Evaluating Real vs. Apparent Design | The Institute for Creation Research

Evaluating Real vs. Apparent Design

Everyone has some unhealthy habits and the best way to achieve long-term freedom from them is not to “drop” them but to “replace” them with something better. The freedom-through-replacement reality is also useful during any conversation about evolution’s failure to explain the origin of nature’s design, since, at some point, an evolutionist is likely to ask, “Well, do you propose something better?”

Creationists, in fact, do have a scientifically better explanation to replace the notion that nature’s design is all an illusion that stems from a purposeless process in which evolution’s substitute god, the imaginary “Natural Selector,”1 chooses the fittest mutations randomly arising in an organism’s DNA. A concise answer could be, “Our claim that nature’s design is produced by a real designer can be tested by observation and is mathematically quantifiable. Furthermore, compared to the legacy of evolutionary thinking, it liberates minds to pursue more rational approaches toward scientific research.”

That answer ought to catch attention and keep discussion on the main question: “What is the best explanation of nature’s design?” The Bible says in Romans 1:18-23 that the Lord’s witness to His reality is “clearly seen” from the “creation” by the things He has “made.” He used the language of design construction, not biology. Everyone can see nature’s design and conclude it was designed—by a cause bigger than nature. Thus, Romans details how everyone’s accountability to acknowledge God has always been based on the very clear design-designer (i.e., created-creator) connection, demonstrated by all human cultures, and not on detailed biological insight.

So, the biological question “how do organisms adapt to environments?” is not the root issue, which is founded on a basic question corresponding to problem-solving activities of intelligent engineers:

Are features of design evident when the innate programming of organisms actively solves problems (or exploits opportunities) presented by environments?

Real Design: A Scientifically Superior Explanation

Begin by stating that you have carefully examined the two explanations head-to-head. You find the explanation for real design is more persuasive since the activities of real engineers—which cannot be duplicated by natural processes—are reflected in the living world. Then, enumerate four verifiable observations that reflect real design.

Possibly the clearest observation of organisms is that they have multiple intricately arranged parts that fit together for a purpose. Many of these parts show proper alignment, exact dimensions and shape, tight fit, proper balance, and moving parts with precisely synchronized timing. These complex patterns are features of design that have been observed to originate only in intelligently designed items—never by natural forces.

One fact about sections of DNA is that their four letters are precisely arranged as a set of plans and specification detailing the materials and controls to reproduce a new organism. Since DNA 1) selects 2) in advance 3) exact attributes 4) for a purpose, it has the same features of intelligence as any engineer’s specification. Throughout recorded human experience, plans and specifications are always a product of intelligence. In addition, all known natural processes that randomly choose letters one-by-one outside the context of an intelligence to guide the selection—as evolutionists assert—always yield nonsense that is totally inconsistent with information held in DNA.

Another certain feature of design is demonstrated when engineers foresee aspects of their project that cannot be built by increments. They respond by establishing conditions so all information and materials are 1) available, 2) localized together, 3) at the right time, 4) capable of functioning together 5) for the intended purpose. Only intelligent agents have been observed to set conditions where all of the parts must be collected and built together or none of a specific function is obtained. Creatures have many examples of this all-or-nothing unity, but the best example is reproduction. Evolution is a dead end without operative reproductive abilities. Intelligent foresight best explains why the minimum number of parts necessary for an organism to reproduce—is the organism itself.

Mathematicians have quantified the probability of the information for the most basic functional proteins developing by natural processes as exceedingly small.2 Therefore, it is not a stretch to assert that it is mathematically impossible to obtain by natural processes the information that is needed for the origin of a living, reproducing bacterium. Overcoming infinitesimally small probabilities in a single bound by engaging them—as evolutionists do—with infinite numbers of resources generated by an infinite number of universes falls outside the realm of acceptable scientific explanations.

Intricately arranged parts, information for specifications, all-or-nothing unity, and the impossibly low probabilities of these things happening in living things by chance are real observations. Their association to the actions of real designers is visible. Science is based on observation and testing. Real design is the better scientific explanation.

A better scientific explanation supports a better approach to science. Since these features point so clearly toward real design, biological researchers should approach investigations of nature like engineers would study an unknown electronic device. They should expect to discover well-designed, coherent, and incredibly complex systems functioning for a purpose—an expectation forbidden by the rules governing evolution’s mental “thought prison.”

Escaping the Thought Prison Called “Apparent Design”

Being confined to a tiny cell is the depressing reality that makes prison awful. But even worse is when a mind is so straitjacketed by the atheistic philosophy of naturalism that it eagerly believes explanations that are resisted by scientific observations. Claiming that the purpose of an eagle’s wing cannot be known and that the synchronized movement of all its precisely fitted parts is only an “illusion of design” is a perception contrary to real external stimuli. How much better could scientists—set free to conclude design when they see design—approach research when released from misconceptions that flow from invalid, yet firmly held, reasoning constricted by naturalism?

First, researchers would be free to follow data wherever it leads, which allows them to never stop questioning and discovering. This mental state far exceeds the shackled thinking characterized by a candid statement from a Kansas State University professor:

Even if all of the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic. Of course the scientist, as an individual, is free to embrace a reality that transcends naturalism.3

Second, there is freedom from the sense-dulling obligatory conclusion that intricate designs are “only an illusion”—a peer-enforced mantra indistinguishable from forced indoctrination. Researchers would not be pressured by popular evolutionary authorities such as Cambridge’s Richard Dawkins, who insists that “biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”4 Or by Francis Crick, a co-discoverer of DNA, who cautioned, “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”5

Third, it would liberate researchers from a smothering presupposition that expects regular mistakes in nature due to millions of years of chaotic evolution. They will escape a blinding mindset inclined to label not-readily-defined findings as “junk,” “vestigial,” or “bad design.” Reacting to observations with ill-informed hasty conclusions such as labeling non-protein-coding DNA “junk DNA” or the human appendix a “vestigial organ” is not only poor scientific practice, but this prejudice tends toward neglect in research. Stanford University reported on immunological research on “natural killer” cells that “have largely been ignored by immunologists…[and] thought by some to be an archaic remnant of the primitive mammalian immune system.”6

Pulling It All Together

In a conversation about the best explanation for the origin of nature’s design, first expose the weakness of the assertion that design is “only an illusion.” Recount how evolutionists rely on a mindless iterative process to accumulate genetic mistakes “favored” by totally imaginary forces from their stand-in god, natural selection. The impotence of this mechanism always forces them to make conclusions far exceeding what the data support. Consequently, they resort to “counter-intuitive” scenarios that are “mystifying to the uninitiated,” full of infinite numbers of self-creating universes where microscopic biological machines “self assemble” by “co-opting” “off the shelf parts,” leading to creatures with “ghost lineages” that magically “arise” or “burst onto the scene.” So even if the evolutionist doesn’t ask “can you offer something better?”…do it anyway.

Creationists can show that nature’s design has features associated with those known only to be derived from real designers. Support is based on actual observations of living things’ intricately arranged parts, plans and specifications reflected in DNA’s information, and many examples of all-or-nothing unity. This truth frees researchers to expect that nature is a product of a rational, coherent design, a path that will lead to research that is once again open to fresh insights into nature. In biology, discovering purposes is better than forcing the absurdity that purpose is unknowable. Real design is the better scientific explanation, and free minds are better than imprisoned minds.


  1. Hanke, D. 2004. Teleology: The explanation that bedevils biology. In Explanations: Styles of explanation in science. Cornwell, J., ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 143-155.
  2. Axe, D. 2004. Estimating the prevalence of protein sequences adopting functional enzyme folds. Journal of Molecular Biology. 341 (5): 1295-1315.
  3. Todd, S. C. 1999. A view from Kansas on that evolution debate. Nature. 401 (6752): 423.
  4. Dawkins, R. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. London: WW Norton & Company, 1.
  5. Crick, F. 1988. What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery. London: Sloan Foundation Science, 138.
  6. Weidenbach, K. Natural-born killers: An immunologic enigma solved. Stanford Report. Stanford University news release, January 14, 1998.

* Dr. Guliuzza is ICR’s National Representative.

Cite this article: Guliuzza, R. 2011. Evaluating Real vs. Apparent Design. Acts & Facts. 40 (1): 10-11.

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