The Ubiquity of the Design Inference

I have noticed that it is often the very things that surround us all the time that escape our notice.  Or at least we seem to easily miss the significance of that which is everywhere – the ubiquitous.   It is fish who are likely to fail to notice the water that they swim in – precisely because it is all around them, all the time.

The same is true of our Design Inference.  It is so innate to us that we can miss it even when it confronts us directly.  This realization snuck up on me last week when I was staying with a friend of mine.

This friend is wrestling deeply with questions pertaining to the Gospel.  Is there a God?  Has He revealed himself?  Or have people made him up?  If He has revealed himself, how should one separate his ‘fingerprints’ from those of people?  Is the historical Jesus accessible to us?  As we shared our thoughts, insights and doubts about these and other similar questions our friendship grew because it is often the sharing of these questions, rather than having similar answers that can spark fellowship.  As part of his search he was exploring naturalistic answers, and given that I believe the gospel assertion that we are made by a Creator, he invited me and another to view the NOVA series Becoming Human. It is a documentary on naturalistic human evolution.  We watched the third episode entitled Last Human Standing.

I predicted that the general trend would be that as more information is gathered one would see that the supposedly intermediate ‘ape-men’ would be either human or ape.  This was based on my experience in discovering in the literature that there is marked absence of transitional fossils across the fossil record (see Session 1b video for more on that).  The documentary did show, through DNA sequencing comparisons that Neanderthals were fully human.  Their DNA is the same as ours.  I showed my friend how other data presented in the documentary fit readily within a Biblical framework.  One needed just to look at the data slightly differently.

But it was the inferences and reasoning logic of the anthropologists interviewed in the documentary that made me take note.  They were excited because they had discovered rocks in Africa that had etchings scratched on them.  They had also discovered shells with patterned holes in them.  Their conclusion was that this was the first instance ever of information being stored outside a human brain.  And given the presence of these artefacts, hominids at this point must have evolved sufficiently to have minds capable of symbolic thought.  And it was then that the irony struck me.

Why did these anthropologists very naturally, and without hesitation, deduce that hominids at this ‘stage’ of evolution must have developed the capability of symbolic thought? Because we know from universal experience – it is ubiquitous – that information and design only comes from an intelligent agent.  These anthropologists did not stop to wonder if the holes in the shells and the etchings on the rocks were produced by time, chance and natural processes.  They used the design inference to deduce that they were made by hominids and that these hominids must therefore have been ‘intelligent’.  And we the viewers did not even question their reasoning.  Without batting an eye we accepted it as self-evidently logical and reasonable.  The inference to an intelligent agent when confronted by design is ubiquitous.

Yet in the same interview these same anthropologists surmised that these etchings and shell holes were the first instance ever of information stored outside the brain.  Really?  The information stored universally in the biological world in DNA, from which kidneys, wings, lungs, feathers – and yes even brains – are built is astronomically more complex and functional than any etchings on rocks or holes in shells.

Is it really a stretch to deduce an Intelligent Designer when we are confronted with information in DNA that is far more complex than anything man has ever developed when we at the same time so naturally deduce ‘Intelligent Hominids’ when confronted by information that is far less impressive?  That is the question we take up in Session 1 – The Case for God: Considering Design.  The videos in this session are high definition and they are partitioned into chapters so you can stop and then re-start viewing in marked spots.

1. The Case for God – Considering Design

It is generally assumed in our world today that naturalistic evolution can explain how life arose and developed into what it is today.  In other words, the origin and development of everything from lobsters, giraffes and humans – and everything in between – can supposedly be explained by evolution.

When I was asking some basic questions of the gospel (as summarized in About Me: The Wisdom I learned from a filthy-rich, hard-drinking playboy) I had read books that called evolution into question and argued for a Creator.  However, it was when I was a grad student in Forest Engineering that I decided to study university textbooks and journals used to teach evolution to dig deeper into the subject.  It was eye-opening.  What the critics of evolution wrote was one thing, but it was the arguments and rationales used in the textbooks and journals explaining evolution that moved me far more.  Since my grad student days I periodically read the current textbooks used in university.  In the following four videos I take you on a tour of some of these textbooks so you retrace the journey that I took.

This first video introduces the Design Inference and asks whether such a view, at a high level, fits with the data.  Seeing how leading evolutionists describe what and how life is shows us that there is at least an initial fit.

This second video looks at whether we observe the process of evolution occurring today.  After all, science is based on what we observe.  What do the texts says?…

This third video surveys the fossil record of natural descent and then using the alleged evolution of the bird-lung looks at some theoretical problems with functional transitions.

This fourth video looks at misconceptions that are common in our culture about evolution and then concludes by revisiting Design.

These video sessions reference some of the books and journals that I have studied over the years.  The main ones used in the videos are:

Kenneth V Kardong,  An Introduction to Biological Evolution. 2005

Snustad and Simmons.  Principles of Genetics 2nd Ed 1997

Francis Collins.  The Language of God. 2006

SF Gilbert. Developmental Biology 8th Ed 2006.

Scott Freeman and JC Herron. Evolutionary Analysis 4th Ed. 2007

ENK Clarkson &  Blackwell.  Invertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution. 1979

Peter Price. Biological Evolution, 1996

Davis & Kenyon.  Of Pandas and People: The central question of biological origins. 1993

Blog Posts Related to this Session

  • October 8, 2013 - University survey affirms we are ‘Bound to Believe’

  • June 1, 2013 - Does Evolution make sense in light of biology?

  • September 4, 2012 - …But Corrupted (Part 1 – like orcs of Middle-earth)

  • August 27, 2012 - In the Image of God

  • July 26, 2012 - System upgrades shows hopelessness of Darwinian evolution

  • July 19, 2012 - ConsidertheGospel System upgrade shows hopelessness of Darwinian evolution (Part 1)

  • June 18, 2012 - The Faith of a World’s leading Evolutionary Anthropologist

  • June 11, 2012 - Computer super-virus shows anomaly of evolutionary thinking

  • April 22, 2012 - BBC Reports Startling Genetic Tests – Neanderthal in Your Bloodline

  • April 14, 2012 - What about Human Evolution?

  • February 13, 2012 - From Soapberry Bugs to SuperBugs: Nature’s slippery slide down.

  • February 6, 2012 - Origins: Evolution or Design – why touch it?

  • January 31, 2012 - Antony Flew Considered Intelligent Design

  • January 24, 2012 - The Ubiquity of the Design Inference