Designed or Not?

Carl Sagan once said,

“We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies which make up a universe which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.”

Sagan’s assessment of life and the universe is bleak, but he was certainly right that it’s well worth pondering, if not for that very reason. Is the earth really just a hunk of rock and metal? Is our star so humdrum? How many other universes are there, where do we fit into the scheme of things, and was the whole thing just a freaky cosmic accident?

I’ve been examining the argument for design, which claims that we’re not here by chance, but we- and the universe- were designed by an intelligent being (God) on purpose, and I believe there’s overwhelming evidence to support this claim. If we examine the way galaxies operate, the effects of gravity and the laws of physics, we can see ingenious craftmanship. And if we observe how single celled organisms divide, how DNA repairs itself, or the way our immune system behaves, we don’t see random, thoughtless processes. No, we see organization, information, order and design. It certainly looks like the universe were put together expressly for our benefit. Yet atheists would have us think there’s nothing special about us or our planet.

Nonetheless, I’ve previously shared how atheists can identify design in nature (but they have to remind themselves that it’s just an illusion). Studies have shown that even children are capable of identifying design in nature. And this recognition bridges all people and cultures throughout history.

But how does this happen?

Dr. Randy Guliuzza is a creation scientist with an engineering background, and I’ve been following a series of his articles on engineering and design in biological systems that I think are very helpful. He explains that people are able to “see the characteristics involved in the fabrication of man-made problem-solving products, and they recognize those same characteristics in the problem-solving traits of living things.” I like this explanation because it succinctly articulates why humans are naturally able to discern design.

Some atheists, however, claim it’s impossible to determine design in nature because they believe there’s no metric to compare; if God designed the entire universe, they reason, then how would we be able to determine if something weren’t designed? Say God created all the moons of Jupiter and Saturn… how could we tell if the moons of Mars were not designed by God? Obviously, we couldn’t. But such reasoning ignores the fact that we can compare man-made objects to living systems, and we can recognize distinct characteristics in both. That’s the metric we can use for comparison. Further, the argument from design isn’t about trying to figure out how to determine if something in nature were not designed, but about being able to associate the distinctive characteristics we observe in man-made objects to living organisms. In other words, it’s perfectly legitimate to correlate human engineering with biological systems because people can intuitively recognize the distinctive features of craftmanship.

To most of us, I think, living organisms don’t look random or messy, like nature has been mindlessly tinkering to find what works. Dr. Guliuzza explained that when he started medical school and studied anatomy, he recognized what “looked like designed systems made to fulfill specific purposes,” and he said those systems were marvels of engineering because of their “extraordinary sophistication.”

The existence of complexity or sophistication in living organisms may not provide indisputable proof of design, but the fact that they’re far more complicated than any man-made object makes it more reasonable to conclude that they were designed… as opposed to being spontaneously generated by some mysterious, naturalistic cause.

Dr. Guliuzza understands how engineers design devices that are adaptable to different environments, and he found that these principles most accurately explain how living organisms respond to change. After further investigation, he found evidence in reverse engineering studies on biological systems, showing that they can be carefully disassembled, piece by piece, to see how they work. He says this “is a striking confirmation that engineering principles can explain how living things function.” Additionally, he says it’s apparent that “human experience enables them to correlate the properties of human craftsmanship with the features of living things.” This is because “Nature displays features that are unique to the designing agency ascribed to the workmanship of artists or engineers.”

According to one researcher,

“We have also found that despite their vastly different substrates, biological regulatory mechanisms and their synthetic counterparts used in engineering share many similarities, as they are both subject to the same fundamental constraints that govern all regulatory mechanisms….Notions used in the study of engineering control systems such as optimality…and feedback are invaluable for understanding biological complexity.”

Another sign of engineering design in biological systems is the existence of interface systems- enabling two distinct entities to work together, and this type of interconnecting feature is found almost everywhere in nature.

According to a 2016 international conference in Pittsburgh,

“The new engineering inspired fields such as integrative systems biology, biomedical engineering, and synthetic biology appear to have more in common with engineering approaches than with traditional biological ones…. A fundamental contribution of the engineering paradigm in modern biology is, arguably, the provision of strategies and tools for managing the complexity of biological organization by transforming it into calculable well-structured forms that facilitate investigation and control and can be subject to engineering analysis.”

Dr. Guliuzza explains that the engineering principles we’re familiar with can fully explain biological function, and that scientists are able to identify correct cause-effect associations for biological function.

I think he’s right on when he points out that evolutionists credit nature with creative powers- as if it were an intelligent being, tinkering to see what works, selecting traits like a human breeder. He says “God’s true agency is exchanged for false projections of agency, such as volition, onto unconscious nature.” In essence, they exchange God for another god- materialism. Nature created itself, and then used natural processes to change over time.

Lastly, the Bible tells us that it’s possible to detect design (Romans 1:20). It explains that God’s engineering design in living organisms is obvious due to its correlation with human engineering. Skeptics may claim that the Bible can’t be used as proof, but, if the Bible really is God’s word, then we should expect it to claim certain truths, and we find that it does.

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