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Snowmen–Wintery figures point to design!


Published: 6 January 2015 (GMT+10)

Being in the throes of winter in the Northern Hemisphere many children will be hoping that enough snow falls so that the school they attend will have to close for a day or two. They will then proceed to either roam around the streets like wolves looking for prey, snowballs in hands, armed and looking for their next victim (!), or else, if they are anything like me, build the biggest snowman that they can.

Due to excessive snowfall a few years ago I found myself in that ‘fortunate’ position, unable to get into work, and decided to spend my time wisely exploring design theory by building two snowmen. Just as I had finished lifting the head onto the second snowman, and had added the obligatory items to construct a facial representation, I was joined by the next door neighbour’s child. Taking my opportunity to conduct this rather fun piece of research I asked him if he thought that the snowmen could have appeared by chance, all by themselves? He replied, “No, someone had to make them.”

Design and manufacture require intelligence

For this 10 year old boy it was obvious; of course the snowmen could not have appeared all by themselves. The design of the snowmen was glaringly obvious to him. He implicitly recognised that there was a specific way in which the snowmen had been put together and shaped, a specified complexity to it, that there had been a designer and creator.

Now snowmen in themselves are not very complex things to make.1 You start by making a small ball of snow, then you roll the small ball of snow along some fresh snow hoping that it will pick up some more from the ground until it gets large enough for a snowman—and for its creator to either be satisfied with its size—or like me, it just gets too big to push alongSmilies. Then, you might stick a couple of bits of wood in the sides for arms, a hat and scarf and some stones for the eyes, nose and mouth (or a carrot nose), and there you have it, one perfectly formed snowman! Now, it takes only minutes to make, but I don’t think that any sane, reasonable person would deny that the snowman in your garden or yard was made by someone along the lines I have just laid out. Would they really tell you that it was, rather, the result of a snowstorm, followed by some wind erosion and the chance accretion of some bits of wood and stones, that the snowman came to be, all by itself? If they did so it would be against all observable data regarding the origin of any specified complexity in the world around us.

This then begs the bigger question, why do some people deny that the person creating the snowman is himself/herself designed?

Snowmen and ‘real men’

The human body is incredibly more complex than a snowman, obviously! To compare the two would be like comparing a toy car to a Ferrari F60, and then some more. Snowmen cannot see, taste, touch, move, digest, excrete, reproduce, talk, think, design, or make things. They do not have incredibly complex cellular machines like ATP SynthaseKinesin or Ribosomes, or complex codes such as DNA, m-RNA, and yet no-one would dispute that they were made by somebody. As the snowmen speak of design, so the makeup of human beings screams design! The Bible is quite clear on this point in Romans 1:20 where the Apostle Paul speaks of design, declaring that God’s eternal power and divine nature can be understood from the things that have been made. This means that the design that we can see in the natural world around us clearly points us to God. And Paul says that because of this, the ungodly are ‘without excuse’ and that such people wilfully reject this clear evidence, as indeed they do. So, “it follows that when men proudly declare that they are atheists and deny that there is any evidence for belief in an almighty and eternal God, they are pitting their wits against clear evidence to the contrary”,2 as our snowman example amply demonstrates.

God’s design in salvation

The design that we observe in natural revelation, however, is not enough to come to a full knowledge of who the designer God is. This intimate knowledge, this special revelation, is presented to us in the Bible. The Bible tells us about the designer of the universe and how He created everything in it.3 It tells us of a perfectly designed world that was created for mankind to live in. It speaks of how, in rebellion against God, the sinful action of the first man, our forefather Adam, led to God cursing this world. We read of how Adam’s sin led to the entrance of death into this world. God did not design that perfect world, and mankind to live upon it, without purpose. God designed mankind to be able to know and have fellowship with Him. But because that relationship was broken through sin, the relationship had to be restored.

As we cannot restore it ourselves,4 God initiated the plan of redemption in which his son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to live a perfect life and present himself as a perfect sacrifice on the cross, thus shedding His blood for our sins. In the Bible, you can read and find out much more about this Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour who can save you from your sin. This website contains lots of testimonies of those, “who once were alienated and hostile in mind”,5 but now live in the peace offered by Jesus.

So next time you see some snowmen, those wintery figures, remember the Designer who created something a lot more complex, you, and all mankind; and how through reading and studying the Bible you can find out more about who He is and what he expects of us—relying on its accuracy from the very first verse to the last.

References and notes

  1. Granted, the water molecules (in the form of snowflakes from which the snow is formed) have to be there in the first place. Return to text.
  2. Still, W., Theological Studies in Genesis and Romans: The Collected Writings of William Still, Eds: Searle, D.C. & Ferguson, S.B., Christian Focus Publications, Edinburgh, 2000, p. 220. Return to text.
  3. For example in Genesis 1-2, John 1 and Colossians 1:15-16. Return to text.
  4. See Romans 3:10-12 & 3:23. Return to text.
  5. Colossians 1:21. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Body By Design
by Alan L Gillen
US $17.00
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By Design
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $15.00
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By Design
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $10.00
eReader (.epub)
Discovery of Design
by Donald DeYoung & Derrik Hobbs
US $15.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Stephen T.
I found your article on snowmen, and especially your instructions on how to build one, very interesting. I live in Australia, and I have never seen snow in my yard, and I have never built a snowman, yet it sounds simple to do, and I'm confident that I could do it. So essentially, a snowman is a man made by man in man's image......
The snowmen remind me of the idols in Psalms 119:5-8 "They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they smell not.....They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them."

No, I am NOT suggesting there is anything wrong in building a snowmen, or that it is an idol. While I have never made a snowman, I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to do so.

I was making the point that while anyone can make a snowman, in man's image, with NO life, only God could make man in His image, and give him life.
While the atheists will look at, and admire a snowman, and acknowledge it as the work of a man, they WILL NOT look on a man and acknowledge this as the work of God.

Daniel L.
Thank you for this article. It is interesting, but I don't really understand how, just because we can design, then we MUST have been designed ourselves.

Also, if we were intelligently designed then why do many creatures have apparently pointless/useless features that remain from their evolutionary past? If we are using the snowman as an example, I wouldn't take the time to stick something random inside of the snowman if it served absolutely no purpose, I couldn't see it and neither could anybody else.
Philip Bell
In answer to your first question, please follow up the 'specified complexity' link in the article, which deals with this comprehensively. There is much more on this topic here.

Your second question relates to what have often been termed 'vestiges' or 'vestigial' structures and organs. Most informed evolutionists stopped using this as an evidence for evolution years ago, following the discovery of functions for the once-claimed 'useless leftovers' of evolution. These were arguments from ignorance. Many articles detailing this can be read from this Q&A page on the subject.
Cowboy Bob S.
This reminds me of the irony of biomimetics. People who believe that what is observed in nature is the product of time, chance, mutations and random processes wish to intelligently design products that imitate those things that they say were not created. Worse for them, the best engineering feats of imitation are clumsy at best when compared with the original designs.
Philip R.
Arguments from design are powerful, and I don't believe that critics ever adequately address them.

However, I think we also sometimes fail to make our case properly. Did the neighbour's child really implicitly recognise specified complexity? Or was it just that experience has taught him that some things occur naturally and some are built by humans, and he recognised that snowmen fall into that latter category, without any understanding of the underlying differences? That is what critics I have debated have argued.

The design arguments works better when considering something that people are not used to seeing (such as unknown writing, previously-unknown types of stony tools, or thought experiments about designed features in places humans have never been, such as Mars), or when explaining why snowmen require a designer. But simple arguments like this one overlook an obvious critical counter-argument like the one I put.
Philip Bell
It's a simple example of the design argument, certainly. However, most of the time (and for most people) the recognition of design is implicit; so, people frequently laugh at any suggestion that even relatively simple things (like pebbles on a beach arranged to convey "I love Sally") might have arisen without intelligence. In such cases, one is not consciously thinking, "I'm looking at a number of components, manufactured for purpose, organised and assembled together in the right place at the right time, to fulfil a pre-determined function. This object fulfils crucial criteria within the 'design argument', so reveals intelligent design."
The child in this article's example immediately dismissed the notion of the snowmen's chance production, “No, someone had to make them", based on common sense and experience. None of the components in this example are especially complex; that's exactly the point. Thus, those without a philosophical commitment to naturalism (aka atheism), intuitively reject the notion that exceedingly more complex phenomena (e.g. human beings) could arise without intelligent causation.
George J.
This in no way detracts from what is said in the article. I only present these comments to caution people from overstating the case and claiming that people are necessary for snowballs to form.

Snow rollers, and perhaps snowballs, can form naturally without intelligent help as this vid shows; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6nNmmonJnE

Animals can make snowballs and mght even make a snow man of sorts; but of course they have intelligence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQzCNW-KuCs
Philip Bell
Yes, these snow rollers (sometimes hollow cylinders rather than true balls) are certainly an interesting natural phenomenon. This further video gives a little more detail on the conditions required for their formation.
Of course, a snowman is often made of two (or even three) balls of snow on top of one another; this and the obligatory additions to form facial features and more (discussed in the article) require intelligent causation.
Aaron F.
This article sparks a corollary to science's search for e.t. life. We often here the mantra "if we can just find liquid water, life is almost guaranteed." (Of course we never see new cells spring to life on our own planet which is 2/3 water, and abounding in "organic molecules"!) This is usually followed by the probabilities for how many planets must exist in the universe with liquid water. So, relating this to the article... I would like to hear a secular scientist's opinion of the likelihood of finding a simple snowman on another planet that experiences snowfall. Surely the odds are vastly more likely to find three roughly spherical balls of snow haphazardly stacked on top of one another in descending order by size than a self organizing cell right? Surely it is more likely that wind or other natural phenomenon would happen to blow debris across the snowman to resemble eyes and buttons right? (we'll give them a break on the tree branch arms and carrot nose since they haven't evolved yet) By the reasoning applied to e.t. life, there should be thousands of such snowmen frozen in time on planets across the galaxy forever waiting for a magic top hat to land on their head and bring them to life. The odds demand it! :)
Alan S.
Simply superb, completely clear, powerfully presented.

Rather like Creation itself.

Jason T.
Great article Phil. So simple yet so powerful in its conclusion!
Eileen T.
Great article, simply explained messaged. I will be sharing this on Facebook, thank you.
Raymond B.
Evolutionists are a subset of people who cannot recognise genius when they see it.

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