Intellient Design (Translation: Insert Your God's Name Here)

Hello again! In the last post, we covered whether a god is a reasonable explanation for the origin of our universe. Today, we'll talk about something that I can more easily identify with, the argument from design. I'll explain. Trail jogging has always been a passion of mine, a precious time of solitude and reflection. As a Christian, I would often stop on a jog and just look around me in complete amazement at the surrounding beauty, thanking God for the opportunity to be in his presence and his creation, a creation of purpose, designed for me and my enjoyment. One needs only to observe and acknowledge the wondrous complexity of nature to know that God exists, right? While certainly not reflective of all Christians, I can't imagine that my perspective at the time was too uncommon.

Natasha introduces the subject of intelligent design by using philosopher and Christian apologist William Paley's (1743-1805) watchmaker analogy. She states that "if you were to find a watch in an empty field, you would instinctively conclude that it was designed and not just the result of accidental formation in nature. Similarly, when we look at the universe and life, it's natural to conclude that there's a designer because they appear to be so intentionally formed." Unfortunately, this is a false analogy. Simply because two things share a similar quality, in this case, complexity, that does not mean that we can reach the same conclusion regarding their origin. We know that the watch was designed because we've never seen it occur naturally. Likewise, we know that a building is designed because we have no examples of it not being designed. (Let's keep in mind that no matter how intuitive this argument may have seemed two hundred years ago, Paley was not privy to the information that we have now regarding Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, a subject covered in more detail later in the book.)

Building upon the watchmaker analogy, Natasha makes a similar case in comparing DNA's informational code to a computer's code or language. Once again, we have a false analogy, in which two things that share a similar quality are indicative of a similar endpoint. We have evidence that a computer's code is designed by an intelligent agent. However, that does not suggest that DNA's informational code was designed by God. Upon what evidence can this assertion be made? To suggest this is to inject an unknown into the argument, ultimately offering nothing but more questions. Which god? One god or many gods? Does this god still exist? Is it a good god? Furthermore, if we continue with this line of thought, how can we make any meaningful distinctions between that which occurs naturally (DNA) versus that which is designed (computer coding)? If everything of complexity has a perceived intention and therefore a perceived designer, then the ability to contrast the two categories is eliminated; and consequently, everything becomes designed. Rather, design must be demonstrable.

From here, Natasha moves into the world of physics and the argument of a fine-tuned Earth and universe. In describing the Earth, Natasha offers this description, "It appears to have been uniquely designed to support human life - it's as if the Earth knew we were coming." She goes on to explain that if certain parameters were changed, life could not exist. Sean Carroll, cosmologist and research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, disagrees. In a debate with philosopher William Lane Craig, Carroll offered his thoughts on fine-tuning.

Well, darn. Maybe that beautiful forest that I love to jog in and explore wasn't created for me after all.

Next up, the moral argument!