Do Humans Have a Design Intuition?
I’m currently refreshing myself on the modern design versus evolution debate. In so doing, I keep coming back to what Douglas Axe refers to as a design intuition. More or less, this is a human intuition that sees a functioning whole and assumes it was designed. The question is, is this intuition true or false?
My Dog Arlo and Coincidences
I have a new puppy, Arlo; he’s a miniature Australian Shepherd. Cute as he is, he loves to jump on my lap while I’m working on my laptop. Sometimes he steps on the keyboard. Let’s say, for example, Arlo steps on my keyboard and the letter “D” appears on my computer screen. I might say, “Hey, it’s a ‘D’ for dog!” The same might happen if he were to land on “P” for puppy, or “A” for Arlo. Arlo doesn’t know the English language, or how to use a keyboard, so I know this would just be a coincidence.
Now, let’s up the ante a little bit. Let’s say Arlo walks across the keyboard and the word “Dog” appears on the screen. I would be a little freaked-out. However, I can conceive that this might be within the realm of coincidence. Doubtful, but still not so wildly unlikely that I couldn’t conceive it to actually happen. However, if Arlo walked across the keyboard and the sentence, Hey human, I’m about to pee in your lap, so can you get your lazy butt up and take me outside? appeared on the keyboard, Arlo would have a new owner by the end of the day. More likely, I would jump up and leave the house and call a priest because my puppy is possessed.
Why is the last “coincidence” so far-fetched (pun intended)? Because something as intelligent as the human language – more specifically, English grammar – necessitates design. That Arlo might punch a single letter like “D” is conceivable, but that he would type a meaningful sentence in English? Impossible. Philosophically speaking, yes, it’s in the realm of possibility, but practically speaking, it’s impossible.
Too Good To Be True
My father always told me, “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is.” I think he was right. Undoubtedly, coincidences happen. One time, while on vacation I ran into an old buddy of mine from High School. It was quite the coincidence that somebody I knew was vacationing at the same time and in the same place. But what if my graduating class was all there with him? I wouldn’t say, “Wow, what a coincidence.” I would say, “Who planned a surprise party?” Emphasis being on planned.
Somethings are too good to be true. When we see smaller, purposeful parts working together to form a whole that is accomplishing a task, we intuitively think design. Why is this? Because this intuition is a sort-of short cut. Since we were young, we have seen functional wholes performing tasks. And since we were young, we have known that these wholes were designed. Over the years we have “built” an intuition toward this thinking. We now immediately think design when we see, or hear of such things.
The universe we live in, and the life we observe, all appear to be designed. When we observe the fine-tuned constants of the universe we intuitively think that someone, or something did the tuning. When we observe the infinite chasm between life and non-life we immediately think there could be no intermediary. When we see the explosion of life in the geological record, we intuitively think there must have been an Exploder. When we observe the irreducible-complexity of life at the molecular level we intuitively think that only an intelligent source could account for the presence of information-rich “machines”.
Of course, the question still remains, “Does our intuition serve us well?” The naturalist would say that it doesn’t. They would posit explanations as to why although the universe and life itself appears to be designed, it actually isn’t. But even they must concede that it appears to be designed. The naturalist must believe that the universe and life itself arose accidentally. And yes, as much as you might hate it, natural selection of random mutations means accidental. Random mutations have no intent behind them, therefore they are accidental. The universe didn’t intend to be fine-tuned, it was accidental. As soon as you start speaking of intent, you are arguing for design. Yet, our intuition tells us that accidents of this magnitude cannot be accidents. They must be designed.
This isn’t a technical critique of evolution by natural selection of random mutations (although I am preparing to write one). This is a “common science” critique of ignoring our intuitions to maintain a naturalistic worldview. You can maintain a naturalistic worldview if you wish, but you must first climb over a mountain of intuition and common science. The universe and the living organisms we observe appear to be designed. Will we believe our eyes, or our theories? Are our intuitions correct, or must we ignore them? You tell me.