Living things appear to be designed for a purpose. That statement is entirely non-controversial. Even the world’s most famous materialist admits it: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York; Norton, 1986), 1.
I will go one step further and assert that the appearance of design in living things is far from ambiguous or equivocal; it is overwhelming. Honest materialists do not dispute this assertion either. Dawkins again: Living things “overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker . . .” Id., 21.
To be sure, Dawkins attributes the overwhelming appearance of design in living things to the accretion of random errors sorted through a fitness function called “natural selection.” But advances in the study of living systems in recent years (especially at the microscopic level) have made the “accretion of random errors” explanation for the overwhelming appearance of design seem at least dubitable, if not downright facile.
Moreover, as our knowledge of the vast gulf separating living things from non-living matter has increased, the less satisfactory “chance dunnit” explanations have become. It was one thing to attribute the appearance of the first living organisms to chance events occurring in some “warm little pond” 100 years ago when Haeckel was suggesting a cell was a “simple globule of protoplasm.” Haeckel’s glib simplification is amusing now that we know that even the simplest living cells are marvels of staggeringly complex nano-technology.
Better, it seems to me, to admit that living things appear overwhelmingly to be designed because they are in fact designed. Dawkins and his ilk deny design, however, not because the evidence compels them to deny it, but because their a priori metaphysical commitments compel them to do so. In other words, Dawkins denies the obvious because his religious beliefs require him to do so.
When one accepts materialism, in addition to design, one is compelled to deny other glaringly obvious truths. Here are a few:
1. Good and evil exist. Dawkins denies that good and evil exist. Yet he most assuredly knows that they do exist. In fact, like almost everyone else who denies the existence of good and evil, he lives his everyday life as if this most basic truth claim of his is absolutely false.
2. The universe is fine-tuned for the existence of life. No materialist denies that literally dozens of constants rest on a razor’s edge between “too much” and “too little” for the existence of life. They do, however, deny that this finely tuned state of events results from fine tuning. Instead, they resort to glib “it must be that way, because that is the way that it is,” anthropic arguments that are laughable for their lack of curiosity and intellectual rigor.
3. The DNA code is a code. All semiotic codes whose provenance is known have been designed by intelligent agents. Materialists must assert that the most elegant, sophisticated and complex semiotic code in the known universe resulted from . . . Actually, they don’t have a clue how DNA first arose though blind chance and mechanical law; the only thing they know for certain is that intelligence played no role.
4. “I” exist. Materialists, to be logically consistent, must say that consciousness is an illusion. In other words, when a materialist uses the word “I” in a sentence, he must believe that the pronoun has no real antecedent.
5. Free will exists. Materialists must deny the existence of libertarian free will, which requires them to say things like “I [which word has no real antecedent] choose [an illusion of course] not to believe [even though I admit it is absurd to suggest that particles in motion can hold such a thing as a “belief”] in free will.”
6. A man’s body is designed to be complementary with a woman’s body and vice versa. All of the confusion about whether same-sex relations are licit would be swept away in an instant if everyone acknowledged this obvious truth.
I welcome our readers to add to this list.
Since I posted the OP, our readers have suggested the following for the list.
7. Tim writes: “Although not glaringly obvious, one truth that must be denied by the strict materialist is that the world around us can even be understood by us.” In a similar vein, JDH writes: “A corollary to the fact that true materialist must deny that free will exists is that in a truly materialist world, it is impossible to practice science.”
8. Barry: The world is broken. I’m broken. Everyone knows the way things are is different from the way things ought to be. Everyone knows the way they are is different from the way they ought to be.
9. WJM: “Materialists must deny the fact that when they argue, they are making an appeal to an entity assumed to be unbound/uncaused by physics and chemistry.”
The sentence in bold has been revised to take into account a valid comment by Mark Frank, for which I thank him.