A Few Thoughts on Design (Outtake from my Book)
1. The universe as a whole and/or significant parts of it, evidence certain patterns and structures that indicate design (such as complexity, simplicity, beauty, human rationality, and so on); that is, the work of intelligence.
2. Alternative naturalistic explanations for this apparent design—essentially some combination of impersonal chance and impersonal natural laws—cannot adequately explain this phenomena.
3. Therefore, these phenomena are best explained by a designing, personal intelligence outside of nature.
4. This designing, personal intelligence outside of nature is God.
Along with the other theistic arguments, the argument from design (or the teleological argument) had been dismissed and ridiculed by many philosophers until recent decades. For example, Russell’s famous essay, “Why I am not a Christian,” devotes less than two pages to refuting the argument. After invoking Darwin’s account of nature, he says, “It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them [living creatures] but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.” He then appeals to the “defects” of the world—such as the Klu Klux Klan and the Fascists—to argue that this cannot be “the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years.” Russell's points, though terse and sharp, form the backbone of objections to design arguments. (1) Nature can be explained perfectly well, without a designer, especially since Darwin. (2) The evils of our world speak against a Designer.
The first point should be addressed first, because if we find evidence of design that cannot be reduced to natural processes, the universe becomes the mouthpiece for something beyond itself. Only in that context should we then address the question of nature’s “defects,” cruelty, suffering, and evil. Many, however, simply appeal to a less than perfect world—by picking out their favorite defects—and claim that the universe cannot be designed at all. This does not follow logically.
I once owned a 1976 AMC Gremlin X. When I sold it, it was well beyond its prime, and was never an automotive exemplar. It was defective in many ways. But no one would doubt that it was designed and assembled by intelligent agents. Its defect and decay can be explained only in the context of its design.
Admittedly, it is a heavy burden for Christian theists to explain the decay and defects of our world in light of the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good deity. Why would such a Being allow so much that cuts against the grain of his own power and goodness?
Notwithstanding, the Christian worldview describes a bent world, a world torn by sin—yet under divine guidance. Nevertheless that burden is more easily shouldered after a solid case for design is marshaled.