Evidence for God: Design (Life on Earth)
by David Glass and Graham Veale
In Part 1, we considered the order of the cosmos as expressed in the laws of physics as evidence for God, while in Part 2 we looked at fine-tuning. Here we focus on the existence of intelligent life. As in the previous cases, the contention is that theism provides the best explanation for the life we observe on Earth, including the existence of intelligent life.
At the outset, it is worth pointing out that we are not proposing God as a scientific explanation of intelligent life, but rather as a personal explanation. That is, we are not attempting to identify the mechanisms God used to bring about intelligent observers. Instead, we are arguing that intelligent life is much less surprising in a universe created by God than in an atheistic universe. The question is whether the existence of intelligent life provides additional evidence for God over and above that provided by the order in the universe and fine-tuning. In other words, after these other factors are taken into account, is the existence of intelligent life better explained by theism than by atheism?
Just as there is order expressed in the laws of physics, there is a great deal of order in the biological domain. In fact, this is a gross understatement. The more scientists have learned about living
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organisms, the more they have come to realize just how incredible the order and complexity is. Whatever view one takes on design, there can be no denying the fact that there is a breath-taking degree of order and complexity in the biological world. From a single cell, where the digital information for life is encoded in the DNA and where a whole array of sophisticated molecular machines carry out the processing required for the cell to function properly, to the human brain which is frequently described as the ‘most complex object in the universe’, order and complexity are ubiquitous. To emphasize the point, here is how Richard Dawkins describes mitochondria:
Mitochondria are found not just in photocells, but in most other cells. Each one can be thought of as a chemical factory which, in the course of delivering its primary product of usable energy processes more than 700 different chemical substances, in long, interweaving assembly-lines strung out along the surface of its intricately folded internal membranes … Each nucleus … contains a digitally coded database larger, in information content, than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica put together.
Even though Dawkins is highly critical of design arguments, when commenting on William Paley, a leading defender of design in the eighteenth century, he comments, ‘when it comes to complexity and beauty of the design, Paley hardly even began to state the case’. So there’s no doubt about the evidence, but what about the explanation for it? Many think that there is a perfectly good explanation which removes the need for God…