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An Argument For Design


The following remark was made in a talk.origins posting:

Also, isn't it curious that the convincing examples of design invariably look man-made? It sort of suggests that some people are creating God in man's image.

To which I replied:


The point you raise is valid and very important. When people talk about design in life they speak of design as human beings with human limitations would design things. More than that they tend to think in terms of adaptation at the superficial morphological level. However we must consider the matter more carefully. A being with powers far beyond ours, far beyond even our potentially most elaborate computer emulations would approach the problem of designing life differently. We most, in assessing the possibility of design, take those powers into account.

If we look at systems designed by human beings they are hierarchical in component structure, composed of elements relatively simple in structure, use subsystems that have readily calculable properties, have little or no self-repair capabilities, and are fragile and short lived in terms of system stability. These characteristics of human design are dictated by the weak powers of humans. The being we are speaking of would quite naturally use more advanced techniques.

Consider the problem of designing life. We require a self-maintaining, self-repairing system which maintains system integrity under a wide variety of environmental conditions indefinitely. This is not a simple problem. It is readily seen that the design choices made by human beings are inadequate.

Instead of artificial hierarchies of simple components our designer can and would use a complex dynamic system, a wildly chaotic collection of components with attractors with broad basins. The designer can do this because said designer has the power to analyze the behaviour of very complex systems. Such systems have high adaptive stability. We can predict that designed life would this feature.

It does.

Such a designer would exploit the advantages of binary encoding of information with falling prey to the fragility inherent in human designed computer programs. Instead the information would be in the form of component descriptions with the process control being resident in the aforesaid chaotic attractor. The digital data in the system would play an essentially passive role. We predict this.

DNA has the predicted role.

The designer can use complex polymers which dynamically fold into desirable three dimensional configurations to provide catalyst hot spots. The designer can afford to do so because the designer can predict with certainty what folding sequences such polymers will follow. We predict that designed life will make extensive use of such polymers.

They are called proteins.

The designer can and would exploit highly complex sequences of chemical reactions that are both idiosyncractic and highly efficient since the designer would be able to know how such sequences would work. Moreover the selected sequences would maintain stability within an environment in which vast numbers of other chemical reactions are going on. We predict the use of such sequences.

Life uses idiosyncratic, highly efficient sequences of reactions. These chemical sequences are stable in the cellular environment.

The designer would package the complexity of life into a package, not a uniformly standardized one, but rather one with a basic structure that can be varied in a large number of ways to handle a wide variety of environments. We predict that that designed life would have such a basic unit of structure.

It does. It is called the living cell.

I could go on but I think the point is clear. Life is not designed in the way a human designer works. We ask "How would a being with godlike powers design life?" Given such powers the way such a being would approach design is predictable. Accordingly we can predict the characteristics that designed life would have. It has those characteristics. Thus we conclude:

Life was designed.


This page was last updated January 18, 1997.