“DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created”- Bill Gates.


Extremely complex systems like our DNA can only be understood by taking into account additional “organizing principles” that emerge at various levels of complexity. This is termed “strong emergence“.

In contrast, reductionists claim that you can predict life from the laws of atomic physics – that everything can be ultimately explained in terms of “bottom level” physics. Though our limit on computation might not “prove” emergence exists, it does disproves the long standing claim by reductionists that it can’t.

And any DNA strand of more than 200 base pairs current scientific thinking says “might require additional organizing principles to explain their properties.” And the human DNA has 3.2 billion. Therefore higher level organizing forces are needed, at least in part, in giving proteins and genes their functionality.

Biologists have been gradually learning that the basic cellular unit underlying all known life on Earth is enormously complex. Far more complex than anything we can create. Many at the forefront of microbiology believe a genetic algorithm could not possibly have produced it.

What is now more mind boggling is that the vast majority of information in the human genome does not code for proteins but meta-information. This is information about information – the instructions that a cell needs for using the proteins to make, maintain and reproduce a functional human being. By definition, meta information relies on pre-existing information.

What is clear is that many complex systems are computationally forever impossible to model. That is because we now know the absolute limit of man’s computational power: 10 to the power of 120 bits (Lloyd’s Number). Any calculation requiring more than that many bits will forever remain a fantasy. So for the first time in history, we now know what we will never know.

Bottom line, our DNA is so complex that it requires pre-existing organizing principles in order for it to exist. The laws of physics won’t bring life into existence with any inevitability.

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