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Once Again: Who Designed the Designer? 

Granville Sewell

intelligent design

At the 9-minute mark of a German TV interview with Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, retired Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research scientist, the interviewer asks, “If God or an intelligent designer exists, then who has created him? Who designed the designer?” 

Lönnig (a bit later) says (turn on CC for English subtitles): 

There are different questions. If I have a Boeing jet aircraft, or whatever, and I ask “Who has built this machine?” then the answer is “an engineer, a team of engineers.” But some may ask “What is the origin of the engineers? Therefore I don’t believe that this machine has been designed.” We need to separate these two questions: Are there any clues from the structure of matter that suggest intelligent design? After that we can ask another question: What is the origin of the designer? It is possible to reason regarding intelligent design without asking about the origin of the designer. That is certainly a possible and legitimate question, but it does not change the reasoning, when there is a complex specific irreducible system, I can draw conclusions regarding a designer from that, but I can still leave open the other question. 

A Familiar Question

We are all familiar with the question “Who designed the designer?” and this is the answer we ID advocates usually give. Those who search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence are confident they can recognize signals from intelligent beings when they receive them, long before they discover anything about the beings who sent them. But we all know this answer will not satisfy ID opponents. No matter how much evidence for design we discover in the laws of physics, in the laws of chemistry, and especially in living things, they will always say (quoting Lönnig), “We cannot accept [design], because we would only have an explanation which in turn requires an even more complex explanation.” 

Thus Lönnig addresses the question more directly: 

Materialists have believed for more than two thousand years that the universe is of infinite age and has no designer and no beginning. Only in the 20th century and especially with the break-throughs of the 1960s did it become clear that the universe had a beginning. Since Aristotle, for more than two thousand years, it has been said that the universe is of infinite age and had no beginning. If this line of thinking was possible, then why is it now not safe to say that if a designer exists, maybe he also had no beginning? If it was possible to believe for two thousand years that the universe had no beginning, why it is impossible to state a hypothesis that the designer had no beginning as well? 

Many may say: But it is much easier to understand how matter and energy could be eternal, than how an intelligent designer could be eternal. But is it really? I think we all can agree that there must be some First Cause, and whether it is intelligent or unintelligent there seems to be, by definition, no hope of ever explaining the First Cause in terms of “earlier” causes! And it is becoming more and more clear that it will never be possible to explain what has happened on Earth if we start from unintelligent First Causes. (I believe the arguments supporting this assertion are summarized nicely in this video.) So why not assume a First Cause that can explain everything else? 

A Satisfactory Outcome

In recent years, as scientific research has continually revealed the astonishing dimensions of the complexity of life, especially at the microscopic level, support for Darwin’s implausible explanation for the apparent design in life has continued to weaken, and it is probably safe to say that further research will only continue and accelerate this trend. Thus many ID proponents are confident that eventually all scientists will be forced to abandon attempts at materialistic explanations, and acknowledge that the apparent design in life is real. But I think they may be disappointed, because many scientists will still say, “Who designed the designer?” 

What we can possibly hope for is that eventually scientists will be forced to quit pretending that Darwinism, or any other materialistic explanation for the complexity of life, is plausible and admit that their only real reason for rejecting design is that they have ruled it out a priori. Perhaps we can hope that someday science professors will honestly admit to their students that if they had not ruled out design a priori, there would be no reason whatsoever for them to accept materialistic theories on the origin and evolution of life. If that happens, that will be a very satisfactory outcome, and a huge improvement over the current sad and dishonest state of origins science. 

Photo: A Boeing jet aircraft, by Phinalanji, [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.