For this post, I will outline the argument Marshall makes for the existence of God. After that I will prove him wrong. At the time of going to press, God could not be reached for her comment.
The difference between a code and a pattern
A pattern is a random sequence that does not need the aid of a designer. Marshall claims snowflakes and tornadoes are examples of patterns.
Codes are defined as patterns that carry information. Codes we know the origin of are designed by an intelligent designer. Patterns do not have embedded information, whereas codes do carry information. Marshall lists music, computer programs and DNA as examples of codes.
Is this mama? Did aliens design DNA? If they did, why didn't they keep the good DNA for themselves?
Marshall's proof that DNA was designed by a mind
Marshall claims the following for DNA:
- DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern, but an information storage mechanism. Since it is a pattern which carries information, DNA is a code
- codes we know the origin of were created by an intelligence. Codes are created by conscious minds
- therefore, DNA was created by a conscious mind
Marshall then proposes five possible origins of DNA:
- Humans designed DNA.
- Aliens designed DNA.
- DNA occurred randomly and spontaneously.
- An undiscovered physical law creates information, and by extension DNA.
- A superintelligence, who Marshall calls God, designed DNA.
Some DNA. Somewhat puzzling. Especially to Perry Marshall.
Consideration Marshall gives each proposal:
- For humans to design DNA, we would require time travel or infinite generations of humans. Since we have no time travel and according to Marshall, finite generations of humans, this proposal is refuted.
- Aliens may have designed DNA, but this explanation "only pushes the question back in time".
- That DNA occurred randomly and spontaneously is a possibility, but it is not a process that could be repeated.
- An undiscovered natural law could have created DNA, but it would only be proved once someone observes a naturally occurring code.
- A superintelligence, who Marshall calls God, designed DNA.
Marshall claims scientific reasoning can prove anything, and DNA is proof of its own intelligent designer.
Proof that Marshall is misleading, and by misleading I mean wrong
Marshall's proof that DNA was designed by an intelligent designer rests on a syllogism.
A syllogism is a logical argument that is used to infer a conclusion. The syllogism is comprised of three parts:
- a major premise: "DNA is a code."
- a minor premise: "Codes are created by conscious minds."
- a proposition, in other words a conclusion: "Therefore, DNA was created by a conscious mind."
Fun fact: Aristotle is generally credited with the invention of the syllogism.
There are fundamental flaws in Marshall's syllogism:
- "DNA is a code." That depends on which level you are looking at DNA. From the level of conscious minds, it would appear as if DNA is a code read by cells to produce a magnificent organism.
However, at a molecular level, DNA is a nucleic acid. Genes store a particular sequence of DNA, and this sequence determines how the genes interact with each other and its environment. The DNA sequence is never read or interpreted as information at this level. Physical, chemical properties of DNA determine which traits are conserved, expelled or just there.
An allele is an instance of one of multiple viable possible instances of a gene. To clarify, a gene exists for creating eyes. An allele determines whether your eyes could be blue. The nature of this allele is determined by interaction of the gene with other genes and its environment.
For the sake of Marshall's argument, let us assert that DNA is a code carrying information as he envisages it. The jury is still out on that one, but let's give Marshall the benefit of the doubt.
- The minor premise: "Codes are created by conscious minds." Marshall is not so lucky with this premise. Marshall specifically states that "all codes we know the origin of are created by a conscious mind" (bold text mine). We do not know the origin of DNA.
Since we do not know the origins of DNA, we can not assume that DNA is a code that was created by a conscious mind.
There are many plausible explanations, mostly pointing to Marshall's third conclusion, namely that DNA occurred randomly and spontaneously. In any event random is not that random upon closer investigation, since as we have seen genes rely on interaction with each other and interaction with their environment to determine exactly how alleles form.
Furthermore, planetary orbit around the sun is not random at all. It is a pattern, but it is still a code, since from our perspective on the third rock from the sun, this movement transfers information we interpret as the passage of time.
We do not know the origins of this pattern, but we do know the origins of this code of time. It is indeed a conscious intelligence.
- The proposition: "Therefore, DNA was created by a conscious mind." The problem with this proposition is that an amoeba has DNA. An amoeba does not have a conscious mind. Amoeba were not created with the intervention of the only conscious minds we know, namely human beings.
Marshall also proposes the idea that aliens created DNA. It should be noted that we have made contact with aliens, but they were cellular organisms. We have not discovered intelligent consciousness besides ours on earth, but we have discovered aliens that came into being without the intervention of intelligent consciousness as we like to define it. Could it be that the process of randomly occurring DNA is repeated, in space no less?
This syllogism suffers from the classic mistake of an illicit minor. This mistake has the following form:
- All A are B ("all DNA is a code")
- All Z are C ("all codes we know the origins of were designed by a conscious mind". If it were "all codes were designed by a conscious mind", the minor would have the correct form All B are C.
At face value, it seems that Mr Marshall proposes the correct form, however his minor is still illicit, because this claim is false. At first, Mr Marshall incorrectly claims that all codes we know the origins of were designed by conscious minds. Then, when it comes to constructing his key argument, he conveniently forgets that his requirement is that we have to know the origins of the code, which we don't for DNA. Either way the words are minced, the minor is an illicit one.)
- Therefore, all A are C ("therefore, DNA was designed by a conscious mind")
In closing, the larger argument here is a classic example of the god of the gaps, as described in layman's terms in the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Since we can not disprove that god designed DNA, it has to be true. To mister Marshall: Epic fail. Thank you for playing.
To the rest of us: since we can not disprove that Cthulhu will swallow your soul, it has to be true. Cthulhu Ftaghn!
- Can you prove that god exists? Convince Jim Randi and get a groovy million benjamins for your efforts in proving a supernatural phenomenon. Thanks to mampara Jacob Zuma, that's worth about eight million "bokke en blare", and it is bound to get more.
- If you can read this, I can prove that God exists. Perry Marshall's reasons for joining the fellowship and tithing. Tithing is the fellowship's reason for accepting you.
- Inmagine stock images, where I got the royalty free stock images.
- The Genetic Genealogist, highly recommended.
- The Wikipedia page on DNA.
- The Wikipedia page on genes.
- The Wikipedia page on illicit treatment of the minor term.
- The Wikipedia page on junk DNA.
- The Wikipedia page on syllogism.