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The Theory of Intelligent Design- A Rationalists' Guide to Understanding God

Intelligent Design, not to be mistaken with Creationism, is the scientific theory that organisms require a type of intelligent or insightful designer, rather than blind luck and chance. Intelligent Design (ID) is different from creationism because it has a basis of science, mathematics, and critical reasoning, rather than being a biblical doctrine. ID is also different from Darwinian Evolution, although can be aligned with it. The biggest difference between these two philosophies is the role of chance in the creation of life. Classic Darwinism believes that every life-form came from random mutations, and that every single structure in the biological world is merely the sum of these random forces. In his book Undeniable, Douglas Axe demonstrates that when you put random forces together, what you usually get is a blob.

He is a molecular biologist who spent time researching protein molecules. He shares many findings which go beyond the scope of this book, but we can examine a few of his big ideas. He found that when you move or alter just one strand of an amino acid, the entire molecule “collapses” and no longer performs its previous function. He elaborates that every molecular structure is incredibly fine-tuned, upholding a complex and delicate balance in order to function. This high degree of complex precision infers an intelligent operating force, more so than random objects hitting one another.

This idea builds when you speak about structural coherence. This term refers to the hierarchy of building blocks found within living creatures. The hierarchy basically involves atoms, proteins and molecules, cells, tissue, organs, and finally organism. The Darwinian model assumes a bottom-up style of creation. This means the “bottom” or simplest building blocks arrange themselves first, so atoms arrange themselves into molecules, then molecules arranged themselves into cells, stacking upward towards organs and then organisms. This bottom-up approach also assumes that the lower building blocks are blind to where they are going, and that they accidentally create new structures through randomness. The top-down approach infers a complete design or blueprint of the organism prior to its construction. This blueprint essentially guides the arrangement of the smaller building blocks. But how does this idea of “structural coherence”, ie layers of building blocks, help to prove the existence of an intelligent design of the organism prior to its construction?

Douglas Axe helps to illustrate this point with the use of impossible numbers. Impossible numbers are those numbers which are so fantastically big, that they don’t exist in the known physical reality. One example of such a number is the set of all possible photographs. Axe calculates this set by identifying how many pixels are in a photo, and then how many different colours can exist in a pixel, and then crunches the numbers to find all the possible combinations. The result is a number whose digits would fill a whole book. This number exists in theory, but it doesn’t really exist in the known universe in any practical way. Impossible numbers can be fantastically big, but they can also be fantastically small. One example Axe gave is to place a robot randomly anywhere in the world. Its task is to find a specific football game in Manchester. The robot has one function: to detect the loudest sound in its environment and move towards it. Can you imagine what the odds are for this robot, from a random place on the globe, to find its way to the football game? The probability is an impossibly small number.

Axe gives many other examples, but there is one impossible number at the front of his argument: the probability of life being created through random chance. He helps elucidate this by zooming in on each layer of the structural coherence, such as molecules, single-cell organisms, and so on. He goes into great detail to show that even the simplest life-forms are mind-blowingly complex. They often have many more parts and functions than even the most sophisticated man-made machines. Cells have billions of bio-molecules who move and respond to their environment as if they have brains. They know what to do and when to do it. Real-time intelligence is distributed throughout the cell.

These small layers of intelligent functioning then get stacked alongside and on top of each other, creating new wholes in tissues and organs, which have their own coherent function within a larger whole. For example, the lungs breathe, whereas none of the cells within the lungs breath. This is called emergence. And then the total organism can do things which none of its cells or organs can do, like speak English and play football, for instance. The main idea is that there are various levels of functioning, from the small to the large. Douglas Axe argues that this can’t happen purely randomly. Even a single cell is so complex, with its billions of moving molecules, that the probability of it being random is fantastically small. But then when you multiply that number by the number of total cells, many of which are different yet all work together, the probability becomes magnitudes less. It is more likely and rational that there is a design and guiding force behind these structures. And with structural coherence, each cell needs to know its role ahead of time. It can’t just create itself according to its own whim… It needs to pre-emptively know its role within the larger organism. It needs a degree of foresight. This makes the randomization theory basically impossible, and we see there is a design to life’s delicate forces.

Knowing about intelligent design can helps one see the intelligence of nature and the nature of intelligence. It helps us peer into the mysteries of life, cosmos, and consciousness. Getting in touch with this intelligence certainly helps us trust the universe, for we know that we are guided by intelligent forces.

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