Seems simple enough, but at what point does something cross the threshold from the simple design found in nature to second-order design produced only by intelligence? Mathematician William Dembski illustrates the difference by having us visualize a rat trying to go through a maze.
In a simple maze, the rat can take one turn and escape from the maze. Even a dim-witted rat could take one turn and escape. But now imagine that the maze is extremely complex, possessing walls and requiring 100 precise turns to reach the point of escape. How likely is it that the little critter will quickly learn all the correct turns and escape? Impossible–unless we have one awfully bright rat.
So, when do we infer intelligence? According to mathematicians when the odds against an event occurring are 1 in 10150 or greater, it can’t be accidental.¹ In order to grasp such an astronomical number, consider that the odds against winning a Power Ball lottery with a single ticket is about 1 in 108. Or trying to pick a solitary atom from all the atoms in the universe would be 1 in 1080.
So, having cleared all that up, we come to the real question. Are there any examples of specified complexity found in nature pointing toward intelligent design? The short answer is yes. What follows, without getting into too much detail, is the longer answer. It uses the example of something each of us has heard something about: deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
DNA. That one complex molecule contains the complete blueprint for every cell in every living thing. In a sense DNA is like a recipe where common ingredients are used to make different dishes. Only, instead of tasty dishes, DNA instructs cells to make flowers, whales, chickens, or people. (Hmm…so chickens aren’t tasty dishes?)
The genius of DNA lies not only in its complex coded instructions for life but also in its incredibly well-designed architecture, which allows it to contain billions of detailed instructions within a microscopic molecule. The amount of DNA that would fit on a pinhead contains information equivalent to that of a stack of paperback books that would encircle the earth 5,000 times!²
Our complete blueprint is present in each of our thousand million million cells. Think of an enormous building with thousands upon thousands of rooms, where each room houses a complete set of blueprints for the entire structure. (If these analogies are getting a little sterile for you, then you might want to imagine a series of beach houses—and imagine yourself sitting in one.) However, instead of merely thousands of rooms, our bodies contain trillions of cells, each with a complete package of DNA instructions.³
Each strand of DNA in our bodies consists of three billion base pairs of genetic information. These base pairs form a chain, which constitutes the entire human genetic code. Today the entire human genome has been mapped out. Even though humans are closest to chimpanzees in DNA sequencing, there are still some 40 million differences.4 (Except maybe with my friend Bob.)