Posts tagged ‘The Cell’s Design’

Review of Fazale Rana, "The Cell’s Design"

Review of Fazale Rana, "The Cell’s Design"

The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry, by Fazale Rana (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008).  Pp. 332.  Reviewed by John A. Battle.

During the last decades several books supporting Intelligent Design have appeared.  Their basic argument usually has been this—living components and structures are so complex and specified that they never could have appeared by mere chance.  Therefore, they must be the result of Intelligent Design.  This basically is a negative argument: there is no way to explain this apart from some divine intervention.

Critics call this the “God-of-the-gaps” argument.  If there is a gap in our knowledge, then God must account for what we see.  The obvious problem with the God-of-the-gaps argument is that similar gaps in the past often have shrunk and then disappeared as scientific knowledge has increased.  Now that natural causes are known, we no longer are required to use the “God” explanation.

Microbiologist Fazale Rana, an openly Christian scientific apologist, is keenly aware of this weakness in the traditional ID argument.  Yet, he also is aware of even greater positive evidence for design in living systems.  He seeks a positive argument from the data to design.

Recent science in cellular biology and chemistry has made astounding leaps and discoveries about the inner working of the basic building block of all life, the living cell.  All cells of plants and animals are basically the same in their components and method of operation.  Yet they are ideally suited in their differences for the different kinds of organisms and the different tasks the cells must perform within each organism.

Rather than starting from apparently inexplicable complexity, Rana starts from actual examples and types of human design.  Recently it has become apparent that the cell’s processes are largely mechanical and electrical, as the various proteins interact with each other within the cell.  This is biochemistry at its most basic level.  In the last few centuries humans have developed technology using these same forces on a larger scale.

Rana builds a positive argument, using “abductive reasoning.”  Wikipedia defines this type of reasoning as follows: “Abduction means determining the precondition.  It is using the conclusion and the rule to assume that the precondition could explain the conclusion.  Example: ‘When it rains, the grass gets wet.  The grass is wet, it must have rained.’  Diagnosticians and detectives are commonly associated with this style of reasoning.”  As the definition states, abduction is most useful when explaining why the present circumstance is the way it is.  This is the situation when we wonder about how living things got the way they are.

Rana’s argument is abductive rather than negative.  We see humans designing mechanical and electrical items all the time.  What thinking and processes do they go through when they design and manufacture these items?  The products they make are the actual fruits of design.  Rana describes many of these features of design in the main part of the book, taking one chapter for each main design feature.  He introduces the chapters with paintings by famous artists, each of which makes an interesting and pointed illustration of the design feature being discussed.  Along with mechanical and electrical design, Rana sees artistic expression as well in the cell’s workings (“the Creator’s artistry” is part of the subtitle of the book).

The heart of the book takes these various design features and shows how they are employed in the makeup and workings of every individual cell.  Cells show even more exquisite design and precision than the best human engineering and technology.  Rana writes for a mature reader who can take time and effort to learn some details of microbiology.  He explains these processes as clearly as possible for those of us not trained in biology.  There are many well drawn illustrations.  An introductory chapter helps a lot by explaining the basic parts and workings of the cell, and a glossary in the back is handy for checking the technical terms.  Many of the processes Rana describes are complicated, and sometimes are difficult to follow; but Rana’s explanations are as clear as can be expected in view of the complexity of the subject.  Sometimes I had to read a section several times before getting the main point, but the effort was worth it!

It will be interesting to see how The Cell’s Design will be received.  Will it simply be disregarded as a disguised ID or creationist work, or will evolutionary scholars interact with the actual positive examples of design?  Many think that the very idea of allowing the possibility of God’s design in creation denies the scientific method.  However, if God really exists, how can such a presupposed position lead to the truth about the cell’s design?  To follow the evidence, using sound logic, is the best way to reach the right conclusion.  Rana provides an excellent case for an intelligent, skilled, and artistic Creator.