When the design argument is so logical, why don’t most people and most scientists accept God’s existence?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 23, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Shalini Ahluwalia

Question : When the design argument is so logical and strong, why don’t most intelligent people and most scientists accept the existence of God?

Answer: The design argument is no doubt quite persuasive but at the same time we have to understand that it is not exactly a fully scientific argument, thats how most scientists think of it. Most scientists think that their job is to look at the natural world and to find natural causes for natural phenomena and because of this they assume that they cannot point to God for explaining these things. So when they see design in the world they often think that it is their responsibility to find out how this design could have come about by material causes. So there are two different points over here that design argument is primarily a philosophical argument not exactly a scientific argument. As I said science primarily focuses on causes for material phenomena. Thats the way science is operationally used although not always the case. There are cases, situations where science also looks at not just material causes but intelligent causes. As i mentioned in earlier answers that if a knife is in the belly of a victim, of a wounded person then by looking at the way the knife has gone inside – the angle of penetration, the depth of penetration, the method of penetration – one can find whether this knife went in accidentally or it was intentional stabbing by someone. So whether there was a natural cause or a conscious cause, intelligent cause – somebody did it deliberately. So like that this is what is used in investigation of crimes. And many fields of science also use this. But in general the problem is that science often focuses on material mechanisms and when we focus on material mechanisms  then often the idea of, people get caught in understanding the material mechanisms themselves and then they often don’t come talk to the point that there has to be somebody behind the material mechanism. But there are a significant number of scientists who have actually recognised that there may be material mechanism but that mechanism itself is not enough. So initially the design argument was proposed that we see so many complex things in the world they must have come by some designer. And eventually science found that things are working by laws, so when they found that things are working by laws then the idea came about that the design in this world has come about from the laws. So we often use the argument – design requires a designer and laws require a lawmaker. Now we have used both arguments often in the same breath when we talk about the existence of God but the two are distinct arguments and often the second argument can make the first argument redundant. That means that if laws do exist and if laws produce the design then a designer is not required for the design. Now for example if I see a well-designed pot then i may see a pot requires a potter but then if I have a machine that works according to particular law, the machine puts this much quantity of soil, this much quantity of water and moves the wheel at this speed for this much time and a pot emerges from it. Now what has happened, the design has not come from a designer, the design has come from a law. So the designer is not required for the design. So thats what happened in the history of science as initially if we see Copernicus and others they pointed to, Galileo, all of them, Newton also, they talked about God quite unreservedly when they saw the science and infact Newton said, “Oh God, I think thy thoughts after thee”. The way your thoughts were in designing the world thats how i am thinking now by your mercy. So Newton was also quite devoted to God. Now subsequently as science discovered the laws according to which things work so the idea came up that laws are enough, laws can explain the design, we don’t need a designer. And thats how God’s role became more invisible. Now still we could say that the laws require a lawmaker but then the point came up maybe the laws exists as it is and they are like co-eternal with creation and laws don’t require any other cause and various ideas came up and the whole concept of designer became more invisible and intangible. Because the laws were thought of a source of design and thats what many mainstream scientists started believing. Now in molecular biology something more significant has happened and thats why the design argument has come back more powerfully this time. So now what has been found is that ok even if we assume that the design has come by laws so now today the mainstream scientific understanding is that the design of the body, the shape of my nose or the way my hand’s fingers are, everything in the body, it comes from genes and within the genes are the DNA. So basically, i won’t go into the whole structure of the DNA right now but the DNA is like a program and this program is the cause of everything in the sense that all the things that are there in my body they are designed as per what is given in the genes, the DNA. Now subsequently scientists have found the DNA itself is so complex – the components of the DNA ?? and all that they consider them to be letters then one DNA is the single longest word, it is millions and millions of letters long and the whole Empire State Building several times taller than that would be filled just writing out that. So now the challenge has come up, Ok, the design is coming from certain laws, those laws are written in the program which is there in the DNA. Now whether the DNA determines the personality, the likes, the dislikes, whether the DNA determines consciousness is an entirely different issue. But even if we assume this the physical bodily design, even if that is coming from the DNA still the question comes up, that is such a complex program, where did it come from? So now what has happened is that the complexity of not just the cells and the components of the cells because those components themselves, all the components are more complex than factories but within them at the very root of the laws are the DNA which are extremely complex programs whose probability of emerging by chance is next to zero. So at a molecular level the designer argument has emerged again very forcefully. And this time there are no laws further to which things can be ascribed because the DNA is considered the building block of life. According to current understanding also of mainstream science and biology there is nothing before DNA which led to the formation of the DNA in some particular way. So the design argument was historically because of the conception that laws produce design it was downplayed for some time but now it has emerged again very strongly and this time it is slowly but surely gaining the upper hand, more and more people all over the world as they come to know about the complexity of the DNA and the complexity of not just that even at the root of the laws now there is fine-tuning of the universe that is talked about. Now scientists don’t talk about how well the things are designed even if we assume that the things designed have come by laws but how precise the laws are. And how did the precision of the laws come about. If f=gm1m2/r square  why is it r square why is it not r cube? If it were r cube everything would go haywire in the universe. So scientists have found out that if we were to tinker with the laws even a little bit things would go haywire. In fact the balance between the nuclear strong force and the nuclear weak force if that is changed slightly the whole universe would go haywire. So now the law its not the design that is so precise, yes at the root of the design, the design of the program which gives the law, which gives the design of the things which we see that is very precise but even after than precision whatever laws that are there, they are also so precise they cannot have come by chance. So in this way at the level of molecular biology and at the level of design, at the level of the precision of the laws the design argument can still be very respectably postulated and intelligent people are being persuaded and transformed by this re-presentation of the design argument in terms of cutting edge science.

Thank you, Hare Krishna !

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das
4 Comments
  • kalanidhidas
    May 24, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Hare Krishna. Thank you prabhuji for your answer about design theory.
    I was thrilled to know that Ramanujacharya emphasised scriptures as the only basis to establish God’s existence.
    Though intelligent design is a powerful argument in itself, it strengthens our faith in our own intelligence to deduce or induct existence of God. This is later on a great impediment in learning more about God.
    When we admit our own capabilities as tools in knowing God, there is every risk of speculatively evaluating scriptures and raising unlimited arguments.
    This can badly retard progress when human life is so precious but limited.
    One can feel the compassion of Ramanujacharya and his eagerness to save us, even at the cost of appearing to be fanatic and regressive.

  • May 28, 2014 at 1:47 am

    I’ve frequently utilized this website to clarify my doubts and have found it an extremely useful place to find answers.

    But regarding this particular question of why design argument isn’t good enough as far as the atheistic circles are concerned, I think there’s something bigger at hand.
    What I’ve personally seen circling the some of the atheistic forums is the question of design itself.

    Their claim is that there’s no intelligent design. Now, one may say that there’s order that’s visible to us, such as the beautiful mountains and how the environment is ‘just right’ for life to exist.
    But their idea is that our existence is insignificant. So out of all the possible configurations that the universe could be in, our current universe is no different from the other possible configurations (which can’t sustain life) in terms of design. That we simply feel our configuration to be special because it has enabled our existence. In fact the whole “Anthropic Principle” idea is based on this.

    It seems to me that a way out of this will be to first understand ourselves to be eternal souls in which case our existence is a necessity. Then, its indeed fascinating that the world around us is moulded in a way that we can exist. From there on, the design argument seems to make perfect sense.

    So could you kindly clarify if there is a way that the design argument can stand on its own without the idea of accepting ourselves to be eternal souls or is this idea so fundamental within spirituality that we don’t mention it explicitly?

    Thank You

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