Designer World

Author: Dr John Watterson

Good design is the hallmark of a person with skill, understanding and purpose – and the universe is bursting at the seams with it. Unlike the gold-panner, we don’t have to sift through a lot of gravel to find tiny nuggets of design – whatever we touch bears the Designer’s trademark. So much so that men have always been driven to acknowledge the existence of the Designer. “Living objects,” admits Richard Dawkins, “look overwhelmingly as though they’re designed.” Indeed, the more we know about the creation the more we are impressed and awed by the marvels of design that it contains. This article can do no more than look briefly at some examples of design, and ask how we can use the knowledge that we live in a designed universe.

Fine-tuned universe

Physicists tell us that the universe we inhabit is very finely balanced. Were it very slightly different, it would not support life. We are made of matter and matter has properties. For example, electrons are bound to protons in atoms by an electromagnetic coupling force; if this force were smaller, fewer electrons could be held, and if it were larger, electrons would be held too tightly to bond with other atoms. Either way, the range of possible materials would be very limited. Similarly, if the ratio of the mass of an electron to that of a proton was slightly altered, molecules could not form, and the universe would be very bland indeed. We depend on carbon being abundant for life to be possible. But the abundance of carbon depends on the energy levels within lighter elements being balanced to within 1 per cent. Then there are the stars. In what sounds like what we nowadays call a “throw away comment,” Genesis says that God “also made the stars.” Yet the stability of the stars depends on the fine-tuning of electromagnetic and gravitational forces. If the balance between these forces varied by more than one part in 1040 (that is, 1 followed by 40 zeros), then either only large or only small stars would be stable, with bad consequences for the ability of the universe to support life.

Desirable residence

Yet, the universe was made for precisely that purpose – to support life – and our planet is a “des res,” a desirable residence. Speaking through Isaiah, God said, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other’” (Isa. 45:18).

Consider the sun. It has just the right colour and brightness, so that the light it shines on the earth is good for plant photosynthesis. The earth rotates at just the right distance from the sun: a mere 2% closer and the additional radiation we would receive would cause all our water to evaporate; a mere 2% further away and all the water would freeze. We take for granted the words, “and there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” But there would be no evening or morning without the rotation of the earth, and the speed of rotation is just right. If it were slower, the variation in temperature between day and night would be too extreme. A large differential in heating and cooling of the earth would also result in very different weather patterns, probably much more violent. Faster rotation of the earth would also cause more violent weather through stronger Coriolis forces (and we would get a shorter night’s sleep). Let’s not forget our atmosphere. It admits sunlight, but protects us from harmful wavelengths. And it is transparent. Thus we can observe the stars, this gives us opportunity to confirm the theories of physics. Indeed, the fact that the relative sizes and distances of the sun and the moon allow for perfect solar eclipses has allowed, for example, the confirmation of one of the predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It has been observed by someone that our planet provides an ideal platform from which to conduct “a stunning diversity of measurements, from cosmology and galactic astronomy to stellar astrophysics and geophysics.”

Engineering life

What about life itself? Our bodies are wonders of articulation, masterpieces of engineering design. The human body has an automatic thermostat that maintains body temperature at about 37°C. The body protects the joints of its skeleton by manufacturing lubricants in-situ. Blood vessels promote helical flow since this reduces damage to the vessel walls. The focus and aperture of the human eye are adjusted automatically, and the eye has a better range of light sensitivity than the best man-made light detectors, and an amazing microbiological method of protecting its retina. Three tiny bones transfer sound waves efficiently form the outer to the inner ear. It has been estimated that the human brain daily processes a greater quantity of information (conscious and unconscious) than is stored in all the world’s libraries.

Did you know that lobsters have a unique eye design, copied by the NASA X-ray telescope? Have you watched hover flies perform amazing aerobatic stunts and wondered how they can be so precise? Were you aware that migrating swifts rest half of their brain at a time, and yet still make accurate navigational adjustments for wind speed and direction? When engineers learn how creatures do the amazing things they were designed to do, they then copy them, a process they call “biomimetics.” It has given us aircraft and Velcro, low drag cars and silent computer fans.

Marvels of miniaturisation

The above examples are all on a large scale. When we look at smaller and smaller scales, we see yet greater wonders. A molecular biologist has suggested that we try and image a “simple” cell enlarged a thousand million times, large enough to encompass a city like Dublin or greater Belfast. He says that we would then see “an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design…a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity.” You can get a flavour of what he means by viewing the Virtual Cell’s Educational Animations at or the Harvard University Inner Life of the Cell animation at Our most sophisticated machines are crude by comparison; our tiniest miniaturisations are clumsy. The more we know, the more we are drawn to exclaim, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Ps. 104:24).

Witnessing in a designer world

In such a world it is the unbeliever and not the Christian who bears the burden of the proof for the existence of God. As Paul wrote, “What can be known about God is plain to [the unbeliever], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20). The facts of creation bear down on the unbeliever. The more he knows about any aspect of creation, the more face-to-face he is with the existence of God. He can only escape the message of creation by placing his hands firmly over his ears and refusing to listen. Some unbelievers also find it reassuring to shout out their own story about origins and present reality.

How can we help someone in such a situation? A subsequent article will consider creation-oriented evangelism. Here it is enough to say that we can speak to such a person with great confidence. We want to him to know the God of the Bible, and so we won’t be ashamed to present him with the whole Biblical message – creation, fall, redemption and consummation. But we can be flexible in our starting point. True, he may have no interest in astronomy or zoology. But find out what his interests are and start there, because whatever his interests are, they are part of God’s universe.