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By Richard Gunther
If you have just stumbled upon the subject of intelligent design, this essay may be of some use to you. It may provide a springboard from which you can jump into the whole area of inherent design and dig as deeply into the riches of God's handiwork as you like. On the other hand, you may not have time to do much of your own research, in which case the following brief notes will probably be sufficient.
First of all, what do we mean by the term “intelligent design”?
The expression does beg the question as to what we mean by “intelligent” but I think, in layman's terms, it means anything which shows inventiveness, or ingenuity, such as a watch, a radio, or a sewing machine. It is not a subjective expression, because we can compare intelligent with non-intelligent. We can compare organized with random. We can see a difference between someone who throws paint and someone who uses a brush and palette to paint a recognizable portrait.
The secular point of view of the natural world holds that certain structures and systems in the appear to be constructed in such a way as to imply some overall intelligent guiding principle. There is no suggestion that any Mind or God is the guiding principle, but rather that by pure chance and random events the present state of affairs just came about. In other words, the best arrangement, and the most efficient arrangement is also the most intelligent. This is as close as the secular world is prepared to approach, because to go much nearer would place them slightly inside the creationist camp.
The Christian view holds that the natural world is 100% the product of an intelligent Designer. As Romans 1:20 says, “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made . . .”
In this small portion of a verse we have several statements which should each be examined. The “invisible things” refers to the fact that God is, to our natural eyes, invisible, yet we know that invisibility does not mean non-existence, because although we cannot see electricity, we certainly know it is there if we touch a live wire! Out of the invisible God has made many things visible to us. Angels come and go, and so do visions and wonders. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him, out of the invisible. All matter is, at the atomic level, mostly space, so a huge percentage of what we call solid matter is in fact not there at all. But the Bible asserts that everything God created came from invisible to visible, which is like saying creation is something we can measure, weigh, and record.
“From the creation of the world” refers to the beginning point, some 6000 years ago, when time, space and matter appeared. The Christian view holds that history is linear, or sequential, with a definite starting point, and a measurable, unfolding pattern. If we were to draw a line along a wall, we could mark the points where events happened, and follow the progression of Man's past through to today. History depends on creation. Man has no choice but to use the materials of this planet to build with, fight with, eat with. We are made of matter, we eat matter, and we return to matter when we die.
“Being understood by the things that are made.” This implies that, if we examine the created, natural world, we will be able to detect “Him” in what we examine. This is not to say that we will be able to see God, or even find God in the natural world, because is separate to His creation, but we will be able to find evidence which will direct us to the One who made the object we are examining, This thought also intrudes into the world of science in that it tells scientists that when they are looking at anything natural they will also be looking at evidence of a Creator. This implies that, of all people, scientists have the weakest excuse for not believing in God because they, unlike most other people, spend their time examining God's creation.
My own simple view of intelligent design is tied up in an illustration. Suppose you were walking along a wide, even beach when you came upon a small rock. All by itself you would be a little puzzled as to how that rock got to be where it was, but Nature does surprising things, so you walk on. Soon you come to another rock, about the same size. Two rocks is a little more surprising, but you walk on without comment. But now you come to a third, a fourth and a fifth rock, and you look back along the beach and realize that all the rocks are in a straight line, and all spaced evenly. Now you and I both know that Natural events seldom place rocks in straight lines along beaches, so the possibility that some outside intelligent arranger of rocks might have imposed this order on their placement.
Walking on you find more and more rocks, and now you see that they are placed to spell out letters. Some rocks form curves, some straight lines, and all together they spell CREATOR along the beach. The chances of this being merely an accident are so slim as to be impossible. You are convinced that some intelligent, literate creature has written this word.
But the illustration doesn't stop here. The fact that you could read the word is also interesting. There is nothing in the rocks that tells you about a word. Rocks are rocks. They don't spell anything. A few scattered rocks never make a word, so how does the pattern of rocks convey a message? By a code called alphabet, which the writer, and the receiver are both familiar with. This implies two things: An intelligent sender of the code, and an intelligent decoder of the code.
This leads us to the conclusion that when God the invisible wrote His intelligence into the visible Natural world, He expected that intelligent beings would be able to recognize that intelligence, and decode it enough to see His Mind in creation.
“And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Ge1:31
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the Earth and made it . . .” Is.45:18
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the Earth hath He given to the children of men.” Ps.115:16
The original creation was marred, unfortunately, because of sin, and since that time the planet has had a global flood, followed by massive erosion, an Ice Age, droughts, local floods, fires and many other disasters, yet despite all this there is still an abundance of beauty around us.
But despite the evidence, there are many scientists who refuse to acknowledge the evidence for a Creator. Where Christians see “intelligent design” these people see what they call “the anthropic principle” - the evolutionist's bolt hole. In 1973 a very important scientific conference was held in Poland. A respected astrophysicist from Cambridge University, Dr. Branden Carter delivered a paper called “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology”. Dr. Carter coined the phrase “anthropic principle”, deriving it from 'anthropos' which is Greek for 'man'. By this he meant that the only rational way to explain the fact that the universe existed as it does, with an incredibly precise balance between all the multitudes of forces including gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong nuclear force is if we see them as designed to allow human life to exist. But the “anthropic principle” is not the same as “creationism”. It is in fact a method of sidestepping creationism. It is the secular path of avoidance, yet it comes so close it is easy for creationists to pick the best bits out and use them to support creationism.
The anthropic principle is very handy for creationists, if they use it correctly. They can teach it in public schools, and present it to unbelievers as a lead in to the gospel. It can be as handy as the secular poets quoted by Paul on Mars hill (Acts 17) because it prepares the ground for creationism.
Intelligent design in the universe.
For example, science has shown that life could not survive if the characteristics of our solar system were even slightly different. Life would be impossible if the force of gravity were either much greater or weaker. The electrical communication between every one of the sixty billion cells in our body depends on the Earth's magnetic field. No life could survive if the Earth were either too close or too far from the sun. The fact that Earth rotates in a circle instead of an ellipse is important, and so is the tilt to its axis. The presence of liquid water on earth is crucial, and so is the size of the planet – too large and gravity would crush life, too small and gravity would not be strong enough to hold the atmosphere in. Its rotational speed is important too – too slow and the sun would burn one side while the other side froze. No moon would mean no tides and the oceans would stagnate. If the moon was too large the tides would be enormous.
The astronomer Dr. Paul Davis wrote, “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all . . . it seems as if though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the universe . . . the impression of design is overwhelming.”
He also wrote “If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.”
Sir Fed Hoyle, while a committed evolutionist said, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”
Astronomer Alan Sandage wrote, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, Why there is something instead of nothing?”
Biology professor John Maynard Smith wrote, “It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to ensure that the universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting intelligent life . . .the simplest explanation is that the universe was designed by a creator . . .”
In their book 'Cosmic Coincidences:Dark Matter, Mankind and Anthropic Cosmology', cosmologist John Gribbin and astronomer Sir Martin Rees wrote, “The conditions in our universe really do seem to be uniquely suitable for life forms like ourselves, and perhaps even for any form of organic complexity.”
John Leslie, a science writer, wrote, in 'Universes', “Important, too, is that force strengths and particle masses are distributed across enormous ranges. The nuclear strong force is (roughly) a hundred times stronger than electromagnetism, which is in turn ten thousand times stronger than the weak nuclear force, which is itself some ten thousand billion billion billion times stronger than gravity. So we can well be impressed by any apparent need for a force to be 'just right' even to within a factor of ten, let alone to within one part in a hundred or in 10 to the power of 100 – especially when nobody is sure why the strongest force tugs any more powerfully than the weakest.”
An evolutionist, and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has written that it is an interesting feature of protons that they are 1,836 times heavier than electrons, and that this ratio is essential to the formation of molecules that are the building blocks of all life. The precise ratio between protons and electrons is a fundamental number governing the universe. He says, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”
In the evolution supporting magazine 'New Scientist', 1983, Dr. Davies wrote, “The temptation to believe that the universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgement, is overwhelming. The belief that there is 'something behind it all' is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists.”
Unfortunately, that majority is not in control of the media, so the public is fed a steady diet of evolutionist material. It is hardly ever told about the evidence for creation, or the lack of unanimous support for evolution in the world where scientists work. But here are there are chinks in the armour, and secular scientists are admitting that the things they study tend to suggest design rather than random events. This is good news for creationists because it confirms what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years.
Darwin's Black Box.
One of the most important secular books to come out in the last few years is Michael Behe's 'Darwin's Black Box', which he subtitles 'The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution'. It would be easy to quote from this book at great length because of the abundance of excellent material, but a few small excerpts will do.
“Shortly after 1950 science advanced to the point where it could determine the shapes and properties of a few of the molecules that make up living organisms. Slowly, painstakingly, the structures of more and more biological molecules were elucidated, and the way they work inferred from countless experiments. The cumulative results show with piercing clarity that life is based on machines – machines made of molecules! Molecular machines haul cargo from one place in the cell to another along “highways” made of other molecules, while still others act as cables, ropes and pulleys to hold the cell in shape. Machines turn cellular switches on and off, sometimes killing the cell or causing it to grow. Solar-powered machines capture the energy of photons and store it in chemicals. Electrical machines allow current to flow through nerves. Manufacturing machines build other mollecular machines, as well as themselves. Cells swim using machines, copy themselves with machinery, ingest food with machinery. In short, highly sophisticated molecular machines control every cellular process. Thus the details of life are finely calibrated, and the machinery of life enormously complex.” (pages 4,5)
The book by Mr. Behe explores the world within the cell, and points out the great and obvious failure of Darwinian evolution to explain how such enormous complexity could have developed in gradual steps. “It was once expected that the basis of life would be exceedingly simple. That expectation has been smashed. Vision, motion, and other biological functions have proved to be no less sophisticated than television cameras and automobiles. Science has made enormous progress in understanding how the chemistry of life works, but the elegance and complexity of biological systems at the molecular level have paralyzed science's attempt to explain their origins. There has been virtually no attempt to account for the origin of specific, complex, biolomolecular systems, much less any progress. Many scientists have gamely asserted that explanations are already in hand, or will be sooner or later, but no support for such assertions can be found in the professional literature.”
In Darwin's day, when scientists tried to look into cells, they could not see the details. In
those days it was thought that a cell was just “a homogeneous globule of protoplasm”. They did not know about DNA, or the complex processes that go on inside a cell. Blood clotting, cellular transport, vision and the body's method of fighting diseases are unbelievable complicated systems, in which all the molecules must be shaped and designed to work together – otherwise the system is dangerous or deadly.
Mr. Behe points out how, with blood clotting, how a cascade of reactions occurs in which 32 different proteins are involved. Blood has to clot rapidly, at the correct place, and then the clotting must be stopped. Blood must not clot anywhere else, and yet all the chemicals to make blood clot are floating abut in the blood all the time. The system of blood clotting is a complex one, including a trigger and a brake, and it is clear that such a system had to appear, already fully functional in one step, otherwise it could never have worked.
One expression which Mr. Behe uses is the term “irreducible complexity”, and to illustrate this he uses the analogy of the mousetrap. For a mouse trap to work, all the pieces must be present, and each piece must be the right shape, strength and size. If just one piece is wrong, or missing, the trap will not work. It is exactly this way with biomolecular systems, except they involve hundreds of molecules not just a handful, ad all these hundreds of pieces must all work together as a system, or the system does not work.
The evidence for molecular evolution is just not there.
Klaus Dose, a prominent worker in the field of biology writes, “More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.”
Mr. Behe devotes 13 pages to his search of professional, published science papers – some 1200 papers, in the 'Journal of Molecular Evolution' and other technical sources. He says, “In fact none of the papers published in JME over the entire course of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system miight have been produced in a gradual step-by-step Darwinian fashion.”
He also searched the 20,000 papers published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' (1984-1994) and found 400 papers that were concerned with molecular evolution. Examining these 40 papers he found that “no papers were published in the PNAS that proposed detailed routes by which complex biochemical structures might have developed.”
He also searched the indexes of 30 biochemical text books for entries on evolution. Out of 185,500 entries, only 138 claimed to deal with evolution. Typically they were baseless assertions like “Organisms have evolved and adapted to changing conditions on a geological time scale and continue to do so.” This of course is nothing more than an assertion that evolution happens, but sharp thinkers will realize that a theory never becomes a fact by repetition of the theory. Just because David Bellamy or David Attenborough repeat over and over on TV programs that “evolution did this” the fact that evolution is a baseless theory never changes. Likewise the mantra-like repetition of other evolution-based statements. The earth never grows any older simply by someone saying “millions of years ago . . .”, and apes never turn into men by the sleight of hand of artists and clever computer graphics.
But, sadly, some people will believe the world is flat despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. On the other hand some people will believe the theory of evolution despite the overwhelming LACK of evidence. The human heart is susceptible to self-deception, and for quite a few people, no amount of information will ever convince them to change their mind. The intelligent design approach is very powerful body of evidence which is able to convince those open to new information and credible argument because it appeals to real objects, rather than theories.
Many prominent evolutionists have admitted publicly that creationism is not acceptable because it infers a Creator, and that would interfere with their chosen profession of atheism. Or they sidestep the issue. One Oxford University zoologist, for example, Dr. Richard Dawkins wrote in his book 'The Blind Watchmaker' “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of being designed for a purpose.” He actually calls this appearance of creation “a powerful illusion” - “The feature of living matter that demands explanation is that it is almost unimaginably complicated in directions that convey a powerful illusion of deliberate design.”
Professor Francis Crick, one of the scientists who cracked the DNA code shape, tells other biologists, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” One would like to know why he says this! Is he afraid of the consequences of admitting the most logical explanation for what he sees?
Other scientists, when faced with the impossibility of such complexity ever appearing by chance sidestep into the world of unlimited time. For example George Wald, in his book 'Physics and Chemistry of Life', “Given so much time the 'impossible' becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait: time itself performs miracles.”
Stephen Hawking liked this bolt-hole. Time plus random events will eventually produce anything. A roomful of monkeys, typing at random for long enough, will eventually produce a Shakespearean play. In his book 'A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes', suggests, “Very occasionally by pure chance they will type out one of Shakespeare's sonnets.”
But if we analyze the claim regarding the monkey we find that it just doesn't stand up. A mathematical study of the probability problem was completed by Walter J. reMine in his book 'The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory'. The fact is no amount of monkeys typing for any length of time would ever produce even one sonnet. Just one line is difficult enough. 26 characters in the alphabet, upper and lower case, the right sequence, the right gaps, the correct words in the correct order . . . the statistical probability of those monkeys hitting all the right letters in the right sequence is NIL.
One of the most influential writers to champion the cause of evolution was Aldous Huxley. He liked to draw on science to support his beliefs, yet when it came to the bottom line, he had to admit there was another more basic reason for his stand. In an article titled “Confessions of a Professed Atheist” he wrote: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently (I) assumed it had not, and was able without difficulty to find satisfying reasons for the assumption . . . For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneous liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”
Huxley and others logically see that if the universe just happened by accident, then there is no Creator, and if there is no Creator, then we are no accountable to Him. Ut Huxley was not being honest with his audiences. He wanted them to think evolution was scientific, when it was really a choice based on a moral bias. Huxley was holding up evolution as a smokescreen to hide behind. What he really wanted was freedom from moral restraints.
The wonder of reproduction.
Still thinking in terms of molecular machines, and whole systems designed with many parts, which must all be designed to work together in order to accomplish some higher goal – about which none of the individual parts are aware – we will look briefly at human reproduction.
At the beginning of the 'factory line', some 200 million microscopic sperm are released on a journey towards a single ova. To aid the sperm, the woman's machinery produces a highly acidic environment which destroys harmful bacteria – but while this may be helpful at the ova, it is not so good for the sperm, in fact this makes the destination of the sperm lethal. However, the male's Cowper glands also produce a chemical which neutralizes the acid along the urethral passage by coating the travellers with a protective shield. Despite this, only some 200,000 sperm arrive at their destination, helped along by their inbuilt biochemical motors. Only one of these mechanical DNA carries will reach the ova. Incidentally, the male produces about 16 new sperm every second, and stores them in specially designed bags, which hang outside the body – for a very important reason. If sperm was stored inside the body, it would be 96 degrees Fahrenheit, which would be harmful to it. It needs to be 2 degrees cooler, so an external receptacle is the best possible design solution. The bag itself is intelligent too, because it moves towards and away from the body to regulate its own internal temperature.
Arriving at the ova, which descends down the fallopian tube at just the right moment, the sperm encounters a chemical homing signal, which the ovary releases to help guide the sperm to its target. This fluid dissolves the protective shield off the sperm's head. Now that the sperm has been stripped, it can release its own enzymes which begin to dissolve the protective membrane around the ova. The ova is now ready for fertilization, but what happens if several sperm move towards it? The ova has a negative electrical charge, and the sperm all have a positive charge – only one is permitted to enter. How will this problem be solved?
At the exact moment of fertilization, the ova switches its charge from negative to positive. All other sperm are instantly repelled and the one successful applicant is allowed in. But the machinery continues to run continuously and the next enormously complex part of the factory kicks in. Now the DNA in the sperm combines with the DNA in the ova. This produces a zygote, the first cell of the future baby, and division of the single cell begins. Soon cell differentiation takes over and certain cells move in different directions to begin the structures of our mature bodies. Ears, eyes, hands, feet, organs, fingernails, hair, mouth, tongue, lips, and so on. Can you imagine the complexity of this? Trillions of cells, all diving and moving, growing and forming different parts, all acting in harmony, as if some enormous technical manual is being checked through page by page.
The zygote cell attaches itself to the wall of the mother's uterus and spends about nine months developing, surrounded by amnion liquid, which protects it for months. The umbilical tube filters out germs, and the mother nourishes the growing child minute by minute continuously until birth. After birth the brain continues to wired itself until the child is about 10-12 years old, and all through this time the bones grow, the skin expands, and the whole body regulates and maintains itself automatically.
When the child is born, the mother's milk produces a special substance called colostrum, which lasts for only about 5 days. Colostrum acts as a laxative, and helps to clean out the baby's bowels, removing harmful substances which have built up inside the baby while in the womb. Colostrum also contains anti-bodies, which enhance the baby's immune system during the first few days of its life.
And so the factory line closes down, but if one follows it through, one can find many systems, which all come and go when needed. We even speak of them as systems, without realizing how easily the word “system” fits into the creationist view. Nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, skeletal system, lymphatic system, respiratory system, digestive . . . each system integrated into all the others. All the systems integrated with organs. All the organs maintained, repaired and protected by other systems. All the small parts built from cells, and every cell more complicated than the city of New York.
I think what we ought to realize when we consider birth is the fact that it does not start in our lifetime. Our birth is connected to our parents, and they to theirs. All life springs from life before it, and life can come only from life. Perhaps because of the illusion of independence many people forget that nothing just began with them? Logically, if one follows life backwards, one will eventually come to the first life, the original life, the first progenitor, and this drives us to acknowledge that there must have been a Creator, because life is too complex to have arisen by chance.
But having said all this we must not reduce Man to mere biochemistry. While it is true that if one looks closely enough one cannot find the human inside the machine, or the machine inside the human, so we are driven to acknowledge that there must be more to life than mere machinery. A body is made of cells, which are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which are made of subatomic mysteries, and we know all these small parts have no intelligence in themselves. They are by themselves just dump blocks, or a collection of electrical forces. There is no life in the machine, no matter how hard we look, yet we are alive! So where does the life come from which inhabits the machinery?
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
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