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Delighting in Design

—and in its Originator1

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pexels.com, Magda Ehlersintricacies-peacocks-tail
Living things certainly look designed—like the intricacies of a peacock’s tail.

You have likely heard it said, or said it yourself, “Everywhere we look we see design.” Obviously, one would fully expect believers in biblical creation, and advocates of Intelligent Design, to attest to design in the creation—hence the many books and countless articles in magazines like Creation, journals, newspapers, and on the web, plus the plethora of videos on DVD and online.

Living things certainly look designed. Some people are surprised to learn that even well-known, militant atheists and evolutionists will admit this fact, as the following three cases illustrate. Let’s hear first from British biologist Richard Dawkins:

“Living things are not designed, but Darwinian natural selection licenses a version of the design stance for them. We get a short cut to understanding the heart if we assume that it is ‘designed’ to pump blood.”2

Director of The Skeptics Society (US) Michael Shermer agrees:

“The design inference comes naturally. The reason people think that a Designer created the world is because it looks designed.”3

So does American evolutionary biologist and Intelligent Design critic Jerry Coyne:

“If anything is true about nature, it is that plants and animals seem intricately and almost perfectly designed for living their lives.”4

In the above instances, Dawkins, Shermer, and Coyne had living organisms in mind. But on a cosmic scale, too, top scientists affirm design. Charles Townes (1915–2015), who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964, unashamedly affirmed the universe was God-made:

“Intelligent design, as one sees it from the scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.”5

So, to repeat, wherever we care to look we observe design. This being so, why is it that many people today seem unable (or unwilling) to accept the evidence of their eyes?

Design denial

Recall that Richard Dawkins actually admits that “a short cut to understanding” living things is gained by assuming that they are designed—even though he emphatically rejects that any designing intelligence was involved; and certainly not the God of the Bible. He is very insistent upon this point, but also inconsistent! And those who disagree with him—who believe instead that the Creator God is behind all the design we see—he calls deluded. Of course, not all atheists and sceptics go as far as Dawkins in their rhetoric. Nevertheless, an increasing number of people in our secular society are buying into the lie that design denial is synonymous with (even necessary for) scientific integrity. They are persuaded that design denial is an entirely sensible position.

en.wikipedia.orgnineteen-eighty-four
“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” chapter 7 of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (image shows the 1st edition front cover).

‘Talk about design if you really must, but whatever you do, don’t bring God into the discussion.’ That, they claim, is bad science! I am reminded of the line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”6 You can substitute “lady” with any spokesperson for the secular scientific establishment who claims that it is unscientific to follow the trail from designed things to the Designer—a claim that is contrary to the Bible (e.g. Romans 1:20). No, we really should follow where the scientific evidence leads us. We have nothing to fear from facts, only fact-denying dogma. Beware of those who say otherwise, whatever their credentials.

Anything that has the hallmarks of intimidation and propaganda should be treated as such. The following words are very apt, a fictional description of the ruling Party of the totalitarian state of Oceania, in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”7 Again, applying this to the evidence of design before our eyes, we say no. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck—it is most likely a duck. If something looks designed, and the assumption of design will actually help our understanding of it, it is special pleading to claim that the ‘science’ of Mother Nature, Lady Luck, and Father Time has made the Designer God redundant. In recent years, new scientific evidence has not been kind to the idea that unguided natural selection and genetic mutations over deep time produces sophisticated design (see ‘Evolution explains everything about life’).8

The Maker’s marks

The hallmarks of design are everywhere we care to look. In making the point that Jesus was far greater than Moses, one Bible writer wisely affirmed, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4). This is not the place to delve further into that passage, but don’t miss the message: if the architect and construction workers are the ones who deserve the credit for an impressive house, the One who is “builder of all things” even more so.

When something “looks designed” (Shermer), even “perfectly designed” (Coyne), we do indeed get “a short cut to understanding” (Dawkins) if we acknowledge it to be so. Trying to avoid this leads to a sort of cognitive dissonance, a conflict between two contradictory ideas—as in, ‘it looks designed, let’s pretend it’s designed as it’ll help us understand it, but let’s be sure to keep telling ourselves it is not designed.’

In his most recent book, Return of the God Hypothesis (2021),9 Stephen Meyer reminds his readers that:

“… many of the founders of modern science did not just assume that the universe had been designed by an intelligent agent. They also argued for this hypothesis based on discoveries in their fields of study. Johannes Kepler … Robert Boyle … Carl Linnaeus. Many other individual scientists made specific design arguments based upon empirical discoveries in their fields.”10

These great scientists of the past, rather than denying the design that stared them in the face (and suffering cognitive dissonance), delighted in it! This was a vital factor in their fruitfulness as outstanding scientists.

‘Delighting in design’ is certainly true of the editorial team of CMI’s Creation magazine, as well as the many authors and graphic artists who contribute to each new issue. Consider subscribing if you don’t already receive it—read, learn, and share it with others.

Let us avoid the foolish mistake of ascribing greatness to the things that are made. Christians should also help friends, colleagues, and family members to avoid this pitfall. Instead, we must be sure to worship the Maker whose marks we have observed in His manufactured creatures—evidence for God’s Grand Design is all around us. Merely to delight in the created designs themselves, while robbing our Creator of the glory that is rightfully His, is sheer idolatry (see Romans 1:25).

Published: 13 December 2022

References and notes

  1. This first appeared in CreationExtra, CMI-UK/Europe, March 2022. Return to text.
  2. Dawkins, R., The God Delusion, Bantam Press, London, p. 182, 2006 (emphasis added). Return to text.
  3. Shermer, M., Why Darwin Matters, Henry Holt and Company, New York, p. 65, 2006 (emphasis original). Return to text.
  4. Coyne, J., Why Evolution is True, Viking, New York, p. 1, 2009. Return to text.
  5. Quoted in: Meyer, S.C., Return of the God Hypothesis: Three scientific discoveries that reveal the mind behind the universe, HarperOne, New York, p. 146, 2021. Return to text.
  6. Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2. Return to text.
  7. Orwell, G. penultimate paragraph of chapter 7 of Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949; text online at gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100021.txt. Return to text.
  8. Bell, P. (ed) and 10 others, Does Evolution Explain Everything About Life? Answers from Ph.D. scientists, Creation Book Publishers, Power Springs, GA, 2020. Return to text.
  9. See Woodmorappe, J., The existence of specified information in the universe points to a creator God, A review of Return of the God Hypothesis: Three scientific discoveries that reveal the mind behind the universe (Stephen C. Meyer), J. Creation 36(1):26–29, April 2022. Return to text.
  10. Meyer, ref. 5, p. 47. Return to text.

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