Language

Language is a dicey thing. It’s especially dicey for scientists. Take Einstein for example. He used to use the word “God” quite often. He usually did not mean anything related to the Christian god (or any other god concept). Let’s look at the Einstein phrase “Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?” He wasn’t literally asking if any particular god had a choice. He was asking if the Universe could have come into being in more than one way. Incidentally, the fact that the answer to this question is unknown should throw some light on that awful argument, the “anthropic principle“. Allow me to digress.

The anthropic principle is the creationist delusion that their particular god made the Universe with humans soley in mind. It’s likely the most arrogant concept ever presented. Beside that, it basically says “Humanity (or life in general) is too well adapted to the Universe for everything not to have been made for humans/life”. Humans are evolved to the Universe (at least one, insignifcant part of it that holds no special relevance). The whole argument ignores this fact. Of course, that is the creationist motif: hear no facts, see no facts, speak no facts. What’s more, it’s just an argument from personal incredulity: “The Universe is just too perfect to not be for me! I can’t believe anything else! It’s too much!” Mooks.

But I return. Language in biology can be difficult. In order to popularize the subject, scientists will use personifying terms. “Genes want to replicate”, or “Cuts and bruises want to heal”. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with this. It’s human nature to do this. We call computers stupid or say “the flowers danced in the sun” (for the more poetic among us). Of course, there is a contingent of people who hear these terms and think they are literal. They also happen to often be people who don’t realize the Bible is metaphoric in its entirety and therefore take it literally.

Take the comment section from a recent thread. Not to harp on a particular commenter, but the term “code” is taken wildly out of context. Rather than read for what it is, it is read as being something with intention at its root. Let’s examine.

Biologists may say “DNA codes for the genome”. This is true, but it has no connection to intentionality. What it means is simply that DNA is in one form until it is translated and transcribed into another form. In other words, it goes from being a series of amino acids into a series of proteins and enzymes. This does not require some grand creator or intelligence. It requires a slow, gradual process that provides for plenty of random variation while being governed by a non-random mechanism. Evolution by natural selection fits the bill.