Essentials of Apologetics - Lesson 9

Intelligent Design

In this lesson, you will gain insights into the intricate relationship between science and faith, specifically addressing the question of intelligent design. Dr. McDowell explores various arguments for the existence of God, highlighting the recognition of design even by non-believers. The concept of fine-tuning is introduced, illustrated through a thought experiment with a personalized cabin. The discussion extends to cosmology, emphasizing the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and then to biology, focusing on the complexity of DNA as an information system. Ultimately, the lesson concludes that the fine-tuning of the universe and the information in DNA point towards a fine tuner and an author of life, providing compelling evidence for the existence of God.

Sean McDowell
Essentials of Apologetics
Lesson 9
Watching Now
Intelligent Design

I. Exploring Evidence for God's Existence

A. Positive Evidence for the Soul

B. Moral Argument and Moral Lawgiver

C. Beauty as a Pointer to the Divine Artist

II. Intersection of Science and Faith

A. Introduction to Intelligent Design

B. Non-Christian Perspectives on Design

C. The World's Appearance of Design

III. Scientific Exploration of Intelligent Design

A. Background of Intelligent Design Book

B. Five Disciplines Explored

1. Cosmology and the Kalam Cosmological Argument

2. Fine-Tuning in Physics

3. Biological Information and DNA

IV. Fine-Tuning in Physics

A. Understanding Fine-Tuning

B. Analogy: Water Balloon Launching

C. Exquisite Balance for Life Support

1. Exemplifying the Exquisite Balance

2. Paul Davies' Perspective on Balance

3. Mathematical Calculation of Fine-Tuning

V. Biological Information and DNA

A. Biology as the Science of Information

B. Complexity of DNA and Information Storage

C. Probability and Chance Explanations

1. The Monkeys Typing Shakespeare Theorem

2. MIT Physicist's Calculation on Information Arising by Chance

3. Scientists' Experiment with Monkeys

D. Information and Mind as the Best Explanation

VI. Summarizing Evidence for God's Existence

A. The Beginning of the Universe

B. Beauty in the Universe

C. Moral Law and Lawgiver

D. Fine-Tuning and Fine Tuner

E. Biological Information and Intelligent Source

F. Antony Flew's Perspective on DNA and Intelligence

VII. Questions and Clarifications

A. Sci-Fi Scenario and Fine-Tuning

B. Probability and Universal Probability Bound

C. Necessity as an Explanation

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of apologetics, the theological discipline of defending the Christian faith, through a personal mall encounter that highlights the importance of being prepared to provide reasoned defenses, with a focus on biblical foundations, addressing objections, and fulfilling a ministry to those with questions.
  • This second lesson on apologetics, highlights the importance of understanding worldviews, using practical exercises and examples to illustrate how our minds shape beliefs, categorizing worldviews based on their answers to fundamental questions, and exploring Christianity's unique perspective on creation, the world's problem, and the solution through Jesus.
  • This lesson explores Antony Flew's shift from atheism to recognizing Christianity's uniqueness. Dr. McDowell provides four reasons why a spiritual quest ought to begin with Christianity: testability in history, free salvation, a livable worldview, and Jesus' central role beyond religious boundaries. The lesson includes a Q&A time reviewing Islam's view on Jesus and Darwin's evolution.
  • Debunking the myth of blind faith, Sean counters with a scriptural foundation, using personal encounters and anecdotes. Examining biblical narratives, especially in Exodus and the New Testament, reveals a pattern: God provides evidence, imparts knowledge, and calls for faith and action. The story of doubting Thomas underscores that belief aligns with evidence, not against it. The lesson closes by emphasizing faith's dynamic nature, which can be fortified through evidence-based study.
  • In this session, you'll delve into the speaker's exploration of truth, gaining insights into its multifaceted importance in various life aspects. The session highlights three key reasons for the significance of truth, introduces the correspondence theory, and underlines the implicit connection between Christianity and truth, offering a comprehensive understanding of the topic.
  • You gain a deep understanding of the distinction between subjective and objective claims in this lesson, illustrated through relatable examples like ice cream preferences. Sean communicates that subjective claims rely on personal beliefs, while objective claims are based on the external world. Overall, you will develop a nuanced perspective on truth, specifically in differentiating between subjective and objective claims, with a focus on moral values.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the moral argument for the existence of God. Sean draws from a personal debate experience, emphasizing that God provides a solid foundation for moral values. Three key points are highlighted: the need for a transcendent standard for right and wrong, the role of free will in moral accountability, and the requirement for divine grounding of human value. The lesson challenges naturalistic worldviews, asserting that they fail to offer a satisfactory explanation for objective morality, ultimately suggesting that living in accordance with God's design leads to true freedom and fulfillment.
  • Explore the Christian view on the soul, diving into its significance through moral law and beauty. Analyze arguments supporting its existence, like its role in free will, using analogies. Address contemporary debates on gender and transgender issues, suggesting a dual human nature. Incorporate biblical references, evaluating flawed arguments and introducing stronger ones. Discuss practical implications for personal well-being. This lesson explores the soul's concept from a Christian standpoint.
  • Gain insights into the intricate relationship between science and faith, exploring arguments for God's existence, the concept of fine-tuning in cosmology and biology, and the conclusion that the fine-tuning of the universe and DNA's information complexity point towards a fine tuner and an author of life, offering compelling evidence for the existence of God.
  • In this exploration of miracles, the lesson shifts from discussing God's existence to questioning divine revelation, challenging skeptics to reconsider their worldview and illustrating the philosophical underpinnings of miracles, ultimately emphasizing an open-minded investigation and hinting at a compelling case for theism and Christianity with overwhelming evidence for miracles.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of near-death experiences (NDEs) and their potential as a compelling apologetic tool, exploring evidentiary aspects, transformative impacts, objections, and the significance of information unattainable by natural means in supporting the case for an afterlife and the soul.
  • Dr. McDowell reviews the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection and the significance of the resurrection.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the historical evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus, including the crucifixion, discovery of the empty tomb by women, early and multiple accounts of Jesus's appearances, and the transformative impact on the disciples, ultimately challenging alternative explanations and asserting the resurrection as the most reasonable conclusion based on historical facts.
  • Exploring the Bible's trustworthiness through the character and copy tests, this lesson establishes the reliability of the New Testament by highlighting the writers' honesty, the disciples' willingness to endure hardships, and the exceptional proximity and quantity of early manuscripts.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a thorough understanding of the New Testament's reliability through an exploration of its extensive manuscript evidence, addressing skeptics' concerns about variations, and highlighting corroboration from external sources such as historical records and archaeology.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the problem of evil and suffering, exploring its intellectual and emotional dimensions, drawing on personal experiences, historical perspectives, and a philosophical approach, and laying the groundwork for a more in-depth exploration in the next session.
  • In this lesson, you will learn of the logical problem of evil, exploring the philosophical challenge to God's existence posed by the coexistence of omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and evil, while examining the limitations of God's power, the compatibility of free will, and the unique Christian perspective emphasizing the redemptive nature of the incarnation and the cross in addressing the problem of evil.
  • Gain insights into responding to objections in apologetics, including addressing conflicts between a loving God and hell, defending the Bible against contradictions, clarifying misconceptions about God's stance on homosexuality, explaining the concept of the Trinity, and attributing natural evil to the brokenness of the world due to sin.
  • Gain insights into a personal and relational approach to apologetics by understanding that everyone is an apologist and theologian, as the lesson, through anecdotes, underscores the importance of discerning underlying questions, emphasizing active listening and probing inquiries to address the genuine needs and heartaches beneath surface-level queries.
  • Gain insights into effective spiritual conversations by asking four key questions: understanding beliefs, exploring reasons behind them, finding common ground, and navigating areas of disagreement, with an emphasis on listening and fostering genuine understanding.

In this day and age, it is critical that followers of Jesus know how to think clearly and biblically about their faith and how it intersects with and often contrasts with how the world thinks. These areas include one's worldview, the fact that faith is not blind, why the truth matters, why seeing design in creation points to a designer, and evidence for the soul, resurrection, and the Bible. How can God allow evil, and how do we talk with skeptics? Dr. McDowell discusses these topics and others in this easy-to-understand course on apologetics.

Intelligent Design
Sean McDowell
Lesson 9
Essentials of Apologetics

The question we want to ask in this session is, is there evidence from nature pointing towards the existence of God? So, far we've looked for positive evidence for the soul. We've looked to the moral argument that points towards a moral lawgiver. We've also looked at how beauty seems to point towards the divine artist, but are there also features in the world that point towards a mind that is behind it, specifically at the intersection of science and faith? That's what we're going to explore in the question of intelligent design. Now with that said, one thing that's really interesting to me is I had a chance to write a book with a friend of mine who's a double PhD, and by the way, you know what you call someone with two PhDs? Paradox. Paradox, you got it in the back? Now, when I wrote a book on intelligent design, I read arguments for, I read arguments against, I read Christians, I read skeptics, I read everywhere in between to try to understand the issues.

And one of the things that really struck me is how many non-Christians who embrace a naturalistic evolutionary worldview will concede that the world looks as if it were designed. Now, let that sink in for a minute. So, you don't believe there's a designer, they think we got here through a blind purposeless process, and yet our intuitions kind of tell us that the world was designed. So, Richard Dawkins famously wrote, "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."

Now, if something walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and smells like a duck, maybe it's a duck. Maybe the world looks designed to believers and non-believers because it's actually designed. Now, that's not an argument, but that sure sounds like a fair question to me. Now, just really in the past few decades, starting in the last century and over the past few decades, scientists have began to uncover certain things about the universe that seem to more powerfully than ever point to a source outside of the universe that's a transcendent mind, that is the cause of certain features within the universe. Now, such discovery should not surprise us at all. Why? Well, 3,000 years ago, the Psalmist said, "The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hand. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge."

So, a Judeo-Christian perspective has been that like a painting tells us something about a painter, the natural world points to something beyond the natural world, namely to a God. Well, in the book that I wrote a number of years ago with a friend of mine, William Dembski, we go into five different disciplines and talk about how the more we plumb the depths of the solar system and the depths of the cell, we see what some are calling signs of intelligence. We're not going to have time to walk through all five of these. We'll look at two of them, but before we jump in, the first one is cosmology, which is related to the cosmos, the origin of the universe. There's an entire argument here that some people consider one of the strongest arguments for the exists of God called the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and this is rooted in the idea that whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The universe began to exist, therefore the universe had a cause, and if the universe had a cause, it must be outside of the universe to bring it into existence. That's a whole nother area of an argument for the existence of God we could consider. Bottom line, that argument says if the universe had a beginning, it points towards there being a beginner. You'll notice the language that I'm using very carefully. Beauty in the world is best explained by a divine artist. The moral law is best explained by a moral lawgiver. The universe points toward day beginner. Well, this one we're going to look at in the world of physics is related to what's called fine-tuning. I think we're going to see that the fine-tuning points towards a fine tuner. Now, what do we mean by fine-tuning? I would imagine you come visit me down even further in Southern Orange County in San Juan Capistrano and we go walking in some of the undeveloped hills that are out there and we come across this seemingly abandoned cabin.

As you go walking up, you notice the sound of something strange, the sound of your favorite song, Beat It by Michael Jackson. You don't take the obvious hint. You decide to go explore and walk inside, but then you notice something very strange. You smell the scent of your most beloved meal. You think, "Well, that's strange," then as you open the door, you look inside, you see a coat that fits you perfectly, boots and a shoe size that are just your shoe size, you look and there's books and magazines you like to read. You open up a little refrigerator, it's the exact snacks you like to munch on. You walk over the small bath and you notice the exact toiletries that you use. Now, what would you suspect, besides thinking you are in a horror movie? You would know one thing for sure, that this can't be explained as coincidence.

At some point, you stop and you say, "Wait a minute, it's one thing to have shoes my size, but so many things lined up near perfectly for me can only be explained by somebody expecting my arrival." What's fascinating about this is it mirrors in many ways what scientists have discovered about the universe as a whole. So, a physicist by name of Freeman Dyson wrote, "As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming." In other words, he looks out these accidents of physics is our universe is governed by certain physical laws and constants, and if these things were slightly different, our universe could not be capable of supporting life at all. This is what's often called the fine-tuning.

So you might think about it this way, you have Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the porridge that's too hot, that's too cold, that's just right. We live in universe that all these different laws and constants have one strange thing in common, they're set just right to have universe capable of supporting life. So, those of you my age or older would remember when we had these radio dials that you had to set to get the perfect... It was even harder in AM than FM, but you had to just kind of tune it just right to get the signal. It's like we live in a universe, but to the nth degree that we'll talk about where things are just fine-tuned, where they're just right. Again, you get in the shower in the morning, what do you do? You take the hot, you take the cold, and you kind of fine tune them, so they're just right on the scale for the temperature.

Well, extrapolate that exponentially, and that's the kind of universe that we live in, that where the dial is set and the temperature so to speak is set exactly where it needs to be. So Paul Davies, a well-known agnostic astronomer, he said, "The cliche that life is balanced on a knife edge is a staggering understatement in this case. No knife in the universe could have an edge that fine." So when people say the universe, it's like it exists on a razor's edge, the slightest to the left, or the slightest to the right, and the universe becomes inhospitable to life. What he's saying is that balance is so exquisite that in a sense it cries out for a grander explanation. Now, here's a way that might help. I've mentioned a couple times that I teach at Biola University and I went to Biola as a student and my senior year, two of my best friends lived in these dorms on the backside of Biola, if you know the campus, called Li and Thompson and Welch, they're kind of graduate school dorms or upperclassmen.

And my friend, I'll just drop his name in there, my friend Matt, we're hanging out at his house and he goes, "Hey, do you want to open up the window and see if we can launch some water balloons at cars as they pull up and come in at night?" And of course, I was a college student, so I was like, "Great idea." Now if you know where these dorms are, I think they're on the third story. There's a large parking lot, tall row of trees, a big water gutter, and then a stop sign. And as soon as I said yes, we walked over to the window and he had a big bucket full of water balloons. So, clearly he had thought and deviously planned this out. If you've ever seen these massive water balloon launchers, they're like a huge rubber band.

I was holding one side, my friend was holding the other side, and then my friend Matt would put a water balloon and he'd pull it back as far as he could, and then we saw a car come and launch it out the window and this thing would fling. It would go probably dozens and dozens if not 100+ yards. Well, we see the small red car coming up from the back and it's like perfect timing and time slowed down. So I'm holding this side, my friend's holding that side. My friend Matt grabs a water balloon, puts it in it, pulls it back as hard as he can, and it slings out the window, goes across the parking lot, clears the row of trees, goes over the water gutter, the car stops at the stop sign, and it smacks it right in the windshield and it shatters it.

She has a heart attack. No, I'm kidding. It's not that bad. Instead of just shattering, it makes a spider crack just go up the entire thing. Needless to say, we had to pay for it, which might've been the best economic lesson in all of college, but you think about how many things we had to get right, so to speak, to hit our target. What if there was a little more or a little less water? It would've gone further or not far enough. What if the angle was a little bit different? What if we were in Colorado where the air is lighter? It would've gone further. You start to think about all these things that have to line up to hit our target. Now, a water balloon hitting obviously a car is not that remote, but that helps us understand how many things have to get right for our universe to not only exist but exist in a certain kind of state capable of supporting life.

So, if you just randomly took the different parameters and constants, only a very small range of values would have a universe even with atoms and planets and stars. So if you just slightly change some of these parameters, you don't even coalesce into planets and stars, which are necessary for there to be life. That's how exquisitely has to be fine-tuned. Now, scientists often talk about 30 physical or cosmological parameters that must be fine-tuned. In fact, some state way more than this, but we'll just keep it conservative at 30.

These are things like the force of gravity, the strong nuclear force, the fine structure constant, et cetera. Now, what happens mathematically if we take two of these? So, force of gravity must be fine-tuned to one times 10 with 40 zeros after it. Cosmological constant, one times 10 with 53 zeros after it. What happens if we take two of the required physical constants and set them within the parameters they need to be to have the universe capable of supporting complex life? Well, the number becomes one 100 million trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion. That's a pretty big number. If you can't grasp that number, just think of our new national debt.

Got it? According to an agnostic astronomer, Lee Smolin, he says, "Perhaps before going further, we should ask, how probable is it the universe created by randomly choosing the parameters will contain stars." Given what we've already said, it's simple to estimate this probability. For readers who are interested, the arithmetic is in the notes. The answer in round numbers comes to about one chance in 10 to the 229th power that is 10 with 229 zeros after it, effectively a zero probability. I don't have enough faith to believe this could happen by chance, and yet we know that minds are capable of and regularly fine tune things. So, it seems to me the fine-tuning we've discovered about the laws and constants of physics and cosmology seem to point towards a mind or an intelligence or as we would say, a fine tuner. Now, let's move from kind of the macro level down to the micro level.

So, that's the world of physics. What if we go down to the world of biology? Well, David Baltimore, who's a Nobel laureate has said that modern biology is the science of information. In other words, biology doesn't just study living systems, it actually studies information transfer and processing since the discovery of DNA in 1953. Well, the DNA in one cell in your body according to one estimate, has equivalent of 8 billion letters, 500 million words, or 8,000 books. In fact, if we took the DNA out of one cell in your body, you have trillions and trillions of cells in your body, the DNA in one cell in your body uncoiled would be about nine feet in length. That means the DNA in all of your body strung together would go from here to the sun and back about 200 times. That's just incredible to think about.

What does DNA do? It stores information. It's why Bill Gates said, "DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we've ever created." Which raises a question, what can possibly explain the origin of so much information? Well, there's a range of explanations. We don't have time to explore all of them, but one common one reminds me of a scene from a classic comedy in the movie Dumb and Dumber, where Jim Carrey, he says, "What are the chances that a guy like you and a girl like me end up together?" She says, "Yeah, not very good." He says, "Well, just slap it on me, like what? One out of 100?" She's like, "Not really, more like one out of a million." And in turn, he goes, "Oh, so you're telling me there's a chance?" Her point was the opposite.

One explanation is if we just have a big enough universe and enough chance, eventually information can arise by itself. This has been called by Richard Dawkins, the monkeys typing Shakespeare theorem, the idea being if you have enough monkeys and you have enough typewriters or computers, eventually one monkey will sit down and type out all the works of Shakespeare. Do you understand the reasoning? If we have enough probabilistic resources, information could arise. Well, in our book, we actually cite an MIT quantum computational physicist who calculated how much information could arise by chance given all the resources of the universe. It's not infinite. If you take the size and the age, et cetera, assuming modern science, it's not unlimited information. In fact, he calculated chance alone could not produce all the works of Shakespeare, not one work of Shakespeare, not a chapter, not a page or a paragraph, but four lines from one work of Shakespeare, to be or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer.

Some scientists recently put the monkeys typing Shakespeare theorem to the test. They put the monkeys in the cage with some old computers to see if they sit down and start typing out Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet. Well, one of them, first monkey bashed on the computer, one monkey went to the bathroom on the computer, but before he left, they actually produced between six and seven pages of written text, a string of A's L's, M's, and occasional J and a few S's, not a single word, but if you need some more books to read, you can actually purchase the literary works of these monkeys. They've been put into a volume called Notes Towards the Complete Works of Shakespeare. You can actually buy that online, I kid you not. Now, you're chuckling because you know something deeply intuitive, that when we come across information, it requires a sufficient mind.

So, if we go walk on the beach and you see in the sand it says, "John loves Mary," none of you would think, "Oh my goodness, I had no idea that the tides in Southern Orange County when they went out left messages from the deep." None of you say, "Oh, earthquakes caused this. It's not natural." You either John wrote it because he loves Mary, maybe Mary wrote it because she wants to be loved by John. The only explanation that's adequate is a mind wrote this. Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge-trained philosopher of science said, "Whenever we find information and we know the causal story of how that information arose, we always find that it arose from an intelligence source," and he's right. If you get a text and it's legible, you trace it back to a texter. A book traces back to an author. If you go outside and in the clouds, it says, "Drink Coke," nobody says, "Yep, that happens here in Southern California when a storm is coming from the east."

You know a pilot or a mind wrote that. Well, when we look in the DNA, we don't see the equivalent of drink Coke or even one or all the works of Shakespeare, we see far more sophistication and signs of intelligence than the most sophisticated technology humans can create today. The question is, what's the best explanation? Well, the beginning of the universe I think points towards the beginner. The beauty in the universe points towards the divine artist. The moral law points towards a moral lawgiver, and the fine-tuning of the universe points towards a fine tuner, the information to cell points towards an author of life. That's why Antony Flew, former atheist, when he became a believer in God, he said, "What I think the DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements together. The enormous complexity by which the results were achieved looks to me like the work of intelligence," and I think he's right. Any questions about how DNA potentially points towards a mind or the fine-tuning point towards a fine tuner? Go ahead.

Now I'm understanding about why I love you, but I know you're probably a fan of sci-fi and stuff. Watching Star Wars and all these kind of movies, is there a chance that... What do we say for a Botswana, it's in some other universe that the gravity constant is a little different, so they were all 10 feet tall or they're closer to the sun, are we working backwards [inaudible 00:21:37] other way [inaudible 00:21:38]?

So what about in sci-Fi, if we adjusted these a little bit, maybe people could have different heights? So, here's the key, to even have any complex life at all and even basic chemistry, these have to be fine-tuned within a very, very narrow range. So, it's not like change this a little bit and maybe you're a little bit taller. That's within such a small effect upon human beings that doesn't reflect the level of fine-tuning that's required to have the universe even capable of supporting life.

By the way, you see how these build on one another in the sense that you can't have fine-tuning unless the universe is here. So, where does something from nothing even make sense if there's not a God to bring the universe into existence? But then the universe has to be fine-tuned exquisitely, it's not just matter. It's a universe which the laws all line up capable of supporting life, but if you have universe capable of supporting life, you still need an explanation for the origin of life and DNA. You see how these build on top of one another? That's why it exists in science fiction, your example, not in real life. Great question though, one more go.

In terms of statistics and probabilities and that, is there a number that most scientists would agree is impossible?

So, is there a number Most scientists would agree is impossible? I don't know that there's one number scientists would agree on. I remember when we were writing our book Intelligent Design, which has been a while, there were a number of people that... I think it's called the universal probability bound, and some said like one times 10 to the 50th, one times 10 to the 100th. If I'm not mistaken, the one we cited here was even a more, not conservative, but a more liberal projection, like we will concede as much as we possibly can, and to fine tune it is still not even close to that.

Here's the way I would frame it, from what I'm aware of, when people give a universal probability bound from the left to the far right, it's still not close to what's required for there to explain the fine-tuning, if that makes sense. In fact, some scientists have said the fine-tuning is so precise that we couldn't even write down the number in full because we'd need more atoms than exist in the universe. Now, that's one assessment, but begins to help understand how unfathomable this is and how far it's beyond the reach of chance. Now, one other popular explanation is people say, "Okay, and it's not chance, it's necessity, it's required." Does that make sense?

So certain things in nature, there's laws that like crystals and order will come out of seeming disorder, but there's a big difference between things like crystals and things like information. The information crystals like XY, XY, XY, simple, repetitive, that's different than the works of Shakespeare, which is not just repetitive, very simple information on that level, if you even call it information, and the same with the laws of physics. If there's some law that says things have to be fine-tuned, then I'm going to say, why is there a law that things have to be fine-tuned exquisitely for there to be life? There's still a mind that's required to explain this. You can't get rid of the need for intelligence.