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An Elephant in the Room

There is an elephant in the room. There is also a body lying flattened in the center of this room. Even an untrained glance suggests that the deceased man was crushed by something heavy. Detectives busily comb the room for clues to lead them to the killer. They deliberately ignore the enormous pachyderm standing silently nearby. They pretend that he is not there. Yet, they cannot seem to solve the mystery of the man’s death. The problem, it seems, is that textbooks all say that investigators must always “get their man” so they refuse to consider an elephant as a suspect.

This scene, says Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe, describes current science. “There is an elephant in the roomful of scientists who are trying to explain the development of life. The elephant is labeled ‘intelligent design.’ To a person who does not feel obligated to restrict his search to unintelligent causes, the straightforward conclusion is that biochemical systems were designed. They were designed not by the laws of nature, not by chance and necessity; rather they were planned” (Darwin’s Black Box, p. 193).

Behe’s book provides six examples of “irreducibly complex” biochemical machines – amazing systems that could not function without each of its parts, parts which would serve no useful purpose apart from the system. His conclusion is that evolution has not and cannot explain the existence of these systems. Instead, some intelligence must have designed them.

This is like William Paley’s nineteenth century argument, except that Behe takes it down to the molecular level. Paley said that nobody finding a watch in the woods would conclude that it evolved. Its obvious design would clearly suggest a designer. He insisted that finding a complex human body should also suggest the same conclusion – a designer.

The logic is not unique to either Behe or Paley. It’s what David said 3000 years ago: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). Design implies a designer.

Why does this matter? It matters because it’s the difference between our being an accident of nature or a creation of God. It’s the difference between living without meaning or living with purpose and direction and hope.

There is an elephant in the room. It is crucial that we notice.


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