False color electron microscope image of the mouth and eye of a moth[[moth]]
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by John Berea
Published: Spring 2017
Updated: January 30, 2018

Organisms Appear Designed 

"Technology when sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from biology."

Biologists and those in related fields usually agree organisms are very complex and intuitively appear designed, even among those (the majoirty) who reject design in favor of evolutionary causes.  This alone does not prove organisms were designed.  But it adds weight to the other more quantitive arguments favoring design over evolutionary theory.

Affirming the appearance of design

This list includes who are neutral or hostile to intelligent design still agree that life has the appearance of being very well designed, even though they believe it was not:


George Gaylord Simpson
Paleontologist, major contributor to the modern synthesis, agnostic

A telescope, a telephone, or a typewriter is a complex mechanism serving a particular function. Obviously, its manufacturer had a purpose in mind, and the machine was designed and built in order to serve that purpose. An eye, an ear, or a hand is also a complex mechanism serving a particular function. It, too, looks as if it had been made for a purpose. This appearance of purposefulness is pervading in nature, in the general structure of animals and plants, in the mechanisms of their various organs, and in the give and take of their relationships with each other. Accounting for this apparent purposefulness is a basic problem for any system of philosophy or of science.[[simpson-plan-purpose]]


Francis Crick
Co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, atheist

...organisms appear as if they had been designed to perform in an astonishingly efficient way, and the human mind therefore finds it hard to accept that there need be no Designer to achieve this.[[crick-mad-pursuit-30]]

Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.[[crick-mad-pursuit-138]]

Richard Lewontin
Evolutionary biologist and leading thinker in population genetics, atheist

Organisms fit remarkably well into the external world in which they live. They have morphologies, physiologies and behaviors that appear to have been carefully and artfully designed to enable each organism to appropriate the world around it for its own life. It was the marvelous fit of organisms to the environment, much more than the great diversity of forms, that was the chief evidence of a Supreme Designer.[[lewontin-1978]]


James A. Shaprio
Distinguished bacterial geneticist, co-founder of the Third Way movement, and originator of the concept of natural genetic engineering[[shapiro-photo]]

No human contrivance operates with either the degree of complexity, the precision, or the efficiency of living cells."[[shapiro-nat-gen-2005]]

It is essential for scientists to keep in mind the astonishing reliability and complexity of living cells. Even the smallest cells contain millions of different molecules combined into an integrated set of densely packed and continuously changing macromolecular structures... Each reproductive cell cycle involves literally hundreds of millions of biochemical and biomechanical events. We must recognize that cells possess a cybernetic capacity beyond our ability to imitate. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we discover extremely dense and interconnected control architectures at all levels."[[shapiro-read-write-2013]]

M Ruse

Michael Ruse
Philosopher of biology, intelligent design critic, agnostic[[ruse-photo]]

When I look at the cell, I say, "oh my goodness that sure as [heck] looks designed to me". That doesn't seem to me to be something which, you know is just randomly put together... That looks like something somebody worked very very hard to produce. I don't want to deny that we're dealing with design-like phenomenon.[[ruse-rana-2013]]


Bruce Alberts
Biochemist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences[[alberts-photo]] 

Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like the machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts. Within each protein assembly, intermolecular collisions are not only restricted to a small set of possibilities, but reaction C depends on reaction B, which in turn depends on reaction A—just as it would in a machine of our common experience.[[alberts-1998]]


Paul Davies
Well known physicist and SETI researcher, agnostic

...the living cell is best thought of as a supercomputer--an information processing and replicating system of astonishing complexity. DNA is not a special life-giving molecule, but a genetic databank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff--hardware--but as information, or software... Even a simple bacterium is a vast assemblage of intricately crafted molecules, many of them elaborately customised.[[davies-guardian-2002]]

Richard Dawkins
Evolutionary biologist, outspoken atheist author[[dawkins-photo]]

Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of designs if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning ... We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer may have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose...[[dawkins-watchmaker]]

The machine code of the genes is uncannily computerlike.  Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular-biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer-engineering journal.[[dawkins-river-page17]]

The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool.[[dawkins-river-page98]]


Francis Collins
Former head of the Human Genome Project, current head of the NIH, Christian

DNA is something like the hard drive on your computer:  it is supposed to be a stable medium in which to store information (though as with your computer, bugs and snafus are always possible).  RNA, by contrast is more like a ZIP disk or flash drive--it travels around with its programming and is capable of making things happen on its own.[[collins-language]] 

Above, Richard Dawkins clarifies that he is only talking about the illusion of design.  He believes that evolution is an adequate mechanism to account for it, and bad designs exist in biology that are contrary to what a designer would create.  Many others in this list would agree.  But if those claims can be shown meritless (as other articles on the Berean Archive argue) then we're left with the appearance of design and no other explanation for it.

Rejecting the appearance of design

However some biologists reject the appearance of design:

Francisco Ayala
Evolutionary biologist, former AAAS president, intelligent design critic, Christian[[ayala-photo]]

But the design of organisms is not intelligent, as it would be expected from an engineer, but imperfect and worse: defects, dysfunctions, oddities, waste, and cruelty pervade the living world.[[ayala-1994]]

Larry Moran
Biochemist, textbook author, intelligent design critic, atheist[[moran-photo]]

Most of the genes that code for complex structures are inefficient and error-prone. Natural systems look like they were designed by a tinkerer who cobbles together odds and ends that just happened to be in reach. They look like they evolved haphazardly. Any intelligent scientist could do better and, in some cases, they have done better by genetically modifying organisms to make them more efficient.[[moran-bad-design]]

Yet if evolutionary processes destroy faster than they create, it is expected that some designs will become degraded and broken.

Sources

  1. [[moth]]"Scanning electron micrograph of the proboscis of a moth from family Pyralidae." Wikipedia.  2006.Wikpedia says the image is public domain.  I (JohnBera) modified it to give it false color.
  2. [[simpson-plan-purpose]]Simpson, George Gaylord.  "The problem of plan and purpose in nature."  Scientific Monthly, 1947 . Mirrors:  Local screenshot
  3. [[crick-mad-pursuit-30]]Crick, Francis.  "What Mad Pursuit."  1990.  Page 30. Mirrors:  Google Books
  4. [[crick-mad-pursuit-138]]Crick, Francis.  "What Mad Pursuit."  1990.  Page 138.Mirrors:  Google Books | Local screenshot
  5. [[lewontin-1978]]Lewontin, Richard.  "Adaptation."  Scientific American, 1978.  Page 213, bottom of first column. Mirrors:  Local screenshot
  6. [[shapiro-photo]]Photo of James Shapiro from EvolutionNews.org.
  7. [[shapiro-nat-gen-2005]]Shaprio, James.  "A 21st century view of evolution: genome system architecture, repetitive DNA, and natural genetic engineering."  Gene, 2005.Mirrors: James Shapiro's websiteArchive.org
  8. [[shapiro-read-write-2013]]Shaprio, James.  "How life changes itself: The Read–Write (RW) genome."   Physics of Life Reviews, 2013.Mirrors: James Shapiro's websiteArchive.org
  9. [[ruse-photo]]Photo of Michael Ruse from UncommonDescent.com.
  10. [[ruse-rana-2013]]Ruse, Michael.  "The Origin of Life: Evolution vs. Design."  2013.  At 18:25. This quote comes from Michael Ruse in his debate against biochemist and old earth creationist Fazale Rana on the origin of life.
  11. [[alberts-photo]]Photograph by Tom Kochel, courtesy of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, The University of California San Francisco.  From Wikimedia Commons.
  12. [[alberts-1998]]Alberts, Bruce.  "The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines."  Cell, 1998.
  13. [[davies-guardian-2002]]Davies, Paul.  "How we cold create life."  The Guardian, 2002.
  14. [[dawkins-photo]]Photograph of Richard Dawkins by Mike Cornwell, USA.  From Wikimedia Commons.
  15. [[dawkins-watchmaker]]Dawkins, Richard.  "The Blind Watchmaker."  1986, 1996.  Page 21.
  16. [[dawkins-river-page17]]Dawkins, Richard.  "River Out of Eden."  2008.  Page 17.
  17. [[dawkins-river-page98]]Dawkins, Richard.  "River Out of Eden."  1995.  Page 98. Mirrors:  Local screenshot
  18. [[collins-language]]Collins, Francis.  "The Language of God."  2006.   Page 91.
  19. [[ayala-photo]]Photo of Francisco Ayala by Xiao Dai.
  20. [[ayala-1994]]Ayala, Francisco.  "Darwin’s Revolution: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection."  1994 .Mirrors:  Archive.org
  21. [[moran-photo]]Photo of Larry Moran from EvolutionNews.org.
  22. [[moran-bad-design]]Moran, Larry.  "Answering two questions from Vincent Torley."  Sandwalk, 2016.