Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Identify the Watchmaker

Intelligent Design (ID) has acquired a bad name in the community of naturalistic scientists. Some have called the concept of design, and its implications of a designer, irrational. They feel, as does Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker, that even though design in the cosmos is ubiquitous, there is no supernatural designer, and no supernatural creation. Dawkins claims “the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics” and that the theoretical “natural selection” process has no plan, no foresight, no vision, and no purpose in mind.

There are plentiful examples of the intelligent design process in human endeavor. For instance, scientists and non-scientists would agree that the exciting process of reengineering a bacterium such as E. coli to make it produce a source of alternative fuel in our energy-hungry world would qualify as a scientific endeavor. The intelligent designers are the bio-chemical technologists now reengineering already complex metabolic pathways and redesigning the enzymes in E. coli bacteria to coax them into producing alcohols which are more like petroleum products such as gasoline. Production of simple alcohols such as ethanol is becoming costly and raising concerns about food supply.

Redesigning any system takes a high input of intelligence. Think of remodeling your basement to achieve more utility, greater comfort, and improved appearance. That basement does not have the ability to redesign and reconfigure itself to a more useful purpose. An intelligent mind must plan, carry forward the plan, and finally utilize the final product in an optimal way. When the project is finished it is obvious an intelligent agent was at work.

Returning to the work being accomplished with the reengineering of E. coli bacteria, one must marvel at the genius of modern bioengineers. Dr. Fazale Rana, Reasons to Believe scholar, explains that “researchers have to reengineer the entire enzyme collective. Because of the complexity of metabolic pathways, bioengineers have to expend considerable effort on rational design strategies to achieve this engineering, as the recent work on E. coli attests.” Perhaps the most fascinating step in the reengineering process is the insertion of three plasmids, novel pieces of DNA, which are taken up by the bacterium to assist it in acquiring its new functions.

Dr. Rana writes “It’s fair to state that this novel metabolic process was intelligently designed.” If that is true, what can we say about the millions of other complex bio-systems abounding in nature? Is it unscientific to investigate the credibility of supernatural design in the natural world if everyone recognizes that human bioengineering is a scientific process?

This evidence suggests the rationality of supernatural design proposals in the natural world, and by extension, supernatural, divine creation. By contrast, proposals regarding the “blind forces of physics” seem weak and irrational as an explanatory option. The case for intelligent design and creation is made even stronger by our knowledge of the exciting new field of bioengineering.