The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CLXI (Argument from Design)

February 26, 2006 | 14 Comments

A Squad reader wants to know if he can believe in evolution without incurring the wrath of God. After explaining how science and scripture are somehow compatible, the Squad demonstrates how it is philosophy that actually proves the existence of of the deity:

The third way we know the truth is through the use of unaided human reason, and this way urges us to consider the purposefulness of life, then to rationally (not religiously) conclude that such purpose implies a purposer, a designer, a telos. If we found a watch, we wouldn’t be merely entitled to infer that a watchmaker had created it; we would be rationally required to admit that such a purposeful object had to be made by a watchmaker.

Random chance simply is an illogical source for a watch, and by analogy, random chance is simply an irrational choice to explain the complexity and purposefulness of life. Rationally, we can know that God made the world, the same way we can know that a watchmaker made the watch. This does not mean that evolution plays no role in perfecting the world, it simply means that it is irrational to believe that we are here by chance.

As Einstein said: “God does not play dice with the universe.” For science to move from what to why is a violation of its natural limits, and for religion to intrude on the work of science is also a category mistake. Philosophical thinking offers a solution to the problem, that though neither scientific nor religious, is still profoundly true.

The Squad isn’t exactly breaking new ground here, so I’ll be lazy too. This and this should be good enough. If you’ve got better links on this issue (and there are bound to be a lot) add them to the comments.

Comments

14 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXI (Argument from Design)”

  1. Dada Saves
    February 27th, 2006 @ 7:51 am

    If you’re interested in an extended (and well-written) refutation of the watchmaker hooey, read THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, by Richard Dawkins.

    From the NYT review: “Mr. Dawkins succeeds admirably in showing how natural selection allows biologists to dispense with such notions as purpose and design, and he does so in a manner readily intelligible to the modern reader.”

  2. Zeno
    February 27th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    Paley’s original watchmaker argument for the existence of God is available here, while some interesting counter-arguments are cited in the Wikipedia article on the watchmaker analogy.

  3. Erik
    February 27th, 2006 @ 8:50 am

    One of my favorite responses to the watchmaker argument is that the watch itself represents not a single designer, but a multitude of them through the centuries, and in different fields of endeavor. Sure, there’s the watchmaker who puts the parts together. But the watchmaker is probably not a metallurgist. And neither of them is likely to be the glass blower who made the glass cover of the watch face, nor the tanner who made the leather wristband.

    And each one of them in turn relied on millenia of trial and error, retaining the good ideas and discarding the bad ones. Not to mention the fact that the divisions of time set forth on the face of the watch are themselves the product of a whole other set of thinkers.

  4. tarkovsky
    February 27th, 2006 @ 9:39 am

    The third way we know the truth is through the use of unaided human reason, and this way urges us to consider the purposefulness of life, then to rationally (not religiously) conclude that such purpose implies a purposer, a designer, a telos.

    Life has a purpose? How do they conclude that?

    Please please please, do not mix up purposefulness and complexity. In fact, Dawkins’ excellent refutation only adresses half of the question. Complexity does not mean purpose.

    The second half is trickier though. Maybe there is an intent behind all this wonderful universe, but if there is one, it is not *obvious* because otherwise we wouldn’t be debating all of this. That is good enough argument for me to just forget about it. There is no purpose. We are complex, that’s all.

    And Claudia Schiffer’s complexity is my favorite.

  5. mark adams
    February 27th, 2006 @ 10:43 am

    “As Einstein said: “God does not play dice with the universe.” ”

    I believe Einstein said that to refute quantum theory. He was proven wrong within his lifetime.

  6. Michael Bains
    February 27th, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

    If we found a watch, we wouldn’t be merely entitled to infer that a watchmaker had crea

    {zzzzzsnorezzzzz}

    huh?, whaa…

    Oh… Nope. Your two links were more than adequate refutation.

  7. Kafkaesquí
    February 27th, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    tarkovsky asked: Life has a purpose?

    Yes. And that purpose is to wear (preferably digital) watches. Douglas Adams woud be proud. That is, if he wasn’t dead.

  8. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 27th, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

    Ah yes: “… use of unaided human reason, and this way urges us to consider the purposefulness of life…” and what a myopic anthropomorphic view the watch maker protagonists take.

    Purpose – what purpose?

    Let’s see our purpose was originally to live in happiness in a garden of Eden (because he was lonely wasn’t it?). Then he changes his mind and our utopia is abandoned. All creatures ever created apparently lived in harmony, but now, because of the fall of man – we have disease, famine, war blah, blah, blah.

    Yet when the non-existence of god and naturalistic explanations seem so much more reasonable … we are still supposed to believe in a perfect designer who made one F****D up mess of things. Go figure!

  9. Mister Swill
    February 27th, 2006 @ 5:23 pm

    The effect of this notion? I very much fear
    ’Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
    Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
    “We’ve just flipped a coin and we’ve learned he’s a corpse.”‘
    So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, “You’re nuts.
    God doesn’t play dice with the universe, putz.
    I’ll prove it!” he said, and the Lord knows he tried —
    In vain — until fin’ly he more or less died.

    —Cecil Adams, The Story of Schroedinger’s Cat (an Epic Poem)

  10. sternwallow
    February 28th, 2006 @ 12:21 am

    If you happen to find a watch on the ground beside your path, the only conclusion you are entitled to is that it fell there entirely by CHANCE sometime before you came along to grab it for yourself, thereby depriving the guy following you of an entire branch of theology..

  11. qedpro
    March 1st, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

    Humans are so arrogant. They think they have a purpose in life.
    To bad we evolved egos, its going to be the death of our species….

  12. Thorngod
    March 2nd, 2006 @ 10:59 am

    The species be damned! If I’m among the last half dozen survivors, I’ll be concerned only for their welfare and mine. The “Human Race” is a nonentity, and it’s passing will not be lamented.

  13. Spinozista
    March 2nd, 2006 @ 7:52 pm

    IIRC, Hume (well before Paley) refuted the “argument from design” (the watch analogy) with the “how do you know it’s a watch?” reply. That is, the only reason you call what you’ve found a “watch” in the first place is that it looks like a lot of other watches that you’ve seen before and you know where they came from. But how many other universes have you ever seen before?

    In other words, if if the object in question is unique, either because you’ve only ever seen one (such as the universe) or because you’ve never seen it or anything like it before (such as a UFO), then you cannot reaosonably infer anything about the cause of its existence.

  14. a different tim
    March 4th, 2006 @ 5:39 am

    Random chance is indeed an irrational choice to explain the complexity and purposefulness of life. That’s why, instead, we have Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection.

    I mean, this point only gets made in every textbook on evolution ever.

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