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Intelligent Design?

By Richard Cannon in All Sorts

all our knowledge of science and art is still only part of the truth and God may well be in the, why? of what we know, and in the how? of what we have yet to learn.

Intelligent design?
I was struck by the words in a hymn by Thomas Troeger, Praise the Source of Faith and Learning, sung recently at Mornington because it made mention of a concept I have been considering lately, intelligent design.
Praise the source of faith and learning,
that has sparked and stoked the mind,
with a passion for discerning,
how the world has been designed.
The verse talks about the world being ‘designed’ which got me thinking of intelligent design. The term intelligent design refers to a pseudoscientific argument for the existence of God. The idea is that that the universe and its complex life forms cannot be explained solely by natural causes, and thus an intelligent higher power must have contributed to the origins of the universe. An analogy that has been used for the intelligent design of the world is a clockwork pocket watch – a thing of beauty which is so delicate and intricate that it cannot have arisen by natural processes – therefore there must have been a designer.

William Paley (1743 – 1805), an English clergyman, used the watchmaker analogy in his book Natural Theology, or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity collected from the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802. In it, Paley wrote that if a pocket watch is found on a heath, it is most reasonable to assume that someone dropped it and that it was made by at least one watchmaker, not by natural forces. Paley went on to argue that the complex structures of living things and the remarkable adaptations of plants and animals required an intelligent designer. He believed the natural world was the creation of God and showed the nature of the creator. According to Paley, God had carefully designed "even the most humble and insignificant organisms" and all of their minute features.

We, and nature around us, are certainly amazingly intricate awe- inspiring organisms. I am, however, a firm believer in evolution, of how conditions on earth have selected for organisms to develop into complex well adapted life forms. But what is also amazing is that there is so much we cannot explain.
For instance, thinking of our human bodies, pretty much every cell in our body contains the same DNA, the same blueprint for our design, yet cells throughout our bodies are so different. Why are some skin cells, some bone cells, why do we develop into the shape we do? When all the cells have the same blueprint, why do they only use part of it? How do cells arrange themselves to form such complex yet well-defined and generally well-replicated structures? Cells can respond to chemical messages from other cells and to various stimuli, but how do cells respond to the incredibly diverse signals they receive from their environment in a time-dependent way? So many questions!
I return to the hymn by Thomas Troeger and another verse:
God of wisdom we acknowledge,
that our science and our art,
and the breadth of human knowledge
only partial truth impart.
This sums it up nicely, all our knowledge of science and art is still only part of the truth and God may well be in the, why? of what we know, and in the how? of what we have yet to learn.
Richard Cannon