Why Can’t Some Scientists See Design in Nature?

            Here lies one of the basic questions that must be addressed in a book subtitled Christian Essays on Science and Faith. 

            This questionis how is it that many professional scientists think that science and faith must be separated into different, incompatible categories of reality…science supposedly based solely on empirical facts and faith based upon unsupportable, subjective beliefs.

            Upon closer scrutiny, the fundamental differences of opinion are not about the empirical facts at all, but instead about the skeletal explanatory frameworks that attempt to connect-the-dots of data into meaningful storylines describing reality…storylines that by definition are themselves philosophical even though they contain the facts of hard “bench” science.

            An understanding of how purpose was removed from the skeletal explanatory frameworks of research into the workings of the natural world, early in the modern Scientific Revolution is given by Michael J. Behe from his 2019 book Darwin Devolves:

“How did science—the very discipline we use to understand the physical world—get to the bizarre point where some otherwise very smart people use it to deny the existence of mind?  Arguably it started innocently enough.  At the urging of the philosopher Francis Bacon, a contemporary of Shakespeare, four centuries ago science made a critical decision.  It would abandon the old idea of “final causes”—that is, the notion of the purpose of an object—which it had inherited from Aristotle.  Whether the true role of, say, a waterfall or a forest is to exhibit the glory of God, supply beauty to the world, or something else couldn’t be decided by an investigation of nature alone.  Henceforth science would leave all such questions to philosophy and theology, restricting itself to investigating just the mechanics of nature.  What a cow or mountain or star is “for” would trouble science no longer.”[1]    

            It is easy to see here, that by removing the purpose of an object…a waterfall, forest, cow, or mountain…in order to simplify the new scientific method going forward in the late 1500’s to the early 1600’s, that this also carries the danger to morph over time into the exceedingly damaging cultural mores of a similarly purpose-free human life.

            As the credibility and prestige of science has risen over the past two or three centuries, the purpose-free methodology of science has expanded beyond its original mandate to creep into our modern culture, removing the central question of what was I created for, of what is the purpose for me as an object in this world? 

            What is also easy to see here is that this departure from including the purpose of an object within its overall scientific investigation and subsequent explanation was not itself a scientific determination in terms of hard “bench” science.  It was a philosophical decision.  It was a pre-science issue in dispute dating back to the ancient Greek philosophers regarding the material or non-material nature of the universe, still unresolved to this day. 

            The obvious problem here is that in allowing scientific investigation to make a clean get-away from purpose, to simplify the research methods to focus on the empirical facts of matter-and-energy mechanisms that describe how phenomena work in the natural world, this does not permanently remove purpose altogether. 

            It merely sets aside the subjective aspects of purpose in pursuit of the empirical evidence of factual data.

            My contention here is that purpose cannot be surgically removed from scientific investigation.  The discovery of complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information invariably brings science back full-circle to the unmistakable evidence of objective purpose integral within natural phenomena.  This organized complexity of systems clearly delineates directional trajectories. 

            Purpose cannot be permanently divorced from science.

            The purpose of a cow’s utter is to produce milk.  The purpose of the eye is to provide visual sight.  The integrated relationships in the study of how ecosystems support biodiversity are entirely dependent upon recognizably linked purposes.

            One of the main themes of this book, discussed from a number of different angles, is that the scientific study of the matter-and-energy mechanisms of the natural world does not preclude the acknowledgement of the existence of an intelligent designing agent.  

            The explanation for the origin of the complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information we see and understand everywhere in the natural world are saturated with purpose, now clearly apparent four-hundred years after Francis Bacon.

            Simply acknowledging the intelligent agency behind the organized complexity of these systems of information in no way inhibits or displaces the ongoing scientific investigations of the matter-and-energy mechanisms in the material world.

            This acknowledgement takes place within skeletal explanatory frameworks, and not within the grouped set of scientific facts themselves.

            Theism or atheism takes place within skeletal explanatory frameworks that are philosophical…where worldviews are born.

            Philosophy is an inseparable part of science, but it is not science.

            The fundamental recognition here is that as ignorance travels towards truth, it is a journey and not a leap, casting off errors along the way…eliminating the range of possibilities that at the end of the journey narrows the remaining choices down to one or two true options.

            If we knew the right answer beforehand…the one truth…then we would not have any reason to begin a scientific research investigation into a particular mystery we do not yet understand in nature.

            Science is a journey starting out with a few or even many possible hypotheses to describe a particular phenomenon in nature that as a process of exploration is a range of open options.

            Science starts out as a line connecting possible points to investigate…that at the beginning of the journey is usually not confined to a single point.

            As ignorance travels towards truth, eliminating faulty hypotheses along the way, the length of the horizontal line connecting the dots that represent possible hypotheses in a particular research project…gets shorter and shorter as progress is made.  Investigation and analysis continues until it reaches the one single point of truth that correctly describes reality.

            This is the fundamental methodology of science.

            This process to identify the origin of reality in the workings of the natural world has now eliminated the option of naturalistic materialism as being too simplistic.

            The reality of the defense mechanism of the Asian honeybee against the giant Asian hornet, discussed in the previous essay, is too complex for naturalistic materialism as the explanation of its origin.

            This same argument is multiplied by 10-million when applied to the vast scope of the diversity of the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of the living species on earth.

            Again, the initial tentative hypotheses at the start of a science research program…traveling from ignorance to truth…enables a range of hypothetical “spins” that can be placed upon the factual evidence until the numerous skeletal explanatory frameworks whittle down to one or two options.

            Professional scientists and laymen who are Christian theists would ask the question at what point in the Bible do we justify limiting the supernatural…to exclude intelligent agency…in crafting these skeletal explanatory frameworks?

            If we start at the Big Bang introduction of physical mass/energy, abstract information, and the forward march of time out of nothing previously physical in literally the first split-seconds of time…this then creates a beginning skeletal explanatory framework that logically must include the element of some form of inarguably brilliant intelligent agency. 

            The overall enterprise of empirical scientific investigation (which must exclude the untestable and speculative multi-verse hypothesis) should begin with the recognition of the need for agency to get our universe up and running with the precision it exhibits.   

            Modern science has discovered several clear-cut candidates that can be categorized as singularities…sudden events seemingly without evidence of transitional precursors leading up to their occurrence…such as a beginning of the universe, the immergence of life on earth, the Cambrian Explosion, the immergence of human conscious thought, and the abrupt discontinuities in the fossil record.[2]

            When we look at the complex instinctual predator/prey relationships like that of the giant Asian hornet and Asian honeybees, repeated in literally millions of ingenious variations throughout the natural living world…we can reasonably ask the question where are the gradual, incrementally small steps of progressive transitional development that must be prolific in nature for the materialistic explanation to be valid? 

            Scientific materialists assert that they will solve the mystery of these singularities given more time for research.

            But the giant Asian hornet in mortal combat with the Asian honeybee, accentuated by the total mismatch between this hornet and the imported European honeybees, tells us today that these singularities will not be solved by more research. 

            These exquisite instinctual lifestyle habits are singularities precisely because there are no gradual, incrementally small steps of transitional intermediate progression…of major anatomical development…apparent anywhere in the living natural world.

            Everything in the living world appears to be functionally operative at their mature essences, except when human agency intervenes as in the case with the European honeybees imported into Japan.

            If instinctual lifestyle habits do not arise by gradually perfecting repetitive trial-and-error accidents, universally seen through the natural living world…then scientific materialism applied to biology does not hold up.   

            If the same quality of an inexplicable singularity of initial conditions arising at the Big Bang creation of the universe…requires the existence and action of an intelligent agent to introduce these initial conditions in their fully mature functionality, then this reality also logically applies to the instinctual lifestyle habits of the ten-million living species on earth.

            The ten-million varied species on earth currently display zero gradual transition in progression toward future outcomes. 

            It is then fair to say that the worldview of naturalistic materialism in the light of the empiricism of modern science…is illogically nonsensical.

            Scientific materialists cannot recognize agency in nature because they are operating in the erroneous hypothesis of a universe without purposeful design.  They cannot possibly broaden their worldview to accept as “supernatural” the creative artistic brilliance we take for granted all around us…from the rising of the sun, to the air we breathe, to the beauty and fragrance of springtime flowers…and ascribe this to purposeful intelligent agency.

            This is the dilemma that modern science has arrived at for some professional scientists…choosing either God or science…when the true reality is that it is both together.

            Scientific materialists want empirical proofs for the existence of God, but the complex, specified, and coherently integrated quality of the systems of information in the natural world, now better understood in this Age of Information…is evidentiary proof.

            What is incredibly misleading is to characterize the debate as a culture-war between science and faith, when it is really between theism and atheism. 

            The differences reside within the philosophically crafted skeletal explanatory frameworks that connect the empirical facts…amenable to being spread-out into numerous hypothetical “spins.”   

            Scientists place faith in their own mental capacity to discern and differentiate truth from error.  Scientists cannot do science without first placing faith in the orderliness and intelligibility of the natural world.

            The modern debate cannot be about faith…because science is saturated with faith in order to have any meaning.

            Faith involves philosophical assumptions about the reliability of factual truth that are not amenable to formal proofs through hard “bench” science.  This is discussed more fully in the scientism section in the upcoming essay Are Science and God in Conflict?

            The current reality is that scientific materialists find the supernatural in the Bible so philosophically abhorrent that they will go to any length to formulate secular hypotheses to explain the wonders of nature.  We see this in the vague and inadequate use of the term behavioral adaptation to describe the predator/prey relationship between the giant Asian hornet and the Asian honeybee.

            But the intelligent agent God who can create the universe, life, the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of ten-million varied species, and the advanced intellectual and moral reasoning capacity of human beings…can also part the Red Sea, walk on water, and raise Jesus Christ from being three days dead after Roman crucifixion.

            The complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information that permeate all of nature…preclude reasonable explanations of origin and causation using atheistic secular storylines.

            It can reasonably be said that modern science is now pointing towards the existence of an intelligent agent God.

From the book Pondering Our Creation: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.


[1] Michael J. Behe, Darwin Devolves (New York: Harper Collins, 2019), 258-259.

[2] Fossil Discontinuities: Refutation of Darwinism & Confirmation of Intelligent Design—Gunter Bechly, published Oct. 11, 2018 on You Tube by FOCLOnline.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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