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On Design as Evidence for Supernatural Intelligence

A: “Why should I believe that any supernatural intelligence exists outside the realm of space and time as we know it on this planet?”

B: “Are you asking me how I know that God exists?”

A: “Not necessarily. I’m just asking for some compelling evidence of the existence of any superior Intelligence. Whether or not such an Intelligence (if in fact there is one) ever turns out to be the God of the Bible would, I suppose, be an altogether separate matter.”

B: “Okay, you’re on. Try this one. Imagine that you are walking along a beach one day and suddenly you come upon a finely-tuned pocket watch. As you pick it up and begin to examine all of the precisely calibrated springs and cogs and intricate couplings in this watch, what would you most likely conclude about how it was formed? How long would you seriously entertain the possibility that this watch was the result of purely natural processes –that the various earth metals just happened by random chance (plus time) to somehow form themselves into exactly the right shape and size and position inside the watch case, and then, altogether on their own, begin to function? Would you not almost immediately, automatically realize that this watch was the result of specific, intelligent design –that some outside intelligence was obviously involved in forming it and making it run?

A: “Go ahead.”

B: “Okay. Consider now the far more complex design of the ingredients necessary for even the simplest forms of life: the proteins and the enzymes and the amino acids and the RNA and DNA molecules, and the fact that DNA is required to make protein, and yet you can’t have DNA without some protein having been present to make that DNA in the first place. That Swiss watch is like a little child’s puzzle in comparison with the million piece 3-D jigsaw we’re talking about here.

A: “All right. So…”

B: “So the point is, the highly complex design that we see all around us –from the exact degree at which this planet tilts toward the sun to the complexity of the human eye to the physiological intricacies of human brain function– all of it is powerfully convincing evidence that a Supernatural Designer was involved –a Creator, if you will– an Intelligence that at some point in the past (perhaps instantaneously) superseded the ability of the Universe to produce what we now see.”

A: “But drawing conclusions about a supernatural Intelligence based only on what we can presently observe in our world really isn’t very ‘scientific’, is it?”

B: “If it isn’t, then I’ve got a question for you: why call archaeologists scientists? After all, every time they dig up an arrowhead or some other primitive tool and from it conclude something significant about the intelligence of the person who must have designed it, they’re employing identical methodology, right?” Once we depart from traditional, empirical, observable, falsifiable scientific methodology, there may be a legitimate question about whether we’re going to call such methodology science or religion. But once we’ve named it, let’s at least be consistent.

THIS PAPER REPRESENTS AN EDITED EXCERPT of an address delivered by the author on April 3, 1992, to approximately forty students and members of three high school biology classes in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. It is also based on material used in a lecture by Dr. Harry Payne, Jr., and on the thesis of a book authored by the editor’s friend and former Monson neighbor, Elvera Johnson, Design–Without a Designer?, c1985, Vantage Press, New York. The line of reasoning employed in this paper is one of four approaches (ontological-being, cosmological-creation, teleological-purpose, axiological-judgment) traditionally used to demonstrate the existence of God.