Do cells, eyes, brains etc. resemble products of intelligent design?

  • Clarifying the question

    Consider all the different species of life on earth (including different cell-types). Do the body-plans, functioning, inner-mechanisms of these life-forms resemble the product of an intelligent mind?

  • Biologists/experts all say “YES”

    While experts may disagree over the explanation of why speciated life resembles products of an intelligent mind, they do not disagree that it has this resemblance.

    Richard Dawkins (Outspoken Atheist; Evolutionary Biologist): “…ok well I hope thats enough to convince you that there's something special about living objects, they look designed, they look overwhelmingly as if though they are designed. I call them 'designoid', and I asked you to accept this different title. But its terribly terribly tempting to use the word designed, time and again I have to bite my tongue, and stop myself saying, for example, that this swift is designed for rapid high speed, highly manuverable flight. And as a matter of fact, when talking to other biologists, we none of us bother to bite our tongues, we just use the word designed... there is a special process with brings designoids into existence, and gives them their apparently designed look. [My Insert: Dawkins goes on to discuss evolution as an explanation]” [Lecture, “Growing up in the Universe”Online on Youtube]1

    Department of Energy’s Genomes to Life: “Biological systems, through evolution, have achieved levels of intricacy and subtlety that dwarf the complexity of the 20th century’s most sophisticated engineering feats. Genomes contain thousands of genes, many of which make multiple proteins; many genes regulate other genes either directly or indirectly through dynamic and often- complex regulatory pathways. The challenge presented by this complexity cannot be met using a traditional single-gene, single-protein approach. Instead, new methods must be built on the technical and conceptual foundation laid down by large-scale genome sequencing.” [Genomes to Life, Program proposed by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research of the U.S. Department of Energy, April 2001, 5.]

    Francisco Ayala (President of American Ass. for Adv. of Science): “The functional design of organisms and their features would therefore seem to argue for the existence of a designer. It was Darwin’s greatest accomplishment to show that the directive organization of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process, natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. …[Darwin’s] mechanism, natural selection, excluded God as the explanation accounting for the obvious design of organisms. [“Darwin’s Revolution,” in Creative Evolution?!, eds. Campbell & Schopf (Jones and Bartlett, 1994), 4-5.]

    Michael Ruse(Atheist; Philosopher of Science): “We treat organisms--the parts at least-- as if they were manufactured, as if they were designed, and then try to work out their functions. End-directed thinking--teleological thinking--is appropriate in biology, only because, organisms seem as if they were manufactured, as if they had been created by an intelligence and put to work.” [Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? (Harvard, 2004), 268.]

    Francis Crick (Atheist; Biophysicist): “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” [What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (Basic Books, 1990), 138. ]

    1. Richard Dawkins has made several such comments:
      Richard Dawkins: Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed. [The Blind Watchmaker (Norton, 1986), 1.]. We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose … [A]ny engineer can recognize an object that has been designed … just by looking at the structure of the object. … We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose … Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning, [The Blind Watchmaker (Norton, 1986), 21.]
      Richard Dawkins: The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool. [River out of Eden (Basic Books, 1995) 98.]
      Richard Dawkins: If you randomly scramble the fragments of an eye or a leg or a heart a million times, you'd be lucky to hit even one combination that could see, walk or pump. This demonstrates that such devices could not have been put together by chance. And of course, no sensible scientist ever said they could. Lamentably, the scientific education… omits all mention of Darwinism, and therefore the only alternative to chance that most people can imagine is design. [Why There Almost Certainly Is No God, at (Oct 23, 2006)]
“Yes, after all…
  • For example: The cell and its machinery

    The cell gives observers a strong initial impression that it was intelligently designed.1, 2

    For example, see:

    This overwhelmnig appearance of design feeds back into our original question because a cell is, by definition, life. So certainly life here at least gives the appearance of design!

    1. Bruce Alberts (President of the National Acadamy of Sciences, Biochemist): “We have always underestimated the cell… The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines… Why do we call [them] machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.” [“The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines: Preparing the Next Generation of Molecular Biologists,” Cell, 92 (Feb. 8, 1998): 291.]
      Michael Denton (Biochemist, Senior Research Fellow at Otago; Agnostic critic of Darwinism): “We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and componants, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefaberication and modular construction… [and] a capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours.” [Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler and Adler, 1986), 329]
      Michael Denton: “To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalelled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity… [a complexity] beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man…” [Evolution: A Theory in Crisis]
      Martin G. L. van den Heuvel, Cees Dekker: “The biological cell is equipped with a variety of molecular machines that perform complex mechanical tasks such as cell division or intracellular transport.” [“Motor Proteins at Work for Nanotechnology” Science 20, Vol. 317 no. 5836 (July 2007): 333.]
    2. Regarding the flagellum:
      William Dembski (Mathematician, postdoctoral work in comp sci. at Princeton): “The flagellum includes an acid powered rotary engine, a stator, O-rings, bushings and a drive shaft.” [Intelligent Design (IVP, 1999), 148.]
    3. For the definitive book on the cells appearance of having been designed, see bio chemist Fazale Rana's The Cell's Design (2008, Baker books).
  • [More forthcoming]

    This is a huge topic and BeliefMap will have a section dedicated to it.

“No, after all…
  • [Bad designs exist]


    But so what if there were bad designs in life? Plausibly

    • A bad or supoptimal design can still give the strong appearance of design (E.g. a poorly designed watch or car).
    • An originally optimal design was degraded
    • An originally optimal design remains optimal, but for an environment that has changed