Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Convince Me There’s A God: Design

Having been an investigative journalist for many years I highly recommend returning to the beginning of an issue, crime, or whatever is your assignment before reporting about it. If not, you may miss the very thing that will turn your story in the direction of truth, which should be the objective of every journalist.

In that spirit I returned to Charles Darwin’s On The Origin of Species when a creation scientist challenged evolution on my atheist radio talk show more than 40 years ago. I’m not sure if I had slept through some of the evolution classes in high school and college or just didn’t understand what I was hearing, but I learned that Darwin had issues with his own theory.

“Long before the reader has arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to him. Some of them are so serious that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some degree staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to the theory.” (On The Origin of Species, Chapter 6, Charles Darwin, 1859)

As I continued reading I was surprised to see that Darwin had struggled more than a century earlier with some of the same things I was struggling with at the beginning of the 1970s.

“These difficulties and objections may be classed under the following heads: First, why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?”  (On The Origin of Species, Chapter 6, Charles Darwin, 1859)

An excellent question, Mr. Darwin. “Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined?” Darwin admitted that what he saw in the nature of species was “well defined.” As I learned more about the theory of Creation I heard about an argument that dealt with the subject of divine design called the Teleological Argument, the “argument from design.”

The concept of intelligent design and an intelligent designer is an ancient idea. The Sumerians had the four creator gods, Enki, Ninhursag, An, and Enlil. The Babylonians had Apsu, Tiamat, Mummu, and Marduk. The Egyptians had Atum, Khepri, Ptah, and Amun. The Hebrews had Yahweh. The Chinese had Pan Gu and Nu Wa. The Greeks had Chaos, Uranos, Gaia, and Erebus.

Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero debated the issue of design more than 2,000 years ago. Early Christian writers like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas also argued for intelligent design. So, what is intelligent design?

Plato wrote this about what leads men to believe “in the Gods.”

“One is the argument about the soul, which has been already mentioned-that it is the eldest, and most divine of all things, to which motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other was an argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe.” (Laws, Book 12, Plato, 360 BC, Benjamin Jowett, Translator)

In Plato’s “Timaeus,” Socrates asks Timaeus about “calling upon the Gods.” In his answer, Timaeus says this about the Creator:

“Now everything that becomes or is created must of necessity be created by some cause, for without a cause nothing can be created. The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when he looks to the created only, and uses a created pattern, it is not fair or perfect. Was the heaven then or the world, whether called by this or by any other more appropriate name-assuming the name, I am asking a question which has to be asked at the beginning of an enquiry about anything-was the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning? or created, and had it a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things are apprehended by opinion and sense and are in a process of creation and created. Now that which is created must, as we affirm, of necessity be created by a cause. But the father and maker of all this universe is past finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible.” (Timaeus, Plato, 360 BC, Benjamin Jowett, Translator)

Johannes Kepler, sometimes referred to as “the first theoretical astrophysicist,” was a leading mathematician and astronomer in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Germany. He was well known for his laws of planetary motion.  This is how he viewed the science of astronomy.

“I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.” (Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630)

Sir Isaac Newton, Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and famous for making many scientific discoveries during the 17th and 18th centuries, wrote this about the origin of the universe.

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One, especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun and from every system light passes into all the other systems; and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another.” (General Scholium to the PrincipiaMathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Sir Isaac Newton, 1713)

Another explanation of intelligent design came from William Paley in the early 19th Century in answer to Scottish philosopher David Hume. Paley wrote this in his Natural Theology.

“In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (…) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (…) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.” (William Paley, Natural Theology, 1802)

An atheist astronomer and mathematician from England was one of the first people to give the Intelligent Design theory its name. Fred Hoyle gave the Omni Lecture at London’s Royal Institution in 1982 and titled it Evolution from Space. It was later published as a book with the same title. Here’s a portion from the book where Hoyle addresses “intelligent design.”  

“… The difference between an intelligent ordering, whether of words, fruit boxes, amino acids, or the Rubik cube, and merely random shufflings can be fantastically large, even as large as a number that would fill the whole volume of Shakespeare’s plays with its zeros. So if one proceeds directly and straightforwardly in this matter, without being deflected by a fear of incurring the wrath of scientific opinion, one arrives at the conclusion that biomaterials with their amazing measure or order must be the outcome of intelligent design. No other possibility I have been able to think of in pondering this issue over quite a long time seems to me to have anything like as high a possibility of being true.” (Evolution from Space (The Omni Lecture), pg. 28, Fred Hoyle, Enslow Publishers, 1982).

Even though I was not familiar with the term “intelligent design” in 1971, the Teleological Argument was well known. Webster’s Dictionary defined teleology as “the study of evidences of design in nature.” That intrigued me – the study of “evidences of design” in nature. What were the evidences of design in nature? One of them is called “Cosmic Fine-Tuning” and we’ll look at that in detail next time.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

Faith Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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14 thoughts on “Convince Me There’s A God: Design

  1. Gabriel on said:

    Sorry for double posting. But this is interesting:

    “Archaeological evidence would include the men who knew the Apostles personally and could attest to the sincerity of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead and that those men were willing to die for their belief, which most of them did (die for their belief).”

    What is the evidence for this?

  2. I see. And from your post I take it you don’t think evolution is true either, correct?

    • I was a strong evolutionist and atheist until investigating the available evidence in the early 70s. My investigation led me to become a Christian and creationist. I believe God created the heavens and the earth and didn’t use evolution to accomplish it. What do you believe?

      • Gabriel on said:

        I’ve seen the evidene for evolution. I’ve studied about it in books about the subject. I will not say I have no belief in my life because I think it’s impossible for a person to not have any since we don’t know it all. But as far as evolution go, I don’t believe it, I’ve just seen the facts and happen to know it is true.

        As for the age of the earth, I’ve studied about atom decay and tree rings. I also read a little about molecular biology dating. So I also think the evidence is compelling that the earth is billion of years old. In fact, the 4,5 billion years is a pretty decent estimate of the actual value considering there are different measure techniques and they agree with each other quite well.

        But this is not enough for many Jews or Christians to not believe in the God of Abraham.

        As for my part, I could say I’m a rationalist unimpressed with faith based claims. I don’t think the label atheist is meaningfull, but I can identify myself as such for matters of simplicity.

        I have one more question. I’ve seen a lot of your posts and read some of them. It seems the archeological evidence regardig bible history plays a huge part in your faith. Is that right? And also, what else, apart from archeological evidence, do you consider evidence for being a christian?

      • Archaeology was a scientific vehicle that kept my investigation alive. If I had found archaeological evidence that refuted the historical claims of the Bible, that would probably have brought my investigation to an end. The archaeological discoveries that supported the credibility of Old and New Testament claims about people, places and events demonstrated that the Bible was an ancient document that could be trusted for accuracy in those areas.

        The historical and archaeological support for the life of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, along with the lives of 1st century Christians were also strong evidence toward my becoming a Christian. I weighed all the evidence accumulated during my search and when asked if I knew of a ‘reason’ not to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose from the grave and was Lord and Savior, I said that I could not think of any reason not to believe. It was then that I thanked God for His wonderful gift of salvation and believed on Christ as my Lord and Savior.

      • I’m all for the archeological evidence. I don’t know all of them, but I know some.

        The thing is we all know it is not enough to prove miracles happened. We have people attributing all sorts of things to Gods and demons nowadays. Imagine in the ancient-world.

        For example. I agree with you that Jesus most likely existed and was a person of great religious influence in the first century. But what is the evidence for his ressurection? Is there archeological evidence of this? Or do you take the bible claims for granted?

      • Archaeological evidence would be the empty tomb, the lack of a body found, no bones found in an ossuary belonging to Jesus, etc. If the Jews or Romans wanted to put a quick end to the claims of the Apostles and other people who said they saw Jesus alive after He died, all they had to do was produce the body from the heavily guarded tomb or wherever the body may have been moved. The bones of Jesus’ half brother were found (James ossuary). The bones of Caiaphas the high priest at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion have been found. The bones of Jesus have not been found, but they could have been produced by Jewish leaders and Roman rulers if the decaying body of Jesus existed. Archaeological evidence would include the men who knew the Apostles personally and could attest to the sincerity of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead and that those men were willing to die for their belief, which most of them did (die for their belief). Archaeological evidence would also include the fact that unbelieving Jews and Gentiles from the 1st and early 2nd century wrote about how Christians were willing to die for their belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.

        Historical evidence would include the fact that a bunch of cowering followers of Jesus were emboldened to preach about the risen Savior in the streets of Jerusalem and in front of Jewish leaders who threatened them with beatings, prison and death. Historical evidence would include the fact that the chief prosecutor for the Jewish Sanhedrin against the followers of Jesus who were claiming that He rose from the dead became a follower of Jesus after being struck blind on his way to arrest believers and hearing the voice of Jesus speak to him. The Apostle Paul spoke many times about how it was that moment that changed his life forever. Paul wrote an early letter to the Corinthian Christians saying that more than 500 people saw the risen Jesus at the same time and that following His resurrection Jesus had also spoken to many people individually, including Paul.

        Are any of these sufficient evidence for you to continue searching into the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

      • Gabriel on said:

        Well, I’m not here to comfront your belief. I’m interested to know why you believe. But since you ask:

        These things are not compelling to me. Most of them are orthogonal to the issue. For example: The Jesus brother thing was new to me, but in a fast google search accusations of fraud appeared. Also there is dispute over the autenticity of Caiaphas bones. But anyway, this is still orthogonal to the issue. I think Jesus most likely existed, had a family and was killed, so it doesn’t say much.

        I’d like to concentrate on what is actually meaninfull to the point:

        There are a lot of normal, mundane explanations for a tomb to be empty. Jesus was a very important person for his followers so stealing the body would be one. Another could be that he was buried in a common grave like Bart D. Ehrman speculates. There are just too many possibilities more plausible than a ressurection.

        All the things regarding people been spreading the word and dying for their faith is interesting, but it also happens in many other religions worldwide. Religion simply has too much power over people. So what interests me in this issue is the power religion has over people’s psychology.

        About the incredible claims regarding the supernatural. I see those even in today’s world, and from very different religions, including cristianity, of course. Imagine in the ancient world, when communication depended havely on oral saying? Also, the bible took years to be written, so hearsay could make things way different than they actually happened (You might know the game telephone, I suppose).

        There is also one thing that I’m interested in reading about but still have not. And it is the idea that Paul had plans to start a religion for the gentiles.

        What is the evidence for this?

        “Historical evidence would include the fact that the chief prosecutor for the Jewish Sanhedrin against the followers of Jesus who were claiming that He rose from the dead became a follower of Jesus after being struck blind on his way to arrest believers and hearing the voice of Jesus speak to him”

        Thanks for sharing your reasons with me.

      • Thank you for the opportunity to share with you. I look forward to communicating with you again in the future.

  3. Are you a young earth creationist? Or a old earth one?

  4. Pingback: SiftingPoint | Humanism and Atheism – Muslim or Christ?

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