Cells and Design

Take in the breathtaking complexity inside living cells and understand the role of randomness in living systems.


Cells and Design

Corequisite science:


Number of modules:


Teaching time:

6:30-8:30 hours


Digital download




There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to randomness and design.

Many Christians look at the amazing complexity inside cells and see evidence of God’s design, while secular scientists claim it is all a product of chance. Can they both be right? How can we accept detailed, mechanistic explanations for life and at the same time hold fast to our belief that God is the creator and sustainer of life?

Essential Questions

  • Does the complexity inside a cell point to God?
  • What challenges to integrity do Christians face and how can we overcome them?
  • How do cells show the artistry of God?
  • Can randomness under constraints lead to order?
  • How do intracellular processes and the environment influence pigmentation?
  • Is affirming an intelligent designer the same as affirming the ID movement?

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Learning Outcomes

What will students know or be able to do after this unit?

  • Discuss challenges to the virtue of integrity and plan how to overcome them.
  • Observe the structure of a plant cell and create a model of a chloroplast.
  • Observe how predictable designs can result from a series of random events.
  • Propose an explanation for human skin color variation based on several biological traits and processes.
  • Explain how different pigmentation confers advantages in different environments.
  • Explain the scientific and theological concerns some Christians have about Intelligent Design (ID) arguments.
  • Differentiate the claims of the ID movement from the Christian belief that God designed the world.

Modules Included in this Unit

4.1 Meet: Priest and Biologist Nicanor Austriaco

Father Austriaco shares about how he brings his faith into the lab and sees the fingerprints of God in molecular biology.

4.2 Grow: Integrity

In this brief devotional, students reflect on the level of integrity that God expects from us and consider areas in their own lives that require integrity.

4.3 Experience: Marvelous Cells

Students observe plant cells under a microscope and use polymer clay to artistically sculpt a model of a chloroplast. This gives them a chance to reflect on God as an artist who is involved in his creation down to the smallest details.

4.4 Engage: Chance and Design in Nature

Students learn about what randomness means to scientists and observe random processes in nature that produce order and design. This will equip them to counter the mistaken idea that if something happens by chance, God must not be involved.

4.5 Experience: The Adaptive Design of Skin Color

Students observe the beautiful differences in skin tone between themselves and others before learning about the genetic and cellular details behind skin color. They then learn about the selective pressures that constrained the distribution of random mutations that have led to different levels of skin pigmentation in different populations around the globe. They also learn about the advantages darker skin or lighter skin provides in certain environments.

4.6 Engage: Intelligent Design

Students learn some of the main claims of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement and how they compare and contrast with the Christian belief in an intelligent Creator. They hear both scientific and theological critiques of ID.

4.7 Integrate: Creation for Christ, Through Christ, and in Christ

Students contemplate the intricacy of cell design while meditating on the idea that all of creation holds together in Christ.

It is well known that young people are leaving the church in record numbers and at record speed. The so-called ‘conflict’ between Christianity and modern science is a significant factor. Integrate demonstrates to young people a peaceful and fruitful relationship between Christian faith and science.

Denis Lamoureux Headshot
Denis Lamoureux, Professor of Science & Religion, St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta Edmonton, Edmonton, Canada

What’s Included

  • Unit lesson plans (PDF download; 50 pages)
  • User Introduction and Overview (Google Doc)
  • 12 student handouts (Google Docs)
  • 3 slide presentations (Google Slides)
  • 10 images for printing or projecting (JPEG)
  • Integrate Glossary (Google Docs, 64 pages)
  • NGSS Alignment (Google Doc)