The world contains many wonderful things that work in harmony with one another, from astronomical events in the stars to the interchange between living organisms in delicate ecosystems. Natural phenomena around us operate in predictable ways. We can observe, describe, and predict these processes. Our world is an almost infinitely complex machine whose parts work in concert with astounding precision. It would be reasonable to conclude that such a marvelous design requires a designer.
Militant atheists like Richard Dawkins recognize that the world gives the appearance of design but try to explain it away. He says that while the world and the life forms that call it home do give the impression of design, it is nothing more than an illusion. We can see this reflected in his definition of biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”1
Naturalists like Dawkins believe that life merely mimics design, and does it so convincingly that many people in the world wrongly attribute the result of natural processes to a designer who does not exist. Science proves that design is merely illusory, and only the scientifically-illiterate think otherwise. But is design just an illusion? Or is there more to the story?
The Goldilocks Universe
In the children’s story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” the titular protagonist stumbles upon the home of three bears who have stepped out. She finds three bowls of porridge on the table, all at different temperatures. Next to each is a spoon of differing sizes. The three chairs offer varying degrees of comfort. She finds only one bowl suitable to eat in front of a chair that has the right softness. She goes upstairs and finds three beds, one of which she finds preferable to the others. In each case, she selects the one that is “just right.” This story lends its name to “The Goldilocks Principle,” which is used in various disciplines to describe optimum conditions that have to exist to achieve maximum effectiveness or, in the case of life on earth, existence.
Earth itself has a long list of minimum requirements to support life, which scientists have recognized for more than a century. Life on earth needs the proper amount of water and elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. It requires a particular kind of crust at the appropriate temperature, and the right kind of core at the planet’s center. It needs a specific type of moon at the right size and distance, along with the right type of star. It even needs the right kind of solar system with massive planets (like Jupiter) to help shield it from bombardment by asteroids, comets, and interstellar debris. These examples represent just a few conditions necessary for life to exist on earth.
The wealth of conditions that need to be “just right” for life to exist and thrive is so mind-boggling that even evolutionists admit that the likelihood of finding life elsewhere is virtually inconceivable. This is a stunning admission, given the fact that our universe has as many as two trillion galaxies filled with stars and planets. Our galaxy contains as many as 250 billion stars. With the many opportunities that a sprawling universe this size would afford, evolutionists routinely admit that the conditions for life are so exacting that life almost certainly exists nowhere else.
Indicators of Design
From delicate features in the natural world to the predictable harmony of particles on the subatomic level, creation screams out that a supremely intelligent and powerful creator has designed it. We can see examples of this in living organisms, where living structures give every indication of design. However, to fully appreciate the complexity of its design, we must go beyond a simple examination of life. We have to examine the fundamental properties of the created order.
That someone has fine-tuned our world for life seems to be inescapable. Even committed unbelievers recognize that the smallest changes in the universe would make it utterly inhospitable for life. The late Stephen Hawking states, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”2 An adjustment to any of these numbers would remove any possibility of life existing as we know it.
Writing in Discover, Brad Lemley states, “The universe is unlikely. Very unlikely. Deeply, shockingly unlikely.”3 In the same article, Lemley quotes Cambridge astronomer Martin Rees who states that if the fundamental properties of the universe were altered “even to the tiniest degree, there would be no stars, no complex elements, no life” and that even the existence of the universe itself is “unlikely to an absurd degree.”4
Design Reveals The Designer
Many sources of information reveal what we know about God. He has spoken through the prophets (2 Pet. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:1), including offering promises that later occurred (cf. Rom. 1:2). He spoke through Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2-8). He offered evidence through his design of the natural world, whereby we see not only that God exists, but can even know something about his attributes (Rom. 1:18-20).
Bertrand Russell once said that if he were to meet God after his death and answer the question of why he was an atheist, he would reply, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” Although he was a gifted writer and talented philosopher, Russell was not immune to the blindness that bias can produce. Scientists today wrestle with the question of why the universe seems to be so particularly suited to life. Scripture offers the most plausible solution.
Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX. He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.
1Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986), 1.
2Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York, NY: Bantam, 1988), 125.
3Brad Lemley, “Why Is There Life?” Discover (November 2000).