Tag Archive: Intelligent Design


In the last post, I gave an overview description of the design argument as applied to the life on earth, further expanding the positive case for the existence of a Designer. This time, I want totoolbox address some of the explanations proposed by materialistic and evolutionary theories, and how I think they fail as adequate alternatives.

Time + Chance

If you recall from last time, two strong arguments, specified complexity and irreducible complexity make a compelling case in favor of intelligent design of life on earth. Scientists committed to materialism have fewer tools available with which to construct alternative theories, and thus have (at least) two very large problems: 1. origin of first life, and 2. diversity of complex life forms we observe today. In this space today, I’m not going to address the origins of life problem; suffice it to say that producing life from non-life has proven daunting, at best, even with intelligent agency (the scientists) manipulating initial conditions. If anything, any success in this area seems to give more credibility to the need for intelligent agency.

Materialists have only a few tools with which to construct complex life: natural selection and random mutations operating over a long period of time. Extrapolating from observable and non-controversial micro-evolution, time plus chance are proposed as adequate to change the (elusive) first single-celled organism to the highly diversified life forms throughout the earth today (macro-evolution). The trouble is, “time plus chance” are articles of blind faith, not words which provide any adequate explanatory power.

Our uniform and repeated experience tells us that higher complexity does not flow from lower complexity; water does not rise higher than its source. Adding time and chance does not help, either. Consider the following example paraphrased from Frank Turek. Consider a fellow taking with him a large bag of red, white, and blue confetti into an airplane. At 5,000 feet, he dumps the bag over a football field; how good do you think are the chances that the confetti lands in the pattern of the American flag? Probably not too good. What about if the plane goes to an altitude of 30,000 feet? If he empties the bag from there, is it more or less likely to form the flag than at the first altitude? It’s pretty easy to tell that adding extra time for random chance to act to produce something orderly is so unlikely to work that it is hard to imagine that adding any amount of time would produce success. Applying this intuition to the issue of development of life forms has led some to refer to Darwinian evolutionists as “young-earth evolutionists,” meaning that the amount of time needed for probabilities of random mutation to have acted appropriately to get where we are now is exponentially larger than the same scientists estimate the age of the earth to be.

The Philosophy of Science

Why is it that materialistic scientists have fewer explanatory tools than do theistic scientists? They limit themselves to only naturalistic explanations; no supernatural explanations are even allowed as possible. This results in many a round-peg-in-square-hole scenarios. This approach is called philosophical naturalism, and as its name suggests, is not a statement of science, but one of the philosophy of performing science. It is a commitment to providing a naturalistic explanation for all things. Methodological naturalism, by contrast, is a more modest approach to science which says one must presume and investigate the object of study as if it has a naturalistic explanation; most things will comfortably fall into this category. However, if the evidence leads to a supernatural explanation as being the best fit for the evidence, the scientist is free to consider such a theory.

From this discussion, it should be clear that science is not the final authority on truth and fact; science itself rests on philosophy. The methods of scientific testing and inquiry set the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is out-of-bounds. Science cannot be done without philosophy, and even faith (used broadly); we exercise faith when we apply the scientific method that the natural laws will provide consistent results and can reliably assist to explain scientific mysteries. The philosophical assumptions brought in to the experimentation process can drastically impact the conclusions a scientist makes about data gathered. After all, science does not say anything; scientists do, and their interpretations are influenced by their prior philosophical commitments. Of course, none of this is to denigrate science or the scientific method, but one should be somewhat skeptical when the monolith of Science is said to proclaim the truth. A good scientist must be able to recognize his or her own presuppositions and attempt to mitigate its influence on the interpretation of scientific data.

In my next post, I’ll move into another area of argument for God’s existence, the moral argument. I hope you’ll 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!

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 lifemousetrap 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

Specified Complexity

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.

Irreducible Complexity

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!

Continuing in the study of arguments for God’s existence, let’s today turn our attention to the Teleological argument for God’s existence, otherwise known as the Design argument. It works likeskywriting this: a design requires a designer, and as the universe gives good evidence of design, we are well-justified in believing in a grand Designer. Here’s the formal argument:

  1. Every design had a designer.
  2. The universe has a highly complex design.
  3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

1. Every design had a designer

This is an intuitively known fact that can be shown true without a whole lot of introspection, but since this notion comes under attack, let’s consider a couple of scenarios to flesh it out.

Paley’s Watchmaker

William Paley, a natural philosopher of the 18th century, underscored our intuition of design by imagining that within a forest a person discovers to the side of the path a pocket watch. Now, a pocket watch is a complex mechanism, with carefully calibrated and assembled gears, springs, and other precise components, working together to perform a function: accurate timekeeping. If one were to find such a device, even if they had never before seen or knew about watches, it seems clear that no one would conclude or even for very long consider the possibility that it assembled through natural processes over time. No, the immediate inference would be that of an intelligent agent having designed the pocket watch.

Skywriting

We’ve probably all seen it at some point – fuzzy white letters in a blue sky saying “Marry Me” or “Eat at Joe’s” or “How Do I Land?” What are our intuitions when we look up and see these words? Coincidence of clouds and water vapors and wind? No, not even a simple “I ♡ U” would be mistaken as the product of natural forces and random chance. Information is conveyed, and our uniform and repeated experience is that information originates from a mind.

2. The universe has a highly complex design.

The “Anthropic Principle” is the term used to categorize the ever-increasing evidence that the universe was designed to permit and support life on earth. This is quite a claim, isn’t it? But it is the best explanation of the evidence of the cosmological constants, seemingly tweaked to make life on earth possible. Here are just a few of those:

  1. Earth’s oxygen level – 21%; 25% would cause spontaneous combustion; 15% would cause human suffocation
  2. Earth’s atmospheric transparency – blocks right amount of solar radiation
  3. Moon-Earth gravitation interaction – greater interaction would mean tidal effects on oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe. Less interaction would cause climactic instabilities.
  4. Carbon Dioxide levels – more would cause uninhabitable greenhouse effect; less would prevent photosynthesis and cause suffocation.
  5. Gravity effects – if any different by an infinitesimal amount, stars and planets would never have formed.

There are over one hundred of these constants, precisely and mind-bogglingly set so that man can thrive. Put all together, the odds are truly staggering that such a universe could have arrived by chance. For a more in-depth look at the anthropic principle, additional cosmological constants, and more numbers on the vanishingly small odds of these constants lining up randomly, please see this excellent article on the anthropic principle here. The author describes a very lucky Powerball winner, and then makes this great observation: “If someone won even two such lotteries consecutively, we would all assume the results were rigged. And yet, when it comes to life existing in our universe, the odds are far more remote than winning a hundred Powerball lotteries consecutively.” Our universe certainly seems to have been rigged.

3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

As with the cosmological argument, I want to remain modest about the results of this argument. It doesn’t prove the Judeo-Christian God. It does, however, demonstrate that a super-intellect and super-power “set the dials” of the constants and designed the arrangement of the universe to be the way it we see it.

As with the Kalam argument, Reasonable Faith has made a great animated short film summarizing and explaining this argument. Check it out:

 

Next time, I’ll spend a little time on design objections. 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!

From Hard-Core Christianity:

“Here’s a little treat for you today–computer animations of the intricate processes going on in living cells–a symphony so finely orchestrated it’s difficult to even wrap your mind around. No human contrivance has come anywhere near this level of sophistication, and our scientific knowledge of cellular biology isn’t even exhaustive.”

See the videos at the original post here: https://hcchristian.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/the-astounding-undesigned-inner-world-of-the-living-cell/

Melissa Cain Travis

Here’s a little treat for you today–computer animations of the intricate processes going on in living cells–a symphony so finely orchestrated it’s difficult to even wrap your mind around. No human contrivance has come anywhere near this level of sophistication, and our scientific knowledge of cellular biology isn’t even exhaustive.

VIEWER CAUTION: We should take care, lest we forget that this is all thanks to the self-organizational powers of stardust, followed by the serendipitous chemical formation of a self-replicating molecule, followed by the fortuitous conglomeration of diverse materials into a reproducing primitive cell, followed by billions and billions of accidental DNA replication mistakes that eventually led to the high-functioning brains of the computer engineers that designed these animations. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any of what you observe was planned or intentional, ladies and gentlemen! We must be more intellectually responsible than that, or the grand edifice of science…

View original post 3 more words

Discovery Institute

 

Great questions and answers on Stephen Meyer on his new book Darwin’s Doubt:

 

http://www.booktv.org/Watch/14854/Book+TV+at+FreedomFest+Stephen+Meyer+Darwins+Doubt+The+Explosive+Origin+of+Animal+Life+and+the+Case+for+Intelligent+Design.aspx