Essentials of Christian Apologetics - Lesson 4

Existence of God (Part 2/2)

Ronald Nash
Essentials of Christian Apologetics
Lesson 4
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Existence of God (Part 2/2)

The Existence of God

Part 2

II.  Proofs for the Existence of God: Intelligent Design

A.  Recent Scientific Discoveries

1.  Two Kinds of Order

a.  Natural set of causes

b.  Intelligent cause

2.  A Comment About Darwinism

B.  The Black Box of the Human Cell

1.  What is a black box?

2.  Behe's Notion of Irreducible Complexity

a.  Mousetrap

b.  The Human Cell

i.  Cilium

ii.  Vesicular transport

C.  Information Systems and the Cell

For more information, see:

The full course, Christian Apologetics, Lecture #8 The Existence of God

Nash, Faith and Reason, pp. 121-174.

Nash, Life's Ultimate Questions, pp. 296-305


These lessons are a summary of Dr. Nash's introductory course to Christian Apologetics. The full seminary level class is available in our Institute Program.

Dr. Ronald Nash

Essentials of Christian Apologetics


Existence of God (Part 2/2)

Lesson Transcript


I move now to a discussion of recent scientific discoveries that I think really offer strong support for belief in God. These two that my discussion of these two arguments will build upon the material that I, I just gave. The important distinction between a scientific explanation and a personal explanation is certainly an important foundation to this material. The two lines of argument that arise out of these discoveries end up as highly advanced and sophisticated versions of the deductive argument. The reason this information was not available until recently was the development of technology that provided information about living cells and information about DNA A's genetic code. This technology includes the electron microscope, the X-ray, X-ray crystallography, and nuclear magnetic resonance. The first type of argument will examine explains how a living human being contains a number of molecular machines that are examples of irreducible complexity. According to the second type of argument, the genetic code of DNA contains an embedded language representing a specified complexity. In case some of you already don't know, from what I've just said, the two arguments for God's existence that I'm going to explore are related to the intelligent design movement, a movement that I think has made an enormous contribution about both advancing the cause for a rational argument for God's existence and demonstrating the philosophical ineptness of Darwinism today. Okay, well, let's begin first with what we could call two or two kinds of order. Two kinds of order. Earlier, I discussed the important difference between scientific and personal explanations. It is now important to draw a distinction between two kinds of order in the universe.


[00:02:41] The first kind of order results from the nature of the material of which a thing is made. An example is a snowflake. The order represented by a snowflake does not entail the existence of intelligent cause. The second kind of order does not arise from a natural set of causes. It entails the existence of an intelligent cause. In Arches National Park in the state of Utah. There is an incredible rock formation that resembles a sheep called the sheep's rock. The resemblance is so uncanny that some might regarded as the work of a brilliant sculptor. But once we examine the rock, we see that it is a product of natural erosion. As Walter Bradley and Charles Thaxton explain. The formation may look as though it was deliberately carved, but on closer inspection, say, from a different angle, you notice that the resemblance is only superficial. The shape invariably accords with what erosion can do as it acts upon the natural qualities of the rock. Soft parts worn away, hard parts protruding. You therefore conclude that the rock formed naturally. Natural forces sufficed to account for the shape You see. The second type of order, the kind that requires an intelligent cause, is represented by the faces on Mount Rushmore. As the authors Walter Bradley and Charles Thaxton explain. Quote, The angles of the four faces on the granite cliff. The Mount Rushmore do not follow the natural composition of the rock. The chip marks cut across both hard and soft sections. These shapes do not resemble anything you have seen resulting from erosion. In this case, the shape of the rock is not the result of natural processes. Rather, you infer from uniform experience that an artisan has been at work. The four faces were intelligently imposed onto the rock material.


[00:04:51] Once the difference between these two kinds of order is understood, the distinction between natural and intelligently imposed order is obvious. If the only kind of order we discovered in the universe were natural order, we would be justified in saying that the sufficient reason for this order is natural causes. No intelligent cause is necessary. A scientific explanation is sufficient. There is no need for personal expert. The nation. But what do we do if and when we encounter the second kind of order that which points to the existence of intelligence? When science provides us with evidence of this second kind of order, it in effect, points to the need for a personal explanation and intelligence beyond the physical world. Let me add a comment here about Darwinism. An inverse relationship exists between these new types of scientific arguments for God's existence and the fortunes of Darwinian evolution. As the fortunes of these arguments rise, the prospects of Darwinism decline. The evolutionary changes so basic to Darwin's theory resulted from random genetic mutations. When such mutations increased, an organism's ability to survive, the gene pool responsible for the sudden mutation was passed on to succeeding generations, which presumably enhanced their carriers ability to survive. This feature of the theory is often discussed under the label of the survival of the fittest. Under the terms of the theory of the survival of the fittest, the changes appeared and took hold in the genetic makeup of subsequent representatives of the life form very gradually. In this connection, Darwin himself made a damaging admission. Quote, He said, If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications. My theory that is Darwinism would absolutely break down. The quote Now I turned to a very influential book, but perhaps many of you have read the black box, Darwin's Black Box.


[00:07:23] In 1996, Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, published a book titled Darwin's Black Box The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As Behe explains, his use of the whimsical expression black box means, quote, a device that does something but whose inner workings are mysterious. Sometimes because the workings can't be seen and sometimes because they just aren't comprehensible. Computers are a good example of a black box. Most of us use these marvelous machines without the vaguest idea of how they work, processing words or plotting graphs, or playing games in contented ignorance of what is going on underneath the outer case. There is no simple observable connection between the parts of the computer and the things that it does. End quote. In the case of his book, The Immediate Referent, A black Box is the human cell, the basic building block of a human being. When Darwin developed his theory, scientists understood very little about the cell. It was a black box. We now know how the cell functions at the level of molecules. Most importantly, the cell contains many irreducibly complex systems. When we look at the cell, all manner of evidence supports the conclusion that cellular systems were the result of intelligent design. Why are Darwin's contemporary disciples so stubbornly silent about these cellular systems? The processes of life within a cell are made possible by machines composed of molecules. According to Behe, molecular machines haul cargo from one place to another in the cell along highways made of other molecules, while still others act as cables, ropes and pulleys to hold the cell in shape. Machines turn cellular switches on and off, sometimes killing the cell or causing it to grow. Manufacturing machines build other molecular machines as well as themselves. Cells swim using machines, copy themselves with machinery, ingest food with machinery, and of quote, Every process occurring in a cell is controlled by complex and sophisticated molecular machines.


[00:09:58] In the words of Nancy Percy. Such structures cannot have emerged gradually by any conceivable Darwinian process. The key to his argument lies in his notion of what he calls an irreducibly complex system. He explains his point, quote, by IRAD. Possibly complex. I mean, a simple system composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to the basic function. We're in. The removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. Behe offers a helpful example of an irreducible complexity, namely a mouse trap. A mouse trap contains five essential parts a wooden base, a holding bar, a spring, a hammer bar, and a catch. All of them must work together in order to catch a mouse. If just one of these parts is missing, the mouse trap cannot do its job. In the case of an irreducibly complex machine, all parts must be present. Imagine a person who gathers the various parts of a mouse trap and first attempts to catch the mouse using only the wood base. When he fails, he then tries to catch a mouse by placing the spring on top of the base and so on. Obviously, the mouse trap must be completely assembled before it can work. A mouse trap cannot come into existence over a long period of time as a result of tiny changes in a series of predecessors. It must be assembled with all of its components as part of the system. Behe then takes his reader on a tour through the cell, noting various irreducibly complex systems. Behe utilizes five organic systems to illustrate his notion of irreducible complexity the psyllium that allows some cells to swim blood coagulation, the transport system between cells, antibodies and the immune system. In no case, with the gradual steps of Darwinian evolution be sufficient to produce one of these instances of irreducible complexity.


[00:12:19] Irreducibly complex molecular machines cannot be explained by random mutation in natural selection. They cannot evolve via small, gradual steps, as Behe explains, for all the advances in modern science. No single discovery can give a detailed account of how the psyllium or vision or blood clotting or any complex biochemical process might have developed in a Darwinian fashion. If something was not put together gradually, then it must have been put together quickly and even suddenly. And to quote living organisms, clearly manifest signs of design that cannot be explained by Darwinism. The Achilles heel of Darwinism lies in such details as metabolic pathways, function and structure. The example I will focus on is a psyllium, a whip like structure that allows cells to swim, as in the case of sperm, or to move something past a stationary cell. As in the case of respiratory cells without its motors, connectors and other parts, a psyllium cannot move. A psyllium is an irreducibly complex machine. A second example of irreducible complexity within a cell is vascular transport. Without all components of this second irreducibly complex system, two bad things would happen. Either the proteins would be moved to places where they are not needed or they would get to the right place, would could not enter the targeted destination. As noted earlier, Darwin admitted that his theories would be in trouble if they could not explain macro phenomenon. Little did he realize that his theory would be devastated by its inability to explain micro phenomena such as those noted. It is impossible to get by a series of slight changes from a slightly different system thought to exist earlier in a presumed sequence to an irreducibly complex system. If some imagined precursor lacked even one part of the functioning system, it could not function.


[00:14:29] There is no gradual way to produce the parts of the irreducibly complex system. If there are no Darwinian pathways for systems like cilia or blood coagulation, they could not have come about as a result of mutations affected by subsequent natural selection. They must have been made as integrated units and this points to design at the molecular level. Darwinism fails because information about the irreducibly complex machines in the cell counts as one example of intelligent order. Possibly an even more impressive example of a sign of intelligent order in the human cell is the information stored in DNA within the cell without which life could not exist. And. Development could not occur. The answer to the origin and development of life lies within the components of the cell. In the last two decades, a number of scientists have described DNA as an information system that is part of a biological structure. In the words of Percy and Thaxton, the DNA molecule functions as a code, and it is best explained using concepts borrowed from modern communication theory. The explanation of the structure of DNA and the discovery of the genetic code mark a great leap forward in our understanding of living systems. The DNA molecule guides human development from the single cell to adulthood. DNA determines all of our physical features. The DNA molecule is often pictured like a long ladder twisted into a spiral shape. The sides of the ladder are composed of sugar and phosphate molecules. The rungs of the ladder contain four bases that function like the letters of a genetic alphabet. These bases join in different sequence to form the chemical equivalent of words, sentences and paragraphs. Such sequences provide the instruction necessary to direct how the cell functions. According to Bradley and Thackston quote, Molecular biology has uncovered an analogy between DNA and language giving rise to the sequence hypothesis.


[00:16:48] The sequence hypothesis assumes that an exact order of symbols records, information, the base sequences in DNA spell out encoded form, the instructions for how a cell makes proteins, for example, it works just the way alphabetical letter sequences do in this article to give information about origins. The genetic code functions exactly like a language code. Indeed, it is a code. It is a molecular communications system, a sequence of chemical letters stores and transmits the communication in each living cell. Percy and Thaxton, explain that when you think that sophisticated modern computers operate on a two symbol code, a binary code, it is obvious that the four symbol code and DNA is quite adequate to carry any amount of complex information. In fact, the amount of information contained in a single human cell equals the entire 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica several times over. When any of us encounter written messages, we have no difficulty recognizing they result from an intelligent cause. It is understandable why we see how the information sequences in DNA also result from an intelligent cause. Since DNA is an essential molecular component of every form of life we know, we likewise conclude that life on Earth had an intelligent cause. So we have learned that DNA carries genetic messages, that life is a chemical message system, and that the answer to the mystery of the origin of life is tied necessarily to the origin of information. Quote. If we want to speculate on how the first informational molecules came into being, the most reasonable speculation is there was some form of intelligence around at the time. We cannot identify that source any further from a scientific analysis alone. Science cannot supply a name for that intelligent cause. What we have been examining then, are powerful updating of the design argument.


[00:19:05] Just as it is impossible to believe that faces carved into Mount Rushmore are a result of natural causes only DNA and the irreducibly complex machines necessary for the operation of the cell contain obvious signs of intelligent workmanship. Now, what I've given you here are two of the very important and powerful arguments for God's existence that have grown out of the intelligent design movement in the in the longer tape for this course. I look at other more traditional arguments for God's existence in my book, Faith and Reason. I take a look at the traditional cosmological argument for God's existence and the teleological argument for God's existence. I think these new arguments from the Intelligent Design movement have advanced the cause of natural theology by great leaps and bounds.