Christianity and Science Teleology

QUESTION: Christianity and Science – Teleology Supports Creationism


One line of scientific reasoning that points to a Creator is the intricate design found in all living organisms. This is known as the teleological argument. William Paley presented one of the most famous versions of this argument—that of the watch and the watchmaker.1 Since the nineteenth century, however, it has been widely believed that Paley’s argument for a universal Designer was effectively answered by the philosopher David Hume. Hume claimed that Paley’s analogy between living things and machines was unfounded and unrealistic in that life does not need an intelligent designer as machines do.

In addition to his philosophical argument, Hume advanced a theory of natural selection similar to Darwin’s, which he claimed could account for the apparent design seen in nature. Atheist Richard Dawkins writes in The Blind Watchmaker, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”2 Dawkins goes on to explain that there is no need to postulate God as the Designer since natural selection can perform the miracles.

However, in spite of Dawkins’ claims, scientists can no longer ignore the idea of design. Recent discoveries reveal that life is indeed analogous to the most complex machinery, thereby reinforcing Paley’s argument. Michael Denton, a molecular biologist, states, “Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man.”3

Christianity and Science – The Universe and Design
Science is re-learning an old lesson: the more we uncover details about the universe and living organisms, the more we discover design. Many notable scientists inadvertently support Paley’s arguments as they describe the design in nature revealed to them through science. Physicist Paul Davies, who does not profess to be a Christian, supports teleology—and ultimately creationism—when he says, “Every advance in fundamental physics seems to reveal yet another facet of order.”4 Albert Einstein said, “The harmony of natural law . . . reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”5 And Robert Jastrow, an agnostic, shook up his fellow scientists when he said, “The Anthropic principle is the most interesting development next to the proof of the creation, and it is even more interesting because it seems to say that science itself has proven, as a hard fact, that this universe was made, was designed, for man to live in. It is a very theistic result.”6

Evolution assumes that the universe came into existence and continues to run by chance rather than laws designed by a Law-maker. When world-class non-Christian scientists like these declare that the universe cannot be viewed as a product of chance, they strike a severe blow to materialistic evolutionary theory.

Michael Behe details in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, a number of molecular “machines” (such as the bacterial flagellum) and chemical pathways (such as the process for blood clotting) that are essential components for particular organisms. He coined the phrase “irreducible complexity” to highlight the fact that these features cannot be reduced to simpler parts and still perform their required function. The theory of irreducible complexity thus eliminates the possibility of these features arising through a gradual evolutionary process.

When we truly understand the ordered complexity of life,7 it is hard to imagine chance producing even bacterial cells, the simplest living systems. Denton explains, “Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10(-12) gms, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world.”8

As Paley pointed out almost two centuries ago, this kind of complexity requires an intelligent mind—chance processes cannot produce such intricate order. Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek make the same argument in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.9 And while David Berlinski’s article “On the Origins of Life” does not argue for an intelligent mind, it does describe the complexity of life in great detail.10


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Christians need to remember that it was the Psalmist who said the heavens declare the glory of God and His handiwork (Psalm 19)—a teleological observation.
2 Robert T. Pennock, Intelligent Design: Creationism and its Critics (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 644. Dawkins spends 300 pages in The Blind Watchmaker trying to show that design is only appearance, not fact.
3 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986), 340.
4 Paul Davies, Superforce (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1984), 223.
5 Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (New York, NY: Crown, 1982), 40, quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 2:666.
6 Robert Jastrow, “A Scientist Caught Between Two Faiths,” Christianity Today, August 6, 1982, quoted in Geisler, Systematic Theology, 2:591. Clearly, the Humanist has no patience with the Anthropic Principle, which states that the world was tailored for our existence. For an excellent defense of this principle, see Roy Abraham Varghese, ed., The Intellectuals Speak Out About God (Dallas, TX: Lewis and Stanley, 1984), 102ff.
7 See Michael J. Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1996) for a full discussion on the complexity of the cell. Also, David Berlinski’s article “On the Origins of Life” in Commentary (February 2006). “Darwinian evolution,” says Berlinski, “begins with self-replication, and self-replication is precisely what needs to be explained” (29).
8 Denton, Evolution, 250.
9 Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004).
10 Commentary (February 2006).

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