Arguments for Design Advance

In 1968 when we began this journal and our lectureship work, the design argument was well recognized. The idea was very simple--the order and pattern in the world strongly suggested that some intelligence must have caused it. A number of us who were trained in statistics, made some attempts to approach this somewhat general observation in a quantitative way by looking at the probabilities of other explanations that might be given to explain the complexities of modern discoveries. Among the attempts made to deal with this approach, were studies questioning the underlying assumptions of NeoDarwinism, and that drew another group of researchers into the picture. Skeptical writers began to attack those who were suggesting that design is the only way to explain the complexities of life with Richard Dawkins perhaps being the most vocal of these writers.

Atheists have dominated the skeptical attacks on design; and, in fact, groups like the National Committee of Science Education have made the criticism of the concept of intelligent design in the cosmos one of the areas that they devote most of their time and editorial pages to. In a desperate attempt to discredit the design argument, these groups have tried to link any intelligent design argument to the most extreme creationist viewpoint they can conceive of. More and more scientists are recognizing the validity of the evidence that there is design in the creation, and we would like to explore some of the approaches, the evidence, and the arguments in this article.

SETI. One of the questions that always comes up in a discussion of this type is the question of whether there is any improbability that can be accepted as proof of anything. Skeptics argue that something can be unlikely, but it can never be judged as impossible and therefore intelligent design can never be accepted. SETI is NASA's program that is searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (which is what the acronym stands for). What would NASA accept as transmission that would be of such a nature that it had to be judged as intelligently formulated? One area that is being looked for is the value of pi carried out to a large number of digits. If a series of pulses was received that has 3.14159...., SETI would announce that they had received a signal that had to be sent by an alien civilization that had created this special number with intelligence and transmitted it as a signature that they are there. The argument is that this is a code, and that it could not reasonably be believed to have originated by any kind of chance process. The only conclusion that can be made then is that it is a product of intelligent design.

This is the same argument that many have been making about the design seen in the creation. When you recognize the complexity of the processes needed to produce almost everything we see, it is rationally impossible to believe it is a product of chance. Too many things have to be right to believe that chance can account for it. A good example of the similarity between the SETI argument and the design features in the physical world is the DNA sequence. Francis Crick (the Nobel prize winning discoverer of the helical structure of DNA) has said "Now we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another)"(Cosmic Pursuit, Spring 1998, page 17). DNA is referred to as an informational molecule with an alphabet and two different languages related by a code. There is a whole field of mathematics that relates to this area of study, and its uses in prediction and study are well known.

There is design in the creation that is evidenced in clear and understandable ways. To suggest that we can use a certain kind of evidence in looking for alien intelligence and deny it in looking for intelligent design features here on the earth is an inconsistent argument.

ARTIFACTS. Look at the picture on the next page. Is this a naturally caused object, or is it the work of an intelligence? How do you know? Are you sure? What are our clues? In my fossil displays, I have a fossil called a gastrolith or gizzard stone. It is claimed to have come from the stomach of a dinosaur. It is believed that dinosaurs swallowed small stones to help them grind up their food, much as birds do today. The stones are smoothed and polished, but they look very much like the stone you might see in a tumbling stream of water in the mountains. How could we possibly tell that they are in fact gastroliths? The answer is that they were found in the stomach cavity of a dinosaur along with many others. The environment in which the specimen has been found gives us confidence that it is in fact a gizzard stone. Suppose that we found the same stone by itself on a sand bar of the ocean. There would be no way that we could be justified in suggesting the stone came from the stomach of a dinosaur--even though it might have.

This problem has been very common in the sciences. Eoliths are chipped flints. They are rocks made up mostly of silicon that have a fracture that produces sharp edges. We know that ancient man used the conchoidal fracture of flint and chert to make arrow heads, spear heads, and knives. For many years, it was assumed that any time you found a eolith you had evidence of ancient man, and sometimes they were found in sediment that was very, very old. Later it was discovered that chips and scars on rocks can result from tumbling in a stream, and anthropologists are very careful today not to jump to conclusions about whether an eolith was intelligently produced or not. If the eolith were found on the head of a split stick with a cord wrapped around it to hold it and feathers on the end to make an arrow, it is doubtful that anyone would want to attribute it to chance.

When we see a process going on in the natural world today that on a chance basis produces a certain pattern or formation, we know that it is not like the object shown above. The stream channels on Mars are believed to be caused by running water because we see running water producing such channels on the earth today. When we see something that is totally unlike any process operational on the earth today, and we also see complexity that makes it difficult for us to see any way natural processes could cause it we are justified in suggesting intelligence caused it. This technique is used in all sciences that deal with human history. Sometimes called abductive inference, it opens whole new areas to learning and inquiry. Archaeology, anthropology, sociology, and psychology could not exist without this method of reasoning. Not only has this resulted in the rejection of much evidence for the existence of God, but it has also limited our ability to understand those areas of science where information theory and order are guiding principles.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MarApr99.