Review of Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s book By Design:
Evidence for Nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible
One of the oldest arguments in favor of the existence of God is the argument from design, which is even found in the Bible itself. “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God,” says the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:4). For centuries, William Paley’s watchmaker analogy has been one of the most well-known creationist presentations of the argument. In more recent times, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement has adopted and upgraded the design argument, introducing new concepts such as irreducible complexity. Their emphasis on this argument has brought it to the forefront of the debate over evolution, but their refusal to positively identify the designer has severely limited its impact in certain areas. In his latest book, By Design: Evidence for Nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible, creationist scientist and author Dr Jonathan Sarfati takes a fresh look at the design argument from a biblical perspective, unashamedly identifying the Designer as the God of the Bible and giving Him the glory He deserves for the incredible, beautiful, and unmistakable design in nature.
Dr Sarfati starts out in the introduction with a brief history of the design argument, and a discussion of what design is and how we can detect it. The first ten chapters examine in detail some of the many examples of the incredible ingenuity and wisdom evident in the design of living things. From the intricate workings involved in sight, hearing, and the other senses to the unbelievable coordination between biology and physics in producing colors and patterns in nature; from the marvels of flight and navigation to the less well-known wonders of catapult and “stickiness” mechanisms in various animals; from the vastly superior materials produced by “lowly” organisms to the incredibly efficient energy production of plants and the microscopic wonders of biological motors—all these and more give eloquent testimony not only to design but also to the superior intellect of the Designer.
There are two recurrent themes in this section, apart from the evidence for design itself. One is the acknowledgement by man of the superiority of the design in nature. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and science is more and more looking to nature to solve its engineering problems and provide new technologies. Even the most committed evolutionist has to acknowledge and admire the wisdom and ingenuity displayed in such incredible design; yet they often ascribe that wisdom to nature itself, rather than to the true Designer. The second theme is the complete inadequacy of evolutionary theory to explain the design present in nature. Many of the design features are irreducibly complex, meaning they could not have arisen through a series of “numerous, successive, slight modifications” over time. Every part had to be in place and fully functional for the whole to work at all. Other biological features exploit the laws of physics in remarkable ways to achieve the desired result, requiring a close correlation between biology and physics. While not specifically stated as such in the book, this implies an intimate knowledge of the fundamental laws of physics that is more consistent with an intelligent designer than blind chance as the only “designer.”
In chapter 11, Dr Sarfati changes gears a bit to talk about the origin of life. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, as in it Dr Sarfati presents a devastating critique of chemical evolution. This is the longest chapter in the book, and is divided into three sections. The first section starts by explaining why evolutionists must have a viable mechanism for chemical evolution if they expect their theories on biological evolution to be accepted. If natural processes cannot explain the origin of life, then biological evolution is a moot point, since evolution by definition requires existing life to work. The second section examines in some detail the complexity of life, discussing proteins, enzymes, molecular machines, and in particular the information content of the genetic code. Here again, we are faced with numerous examples of exquisite design and irreducible complexity. There is no such thing as a simple cell for chemical evolution to work toward. Aside from the incredibly complex “hardware” necessary for life, there is no plausible naturalistic explanation for the origin of the “software” that makes life possible—the genetic code. The third section demolishes chemical evolution theories with the facts of chemistry, explaining why chemical evolution experiments are not accurate representations of reality, and detailing some of the numerous insurmountable obstacles in the path of a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life. The chapter ends with a number of quotes from evolutionists who admit to the serious problems facing chemical evolution, yet insist that a naturalistic solution, however implausible, is preferable to the only alternative—intelligent design.
The next two chapters (in particular) are what makes Dr Sarfati’s treatment of the design argument unique and distinct from that of the ID movement. In them, he addresses the arguments concerning poor design and bad things in nature, objections that cannot be properly answered by appeal to an anonymous designer. Dr Sarfati demonstrates that many of the alleged examples of poor design are in reality examples of excellent design when understood properly. Other examples of mistakes, deformities, or bad things in nature are the result of the curse placed on all of creation at the Fall of man. The universe was originally perfect, yes, but it has degenerated considerably since then. Therefore, such things as parasites, cancer, and harmful mutations should not be considered as part of the originally “very good” creation, but as results of the curse. (Yet even such degenerative features can sometimes display the wisdom and ingenuity of the Designer.) These questions are difficult to address without this framework of biblical history, which makes the ID movement vulnerable to this type of argument.
In the final chapters, Dr Sarfati goes on to address additional objections to the design argument, and takes a brief look at evidence of design in the universe itself. He concludes by identifying the God of the Bible as the Intelligent Designer, Jesus Christ as His Son, and the Bible as His personal message to us, His creation.
I found this book to be a very interesting, informative, and important read. Not only does Dr Sarfati powerfully present the argument from design, he also issues a warning to Christians concerning the dangers of hesitating to identify the designer, and challenges us to stand firm on the authority of the Bible, including its science and history. But even aside from its importance as a modern creationist perspective on design, this book presents numerous fascinating facts and information about the natural world. Every time Dr Sarfati brings a seemingly ordinary and dull biological feature up for examination, the beauty, complexity, and attention to detail that is revealed is simply astounding. It truly causes one to stand in awe of the power, wisdom, and ingenuity of our Designer/Creator.
“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty;” (Revelation 15:3)
“O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” (Psalm 104:24)