Re: Natural Theology, Unguided Processes and Apologetics

Adrian Teo (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 08:56:19 -0700

When we think about and discuss design, it is based upon comparison with
previous experience. A stone axe, for example, is considered to be designed
because we have either observed other similar products emerge from the work of
human hands. Other things are termed "naturally occurring" because of two
primary reasons: either we haven't seen those objects created by people before,
or we have scientifically verified that those objects can indeed arise from
natural processes given naturally occurring conditions. Although we can, for the
most part, positively identify things made by human hands, what exactly do we
mean by "naturally occurring"? Whatever we haven't observed to be the work of
humans (or some tool-making animals), we tend to call them naturally-occurring.
It seems to me that we really cannot say much about the design or lack of design
of those naturally occurring things simply because we don't have any direct
experience of God creating anything. Perhaps one may attempt to define
"naturally occuring" as explanable by known physical processes. But it may also
be that those physical processes have been designed. Again, we can't tell if
those processes have indeed been designed because we have no direct experience
of God or anyone create them. When it comes to anything which we have no prior
experience to compare it to, we must either remain silent (in terms of
design-talk), or accept the claims of Scripture. The non-Christian may fall back
upon his/her own philosophical perspective to explain them.

Even something as intricate as the human eye cannot be easily categorized as
designed because we have no direct experience of God or humans creating it. We
look around and we find an abundance of human eyes, just as we do seashells,
irregularly-shaped rocks, and other interesting things. They have arisen out of
processes that, as far as we can tell, have not been influenced by human hands.
Again, how we view the origins of those processes (physical laws) is based upon
our presuppositions, rather than experience.

(I doubt/wonder if a biologist can tell if one of those cloned sheep was a
product of human hands or natural if the no information about its history is

My position, thus, is that we have no way of determining if something is
designed or not if we do not have prior experience to compare against. It
becomes a metaphysical/philosophical/faith issue, not a scientific one.