Is DNA digital information?

Sorry, but RNA and DNA are not digital information. They are molecules.

Yes, they can be interpreted as a carrier of digital information. But that interpretation comes from minds. That’s where the minds come in. But why not interpret snow crystals as carrying digital information?

There’s no human independent fact of the matter as to what can be considered to be “information”.


They are both molecules and information as words written on a piece of paper are both molecules and information.

They seem to have an important difference to me. Words on a page may be made out of ink molecules, but their meaning is only in the mind of the author and reader. The information in DNA/RNA is chemical, and it’s meaning is governed by chemical reactions. They aren’t just letters, even though we use letters as short-hand, and their “meaning” is not language as we know it. At least I don’t think.


They are a molecular chemical sequence that is translatable. Binary code is also a translatable code whither it happens to be 1’s and 0’s on a piece of paper or voltages inside a computer. What ever the medium the symbols are translatable.

Would one make the argument that the strings of !'s and 0’s in a 3D computer printer that build a 3D animal are not information?

Words written on paper are ink marks on paper. They are not information. We recognize them as information, because they inform us. That they inform us depends our language and thus on our culture. They are not objectively information; they are only culturally information.

But that was my whole point. There is no such thing as information, except in a cultural sense. All of the ID and creationist arguments about information are absurd. Yes, information requires a mind, but it is the human mind. Information is a cultural artifact.


Information is a real entity not just in a cultural sense. Information is a translatable medium. Our minds can generate information but also a computer can translate information. The information content of DNA can be translated to build a functioning animal.

The argument you are making is simply nit picking a commonly used word. It is commonly used to refer to DNA in the scientific community. Especially around the CRISPR technology.

ID and creationist arguments about information are absurd.

They simply can change the word to a translatable symbolic sequence and continue the discussion. Substituting the word information for translatable symbolic sequence does not change their argument.

Not really though. I can’t just take the A,T,C,G’s and build a functioning animal. I can’t even just write down the genome and give it to somebody else and they build a functioning animal.


If the A,T,C,G are inside a living cell (fertilized egg) and organized properly they will be the information content that builds an animal. The same way the coded 1’s and 0’s will be the information inside a 3D printer that builds a 3D animal. Without the computer hardware the !'s and O’s don’t build anything. Information is a useful term when discussing the characteristics of DNA. As it is a useful term when talking about computer code.

To say that it is translatable is to admit that “information” is the name of an abstraction. Abstract things aren’t real.

The computer us just applying the rules programmed into the computer. The computer itself is not informed.

No. The causal structure of the DNA is what builds the animal. We talk about that as information, but we are only using “information” as a proxy for talk about causal properties. Information is still only a cultural artifact. It’s the molecules and their causal properties that are real.

So I looked up “symbol” in the dictionary (actually, in google). The first definition was: “a mark or character used as a conventional representation of an object, function, or process, e.g. the letter or letters standing for a chemical element or a character in musical notation.”

As the dictionary says, we are using conventions when we say something is a symbol. And conventions are part of human culture. The biochemical reactions know nothing about our conventions – those reactions function based on causal properties.


This is your perspective but I respectfully disagree. Abstractions can be the engine of innovation.

I agree.

The linear arrangement of the molecules being translated makes it information. Translated into proteins and eventually translated into body plans.

And human culture is the product of minds and abstract thought. How do you explain the origin of the chemical symbolic sequence that builds a human? We know the origin that builds a 3D printed object.

This is why the ID argument is so powerful.

Sure. But that’s still cultural rather than real.

No, it doesn’t. There are plenty of linear arrangements that we do not take to be information. What makes it information, is that humans find it useful to discuss in terms of information. But that leaves it as cultural, rather than real.

If it is symbolic, then it depends on human conventions. It is cultural.

You smuggle in human minds with your use of the concept of information. And then you declare that it must involve minds. Yes, it involves the minds that you smuggled in. It is circular reasoning.


Please translate to English:

“Wetin dey sup”

If what is interpreted as information isn’t purely cultural, then you should be able to decipher what that means, otherwise you are wrong.

False. Information (the exact sequence of nucleotides) in the coding regions of genomes are used to build proteins and RNA, not “a functioning animal”.

I disagree. AFAIK all that is said about DNA is that it serves as a carrier of genetic information. It is not information itself.

Anything can fit this description if we humans choose so.

I could pick three rocks, color them blue (B), green (G) and red (R) and tell my friends that when they see the sequences, G-B-R and R-B-G, it means “go” and “stop” respectively. The colored stones themselves are not information regardless of their combinations, rather we pick combinations from the entire combinatorial space and make them informative to us. In cellular biochemistry, ribosomes translate the linear arrangement of nucleotides in mRNA molecules to their corresponding linear arrangement of amino acids, but unlike humans who choose specific combinations of symbols and attribute meaning to them, ribosomes can translate any combination of nucleotides to peptides or polypeptides. Whether these peptides or polypeptides are useful to organisms is of no concern to ribosomes. So merely being a “translatable… sequence” doesn’t translate to being informative in biochemistry.


This statement appears devoid of meaning.

This is a straw man argument. Read again carefully.

Again, devoid of meaning until terms are carefully articulated.

Fair criticism but empirically showing minds generating information can easily remove the circle form the argument.

I actually think that’s not a bad analogy.

Where it goes wrong is in ignoring that the sequences of bases are determined by which sequences have arisen and persisted over time thru a series of ancestors. This, in turn, is determined by the unguided processes of mutation, drift and selection.

That is to say, the information exists without requiring intelligent design.


Perhaps the ID proponents could carefully articulate what they mean by “intelligent”, by “design” and by “information.”


If it’s so powerful, why hasn’t any of that alleged power been harnessed to accomplish anything in biomedical research?

There’s zero symbolism in the context of the organism’s physiology. We merely employ symbolism to talk about it, some more coherently than others.


Through the process you describe, you can at least build a functioning virus

I believe the original context (stated by you) was animal genomes and Jordan is right within that context. True, for viruses (extant and extinct), the most basic requirement needed to recreate them is their determined nucleic acid sequence, but that’s reconstruction of viruses that exist or existed, not building from scratch (which I believe is impossible at least for now).

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There’s no building there.

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