Design vs Adaptation

More than once, I’ve heard an argument that reduces to this: “Science doesn’t know everything, therefore there must be God.” I understand the premise and the conclusion, but I’ve never seen the logic that gets us from one to the other. These two options do not partition the entire space of cosmic understanding. Of course there are things in the universe that I can’t explain. Almost certainly, there are truths that are beyond the ability of the human mind to understand; but that doesn’t mean there exists an omnipotent, omniscient God who runs the whole show. There’s no connection from one to the other.

Some say that the exquisite complexity — the unbounded interconnectedness of the universe — is proof of conscious design, yet that defies everything observed throughout all of human existence. Everything designed and constructed — whether by humans or any other species — is limited, approximate, and compromised. Anything designed can be improved with better tools. What nature shows is the glorious efficiency of adaptation rather than design.

Designed things are static. Once made, they cannot be made again. Natural things are dynamic. They adapt to everything they can and end when they cannot. The products of organic growth, the dance of subatomic particles and fields, the forces that move stars and planets in intricately connected harmonies — these are not static, designed things. These are natural things. To look at this and see a cosmic designer and creator is to miss the whole point. Organic growth is of a higher order than design and construction. Not because it is designed and constructed by a higher intelligence, but because it arises from forces more complex and subtle than intelligence. Time and chance and the chaos of everything asserting its effects on everything else, submitting in turn to the influences of everything else — these are powers of a higher order than intelligence, design, or construction.  Compared to this, the machinations of gods and demons cannot be taken seriously.

2 Replies to “Design vs Adaptation

  1. Hello,
    I saw an article about you on Imgur tonight and figuredbi would drop in and see what the book was about. After reading your post on Design v Adaptation I figured I would run an idea past you to see what you think. This is a concept I have had for a long time. It incorporates both design and adaptation. In the Bible it says that before everything there was only God. Before the universe, only pure energy exists, to me this would be God. Watch the YouTube video Scietific Proof That God Exists. From there he gets bored and decided to create the universe. Big Bang. From that point on he can play with things and have fun, but he says, “whatever evolves to be smart enough, they can know me.” He can then present himself to different species at different times in a way that that particular species would understand him best in their own limited view. It sounds better in person, but this is what I have. I’m hoping to pick up your book sometime soon. Good fortunes to you and enjoy your day.

    1. I think it’s a bit dicey to talk about “before the universe,” since, by definition, time does not exist except within the universe. I know it’s hard to conceive of what total nonexistence means; we sort of have to cheat and think of a big empty space, but even the dimensions of space do not exist except within the universe. I’m no cosmologist, but here’s my take on it (probably naive by astrophysics standards). If there are no dimensions of time and space, then the only thing needed to create them is randomness. Chance allows for the sudden, spontaneous appearance of a single point. With that occurrence, suddenly there is a dimension of time, because there is an after the point appeared, and there is a 0-order dimension of space, because there is at that point and not at that point. From there, time and space become possible and so, inevitably, spring into existence — the Big Bang. I’m sure the math is a bit more complicated than that, but it implies to me that chance is the fundamental progenitor of the universe. From what I understand of modern physics (not much, perhaps), that seems consistent with the role of uncertainty in quantum mechanics.

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