Why the Appearance of Design in Biology Is a Problem for Atheistic Naturalism

by J Warner Wallace

As unlikely and unexpected as it may be, life exists in our universe, and just as researchers stipulate to the appearance of fine-tuning in the cosmos, scientists also stipulate to the appearance of design in biological organisms. Richard Dawkins would be the first to agree: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Many other scientists affirm this observation and extend it to include the larger ecosystems in which many symbiotic organisms are dependent on one another for their survival. Smith College professor of biological sciences, Robert Dorit says, “The apparent fit between organisms seems to suggest some higher intelligence at work, some supervisory gardener bringing harmony and color to the garden.” For scientists looking for an explanation within the “garden” to avoid the inference of an external “supervisory gardener,” this appearance of design is difficult to explain.

Dawkins believes, however, the power of natural evolutionary processes can explain “the illusion of design and planning.” If the appearance of design and planning is purely illusory, it is an impressive illusion indeed. The examples of apparent design are plentiful and varied. Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe describes a number of inexplicable biological systems and micro-machines in his ground-breaking book, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. Behe challenges the scientific community to explain the appearance of design in cellular cilium (microscopic oar-like filaments), the interconnected molecular processes involved in blood clotting, the specified complexity of cellular protein delivery systems, and more. He describes these systems in detail and identifies a number of design features similar to those we observed in the garrote.

Behe and other scientists, such as biochemist Fazale Rana, believe the interaction of an intelligent agent “outside the room” (of the natural universe) is the best explanation for the appearance of design in these microscopic structures and processes “inside the room.” In fact, Rana believes the design inference is reasonable in even the simplest life forms…


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