"The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order which may or may not be divinely inspired."

- Stephen W. Hawking

"The eternal mystery of the universe is its comprehensibility."

- Albert Einstein



Where did man come from?
8) intelligent design theory


"It is that intelligent causes can do things that unintelligent causes cannot do, and scientific investigation can tell the difference." 71

- Phillip E. Johnson

"As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming." 83

- Freeman J. Dyson


10.26 What is intelligent design theory?

Intelligent design theory is a manner of study which seeks to evaluate whether or not a given subject is the result of intentional, intelligent design. IDT accommodates materialists to the extent that it fully accepts and explores all the natural sciences. Yet the point to which materialists object, and creationists applaud, is the additional willingness of IDT to accept non-materialist causes if the evidence so warrants.

In studying an object or event, like the origin of biological life on earth, the basic approach of IDT is to apply what are essentially three key areas of questioning:

1. Contingency - did it have to happen?
2. Complexity - did it happen by accident?
3. Specification - did an intelligent agent cause it to happen?

Contingency concerns whether or not a product or event was the automatic result of some unintelligent cause. An event which did not have to happen, but did, is said to be contingent. In the sky over a beach, for example, clouds in the sky are not contingent. Due to the dynamics of air currents, temperature, and moisture, that has to happen. But seeing a cloud in the shape of a perfect "V" would be contingent. Nothing about the physics of air or moisture necessitate the generation of perfectly symetrical cloud shapes of consistent thickness.

Complexity concerns the probability of the event in question to have happened by chance or by some other non-intelligent cause. William Dembski states, "Complexity and probability therefore vary inversely: the greater the complexity, the smaller the probability." 102

If we only saw that "V" in the sky, it could have been the result of two jet trails randomly crossing. But if by now we see a perfect "T" right next to it (of the same general length and width), it becomes less likely that random condensation trails are forming what appear to be nicely spaced alphabetic characters. The more recognizable characters we start to see, the less likely we are watching accidental cloud formations or con-trails.

Specification, lastly, refers to any inherent pattern which might indicate intelligence. Suppose the letter-like clouds in the sky appear as "VTOE". Initially this might seem to be vacant of specification. In other words, a sky writer just practicing his craft could have chosen those letters at random. But now consider how one might interpret "VTOE" if today also happened to be national election day.

On election day, "VTOE" could be argued a likely misspelling of "VOTE". VOTE has specification, or information which transcends that which would otherwise be random letters with no discernable purpose. So if you see the letters VTOE in the sky on election day, it might be a product of (low) intelligence, but an intentional and probably purposeful product all the same.

27 How does IDT relate to origins?

On the negative side, IDT's approach to life's origin is a meeting ground for different mindsets because of the increasingly apparent falsehood of evolution. The failure of evolution to explain the available evidence is something on which both theistic and many non-theistic scientists agree. Previously discussed here, the six critical tenets of evolution have proven to be otherwise. Modern science contrarily shows that:

1. Life cannot have arisen by chance,
2. Mutations do not add to a cell's genetic code to improve it,
3. Multiple life forms do indeed exist which are irreducibly complex,
4. The appearance of animal types in the fossil record do not follow an inverted pyramid, but began simultaneously in the Cambrian explosion,
5. Animal species are not ever-widening but actually falling off, and...
6. There are absolutely no transitional forms in any fossil record.

On the positive side, what modern science does show is that there is an incredibly high information content in biology and in the fabric of the created universe itself. Information that is unexplainable by chance or natural selection. One of those information-intensive structures is DNA.

10.28 IDT and the origin of DNA

DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, is the foundational molecule of every lifeform on earth. Any single DNA strand contains the information to direct any one of the trillions of cells in the host body. It also has the capability of both reproducing and repairing itself. In the human body, it's a molecular chain approximately one billion nucleotides in length.

A nucleotide is essentially a string of four specific chemicals; adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine (or A, C, G, and T). If you've seen drawings of the helical strands of DNA, the nucleotide strings are the lines that join them, sort of like the bars of a twisting ladder millions of steps high. These have been compared to lines of computer code, and for good reason.

In computer code (save for a few types), programmer's language is ultimately reduced to "1"s and "0"s (related to a switch being "on" or "off"). Looking at a printout of this binary code, there is no principle of mathematics that controls the resulting pattern of "1"s and "0"s. For example, the string 10011 is no more mathematically likely than 11101, or 10101, etc. Their order is dictated, not by the properties of "1"s and "0"s to arrange themselves, but by what the programmer desired as an end result - a program that performed some function which he or she intentionally assigned.

DNA is similar to binary code, only using combinations of four characters instead of two. The order in which the four chemicals appear on any given nucleotide strand, likewise, is not controlled by any law or property of chemistry. Stephen C. Meyer confirms,

Because chemical bonds do not determine the arrangement of nucleotide bases, the nucleotides can assume a vast array of possible sequences and thereby express many different biochemical messages. If the properties of matter (i.e., the medium) do no suffice to explain the origin of information, what does? 84

In other words, the sequences ACGT, or TGCA, or TACG, etc..., are all equally possible. There is nothing in chemistry or physics that dictates how they should order. If there was, then there would be extremely little variation and the conveyance of information would be severly limited. Yet it is the overall pattern of the millions or billions of nucleotides in each of their vast complex and different orders that executes biology amazingly like binary code within a computer executes a program.

Now let's apply IDT's three basic areas of questioning to DNA:

Contingency - did DNA have to happen; it is a chemical inevitability? No, therefore it is contingent.

Complexity - is DNA of sufficient complexity to be considered a statistically impossible accident? Yes, even an extremely short strand of DNA is far and away complex.

Specification - is DNA reflective of a pattern that indicates information transcendant of its mere components? Yes, it's contingent and complex colocation of chemicals executes biology; something that nothing else does and science has yet to reproduce. Furthermore, there is the possibility still being explored that DNA works in tandem with membrane patterns and the cytoskeleton or other organs to function together as a very large-scale irreducible complexity (referenced here).

All of the above is just part of the reasoning for why DNA is argued to be the result of design. Additionally, there are many other organs and biological systems for which a case for design can be made, independent of DNA. When the cases are all combined, the likelihood of everything being the result of time and dumb luck is irrational in the extreme.

Two centuries ago, the English clergyman William Paley likened the nature of life to discovering a watch on a beach. Based on today's science, it would be more appropriate to imagine instead a shrinkwrapped motherboard complete with cards and memory floating ashore. Would you judge the board (not its delivery method) more likely the product of chance, or of design?

Well, we found it fully assembled just floating along in the ocean. We also know all its materials occur in the ocean or sea bed in some form: silicates, metals, and petroleum. Yet if it's contingent, complex, and has specification, then it bears the unmistakable signature of a designer.

Any materialist who doesn't accept this might sit there all day waiting for the ocean to generate an upgraded processor, or even a time machine for that matter. If so, let's hope a design theorist takes the motherboard home, installs it, and goes on-line to order his materialist friend some pyschological help.

Next: the discussion continues with IDT as it applies to the nature of the universe.



(top of page)

NEXT: PART 9) IDT on the nature of the universe

See also:

Where did the earth come from?

Where did the universe come from?

Printing Tips, Contact, Search,
Links & Bibles,
The Gospel







This section introduces intelligent design theory.

Not only is this approach to origins attractive to non-Christians and anti-Darwinists, it probably has the support of most creationists as well.

(Books on the apparent fine-tuning of the universe and other evidences for design.)