Intelligent Design

One argument for the existence of God is that there are things in nature that are so complicated that they cannot have arisen by purely natural processes and so must have been designed by an intelligent agent (i.e. God). I used to be a Creationist, and this argument resonated with me. I won't talk about the creation/evolution debate right now, that's a subject for a later post.

An counter-argument to the above could be to say that if the things which are designed are complicated, then the being who designed them must be more complicated still, so who designed the designer? This counter-argument never used to persuade me at all - you can't ask "who designed God?" - God just is and that's all there is to it.

However, recently I've come to understand the significance of it a bit more. We are trying to resolve the issue of complexity in nature. There is complexity, there is apparent design, we can see it all around us. Where did it come from? How can we explain it?

There are two competing hypotheses here - a) it all arose through natural, mindless processes, or b) they are the result of intelligent agency. We have to decide which of these hypotheses has the greater explanatory power. The first hypothesis attempts to explain complexity by attributing it to the results of simpler, less complex forces (such as natural selection in biology - an observed and proven process, and gravity in cosmology). The second attempts to explain complexity by attributing it to an intelligent agent, who must necessarily be more complex than the objects he/she/it is designing.

Let's put it another way. How can we explain the existence of intelligent beings? Intelligence is presumably so complex a thing that it can only have been designed by an intelligent agent. Does anyone spot the circular argument here? We haven't explained the existence of intelligent beings at all, because our explanation involves invoking an intelligent being - an even more intelligent being, presumably. We are back where we started.

This however is not a problem for someone who believes in God, as they already have as their starting point an intelligent being, God, who they believe exists for reasons other than the design argument. It's the easiest thing in the world to explain complexity in the world if you already believe there exists a being complex and powerful enough to create it.

Can you see though that to someone who doesn't already believe in God this doesn't explain anything at all, and that someone who's really seeking an explanation for why things are the way they are will not value the design argument very highly?

Comments

  1. Stuart Sherwin, I read your post. The blog blog...

    by ANDERS on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2009 at 10:09AM
    Stuart Sherwin,

    I read your post.

    The blog bloganders.blogspot.com (left menu) contains a formal logical proof of the existence of an Intelligent and Perfect Creator (of the universe).

    That solves the questions in your blog post.

    Theologix,
    I reccommend you the logical and historical documentation of Ribi Yehoshuas (the Messiah) from Nazareth's teachings found at www.netzarim.co.il

    Anders Branderud
  2. Mark 9:24-- Immediately the father of the child cr...

    by ANONYMOUS on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2009 at 3:27AM
    Mark 9:24-- Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

    August 09, 2007 6:18 PM

    This IS the crux of your dilema no one can prove God but God. seek and you shall find. I have found God's existance proved in many various ways some that you may pishaw off as coincidence. You will have to use your own tests. Gidion used fleeces. I will tell you of one that showed me God's power and proof of his existance (to me anyway) 5 years ago my husband and i were in a head on crash. I came to, seeing incredible damage. slowly checking my own damages. i checked out the damages around me but i fearfully refused to look at my husband's side of the truck. I felt that he couldn't have survived. While i looked around i realised i was buried to the waist in the gravel we were hauling in the back. we had hit with such force the gravel had ripped through the bed and through the back of the cab destroying the back seat and obliterating everything in the back of the cab. Turning around my eyes came to rest on my son's bible resting on top of the dirt faceup rightside up undamaged. And i felt real peace that everything was going to be OK. That was when i could look at my husband and ask him if he was alright. He was shocky and had broken his femur. But really OK. When you find something that gives you that kind of peace. you will find the existance of God.
  3. ibob in p2 at least one option has to be correct -...

    by ANDY on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2007 at 12:42PM
    ibob in p2 at least one option has to be correct - do you have other options?
  4. <i>P1 - There is a great deal of apparent design i...

    by IBOB on SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 08, 2007 at 9:06AM
    P1 - There is a great deal of apparent design in nature.
    P2 - This apparent design is either the product of chance or intellegent design.
    P3 - It is not the product of chance.
    C - Therefore, this apparent design is actual design.
    C+ - Actual design requires an actual intelligent designer.


    laughing_boy, I would appreciate your thoughts on why you think that P2 and P3 are true, because I don't think they are... To me this "argument" reads the same as "P2 - The sky is green or red; P3 - The sky is not red; C - Therefore, the sky is green".

    - ibob
  5. The necessary "being" is actually a logical necess...

    by THEOLOGIX on THURSDAY, AUGUST 09, 2007 at 6:18PM
    The necessary "being" is actually a logical necessity, not just logically possible. If anything exists as a cause now (which there are obviously many), then there must be a "beginning" cause that would thus be uncaused. It would have to be self-existent.

    The reason is because of the difference between an imagined "infinite" (i.e. mathematical infinite numbers) and an actual infinite (all but unimaginable).

    If reality (our cause an effect scenario) went infinitely backward in time, then cause/effect would have been unable to transverse that infinity of causes to get to "here". It's like trying to go to the beginning of an infinitely long book shelf and putting a book on the end of it. You'd never get there.

    stu, you are making a common false comparison between God and the created. Several scientific and logical proofs exist for the singularity of the Universe's beginning (I will list them if needed). If the universe began, that makes it an effect. If it is an effect, it needed a sufficient cause.

    Since time began at the beginning of the Universe (it's the 4th dimension, remember), then it began at or after the beginning of the Universe, thus the cause of the Universe is not bound by time.

    Since (outside of a priori rejection of supernaturalism) design is apparent, and since we see a necessary cause of the Universe, we can safely conclude that the cause of the universe was sufficient to cause the design we see in nature.

    If this cause is self-existent (which is a must), then we can also safely conclude that its intelligence (sufficiency to design)is self-existent.

    In your quandry (and other related quandries such as "who made God?), there is a fundamental misunderstanding of cause/effect and of the implications of the beginning of the universe. The "Cause" of the Universe (by necessity seperate from the universe) is not under the constraints of the universe.

    With all of that said, it is my proposition that the God of the Bible best fits the needed "cause".

    Take care, and God bless...

    PS. I just wanted to say how much I respect your "about me" comments. I encourage you to keep your mind open and seeking. Moreso, I encourage you to approach God with your dillima.

    Mark 9:24-- Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
  6. <i>To me it is just as mental to think the univers...

    by LAUGHING BOY on WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 01, 2007 at 3:20PM
    To me it is just as mental to think the universe and everything in it just came into being on its own. And just as crazy to think that an all powerful being created it all.

    Maybe not. To think that the universe came into being on it's own is to say it created itself. If it created itself, it existed before it existed. That's not just crazy but logically impossible. That the universe was created by what the philosophers call a necessary being might be considered crazy by some, but it's not logically impossible.
  7. We exist in the present.<br>We observe in the pres...

    by ANDY on SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2007 at 12:14AM
    We exist in the present.
    We observe in the present.
    'Designer' or 'no designer' pre-observable past.

    In the begining 'Designer' or In the begining 'nothing'?

    As you say these are the only two options as other reasonings only serve to postpone the inevitable.

    I have some issues which I cannot resolve, the first when I try to understand 'nothing', no time, no space, no matter. I find the concept of nothingness so foreign to me that I cannot comprehend its logic.
    Next we have a singularity - an explosion that has never been observed to be repeated, the cause of which cannot be explained, that provided the building blocks for everything we see today. I think that there are one or two assumptions made here and yet it is marketed as the answer to the logic of 'scientific proof'.

    You will have guessed I believe in the Designer model.

    What do we observe?
    The tendency is towards decay - nothing gets any better than when it is new, items wear away until they're unfit for use.
    Speciation and natural selection typically reduce the variety of information passed on to subsequent generations, information loss. Sibblings don't marry because of the increased probability of passing on 'faulty' genes. However, even where extra information is passed on it is with detremental effect (Down's Syndrome is the addition of an extra chromosome - 47 instead of 46 - see www.intellectualdisability.info/diagnosis/downs_syndrome.htm [accessed 28-07-07]).

    'Designer' or 'no designer'?
    As mentioned earlier these are the two diametrically opposed possiblilities, neither disprovable by observable science and yet one must be right.
    As you recognise in the 'Designer' model, if you require a designer of the designer you ultimately need the Ultimate Designer to pre-exist (postponing the inevitable).

    So what conclusion do I arrive at?
    The Designer model - requires belief in a pre-existing designer and the resulting respect towards the designer.
    The nothingness model - requires belief in the concept of nothing, no reason, no purpose, no good, no bad and no concience.
    Which of the models best fits observations?
  8. This is a very complicated subject. To me it is ju...

    by ANONYMOUS on SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007 at 2:30AM
    This is a very complicated subject. To me it is just as mental to think the universe and everything in it just came into being on its own. And just as crazy to think that an all powerful being created it all. I think the argument can look just as impossible no matter how you look at it. If there was no creator than how did the universe come into existance and what was before that and how did the stuff get here that created the universe. Same thing as God created the universe. Then where did God come from and who created him..............Which arguement is better or makes more sense....................neither and both.
  9. There comes a point where human reasoning becomes ...

    by TIM on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2007 at 1:28PM
    There comes a point where human reasoning becomes pure folly.

    The Bible makes no attempt to explain God (Genesis 1 v 1), but assumes His existence as a starting point (Hebrews 11 v 6).

    Creation declares God’s glory (Psalm 19) and if we use this evidence aright, we are brought to acknowledge our poverty in reasoning and smallness of being (Psalm 8).

    The God of creation calls Himself Jehovah – the One which ever is (at whatever point we select), which ever was (admitting no starting point) and which ever is to come (admitting no end point).

    The eternity of His Being cannot be compromised by the theories of puny, created men who (a) like to delve into that which is beyond them and (b) refuse to acknowledge His revealed claims.
  10. <i>Firstly, who isn't trying to explain organised ...

    by LAUGHING BOY on MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2007 at 3:30PM
    Firstly, who isn't trying to explain organised complexity in general?

    Well, the person who seeks to explain the appearance of design in nature is asking a specific question. Their question may be part of a broader set of questions, but I think Plantinga is pointing out that the Design Argument is a distinct and limited piece of that set.

    Indulge me for a minute while I backtrack. The Design Argument goes something like this:

    P1 - There is a great deal of apparent design in nature.
    P2 - This apparent design is either the product of chance or intellegent design.
    P3 - It is not the product of chance.
    C - Therefore, this apparent design is actual design.
    C+ - Actual design requires an actual intelligent designer.

    To ask who designed the designer, without addressing the two options on the table (in P2), is not rebutting the Design Argument but sidestepping it. The origin of intelligence and the manifestation of intelligence are two different issues requiring (at least) two different arguments.

    While your question about the origin of intelligence is valid, I think you've improperly blamed the Design Argument for not answering it.
  11. Thanks for that link laughing boy - very interesti...

    by STU SHERWIN on SATURDAY, JUNE 09, 2007 at 12:50PM
    Thanks for that link laughing boy - very interesting reading, I wasn't aware that Plantinga had reviewed Dawkins. I've bookmarked it for further reading, might write a post in response to it later. I've got The Dawkins Delusion by Alister McGrath - looks interesting, will read it when I've finished The God Delusion.

    Two things though. Firstly, who isn't trying to explain organised complexity in general? Plantinga? Of course it's perfectly valid to explain the tractors in terms of intelligent life, if you're just seeking an explanation for the tractors. If you're seeking an explanation for intelligence itself, as I said in my post, then that answer doesn't help at all! Where did the intelligent beings who designed the tractors come from?

    If we wanted to, we could suggest that aliens had created intelligent life on this planet through a form of guided evolution (something like in 2001: A Space Odyssey), but that only moves the problem back a step in the causal chain: who designed the aliens? If God designed the aliens, then who designed God? It's a perfectly reasonable question to ask, given that we are looking for an explanation of intelligence.

    Of course it is possible that God exists and that he did design intelligent life; I'm not denying that. Not even Richard Dawkins denies it's a possibility, it's simply to him a very remote one.

    However, if we go back to my post, I'm simply saying that in terms of explanatory power, the design hypothesis is lacking. And the design hypothesis is often put forward as the proof of the existence of God because of its supposed explanatory power, often accompanied by sound-bites like "there's no such thing as a free lunch", and "how could life come from non-life?"
  12. <i>How can we explain the existence of intelligent...

    by LAUGHING BOY on SATURDAY, JUNE 09, 2007 at 6:23AM
    How can we explain the existence of intelligent beings? Intelligence is presumably so complex a thing that it can only have been designed by an intelligent agent.

    From The Dawkins Confusion: Naturalism ad absurdum by Alvin Plantinga.

    Suppose we land on an alien planet orbiting a distant star and discover machine-like objects that look and work just like tractors; our leader says "there must be intelligent beings on this planet who built those tractors." A first-year philosophy student on our expedition objects: "Hey, hold on a minute! You have explained nothing at all! Any intelligent life that designed those tractors would have to be at least as complex as they are." No doubt we'd tell him that a little learning is a dangerous thing and advise him to take the next rocket ship home and enroll in another philosophy course or two. For of course it is perfectly sensible, in that context, to explain the existence of those tractors in terms of intelligent life, even though (as we can concede for the moment) that intelligent life would have to be at least as complex as the tractors. The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Similarly, in invoking God as the original creator of life, we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity.

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