- Religion and Philosophy»
- Atheism & Agnosticism
Does God exist? Intelligent Design
Is this the new kid causing arguments?
The existence of God.
The question that has been debated down through the millenia. Right from the time of Socrates down to present time the debate has been raging, and while it's 'ebbed and flowed' over the centuries and seems to have no intention of abating.
In the early twentieth century it actually looked as if there was an answer to the debate and it looked as if science was indicating that the theologians had been wrong all along! It was looking strongly that the atheist was winning the argument as the evidence against the idea of God began to mount!
Back in the 1820s it had been shown that Organic material can occur naturally from non-organic material, then in the early 1850s Charles Dawrin, an ex Anglican minister and avid botanist put forward his theory on 'the origin of the species' that claimed life came about through an evolutionary process that was governed by undirected chance and God wasn't needed anymore to "explain the unexplainable"
In the early 1950s breakthroughs were made though that were to change the way we see our world. What were they?
What is 'Intelligent design?'
Basically intelligent design is the proposal that life is so complex that it can not have come about y accident and therefore must be the work of an intelligence, some claim that intelligence to be God but not all proponents of 'ID' or intelligent design believe in God!
Now, before people fall off their chair in laughter at the statement above lets take a look at a few things.
Firstly the best known proponents of the 'ID' argument are Evangelical Christians, if you look up websites like the Discovery Institute you'd see that the people there are mostly Christians, but they're not the only ones, in fact some of the most 'groundbreaking' work done in this area has actually been done by atheist and agnostic scientists!
Up until the mid 1950s science seemed to be leading us to the conclusion that life occured on earth three billion years ago as a result of random processes that eventually accumulated until chemicals were eventually able to form what became the building blocks for amino acids that in turn became proteins and in turn developed into either DNA or the simpler RNA molecules that finally formed into the first living organisms.
But in the early 1950s two scientists were collating work done by others in the field of molecular biology that they were able to form into a model that would change the way we understand how life started forever, the two scientists were James Watson and Francis Crick.
This book isn't popular with the scientific community (it's written by a scientist!)
From the early part of the twentieth century scientists had struggled to find the 'source of life' what was (is) it that causes inorganic material to organize itself in such a way that it was able to transform into organic matter that could then build into living creatures?
There was a suspect, one that was kind of known about but no one had worked out its structure, it was called 'diribonucleaic acid' or DNA as we know it, but no one had worked out what it even looked like.
In 1953 two scientists who were working with research that others had done came up with a model of what DNA actually looked like, but they also came up with the solution as to how this strange substance worked to store the information for building life and it was far more simple than anyone every dreamed, but the problem they discovered was that it only worked one way and could only work when the complete system was 'up and running'
With the discovery of DNA science was literally turned 'on it's head' as all of a sudden instead of 'shutting God out' there was something in the first building blocks of life for which there was no explanation and sixty years down the track there still is none!
What is DNA?
Why talk about this?
Ask any evolutionary scientist what the theory of Intelligent Design is and they'll tell you "It's just re-hashed creationism!" and they'll dismiss it as such, to be honest if it was then they'd be right to dismiss it but it isn't!
The argument does have some similarities to the Cosmological argument and the arguments from design from Newtons time, but the similarities stop there as most of those have been refuted to various degrees.
Intelligent design starts with the scientific position that we can't actually explain how life started and science encourages us in situations like that we need to take all possibilities into account, and that includes the possibility of an intelligent designer!
But the question comes who is that designer? This is the question that we ask next and being totally honest the theory of Intelligent Design can't actually tell us! What it can tell us is that this universe didn't happen by chance!
A good explanation of the theory of intelligent design
The 'New kid on the block'
What is 'Intelligent design'?
What the theory isn't!
Okay, before I go on I'll admit that most of the material I've used for this hub is by Christians that believe the 'designer' is God, but I'd be remiss to point out some startling facts that the atheists and agnostics have contributed to the debate.
In 2004 in Dover Pensylvania there was a court case that (by what the media writes) almost split America on both sides as Christians on the school board of the local high school wanted theories that differ from the standard theory of evolution taught in school, there was uproar as both the local school teachers and the scientific community felt that it was the local evangelicals trying to get 'creation through a back door'. They wanted Intelligent design taught alongside the theory of evolution with the caveat that evolution was only a theory and other theories should be taught.
Along with this around the same time the Smithsonian ran an article in one of it's publications by a Dr Stephen Mayer that suggested that Intelligent design should be given thought to as a possible alternative to evolution, within weeks the editor of the journal was sidelined and moved away, the message was clear, no ID papers were to be published in mainstream scientific media
Sir Fred Hulme was a noted and famous Astronomer who was highly critical of the Big bang theory when it came out, he actually coined the phrase 'the big bang' as a way of ridiculing the theory as to him he thought the theory was too close to Biblical creationism.
Mayer, in his book 'Signature in the cell' tells that he got the chance to meet with Hulme in the mid 1980s and talked with him about the possibility that life on earth was just too complex to have started by chance.
Hulme, it turns out had calculated the chances of life being able to 'evolve' naturally and the odds were so high that it 'shook his atheism to the core'
He'd calculated that just to make the first amino acid and DNA is made up of four proteins that have tens of thousands of possible combinations binding to each other and each protein is the made up of approximatly four hundred amino acids all sequenced in exactly the right order (get one wrong and you go right back to the start as the whole thing unravels) the odds were greater than the sum total of all the atoms in the known universe!
Hoyle's conclusion was that life on earth had to be started by an outside intelligence, where he differs from classic proponents of the theory is he actually taught that the universe is eternal with new galaxies spiringing into the void created by the receding other galaxies (giving the impression the universe is expanding) and life on earth was actually 'seeded' by Alien life forms from other galaxies
Richard Dawkins on God and Intelligent Design
Non believers who accept the possibility
First of all I'll apologise for any toes that I'mm stepping on as this debate starts to cross over the traditional boundaries and gets into some serious debate as to where we came from, I was stunned to hear Dawkins in the interview above admit to the possibility of some form of Intelligent Design, and he's not alone in the atheist camp.
Francis Crick was a strong atheist all his life, yet he held to the view that DNA was too complex to have come about by natural processes. Not only that but his own discoveries subesquent to DNA and unravelling how it works suggested that for DNA to be able to work, and for the cells of the most basic life form to work you have to have everything fully functional and working at the time of the first cell forming (they can't happen by a gradual process).
Numerous computer simulations have been run to try and understand how the first cells formed and every one of them (including the one Richard Dawkins himself ran in 1987) have come back with the same results. The variables are just too great for the small timespan! (fourteen billion years is too small a timespan for even the first molecules to form let alone proteins, and that's before you get to the amino acids and the DNA!)
You're probably going to think it really strange that a Theist is going to write the following part, but I wouldn't be being fair if I didn't tell you that there are those who accept the theory of Intelligent Design but with a different outcome and different designer!
Sir Fred Hulme
Was a British astronomer ,and astrophysicist who rejected the 'big bang' theory for a number of reasons.
- Too close an idea to Creationism! As an atheist he rejected the Bible and anything to do with it. To him the idea of a universe with a beginning and and end spoke too much like the Bible.
- The chances were so small as to be impossible. Sir Fred knew that to form the first protein you had to get the molecules in exactly the right order, not one could be out of place, then you had to have a molecle chain four hundred molecules long (for the most basic cell) and each has to be in exactly the right order! The chances of this happening even once he calculated were greater than the sum total of all the atoms in the known universe to one!
- Where do you think Hollywood gets the plots for their movies about man being created in the labs of Alien races? Sir Fred Hulme developed the theory (not Ron L Hubbard) that has the universe being eternal but the galaxies receding from each other and new galaxies formed in their place (thus in keeping with what we see) and earlier alien life forms came to earth 'seeding' life here. Just like Star Trek said!
He was the one coined teh phrase "Jumbo jet in a Junkyard' arguing that belief in the big bang is like gonig to a Junkyard and believing that given enough time the parts will assembe themselves into a Boeing 747 without the help of an engineer!
Noted atheist who studied under CS Lewis and wrote many books on atheism such as 'There is no God' but it 2004 caused uproar when he stated that he was abandoning atheism and had become a 'theist' (he never accepted the 'god' of any religion though) because the evidence from intelligent design was so compelling!
A proponent of Intelligent Design who put together the documentary "Expelled" that covers the story of what happened at the Smithsonian. Ben is Jewish and blames the Nazi Holocaust on evolution (Let's not get into that argument plese, it's merely the view of the person I'm mentioning)
Here's an interesting one. I haven't read it but just had to put the book in as it's by an atheist and supports Intelligent design!
This was a surprise to find (maybe I should read it!)
What do you think?
Does an argment like Intelligent design 'prove God' to you?
What do you think?
Now that I've just about confused everyone (and upset both camps!) it's time for me to draw some conclusions.
Pretty early on I realized that the Intelligent design argument only really proves what I want it to prove in that area, but only to me!
On the net you'll read everything from 'it's proof of God' and totally scientific to 'It's totally BS and kills science as you get to the point where you can't go further and it tells you to stop looking' (Sorry but I never found that on any of the ID sites I went to!)
The reality is the argument for Intelligent Design can't prove God exists because all it says is that life is so complex that it must have had a designer but stops short of saying that the 'designer' is God!
To the Christian it proves that "God did it" (and a large portion of ID proponents say that in their opinion it was God, but that's their opinion and not science they're reporting) but the agnostic might also be intrigued by the scientific theories and Hypotheses coming out that our univese might not be the only one and might think the the idea of aliens isn't too far fetched!
With ID one thing is clear though, it says that science says that random chance is not a viable theory.
I welcome your thoughts on this.