1.The information stored in DNA is a template. It is equal to a recipe or program. Nucleic acids contain information in a semantic (meaningful) sense. Instructing consists in an advance specification of the kind and order of steps yielding a certain outcome if the steps are carried out. The amino acid arrangement and sequence to make functional proteins is the product of the information stored in DNA.
2. Recipes and programs do not just bring about a particular outcome; they are designed to do so. They are usually formulated with a purpose. The computer program output is the result of executing a pre-specified series of operations. A purely physical description does not capture the instructional nature of the process. Instructional information is not a tangible entity, and as such, it is beyond the reach of, and cannot be created by any undirected physical process. This is not an argument about probability. Conceptual semiotic information is simply beyond the sphere of influence of any undirected physical process. To suggest that a physical process can create semiotic code is like suggesting that a rainbow can write poetry... it is never going to happen! Physics and chemistry alone do not possess the tools to create a concept. The only cause capable of creating conceptual semiotic information is a conscious intelligent mind.
3. Therefore, the instructional information stored in DNA comes most likely from an intelligent designer.
Genetic Information as Instructional Content July 2005.
Conceptualizing gene function in terms of instructions is an approach dating back to the early 1950s and taken up repeatedly ever since. For example, Francois Jacob ( 1974) interpreted the genetic material as instructions. A part of the justification for his claim is the fact that the template’s linear order determines its product’s arrangement. Molecular templates share a certain way of determining outcomes with recipes and programs, and that it is this kind of determining an effect that makes them instructional.
Recipes and programs do not just bring about a particular outcome; they are designed to do so. Perhaps what makes them be about an outcome is the fact that they were designed to produce it. If so, then either templates are about their outcomes because they are biologically designed to do so, or if they are not so designed, then they cannot be about their products. In the latter case, even if templates determined their products in ways structurally similar to recipes, they would not possess semantic content. Recipes and programs are usually formulated with a purpose, and many natural templates have the biological function to contribute to causing a
Suppose the steps of the recipe or the program had been arranged randomly in advance. Then the ‘cake’ may hardly be edible, and the program may not perform anything sensible at all. Nevertheless, these outcomes would have been determined by specifying all individual steps and their order of occurrence such that the steps produce the outcome if they are carried out. I take it that we would still regard the computer output as the result of executing a pre-specified series of operations, and the inedible lump as the result of carrying out some (nasty) sort of instruction. Recipes and programs carry meaning or instructional content because they are linguistic entities, at least at some level. They are written commands and they instruct what they instruct in virtue of being meaningful sentences. Moreover, its instructional content should then be analogous to the meaning of words. A purely physical description does not capture the instructional nature of the process.
Nucleic acids contain information in a semantic (meaningful) sense. As templates for the synthesis of macromolecules, nucleic acids determine their products in a way that is constitutive for instructions in general. It is therefore legitimate to attribute instructional content to molecular templates. Recipes and programs provide specifications of the kind and order of operations, which if carried out, produce an outcome. For example, a recipe for a cake consists of a list of ingredients and a number of specifications that determine the kind and order of actions, which if carried out, produce the cake; and the recipe is provided before it is acted upon. Similarly, a computer program consists of a list of interconnected commands that specify the kind and order of operations that a computer will perform if it runs this program. Programs usually contain specifications of conditional form, and therefore, they rely on inputs to specify which operations to execute. However, the range of possible operations is specified by the program. It seems, then, that programs and recipes share a peculiar way to determine their outcomes. They specify the kind and order of operations that will result in a certain outcome. Importantly, they specify this before the operations are performed: With a certain program loaded or a particular recipe in place, it is determined which operations (among a set of alternatives defined by other programs or recipes) will occur. The idea that operations are specified before they are performed appears to be the basis for our practice to distinguish between merely specified operations and those that are, in addition, executed.
Templates, I suggest, determine their products in just the same way as do recipes and programs. For we saw that a nucleic acid serves as a template for the synthesis of a product just in case it determines the kind and order of product components in the following way: The nucleic acid is present before the start of synthesis and it determines, through the kind and linear order of its components, the kind and sequence of ‘If X, then Y*’-type reactions that will occur. The nucleic acid section reduces the number of possible pairing reactions to one at each of its sites. Thus, the section can be said to specify, before the start of synthesis, the kind and order of reactions that will result in the product if the reactions occur. Hence, templates determine their products in the same way in which recipes and programs determine their outcomes. If this mode of determination is indeed constitutive for instructional processes, then it is justified to say that molecular templates contain instructional content for the synthesis of their products. On this view, the instructional content of a molecular template consists in those of its (nonsemantic) properties that determine a product in the characterized way.
Programs and recipes are said to be about the procedures or operations yielding a specific outcome (rather than about the outcome itself). A recipe for an apple pie is about how to bake an apple pie; a program for calculating arithmetic means is about how to calculate arithmetic means. Another way to say this is that man made instructions provide the instructional content for achieving a certain outcome. Similarly, the aboutness of molecular templates can be construed as having instructional content for the synthesis of the product. Rather than saying that man made instructions like recipes and programs provide instructional content for executing particular tasks, we sometimes say that they contain the information about how to bake a pie or how to calculate arithmetic means. In these cases, the terms ‘information’ and ‘instructional content’ are synonymous. Similarly, instead of saying that a template provides the instructional content for the synthesis of its product, we may say that it carries the information for it. These formulations express the same idea. But, when expressed in terms of information, we capture what is meant by genetic information. I suggest that the genetic information of molecular templates is their instructional content. Further, a template ‘carries’ or ‘contains’
this information in the sense that the template is an instance of a certain n-tuple.
A recipe or program is carried out ‘correctly’ just in case the instantiated actions or processes are those that are specified as part of the instructional content, and they are carried out in the specified order. Conversely, the instructions are carried out ‘incorrectly’ just in case the processes and their order are not realized as specified. Similarly, it makes sense to say that molecular templates are implemented, or expressed correctly or incorrectly. The template’s information is being expressed correctly if the occurring biochemical reactions are instances of the kind of reactions specified by the template components. The result of such reactions would be the “right” or “correct” (Crick 1958) order of the product. However, the right (or wrong) order may also arise by other means. For example, molecular ‘proofreading’ mechanisms (e.g., Alberts et al. 2002) replace ‘mismatched’ nucleotides with ‘correct’ nucleotides turning a wrong order into the right one. That is, they replace tokens of one nucleotide type (any type other than the one that would result from the pairing reaction specified by the template) by tokens of another type (the type specified by the template).
Particular pieces of nucleic acids may or may not currently serve as templates for the synthesis of a product molecule. The ideas of information storage and expression can be explained in terms of this difference. If a piece of nucleic acid does not currently contribute to synthesize a product, we may say that its instructional content remains ‘unused’ or ‘stored’. By contrast, whenever a nucleic acid does serve as template, it makes sense to say that the information of the template is ‘expressed’.
The DNA’s linear order is preserved in the mRNA’s order, I conclude that the linear order of the protein is ultimately determined by the DNA’s order. That is, the DNA’s linear order is the instructional content, and hence, the genetic information that the DNA template provides for protein synthesis. Of course, DNA provides the instructional content for protein synthesis only if the RNA transcript is not altered before translation. Since the primary transcripts of eukaryotes are usually modified by RNA-splicing and RNA-editing, it may only be in organisms like bacteria where DNA actually does contain the information about the order of amino acids.
Instructing consists in an advance specification of the kind and order of steps yielding a certain outcome if the steps are carried out. It claims, further, that molecular templates determine their products in this way. For in a process like replication, one molecule specifies, prior to synthesis, the kind and order of chemical interactions that determine the kind and linear order of the product’s components. If this is accepted, then it is legitimate to describe the template’s properties, which so determine the product, as the instructional content (or information) for the synthesis of the product.