appears on a religious website(well I don’t know where else it would actually) reveals an agenda.

    • Andreas,

      I read your article. I don’t see anywhere in here where it solves the problem of where the origin of the genetic code came from. It can’t be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry.

  7. roger drake says:

    Hi Jimmy, I hope you are still showing interest in this dialogue. Yes, life is mysterious and puzzling at best. To avoid being overwhelmed, we must return to the basics and facts. I challenge you to look at a book by Josh McDowell, Evidence that demands a Verdict. A book with documented facts concerning historical evidences around the life of Christ. Unlike any other man, he was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. He is the one who said ” I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I don’t believe Horus, Herades, Dionysus, Zeus or Popeye ever claimed to be God. And if they did- They’re all dead. Jesus Christ is alive, again based on the evidence. I know it’s comfortable living with your theories but, life is real- get ready for truth and a reality that will blow your mind!!

  8. GM says:

    Hello Mr. Marshall

    Recently, I read an interesting blog on your site. “You’re confused about the Abrahamic Law and Covenant”. I don’t think so, you are just in the pile of accepted Christianity Their fabrications of proving a biggie for them and the Bible if you accept it as anything close to reailty never has given the impression
    God ever needed proving.
    A lot of confusion runs rampamt through the Bible. I’m sorry but I don’t believe Jesus ever figured who he was…and the role that was fabricated for him to play. Must have been terriibly confusing thinking at times he was God to satisify a preplanned religious agenda.

    Science’s don’t lie just propose hypothoesis.

    I haven’t seen much work by you on the different sizes of DNA?

  9. BlindSight says:

    (This is an excerpt from what I posted on the Atheist’s Riddle part 1, but I thought I’d put it here, too)

    Hi there,

    The idea of Information Entropy and any appeal to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is inherently flawed. No, information cannot become more complex through random mutation, but evolution is not STRICTLY random mutation. It’s also integration of new information. We call this process eating/digestion. These things fuel all the processes of both our cellular and sexual reproduction. We constantly expose ourselves to new information when we eat steak. Looking at the universe as a whole, entropy goes up, information is lost, etc., but in a localized, open system, things have the ability to tend toward local order.

    The second problem here is that, at least from a Naturalist’s perspective, the mind (or perhaps more accurately “the brain”) is a product of a code to begin with, so these codes you’re interpreting are products of a more complex code/structure. The process is code -> brain -> code. There is no contradiction that implies anything further.

  10. sirhoksone says:

    Greetings I heard the seminal presentation by Astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross in Illinois he had said it was imposible to find life on another planet and scientist shouldn’t bother to look, but recent discovery from NASA found life on Mars. It was a shrimp like creature 200 meters under the Artic region mars, I’m not sure what it’s called. I got a link but it’s in spanish I’ll attach it anyway Doh a good amount of time have past since the seminal presentation the Dr. probably has had a change of thought due to the constant updating of science an d technology.

  11. ron taylor says:

    Please forgive me for being blunt about this but – you , Perry , have grossly understated the stature of DNA – it is a SELFreplicating , SELFmodifying , COMPLETE P R O G R A M for the creation of a biological organism ; and the program by definition necessarily includes coded information .

    • 10-4. I’m not clear on what we disagree about.

      • roger drake says:

        Hi Perry, Your blog is great and your responses are very interesting. I did a little reading from Robert Shapiro. (molecular biology U. of Chicago) He seems to follow the doctrine of “natural genetic engineering”. He suggests that “biological functions will carry out the underlying DNA rearrangements. Cells regulate the activation of natural genetic engineering functions. The cells have the capacity for major genome reorganization in response to evolutionary crisis”. Now , it seems to emphasize again that the issue of DNA “design and programing” has not been addressed. Where did the DESIGN come from?? If I may use a quote from Lee Strobel’s book, ( a former athesist) “You have to have a self-replicating organism for Darwinian evolution to take place, but you can’t have a self replicating organism until you have in information necessary in DNA, which is what your’re trying to explain. It is like the guy who falls into a deep hole and realizes he needs a ladder to get out. So he climbs out, goes home, gets a ladder, jumps back into the hole, and then climbs out using the ladder! It begs the question”. Perry, you have said, DNA contains programing and programing points to intelligent design.

        • Shapiro (James actually, Robert is a different biologist) doesn’t really get into this ultimate origin question, and methodologically he prefers naturalistic assumptions. But you’re right, the only way cells can ever evolve at all is to have this sort of capability in the first place. Which just raises the stakes for the origin of life question even higher.

          Re: Shapiro it’s important to note that even if you ignore the philosophical implications raised by his work, it also brings up VERY important biological and technological questions and provides insights that surely nobody can afford to ignore. Shapiro is the real deal.

  12. ron taylor says:

    In fact , DNA is more than just a program – it is the fundamental ” intelligent ” organ which controls the creation of a biological organism ; real intelligence and not artificial .

  13. ron taylor says:

    Thank you for your response ; but there is no reference to which one of my comments / questions that you were responding to and thus I cannot properly respond in turn .

  14. ron taylor says:

    A note of caution about a widespread misconception about Muslims —

    ” While Shariah deems jihad to be the personal obligation of every faithful Muslim capable of performing it – man or woman , young or old – they can forgo the violent form [ of Islam ] when it is deemed impracticable . In such circumstances , the struggle [ jihad ] can be pursued through means that are , at least t e m p o r a r i l y , nonviolent .”

    ( Frank Gaffney , Center for Security Policy , Washington DC )

  15. ron taylor says:

    OK – now I see which comment you were responding to . It appears that you presume everyone automaticly interprets ” code ” to mean ” program code “.
    There are many codes that are not p r o g r a m s . DNA is not merely a code – it is programmatic code ; it is the encoding of a program that creates biological organisms via SELFexecuting code .

  16. Ali Amer says:

    I agree with you completely. but my problem is that to which god should go the credit.
    i mean You believe that there is a creator. You name it what you want.
    But which god is the one to be recognized for the existence of DNA.
    The hindu, the muslim, the Christian, bhudi…………………………?
    Can you answer this to all human being.

    for every created things , there should be a creator.

  17. ron taylor says:

    If someone ” … can explain the ” how what and why ” that came before the big bang ” then that would ipso facto elevate them to the status of Supreme Intelligence – God ; and to also claim to be an atheist is a fool’s gambit .

  18. ron taylor says:

    I believe you are right that the ultimate answer must necessarily be a theological one because science cannot provide a fully convincing explanation .

  19. ron taylor says:

    ” The natural selection of better properties is enough a driving force to create any complexity … ”

    This is an example of the rampant confusion that abounds in typical abiogenetic random process explanations for the abvent of live organisms .

    Specificly , natural selection can only select ( as you said ) – and does not create – the existing complexity that would be selected .

    Random process abiogenesis asserts that C1 begets C2 begets C3 . . . begets Cn which eventually begets [ the advent of a living organism with SELFreplicating DNA ] ; where C1 to Cn are increasingly complex – more highly organized – organic molecular systems ; and begets herein means ” randomly becomes ” . Clearly , abiogenisis is in perpetual violation , at every point C1,C2,…,Cn ,of the fundamental thermodynamic law of entropy .

    A MIRACLE is defined as an extremely unlikely event . Thus abiogenesis proposes the miraculous advent of life . Yet proponents of abiogenesis generally deny the reality of miracles . They need to clear away the fog of their own thoughts before they can see the possibility of divine intervention ; where divine implies the power to violate scientific laws .

  20. DMRSekhar says:

    Dear Perry Marshall,
    [1] What science fails to explain can’t be attributed to theology or God.
    [2] Please see the meaning of the words “random” and “non- random” from the stand point of Statistical Process Control a subject of interest to all engineers.
    [3] life forms are self programmable, a property I term as “genopsych”. Unfortunately orthodox science [read atheists] is yet to recognize this property.

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