3) markers of intelligence (in the origin of life)
Hume was right! When the eighteenth century philosopher David Hume argued so effectively against the arguments of design, he did so by suggesting that nature designs itself! And ever since Hume, science has been confirming that to be the case on many fronts. Matter is marvelously capable of self-organization. We understand the principles by which the universe structured itself, how matter coalesced following the big bang into stable star systems and galaxies, etc. Built into the chemistry and physics of the universe is an uncanny capacity to bring organization out of chaos, despite the laws of entropy which might predict otherwise. Built into life itself is a principle of self-design. Darwin helped us to see how random processes have resulted in variations subject to natural selection giving rise to the marvelous diversity of life forms on our planet today. Dawkin’s “blind watchmaker” is truly stunning in his ability to generate both diversity and functional complexity. But all these natural explanations for the amazing design and beauty we observe fail to answer the ultimate question: Why would a universe possess these remarkable characteristics in the first place? Why is the universe so full of the capacity to self-design, to self-organize? Why is it that everywhere we look, we find a cosmos busy crafting itself?
The skeptics, in their zealousness to write God out of the script, may have inadvertently stumbled upon the very genius of the Creator. The stronger the argument for a self-organizing universe, the more cogently is the case made: this universe has the fingerprints of intelligence all over it. In the self-designing attributes of the cosmos, I see not an argument against God, but the most compelling argument for a greater Creator than we imagined, one whose intelligence and wisdom are seen in these very built-in processes. The intuitive sensibility of Paley’s argument has never been fully dispelled; it has only been pushed back in time, relegated to the deep mysteries of the Mastermind who first set it all into motion.
“From the knowledge we now have of the molecular machinery that underlies some of their extraordinary abilities, it is clear that cells are immensely complex entities. On any count the average cell must utilize close to a million unique adaptive structures and processes—more than the number in a jumbo jet. In this the cell seems to represent the ultimate expression in material form of compacted adaptive complexity—the complexity of a jumbo jet packed into a speck of dust invisible to the human eye. It is hardly conceivable that anything more complex could be compacted into such a small volume. Moreover, it is a speck-sized jumbo jet which can duplicate itself quite effortlessly.
“The fitness of the cell for its biological role in the assembly and functioning of the multicellular life gives every indication, as with so many of life’s constituents, of being unique. In the case of many of their key properties and abilities, it is difficult to imagine how these properties and abilities could be actualized except in a material form with the precise characteristics of the living cell. In other words, if we were to design from the first principles a tiny nanoerector about 30 microns in diameter with the capabilities of the cell—with the ability to measure the chemical concentration of substances in its surrounding medium; with the ability to measure time, to move, to feel its way around in a complex molecular environment, to change its form; with the ability to communicate with fellow nanoerectors using electrical and chemical messages and to act together in vast companies to create macroscopic structures—we would end up redesigning the cell.”Denton uses the term “directed evolution” to help answer the inevitable questions about how complexity of such staggering proportions could ever come to self-organize. Mike Gene suggests another term, which I prefer: front loaded evolution. Both of these theorists have proposed that the incredibly elaborate machinery inside the cell, machinery composed of variously shaped protein molecules specified by RNA blueprints, demand a designer. Not the designer of the Intelligent Design theorists who propose a designer for complex organisms. Rather, the designer of the DNA process which is capable of building such organisms over time through the processes Darwin described. Denton writes, "the evolutionary process of tracing out the tree of life becomes a perfectly natural phenomenon; the inevitable unfolding of a preordained pattern, written into the laws of nature from the beginning." (Nature’s Destiny, 282)
Some will reject this argument on the grounds that it lacks the full array of material evidence. Denton sees the evidence coming in small bits, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle:
"Because the validity of the argument [biocentric design of the universe] depends on so many independent lines of evidence, the conclusion is not materially threatened because the whole picture is not yet complete or because this or that phenomenon such as the origin of life or the mechanism of evolution is not understood. Just as the meaning of a jigsaw puzzle may be obvious long before all the pieces are perfectly placed, so too my argument does not necessitate that everything be explained." (Nature’s Destiny, p xvi.)Others will object that this argument merely proposes another god-of-the-gaps. I reject god-of-the-gaps approaches because I am convinced that gaps in natural evolution are diminishing as our understanding grows. It may be helpful to distinguish between the “gaps” which are temporary empty spots in our current knowledge, and “gaps” which extend beyond the reasonable limits of science. Abiogenesis may be just such a gap. Far from slowly closing, the gap of abiogenesis becomes more and more daunting as our understanding grows. The more we know about evolution, the more we know about DNA, the greater becomes the mystery of the first cell, and of the DNA alphabet itself. It is this widening gap which I believe is unlikely ever to be filled. In this regard, I am in alignment with Denish D’Souza who has said, “I'm not making a god-of-the-gaps argument arguing that because evolution can't account for it, therefore God did it. But neither should we submit to the atheism-of-the-gaps, that holds since science explains some things, it can surely explain everything.”