Against The Grain: 'There are strong indications of intelligent design'

Stuart Burgess is Professor of design and nature in the department of mechanical engineering at Bristol University. He argues that intelligent design is as valid a scientific concept as evolution.

Current scientific philosophy is to rule out completely the possibility that a creator was involved. But there is no scientific justification for making such a sweeping assumption. Science should always be open-minded.

Newton, Kelvin, Faraday and Pascal had no problem with a creator and with design. There is no reason why a modern scientist cannot take the same position as these eminent scientists. Three hundred years ago, there was so much support for intelligent design that life could be difficult if you were an atheist. Now the opposite is true; life can be difficult if you show the slightest sympathy for intelligent design.

Evolution cannot be taken as a fact of science because of the ambiguities in the evidence. The fossil record can be evidence for and against evolution because of the gaps. Similarities in DNA code can be just as much evidence for a common designer as for evolution. Most significantly, scientists have failed to reproduce the spontaneous generation of life for 60 years.

I've been designing systems like spacecraft for more than 20 years. One of the lessons I've learnt is that complex systems require an immense amount of intelligence to design. I've seen a lot of irreducible complexity in engineering. I have also seen organs in nature that are apparently irreducible. An irreducibly complex organ is one where several parts are required simultaneously for the system to function usefully, so it cannot have evolved, bit by bit, over time.

The mammalian knee-joint is an organ that appears irreducible. Everyone has a four-bar linkage in their knee. Engineers know that for this to work, you need all four bars to be present. Every time we walk, we're using irreducible mechanisms. Evolutionists have not been able to explain how the knee joint evolved step by step. We cannot prove that an intelligent being designed these, but at present no one can prove that they evolved, either.

There is a real difference between intelligent design and creationism. Creationism is about who the designer is and why he created the world.

For this reason, I don't think creationism should be taught in a science lesson. But the question of intelligent design is completely different. It only addresses the question of whether an intelligent designer is needed for life to have been possible. The possibility of a designer should be mentioned, however briefly.

I can understand that some people are worried about the implications of the existence of a creator, but it's not science to rule something out because you don't like the implications.

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