Intelligent Design – Utterly Brilliant

September 23, 2012 — 14 Comments

Many years ago, Lisa Miller––Newsweek magazine’s religion editor––wrote an interesting piece titled Let’s Talk About God. A new book redefining the faith debate had inspired her article. Her introduction began as follows:

“The atheist writers Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have presented us with a choice: either you don’t believe in God or you’re a dope.” She went on to write: “Their brilliance, wit and (general) good humor have made the new generation of atheists celebrities among people who like to consider themselves smart. We enjoy their books and their telegenic bombast so much that we don’t mind their low opinion of us. Dopey or not, 90 percent of Americans continue to say they believe in God.”

Early Universe

She continued. “This iteration of the faith-versus-reason debate has gone on for years, with no real resolution. Yet despite the proliferation of viewpoints, I’m guessing few readers have ever closed one of these volumes and honestly declared themselves changed.”

Her last statement was both good and bad news. It’s good that God-believing people can’t be dissuaded by the secular sleight of hand that strives to cut them off at the knees but it isn’t so good that persuasive arguments and critiques pointing to God are oftentimes met with belligerent close-mindedness.

Sadly, God takes a beating in today’s world especially when so-called smart people devilishly lampoon faith arguments. If one’s faith is precariously perched on church walls, the impressionable among us might be fooled into changing their minds, and off they tumble––into the back slapping arms of humanists.

God doesn’t exist? Really!? So I guess I should get a tee time for Sunday.

Nevertheless, there are a multitude of truly profound ways to buttress both the marginally faithful and the true believers. Thankfully.

The concept of intelligent design (I.D.) is one of them. It’s the proposition that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” The intellectuals advocating this put forward I.D. as “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” rather than “a religious-based idea.”

And I think their position is brilliant. I’ve gone through life processing the world with my head versus my heart, so the transcendent underpinning of intelligent design is riveting stuff. As I reasoned through the evidence as a questioning man, I was able to become much more comfortable with the idea of a Creator. And in time, I became a Catholic.

So, I guess it’s time to confess.

Occasionally, I should give myself failing marks in terms of the exercise of my religion. Just maybe, this is the legacy of having been an atheist––old thoughts sneak in and rattle my extraordinarily diminutive pellet-brain. You see, I believe in God, love Jesus, and I’m blessed to have been given the gift of the Catholic Church. But, my confidence and trust in God sometimes wavers like candlelight in a mineshaft.

So how do I combat my vacillating faith? By, among many things, rereading books highlighting the scientific data that spectacularly points to God’s fingerprints whether it’s ribosomes––amazing cellular factories––or the anthropic cosmological principle.

Let me elaborate a bit more. Ribosomes, cellular factories that synthesize polypeptides and proteins, are mind-boggling in their intricacy and can’t be explained by evolutionary processes. They have been characterized as irreducibly complex machines, and the only force known to create such is intelligent design.

On a grander scale, the anthropic principle seeks to explain the construction of the universe as if man was specifically intended. Was the universe created for man? This principle, a philosophical argument, suggests perhaps.

These are just two of the unbelievable array of examples that intimate an external mastermind. Revisiting such compelling evidence for God is always reassuring for me.

As to the idea of an intelligent creator and man’s possible “restoration to the ancient pedestal of favored son” as in geocentric pre-Copernican times, in Dinesh D’Souza’s book What’s So Great About Christianity he wrote:

“Astronomer Lee Smolin imagines God as a kind of master technician who is sitting at a control panel with a set of dials in front of Him. One dial sets the mass of the proton, another the charge of the electron, a third the gravitational constant, and so on. God spins the dials randomly. What, Smolin asks, is the probability that this random spinning would result in a universe with stars and planets and life? ‘The probability,’ he answers, ‘is incredibly small.’

How small? Smolin’s estimate is one chance in ten to the power of 229. Smolin’s point is reinforced by a single example from physicist Stephen Hawking: ‘If the rate of expansion one-second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it even reached its present size.’ The odds against us being here are, well, astronomical. Yet, we are here. Who is responsible for this?”

Science, to the chagrin of atheists, can be absolutely faith affirming.

Smolin’s estimate above requires perspective. Twenty to thirty dials most likely “set” the universe as we know it. The likelihood of them all being set randomly with the universe resulting is one chance in ten to the power of 229. Fine tuning to an unimaginable degree. Amazingly, if he had said the probability was only one chance in ten to the power of twelve that the universe was a random event, that in itself is a one in a trillion chance.

Ergo, we have the Big Bang event, which creates something from nothing. That is either impossible or miraculous. On top of that, we have the extreme unlikelihood of a resultant universe with stars and planets and life. The odds are about a bazillion quadrillion schmillion against this reality. Ipso facto, as a rational man and from these two examples only, talk of a Designer is not unthinkable but reasonable.

And Truth was revealed in time.

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)

  • Pedro

    Awesome article. 1/10^226/5 stars

  • [“Ergo, we have the Big Bang event, which creates something from nothing.”] To the contrary, Big Bang cosmology does not assert the creation of something from nothing. That is, it is not creation ex nihilo, as the above quoted phrase seems to imply. The Big Bang event is, rather, change in the nature of expansion and formation, but not “creation” in the proper theological and philosophical sense of the term.

    • Hi Ben. My comment had to do more with creation ex niholo (from nothing) than cosmological assertions. One of my favorite priests, Fr. Spitzer, has written a lot about this stuff.

      “When the universe was nothing, it could not have moved itself from nothing, something else had to do it, and that something else was a transcendent creator,” Fr. Spitzer said.

      Fr. Spitzer claims that this creator would have to exist outside space and time because before the Big Bang, nothing existed, including space and time.

      By the way, Fr. Spitzer’s website, http://magisreasonfaith.org/

      You might enjoy it!

      • Scotty Ellis

        “Fr. Spitzer claims that this creator would have to exist outside space
        and time because before the Big Bang, nothing existed, including space
        and time.”

        This is an absolute mischaracterization of the Big Bang singularity. We cannot make any definitive statements about what (if anything) happened “prior” to the singularity. The singularity literally hides any previous states (if they existed) from our sight. Ergo, the idea that there was “nothing” is equally speculative to the claim that the current universe was spawned from the contraction of another universe, was the product of an alien experiment gone awry, or that prior to the Big Bang the universe was a giant hamster.

  • Dan Krischke

    This is a very good article. I am a Vietnam vet who had a lot of trouble with life, and faith, until 10 years ago when I got sober. The idea of Creation seems easy to me, as for many years I had my head down and noticed many of the little things on this earth. Flowers, bugs, geologic history, etc. The atheistic view of happenstance is convincing enough until you think, “What are the odds?”. The intricacies of small and large are truly mind-boggling, considering an atom and the universe. I also admire and understand you comment about Faith. It seems as though the more one learns and tries to understand, the more questions arise. It is a constant firefight with doubt and Faith, but I will continue to believe and learn. Why? I choose to struggle with belief rather than give in to non-belief, because eternity is a very long time and I really want to see God. Peace and God bless.

    • Dan, terrific comment. And you’re right about eternity. Spending it with God is the reward! Thankfully, you allowed him into your life. God bless as well.

  • Loved the article! Taking the argument of a creator to a smaller creature we just need to look at the human brain. The human brain is composed of thirty billion neurons, which gather and transmit signals. It is called grey matter and it makes up 40% of your brain. Each neuron communicates to it’s neighbors by using multiple synapses. Which creates about one million billion synaptic connections. These connections then create a very large number of neural circuits. And by large, I mean in the order of ten followed by a million zeros. This is bigger then the total number of atoms in the entire universe which is only ten followed by eighty zeros. Very hard to believe that this was an accident in evolution. That one cell crawled out of the primordial soup and just accidentally evolved from all other creatures on the earth. The human brain makes us unique among all other creatures on this planet called earth. Hard to believe it was an accident. “What are the odds?” If we were created in the image of God then I think our brain embraces that image. That our brain is our soul. All our deeds and misdeeds are stored there and we will have to account for all of our actions and failures to act when we meet our maker.

    How true: “The truth is revealed in time.” “For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)
    Thanks to science we are discovering more and more.

  • Howard Richards

    I am a Catholic convert from the Southern Baptists. I take my faith seriously, or I would not have endured the shock, disappointment, and resistance that I got from some family members. There is no doubt that God created the universe.
    I am also a Ph.D. physicist. As such, I looked into Intelligent Design. It is scientific garbage, at least as bad as the “Bible Code”.
    One scientific objection to it is that it uses biological structures as BOTH the pattern to be matched AND the thing being compared to the pattern. After all, the ID adherents don’t know how to design a better hemoglobin molecule than that found in nature — unless, maybe by looking at the different oxygen-bearing molecules in different species.
    This also leads to theological problems. If human hemoglobin is different than hummingbird hemoglobin, presumably one will be “better” and the other “worse”. If good hemoglobin is an argument in favor of God, is not inferior hemoglobin equally an argument against Him?
    One way or the other, the finite examples used by ID proponents could at most demonstrate a finite intelligence in the designer. They necessarily fail to demonstrate an omniscient God.
    There are much better arguments for the existence of God and for His creation of the universe than this. It is best not to use weak arguments like those coming from ID.

    • Sam DiPiazza

      Isn’t the design of the hummingbird hemoglobin molecule perfect for the hummingbird? It wouldn’t be appropriate for humans, as we have different needs. We can’t say then that one design is better than another. We would be judging the infinite intelligence of God with our finite intelligence.

  • Hey Ben. The distinction between natural science and theology is not lost on me. As to the particulars of Father Lemaitre’s theory, it sounds like intriguing material for further review. But for now, and as a laymen, I’m talking about the concept of nothing-to-something. Maybe another way to look at it (and why do I think you’re going to disagree?) was articulated by a knowledgeable associate.

    “Simply said, we have no way to measure God so we cannot examine or understand how creation took place. What we can do, using scientific data and our intelligence, is determine that prior to the “Big Bang”, there was nothing. Absolutely zip, nada, nothing! Since virtually all physicists agree that nothing can only produce nothing, there had to be an outside cause. This outside cause we cannot measure, it is outside of our universe, outside of time. Still, the event itself can certainly be viewed as a “Creation Event” since there was nothing and then, there was something. As the scriptures tell us, the artist is seen in his work.”

  • I was going to say that this sounds a lot like what Fr Spitzer spoke on in his lecture here, but having seen in one of your comments below that he’s like your favorite priest, I’m not surprised. Good stuff, my man!

  • scs

    Are you familiar with Dr. William Lane Craig’s work?
    If not, I bet you will find it very interesting. He covers this topic and others like it really well. Blessings

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/popular-articles

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