Can Teleology Provide Sufficient Evidence for the Existence of God?

TeleogyBanner800x340

In recent times, especially within the scientific community, the teleological argument has come to the forefront among both Christian and secular theorists. The question: Is the design we find in the universe evidence for the existence of God? Is it logical to assume that because we see design in the universe, that it follows there is an Intelligent Designer who encrypted the cosmos with purpose and order? The well known atheist Richard Dawkins leaves no place for intelligent design, at least from a Christian perspective. He says, “It is our [the scientific community] collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific.”[1]  He makes a sweeping statement that the collective scientific community disregards the validity for intelligent design. He boldly states that to hold such a view is unscientific. Dawkins regards scientists who prescribe to the idea of an intelligent designer as practitioners of a faulty system of science. But even if those from Dawkins’ tribe believe there is design in the universe they would not attribute it to God. Fellow atheist Sam Harris makes this plain, “Even if we accept that the universe simply had to be designed by a designer, this would not suggest that this designer is the biblical God or that He approves of Christianity.”[2]   In essence, anyway you look at it; the atheist will never accept the idea that the universe was designed by the Christian God. They want hard evidence not metaphysical evidence.

Because no one can actually prove God exists, seeing that he probably will not make a special personal appearance to everyone who asks, what remains is  for us to deduce God’s existence by means of propositional logic. Since we are dealing with this question on the basis of observable data, my thoughts and arguments will mainly wrestle with this question on logical and propositional grounds. Since things of faith cannot be seen with the physical eye, the Christian must be prepared to answer their critics by biblical reasoning and persuasive argumentation.[3]   As a Christian I fully understand that it is the Spirit of God that gives life, searches the depths of God and opens the eyes of the spiritually blind. [4] But try using that explanation on an atheist or a skeptic.  Once more, it is helpful in order to present a defense of the faith, to sometimes approach these oppositions on their intellectual turf.[5] While I am in no way disregarding the powerful working of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to non-believers; my purpose here is to explore if there is sufficient evidence that will tip the scale of possibility in favor of the Christian explanation. We know the non-theist will make that possibility very slim, if at all. The theist will propose a much higher probability.

Our five senses (empirical evidence) provide little help in this matter of proving God from teleology. For we have never touched God (tactile evidence), heard God with our own ears (auditory evidence), smelled God (olfactory evidence), visibly seen God (optic evidence) or tasted God (gustatory sense). Therefore, explaining God in a logical or understandable way can only be truly comprehended at a metaphysical[6] level. Once the dead heart is lifted from the grave of disbelief, through faith by the Spirit, only then does God become a true reality in our rational mind. The scriptures affirm this, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved. . . through faith.” (Ephesians 2:4-6, 8). And again, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

So then, the Christian will approach scientific evidence for God with a presupposition that leans in favor of theism, while the atheist approaches the same evidence with a presupposition that doubts God’s existence.

Propositional Viewpoints


Does real order exist in the first place? This is one of the debatable issues that atheists present. Are the properties that make up the cosmos themselves orderly? This is important to the argument, as the Christian needs to remember that the atheist believes that life came about by chance. That in fact, everything is an unexplainable random mishap. Atheist Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) states, “Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving. His origin [emphasis mine], his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.”[7]  Clear enough? You and I are accidents not the result of a purposeful Desinger. To effectively challenge the atheist this explanation must be taken seriously. In order to follow the logic of their argument let’s look at their proposition. [Following the standard doctrine of the Christian God] this syllogism represents their logic:
•    God is the designer of the universe [so Christian’s say]
•    There is no design in the universe
•    Therefore, there is no God

Now the theist will find the second premise in error thus making the conclusion false. This is because theists presuppose the existence of God and therefore read design into the cosmos. This same set of premises and its conclusion would translate differently for the Christian as follows:
•    God is the designer of the universe
•    There is design in the universe
•    Therefore, God exists

But can this proposition be logically supported from a scientific basis? After all, if science and Christianity are not opposed to each other (and we believe they are not in opposition) we should find congruence and not contention. This would be a reasonable belief, since God who created all things, as well as logic, would have also given mankind the ability to discover through scientific means some knowledge of His universe. This peering into God from exploring the universe is strongly stated in both the New and Old Testaments, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:19-20). And again, “The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

Proving God ?


But no matter how you approach the question of God’s existence from a teleological point of view, you do so inductively from both sides of the fence, as an atheist or as a Christian. This is because the laws of logic as they apply to philosophic study, especially in this area of design are malleable. Dr. Greg Bahnsen (1948-1995) makes this clear, “The only way we can have absolute philosophical certainty about anything is in the pure formal realm. Now unfortunately that doesn’t get us into the real world. And as soon as we get into induction we get into the level of uncertainty . . . . That word ‘certainty’ is used at least two different ways: (1) in terms of philosophical, rational demonstrability which is compelling. Now unfortunately, only formal logic and deduction can do that” (with the second sense for ‘certain’ being that of psychological assurance.)”[8] In effect, Dr. Bahnsen is affirming that formal logic is deductive; such as mathematics. 2 +2 = 4 is deductively true in any world, known or unknown; whether that world is created or not (meaning a possible world). Simply put, you do not have to believe in God to know that 2 +2 = 4. On the other hand, a person’s level of certainty that God designed the universe does not always occur just by gazing into the heavens. That’s because as Bahnsen states, in this world of thinking beings our logic is of the analytical sort. We induce our own reasoning into an observation, thereby making our logic largely inductive. In a word, nothing can be proven 100% true except those things that fall under the rubric of formal (deductive) logic, such as: a square has four sides or all bachelors are unmarried men. The evidences for the existence of God or the non existence of God by teleological argumentation are therefore inductive. Presenting sufficient evidence for a Designer cannot provide 100% proof. But all the theist needs to do is to make the case for a Designer outweigh the evidences against it in order to make his argument valid and more plausible.

Imagined or Real ?


Charles Darwin (1809-1882), who is unquestionably the most notable figure in the modern era, has greatly influenced our philosophical and scientific views on teleology. Darwin’s working theory is simply this: accidental life acting upon accidental variations. Everything in Darwin’s world is totally mechanistic and purely accidental. He saw the world as being shaped by brute force and nothing else. Darwin single handedly changed science by redefining its working philosophy. God was no longer needed in order to explain the origins of life and the universe. “He replaced the common archetype with a common ancestor.”[9] In other words, everything can be traced back to a single ancestral origin. Every living thing evolved from the same primordial starting point eliminating the need for design; and subsequently a Designer. Here again he makes his objection to the Biblical view of creation very clear, “On the view that each species has been independently created, I can see no explanation of this great fact in the classification of all organic beings; . . . .”[10]

For Darwin there only appears to be design. In his reality, within the evolutionary process, there is no design to speak of. He suggests that the only purpose that the appearance of design provides is for species survival. We are asked to believe that the appearance of design is only a trick of nature so that living things will keep on living.

In his book ‘The Origin of the Species’ he speaks of a process in the evolutionary mechanism. He states, “Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change . . . which may be effected in the long course of time by nature’s power of selection.” [11] To speak of evolution as a process seems to me to be a misnomer. Random action is a more consistent term in keeping with his own cosmology. If evolution is purely accidental how can it be in any way described as a process? A process assumes there is a purpose. Terms like process, pattern, structure and the like (which are used in his book ‘The Origin of the Species’) define things that are designed and not accidental in nature. If we are an accidental collocation of atoms, as Bertrand Russell has suggested and a random act of some evolutionary force as Darwin postulates, then why should we believe that their theories on life have any meaning for us as well? Simply stated, how can accidental beings have purposeful thoughts? C.S. Lewis makes this point,

“Suppose there were no intelligence behind the universe. In that case nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. Thought is merely the by-product of some atoms within my skull. But if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? If I can’t trust my own thinking, of course, I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought; so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”[12]

Let’s push the argument further. If there is no design in the creation of human life then we are only a physical body. Then how is it that I know that? If my thoughts are nothing more than the work of chemical action in the brain[13] then how is it that chemical action’s can know that that (me thinking) is what is happening? How is it that I have first person knowledge? How can I know that I am thinking if it is just chemical actions? If I am writing this now as a result of mere chemical actions then I am just obeying the programme of random evolutionary infusion. And what I am writing is meaningless because it serves no real purpose for me. Why? It is because there is no real me that exists; only the one that has been accidentally engineered by naturalist evolution. I have no spirit or soul. There is nothing transcendent (beyond the natural world or myself) that gives me a different view of reality. I am just a body. This is evolution at its best. A religion of naturalism. A doctrine that is wholeheartedly affirmed by scientific naturalism that in effect says, that we are all just a random collection of molecules, heading towards fatalism, which we just happen to be human in being.

Even if we accept Darwin’s explanation, it still seems to me that something saw fit to provide the appearance of design in order for the species to survive. And whatever occasioned this accidental happenstance to feign this illusion, it sounds like there was a purpose in giving this appearance; that being the continuance of life. I think we should challenge the skeptic on this point. For a living thing to be engendered with a will to survive is meaningless unless there is some purpose for its existence. That is the problem with evolution. It doesn’t make sense, and it admits so (insofar as giving meaning to life). You cannot explain the need to survive in an evolutionary system. There is just no reason. And the moment you do, it destroys the very premise for evolution itself. The reason being, if you empower evolution as having a purpose, even an illusory one, then you have just given it a mind. I don’t believe the naturalist and the atheist want to go there. To do so is to assign evolution as having intelligence; and that alone is reserved for beings that have minds. If you’re going to tout that it’s all accidental, then it seems inconsistent to suggest that there is a so called “appearance” of design. It is a self refuting claim, with no scientific or logical rationale. It is not based on evidentiary facts but on assumptions. It is an assumption that desperately tries to prop up their invalid assertions.

In the final analysis, logic dictates that it is more reasonable to believe in an intelligent Designer than not. When the evidence is weighed, naturalism is seriously found wanting.

On the Lips of God


Making a teleological argument for God’s existence is hotly debated. There are pro’s and con’s like the familiar William Paley’s (1743-1805) watch[14] argument as well as the present day “Irreducible Complexity”[15] theory offered by biochemist, Michael Behe. One of the best arguments to enter the arena in the biological field of study on design is in the area of genetics.To be more specific I am referring to Deoxyribonucleic Acid commonly known as the DNA molecule. The evidence from scientific study in this area is stunning and has energized the Christian position on teleology.

“The discovery of the DNA code has transformed our scientific understanding of the nature of the living cell. We now know that at the heart of life is a language, a code, a set of instructions.”[16] The theist recognizes the implications of the argument by design when taking into account the language that is embedded in all of life. No one would accept the idea that if a thousand car parts were scattered on the floor in a garage that you would have a functional and useful vehicle. It is when they are assembled, according to the designer’s instructions that the intended product is realized. Life is like that. It is an array of codes, seemingly random in sequence. But these codes, which are the information in the DNA molecules, when assembled create a living being. Dr. Walter Brown comments, “DNA can only be produced with the help of at least 20 different types of proteins. But these proteins can only be produced at the direction of DNA. Since each requires the other, a satisfactory explanation for the origin of one must also explain the origin of the other. Apparently, this entire manufacturing system came into existence simultaneously. This implies creation.”[17]

DNA structures are very complex and are not produced by any natural processes, which we know of, by which to create a uniform system of coherence.[18] Instructions within the DNA helix are what appears to be a random sequence of letters. And yet they are coded in such a way as to build life. The evolutionist may point to the randomness of the DNA language and say “aha, there it is, random action, not order”; the problem is that there is a purpose and a function, namely life. We may not completely understand the language itself, but we do know there is one. Pearcey and Thaxton comment, “In our experience, a written message is always the product of an intelligent agent; hence we can construct a positive argument that informational structures such as DNA are likewise the result of an intelligent agent.”[19]

So what does the information language of DNA tell us? Within the scientific community, there is a growing awareness, a haunting realization that a Being of superior intelligence may indeed be The Designer for all of life. For the Christian community, the discoveries that are being made in this particular area of teleology are making a significant impact in scholarly circles, college campuses and apologetic debates. Theism is once more gaining a hearing at the tables of the intelligentsia as the case for a Designer is presented with persuasive findings.

For the Christian, God has spoken into existence all that there is. And He is still speaking, in ways that even astound the most brilliant theological and scientific minds. His encoded words (DNA) of life are the instructions for our unique personhood as a creature patterned in His image. He speaks the instructions for our personality, characteristics and personal identity. God not only invents our personal blue print but also is its builder. The Psalmist has said that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14). We contain a genetic code inscribed by the Heavenly Father that was in every detail designed for our coming into being. From the shade of our eye color to the amount of hairs on our head, everything has been carefully designed, down to the minutest detail. Does it seem possible that the Psalmist was alluding to this? “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:16).[20]

So what is God saying about us? We are the created genius of the thoughts and words of God. We are the language of God assembled in the informational library of the DNA genetic code. We are the living expression of God, being formed into the words that he speaks. The information encoding for life is a marvelous work of his power and love. You and I are literally on the lips of God.

ENDNOTES: 

[1] Dawkins, Richard. June 2007. Inferior Design: Richard Dawkins review’s Behe’s latest book. The Richard Dawkins Foundation.

[2] Wilson, Doug. 2007. Letter from a Christian Citizen.pg. 88. American Vision: Powder Springs, Georgia. Doug Wilson quotes Sam Harris from his book “Letter to a Christian Nation”.

[3] The apostle Paul is a prime example of the apologetic method. He sought to explain and give reasons for his faith in Christ and did so as one skilled and learned in the scriptures and in the cultural views of his day. Acts 18:4 “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.”

[4] 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

[5] Again we witness Paul engaging the intellectuals of Athens. Acts 17:17-18 “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him.”

[6] I use the word ‘metaphysical’ in the true philosophical sense and not in the modern vernacular. That which is beyond the natural order of things, the incorporeal world of abstract thought and things.

[7] Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. 1994. The Soul of Science. Pg. 116. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois. Pearcey and Thaxton quote Russell from his work “A Free Man’s Worship”.

[8] Bahnsen, Dr. Greg. “Science, Subjectivity and Scripture,” Covenant Media Foundation (1979),

[9] Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. The Soul of Science. Pg. 115
[10] Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. (Bridge-Logos: Alachua, Florida, 2009), Pg.122
[11] Ibid., Pg. 112

[12] Lewis, C.S., “Broadcast Talks” (London 1946): 37-8, quoted in David A Noebel. The Battle for Truth (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), Pg.46

[13] Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks, Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1990), Pg. 107. I found this deduction (that the random acts of evolution in relation to the forming of the mind and thus thoughts) by the authors to be very compelling. When taken to its logical conclusion I present here my analysis concerning this point on human existence.

[14] David Hume refuted William Paley on the basis that a watch, being a mechanistic machine, is not analogous to a human being which is organic. However, recent scientific discoveries in molecular biology are making Paley’s argument more substantial. Michael Denton, a molecular biologist, states, “Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man.” David Noebel. The Battle for Truth. Pg.140.

[15] “Behe argued that the flagellum and many other molecular machines are “irreducibly complex.” They’re like a mousetrap. Without all their fundamental parts, they don’t work. Natural selection can only build systems one small step at a time, by traversing a path in which each step provides a present survival advantage. It can’t select for a future function. Only intelligent agents possess such foresight.” Quote from Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. Passionate Conviction (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), pg. 73

[16] Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. The Soul of Science.Pg. 227

[17] Walter T. Brown Jr., “In the Beginning” (Phoenix: Center for Scientific Creation, 1986), Pg.6 quoted in David A Noebel. The Battle for Truth, Pg.141

[18] Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. The Soul of Science.Pg 245

[19] Ibid.

[20] Henry, Matthew. “Commentary on the Whole Bible”, PC Study Bible Formatted Electronic Database. 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. This comment from M. Henry is interesting in light of what I have written concerning Psalm 139:16. “According to the divine model: In thy book all my members were written. Eternal wisdom formed the plan, and by that almighty power raised the noble structure.”

Copyright © 2010 Steve Covarrubias

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *