Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

DESIGN IN NATURE

Nature suggests the existence of God because we find advanced design in nature, and we know that advanced design is produced by the actions of an intelligent mind - so there must have been a Creator who designed things in nature. The theory of evolution claims that systems in nature that appear to be designed by a Creator actually arose through natural processes. I will show below that this claim is not reasonable - you cannot believe it without blind faith.

I will describe design in nature through four properties. Although they are all inter-related, I've listed them down in four different categories for clarity and inclusiveness. 

Property # 1: Sophisticated Systems

Recent breakthroughs in technology have made it possible for scientists to study anatomy in great detail - this has opened up a whole new world of discovery - living things contain machines, and mechanisms far more sophisticated than anything man has created.

All living things (except viruses) are made of microscopic units called cells. If you looked at a cell using a primitive microscope (the kind that existed during the time of Charles Darwin), it would appear like a blob - nothing remarkable. Today we know better:-
"To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a billion times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see is an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. I we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of DNA molecules....Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which - a functional protein or gene - is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very anti-thesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?" - Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Denton was a molecular biologist and non-creationist.

Here are some examples of sophisticated systems in living things at a macroscopic level:-
 
Lobster larva have refractive eyes; due to the appropriate genetic programming already present in lobsters, these change to reflective eyes (see image) when they become adults. Lobster eyes are unique in being modeled on a perfect square with precise geometrical relationships of the units. NASA x-ray telescopes copied this design.

Fovea and sacchides: Only a small part of our eyes called the fovea is sensitive enough to observe fine detail. It has a very high density of light receptors, and it uses about 50% of the resources of the visual cortex (the part of the brain that processes signals from the eyes). This demarcation of the eye and the brain makes it possible for us to observe fine detail without sensory overload. If we had no fovea, we would not be able to observe fine detail. If the whole eye was fovea, all parts of our sphere of vision would clamor for attention - we would not be able to focus on anything, and we'd need a room-sized brain to process all the signals from our eyes.

Dolphin sonar includes the “melon”, a sound lens – a sophisticated structure designed to focus the emitted sound waves into a beam which the dolphin can direct where it likes. This sound lens depends on the fact that different lipids (fatty compounds) bend the ultrasonic sound waves traveling through them in different ways. The different lipids have to be arranged in the right shape and sequence in order to focus the returning sound echoes. Each separate lipid is unique and different from normal blubber lipids, and is made by a complicated chemical process, requiring a number of different enzymes.

We perceive the direction from which sound comes due to the slight difference in the times at which the sound arrives at each of our ears. So how is a fly (whose ears are only 0.5 mm apart) going to manage this? The fly's eardrums are coupled by a lever-like bridge, whose oscillations magnify the time difference 40 times. Thus, the fly can perceive directions to within 2 degrees.

Feather Hues: Some wings in nature have specific patterns to produce color by the interference and diffraction of light (the same effect that makes an oil film appear colored - this is in contrast to "real" color due to pigments). “We started examining butterfly wings using electron microscopy and we learned how complex the structures are and difficult to fabricate,” said Mool Gupta, director of the Applied Research Center at Old Dominion University in Virginia, US. Research at Exeter University, UK, previously demonstrated that the Morpho species of butterfly uses an arrangement of intricate ridges to convert ambient white light into a bright blue color with an outstanding efficiency and viewing angle. Eventually, Gupta and his colleagues were able to replicate the effect using an array of hexagonal cells in a honeycomb pattern. Each cell contains grooves 125 nm deep and 220 nm wide in different directions (a million nanometers make one millimeter). The image shows the grating manufactured by Gupta and his colleagues. Similarly, peacock wing hues are due to diffraction made possible by the barbules of peacocks that have a precise structure - dimensions within micrometers and mathematically specified curves.

Bird flight is facilitated by a complex pulley mechanism (see image) and feathers consisting of hooks and barbules with a precise shape and size. Swifts have muscles to vary their sweep in flight (sweep is the amount by which a wing is pulled backwards). Pterosaurs had a complex system of nerves that would convey detailed information about pressure at different points on the wing to the brain. The wing shape could be changed to optimize the pressure variation on it. Insect flight requires complicated movements to generate the patterns of vortices needed for lift. It took a sophisticated robot to simulate the motion. Bats, unlike birds have stretchy skin that reacts to flight conditions to change the wing-shape. A bat wing's ability to change shape is also helped by the large number of joints it has. Thus, birds, insects, pterosaurs and bats all have complicated systems to solve the problem of heavier-than-air flight.

Bees have airspeed gauges, gyroscopes, a compass that detects the polarization of sunlight, UV sensors to track the horizon to measure tilt, and two compound eyes, each with 7,000 hexagonal facets. Each facet is a window to a secondary eye!

Smell: Our noses have sensors that detect the frequencies with which molecules vibrate. The frequency of vibration of the molecules determines the smell of the substance.

Migrating birds have special mechanisms for the following:-
  • Storing large amounts of fat in their bodies
  • Using water produced by the combustion of fat
  • Minimizing extra weight - the intestines, kidney and liver of godwits shrivel to a fraction of their original size just before they migrate.
  • Navigation by reading the earth's magnetic field - homing pigeons use particles of maghemite and magnetite arranged in a complex three-dimensional pattern.
  • Navigation from the wind - swifts can detect direction from wind patterns - they do this while sleeping on flight.
Horses, frogs and the peacock mantis shrimp have elaborate catapult mechanisms for galloping, jumping and punching respectively.

Gecko lizards stick to walls by means of attractive Van Der Waal forces between hairs on their feet and the walls. Each hair is about 0.1 mm long. 5000 of them are packed into 1 square mm. Each hair ends in about 400-1000 branches ending in a spatula-like structure about a thousandth of a millimeter long. These spatula provide the necessary contact area. The attractive force depends on the angle that the hairs make with the floor, and so by adjusting this angle, the gecko can lose contact when desired.
 
It has long been known that loggerhead turtles can sense latitude due to the change in the strength of the earth's magnetic field with latitude. But it has recently been found that they can also sense longitude by noticing the small change in the direction of the earth's magnetic field with longitude (See Putman, N, Endres C, Lohmann C and Lohmann K, Longitude perception and bicordinate magnetic maps in sea turtles, Current Biology, 21 (4))
 
Blooming flowers use complex bioengineering to detect conditions favourable for blooming.
 
The evolutionary response to sophisticated systems in living things is they can be formed in large periods of time and random changes guided by natural selection. My counter-response:-
 
Firstly: Natural selection can only act on living things. The simplest known cell is itself an amazingly sophisticated system, and there simply has not been enough time and space in the universe for random events to produce a cell:-
 
Proteins are building blocks for molecular machines. The average protein requires a sequence of about 100 amino acids in exactly the right places. More than 100 amino acids exist. So there is less than a 1/100 chance for the right amino acid to fit in a given position in the sequence. Thus the probability of getting the full sequence right is 1/100 raised to the hundredth power, or 1 in 1 followed by 200 zeroes. The age of the universe claimed by evolutionists is 15 billion years. Converting this to seconds we get 5 followed by 17 zeroes. The number of atoms in the universe is estimated at 1 followed by 80 zeroes. So even if every atom in the universe was employed every second in trying to make a protein, the number of trials will be "only" 5 followed by 97 zeroes. That's pathetically smaller than 1 followed by 200 zeroes!! Thus, there simply isn't enough time and matter for nature to have performed enough trials to hit upon the right combination for just -one- protein. One protein comes nowhere close to actually producing life. Further discussion
 
Secondly: After a reproducing cell is formed, evolutionists expect random mutations acted upon by natural selection to produce sophisticated systems. However, this explanation does not work.
 
To summarize, living things are replete with sophisticated systems, macroscopic as well as microscopic. In all cases of sophisticated systems whose origin is known (aircraft, GPS, computer processors, etc), the origin lies in the plan and action of an intelligent designer. Thus, logic demands that we posit the existence of a Creator who designed the sophisticated systems we see in living things. The direct intervention of a Creator is not needed for each animal to develop since this development has already been programmed in the DNA. But a Creator is needed to account for the original programming and design.

Property # 2: Amazing Function

It is only to be expected that sophisticated systems should result in incredible functionality. Here are some examples:-

The bacterial flagellum (a whip or blade that bacteria use to propel themselves, with an attached rotor) shown in the image has the following features:-

  • Self-assembly and repair
  • A water-cooled rotary engine
  • Forward and reverse gears
  • Rotor diameter: 45 nm (22,000 of them laid side by side would make up a millimeter)
  • Operating speeds of up to 100,000 rpm
  • Direction reversing capability within 1/4 of a turn
  • It enables a cell to move at a speed of 35 cell-lengths per second.

One hair of a gecko's foot can support an ant's weight. A million of them (which would fit in a square inch) could support a child's weight. Moreover, these hairs repel dirt (unlike ordinary adhesive tape!)

The dolphin’s sonar system is so precise that it’s the envy of the U.S. Navy. It can detect a fish the size of a golf ball 230 feet (70m) away. It took an expert in chaos theory to show that the dolphin’s “click” pattern is mathematically designed to give the best information.

The sonar echo-locating system of bats works on clicks emitted by the bats. Bats are able to vary the time interval between successive clicks (closely spaced clicks are needed when the bat nears its prey), and also the gain in the echo signals entering their ears (less gain is needed for signals reflected by nearby objects, otherwise the bat would become deaf). Bats can locate a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair, extending only 2 mm above the water surface.

Dragonflies can fly forward and backward. They literally turn on a dime. Their unique eyes (with over 30,000 lenses) give them the ability to see 360 degrees around their body and they need this, because dragonflies can literally execute a hairpin turn at 100 kilometers per hour. At that speed a dragonfly can experience a G-force of about 25 times the gravity of earth. In comparison, the most gravity force that a human fighter pilot can sustain without blacking out is about nine Gs.

The complex compound eyes of some types of trilobites, extinct and supposedly “primitive” invertebrates, were amazingly designed. They comprised tubes that each pointed in a different, and had special lenses that focused light from any distance. The required lens design comprised a layer of calcite on top of a layer of chitin – materials with precisely the right refractive indices – and a wavy boundary between them of a precise mathematical shape. The designer of these eyes is a master physicist, who applied what we now know as the physical laws of Fermat’s principle of least time, Snell’s law of refraction, Abbe’s sine law, and birefringent optics.

I don't like spiders, but the the following facts about spider silk are remarkable:-
  • Spider silk is tougher than kevlar, the toughest man-made fibre
  • Dragline silk is a hundred times as strong as steel. A one-inch thick cable of dragline silk can support two Boeing 737 aircraft. It can also stretch to 40% its length.
  • Kevlar manufacture requires very harsh manufacturing conditions and leave behind environmentally hazardous byproducts. In contrast, the manufacture of spider silk is eco-friendly.
  • Spiders can speed up their silk manufacturing process 10-fold while dropping down to escape prey - the same cannot be done with kevlar manufacture.

Property # 3: Information Content

Even the simplest self – reproducing organism contains encyclopedic quantities of complex, specific information. Mycoplasma genitalium has the smallest known genome of any free-living organism, containing 482 genes comprising 580,000 base pairs. As for humans, the atheistic evolutionist Richard Dawkins admits, “There is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over.”

Even more amazingly, living things have by far the most compact information storage/retrieval system known. To illustrate further, the amount of DNA is staggering. It is the equivalent information content of a pile of paperback books 500 times as tall as the distance from earth to the moon, each with a different, yet specific, content. Genetic information cannot be translated except with many different enzymes, which are themselves encoded. So the code cannot be translated except via the products of translation, a vicious circle that ties evolutionary origin-of-life theories in knots.
 
Why is information so important as evidence for God in nature? The argument goes like this:-
  • Evolution is supposed to proceed through chemical reactions and mutations.
  • Neither has been known to generate information
  • Thus, life cannot have evolved, and therefore must have been created by Someone.
  • To put it positively, for every case of information content where the origin is known (operating systems and other software, novels, instruction manuals, etc), the origin is always in an intelligent person. So it is only logical to postulate, that the information content in living things points to an Intelligent Creator.

Evolutionary responses: Evolutionists have responded to the information argument with the following:-

  1. "It is not possible to quantify information, so your argument is not valid." But the information argument does not rely on the quantification of information. Even a lay-person knows that a dictionary is more informative than a newspaper. Besides, methods to quantify information are now being developed by workers in the field of information theory.
  2. "Many mutations are beneficial - just look at mutant drug resistant bacteria." This misses the point - the drug resistant mutants have less genetic information content and hence are further, not closer to humans.
  3. "Order can arise out of chaos - look at sand dunes and crystals." Again, this misses the point. The shapes of sand dunes follow from wind flow patterns. The shapes of crystals follow from the properties of their constituent ions. Thus, no information is generated during the formation of sand dunes or crystals. Thus, these processes are irrelevant to the origin of living things. 
  4. "We do observe a lot of variation in living things." Again, this misses the point, since the observed variation in living things is due to the shuffling of genetic information that is already present in the parents - not due to the generation of information.

"It is, for example, impossible for evolution to account for the fact than one single cell can carry more data than all the volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together...It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” – Anthony Flew, Professor of Philosophy, author, and debater; Antony Flew was an atheist debater but abandoned atheism after considering this evidence.

Property # 4: Irreducible Complexity

An irreducibly complex system is a system made up of several parts or mechanisms, all of which are necessary for the system to be functional. An example is the woodpecker’s beak. Just think of how much blind faith is needed to assume that it developed by natural selection:

Evolutionists would have us believe that woodpeckers share a common ancestry with other birds. Okay, why should some of these birds start banging their heads in trees?! What’s the survival value of that? By the way, the woodpecker hits really hard, and today’s woodpeckers are able to get away with it because of special shock-absorbing tissue that they have. So, the tissue evolved on its own and then these poor birds started banging their heads into trees to exercise their tissue! When the woodpecker bangs it’s beak into a tree, the bark comes out, and there are insects beneath that the woodpecker wants to eat. Needless to say, the insects try to go further in and avoid the woodpecker’s beak. What is our bird going to do now? Pull out its tongue! Woodpeckers have a long tongue that reaches out to the insect. What’s the use of making contact with the insect if you can’t get it in? Well? Their tongue is not just long but sticky! The insect sticks to the tongue and is brought into the mouth of the woodpecker. Good job done, but where is the woodpecker going to keep that tongue once the meal is done? It has a special coiling arrangement in its mouth for the purpose! Think of all the components of the system:

  • The woodpecker’s instinct to bang its head into trees
  • The shock absorbing tissue in its skull
  • Its long sticky tongue
  • The coiling arrangement

Another example of irreducible complexity in nature: The dragonfly cannot fly without its spectacular vision. But this vision could not have evolved earlier because it is of negligible advantage to a non-flier (so natural selection would not propagate it). Could its vision and flight capability have evolved gradually and simultaneously? This requires two long synchronized series of random genetic changes that are unrelated (at the genetic level) - wishful thinking.

Irreducibly complex systems cannot arise via mutations and natural selection because even if there is a mutation in the right direction, natural selection has no reason to select the mutant organism in favor of the others - only after the system is fully functional does it confer any survival advantage.

The pioneering work in irreducible complexity is Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Touchstone, 1996. The examples of irreducible design given by Michael Behe are:-

  • Vision
  • Blood clotting
  • Cilia and Flagella (Cellular whips and propellers)
  • Transport and maintenance in the cell
  • The immune system

Evolutionary responses: Evolutionists have responded to the argument of irreducible complexity with the following:-

  • Various parts of an irreducibly complex system could have developed independently for other purposes and then could have become part of an irreducibly complex system.
  • The system may have evolved while it was not irreducibly complex, and then become irreducibly complex later on. That is, a component A might have served some function. This was later augmented by another component B. Then some change took place in A which made it critically dependent on B to function (now A and B are irreducibly complex). 

However, both these explanations are just-so stories because no real-world examples were given. Thus, irreducible complexity remains strong evidence for a Creator. 

Conclusion

Design in nature shouts out that God exists! We are privileged to live in an age when technology has made it possible for man to get a much better glimpse into this design than was possible before.

"God's anger is manifest against people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The attributes of God such as His eternal power are obvious from the world around us. Hence, those who do not acknowledge God are without excuse. " - Romans 1:18-20, paraphrased.