There’s a classic theorem out there that compares the creation of the universe to putting typewriters in a room full of monkeys.
On one end of the spectrum are those that contend that given enough time, say billions or even an infinite number of years, the monkeys randomly pecking away at the keys will eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare.
On the other end of the spectrum are those that argue that after even billions (or even infinite) tries of hitting on the typewriter, the monkeys might be able to accidentally type up some words, or maybe even a complete sentence, but the chances of typing up even one actual Shakespearean play are insurmountable
Intelligent Design theory, which sides with the latter, looks at the patterns and complexity of creation in order to say that none of it would have been possible without the direct, purposeful guidance of an outside, intelligent designer.
The eyeball, for example, with all its separate components having to work together in order to function could not have randomly formed without a preplanned design. ID theory also looks at the odds of all the right conditions coming into place for life itself to form. Had the earth, for example, been just a few miles closer or further from the sun, life as we know it would not exist. ID theory is different than previous creation theory in that it avoids traditional religious jargon or arguments and focuses primarily on the scientific evidence.
In chapter one of Rethinking God (which can be read here) I contend that God as the “I Am” is the natural source law of all that exists. The “I Am” is existence itself and the ultimate of ultimates (nothing can be outside of it) and against which nothing else can be measured.
While the complexity of creation is certainly a very strong argument and any truly objective scientist must take that into account, when put into the framework of the “I Am,” ID theory ultimately falls short. The problem comes with the application of the word “intelligence” – something that we have no way of actually measuring.
Put in another way: if the universe were unintelligently designed, how would we know it?
Imagine a newborn baby becoming a castaway on a small remote island in the Pacific after having been the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Somehow he miraculously survives and grows up (raised by monkeys, with or without typewriters), never coming across a single other human being. He reaches age 21 and one day proudly declares, “I am the strongest and smartest human being in the world!” This statement may be true or not true for all he knows, but he has absolutely nothing else to measure his statement against to determine its veracity.
The above illustrates the problem with the notion of “intelligent design.” “Intelligence” is a human term, designed to measure a person’s or creature’s ability to understand and provide application to the universe he or she lives in. But when applied to the “I Am” or existence (the ultimate of ultimates) it simply does not work. It assumes you can somehow judge existence by how well it knows the universe or applies what it does – as though there was a standard outside of it.
When we describe anything God or existence does as “intelligent” it’s the equivalent of saying, “Good job, God!” or “Great job, existence!” as though we can evaluate its performance.
But of course it’s a good job. Anything existence does is good because existence is the standard of good. If it were to change what it did, it would automatically become the new good because there is nothing above it to say that it is not good.
Likewise it is with intelligence. As humans who live within the context of existence our only standard of measure for intelligence is the way things actually are. Our perception of a well-designed creation is based entirely on what is already designed. If the eyeball had been formed any different, or if we’d only had one eye or three eyes or twenty eyes, then that is how we would have judged how eyeballs should be. Or if we never had eyeballs to begin with, then there would never have been discussion of “eyesight” at all.
If the earth had actually been a few miles closer or a few miles further from the sun, yes life may not have formed as we know it; but might life have formed in an entirely different way, thus giving us different standards for what we consider the “perfect conditions for life?”
Intelligent design, therefore, becomes a circular argument. It says that the universe is the way that it is because it was intelligently designed. How do we know it was intelligently designed? Because it was made exactly the way that it should be? And how do we know the way it should be made? Because it was made the way that it is.
This is why intelligent design theory ultimately falls short as an explanation to the naturalist. Creation may be complex, but after billions of years of billions of accidental occurrences, it’s bound to look somewhat complex and we’ve grown up accepting no other better way for it to be. It’s the equivalent of randomly splashing paint onto a canvas and, rather than declaring the portrait a mess, stating it’s perfectly the way it was intended.
Our standard for determining if the universe is well-designed is entirely based on whether it managed to turn out the way that it did. And, of course, the odds of it turning out the way that it did, whether on purpose or accidental, are 100%.
None of this is to imply that God or existence does not have what we label as intelligence. Far from it. What it does show is that the means by which everything was created (spontaneous creation versus random creation over billions of years versus somewhere in between) cannot from our perspective be a determiner of existence’s intelligence so much as the final results themselves.
With an “I Am” outlook, because it allows for a more natural view of God (see my articles on “Losing My Religion” and “I’m a Christian and I Don’t Believe in Miracles”), the “how” the universe was actually formed becomes far less significant than the “what.” By looking at the “what” of the universe that was formed we get a better picture of what existence, or God, is like. Regardless of how creation was formed, for example, the universe still did end up with what we label as intelligent, personal beings.
In other words, how the monkeys managed to type up an entire story is far less significant than the story the monkeys actually wrote.
So what can we know about existence?
For one, we know that existence is “alive’ because life exists. Life could not exist if it was not written into the very code of existence.
There is much debate about how life actually began. Some believe that life simply began as an abnormality to the otherwise mechanical code of the universe. Like with the monkeys with typewriters, with so many billions of potential combinations over billions of years such an abnormal combination was ultimately inevitable. But it was inevitable because existence allowed it to be. For in order for such a combination or “abnormality” to take place there must be a rule within the law of existence for this to be able to even happen. There must be a law that says if x + y takes place, then the exception of life begins, and furthermore, that defines and allows for “inevitable” in the first place.
In other words, life cannot be an abnormality to existence itself because nothing can be outside of the law of existence. And if life was inevitable, even if through billions of combinations, it was because existence ultimately called for it.
It can be said similarly of person-hood. Existence is personal because persons exist.
The ability to have relationship and to love and dream and learn and be self-aware are not some type of higher quality than original existence because nothing can be higher than existence.
Even if these qualities had progressed from the original “primitive” state of matter, they progressed because existence allowed it to be so and even said for it to be so. Even if the development of these qualities in humankind was due to selection and survival, with such traits giving creatures practicing them a sort of “upper=hand,” so to speak, it is because existence ruled it so. In other words, existence favored these traits.
“Love” would not exist if not a quality of existence. People, and even all creatures, would not relate if it was not written into existence’s code. How would self-awareness even be possible in people, if self-awareness did not exist at least as a concept of existence to begin with?
Interestingly, there are some who preach that ultimately the personal qualities of mankind are really nothing special and only a combination of complex mechanical gene interactions, not realizing they are teaching a contradiction. For what does that say about the “mechanical” universe itself?
Maybe “love” is just an electrical chemical phenomenon; but we still call it “love.” Perhaps “relationships” are just similar genetic codes working together for self-survival, but we still label it “relationship.” “Intelligence” might be nothing more than cells interacting with the surrounding environment, but we still call it “intelligence.”
Perhaps people are ultimately only machines, programmed by the billions of codes in the universe, but we still name them “persons.” So how can we then claim that existence itself, and consequently God, cannot be personal because it is nothing but complex mechanizations of code?
And regardless of what you think about the existence’s ability to love, relate, dream or have other such personal qualities, at its root levels it still ultimately does all these things. For even if it took billions of years to get there, it was existence that created men and women who fall in love, and existence that created children who dream, and existence that created the artist who paints, or the author who writes, or the student who learns.
Existence loves, existence dreams, existence creates beauty, existence tells stories, existence learns and existence is alive. And because existence lives, God lives. And because existence relates, God relates.
No one proclaims that love is not real because it cannot yet be proven scientifically. Nor if there ever was a full scientific explanation, would we ever proclaim it not real at that point either. It is real because we witness it. In the same way, God is real.
There are some who propose, as a way of increasing the odds by increasing the number of “monkeys,” the idea of multi-universes. They state that the universe we live in is just one of many universes out there, and thus the type of universe we ended up with is merely one possible combination out of many. But if that is the case, and our amazing, living, personal universe is just one possibility, how much even more amazing is the whole of existence?
If you want to see at least a glimpse of God and know just a part of what he is like, look around you at the universe we know of.
You can see God in the billions of stars interspersed throughout the universe. You can hear him in the laughter of a child being loved on by his mother. You can see him in the rings that glow around Saturn. You can witness him in a dancer who glides with the beautiful music that permeates the air. You can see him in the rays that burst from the sun. You can enjoy him in animal cubs that joyfully play. You can see him in the mountain ranges that majestically stand against the landscape.
You can sense him in the storyteller, whether through a book or a play or a movie, who shares about adventure and love and danger and triumph. There is more to it than just mechanical code, though scientifically you may be able to explain it that way. It is the person of God on display.
Author’s Update (12/20/15): If you have any questions about what I wrote above, I encourage you to see some of my reply comments below. I provide further clarification on some of the issues. Also, would love to hear your feedback and questions.