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“As biochemists discover more and more about the awesome complexity of life, it is apparent that its chances of originating by accident are so minute that they can be completely ruled out. Life cannot have arisen by chance.”
~ Sir Fred Hoyle, in The Intelligent Universe
Last time, I talked about how the either/or war between science and religion is artificial; a distraction concocted by the media that keeps us from recognizing how scientism is stunting our search for knowledge. This time, I want to talk about intelligent design, and I want to be clear that intelligent design does not automagically mean god.
‘Intelligent design’ has become a call to arms on both sides of the artificial argument.
I know the term ‘intelligent design’ has become a call to arms on both sides of the artificial argument, so we could just as easily go with ‘intentional design’ or ‘deliberate design’, but it really doesn’t matter. All we’re talking about is the scientific evidence for the universe having been designed rather than occurring by chance, which is what scientism wants us to believe.
To kick this off, let‘s get to what I promised: that there’s ample scientific evidence to support intelligent design. Well, you can’t get a whole lot more fundamental than the building blocks of life. When dealing with physical life, nothing happens without proteins, also known as functional chains. According to microbiologists, proteins are the catalysts responsible for the chemical reactions that allow for life. All proteins are made up of chains of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds, and when these chains of amino acids are strung together properly, they fold in specific ways that allow for controlled chemical reactions. There are an unknown number of proteins, but a while ago a scientist named Douglas Axe (PhD Molecular Biology from CalTech, formerly of Cambridge University and currently director of the Biologic Institute) researched the following question:
How common (or rare) are functional sequences (i.e., proteins) among all the possible combinations of amino acids?
His answer according to probability mathematics? Functional sequences are astronomically rare – in fact, to the point of 1 in 1074!
To offer some perspective on how astronomical this number actually is, consider that:
- there have only been 1016 seconds since the big bang
- there are only 1080 elementary (quantum) particles in the entire universe.
1074 is one-thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion – an absurdly immense number that looks like this:
From this statistic, it’s clear that proteins couldn’t have arisen by chance. Design 1, chance 0. But proteins aren’t alive; they just operate as catalysts to instigate the chemical processes required by life. If you want to argue that life itself is an accident, the odds against you grow astronomically with each new piece of evidence.
The DNA molecule is so elegantly constructed, and the human genome’s three-billion-letter code so complex that its existence is enough to convince most that life can’t be a random accident. But the DNA argument goes deeper than that. Here’s what evolutionist biologist Frank B. Salisbury had to say about it in The American Biology Teacher (Sept. 1971, pg. 338):
“Surely our ideas about the origin of life will have to change radically with the passage of time. Not only is the gene itself a problem: think of the system that would have to come into being to produce a living cell! It’s nice to talk about replicating DNA molecules arising in a soupy sea, but in modern cells this replication requires the presence of suitable enzymes. Furthermore, DNA by itself accomplishes nothing. Its only reason for existence is the information that it carries and that is used in the production of a protein enzyme. At the moment, the link between DNA and the enzyme is a highly complex one, involving RNA and an enzyme for its synthesis on a DNA template; ribosomes; enzymes to activate the amino acids; and transfer-RNA molecules. Yet selection only acts upon phenotypes and not upon the genes. At this level, the phenotype is the enzyme itself. How, in the absence of the final enzyme, could selection act upon DNA and all the mechanisms for replicating it? It’s as though everything must happen at once: the entire system must come into being as one unit, or it is worthless. There may well be ways out of this dilemma, but I don’t see them at the moment.”
Researchers took the simplest single-celled organism we know of (the Mycoplasma Genitalium) and tried to reduce the number of its genes from 468 to see if they could get back to 1. On paper, they were able to reduce the genes to 200, but in the lab they could only get down to 397. The thing is, even 200 genes is far too many. In order for cells to evolve by chance, they have to begin at zero and grow forward into greater complexity. But since 397 is the least amount of complexity we can manage, it’s clear that random accident couldn’t have worked. This has become known as the ‘minimal gene set concept’.
Moreover, cells are intricate structures that contain multitudes of components called organelles, and these organelles can’t exist in the wild; they can only exist inside a cell. Organelles couldn’t have developed in the absence of a cell, and neither could a cell have developed in the absence of organelles. The cell and its organelles are inseparable and must exist together, which means the simplest form of life, the single-celled organism, is too integrated to have developed over time by a process of random mutations. It would have had to spring into existence fully-formed without any incremental development stages, because that’s the only way it can function. Design 2, chance 0.
If you want to argue that life itself is an accident, the odds against you grow astronomically with each new piece of evidence.
But support for intelligent design doesn’t stop there. Pretty much everyone knows about DNA, but not everyone remembers RNA from their high school biology. RNA is another complex molecule responsible for creating the chemicals required by a cell in its ordinary operation. DNA defines the makeup of the individual, but RNA is what provides the chemistry that powers each cell.
RNA consists of nucleic acids and sugars bound together into a precise functional shape. Interestingly, researchers have no difficulty synthesizing both the nucleic acids and the sugars that make up RNA, but even after decades of effort they haven’t been able to bind them together to form RNA. The process by which these acids and sugars combine into RNA is completely unknown to science and so far cannot be reproduced in the lab. Design 3, chance 0.
The cool thing about science is that instead of claiming a multiverse eliminates the need for intelligent design, we could and should be investigating both to see which yields the most satisfying answers.
In order for scientism’s spokespeople to look these demonstrated and verifiable facts in the eye and still argue against intentional design, they have to develop increasingly complicated and unlikely models of existence that allow for infinite probability. Enter the multiverse theory. And here’s the cool thing about science: there’s no reason not to investigate a theory of multiverses. It’s possible, so we should be looking into it. But instead of claiming that a multiverse eliminates the need for intelligent design, we could and should be investigating both to see which one yields the most satisfying answers. Why does it have to be “this one, not that one.”? Science’s job is to test ALL possibilities, not just the ones that suit scientism’s agenda. There are VERY good reasons to investigate intelligent design to see where it leads, so science needs to leave off its quixotic attack of religion (because religion has already disqualified itself from the debate) and get on with the business of finding answers.
Outraged hypothetical scientism guy: “Yeah, but intelligent design means ‘god’.”
Says who? Just because the universe may have been designed doesn’t automatically imply ‘god’. Can we not consider that existence might be a co-op of all its inhabitants productively acting together? Can we not consider design by committee? There are other possibilities besides the archaic and mythological ‘god’, but scientism is so offended by the notion of metaphysical cosmogony that it can’t see past its outrage to something new and plausible. Meanwhile, the alternatives it puts forth rely just as heavily on magical thinking as do religion’s.
“Magical thinking?” I can hear you ask. Well, I’ll be getting into that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
Just because the universe may have been designed doesn’t automatically imply ‘god’.
Michael is author of the Soulstice Saga, a transcendental ‘spacetime’ opera. He lives in a seemingly random paradigm called Denver and frequently ponders things like “If?” to which he believes answers can be found. He’s been known to infuriate debaters on both sides of an argument for not taking either side.