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Inferring Design from Anti-Design Scientists

In a recent debate on the topic of design, I expressed amazement at all the huffing and puffing by anti-design proponents. Though they assert that a design hypothesis is “unscientific,” they say things in other places that make me suspicious. That is, many of these naturalists express profound astonishment at the universe’s precision-tuning for life, life’s emergence from non-life, or at the remarkable “engineering” of biological organisms, organs, and cells. Why then do scientists of all stripes and disciplines repeatedly use design language while repudiating design as a legitimate interpretation of the evidence? 

Let me hasten to add that one doesn’t have to oppose the process of evolution in order to defend design.  Indeed, if evolution from a bacterium to homo sapiens took place, then it would be an excellent argument for design!  Noted cosmologists Frank Tipler and John Barrow calculated that the chances of moving from a bacterium to homo sapiens in 10 billion years or less is 10-24,000,000.  What kind of numbers are we talking about?  A decimal point with 24 million zeros to the left of 1.! [1]  We’re not even addressing the origin of the universe (something coming from absolutely nothing—whose chances of happening are exactly zero). Nor are we speaking of the fine-tuning of the universe (non-theist Roger Penrose calculates this as being one chance in 1010(123)).[2] Nor are we speaking of getting the precise DNA sequence of the necessary 250 proteins to sustain life (whose chances have been calculated as 1 in 1041,000).[3] We are stacking such outrageously remote possibilities on top of more outrageously remote possibilities on top of still more. The naturalist must stake everything on an anti-design random process to produce what we see today in all its beauty and complexity. Never before have I seen such faith!  If the design idea is a live option, however, all the shock evaporates.  After all, getting from nothing to homo sapiens in 13.5 billion years isn’t a problem if design has taken place. 

Let’s set that all aside now. Let me just focus on how naturalistic scientists actually help support that idea that design and science in nowise conflict.  Here is a sampling of quotations.

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Atheist Steven Weinberg (physicist): “sometimes nature seems more beautiful than strictly necessary.”[4] 

Pantheist Eugene Wigner (physicist): The “uncanny usefulness of mathematical concepts” in the natural sciences is “something bordering on the mysterious” and “there is no rational explanation for it.”[5]

ORIGIN OF LIFE

Alfonso Ricardo and Jack W. Szostak (in a recent Scientific American): “Every living cell, even the simplest bacterium teems with molecular contraptions that would be the envy of any nanotechnologist….It’s virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines could have formed spontaneously as life first arose.”[6]

Atheist Francis Crick (Nobel Prize winner, biologist): “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which had to have been satisfied to get it going.”[7]

Jacques Monod (biologist): “…we have no idea what the structure of a primitive cell might have been…. the simplest cells available to us for study have nothing ‘primitive’ about them.”[8]

BIOLOGY IN GENERAL

John Wheeler (physicist): “When I first started studying, I saw the world as composed of particles. Looking more deeply I discovered waves. Now after a lifetime of study, it appears that all existence is the expression of information (my emphasis)” [9]

Bruce Alberts (strong design critic and former National Academy of Sciences president): “We have always underestimated cells. … The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines. …Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.”[10]

Francis Crick: “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”[11]

Richard Dawkins: Each mitochontria in a cell “can be thought of as a chemical factory which, in the course of delivering its primary product of usable energy, processes more than 700 different chemical substances, in long, interweaving assembly-lines strung out along the surface of its intricately folded internal membranes….Each nucleus [in all plant and animal cells]…contains a digitally coded data base, larger in information content, than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica put together. And this figure is for each cell, not all the cells of the body put together [which amount to 10 trillion]). ”[12] Dawkins defines biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” He says later on that “the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.” [13] Elsewhere he says, “The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.”[14]

THE BIG BANG

Michael S. Turner (in September 2009 in Scientific American): there “once” was “no previous era” and that “[m]atter, energy, space and time began abruptly with a bang.”[15]

John Barrow/Joseph Silk (astrophysicists): “Our new picture is more akin to the traditional metaphysical picture of creation out of nothing, for it predicts a definite beginning to events in time, indeed a definite beginning to time itself.” They ask: “what preceded the event called the ‘big bang’? . . . . the answer to our question is simple:  nothing.”[16]

Robert Jastrow (agnostic NASA astronomer): “Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases.”[17]

THE UNIVERSE’S FINE-TUNING

Sir Fred Hoyle (astronomer, mathematician): “Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them.”[18] Hoyle also said: “I do not believe that any scientist who examines the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside stars.  If this is so, then my apparently random quirks have become part of a deep-laid scheme.  If not, then we are back again at a monstrous sequence of accidents.”[19] Hoyle suggests that this is the activity of a “superintellect” who has monkeyed with the universe.[20]

Bernard Carr and Martin Rees state: “Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences and these do warrant some explanation.”[21]

The thinkers I’ve cited above are all (so far as I can tell) naturalists.  Let me throw in several quotations from the Deist physicist Paul Davies, who is also an evolutionist.  (Keep in mind that design has been held not only by theists, but Deists like Davies, by pantheists such as the Stoics or the philosopher John Leslie, polytheists like the Mormons, and Aristotelians like, well, Aristotle, who was as good an Aristotelian as any!)

  • Paul Davies on the beginning of the universe:: “‘What caused the big bang?’ . . . One might consider some supernatural force, some agency beyond space and time as being responsible for the big bang, or one might prefer to regard the big bang as an event without a cause.  It seems to me that we don’t have too much choice.  Either . . . something outside of the physical world . . . or . . . an event without a cause.”[22]
  • Davies on the fine-tuning of the universe: “The history of life on earth is a gigantic lottery, with far more losers than winners.  It contains so many accidents of fate, so many arbitrary quirks, that the pattern of change is essentially random.  The millions of fortuitous steps that make up our own evolutionary history would surely never happen the second time around, even in broad outline.”[23] Davies writes elsewhere: “Life, it seems, is balanced on a knife edge. Changing some of the values [or cosmic conditions] by even a scintilla would prove lethal. The fact that the universe comes with just the right set of values to permit life looks like a fix.” [24] Again, Davies: “All the evidence so far indicates that many complex structures depend most delicately on the existing form of these laws.  It is tempting to believe, therefore, that a complex universe will emerge only if the laws of physics are very close to what they are….The laws, which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously, seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.  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.”[25]
  • Davies on living organisms: “Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity.”[26]

So if we’re surrounded by appearance of design (as atheists like Crick and Dawkins acknowledge), must we insist that it is only apparent design rather than genuine design?  Must we suppress this intuition, as Crick insists?  And why can’t design be front-loaded from the very beginning so that the universe’s fine-tuning and the tightly specified complexity in organisms would reflect this design—even if all of this can be accounted for gradualistically?  Crick, Dawkins, and others tell us that nature doesn’t exhibit design, but yet they can readily detect where nature appears to exhibit design.  When scientists use terms like “miracle,” “engineered,” “uncannily computer-like,” “chemical factory,” or “elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines,” the allegedly huge difference between design and the appearance of design is lost on me. 

Ironically, philosopher of science Timothy Lenoir of Stanford University observes a general trend—namely, that design language in, say, biology is inescapable: “Teleological thinking has been steadfastly resisted by modern biology. And yet, in nearly every area of research biologists are hard pressed to find language that does not impute purposiveness to living forms.”[27] If this is so, then it seems to be pure philosophical prejudice—not scientific observation—that disqualifies design. I could say a lot more on this topic, but hopefully this is enough to ponder for now.

In closing, let me just cite a Nobel Prize winner in physics, Charles Townes (UC-Berkeley), who makes this point:  “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.”[28]


[1] John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 557-66.

[2] Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (New York: Bantam., 1991), 344.

[3] Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: HarperOne, 2009). See his peer-reviewed essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (2004)117/2: 213-239.

[4] Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 250.

[5] Eugene P. Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” Found online at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html. Accessed 18 Aug. 2006. (Note: Toward the end of his life, Wigner became interested in the Hindu idea of the all-pervasive consciousness [Brahman].)

[6] Alfonso Ricardo and Jack W. Szostak, “Life on Earth,” Scientific American (September 2009): 54.

[7] Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Nature and Origin (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981), 88.

[8] Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (London: Collins, 1972), 134-5.

[9] John Wheeler, cited in Gerald Schroeder, “Can God Be Brought into the Equation?”  Review of Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? eds. Paul Kurtz and Barry Karr, in the Jerusalem Post, 23 May 2003, 13 B.

[10] Bruce Alberts, “The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines: Preparing the Next Generation of Molecular Biologists,” Cell 92 (February 8, 1998): 291.

[11] Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit (New York: BasicBooks, 1988), 138.

[12] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), 17-18.

[13] Ibid., 1, 21.

[14] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: BasicBooks, 1993), 18.

[15] Michael S. Turner, “The Universe,” Scientific American (September 2009), 39.

[16] John D. Barrow and Joseph Silk, The Left Hand of Creation, 2nd ed.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 38, 209.

[17] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: Norton, 1978), 16.

[18] Fred Hoyle, The Intelligent Universe (London: Michael Joseph, 1983), 220.

[19] Fred Hoyle, Religion and the Scientists, quoted in John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The

 Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 22.

[20] F. Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Engineering and Science (Nov. 1981): 8- 12.

[21] Paul Davies, “The Anthropic Principle,” Nature 278 (1979): 612.

[22] Paul Davies, “The Birth of the Cosmos,” in God, Cosmos, Nature and Creativity, ed. Jill Gready (Edinburgh:  Scottish Academic Press, 1995), 8-9.

[23] Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 272. 

[24] Paul Davies, “The Universe’s Weird Bio-Friendliness,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (6 April 2007): B14.

[25] Paul Davies, Superforce (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), 243.

[26] Paul Davies, The Fifth Miracle (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), 112

[27] Timothy Lenoir, The Strategy of Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), ix.

[28] B.A.Powell, “Web Feature,” UCBerkeley News (June 17, 2005): http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml

55 Responses to “Inferring Design from Anti-Design Scientists”

  1. Terrific post!

    #John

  2. Paul, I actually started subscribing to Philosophi Christi this year because of your article on the Old Testament destruction passages.

    It’s a great journal.

    On the thread “John MacArthur on the “Lie of Evolution”” I have commented about how evolution destroys the argumentive force of Romans 1:20.

    Romans 1:20 only works as the writer intended if a person can look at the natural world and determine that it must be the result of the work of a god. It does not work if it means only that every person should assume that the natural world is the creation of a God, that is if all that we call natural is part of God’s domain and we assume that God works through secondary causes that give no indication of supernatural control or input.

    God, being omnipotent, could use evolution as a secondary cause. But if he did then there would be no evidence that He created anything. The evidence would only suggest that entirely material, random and undirected processes are capable of forming all life as we observe it. Hence Romans 1:20 would lose all of its argumentative force.

    regards,
    #John

  3. YEC or Evolutionist, you have to believe in some type of ID to be a Christian.

    thats my opinion, at least.

  4. @John1453

    God, being omnipotent, could use evolution as a secondary cause. But if he did then there would be no evidence that He created anything. The evidence would only suggest that entirely material, random and undirected processes are capable of forming all life as we observe it.

    I do not see evolution as a cause, but an effect. God caused all life to occur, just as he caused all natural processes to occur.

  5. 1) Could such things as human beings happen at random? Since they require so many tries to happen? Note this: in an infinite universe, even the extremely rare, infrequent event, happens an infinite number of times, nevertheless.

    2) Then too: even if you prove the existence of intelligent design, that does not prove the existence of the Christian God: I have an intelligently-designed automobile in my driveway; did God make it? Actually, it was made by the Japanese.

    So: even if you prove intelligent design, you still have not proven the existence of the Christian God; maybe Zeus made us. Maybe an ancient intelligence.

    There is at least one intelligent being in the universe, that is designing things: us, for example. Are we God? Does that prove the existence of God?

  6. re post 5

    dac conflates causes.

    One cause can lead to another cause. So for example, my downward pressure on the gas peddle causes more gas to flow into the engine, which causes an increase in rotation speed, which causes an increase in the speed of a car which caused the wheels to slip on the snow which caused an accident.

    So evolution is both a cause and an effect, depending on one’s perspective. God could be the ultimate cause of evolution which then caused all life. That is what is meant by calling evolution a secondary cause.

    That being so, my argument stands, evolution as a random, undirected and exclusively material process gives no evidence of any causation by God and so negates the intended meaning of Romans 1:20.

    For Romans 1:20 to carry its intended meaning and effect, there has to be some evidence in the natural world of God. The most likely candidate is the appearance of “design”. I’m unaware of any other decent candidates.

    regards,
    #John

  7. re post 6

    The universe is not infinite.

    regards,
    #John

  8. John: “The universe is not infinite” says John. How does one prove that?

    In any case, in order for there to be enough random events to eventually make the beginnings of life, we don’t even need an “infinite” universe; only a very “great,” large one. Which is Biblical.

    To be sure, some physicists today might mis-use the term “universe” to mean just the totality of all visible galaxies; which would make our universe less than infinite. But that mis-uses the term. Originally, “uni-verse” meant the sum total of all that exists; all of existence, referred to as one, “uni.”

  9. When you creationists talk about “design” you are really talking about “magic”, and you know it.

    You know design, as you uneducated hicks use the word, really means supernatural magic.

    So why do you call magic “design”?

    Because you trying to pretend magic can be a scientific idea. Of course you are fooling nobody. Biologists will continue to laugh at you no matter what fancy name you give your childish idiotic belief in magic.

  10. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Visit any science blog and you will never see this “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Christian extremists like comment moderation because they love censorship.

  11. Creation/Evolution: Where Do You Stand?
    Young Earth Creationism
    Gap Theory Creationism
    Old Earth Creationism
    Theistic Evolution (w/ literal Adam and Eve)
    Theistic Evolution (w/o literal Adam and Eve)
    Time is relative so none of these really work
    None of the above

    Your poll is very strange because you left out the only correct answer, which is evolution without any adjectives.

  12. “YEC or Evolutionist, you have to believe in some type of ID to be a Christian.”

    Then, according to you, every Christian must have a childish belief in magic. If you are correct, Christianity is doomed. There could never be any belief more insane than a belief in magic.

  13. “Noted cosmologists Frank Tipler and John Barrow calculated that the chances of moving from a bacterium to homo sapiens in 10 billion years or less is 10-24,000,000.”

    Noted by who? I never heard of these people.

    Their numbers, which they obviously pulled out of a hat, have to be wrong because the earth has only been here about 4.5 billion years, and I noticed this planet is teeming with human apes.

    Unless of course you believe in your god fairy’s magic wand, and I already talked about how insane and childish that idea is.

    Perhaps some day I will meet a Christian with a functioning brain, but I doubt it.

  14. I noticed the dishonest quote mining. When will the compulsive lying ever end?

  15. Bob,

    You really should get out more!

    Barrow and Tipler are noted cosmologists whose landmark book made a dramatic impact in the whole discussion of the universe’s fine-tuning–and they gave ample scientific support. I think your lack of awareness of this book is very telling!

    By the way, please do keep in mind the blog rules: “In everything, be courteous and respectful. This does not mean that you agree, but take the extra time to write with tact, making the most of the opportunity.” Don’t give atheists a bad name!

    I’ll comment later when things simmer down. It’s dinner time here!

    Paul

  16. We suppose that a house has been designed because we know houses are the sorts of things that are designed. How many universes have we encountered? Aren’t universes pretty dissimilar from things we know are designed?

    Even given that there is a designer, why suppose there’s only one? After all, a great number of people join to build a house or a ship. If we are arguing from an analogy to human design, isn’t it likely that a project as big as a universe had many designers and builders? In fact, contra Paul in Romans 1, we learn very little of the characteristics of the designers from the design: perhaps the designers just knocked off our universe by copying better designers, for example, or perhaps the designers were getting on a bit and have now died. Given that we know so little about the designers, why does their existence seem a better hypothesis to us than any other? On what grounds do we rule out other alternatives? Our intuition might be a good starting point for science, but it’ll take more than that to get a theory accepted.

    To Hume, I’d add that if there are designers, it seems to require great faith to think that they had humanity in mind when they made the universe. After all, space is really big, and most of it is deadly to us. Paul didn’t know that: he had a much easier job arguing Romans 1 when he and everyone else thought we lived in the Original Christian Cosmos, as Carrier puts it.

    I’d need to see just what those calculations you mention were to see whether they had much to do with evolution as supposed by biologists, but the theory of evolution does not suppose that organisms evolve by chance. Also, biologists might adopt the “design stance”, as Dennett calls it, without meaning to imply a designer, just as I don’t mean to imply that a thermostat has conscious desires when I adopt the intentional stance and say that the thermostat wants to keep my house at the right temperature. Dawkins might wish biologists didn’t speak like this, and you might think they’re covertly backing your cause (or whatever it is you mean to show by quoting them), but that’s neither here nor there.

    BTW: Tipler’s not your common naturalist. He’s got a theory of the physics of Christianity which I suspect both other physicists and Christians would find a bit odd. I don’t know whether he came up with that before or after he wrote the book you refer to.

  17. Being somewhat of the backyard astronomer, I would definitely say the universe is finite and accelerating at astronomical speeds (in orders of 100,000 + MPH) to an ultimate conclusion, perhaps the consummation of all things. Still mankind is on the peripheral line of the beginnings, as can be seen in the visible light. With the next generation of space telescopes, we may just glimpse the near beginnings of all things. I say this candidly, because recent observations of distant stars in other galaxies have made for more accurate measurements of light distances, thus recalibrating known variables to a finer degree of accuracy my 2 cents worth

  18. Bob,
    If you were to go to Pluto and find a mechanical device that functioned with breathtaking precision which would be the most logical conclusion. It magically sprung into existence out of nothing, or someone built it??? I don’t see believing that someone created the universe as anymore magical then believing that it just sprang into existence with no cause whatsoever. They both seem pretty magical to me, but one seems more probable.

  19. Ok, I am a devout bible reading Christian who has no problem with the Bible being free from errors when properly interpreted. Nor is it up for discussion about who created the world. But I am an evolutionist. I believe that the preponderance of God’s creation suggests that evolution was in His plan. I, as a Christian, have no problem with the term “design” in creation. The issue is how we define design, and the reaction you have to me as an evolutionist.

    If you define me as a some kind of “liberal” becasue you are to nice a Christian to say what you really think or, under your breath you say, I am lucky they don’t burn people at the stake anymore”, then you have answered Paul’s question.

    Evolutionary scientists suffer from the same problem as Christians do. As Christians, they see us as myopic, stiff necked, individuals who are only willing to see everything the Bible says as the literal truth: meaning 24 hour days for creation, Eve out of Adams rib, a talking snake, 6,000 year old earth, ect. They are also afraid of us. (actually, the same as we are of them). They think if we are in charge than the inquisition and witch hunts are not far behind. They think a devout Christian Leader will come along and think God commands them to go to war in crusades or to encourage the “end times”. History has told them this is how we react.

    We have been so very wrong about so many things as Christians. The path of history is lined with bodies as we have struggled to be “right” or to make sure OUR opinion survives instead of trusting that “God is in charge”.

    I am devout and conservative but I believe as Wayne Grudem often says that “God does not lie”. In fact, God cannot lie. If we learn about Him from His creation as He has plainly said to do, then creation cannot lie. We may falsely interpolate creation but it will not lie to us. So IF the science is good then that is the way God ordained it. Our job is to stop with the acrimony and join with them in uncovering God’s magnificent creation. Once that happens then the men and women of science will stop resisting and start seeing that a all-knowing hand has been at work – then the rhetoric will change and more importantly souls will be saved.

    At your service
    with Love,

    JayS

  20. Bob, please read the rules. Don’t spam the posts with comments or you will be banned. Has nothing to do with your position, but the respect for the rules.

  21. Thanks to you all for your comments and to Bryant for helpfully reinforcing the notion of finite space. This fact has certainly filtered down to the broader culture, as we pick up from Woody Allen, who commented, “Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite. This is a very comforting thought– particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things. ”
    The Humean objection (that Paul Wright raises) asks, “Why can’t there be many gods? Why just one?” The principle of economy is one consideration: why posit lots of deities/powerful beings when just one will do? In the name of simplicity, we don’t need to take the route of extravagance. You may want to check out my book *Loving Wisdom* (see the “Creation” section, where I deal with this and other Humean arguments). Furthermore, we certainly can learn from observing the universe (Paul, you mentioned Romans 1) that intelligence–not chance/sheer accident–makes better sense of the universe and human existence. If a being like God exists, all of this astonishing fine-tuning, interrelated complexity, and so on isn’t shocking in the least. If no God-like being exists, then shock is thoroughly warranted.

    Keep in mind that the design argument is only one of many arguments (check out William Craig and JP Moreland, Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology–a very scholarly and impressive sweep of the best arguments). My point here is that we can look at lots of other arguments—not just one—to reinforce and broaden our understanding of what may be behind our/the universe’s existence, human dignity and worth, the trustworthiness of our minds/reason, the existence of moral duties, the existence of beauty, and so on. Of course, much depends on our openness to considering whether something beyond our senses exists. The Big Bang offers one such clue that it does!

    Many personal factors are involved (the will, personal autonomy, etc.), not merely intellectual ones. As philosopher Thomas Nagel said, “I don’t want there to be a God. I don’t want a universe to be like that.” I would encourage our friend Bob to have a look at this Blackwell Companion on Natural Theology. One atheist reviewer calls it a “tour-de-force”; another atheist I came across said that the book is “awe-inspiring, even for the atheist.”

    CONTINUED IN PART II….

  22. PART II:

    Again to Paul Wright’s comments, a lot of space IS “deadly,” but that says nothing about the remarkable features of Earth (see the book *Rare Earth*). St. Paul not only had this amazingly-functioning world in mind; there is also the beauty of the starry heavens, the splendor of sunsets, and so on. The more we discover about the universe, the more we see how special Earth is and how the Copernican Principle (the principle of mediocrity–that earth is no special place) is being steadily undermined.

    Also, in response to Paul Wright, yes, universes aren’t as plentiful as blackberries (as philosopher Charles Peirce said). According to Paul Davies, John Barrow, Joseph Silk, Stephen Weinberg, and tons of others cosmologists, the evidence points to a finite universe that begin ex nihilo (no pre-existing matter, energy, space, time). It was wound up and is winding down; it hasn’t always existed. (See my coauthored book Creation Out of Nothing, which explores the current scientific theories: http://www.amazon.com/Creation-out-Nothing-Philosophical-Exploration/dp/0801027330.)

    Furthermore, while we do differentiate the universe from human “machines,” we still have “the appearance of design” all over the place. Why can’t the universe or the cell be, in some sense, “God’s machine”? Certainly, as I cited the recent Scientific American, the bacterium would be the envy of any nanotechnologist! In my blog, I quoted lots of scientists who use the term “design.” It strikes me as philosophical prejudice to say that God couldn’t have anything to do with the mind-boggling, precision-tuned, computer-like features of nature. Indeed, these features suggest something more than just nature itself.

    Regarding John Macarthur’s perspective, I would disagree not only with his young earth creationist perspective (http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/pdf/revised-genesis-science.pdf). The term “day” in Genesis 2:4 speaks of something longer than 24 hours. Also, the Framework Perspective on Genesis 1-2 (which emphasizes the literary and the theological, not scientific precision) has a lot going for it.

    Moreover, design isn’t negated if evolution is true, and I don’t rule it out in principle, even though I’m not an evolutionist. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one.” Jay, I agree that God’s two “books”—his Word and his works—are not ultimately in conflict. This is what Galileo wrote in 1615 to the Grand Duchess Christina: when properly interpreted, the Scriptures won’t be in conflict with the best science.

  23. This is my first time on this site, so I apologize in advance if this quote has been posted before:

    Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist), is a renowned champion of neo-Darwinism, and certainly one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology. He wrote this very revealing comment (the italics were in the original). It illustrates the implicit philosophical bias against Genesis creation—regardless of whether or not the facts support it.

    ‘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.

  24. Paul Copan,

    I would like to read the article you wrote that you mentioned above but the link does not seem to be working.

  25. Thanks, Cheryl, for your interest. You can just go to my website (www.paulcopan.com) and click on “Articles.” You can locate it there. Also, you can check out my books, including *Loving Wisdom* and *Creation Out of Nothing*.

    All best wishes,

    Paul

  26. Adam,

    Thanks to you as well for that quotation. I’m quite fond of using it to show how philosophical prejudices often lurk behind “scientific” claims. In Lewontin’s case, it doesn’t lurk. It pounces!

  27. Thanks Paul. You made a couple of points in that article that I had never read before.

  28. 1) One of the major problems with “intelligent design” is the massive amount of Unintelligent design in the universe. We do indeed have a universe that seems not made for man at all. Not only is a) space deadly for human beings; but b) the natural world, this planet, is full of things deadly to human beings too. Full of poisonous plants, snakes, fatal diseases, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc..

    How could an intelligent designer, with the idea of “prosper”ing and flourishing mankind, have made things so badly?

    2) And by the way, I’m still waiting for a response to my observation, that even if you prove intelligent design, you have not thereby completely proven the existence of God, or that God made it. I have an intelligently designed car in my driveway; does that prove the existence of God?

    3) Frequent complaints about the intellectual dishonesty of Christians, seem rather justified. Until Christians begin to discuss such things fairly and honestly.

    Aren’t Christians supposed to be honest? Not bearing “false witness”?

    Then please: give honest consideration to these points. Including the point that …

    4) An infinite universe is not necessary to generate life; only a very “great” one.

  29. Then too:

    5) How is saying that God made the universe, better than saying it appeared out of nothing? Ultimately, the God Explanation does the say thing essentially: where, after all, did God come from?

    Out of nothing? To say he is the “uncreated cause,” is known in Philosophy these days, as simple incoherence.

  30. Excellent post!

    The Lenoir quote is extremely telling.

  31. Renton,

    You are confusing me. Are you arguing for or against intelligent design, or maybe just discussing all possibilities?

  32. Ah, Renton, re your post #31: from your statement it is evident that you have little or no familiarity with philosophy in general, and no familiarity with current or past literature relating to the kalam argument, the argument from necessity, the argument from causation, etc. Perhaps (and I speculate) you get your philosophy from Dawkins, who makes the same elementary error.

    To wit, “uncreated cause” is not known these days as simple incoherence, and never was. Because you have made an off the cuff (at least I hope that’s all it was) comment not based on relevant knowledge or sustained reflection your post contributes nothing to the discussion. I do look forward, however, to other contributions from you and encourage you to participate in the discussion.

    regards,
    #John

  33. JOhn:

    1) Please address ALL my points; not just one or two.

    2) Regarding belatedly, even the uncreated first cause. To suggest that the “uncreated cause” “always was” thought to be good, a) refers to ancient philosophy. Not modern.

    In b) contemporary Philosophy – well after the various arguments you mention – we simply ask advocates like you, to explain “uncreated cause” coherently. IN modern/postmodern Philosophy, this is thought to be merely, begging the question.

    In any case, BOTH a) the Big Bang Theory, and b) Creationism assume this same aburdity: the uncreated first cause.

    WHich is so absurd, as to ignore, neglect, the massively proven usefulness of causal thinking. And to abandon three thousand years of early and more developed science, on a mere whim.

  34. Renton, are you the reincarnation of Dr. J? If not, you sure appear to be his doppleganger.

    In any event, and it’s sad to say this, all of your points are jejune and so I won’t be replying to any of them.

    regards,
    #John

  35. #John,

    “Renton, are you the reincarnation of Dr. J? If not, you sure appear to be his doppleganger.”

    Do you mean Dr. G/Joe? I have been thinking exactly the same thing.

  36. Friends:

    The is a fundamental philosophical problem of knowing here that I am seeing in the posts about evolution.

    God’s creation project is incomplete!

    There will be a resurrection and new creation of the entire cosmos someday and when it occurs, the very nature of matter will change. (See Rom 8, 1 Cor 15, Rev 22, etc).

    So work backward from there.

    How old will the world look on the first day of the transformed new creation? Revelation 22 states that the sun and moon will no longer be needed for light. Do we believe that another light source could illumine the world? Do we believe that light could exist without the sun and the moon on the first and second and third day? Couldn’t a God who raises the dead accomplish this? What hinders a God who raises the dead?

    Now, the world appears to be older than the Biblical record. If the world truly appeared to be as old as the Biblical record, there could only be stars 6,000 light years away. Could it be that the appearance of age is necessary to display the glory of God in Creation? Certainly astronomical observations confirm this!

    Bruce

  37. John:

    1) “Jejune” IS a bad word.

    2) Nearly all science is based on Causality; how can you claim to support science, and reject that? With an uncaused universe?

  38. Thanks for the recent flurry of posts. I’ll try to be brief, as I’m trying to wrap up a book on Old Testament ethics to the publisher in the next few days.

    Well, Renton, you’ve stirred the pot a bit. On the matter of “unintelligent design,” I don’t think we need to see a purpose in, or give an explanation for, everything in nature to justify an inference to design. Keep in mind all of the atheistic scientists I’ve quoted who detect the “appearance of design.” Your object strikes me as being beside the point.

    Renton, I do think you stuck your neck out a bit too far on the “who made God?” objection. I devote a chapter to this in my book *That’s Just Your Interpretation* (Baker). The theist maintains that everything that begins to exist has a cause; that’s certainly non-question-begging. Your question assumes that everything must have a cause, which is question-begging since it assumes what you want to prove–namely, that God (who is by definition uncaused) just can’t exist. The problem with the assumption that something can’t be uncaused is that it goes against the entire history of philosophy! Lots of philosophers of all stripes have never had a problem with something being uncaused.

    From Plato and Aristotle and other Greek philosophers to philosophers and scientists into the 20th century, the common assumption was that the universe/matter was uncreated and eternal. Isn’t it ironic that 100 years ago atheists said that the universe didn’t need an explanation since it was “eternal.” (Fred Hoyle was opting for a “steady state” model of the universe, and still others claim, in the absence of scientific support, that the universe is an eternal, oscillating one.) Yet now that we know the universe began to exist, they don’t allow for anything eternal anymore!

    Stay tuned for PART II…

  39. PART II:

    Furthermore, as Paul Davies says, we don’t have much of a choice: either the universe was uncaused or something independent of the universe caused it. Now if you believe that something came out of nothing (which doesn’t even have the potentiality to produce anything) or that something came from something, I would go with the latter, which is metaphysically obvious.

    Also, design doesn’t necessarily prove the “THE God” exists. I agree. But if design and other arguments for a powerful, good, intelligent being are correct, then atheism (and lots of non-theistic religions/philosophies) are ruled out. That is part of the point of natural theology. We can get more specific by asking: “If there is something out there that exists, has that something done anything to help us, show himself/itself to us, etc.?” Again, check out my book *Loving Wisdom* on this.

    Renton, you accuse Christians of being unthinking, and no doubt many are. Dishonesty is another issue, and in certain cases I think you are right. As for myself, I think I’m being honest with these questions you’re raising. Yet I would urge you in the very best spirit to consider that some of the objections you’ve raised don’t actually possess the strong philosophical punch you assume they do.

    As for the question of young vs. old earth, I would point you to the work of the geologist Davis Young (whose last name perhaps should have been “Old”!) in his book *The Bible, Rocks, and Time* (IVP). See also Hugh Ross *A Matter of Days* (NavPress). These books also deal with the question of God’s creating with the appearance of age question, which I think raises some moral problems. But I won’t go into that.

    Thanks for the interaction. Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

  40. What is amazing is how little I know. just as soon as I line up my little duckies something.. a fact or two flies by and … knocks them down.

    Now I have four or five books to add to my stack of books…. sigh…to read.

    Thank you all for participating. Thank you Renton for charging the the “enemy”. I hope you found it enlivening and maybe a seed of grace or two was dropped on your life. I am not sure how far we moved the ball but it was worth the ride.

    And thank you Paul, I came here to be stretched and now I need lanolin to keep me from being sore….lol

    God Bless you all.

    Jay

  41. (to be read in Darth Vader”s deeeeeep soothing, victorious voice)

    My dear bobxxx;
    Your anger consumes you. The dark side is in you…

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Thank you Paul for a clear, well presented article!

    I’m praying for bobxxx (just less than 10 to the 24,000,000th power) times.

    Jay, PWB (Pastor Wanna Be)

  42. Thanks, Jay, for your kind words and rounding out the discussion. It’s been an enjoyable conversation for me, and I’m glad it’s been productive for you–as I trust for the others who have joined in the dialogue—or just read the blog post.

  43. “Jejune” means “lacking interest or significance or impact”.

    Intelligent Design, is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence. It rests on two pillars: (1) that the activity of intelligent agents is sometimes detectible and (2) that nature may exhibit evidence of intelligent activity. This study can be undertaken scientifically.

    What happens if there is no design in life? and thus no teleology or purpose either? George Monbiot, and english writer, wrote an article in 2005 titled ‘‘A Life with No Purpose.’’ Here is what he wrote:

    “[A]s soon as you consider the implications [of Darwin’s theory], you must cease to believe that either Life or life are affected by purpose . . . Darwinian evolution tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that—-for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing
    claims—-have developed the ability to speculate. After a few score years, the molecules disaggregate and return whence they came. Period.”

    Lacking a mind, material causes have only two tools to work with: (1) physical and chemical necessity flowing from the properties of matter, energy and the forces and (2) chance. Lacking a mind, matter simply can’t comprehend or order future events for a purpose.

    Evolution not only has no viable concept of how life first arose, it does not have any ability to explain the ability of humans to think.

    regards,
    #John

  44. Renton said:
    “1) One of the major problems with “intelligent design” is the massive amount of Unintelligent design in the universe. We do indeed have a universe that seems not made for man at all. Not only is a) space deadly for human beings; but b) the natural world, this planet, is full of things deadly to human beings too. Full of poisonous plants, snakes, fatal diseases, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc..”

    Me:
    This is a straw-man. The teleological argument was never concerning the PROBABILITY of Life but the POSSIBIBLITY of Life.

    The universe is fine-tuned to *allow* for the *possibility* of life given the right place, NOT for the *probability* of life anywhere in the universe.

  45. CMP,

    I have accidentally been putting in the wrong e-mail address when posting comments. That has been corrected in this post.

    Thanks,
    S&S

  46. Despite my skepticism about evolution, I am even more opposed to the idea that faith and nature are separate realms and should be kept separate. That approach is, I believe, antithetical to a full-orbed, vital and vigorous faith, and it will not produce desired results in the long run. Naturalism, whether methodical or otherwise, is an insufficient philosophy and practice of science. Methodolgical naturalism, in particular, though it can deliver many accurate and truthful results does not deliver what it promises in terms of Christian faith. It is rather like agnosticism, which is really default atheism.

    The relationship of faith and God to the natural / created world has long been an issue, though the success of the materialist scientific framework for long buried or obscured it and it is only really since the emergence of creationism and intelligent design in the last two decades that it has again emerged as a significant topic of discussion for Christians.

    In the late 1800s Alfred Russell Wallaced engaged in a similar debate with the materialists of his time:

    “. . . there is no reason to assumed tha the designer . . . cannot work through natural laws and indeed turn an otherwise random action into one of purposeful intent. This is precisely the argument made by Wallace. Wallace objected to materialists who a priori rulled out miracles because they “broke” natural laws. Wallace replied that not only could some miracles occur through known natural laws but that others undoubtedly were effected through laws yet unknown to man. Wallace felt that to deny miracles was to presume how nature was to act and to assume that all natural laws and their operations were known and fully understood. This he saw as unwanted hubris.

    Why, he asked, accept the measurable and detectible incorporeal forces of gravity, light and magnetism and refuse their use by incorporeal agents? If the materialist argues that the effects of these forces are predictable and amenable to study, why in the same breath deny the manifest results of higher intelligences using those forces to create designed features which are detectible in nature? What disturbed Wallace most was not the refusal to admit miracles but the refusal to consider them. This was a problem not with science but with science construed positivisitcally.

    “Wallace surely had Huxley and Haeckel in mind with he wrote, ‘it is time that the “derisive and unexamining incredulity” which has hitherto existed should give way to a less dogmatic and more philosophical spirit, or history will again have to record the melancholy spectacle of men, who should have known better, assuming to limit the discovery of new powers and agencies in the universe, and deciding, without investigation whether the other men’s observatinos are true or false.”

    M.A. Flannery, Alfred Russell Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution, p. 37.

    regards,
    #John

  47. I agree that science and religion should be brought together.

    Though I think the most successful approach would a) not be insisting on miracles per se; b) but seeing if science can come up with natural explanations for them. And thus in effect, confirm them.

    For example, many now suggest the following natural explanation for Moses Parting the Red Sea: Moses did not so much “part” the sea with his staff; that would be a slight mistranslation. Moses actually, used his staff to sound out a shallow tidal poo. To locate a fording place for his people at low tide. The pursuing Egyptians bogged down in it with their chariots, as the tide came back in.

    Things that once seemed to be “supernatural miracles” might indeed have been quite real. ANd scientifically verifiable.

  48. Thanks for your comments once again. I would add some qualifications to Renton’s comments.
    First, let’s distinguish various means of God’s involvement in the world. In certain instances, God’s involvement may be tied to apparently natural events, but these reveal their supernatural quality by their remarkable timing—say, an earthquake causing Jericho to fall at the precisely predicted moment. These are part of God’s “extraordinary providence”—in distinction from his “ordinary providence” of sending sunshine and rain and fruitful seasons (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17). True-blue miracles, in contrast to these two workings of divine providence, simply cannot be accounted for—they can’t happen—by any natural processes–Jesus’ bodily resurrection, ax-heads floating, and, yes, the Red Sea parting. (A true-blue miracle better accounts for the drowning of the Egyptian army than a changing tide, which probably would have occurred multiple times while the Israelites would have had to cross over in the muck–or worse! Such explanations typically assume that true-blue miracles don’t take place.)

    Even with Jesus’ resurrection, we can observe four historical facts that are best explained by the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead than alternative naturalistic theories (Jesus didn’t die; he swooned, and the cool tomb revived him; etc.). These facts are Jesus’ death and burial, the empty tomb, appearances of some sort (hallucinations according to some) of Jesus to the disciples, and the sudden emergence of the Christian Way. These are facts accepted by most scholars of all stripes. The question is: which interpretation makes the best sense of the evidence–even if we weren’t there at the tomb on that first Easter. (See Gary Habermas/Mike Licona, *The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus*).

    All best wishes,

    Paul

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