Thoughts on Intelligent Design

Thoughts on Intelligent Design                              by Erik Dressel

In his Argument from Design, 18th-19th century theologian William Paley essentially stated that upon finding a watch on the ground, one wouldn’t have to meet the maker of the watch to plausibly assume that it was indeed designed and built by someone…a watchmaker.  This assumption would be based upon his observation of intricately arranged precision parts, functioning interdependently toward a desired purpose…keeping time.  Paley reasoned that if the complexity inherent in a simple watch must suggest a watchmaker, than how much more would the universe, and our earth with it’s billions of elaborate and purposeful life forms, presuppose a Designer.

I find Paley’s Argument from Design very convincing.  It simply makes good common sense that complexity of design and recognizable purpose are the marks of intelligence, and not the marks of non-directed natural forces.  Wind, rain, and erosion may occasionally produce a rock formation that looks somewhat like a bunny if you turn your head to the side, but it won’t ever produce the recognizable faces of Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln, as sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, did on Mt. Rushmore.

This computer didn’t begin to exist as the result of an explosion in a Radio Shack. I know that because we have observed that explosions tend to decrease the order and complexity of the thing exploded. Have we ever observed explosions creating complex, detailed, sequentially ordered information rich systems? No, some pretty smart dudes and dudettes invested millions of brain hours to develop and construct the micro-circuitry of this gadget and load it with software (information) to run it.  No accident here. OK, so what does this scary, complex computer have to do with anything?  Isn’t this just a modern day Paley argument?  It sure is, but only better…ongoing discoveries in the fields of biochemistry, microbiology and information theory, that Paley, and his detractors like Hume, didn’t have the benefit of knowing, have made today’s Design argument much more powerful.

We now know that the watch, or even the computer, pales in comparison to the complexity evident in even the simplest life form. The smallest self replicating organism in this planet, a single E. coli bacteria cell contains about 10,000,000,000,000 bits of DNA information (Sagan, C, Encyclopaedia Britannica)… That’s ten times the number of letters in all the books of the world’s largest library!  In fact, DNA is the most efficient and complex, sequentially arranged information we have found in the universe. Essential also to the function of this most basic life form, are thousands of harmoniously functioning protein nano-machines, each of which is complex in itself. Even the most basic life form therefore, would have had to begin with all of these protein parts in place and working together under the direction of 10,000,000,000,000 sequentially ordered bits of DNA information…and Darwin thought the single cell was a simple blob of protoplasm …wrongo.  I would sooner believe the explosion-to-computer scenario than Darwin’s ‘goo-to-you-by-way-of-the-zoo’ fairytale.

Even with our intelligence, modern science has not even come close to creating life. Let me say that again…even with all of the combined intelligence of all scientists in the world, man has failed to come even close to creating even the simplest living organism. The Miller-Urey experiment only showed that even with our intelligence, under unrealistic early earth atmospheric conditions, the best we could do is create a few amino acids, but not the right amino acids.  Of course, even if the right amino acids had been created, they would have needed to be sequentially arranged into complex protein machines, and they would have needed to be sequentially arranged into the integrated functioning mechanisms of the cell, but even then, only the ‘hardware’ of the cell would have been ready.  A computer or cell with no software isn’t much good.  The DNA would have to be placed into the cell hardware to enable its function and replication. But, oh my, DNA only exists in living organisms. So what came first, the living organism, or the information needed to make it?  We are told to believe, and not to question, these men in their lab jackets and pocket- protectors, who tell us that mindless dirt and chemicals created what they are unable to come close to creating. Come on guys, rise to the challenge, show us what you’ve got, and prove you are smarter than that dirt!  As the proverb says… “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes; there is more hope for a fool than for him.”

So, is Paley right to claim that an organ like the eye is strong evidence of the existence of a Designer…God? Yes! The human eye has 136 million light sensitive rods and cones transmitting millions of electrochemical messages per second through a fiber optic cable called the optic nerve. Those messages, along with messages from billions of other cells are sent for processing by a three pound grey supercomputer which can store between 100 trillion and 280 quintillion bits of information and serves as a master control center, making hundreds of billions of decisions every second.  Think dudes, do you really believe such incomprehensible complexity is the product of wind, rain and erosion?  Even if you throw in some lightening, it doesn’t happen on its own.  Mind is only and always the product of mind…a Great Mind!

Some may dispute this reasonable conclusion on the basis of some pending discovery lurking just around the corner.  What motive might there be to reject such overwhelming evidence for the existence of an Intelligent Designer? The concept of a Designer or God carries with it certain metaphysical implications that to some would be quite unsavory. Plainly stated, if there is a God, some folks would have to face the reality that they are not ultimately in charge, and that they are accountable to One much greater than they…human pride and ego at work here. Sad, because these narrow minded folks are missing out on the truth. Harvard Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist and renowned champion of neo-Darwinism, would exemplify what I am speaking about. His comment below illustrates the implicit philosophical bias against a Creator—regardless of whether or not the facts support it. (The italics were in the original).

‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’ (Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997. Also quoted in Total Truth, by Nancy Pearcy)

In other words, since we have dogmatically embraced materialism as a philosophy, we have had to redefine science to be a mechanism through which we can pump out only those materialistic theories which will support our assumptions.  In so doing, we assure that any theory which may suggest design, no matter how reasonable and compelling the evidence it is built upon, must be rejected as ‘unscientific’ by definition.

Famous Darwinist Aldous Huxley made this frank admission about his anti-theistic motivation: ‘I had a motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.’ (Huxley, A., Ends and Means, pp. 270 ff.)

So for Huxley, since a world with meaning would presuppose design, a Designer, and therefore moral accountability to a standard,  he was committed to accept any ‘evidence ‘ that would seemingly oppose such an undesirable possibility, and reject as unreasonable any evidence to the contrary.    How convenient. Sadly then, much of science is not an open-minded search for truth, regardless of the spiritual implications that truth may suggest.  It has been reduced to a search for only that evidence which reinforces the theories aligned with the reigning religious dogma of our day…atheistic materialism. Any scientist who rejects this dogma can expect an inquisition by its intolerant adherents, regardless of the strength of the scientific evidence presented. Obviously, just because someone wears a lab jacket and a pocket protector, doesn’t mean they are without presupposition, prejudice or the capacity to persecute those who differ with them.

C.S. Lewis may have been onto something when he commented on the roots of modern science… “Men became scientific because they expected Law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Legislator”.  When we look at a list of the founders of entire branches of science, it is interesting to see that so many were believers in an Intelligent Designer…

Antiseptic surgery……………………………………………..Joseph Lister
Bacteriology…………………………………………………………Louis Pasteur
Calculus/ Dynamics…………………………………………….Isaac Newton
Celestial Mechanics…………………………………………..Johannes Kepler
Chemistry/ Gas Dynamics………………………………….Robert Boyle
Comparative Anatomy………………………………………..Georges Cuvier
Computer Science……………………………………………….Charles Babbage
Electronics……………………………………………………John Ambrose Fleming
Electrodynamics……………………………………………… James Clerk Maxwell
Electromagnetics/ Field Theory……………………..Michael Faraday
Energetics…………………………………………………………….Lord Kelvin
Entomology of Living Insects…………………………..Henri Fabre
Fluid Mechanics…………………………………………………..George Stokes
Galactic Astronomy……………………………………………Sir William Herschel
Genetics……………………………………………………………….Gregor Mendel
Glacial Geology/ Ichthyology…………………… ……..Louis Agassiz
Hydrography/ Oceanography…………………………..Matthew Maury
Hydrostatics………………………………………………………..Blaise Pascal
Isotopic Chemistry…………………………………………….William Ramsey
Model Analysis……………………………………………………..Lord Rayleigh
Natural History…………………………………………………..John Ray
Non-Euclidean Geometry………………………………….Bernard Riemann
Optical Mineralogy…………………………………………….David Brewster

(Dr. Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), pp.463-465   (Also in What if Jesus had Never Been Born by Dr. D. James Kennedy)

Modern scientists who label as unscientific, all who conclude that the evidence points to the existence of a Great Mind, a Designer, seem to have forgotten their roots.  I find Paley’s Argument from Design for God’s existence reasonable, simple and even more scientifically compelling now than when he wrote it 200+ years ago.

It is the sheer universality of perfection, the fact that everywhere we look, to whatever depth we look, we find an elegance and ingenuity of an absolutely transcending quality, which so mitigates against the idea of chance. Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest elements of which – a functional protein or gene – is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?

(Dr Michael Denton, M.D., Ph.D. is a molecular biologist at the University of Otago, New Zealand.)

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