Friday, September 12, 2014

ID by Design

Our recent blog study of physical sound and human hearing is one of many subjects to inspire confidence that God intelligently designed the physical properties of sound energy as well as the human auditory sensory system. Our understanding of the production of compressions and rarefactions of air molecules is matched by fascination at our bodily ability to detect such sound impulses, interpret them, and react to the sound stimulus. Remaining sensory contact with our surroundings extends to vision, chemical senses of odor and taste, pressure detection, and sense of balance colorfully termed equilibrioception.

For this post we have chosen the topic of living things to highlight our discussion of intelligent design. ID is a relatively new concept. Cosmologist Fred Hoyle claimed in 1982 that, “…biomaterials with their amazing measure of order must be the outcome of intelligent design.” Some modern ID enthusiasts claim identity with such statements as their own. Hoyle, nevertheless, was an atheist who held some unusual beliefs such as panspermia—the belief that life originated from outer space.

Preceding Hoyle’s statement were utterances of scientist/philosopher Michael Polanyi. In 1970, shortly after the cracking of the DNA code, Polanyi anticipated the principles of intelligent design in several statements contained in a submission to PSCS, the journal of the American Scientific Association (ASA). He argued that the information in DNA could not be reduced to physics and chemistry. The statement seemed to reference a guiding intelligence operating in the design of material matter.

Three scientists, Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen jointly published The Mystery of Life’s Origin in 1984. Later Thaxton used the term “intelligent design” in an attempt to give the concept an empirical foundation. 

In the 1990s the Intelligent Design movement became more mainstream. Several of the notable players were Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Stephen C. Meyer. All are prominent authors in the landscape of ID. For their efforts they have endured heavy bombardments from skeptics in both naturalist and theistic evolutionist camps. The exchanges between evolutionists and advocates of ID are often extensive and sometimes laced with derision. The foregoing brief discussion is obviously incomplete.

Intelligent design is a simple concept, as explained in this brief excerpt from a CSC (Center for Science and Culture) link. CSC is a program of Discovery Institute:

Intelligent Design refers to a scientific research program, as well as a community of scientists, philosophers, and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds 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 term intelligent design has burst upon the scene only in the last 25 years. Prior to the popularization of ID, theistic creationism was the primary counterbalance for naturalistic evolution. Young people may not recall when ID was not part of our lexicon. There is still confusion concerning the difference between creationism and intelligent design as these terms have been defined.

As we examine biological systems and read descriptive resources about them, intelligent design as defined above in the CSC passage is an easier concept to grasp than creationism. In our recent posts on sound and hearing, for example, the design conclusion seems unavoidable and compelling. We reason that the sensory system of audition from the outer, middle, and inner ear, the remarkable transduction of mechanical sound impulses to digital electrical action potentials prior to their arrival at the cerebral cortex, and finally the brain’s ability to translate the signals and interpret them for our conscious use—the conclusion that an intelligent agent designed the system is virtually impossible to deny!

No person alive today is the observer of past accomplished divine acts of creation, but we are able to physically observe thousands of intelligent design features which powerfully bespeak the work of the God of Creation. The message of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is reinforced by our observations.