Mainstream evolutionary science has a counter-argument. To paraphrase Dr. Kenneth Miller, if you disassemble the mousetrap, each component can serve as something useful on its own. If we take away the catch and metal bar, we have something left that can serve as a paper clip. The spring could make a simple two-section key chain. The wooden base makes a paperweight. Evolutionary processes like random mutation and natural selection can combine and retain the useful parts as the complicated evolves to perform the complex function. The useful parts are combined into the mousetrap.
(Both arguments above are paraphrased from Richard Milner and Vittorio Maestro, “Intelligent Design?,” Natural History Magazine, The American Museum of Natural History, 2002. This article was reprinted here.)
For argument’s sake, I’ll grant Miller’s position. But why do any of the individual parts of the mousetrap serve a purpose? Splitting the mousetrap into different parts for different purposes just compounds the problem for the evolutionist.
A person must still make each of the individual parts of the mousetrap in such a way as to allow them to serve as a paper clip, a keychain or a paperweight. An intelligent person looks at problems he must solve, and he makes solutions from the parts of the trap. In other words, there is a purpose for each individual part.
As an industrial engineer, I know that the industrial processes used to make each part of a mousetrap are not easy to maintain. It would not be easy for an inexperienced person to keep the manufacturing equipment running. It takes some expertise to make the catch, metal bar, spring and even the wooden base, especially in a high-volume manufacturing environment.
Whether we take the entire mousetrap or each individual part, it takes intelligence to make the components and direct them to serve their purpose. What is true of the mousetrap components is equally true of the parts of the cell, only more so.
This is the teleological argument. It is the argument from purpose, not necessarily the argument from design. It is formidable. To quote Aquinas:
…whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end… (1.2.3 of The Summa Theologica. Volume 1. Translated by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province)
The evolutionist seems to have two choices: give intelligence in some form to the smallest parts of the cell or admit there is no such thing as intelligence at all for anyone or anything in his worldview. One option gets him off the hook for the purposes he finds. We have no evidence for option one, and we can dismiss it.
The other option gets him off the hook by eliminating any purpose at all whatsoever from the universe. Friedrich Nietzsche would be proud of this one. Nihilism would reign to the despair of all men everywhere. We could ignore the evolutionists’ and atheists’ arguments because, after all, they would not have a purpose anyway. What could something with no purpose be but meaningless?
It seems evolutionary theory falls under the weight of its proponents’ analogies.
[Joe Carter over at The Evangelical Outpost is posting some wonderful things on these topics. Find them here, here, and here.]