Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe

Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe
The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, Vol. 9
Behe, Dembski, and Meyer
Ignatius Press, 2000
234 pages
See http://www.ignatius.com/Products/SEDU-P/science-and-evidence-for-design-in-the-universe.aspx for ordering information ($14.95 + S&H).

 

 

 

 

 

Intelligent design is a hot topic these days and the authors of the material in this book are at the forefront in the field.  Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a fellow of the Discovery Institute.  He is the author of Darwin’s Black Box – The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.  William A. Dembski is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville where he heads its Center for Theology and Science. He is also a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and the executive director of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design. Stephen C. Meyer is director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute.  The Discovery Institute is based in Seattle and is known as the birthplace of the modern intelligent design movement.

The book is divided into three sections in which each author presents evidence of intelligent design from a different perspective.  There are also three appendices which answer criticisms of this concept.  There are extensive endnotes for those who wish to dig deeper into the subject.

Dembski presents a method for detecting intelligent design in the sciences.  It involves applying a test which he calls the Explanatory Filter.  To use the filter one would consider whether an object displays evidence of intelligent design, or whether it could be explained by necessity or chance.  To eliminate the possibility of necessity one would ask if the object can be explained by laws of physics.  Next one would determine if the object is so complex that it could not have been formed by chance.  Lastly, one would consider whether the object was specific, that is, does it display a pattern.  If the object passes the test, then it must have come about by design, by the choice of an intelligent designer.

Meyer presents evidence of design in the composition of the universe and in the origin of life.  He uses the example of the anthropic “fine tuning” of the universe as an example.  There are more than thirty separate physical or cosmological parameters that require precise values in order to produce a life-sustaining universe.  Our universe is “fine tuned” for life on Earth.  Chance cannot account for this.  Some scientists have tried to argue that our universe is just the “lucky” one of millions or billions that supported life but no one has shown any evidence of a universe generator to create any other universe.  Besides that, such a universe generator would need to be designed in the first place.

Meyer goes on to show how the living cell and DNA both display evidence of intelligent design and could not have been formed by the working of natural laws or chance.  He argues that the argument from intelligent design does not come about because of ignorance of the working of cells or DNA, but because of our knowledge of them.  He finally argues that naturalism (that is, evolution) and intelligent design should be evaluated for their ability to best explain what we observe, and that intelligent design is by far the better choice.

Behe presents evidence of design at the biochemical level of life.  He shows that the molecular workings of several biological structures can not be explained by natural selection (evolution).  Examples given are the eye, the cilium (moving hairs on a cell), and the bacterial flagellum (rotating “motor” that allows some bacteria to swim).  He discusses how Darwinists like to imagine how such structures came about naturally, but that no mechanism of evolution has ever been found.

In Behe’s response to criticisms of intelligent design he quotes Darwin as saying, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”  Behe claims that several systems in nature meet this criteria which he labels “irreducibly complex.”  He defines an irreducible complex system as: “a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”  He cites the mouse trap as an example of an irreducibly complex system, as well as the flagellum and blood clotting.

Behe finally explains how some scientists insist that for a theory to be scientific, it has to be falsifiable; that is, there must be some test to determine whether the theory could be false.  He argues that intelligent design is falsifiable in that if one could show that systems like DNA and the eye and blood clotting could be produced by natural causes alone, intelligent design would not need to be invoked.  However, he then shows that Darwinism is not falsifiable, since its defenders always claim that some natural process could have produced everything, even if we do not now understand it.  This is not science, it is a belief, a dogmatic belief in naturalism which so many scientists exhibit today.

In Meyer’s response, he evaluates the methods used in naturalistic and non-naturalistic origins theories and shows them to be quite similar.  He argues that origins theories should be evaluated based on their ability to explain, not whether they are purely naturalistic.  Finally, Dembski and Meyer discuss how the scientist and the theologian could interact to engender deeper understanding and sponsor further inquiry into origins theories.  They argue that the Big Bang theory and the Christian doctrine of Creation could be compatible.

Although these authors are not biblical creationists, their arguments could help pull science away from its dogmatic materialism.  Meyer’s section on the scientific status of intelligent design is most helpful in this regard.  He demonstrates that neither naturalistic nor non-naturalistic (supernatural) origins theories are strictly falsifiable (neither can be proved false by any experiment or demonstration) and that both use unobservable entities; Evolution uses the never-observed idea of acquiring new genetic information while Creation uses “and God said.”

Both theories attempt to explain what has happened in the past; both use abductive instead of deductive inferences (that is, they claim that since A is observed, and if B were true then A would be a matter of course, then there is reason to suspect that B is true); both use antecedent causal events to explain present data; and both are tested indirectly by comparing their explanatory power.

The last part of this section is entitled, “Conclusion: Toward a Scientific Theory of Creation.”  In it he says, “Consider: It is at least logically possible that a personal agent existed before the appearance of the first life on earth.  Further as Bill Dembski has argued, we do live in the sort of world where knowledge of such an agent could possibly be known or inferred from empirical data.”  This sounds quite a bit like, “For the invisible things of him [God], from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” – Romans 1.20

Although this book is very technical, it does an excellent job of showing that any reasonable person using only observances of nature can conclude with certainty that there must be a Creator/Designer of the universe.  If intelligent design can break the stranglehold of naturalism on the scientific community, then it will have served its purpose well.

Reviewed by Eric Bermingham
February 28, 2006