Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simplicity or Complexity?

Marketing strategies in our day tout the importance of simplicity, ease of use, and effortless purchase of their products. Convenience stores are an invention of the 20th century. Their prevalence mirrors a general modern tendency to keep things uncomplicated and to desire simple solutions in a day when the demands of ordinary life seem overwhelming. The ability to buy a half-gallon of milk or a loaf of bread at a moment’s notice is deemed necessary for our continued happiness. Life has become simpler by the deliberate design of modern planners.

In an entirely different sphere of experience, discovering the heart of the argument for the reality of God’s creative actions in our physical world is not a simple matter. In a day when convenience is a byword and when the easy way out of a problem is perceived to be the best way, it would behoove truth seekers to diligently investigate the scientific basis of truth claims for design and creation. On a personal level, I am disappointed when friends dismiss science in general and in particular, physical evidence for design in the world of nature as unimportant or irrelevant. Physical evidence of the work of a designer is powerful affirmation of a caring creator whose designs reflect his great love for the welfare of man, summit of his created beings.

One example of how science has strengthened the case for design is provided by the proliferation of knowledge concerning the basic unit of life--the cell. Hundreds of years ago scientists observed cells through the first crude microscopes. They realized cells were the fundamental units of life. T. H. Huxley in 1868 described protoplasm, the living material of the cell, as “the physical basis of life,” a basic homogenous stuff made of protein. After a slow accumulation of knowledge for nearly one hundred years, in the last half-century discoveries about cell function have increased exponentially. One wonders how Huxley’s favorable view of evolution would have differed had he known even a small portion of what we have discovered about cell biochemistry in the last 50 years. Consider Michael Behe’s statement from an early chapter of Darwin’s Black Box:

Biochemistry has demonstrated that any biological apparatus involving more than one cell (such as an organ or a tissue) is necessarily an intricate web of many different, identifiable systems of horrendous complexity. The “simplest” self-sufficient, replicating cell has the capacity to produce thousands of different proteins and other molecules, at different times and under variable conditions. Synthesis, degradation, energy generation, replication, maintenance of cell architecture, mobility, regulation, repair, communication—all of these functions take place in virtually every cell, and each function itself requires the interaction of numerous parts.

Unexplained in the list of cell functions in the passage above are tens of thousands of cascading processes where the failure of a single step would sabotage the function of the entire system. Only after investigating those processes may we more fully grasp why Behe used the term irreducible in his complexity argument. The human body is a marvel of irreducibly complex processes which could not have been conceivably assembled by a simple sequence of natural events. Our search for discovery of origins truth is not as effortless as are visits to local convenience outlets.

An oft-quoted verse, 2 Tim. 2:15, encourages study to achieve God’s approval. The usual meaning assigned to that passage is study of scripture. Pastors and laypeople alike need to apply the principles of study and continuing education to broader subject matter, including the intricately designed complexity manifest in all living body systems. Physical systems are creations of God and manifest his glory as certainly as the plan of salvation. In both spheres God is the author. Scripture deals primarily with the spiritual needs of man. God has gifted man with ability to discover truth concerning divine design in the physical realm by the methods of science. These methods are encouraged in scripture in passages such as 1 Thes. which encourages us to test, prove, and explore all things, and hold onto what is good.