We humans are designers by nature, and we have never been better at it. From the minuscule microprocessor to the massive, record-breaking skyscraper, it seems there is nothing we can’t do.
What is the source of this proclivity? The Bible directs us to God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” ().
When we look at the natural world around us, we see design everywhere. Did it all just happen? Or is God the master Designer? Indeed, the ability to design is not just a godly trait passed on to us but a proof of the very existence of God.
Three basic aspects of design
I am a designer. My field of design is structural engineering. I have designed buildings and bridges, but I spent most of my career teaching structural design.
As I teach my students, there are at least three basic aspects of design: functionality, safety and efficiency. Functionality refers to the need to fulfill a specific purpose. A bunch of scattered rocks suggests randomness rather than function. When those rocks are cut into blocks and assembled into a huge symmetrical pyramid as a burial ground and monument to a pharaoh, we see function.
Is the Theory of Multiple Universes a Scientific Alternative?
A theory gaining some popularity is the idea that our universe is not unique but only one of an infinite number of universes.
In their book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow make the case for this theory. Referring to the anthropic constants, they state: “Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration. That is not easily explained, and raises the natural question of why it is that way” (2010, p. 162).
Rather than seeing God as the natural answer, Hawking and Mlodinow try to explain away the many anthropic constants by the multiverse theory. The idea is that if there are an infinite number of universes, then one of them would have just the right anthropic constants for life.
Referring to this theory, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith state in their book, Origins: “This lack of even theoretically possible interactions [between these universes] puts the multiverse theory into the category of apparently nontestable, and therefore nonverifiable, hypotheses” (2004, p. 103). In other words, there is absolutely no scientific evidence of the existence of multiple universes. The theory seems to be a feeble attempt to offer any explanation that excludes God.
But good design also requires an element of safety. For structures, failure is not an option; and the safety of the design is paramount. Sadly, even with our modern technology, there are occasional catastrophic failures.
In addition, designs should be efficient. More often than not, efficiency is evaluated by cost. However, it may include such things as ease of use, long-term viability or environmental considerations.
So, what about this universe? Is it just a bunch of rocks? Or does it exhibit the three basic elements of good design? Is it a complex, intricate and superbly functioning design with an obvious Designer? Or is it just an accident of nature?
God challenges us to look to the creation for proof of His existence: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” ().
In the previous article on the proofs of God, we examined the scientific evidence pointing to the universe having a beginning and being created from nothing. Science provides no answer as to how this could have happened. The Bible gives the obvious answer—a miracle of God.
A second proof of God is the incredibly intricate and complex design of everything around us. Let’s look at some of that evidence.
Does the cosmos show the elements of design?
The laws of nature are extremely fine-tuned to support life. Without this precise and delicate balance, life would not exist.
Scientists have identified over 100 of these fine-tuned characteristics of our universe, which are often referred to as anthropic constants. This amazing combination of anthropic constants offers evidence of design, and design requires a Designer. As the Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” ().
Here are just a few of these anthropic constants (for more details, see the Life, Hope & Truth article “Intelligent Design: Can Science Answer the Question, Does God Exist?”):
- The four known forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetic forces, the strong force that binds particles in the atomic nuclei, and the weak force mechanisms that are responsible for radioactive decay) must be incredibly balanced with each other, or most essential elements would be unstable and life could not be sustained.
- The size of the earth, its nearly circular orbit, its axis tilt, its 24-hour revolution, and the relative size and distance between the earth and moon must be precise for life to exist.
- The oxygen/nitrogen levels of the atmosphere and the protective ozone surrounding the earth must be within a specific range for life to exist.
- The earth’s distance from the sun must be in the so-called Goldilocks zone: not too far and not too close, but just right to maintain temperatures to support life.
Taking all the anthropic constants together, the great weight of evidence strongly suggests design. The function of this design was to provide an environment for life to flourish. Safety is provided through the protective atmosphere and the effects of many of the constants. Efficiency is evident from the many interactions that are perfectly adjusted.
Does life itself indicate a Designer?
Many structural designs have critical elements that cannot fail without the entire structure collapsing. These are referred to as nonredundant designs. For example, the cause of the 2007 catastrophic collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been traced to a failed gusset plate. Structures of this type cannot function without each critical element in place.
In the various mechanisms of life, we also find many nonredundant systems. Take away one piece, and the mechanism will not function. How is this a problem? The theory of evolution proposes that all the mechanisms of life developed gradually, piece by piece. Yet in a nonredundant system, the mechanism will not function until all pieces are in place. If the system is critical to survival, the life-form will die before the mechanism can evolve.
Such mechanisms are referred to as being irreducibly complex. Let’s look at several examples, beginning with what’s often called the simple cell—a misnomer because all cells are complex, from single-cell organisms to human cells.
The cell membrane is necessary to protect the internal workings of the cell. Yet the membrane needs conduits to bring necessary molecules in and out. Both the conduits and the protective membrane had to be present from the beginning. They are nonredundant components of the cell. The cell cannot live without both.
The membrane is a complex structure that meets all the requirements of good design: it’s functional, has a great record of safety and is very efficient. Can there be such a design without a Designer?
DNA shouts design
There is no aspect of the living cell that shouts design more than DNA. Only a brief description can be given here, but see “DNA: God’s Information Code” on LifeHopeandTruth.com for a more detailed description.
The DNA molecule within a cell contains the information to both sustain life and pass it on to the next generation. This double helix structure contains the code to make over 100,000 tiny protein machines, and they are essential to carrying out the functions of life.
The DNA molecule contains a vast amount of information using a language that consists of three-letter words (referred to as codons) formed using a four-letter alphabet of molecules. This code in the human cell is 3 billion letters long! Every time a cell divides, the DNA reproduces itself with astounding accuracy. The process even includes a proofreading function.
If this isn’t enough, in recent years a genetic code control system, the epigenome, has been discovered that exerts additional control over DNA functions. For example, it is now believed that the epigenome orchestrates cell division and cell specialization during development in the womb.
It is unfathomably unlikely to the point of being impossible that the complex DNA molecule and epigenome could have developed in a piecemeal fashion. Also, if any of the vital parts of the genetic code weren’t functioning, the cell could not survive. From a design viewpoint, DNA is incredibly functional and exists in all living cells, from single-cell organisms to humans. It is extremely safe, in that mistakes very rarely happen. DNA’s efficiency is almost beyond belief. It is estimated that DNA the size of a pinhead contains as much information as 25 trillion paperback books. Yet the complete replication of the human chromosome in a cell takes about an hour.
These and many other nonredundant mechanisms, such as the ear and eye, constitute a proof of God. “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made both of them” ().
The evidence is clear. Truly, the Creator God is the master Designer.
The grand design plan
Why do very intelligent people fail to see the hand of this master Designer in both the cosmos and life? Perhaps the complexity of life still seems random because they are not aware of a larger plan for the creation or where they fit into it.
For some, it may be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Perhaps because they are so focused on specifics, they miss an element of good design that we have not yet covered: Individual components should fit into a grand design plan. God’s overarching design is so vast and transcendent that only those attuned to Him have been able to discern it.
Consider an example that shows the importance of this design principle. I live in a state that once built a bridge across the Mississippi River that ended in a swamp. It was first called the “bridge to nowhere,” but it was eventually connected to the highway system.
Just as a newly designed bridge should fit into the overall transportation system, so also the designed elements of the cosmos and life fit into a greater plan. God reveals His master plan in the words of the Bible. He is in the process of designing a spiritual family—His family. Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, is the “firstfruits” of this family (Children of God.”). The Bible tells us we also will have the opportunity to be redesigned—not as flesh and blood, but with an eternal, spiritual body—to be brothers and sisters of Christ with God as our Father ( ; ). Learn more in our Life, Hope & Truth article “
God’s master plan is not finished. His greatest design is yet to unfold!