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Author Tim Barnett
Published on 07/01/2019
Science

Sequence-Specific Information Comes from a Mind

Tim explains the unlikely odds of the correct sequence for proteins developing by chance.


Transcript

But here is the worst problem of all: It turns out it’s called the sequence problem. If you want, you can’t just get these amino acids. You can’t just put them all together willy-nilly. That’s the scientific term, okay? You can’t put them together willy-nilly. There’s an order or sequence to how they go so that at the end, they fold properly so they can do their function like a hat or something. This would be a terrible hat, actually. Just like that Kinesin protein that walks along and carries the cargo. It has to be set up in such a way so it folds and does its job, okay?

It turns out these amino acids, there are 20 left handed to make up life, they have to be in a certain sequence. They act like letters of the alphabet. It would be like 20 letters of the alphabet, and just like alphabetical letters have to be in a certain sequence to spell out words, in the same way, these amino acids are in a certain sequence to spell out your protein, okay?

So we could take some letters, and this says, you know, here’s a good command to my children, “Be kind to your mom. Be kind to your mom.” But look it, I could take those same letters and mix them up a little bit, and now I have the command, “Me mink bo tod.” If I told my kids that, they would think I was having a serious problem, okay? Like we need to call the doctor, okay? Right? And so, you could see here the sequence of the letters matters. And it turns out the sequence of the amino acids in our protein matter as well.

Here’s a way to think of it: Imagine there’s only three letters in our whole alphabet, and those three letters are O, D, and G, okay? Now it turns out, if we want to use those three letters and only make three letter words, we can make how many words? Well, you could make three times three times three or three to the power of 3, which is 27 different words. The problem is most of those aren’t real words, right? Well, how many real words are there? Well, it turns out in this collection of letters, you can make the word ODD, GOD, DOG, and GOO. Apparently, goo’s real word, okay? And your odds are really a 1 in, you know, 7, something like that, that you’ll get a real word if you just randomly picked out Scrabble letters and it was only three of them, okay?

Well, it turns out, some of the sequences of our left-hand amino acids, some of them will produce real words or real proteins that will fold, but most of them won’t. And there was a chemist, a biochemist at Cambridge University, Doug Axe. And he actually came up with a number. And he said the odds of getting the sequence right that will fold for a protein for life in this situation are 1 in 10 to the 74th power. That’s a one followed by 74 zeroes. Now, I want you to listen to this: This kind of sequence-specific information, this always comes from a mind.

For example, if I saw this sequence of letters on my fridge, I would think nothing of it, you know? Maybe my two-year-old was just throwing fridge magnets against the wall, against the fridge, okay? And the laws of magnetism, they’re just doing their thing holding them there. But if I saw this sequence on the fridge, it would be foolish, right, for me to think that that was caused by the laws of magnetism and chance. No, no, that sequence produces a message, which is a mark of intelligence.

So how do I know it’s intelligence? Because it’s a sequence. It’s called, by the way, specified complexity. High improbability and it fits an independently given pattern, a message, right? “Pick up the girls. Love, Stacy.” My wife. That tips me off to design. So we’ve got three problems that we got to get around if you’re a naturalist, if you’re an atheist. You got the chirality problem, you have the bonding problem, and the sequence problem. When you put those together, the chances of getting our single protein, this is not life, it’s just a protein that’s 150 amino acids long, is one chance in 10 to the 164th power.