Friday, March 19, 2010

A Simple Case For Intelligent Design

Atom, commenting at William Dembski's blog uncommondescent, made the following case for Intelligent Design. I have paraphrased it slightly, but you can find the original in the comment section here.

1) It is a given that complex, integrated, functional machinery exists.

2) There are two logically possible causes for 1: A) intelligence, and B) non-intelligent forces of nature and chance.

3) Non-intelligent causes have not yet been empirically demonstrated to produce complex, integrated, functional machinery. This has only been assumed (see just-so stories).

4) Intelligent causes have been, and can be, empirically demonstrated to cause such machines. (Computers, cars, aircraft, etc.)

5) Therefore, intelligence is currently the best and only explanation for 1. Until another causal class can be empirically demonstrated as a viable cause, Intelligent Design is the default position.


  1. Intelligent Design = THE MAGIC MAN DID IT.

  2. Intelligent Design = An intelligence did it.

    Similarly, there are indications in your comment that it was also created by an intelligence, and not simply the result of matter and energy.

  3. Now the question is how do you define "complex, integrated, functional machinery" and do biological systems fit that definition?

  4. There is an answer to your question in Behe's book "The Edge of Evolution." This is from p. 301.

    "The terms 'robot' and 'machine' applied to the cell are not meant as analogies – they are meant quite literally. That cells and the systems they contain are robotic machinery is widely recognized in the scientific community. For example, Tanford and Reynolds dub proteins 'Nature’s Robots' (Tanford, C., and Reynolds, J. A. 2001 Nature’s robots: a history of proteins. Oxford: Oxford University Press) and the term 'molecular machines' is routinely used to describe protein complexes. For example, see the December 2003 BioEssays Special Issue on Molecular Machines, containing such articles as 'The spliceosome: the most complex macromolecular machine in the cell?' and 'Perpetuating the double helix: molecular machines at eukaryotic DNA replication origins.'"

    Take a look at this video. It seems clear that biological systems do indeed fit the definition of complex, integrated, functional machinery:

  5. We have built machines made of metal but we've never built cells. The processes that form cells is qualitatively different from the process of building a man-made machine. We can only speculate how living cells came into existance.

  6. Don't you mean that we can only long as that speculation excludes an intelligent cause? Your comment appears to reflect a materialist bias which I believe is unwarranted by the evidence.

    You are correct that we have never built cells, but there is a good reason for that. Even the simplest cells are significantly more complex than anything our limited intelligence has ever come up with, including the most sophisticated computer programs ever written using years of intelligent effort. Yet, instead of concluding that these cells were designed by an even greater intelligence than ours, naturalists assume that they came about by purely undirected natural processes! It's my limited intelligence, that is :-)

    Ironically, all attempts to build cells by intelligent origin of life researchers have failed, but if they had succeeded, their efforts would have been touted as evidence for the ability of blind chance to create life without any intelligence needed!

  7. If the complex, orderly structure of the cell arose by means of random processes shouldn't we be able to replicate such an achievement on a smaller scale? Like on an NCAA bracket (Mine, for the record, is in shambles again this year).

    According to this article the chances of picking a perfect bracket are awfully slim.

    Why should we expect that something complicated like a living cell developed randomly when something else that is relatively simple by comparison (predicting a perfect NCAA tournament) is such a statistical improbability?

  8. Nathan, you are exactly right. While evolutionists will tell you that biological evolution is partly random (mutations) and partly non-random (natural selection), these rules don't apply to the origin of the first cell. In that case, there is nothing for natural selection to act upon, so the combinations are truly random and the odds against it are astronomically high.

    Minimal Complexity Relegates Life Origin Models To Fanciful Speculation, "The simplest extant cell, Mycoplasma genitalium - a tiny bacterium that inhabits the urinary tract, requires "only" 482 proteins to perform its necessary functions and 562,000 bases of assemble those proteins..." On the odds of protein formation, Cambridge biochemist Douglas Axe is quoted as saying, "For a protein made from scratch in a prebiotic soup, the odds of finding such globally optimal solutions are infinitesimally small - somewhere between 10^140 and 10^164 for a 150 amino acid long sequence if we factor in the probabilities of forming peptide bonds and of incorporating only left handed amino acids."

    At 1 billion combinations per second, it would take 3 x 10^123 years to guarantee the correct combination. That's the low estimate.

  9. Physicists are searching for the "creator"; they call it the Higgs boson. Evolution came later. To say evolution is not intelligent or lacks design is to deny recent discoveries of microbiology and astrophysics. Before you reject ID entirely, read the 40 books on psychology, biology and physics in the bibliographies of my e-book at If we were to completely dismiss that which we didn't understand, progress in science and technology would come to a halt. It is the mysteries of life that drive researchers onward.

  10. When we find a watch on the ground the only reason we conclude that it had an human designer is because we are already familiar with humans and the kinds of things they make. We've witnessed the process of stamping metal and the assembly of parts. No one witnessed the formation of the first cell (if there was a first) so we are ignorant about the origins of cells.

  11. "Non-intelligent causes have not yet been empirically demonstrated to produce complex, integrated, functional machinery."

    What evidence of this would you ever accept?

  12. What intelligence created God?

  13. @Dedwarmo
    Since we are ignorant about the origin of cells, should we assume that they came about through the unguided processes of random mutations and natural selection? Or, should we look at the evidence and draw the best conclusion?

    When an archaeologist comes across an object he has never seen before, he is also ignorant about its origin. However, he can analyze the data and draw valid conclusions based on the evidence, even if it doesn't look like the kind of things humans make. He doesn't need to witness the formation of the evidence.

    Likewise, living cells are full of information and complex, functional machinery. We do know about these things. We know what it take to produce information, and we know what it takes to produce functional machinery. It is therefore quite reasonable to conclude that an intelligence was required to construct the cell when the evidence points in that direction.

  14. @Perry
    I like Behe's challenge, which I may have referred to before. It serves as a good falsification scenario. He said, "To falsify such a claim [of irreducible complexity], a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum – or any equally complex system – was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven."

    So, what intelligence created God?
    We already agree that something has had to have existed forever. You believe it is matter. I believe it is God. But only things that are contingent require a cause, and the living cell is clearly contingent. It had to have a cause. The question is whether or not the cause was intelligent. The evidence says it was.

    Furthermore, there are numerous problems with the idea of eternal matter. One such problem is that it cannot have a free will. If matter has existed eternally, it could not "decide" to do anything. It would simply follow its properties. But whatever created the world we live in had to have a will, or we would never have been created. That is an argument for God.