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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CB180:

The genetic code is a language in the normal sense of the term, since it assigns meaning to arbitrary symbols. Language is obviously a non-material category of reality; the symbolic information is distinct from matter and energy. Therefore, life is a manifestation of non-material reality.


Baumgardner, John, 1995. Six problems with evolution: a response to Graham Mark. The Los Alamos Monitor, 31 Mar.
Baumgardner, John, 2001. Highlights of the Los Alamos origins debate.


  1. The genetic code is not a true code; it is more of a cypher. DNA is a sequence of four different bases (denoted A, C, G, and T) along a backbone. When DNA gets translated to protein, triplets of bases (codons) get converted sequentially to the amino acids that make up the protein, with some codons acting as a "stop" marker. The mapping from codon to amino acid is arbitrary (not completely arbitrary, but close enough for purposes of argument). However, that one mapping step -- from 64 possible codons to 20 amino acids and a stop signal -- is the only arbitrariness in the genetic code. The protein itself is a physical object whose function is determined by its physical properties.

    Furthermore, DNA gets used for more than making proteins. Much DNA is transcribed directly to functional RNA. Other DNA acts to regulate genetic processes. The physical properties of the DNA and RNA, not any arbitrary meanings, determine how they act.

    An essential property of language is that any word can refer to any object. That is not true in genetics. The genetic code which maps codons to proteins could be changed, but doing so would change the meaning of all sequences that code for proteins, and it could not create arbitrary new meanings for all DNA sequences. Genetics is not true language.

  2. The word frequencies of all natural languages follow a power law (Zipf's Law). DNA does not follow this pattern (Tsonis et al. 1997).

  3. Language, although symbolic, is still material. For a word to have meaning, the link between the word and its meaning has to be recorded somewhere, usually in people's brains, books, and/or computer memories. Without this material manifestation, language cannot work.


  1. Tsonis, A. A., J. B. Elsner and P. A. Tsonis, 1997. Is DNA a language? Journal of Theoretical Biology 184: 25-29.

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created 2005-1-15