CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Argument from Design
Responding to Objections, Part III

"The second objection to this argument is against the premise that the existence of order and/or complexity presupposes the existence of conscious design. It is invalid to automatically infer the existence of a designer from the mere fact of order and regularity in nature - it's just a connection that has been arbitrarily made. In fact, order appears to be an inherent characteristic of the universe itself. What would a universe without order look like? I don't know - and as often as I've asked theists this question, I've never managed to get a straight answer. I don't believe that they really know what a universe without order would look like, either - but if that is the case, how can they assume that their god is needed to impose the order? The simple response is that they cannot.

"In general, order and complexity are dependent upon subjective judgments. Where one person may see order, another may see chaos. Where one person may see indecipherable complexity, another may see elegant simplicity. It would seem reasonable, then, to start out with a method of objectively measuring order, complexity, and chaos so that we can tell how much there is and whether or not that amount requires a Grand Designer. I have yet to meet a theist willing to attempt such a task."Austin Cline, Argument from Design
William Paley is often credited with the concept of a "clockwork" God as the result of his having recognized that the intricacies of the universe suggest that the universe was created. After all, if one were to be walking in the desert and come across a fully functioning Timex, I doubt any of us would believe for a second that the Timex appeared there suddenly in the middle of the desert as the result of the random actions of nature. Why is it that we are able to see immediately that the clock was designed? The answer is quite simple: we understand much of what nature can and cannot do, and creating a working clock would be beyond the ability of nature acting randomly.

Take a look at an arch formed naturally by wind or water (see examples here), then take a look at the St. Louis Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. One was obviously formed by nature and one was obviously formed by men. Ask yourself this question: Why is it obvious which is which? Why is it, besides for the fact that we know it was made, can we tell that the Gateway Arch was man-made simply by looking? There are several things which, in my opinion, distinguish the two: the surroundings, the size, the use of joints, the flatness of the sides, etc., but I cannot say that any one or two factors would be determinative. The differences are (shall we dare use the word?) self-evident.

Austin Cline, the author of the About.com article, somehow believes that you have to be able to define the difference in order to know the difference. This is simply a falsity. There are many things that we know about but cannot define in the least. Define love, for example. Define an idea. Define beauty. Define art. Define obscenity. There are countless things about which we have an intuitive notion, but which cannot be reduced to fixed or concrete descriptions. Sure there are some things that are natural that at first blush appear manufactured, but simply because we are not always right does not mean that we are not usually right in our intuitive notions. I am sure the Austin Cline would not see a chair, for example, and imagine that it was formed by the forces of nature without human involvement, but he has no more basis for his understanding than I do. He simply knows.

Of course, nature can be a bit more tricky. The first time I visited the Pacific Ocean, I found a rock with a perfect hole in the middle. I initially thought "who drilled a hole in this rock"? Then I thought I had found a unique carving by nature. Finally, I found several more rocks that with holes and realized that my rock was not particularly unique, and that nature must make dozens of these rocks. So, what I first saw a designed as the result of the nearly perfect hole in the rock, turned out to be natural. But at the same time, it didn't take long to determine that my initial belief was erroneous, and I didn't insist that the rock was manufactured when the evidence indicated that it was not.

What about the universe? Does it show signs of being designed? Let's let some scientists speak:

Fred Hoyle (British astrophysicist): "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."

George Ellis (British astrophysicist): "Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word 'miraculous' without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word."

Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is overwhelming".

Paul Davies: "The laws [of physics] ... seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design... The universe must have a purpose".

Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy): "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."

John O'Keefe (astronomer at NASA): "We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."

George Greenstein (astronomer): "As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency - or, rather, Agency - must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?"

Arthur Eddington (astrophysicist): "The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory."

Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say 'supernatural') plan."

Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer) "I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science."

God and Science: Quotes from Scientists Regarding Design of the Universe
Perhaps I cannot meet Austin Cline's challenge to develop a "method of objectively measuring order, complexity, and chaos so that we can tell how much there is and whether or not that amount requires a Grand Designer" (I don't know since I haven't tried and have no desire to start such an arduous task). If Austin Cline is so interested in such a formula, then I suggest that he develop it based upon models of things we see on earth--such as by creating a set of factors that can be used across the spectrum to objectively distinguish objects which are known to be natural from those that are known to be man-made. Such a test, to be worthwhile, needs to be applicable to any and all comparsions between any artificially made object and any object known to be natural (and one of the problems is that Mr. Cline cannot use as examples of natural objects anything which is presently at the center-point of the controversy over intelligent design, such as living cells). As for me, I think that complexity is one factor that almost always argues for design, and I think that the quotes by scientists who are all genuinely looking for a naturalistic explanations but who turn to the supernatural to explain the appearance of design in the universe argues much more forcefully than Mr. Cline's little challenge.


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