by William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell
Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design
The controversy surrounding intelligent design (ID) and Darwinism continues to be at the forefront of cultural dialogue. Despite the growing success of ID, the same objections repeatedly appear in both scholarly and popular literature. Christians must be equipped with effective responses to such challenges.
For example, in The God Delusion Richard Dawkins asserts that design is unsuccessful unless it can explain who designed the designer. Besides his theological naivete, Dawkins here fails to grasp the nature of science. Simply put, explanations can be effective even if we can’t explain the explanations. For instance, an archaeologist can identify an object as designed even if she is unaware of the origin or identity of the designer. The same is true with the natural world.
With a little research, common challenges such as this are easily answered. It’s high time for Christians to educate themselves and put these objections to rest.
“Evolution Wars!” proclaimed the cover story of Time magazine, August 15, 2005. The following year Time ran another cover story titled, “God vs. Science,” featuring a debate between human-genome researcher Francis Collins and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The controversy surrounding intelligent design (ID) continues to appear in major newspapers, magazines, popular television shows, and various forums on the Internet. In the major motion picture documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,1 actor Ben Stein examines how dogmatic Darwinists suppress the academic freedom of anyone who dissents from their theory, especially proponents of ID. The debate surrounding ID therefore continues to heat up and shows no signs of dying down.
Despite incessant proclamations by the media and the academic establishment regarding the demise of ID, interest in ID is exploding,2 and philosopher J. P. Moreland contends that the ID movement cannot be stopped.3 Despite ID’s growing success, however, objections against it regularly appear in both scholarly and popular literature. In this article, we respond to ten of the most common criticisms raised against ID. Given the widespread misinformation in our culture about ID, it has become increasingly important for Christians to respond effectively to challenges posed against it.
IMPERFECTION IN LIVING THINGS COUNTS AGAINST ID
In his book Why Darwin Matters, skeptic Michael Shermer claims that the imperfect anatomy of the human eye disconfirms design. He asks, “For optimal vision, why would an intelligent designer have built an eye upside down and backwards?”4 According to Shermer, such imperfections are evidence for evolution and evidence against design.
Shermer has overlooked a basic point, however: design does not have to be perfect—it just has to be good enough. Imperfection speaks to the quality of design, not its reality. Consider successive versions of the iPod. The various versions have minor imperfections, but each clearly was designed; none evolved without guidance from programmers. Our ability to envision a better design hardly means the object in question lacks design.
What is true for the iPod is also true in biology. Living systems bear unmistakable marks of design, even if such design is, or appears to be, imperfect. In the real world, perfect design does not exist. Real designers aim for the best overall compromise among constraints needed to accomplish a function. Design is a give-and-take process. For instance, a larger computer screen may be preferable to a smaller one, but designers must also consider cost, weight, size, and transportability. Given competing factors, designers choose the best overall compromise—and this is precisely what we see in nature.
For instance, all life forms are part of a larger ecology that recycles its life forms. Most life forms survive by consuming other life forms, either living or dead. In due time, all life forms must die.
Suppose we object to design because foxes catch rabbits and eat them. If rabbits had perfect defenses, however, foxes would starve. Then rabbits, by reproducing without limit and eating all the vegetation, also would starve. The uncatchable rabbit, ironically, then, would upset its ecosystem and create far more difficulties for design than it would resolve. Given this larger perspective, it seems that the “imperfections” of individual organisms in nature are actually part of a larger design plan for life.
What about the human eye? Is the eye built upside-down and backwards, as many critics of design argue? Despite common claims that the eye is poorly designed, there actually are good reasons for its construction,5 and no one has demonstrated how the eye’s function might be improved without diminishing its visual speed, sensitivity, and resolution…
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