What About Intelligent Design? – Part 3 – Is Intelligent Design an Intelligent Theory?

The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines a theory as “a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena.” It goes on to say, “Most theories that are accepted by scientists have been repeatedly tested by experiments and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.”Based on this definition I think Intelligent Design is legitimately referred to here as a theory. I.D. tries to explain the origins of the universe, just as the Theory of Evolution does. Evolution is going to be covered in our next post, but I would like to point out here that the last part of the definition doesn’t fit the theory – Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the origin of differing species cannot be tested (notice I didn’t say variations in species). Likewise, I.D. cannot be tested by the scientific method because no one was there when the universe was created and we cannot recreate such an event.

Still, we can follow the evidence to where it leads. Many times this is what science becomes, a kind of detective work about things, as scientists try to recreate things that have occurred in the history of the world and the universe.

Perhaps the best picture to illustration a rational for the belief in a Designer is the watchmaker analogy. The idea is that if you look at a watch, you would expect that a watchmaker created it. You would not think that the watch spontaneously appeared for no reason, nor would you think that it evolved into existence. No, you would know that a man, specifically a watchmaker, designed and put that watch together in working order. Voltaire remarked, “If a watch proves the existence of a watchmaker but the universe does not prove the existence of a great Architect, then I consent to be called a fool.”

Taking this illustration and putting it into argument form, there are several evidences that I.D. supporters believe point to a Designer. One is what Michael Behe calls “irreducible complexity.” There are many creatures in this world that could not have evolved into the present state, because if one component wasn’t there, the whole thing simply would not be functioning. If a part of an organism is not functioning to begin with, then obviously it cannot evolve into something more complex. A commonly used example of this is the flagellum of the bacteria E. coli. If one component of the flagellum was not present, the whole thing would not work. But if the whole would not work, evolution does not have an explanation for why it would be there in the first place. Evolution says that only things that have a definite purpose for survival continue to function, adapt and improve via evolution.

Specified complexity is another argument for I.D. Whereas irreducible complexity looks at an entire complex entity, specified complexity looks at how things are at the same time very specifically tuned for their purposes. The mathematician William Dembski illustrates specified complexity as such: “A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearian sonnet is both complex and specified.” DNA is given as an example of this concept. Science has yet to demonstrate how DNA (or RNA, etc) can spontaneously or systematically originate through natural means.

Continuing with the arguments for design, the fine-tuning of the universe (the anthropic principle) is another. The balance between all the components in the universe (for example, the expanding and contracting forces) are so delicate, that if only one of them were altered life could not exist. John Polkinghorne gave the probability of all the universe’s energy being in balance as one in 10 to the power of 60 (1 in 10 with 60 zeroes after it). He likened this to shooting a dart across the expanse of the universe and hitting a one square inch target.

Now here I want to be clear that I am not using an argument from ignorance. I am not saying that because we don’t understand something “God did it.” The “God in the gaps” theory is not a sound one either. As far as I’m concerned, either God did all of it or none of it. He does not merely fill in the gaps that we do not understand. (Because of this I am a Creationist.) It is reasonable to say, however, that we may not understand something as fitting into a scientific theory because it simply doesn’t work – it doesn’t fit into the theory at all. If that is the case, then another theory may be postulated to explain the event.

Editor’s Note: I want to apologize for posting this one a bit late, and ask for some prayer. I’ve been accustomed to posting at night (Sunday-Thursday evenings), but this has been getting difficult. Our daughter is 8.5 months old now, and likes to stay up late. Which means I often don’t get to blog until she goes to bed (often after midnight). And when I blog late, I’m tired, and usually don’t do as good of a job as I’d like. So if it’s alright with you, I would like to start blogging in the mornings instead (Monday-Friday). We also greatly appreciate your prayer for this ministry, and Acts 20:24 Ministries as a whole. Thanks so much for your continued prayer and support!


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