Over the past several years, there has been an aggressive attack made on those
who believe in God by a broad coalition of organizations. Not only have openly
atheistic groups made this attack, but it has also been made by groups like
the National Center for Science Education and a variety of skeptic societies.
The basis of these attacks has been the belief that anyone who agrees that there
is purpose or design in the cosmos is an ignorant religious fanatic who needs
to be kept out of education or any role in society. When reputable authors came
out with a book titled Of Pandas and People which suggested that design was
necessary for life to come about, they were exposed to ridicule and their jobs
as university teachers were even threatened. Reputable scientists like Fred Hoyle,
Frank Tipler, and Paul Davies who have written scholarly works suggesting that
chance cannot explain the complexities of the cosmos have been assailed as having
lost their scientific credibility. We are now seeing articles in the popular
?press comparing belief in design in the cosmos to belief in ghosts. The recognition
of evidence of design in the creation is viewed by some authors as unscientific
and thus not worthy of consideration.
It may well be that the acceleration of attacks on the design question is due
to the fact that atheists recognize how strong the argument is and want to dismiss
it as religious so they do not have to deal with it. The fact is that, when
the issue is considered, it does have credibility and can teach a great deal. It
is also interesting to realize that there are other areas of science where the
methods used to argue for design are not challenged even though the results
are somewhat bizarre. In quantum mechanics, for example, there are major questions
being considered as to whether the mere presence of an intelligent observer
affects the outcome of an experiment. There is no action or process involved
in this consideration–just the fact that the observer is there is believed to
have a potential impact on the results.
I would like to suggest some major misunderstandings that people who object
to design arguments have. I freely admit that I believe that the evidence of
design in the creation is a valid argument for the existence of God, but in
this discussion, I am primarily concerned that the arguments that I hear atheists
making to deny that there is design demonstrate some misunderstandings of the
concept itself. We would like to make four points which respond to these misunderstandings.
The Ability to Give a Hypothetical Chance Solution to an Issue Does Not Constitute
Many supporters of the belief that all that exists in the natural world can
be explained by chance believe that, if there is any model they can construct
which explains a phenomena which excludes design, the design alternative is
automatically invalid. People like Richard Dawkins (author of The Blind Watchmaker)
develop elaborate hypothetical series of events which could lead to a certain
desired result. Some of these events are very unlikely, and many times there
are large numbers of events that have to occur in a sequence for the end result
to be accomplished. Writers like Dawkins are very creative and very intelligent
so the arguments are quite complex. After making the long series of steps from
one event to the next, the language of the author speaks as if the event obviously
happened by a random chance process because the model they built is possible.
There are many problems with this approach. First of all, there is the issue
of probability. The more chance events there are to get to a desired result,
the less likely it is that the event will occur. The odds of drawing the ace
of spades out of a deck of cards is one out of 52. The odds of doing it twice
in a row is one out of 2,704. The odds of doing it four times in a row is one
out of 3,311,616. The more complex the situation, the less likely it is that
blind chance can be the causal agent. To ignore this basic mathematical fact and
claim proof because you have a possible path of events is a poor argument.
It is also important to understand that any chance model that does not have
historical documentation to support it is a long way from proof. Models just
show a possibility. In most evolutionary proposals, there is more than one possible
way a particular form of life or condition of matter might have come into being.
To prove that any particular process is, in fact, what happened, there must
be historical data that validates the proposal. Transitional fossils, chemical
or physical traces, observations by people who witnessed events in the past,
or cases where the process is repeated in today’s world are all ways in which
this can be done. Many times in the past, there have been proposals which turned
out to be overly simplistic, with whole steps missing or environmental circumstances
not understood. Sometimes destructive agents were found in the process that
required special adaptations to avoid the destruction of the whole experiment.
The famous Miller/Urey experiment which produced amino acids from ammonia, methane,
water vapor, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen is a classic example. The energy systems
used in the experiment (electricity and/or ultraviolet light) destroy amino
acids 10,000 times faster than they form them. A trap is necessary in the apparatus t
o sweep the amino acids out of harm’s way. Translating this to a natural environment
takes a great many creative guesses.
Even experimental models that work may not be correct because of the difference
between laboratory conditions and conditions in the real world. Models are useful,
but they do not constitute proof.
Design Arguments Are Not Ad Hoc
What are the odds that you would be sitting where you are reading this article?
The answer is 100% or one out of one because you are doing it! Many critics
of the design proponents state that all of their arguments are like this one–ascribing
odds to things that already exist! There undoubtedly have been those who have done
this, but questions about process must not be confused with questions about
results. The odds of life originating by chance, for example, does not assume
life’s existence at the beginning, but assumes the materials to make life were already
created and in a given location with a set of environmental conditions–in other
words, creation is assumed. People who argue for the chance formation of life
then propose ways that the assumed materials could have produced that which is
able to move, breath, respond to outside stimuli, and reproduce.
Design proponents make the same assumptions about the start of things, but look
at the odds of any pathway to any kind of life (by the standard textbook definition
given above) by chance alone. Their conclusion that any pathway is too statistically
unlikely to accept just implies there are other methods which involved intelligence
to get to the desired result. The two approaches are both concerned with the
odds of the processes, and both would allow end results unlike what is in existence
Design Does Not Automatically Mean God
Francis Crick, the Nobel prize winning biologist, in his book Life From Space
goes through the odds of life occurring by chance and shows that chance is an
invalid mechanism. To solve this, he proposes that aliens have seeded the cosmos
with packets of DNA so that life can proliferate in large nu
mbers of places. Critics
will be quick to point out that Crick’s solution only rolls the question one
planet back to the question of who created the aliens, but our point here is
that design is not automatically a religious proposal. Many skeptics of religion
have offered design proposals apart from any kind of a supreme being.
"Any Chance at All" Is Not a Valid Response
The chance of drawing the ace of spades out of a cold deck is one in 52. If
I gave you 52 draws, however, the odds are that you would get the ace of spades
once during your 52 draws. A favorite argument against design is that, if you
went long enough, it would happen no matter what the odds are. The problems
with that proposal are enormous. First of all, there is not infinite time available.
The maximum age of the cosmos by anyone’s guess is 1010*. If the Big Bang, inflation,
or even oscillating universe theories are accepted, space is not infinite. Whenever
the creation process began, the cosmos size constraints were established. Nuclear
theorists have estimated that there are 1070* baryons in the cosmos (the building
blocks of atoms).
When one calculates the odds of life occurring by chance, or of cosmological
conditions being capable of supporting life, the numbers come up to be on the
order of one in 10160*, one in 10464*, one in 10700*. These are relatively simple
calculations that many seniors in high school can do, and they all exceed the
number of possible places in the cosmos by such a huge amount that they render
chance as too improbable to accept.
The cosmos and life within it are not the product of chance. Logically and mathematically,
there is too much evidence of design to accept the notion that there is no intelligence
behind our existence. While the nature of the design we see might be proposed by some
to be aliens or other dimensional beings or forces, they cannot give a motive
behind creation! Recognizing the existence of God and being able to see that
there is a logical and eternal purpose in our being makes the design evidence
in the creation a valid argument for the existence of God. Careless arguments that
to try to negate the design/Designer arguments need to be challenged. Truly,
"we can know there is a God through the things He has made."
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