In recent posts, I’ve been explaining the Teleological argument, or the argument from design, as applied to the universe at large. Today, let’s zoom back to Earth and talk about the design of life which points to a Designer.
Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. – Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
As pointed out before, when we see cloudy words in the sky saying “Drink Coke,” it is an immediate inference that an intelligent, designing agent has been at work. Why do we come to that conclusion? It is because of specified complexity. Many natural, undesigned things can display complexity, such as the repeating geometric patterns of crystals, the streaming trails of clouds that sometimes form in the sky, or the complex regular pattern of bird footprints on a damp beach. The difference is in the information contained in the complexity.
So how does this apply to the appearance of design in terrestrial life? When we recognize information contained in a book, we know it did not come about by an explosion at a typesetter; nor do we see “Drink Coke” in the clouds and presume its origin in unguided natural processes of cloud-formation. No, we immediately and intuitively infer an intelligent designer responsible for the information. Why, then should we not assume the same when we see it in nature as well? DNA contains enormous amounts of specific information, represented by letters, used to create cells in a body. One amoeba has enough information in exactly the right order to fill 1000 complete sets of Encyclopedia Britannica. That is far more information than “Drink Coke,” which we know requires intelligence.
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case. ― Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Charles Darwin recognized a few points at which his theory of evolution could be falsified, or shown to be untrue. One of these points concerns what has since been called “irreducible complexity,” or an organ for which Darwinistic evolution cannot account for. Take as an analogy of this a mousetrap. Designed for the purpose of catching mice, if it fails in it’s job, “natural selection” will weed it out of the gene pool an it will die out as a “species.” A mousetrap has six parts, the wooden base, the spring, the hammer, the arm, the trigger, and staples holding it all in place. Could this have “evolved” from successively simpler parts, or must it arrive on the scene fully formed in order for it to survive as a successful organism? If you have only the wooden base how many mice will you catch? Zero. What if you have the wooden base, the spring, and the staples? Will you catch 50% of the mice that you would with a fully formed mousetrap? No, still zero. It cannot function without the entire mechanism.
Of course that is just an analogy of an item that is clearly designed. Do natural systems exist that display irreducible complexity? There seem to be. The blood clotting cascade, the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, the eye, and the bacterial flagellum are just a few which have been discovered. Here is a brief explanation of the irreducible complexity and evidence of design in the bacterial flagellum, explained by molecular biologist Michael Behe:
At the time which Darwin wrote about this, science had not yet produced any examples of this principle, and so Darwin felt confident in his theory. Now, with several examples of irreducible complexity found in natural systems and organs, we have more good reasons to doubt Darwin’s explanation. Does this prove the existence of a Designer? No, it alone does not. But it is evidence which must be taken into account along with the rest, and these lead me to find the theory of Intelligent Design very plausible indeed.
Next time, I’ll spend a little time on naturalistic explanations. Please join me!
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!