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« Re: Clean up your act | Main | Okay, so I’m a hypocrite »

March 31, 2008

The Design of Life

Spacestationiss Do the features of life give evidence of creation?

Imagine discovering an unmanned space station that 1) manufactures the equipment it needs to probe deep space, 2) monitors damage done to it by asteroids, 3) repairs the damage, 4) constructs its own spare parts, 4) makes copies of itself and 5) directs those copies in an intergalactic network to optimize exploration.  Would any straight-thinking person reason it to be the product of an unguided, haphazard process? Hardly.

And yet the engineering of the biological cell is equally astonishing—down to its most fundamental component, DNA. Continue reading here.

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Benjamin Ady

Imagine discovering a manned space station where 20% of the crew didn't have clean water to drink or enough food to eat, and the rest of the crew, which had plenty, wasn't sharing, and the crew had divided up into various factions along ethnic and religious lines, and the factions were killing each other at horrific rates, and they had developed high technology which allowed them to destroy whole planets at the push of a button, and some of them had actually used this technology to kill others of them. Would any straight thinking person imagine that the people on this space station were designed by a sane or rational supernatural being?

Regis Nicoll

Ben--Whether the features of the universe require a Designer is one question. The character of the Designer is another.

Gina Dalfonzo

I think it might occur to me that they had been designed by a sane and rational being, but had decided to ignore him and do whatever felt good to them.

Steve (SBK)

Imagine you were a being who could imagine. Now imagine that such an imaginer can imagine contrary to the imaginings of the Prime Imager. Now imagine your actions can be based on what you imagine. Now imagine a non sequitur.


Benjamin wrote: "and the rest of the crew, which had plenty, wasn't sharing,"

This might be a valid critique of the God of Christianity (although, as Regis points out, not necessarily the Designer of Intelligent Design).


Just yesterday I had dinner with two couples who have devoted the bulk of their vacation time, much of their free time, and the money from their own pockets and fundraisers in order to feed the world's hungry. And house the homeless. And raise the income of the poor. And heal those who are ill.

Note that they don't just use huge amounts of gasoline to impersonally dump supplies of food, and watch much of it get stolen by dictators (as in the beginning of the movie "Black Hawk Down"). Instead, they work to develop locally sustainable (and therefore eco-friendly) agronomies and other economies, healthcare and education, as well as striving to adjust the morality and legality of those in power so it can be long-lasting instead of a mere short-term fix until the next coup. And they even empower the locals to become self-sustaining and free instead of dependent on (and thereby effectively enslaved by) their benefactors.

They do this at considerable risk to themselves and their offspring, deriving only the most fleeting sense of well-being... if any. In fact, the people they serve could just as well live and die in poverty and disease and obscurity and my friends would be almost entirely unaffected.

So, Benjamin - how does the *absence* of a sane and rational supreme being account for these part-time, volunteer missionaries?

Once you've dismissed that one, we can tackle the one about Rwandans who forgive those who maim and torture them and murder their families.

And to make it a bit more personal: I've spent about 6 to 8 hours per week, 40 or more weeks per year for the last three years promoting and supporting missionaries so they can actually realize the visions that are cast by American liberals. And my only payment is a mocha and a donut (wholesale value 85 cents, total) and sometimes a thank-you note. How about you?

benjamin ady


Indeed. I also have difficulty explaining the origin of life without a designer, although I guess there are one or two Ph.D.'s who could probably make some ... arguments along that line, either direction. But as you say--my little imagination was more about the character of a possible designer, rather than the existence.

Steve. I love it. Well written =)


I sincerely hope I haven't offended you. I was writing at least 1/3 tongue-in-cheek. (I wanted to use some sort of iteration of that beautiful phrase "at least as many as" there. As in "At least as much as 1/3 tongue in cheek.")

While you've been working your tail off to help missionaries help others (by the way--way to go!), I've been racking up enormous amounts of debt finally finishing my bachelor's degree over the last three years. But I did (perhaps) accumulate a little ... moral credit (not nearly enough to offset my moral debt, I fear), working for two years as a volunteer with a big worldwide missions organization called Operation Mobilization, several years ago.

I'm kind of hoping to find a job when I graduate (in June) doing something to MTWABP. Hope that answers you question "How about you?" =)

Of course you are right, we can both sit and tell stories all day, taking turns--me telling horror stories about people hurting people, and you telling hopeful stories about people helping people. In the end, I think you'd win, because I'd die of depression =). It's part of why I like Obama--all his hope offsets all my gloom. But that aside, I do still have a ... difficult (read: impossible) time reconciling a sane, rational, gracious all powerful designer of the universe with the amounts of darkness, horror, pain, hatred, etc. I mean the good stuff *should* be there. It feels ... natural--right--proper. The bad stuff *shouldn't*, not at the levels it is, in a story which is written by a ... good person.

I mean to say *I* wouldn't have written it. If, as postulated, I knew the end from the beginning, I would have just burned the pen, or the typewriter, or what have you, and not written it--not being able to cope with the ugliness in it. I mean I don't cope super well with the ugliness as one of the characters--and I'm one of the ones who has it fairly good. But I assume the author would be even more sensitive to the horrors than I am.

Just don't get it. Doesn't work for me. It may be designed, but it doesn't look super intelligent to me.


Congratulations on working to finish your degree, Benjamin. I myself crammed four years into sixteen ;-) via a series of unfortunate events, but along the way I got a very diverse and ultimately very fulfilling and useful education.

And you didn't offend me personally. However, I do get a little horked off (Note to self: need to have that phrase vetted by Zoe) when someone suggests that the evil in the world is all God's fault. This was (to use the legal phrase) asked and answered in the Book of Job a very long time ago. (My paraphrase of God's answer to Job is this: "Super intelligent? Sure, I could show you just how super intelligent it was to allow the problem of evil to enter an originally perfect world. But first, let's establish your capacity for understanding the answer I would give...")

I get somewhat more upset when someone tries to argue that a good God and a world wracked by evil are mutually exclusive. If the bad stuff was never abated - if Chuck Colson had never tried to help prisoners and their families, for example - then yes, you might have a point. But "the problem of evil" also creates "the problem of good", both in the sense of why we can even distinguish "good" from "evil" and "should" from "shouldn't" in the first place, and in the second place why anyone (like missionaries, or like Chuck) bothers to try to overcome the evil instead of just shrugging it off.

I get really upset when someone suggests that the answer to the suffering in the world is to develop a huge, impersonal and inefficient program, funded by compulsory contributions and staffed by the dispassionate. The evidence is clear that enthusiastic programs on a microeconomic scale are far and away more effective. And that any such program, large or small, is doomed if it's introduced to a people who are not committed to notions of basic morality.

But with all of that upset on my part, I still didn't take what you said personally in any way. I assumed we were engaging in, um, "vigorous" but still collegial debate, my friend.

Incidentally, your moral debt was already repaid. You can continue making minuscule deposits into that account and get a terrible rate of return, or you can agree with the Banker that it's time to close it and put those deposits to work in a program that not only has an enormous rate of return, but also puts your money to work in tremendously useful ways both locally and globally.

As you ponder how you'll Make The World A Better Place, ponder this: would you like your efforts to be futile, or lasting? And if there's no Intelligent Designer, how can your efforts be anything *but* futile? (That line of reasoning led to my own existential crisis in Year Three of my college career, helping to delay my degree, BTW. Darwin, Dostoyevsky, Marx and Kierkegaard can be a dangerous combination.)

benjamin ady


You said

"As you ponder how you'll Make The World A Better Place, ponder this: would you like your efforts to be futile, or lasting? And if there's no Intelligent Designer, how can your efforts be anything *but* futile? (That line of reasoning led to my own existential crisis in Year Three of my college career"

It's funny--I mean you made me smile, because just this week I've begun the whole job search thing--for after I graduate in June. And one of the things I've run up against is that some of the kewlest organizations which are doing the sort of work that I am interested in, organizations like World Vision and International Justice Mission, only employ Christians. Which has led me to the existential question: "Shall I become a Christian again for the sole purpose of finding the employment I want?"


Benjamin wrote: "Shall I become a Christian again for the sole purpose of finding the employment I want?"

If you can pull that one off, more power to you. Me, I'd be constantly wondering if all my co-workers, and even my pastor, had done just what I did. (In the 1960s a number of low-achievers thought going to seminary and becoming a priest/pastor/theologian would be a path to a cushy job. That was part of what has led to the many scandals we have today.)

Another thought: would any of your potential employers have personnel who read comments on The Point? ;-)

benjamin ady

Another thought: would any of your potential employers have personnel who read comments on The Point

Indeed. In fact, if my potential employer does the tiniest bit of research on the web, they're likely to find my blog, and the other blog I help co-host, and find all the shocking things I tend to say, and

ahhhhh well.

Maybe I can figure out some way to just live off welfare the rest of my life.

(Relax. Just kidding =)

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