The most important reason atheists cite for their disbelief in God is that life and consciousness came from nature and were not created by God and that they came from nature through the process of evolution by natural selection which are random mutations over very long periods of time that number in the millions of years. They believe that the sum total of all these processes have resulted in the appearance of forms of life that are complex and so suited to the functions of these organisms that they seem to us to be of intelligent design.
This idea has been conclusively refuted by recent observations of scientists and philosophers in recent years.
How do we recognize design? How do we realize that something has been put together intentionally by an intelligent agent? What is intelligent design?
Our minds recognize the effects of other intelligent beings when we see the purposeful arrangement of parts, such as the letters and words in a book. Or when we see a pyramid in a desert or a jungle with no one around.
We know from our own experience that such things as books and art only come from one source, a mind. So, when we see intentionally designed systems, and the purposeful arrangement of parts, we know that at an intelligent agent, a mind, must be the cause.
The theory of intelligent design simply says that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
Intelligent design begins with observations about the types of information that we can observe produced by intelligent agents in the real world.
Critics of intelligent design have argued that although we may observe through experience that various structures are always made by intelligence, we can still argue that they were constructed by natural processes
Before Darwin, biologists attributed the beauty, integrated complexity, and adaptation of organisms to their environments to a powerful designing intelligence. Consequently, they also thought the study of life rendered the activity of a designing intelligence detectable in the natural world.
Yet Darwin argued that this appearance of design could be more simply explained as the product of a purely undirected mechanism, namely, natural selection and random variation. Modern neo-Darwinists have similarly asserted that the undirected process of natural selection and random mutation produced the intricate designed-like structures in living systems. They affirm that natural selection can mimic the powers of a designing intelligence without itself being guided by an intelligent agent. Thus, living organisms may look designed, but on this view, that appearance is illusory and, consequently, the study of life does not render the activity of a designing intelligence detectable in the natural world.
But did Darwin explain away all evidence of apparent design in biology? Darwin attempted to explain the origin of new living forms starting from simpler pre-existing forms of life, but his theory of evolution by natural selection did not even attempt to explain the origin of life — the simplest living cell — in the first place. Yet there is now compelling evidence of intelligent design in the inner recesses of even the simplest living one-celled organisms.
The Information Enigma
In 1953 when Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, they made a startling discovery. The structure of DNA allows it to store information in the form of a four-character digital code. Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotide bases store and transmit the assembly instructions — the information — for building the crucial protein molecules and machines the cell needs to survive.
Francis Crick later developed this idea with his famous “sequence hypothesis” according to which the chemical constituents in DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. Just as English letters may convey a particular message depending on their arrangement, so too do certain sequences of chemical bases along the spine of a DNA molecule convey precise instructions for building proteins. The arrangement of the chemical characters determines the function of the sequence as a whole. Thus, the DNA molecule has the same property of “sequence specificity” that characterizes codes and language. Like the precisely arranged zeros and ones in a computer program, the chemical bases in DNA convey instructions by virtue of their specific arrangement — and in accord with an independent symbol convention known as the “genetic code.”
After the early 1960s, further discoveries revealed that the digital information in DNA and RNA is only part of a complex information processing system — an advanced form of nanotechnology that both mirrors and exceeds our own in its complexity, design logic, and information storage density.
Where did the information in the cell come from? And how did the cell’s complex information processing system arise? These questions lie at the heart of contemporary origin-of-life research. Clearly, the informational features of the cell at least appear designed.
No theory of undirected chemical evolution explains the origin of the information needed to build the first living cell. Why? There is simply too much information in the cell to be explained by chance alone. And attempts to explain the origin of information as the consequence of pre-biotic natural selection acting on random changes inevitably presuppose precisely what needs explaining, namely, reams of pre-existing genetic information. The information in DNA also defies explanation by reference to the laws of chemistry. Saying otherwise is like saying a newspaper headline might arise from the chemical attraction between ink and paper. Clearly something more is at work.
Intelligent design is detectable in living systems because we know from experience that systems possessing large amounts of such information invariably arise from intelligent causes. The information on a computer screen can be traced back to a user or programmer. The information in a newspaper ultimately came from a writer — from a mind.
This connection between information and prior intelligence enables us to detect or infer intelligent activity even from unobservable sources in the distant past. Archeologists infer ancient scribes from hieroglyphic inscriptions. SETI’s search for extraterrestrial intelligence presupposes that information imbedded in electromagnetic signals from space would indicate an intelligent source. Radio astronomers have not found any such signal from distant star systems; but closer to home, molecular biologists have discovered information in the cell, suggesting — by the same logic that underwrites the SETI program and ordinary scientific reasoning about other informational artifacts — an intelligent source.
DNA functions like a software program and contains specified information just as software does. We know from experience that software comes from programmers. We know generally that specified information — whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal — always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of such information in the DNA molecule provides strong grounds for inferring (or detecting) that intelligence played a role in the origin of DNA, even if we weren’t there to observe the system coming into existence.
In The Design Inference, mathematician William Dembski explicates the logic of design detection. Dembski shows that rational agents often detect the prior activity of other designing minds by the character of the effects they leave behind. Archaeologists assume that rational agents produced the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone. Insurance fraud investigators detect certain “cheating patterns” that suggest intentional manipulation of circumstances rather than a natural disaster. Cryptographers distinguish between random signals and those carrying encoded messages, the latter indicating an intelligent source. Recognizing the activity of intelligent agents constitutes a common and fully rational mode of inference.
Dembski demonstrates that systems or sequences with the joint properties of “high complexity” (or small probability) and “specification” invariably result from intelligent causes, not chance or physical-chemical laws.
Anthropic Fine Tuning
The evidence of design in living cells is not the only such evidence in nature. Modern physics now reveals evidence of intelligent design in the very fabric of the universe. Since the 1960s physicists have recognized that the initial conditions and the laws and constants of physics are finely tuned, against all odds, to make life possible. Even extremely slight alterations in the values of many independent factors — such as the expansion rate of the universe, the speed of light, and the precise strength of gravitational or electromagnetic attraction — would render life impossible. Physicists refer to these factors as “anthropic coincidences” and to the fortunate convergence of all these coincidences as the “fine-tuning of the universe.”
Many have noted that this fine-tuning strongly suggests design by a pre-existent intelligence. Many physicists now concur that — in effect — the dials in the cosmic control room appear finely-tuned because someone carefully fine-tuned them. To explain the vast improbabilities associated with these fine-tuning parameters, some physicists have postulated not a “fine-tuner” or intelligent designer, but the existence of a vast number of other parallel universes. This “multiverse” concept also necessarily posits various mechanisms for producing these universes. On this view, having some mechanism for generating new universes would increase the number of opportunities for a life-friendly universe such as our own to arise — making ours something like a lucky winner of a cosmic lottery.
But advocates of these multiverse proposals have overlooked an obvious problem. The speculative cosmologies (such as inflationary cosmology and string theory) they propose for generating alternative universes invariably invoke mechanisms that themselves require fine-tuning, thus begging the question as to the origin of that prior fine-tuning. Indeed, all the various materialistic explanations for the origin of the fine-tuning — i.e., the explanations that attempt to explain the fine-tuning without invoking intelligent design — invariably invoke prior unexplained fine-tuning.
Moreover the fine-tuning of the universe exhibits precisely those features — extreme improbability and functional specification — that invariably trigger an awareness of, and justify an inference to, intelligent design. Since the multiverse theory cannot explain fine-tuning without invoking prior fine-tuning, and since the fine-tuning of a physical system to accomplish a propitious end is exactly the kind of thing we know intelligent agents do, it follows that intelligent design stands as the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.
And that makes intelligent design detectable in both the physical parameters of the universe and the information-bearing properties of life. This reality of design points to the existence of a designer and that designer is God.
The concept of intelligent design is mentioned in the Qur’an:
For example, when it says that Allah has made all creation to be at the service of man:
“Allah is He who has created the heavens and the earth, and caused water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and made the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the seas at His command, and has made of service unto you the rivers, and made the sun and the moon constant in their courses to be of service unto you, and has made of service unto you the night and the day.” (14:32)
“See you not how Allah has made subservient unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and has loaded you with His favours both without and within? Yet of mankind is he who disputes concerning Allah without knowledge or guidance or a scripture giving light.” (31:20)
And it also talks about the intelligence behind the creation itself:
“Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.” (Quran 3:191)
“The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed; And the herbs and the trees – both (alike) prostrate in adoration. And the heaven has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is He Who has spread out the earth for (His) creatures” (Quran 55:5-10)