Information to construct the body of an animal doesn’t come from DNA. Where does it come from?

In this next clip we’re going to show the problem only gets worse. Because scientists have discovered something else. And this was amazing when I watched this. They discovered the body plan for an animal does not reside in DNA. So where is the information of each animal body plan stored, and where did that information come from? Folks, I want you to watch this clip.

Narrator: But the inability of random mutations to generate new genes and proteins is only part of the problem; for the origin of Cambrian body plans demanded more than new genetic information.

Richard Sternberg: A lot of the information for specifying an Anomalocaris, a trilobite, what have you, does not reside at the DNA level.

Jonathan Wells: The body plan, as far as we know, is not in the DNA.

Narrator: While DNA carries the instructions to manufacture proteins, it cannot alone assemble them into cell types, or arrange cell types into new tissues and organs, or tissues and organs into body plans. Instead, the formation of body plans ultimately requires another level of information stored somewhere in the three-dimensional structure of the egg cell and the embryo; instructions that direct the development of complex animals from fertilized eggs. With computer animation we can observe this intricate process. As an egg cell begins to divide and differentiate, a network of biological commands orchestrates the development of an arthropod. After several stages of division, dozens of new cells align against the outer membrane of the egg. And then, cued by a chemical signal, they start their migration toward targeted areas in the embryo where they will gather and develop into a mature organism. The cells steadily increase their numbers, and align, like members of a marching band, into patterns that will form the tissues and organs, head and legs of the growing embryo.

Paul Nelson: That happens by a process of cell specification and differentiation, where cells are committed irreversibly to performing particular roles. You’re going to give them different jobs to do: You’re going to be a part of the locomotory system of this organism; you’ll be an eye; you’ll be a gut; and so forth. To me that’s an absolutely astonishing process, but it works. And what it builds you is different kinds of organisms, depending on the instruction set that’s provided.

Richard Sternberg: So there is an organismal blueprint, an ultimate point that the embryo hones in on and is attracted to, and eventually embodies.

Jonathan Wells: That foresight, that preordained outcome, is built into the embryo.

Richard Sternberg: When you talk about these early developmental sequences, an Anomalocaris, an Opabinia, what have you, you’re talking about information in the broad sense, codes, specifications, entailments, implications, that are orders of magnitude beyond anything that we can currently conceive. It’s so off-scale that you’ve left that line of impossible by chance a long time ago.

Narrator: The volume and complexity of information that controls the development of a body plan is staggering. And its location in the cell stands as perhaps the ultimate challenge to the neo-Darwinian scenario of random mutation and natural selection.

Stephen Meyer: We know that much of this higher-level information that’s required for building new tissues and organs and body plans isn’t found in DNA. That means that you can mutate DNA indefinitely without respect to probabilistic limits, without respect to time and number of trials, and you’re never going to get the kind of form and structure you need to build a new organism. DNA is simply the wrong tool for the job; and no amount of time is going to overcome that limitation. That has a really devastating implication for the Neo-Darwinian mechanism.

Narrator: If the Darwinian mechanism cannot explain the origin of the information necessary to produce the Cambrian animals, is there any other cause that can?

Ankerberg: So, Dr. Meyer, help us understand this a little bit more.

Meyer: This last problem that we saw explained in the film is really a very profound and fundamental problem in modern biology. According to neo-Darwinism, new form arises as a result of new variations. And the new variations occur as a result of mutations in the DNA. So the ultimate source of new biological form are changes in the arrangement of those A, C’s and G’s in the DNA molecule. But what developmental biologists are learning is that DNA is only part of the story. It provides a necessary amount of information for building proteins, but that information is nowhere sufficient to build a whole animal, because the proteins have to be arranged into structures within cells. Different types of cells have to be arranged to form tissues. Different tissues have to be arranged to form organs. And organs and tissues need to be arranged to form whole body plans or architectures, where a body plan is a unique arrangement of body parts and tissues. So DNA is necessary, but not sufficient.