Designing Intelligence

We go on now to the next branch of our argument, and inquire whether the same rank may not be justly assigned to the conception of God as the intelligent Artificer of nature. Within the sphere of human activity and experience, order, contrivance, and adaptation irresistibly impress us with the conviction that intelligence has been at work in their production. A very slight degree of any of these features is sufficient for the purpose. A Druidicial circle of stones is as convincing as a Gothic cathedral. So long as the mechanism of arrangement or fashioning is of the kind which we know men to be accustomed to produce, we draw our inference of intelligent purpose or design with absolute confidence. It rests of course upon an assumed analogy.

We are conscious of an intelligence in ourselves by the action of which things are produced; we know of no other cause whatsoever, besides intelligence, which ever originated such things; and hence, whenever we meet with such things, we leap instinctively to the conclusion that they are the offspring of minds like our own. So the habit of inferring mind from the phenomena of order, contrivance, and adaptation grows upon us and roots itself in us as the result of a basic constitutional tendency or principle of our thought.

Now that nature is full of arrangements and organisms which exhibit, or at least suggest to our minds, order, contrivance, and adaptation, no one disputes. Earth, air, and sea are thronged with them. By their complexity, their delicacy of construction, their fitness for their peculiar uses and environments, multitudes of them extort our warmest admiration. The exquisite mechanism of an eye, an ear, or a hand is a standing marvel. The natural world is not a chaos of multitudinous accidents, but an orderly interdependent system. Its wonders of harmony, beauty, mutual relation, and useful provision are inexhaustible. If mind be concerned in its production at all, it is manifestly saturated, so to speak, with mind of the highest order. It glows with the light of intelligence throughout all of its kingdoms.

All this is beyond question. It is allowed on every side by believer and skeptic, by theist and atheist, alike. The sole question which arises concerns the originating cause of these countless and elaborate organisms and interdependent relationships. Are we really compelled to consider them as the offspring of mind, or can they be satisfactorily accounted for without mind? That in one principal feature they strongly resemble the works of human intelligence is undeniable; for they exhibit that combination of parts and forces conspiring to definite ends, which is the essential characteristic of all art and mechanism produced by human hands. But in another respect they undoubtedly differ from all the works of man. They seem to spring forth of themselves by an imperceptible process, yet constrained by the limitation common to each individual thing. It is a principle governing all things seemingly apart from intelligence, yet intelligently implemented. Evolution falls far short of explaining satisfactorily how so many interdependencies and relationships can be accounted for since it is based upon random chance and spontaneity.

The cause must be Mind, for it is not an eternal chaos, a drear waste of unchanging, stagnant, formless matter that we are contemplating; but a growing, progressive cosmos, an unfolding universe of harmony and order, teeming with adaptation and contrivance, mechanism and adjustment. Of such things we cannot think without being impressed with the idea of design, nor even speak without employing language which implies intention and purpose. Who really doubts, except it be under the stress of some rigorous and tyrannical theory, that the eye was intended for seeing, the lung for breathing, the fins for swimming, the maternal instinct for rearing progeny? Or who can avoid using such language without being conscious of a pedantic and unnatural self-restraint?

We know that within our own sphere of action, mind, and mind alone, originates contrivances, adjustments, mechanisms, relations of use and beauty. Of any other cause which can originate such things here or elsewhere we are as ignorant, and even as unable to conceive, as of a new bodily sense, or of a world where two straight lines can enclose a space. And thus the conviction grows up within us, as a primary or instinctive belief of the reason, that order, contrivance, and adaptation indicate the action of intelligence; and from the contemplation of such phenomena we spring, and human reason has always sprung, to the conception of an originating Mind.

Here then is the goal to which the consciousness of designing intelligence brings us, and has brought the world in general, when contemplating the order and mechanism of nature. It is a supreme Mind as the Artificer of the universe. But that again is what we mean by the awful name GOD.