Rational Inquiry -Volume 7 Number 4
Some Questions for the Intelligent Designers
By Colin Fisher
Persons who reject the proposition that complex organisms have evolved from more simple ones over a long period of time favor the idea that a supernatural, personal deity created them. A current argument in behalf of this idea is that living things are so cleverly "designed" that they could not have come into existence through a process of selective adaptation to their environment. In other words, only God is intelligent enough to have brought this about.
The idea of intelligent design is being used as an argument against teaching scientific principles in schools and other places of learning by persons who adhere to a literal view of the creation story as told in Genesis. Let us call them "intelligent designers." Their adversaries are those who favor the "theory of evolution" to explain the process responsible for the development of complex organisms.
The intelligent designers debate their adversaries by attempting to show fallacies in the theory of evolution. They try to reveal these problems by asking what they perceive to be significant, unanswerable questions about evolution. This article proposes several questions that should be put to the intelligent designers in debating the issue of intelligent design versus the theory of evolution for the sake of demonstrating that arguments against theories of evolution are inconsistent with arguments that God is an "intelligent designer."
If a perfect God created Man in his own image, why did he create Man with so many inherent imperfections?
Early man had a life expectancy of about twenty years. By the time of the Roman Empire, a personís life expectancy had increased to about thirty years. By the end of the nineteenth century, life spans in the industrial world had attained some fifty years. Today a man or woman can expect to live about eighty years. This dramatic increase in life expectancy is the result of the application of knowledge that has come from practicing the scientific process.
As life expectancy has increased, many latent imperfections in the human body have become apparent that were not noticed when life lasted only a few decades. Examples include heart failure, Alzheimerís disease, type 2 diabetes, glaucoma and osteoarthritis, to name a few. These diseases usually appear beyond the normal age of reproduction, when a personís genes are passed on to her offspring. Therefore, the evolutionary process does not directly compensate for their occurrence in an evolving design.
An intelligent, all-knowing and designing God could have anticipated this eventual increase in life expectancy and have provided more "miles" in the design. Did God wish for Man to suffer new ailments after passing the age of fertility? How could such suffering fulfill Godís plan for Man?
If an intelligent God created one design for Man, to remain unchanged forever, why did He fashion this design with genetic material that changes (mutates) owing to natural and other causes?
The genetic material (DNA) of an individual is subject to change during his or her life because of the breaking of chemical bonds by natural causes such as thermal energy of the atoms of the body, exposure to natural radiation and toxins, or exposure to man-made chemicals or radiation. These may result in changes to the DNA and subsequently pass on to the individualís offspring. When this happens, a mutation is said to have occurred. In other words, the resultant mutant individual will have genetic characteristics that could not have been foretold from the original genetic makeup of his or her parents.
Consequently, evolution of the human species (and all others) is occurring now. How can we say that present day species are not the result of such change over a very long time past? Additionally, why didnít an intelligent, designing God anticipate the likely changes to His handiwork and provide a more robust design if that was His intention?
If an intelligent God created a Man that is capable of evolving intellectually and psychologically, why would He wish for that Man not to do so?
Man has learned a great deal about the universe since he was a hunting-gathering animal in a primitive mode of existence. He has also learned a lot about God. This learning has been a continuing progression (with some temporary steps backward) and has blossomed, beginning with the industrial revolution. This learning has resulted in longer life spans, more comfort, more equanimity, more fearsome weapons, more compassion toward others, diverse entertainment, more diverse opportunities for work, shorter working hours, more civil liberties, to name a few of these things.
There is no reason to believe that Manís intellectual and psychological progress will not continue, short of an extinction of most life by some cosmic event. Man, it seems, was made for this kind of progress, a progress that extends to all facets of his existence, including the development and validation of the theory of evolution.
Why did an intelligent God use a design for creation of Man having the ability and motivation to develop an increasing understanding of the universe, including the theory of evolution, if this knowledge is false?
Why would an intelligent Creator produce one "design" for all time rather than creatures fully capable of continuing adaptation to their environment?
A well-engineered device is designed, built and tested to be reliable in a particular set of environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, chemical environment, etc. Should the environment change to a state radically different from the design parameters, the device could not be expected to perform its intended functions. It would be desirable to be able to design devices that could perform adequately even when the environment changed more than the design assumed. For most practical devices such a capability is not usually economic.
We know from fossil and geological records that the earth has undergone great changes in environmental conditions. The changes are comparatively much smaller for the time period from present back to the estimated time of Genesis (about 6000 years ago). We do know that, in the future, the environment on the surface of the earth will change greatly from current conditions if the past is a guide to the future.
Wouldnít an intelligent designer endow His creations with the ability to adapt to these changes? In other words, shouldnít each creature be capable of evolving to a new design as the environment changed? How would this be accomplished? It appears that the adaptability that evolution gives to an organism is exactly that design that an intelligent designer would employ. An intelligent God would design a creature capable of evolving to adapt to changes in his or her environment. To restate this point, the evolution of organisms to adapt to their environment is completely consistent with the existence of an intelligent, designing God, and does not disprove theories of evolution in the slightest.
Colin Fisher is a contributing author to the SDARI newsletter. This is his second article.