Re: An engineering definition of design

Bill Hamilton (
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 10:49:23 -0400

An individual wrote me privately and asked a question I would like to
respond to on the list. I hope he will not object to my quoting him
publicly without identifying him.

He said

>I like your definition of what constitutes a designed object. I struck
>me that the situation of reverse engineering (where one studies a
>designed object and then writes up the apparent specifications) may be
>what the ID positiion is considering. If one is able to write up
>specifications based on some object, then can one conclude that the
>object was a designed object?
I responded

I agree that what the ID folks are doing is something like reverse
engineering. Actually that's what conventional science is about as well.
And as a Christian I believe that we do discover some of God's truth by
doing science. But the laws we discover by scientific investigation are
approximations that are frequently superseded by later investigation. For
example, look at the development of mechanics since Newton's day. Newton's
laws were good first approximations -- so good that we can use them for
most space navigation. But Newton's laws don't describe what happens when
mass and/or velocity are very large, or when mass is very small. We needed
relativistic and quantum mechanics to do that. And I believe there are
puzzles and conundrums in mechanics that await later work before they will
be understood. So it seems risky to me to be too certain that anything we
discover through science is a fundamental principle that God has designed
into nature. We Calvinists are fond of talking about general revelation
and special revelation. Special revelation is God's word -- the
Scriptures. General revelation is what we see of God's goodness,
providence, love etc. in nature. It's valuable but it's no substitute for

Best regards

Bill Hamilton, Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems, GM R&D Center
Warren, MI / (home)