God and Design

The Teleological Argument and Modern Science Buy book at

Recent discoveries in physics, cosmology, and biochemistry have reinvigorated the argument for design. This accessible and serious volume collects leading scholars from many sides over the debate on intelligent design to assess the concept from philosophical, theological, and scientific standpoints.

Discovery Fellow William Lane Craig applies William Dembski’s explanatory filter to the question of cosmic design. Craig first observes that the universe is, against very high odds, fine-tuned to permit the existence of advanced life. Under William Dembski’s explanatory filter, Craig argues that law cannot account for the state of the universe, the claim that the universe must accommodate life is eroded by various physical theories which do not predict our particular universal laws. Chance is ruled out due to the fact that there is no evidence for the “multi-verse” hypothesis, leaving design as the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

Robbin Collins, Discovery Institute Fellow, outlines the case for fine-tuning. The small value of the cosmological constant is finely tuned to permit the appropriate expansion of the universe. The strengths of the strong nuclear force and electromagnetic force are finely balanced such that the strong force is just strong enough to overcome the electromagnetic repulsion between the protons in the nucleus while not undercutting the stability of elements essential for carbon-based life. Moreover, the production of elements such as carbon and oxygen in stellar processes are finely tuned. The proton/neutron mass ratio is also adjusted to one part in 700 such that stars can burn. Even the force of gravity is finely tuned to permit the existence of stars or accretion of planets without crushing the skeletal structures needed for advanced intelligent life.

Michael Behe, a biochemist and Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute, extends the design argument into biology by recognizing the existence of many irreducibly complex biological structures. Behe first notes that “while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open.” (pg. 277) Behe acknowledges that he himself believes the designer is God, but that “as regards the identity of the designer, modern ID theory happily echoes Newton’s phrase, hypothesis non fingo.” (pg. 277) Behe then outlines a challenge from Darwin that biological structures which could not be evolved via “numerous, successive, slight modifications” would cause his theory to “break down.” Behe finds examples of such structures in biomolecular machines like the bacterial flagellar motor or the blood clotting cascade. Behe acknowledges that critics such as biologists Kenneth Miller or Russell Doolittle have attempted to explain the origin of such structures, but argues that their explanations are so far-fetched that they place Darwinism in an unfalsifiable position. Behe thus argues that it’s appropriate to “break some rules” and consider the hypothesis of design.

Finally, William Dembski, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and mathematician, also argues for design over a “chance of the gaps” hypothesis. Dembski explains that “specified complexity” was first coined in 1973 when Leslie Orgel stated, “Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals such as granite fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.” (pg. 251) Dembski argues that the specified complexity of life is precisely the type of complexity we commonly find being produced by intelligent agents. Thus design is the best explanation for specified complexity in nature.

Many scholars attempt to counter the arguments of Behe, Dembski, Collins, and Craig, and this volume provides ample opportunity for the various sides to present their arguments. Other contributors not associated with Discovery include Paul Davies, Peter van Inwagen, John Leslie, Neil A. Manson, Timothy McGrew, D. H. Mellor, Kenneth R. Miller, Simon Conway Morris, Jan Narveson, Robert O’Connor, Del Ratzsch, Martin Rees, Michael Ruse, Elliott Sober, Richard Swinburne, Eric Vestrup, and Roger White.

God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science