Of course I’m using “design” as a noun – a pattern or shape, sometimes repeated. Not as the verb – to make a detailed plan of the form or structure of something. We see patterns or shapes in almost everything but that does not imply that the patterns were created by intelligent agents. In fact, if we assume that to be the case we will never understand the underlying causes of patterns or design.
Forget about Mt Rushmore, or the watch Rev. Paley found on the ground. As a chemist I’m attracted to the design/pattern apparent in crystals. Consider mineralogy. There are some fascinating and beautiful examples of crystalline minerals. Have a look at the Mineral Image Index for for some great photos of minerals.
I have always found microscopic investigation of soil fascinating. Most people just take soil for granted and are unaware of what it is composed of. Microscopes, particularly high resolution scanning and transmission electron microscopes, reveal design/pattern at the finest level. These images are of clay minerals, present as very small particles in soil.
Crystals provide us with much more than a beautiful form to be appreciated. They reveal information on the atoms, ions and molecules from which they are composed. Our understanding of chemistry has helped us understand how, and why, these crystals form. And the presence of different mineral forms in geological deposits and soils has helped us understand the geological and pedogenic processes that have occurred, and are occurring, on our planet.
Our understanding of these clay minerals, and the information they have given us about mineral formation and soil forming processes, would not have been possible if we “explained them away” as resulting from “intelligent design.” No, that explanation would have been a real science stopper. It would maybe have provided us with an emotionally satisfying story (if we find such stories emotionally satisfying).
But it would not have any way aided our understanding of reality.