EVIDENCE 3: INTELLIGENT DESIGN
The cumulative case for God’s existence becomes more compelling as we examine the evidence of intelligent design within the natural world. The concept of intelligent design has received much attention in recent years. As scientists have grown in their understanding of the complex forces and structures undergirding our universe, it has become increasingly less likely that the universe is the product of brute chance. Even among those scientists who refuse to believe in a personal God (a God with a mind and personality), many are having to concede that some form of intelligence was at work in the design and formation of these fundamental forces and structures.
Walter Bradley, a retired professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University, a towering figure within the intelligent design movement, and co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin, stated:
“It is quite easy to understand why so many scientists have changed their minds in the past thirty years, agreeing that the universe cannot reasonably be explained as a cosmic accident. Evidence for an intelligent designer becomes more compelling the more we understand about our carefully crafted habitat.” (Walter Bradley, “The Just So Universe”, in William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner, “Signs of Intelligence”, Baker Press, Grand Rapids, 2001, p.170).
Evidence of intelligent design is everywhere. In my book, “7 Reasons to Believe”, I discuss four clear examples:
– Intelligent design evident in planetary habitability factors
– Intelligent design evident in the fine tuning of universal constants
– Intelligent design evident in DNA
– Intelligent design evident in the mystery of human consciousness
In this post, I will deal with the first of these. For a full examination of all four, see “7 Reasons to Believe”.
The position of the earth within the solar system and within the galaxy has been specifically designed to afford the perfect conditions for biological life. The earth is the perfect distance from the sun. It orbits the sun at the optimal, life-permitting distance, in what is referred to as the circumstellar habitable zone, or the “Goldilocks zone”, meaning that it is “just right” for biological life. A little closer, and all water would evaporate; a little further away and we would be a frozen planet. The earth’s size, mass, rate of spin and axis of tilt (23.5 degrees) are also absolutely perfect for biological life to survive and flourish. Our atmosphere has the perfect combination of gases necessary for life. The earth’s magnetic field is precisely the right strength, acting as a shield, protecting us from the majority of harmful radiation from the sun. The moon also plays a vital role in creating the tidal forces necessary for circulating and oxygenating the earth’s water systems. At around one-eightieth the mass of the earth, the moon is exceptionally large for the size of the earth when compared to the 60 moons of other planets in our solar system. This ratio of moon to planet is unique among all the planets with moons that have been discovered in our galaxy, yet this is the perfect size for the life-giving function that it fulfils for our planet. The moon’s strong gravitational force upon the Earth’s oceans and tectonic plates is essential for circulating nutrients, generating ocean currents and maintaining an even surface temperature, as well as perpetuating our seasons by moderating our planet’s axial ‘wobble’. The sun, too, is just the right kind of star; a yellow dwarf, main sequence star. It is the right size, the right temperature, the right spectral class and the right mass. Only about 7% of stars in the observable universe would be right for us.
The location of our solar system within the Milky Way galaxy is also remarkably ideal. If we were closer to the galactic core, the huge amount of radiation would render life as we know it impossible. Our location on the outer edge of a spiral arm of the galaxy keeps us at a safe distance from the maelstrom of deadly radiation at the galactic core. Propitiously, it also places us in an ideal position to observe the universe. If our solar system was embedded more deeply in the densely populated galactic core, all we would see when we looked up into the night sky would be a thick, impenetrable carpet of stars. Our ideal location on the outer edge of the galaxy allows us to not only observe the shape and nature of our own galaxy from a wonderful vantage point (side on), but also enables us to look away from our own galaxy, in the opposite direction, and observe billions of other galaxies in the rest of the universe. It is as if our planet was deliberately placed in the perfect position to not only keep us safe, but also to enable us to discover the universe for ourselves.
Another fascinating “coincidence” is our ability to observe solar eclipses. These occur when the moon passes directly in front of the sun, momentarily eclipsing it. These solar eclipses have enabled scientists to study the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) in a way that would otherwise be impossible. Solar eclipses have also led to some startling scientific discoveries regarding the nature of the sun and the properties of light, as scientists have been able to observe the refraction of light around the sun. In fact, it is through observations of solar eclipses, that scientists have made many important discoveries about the nature of our universe. For example, during an eclipse, we are able to glimpse stars that are behind the sun, as the sun’s gravity bends the light from those stars around itself, making them visible to us. By observing the ability of gravity to bend light in this way, scientists were able to confirm Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
What makes solar eclipses so special, is how precisely the position and size of the earth, moon and sun need to be in order for an such eclipse to be possible. What is extraordinary is that, when viewed from the perspective of earth, the moon appears to be exactly the same size as the sun, so that when it passes in front of the sun it exactly covers the sun, while leaving the sun’s outer atmosphere visible. For about two minutes during an eclipse, the moon covers the intensely bright photosphere of the sun, enabling us to observe its thin faint chromosphere and the spectacular corona with its dramatic prominences. This is because the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, but it is also 400 times further away. In fact, the ratio of the size of the moon when compared to the size of the sun is exactly the same ratio as their distances from earth! This is an extraordinary “coincidence” which baffles atheistic scientists. The likelihood of this astronomical arrangement arising by sheer chance is too astonishingly small to be considered possible. It is as if “Someone” deliberately designed our earth and our solar system to enable us to conduct scientific investigations into the nature of the universe.
Of course, evolutionists love to talk up the probability of the existence of earth-like, habitable exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). They would love to prove that life is not as miraculous as creationists propose. In recent years there have been frequent “announcements” from astronomers estimating that there may be anywhere from 10 million to 100 billion habitable earth-like exoplanets in the universe. Significantly, of the several thousand exoplanets discovered to date, none of them are even remotely earth-like or habitable. The Planetary Habitability Laboratory website is run by the University of Puerto Rico in conjunction with data from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes. It keeps an up-to-date list of potentially habitable planets. Currently they list ten exoplanets that “may” be the right distance from their sun. The only one remotely similar in size to earth, Proxima Centauri B, is twice the size of earth, is tidally locked to its sun (one face permanently facing the sun) and orbiting a red dwarf star (the wrong kind of star). Wikipedia’s entry for Proxima Centauri B, states:
“Its habitability has not been established, though it is unlikely to be habitable since the planet is subject to stellar wind pressures of more than 2,000 times those experienced by Earth from the solar wind.”
What an extraordinary statement! “Its habitability has not been established”? Really? I would say its lack of habitability has been firmly established.
Recently, I watched the first episode of a new scientific documentary series on cosmology called “The Great Acceleration” (produced by Wildbear Entertainment) and was shocked at the bald-faced lies that were presented to prop up an atheistic view of the universe. At one point, the narrator, Dr Shalin Naik, said, “Planets like our own are everywhere.” Shortly after, Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, boldly proclaimed, “We are not unique. Kepler [a space telescope launched in 2009] told us that there are 20 billion planets like Earth in our galaxy alone.”
According to this documentary, there are 20 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy!
Before I explain why atheistic scientists are so keen to paint Earth as unremarkable and common, let me firstly reveal how shocking and blatant this exaggeration is, by pointing you to the facts. Because the fact is that scientists have not yet discovered a SINGLE planet that is even remotely similar to Earth.
As of 1st May 2022, scientists have discovered a total of 5,017 confirmed exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) in 3,694 solar systems and NONE of those is a confirmed Earth-like planet capable of sustaining life. This is a LONG way from 20 billion! You can easily verify this information on a plethora of scientific websites. For example, NASA has a website called “Exoplanet Catalogue” and there is another website called “Open Exoplanet Catalogue”. These and many other websites list each confirmed exoplanet and provide data concerning the planet’s mass, radius, distance from its star and any other characteristics that have been discovered such as possible atmospheric gases, temperature range, etc.
Because of the vast distances from Earth of these exoplanets, very few of them can actually be viewed by even our most powerful space telescopes: Hubble and Kepler. Almost all of these planets have simply been inferred by observing tiny eccentric perturbations in the movement of their relevant stars, supposedly caused by the gravitational effect of a probable planet in orbit. Scientists observe the faintest wobble in a star’s trajectory and deduce the existence of a planet, estimating its probable mass and distance from the star. About 97% of all exoplanets discovered so far have been detected via this method and are too distant to be viewed at all.
A handful of exoplanets, however, are close enough to be viewed with the Hubble or Kepler telescopes. But even in these cases, using the most powerful magnification available to us, they are merely tiny points of light, reflecting their star’s brilliance. The planet itself cannot be seen in any detail. In the case of these few planets, spectral analysis of the light being reflected by the planet enables scientists to estimate the kind of gases that might be in their atmosphere, if they have an atmosphere at all. So far, no planets with a breathable, Earth-like atmosphere have been discovered.
Furthermore, the vast majority of exoplanets orbit their star OUTSIDE the habitable zone of their star. They either orbit too near (and are thus too hot) or too far from the star (and are too cold) to be life-permitting. Most exoplanets are also far too massive to sustain life as we know it. Of the 5,017 currently known exoplanets, only 20 are Earth-sized rocky planets that orbit within their star’s habitable zone. Even in these cases, scientists have no idea whether these planets have an atmosphere, liquid water or any of the other essential characteristics necessary for life.
In fact, cosmologists have a long list of characteristics deemed to be essential if a planet is to be life-permitting:
– Orbiting within the star’s habitable zone
– Liquid water
– Breathable atmosphere
– Moving tectonic plates
– Liquid core
– Rocky planet (not a gas planet)
– Magnetic shield (to protect from harmful radiation)
– Rotates (is not tidally locked with one face permanently facing its sun)
– Axial tilt for seasons
– Elliptical orbit for seasons
– Large moon for tidal circulation of nutrients and temperature control
– Temperature range between 0 and 100 Celsius (so liquid water can exist)
– Episodic volcanism and out-gassing
– Life-permitting atmospheric surface pressure
– Life-permitting rotation rate
– Orbiting the right kind of star (as many star types would be deadly to life)
– The presence of carbon-based photochemistry
– The right distance from the galactic core (too close would be deadly because of the intense radiation in that densely packed region of space)
I’ll stop there, because scientists currently propose 30 essential factors that are necessary for a planet to be habitable and life-permitting. Each of these criteria is essential; without any one of these, the development and continued viability of biological life would not be possible. So far, of the 5,017 exoplanets currently discovered, NONE of them comes even close to meeting all these criteria. For example, we have not yet discovered a single planet with liquid surface water. And we have not yet discovered a single planet with a breathable atmosphere. Not one!
So, how do scientists like Dr Brad Tucker get away with claiming that “there are 20 billion planets like Earth in our galaxy alone”?
The “20 billion” figure, is an estimate of the existence of ANY kind of planet, based on current findings. Currently, about 1 in 10 stars in our nearby galactic neighbourhood appear to have at least one planet. Given that our Milky Way Galaxy has about 200 billion stars, scientists therefore extrapolate that our galaxy possibly contains about 20 billion planets. So far, so good. But the ‘like Earth” claim, is a complete fabrication. As we have already seen, NONE of the exoplanets so far discovered is even remotely like Earth, as far as we have been able to tell. Significantly, it is only in popular media and documentaries produced for mass consumption where this kind of blatant exaggeration is foisted upon the general public; this kind of outrageous claim is never published in formal scientific journals.
Probability estimates have been made to ascertain the likelihood of all 30 habitability factors coming together in the same planet by pure chance, and it turns out that there aren’t enough estimated planets in the entire universe for an Earth-like planet to have developed by chance. A recent study by astrophysicist, Dr Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University, Sweden, used computer modelling to simulate the universe’s formation following a Big Bang. His modelling estimated that the probability of an Earth-like planet forming by pure chance is 1 in 700 quintillion (1 in 7 with 20 zeros after it). This is essentially zero in statistical terms. His landmark study was published in The Astrophysical Journal and poured cold water on the exaggerated claims of atheistic, evolution-believing scientists.
So, why are atheists and evolutionists so keen to claim that Earth is not unique? The reason is that IF they can show that planets like Earth can form purely by chance and in great numbers via mechanistic evolutionary processes, then the necessity for a divine creator is done away with. Effectively, atheistic scientists are saying to the general public, “Nothing to see here, folks! There’s nothing special about the Earth. Mother nature is throwing up planets like this all over the place. There is no God who has created a special home for us.”
Increasingly, however, their deliberately misleading claims, are being refuted by the evidence of hard science. The Earth is unique. It is a shining jewel in the vast bleakness of the universe. It is a miraculous place; a safe haven in the harshness of our beautiful but deadly universe. The Earth stands alone as a work of wonder with a statistically impossible confluence of habitability factors that absolutely screams out that there is an intelligent, all-powerful Creator.
It is disappointing that atheistic scientists repeatedly get away with making their exaggerated claims via popular media. And, sadly, the vast majority of the general public simply lap it up as one more piece of evidence confirming the concept that we are all just the product of brute chance. But the truth is that the more we discover about the universe, the more we realise how special and miraculously unique our planet really is.
In 2015, John Horgan, a deist rather than a Christian, wrote an article in “American Scientific”:
“The more scientists investigate our universe, the more improbable our existence seems. If you define a miracle as an infinitely improbable event, then our existence, you might say, is a miracle. Scientists try in vain to hand-wave our improbability away … My own mystical intuitions keep me from ruling out the possibility of supernatural creation.” (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/can-faith-and-science-coexist)
Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727), who formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, was convinced that the universe’s obvious intelligent design and the Earth’s unique place within it was proof of God’s existence. He stated:
“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” or “Universal Ruler”. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, and absolutely perfect.” (Isaac Newton, Principia, Book III; cited in; Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, NY, 1953.)
The astronomical (literally) improbability of a habitable planet like Earth forming by chance processes is only one of several examples of intelligent design that are evident within the natural world. The clear stamp of creative intelligence is also evident in human consciousness (which has no physiological explanation), in the extraordinary fine tuning of the universal constants that govern our universe, and in the mind-boggling, complex coding of DNA – which cannot be accounted for by random genetic mutations. Our universe, from the macro to the micro worlds, is replete with the stamp of an all-powerful Creator.
For more information, see my book, “7 Reasons to Believe”.