... Of course, many people assume that Jefferson’s views, having been written before Darwin’s “Origin of Species,’’ are now scientifically obsolete. But Jefferson has been vindicated by modern scientific discoveries that Darwin could not have anticipated. For example, in 1953 when Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, they made a startling discovery. The structure of DNA allows it to store information in the form of a four-character digital code. Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotide bases store and transmit the assembly instructions - the information - for building the crucial protein molecules and machines the cell needs to survive. Francis Crick later developed this idea with his famous “sequence hypothesis,’’ according to which the chemical constituents in DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. As Bill Gates has noted, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.’’
This discovery has made acute a longstanding scientific mystery that Darwin never addressed or solved: the mystery of how the very first life on earth arose. To date no theory of undirected chemical evolution has explained the origin of the digital information in DNA needed to build the first living cell on earth. Yet modern scientists who argue for intelligent design do not do so merely because natural processes have failed to explain the origin of the information in cells. Instead, they argue for design because systems possessing these features invariably arise from intelligent causes.
DNA functions like a software program. We know that software comes from programmers. Information - whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal - always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of digital code in DNA provides a strong scientific reason for concluding that the information in DNA also had an intelligent source.
Design is an inference from biological data, not a deduction from religious authority. Jefferson said just that, and based his political thinking on it. The evidence for what he presciently called “Nature’s God’’ is stronger than ever. Our nation’s existence, with its guarantee to protect each person’s “inalienable rights,’’ may be counted among the fruits of Jefferson’s belief in intelligent design.