Problems with Design Arguments

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 2, 2009 in Design Argument,General Atheism

earth_in_space

I’m puzzled by the world.
I cannot deem
The timepiece real,
Its maker but a dream

- Voltaire

The Design Argument is probably the most popular argument for the existence of God. Even a nonreligious person may look at the world, so complex and beautiful, and decide it must have been created by somebody very smart and powerful. Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson thought religions were absurd, but even they thought there must have been some kind of Creator.

But there are some problems with this argument.

First, Christians do not argue for God in general, but for a specific god: Yahweh. They’re really saying, “The world is complex, so Yahweh must have created it.” But we might as well say, “The world is complex, so Mbombo must have created it.” Or, “The world is complex, so an alien race must have designed it.”

Even if it succeeds, the Design Argument only gets you as far as a Creator. It does not support the existence of Yahweh any better than it supports a million other possible creators. And given how much bad design there is in the world, I think it’s more likely to have been designed by a confused committee of gods than a single, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good god. Our world looks like the work of Congress.

Design in the world says nothing about Yahweh, revelation, miracles, prayer, virgin birth, sin, redemption, or Jesus.

Emergent systems

But there is another, more basic way in which the Design Argument suffers from special thinking. There are many complex things that are not designed. Why infer design from a complex universe when we cannot infer it from other complex things?

Complex things that were not designed are called “emergent systems,” because their complexity emerges from simple – sometimes random – rules.

We have a hard time thinking about emergent systems. It’s easier for us to think of a carpenter building something than a complex system emerging from thousands of simple interactions.

Biological evolution is one such emergent system, and a highly impressive one, but it’s far from the only one. Let’s look at some others.

Simple physical rules grow crystals and snowflakes into extremely complex and organized forms, often perfect geometric shapes.

patterned_groundRepeated freezing and thawing of groundwater can cause patterned ground: organized circles, polygons, steps, and stripes across the ground. If I hadn’t learned about patterned ground, I would have assumed these places were ancient burial sites.

One termite species builds colonies that are 90 times as high as they are long! But termites have no architects or engineers, just simple rules of behavior and millions of tiny interactions.

Human language is another example. Noah Webster did not design the English language. It emerged from millions of human communications over hundreds of years, and continues to evolve today. Yet it looks very much as though it was designed for beauty and function.

Argument from ignorance

Weather offers more examples of emergent systems. A tornado may look like the finger of God, but it’s just a particular collision of warm and cool air. Lightning looks like God’s Amazing Laser Show, but it emerges from simple electrical charges. Ancient peoples probably saw tornadoes and lightning as proofs of God, because they did not understand air pressure and electricity. Should we accept other complex things as proofs of God just because there are many things we don’t yet understand?

In this way, the Argument from Design is a “God of the gaps” argument. We can’t simply fill the gaps in our knowledge with “God,” for the same reason it was wrong for the ancient Greeks to plug the gaps in their knowledge with “Zeus.”

A big trend

And there’s another problem. Sure, it’s possible that consciousness or something else we don’t yet understand isn’t an emergent system, but is really governed by magic. Possible. But very unlikely.

Here’s why. History has been one long story of us replacing supernatural explanations with natural ones. It has happened tens of thousands of times. Why crops grow; why the sun rises and sets; why floods happen; why eclipses happen; why disease spreads; why kids look like their parents; why seizures happen. All these and more were once explained by gods or spirits. Today we know their natural causes.

Now, how many times has a natural explanation been replaced by a supernatural one?

Exactly zero times.

Given this pattern, it’s possible we’ll find a supernatural explanation for consciousness or whatever, but very unlikely. Don’t retreat to the possible. We want to know what is likely to be true.

Isn’t God complex?

There is yet another kind of special thinking in the Design Argument. Christians argue that complexity implies design, so the complexity of the world implies a Designer. But wait a minute. If a Designer was smart enough to design a universe, wouldn’t the Designer have to be extremely complex, too? By the Christian’s own logic, then, the Designer must have had a Designer. And that Designer must have had a Designer. And on into infinity, which is absurd.

Summary

The Design Argument may sound good at first, but a close look shows that it suffers from special thinking in many ways. First, there is no reason to infer any particular god from a complex world, or even one god instead of a committee.

Second, complexity does not imply design. There are thousands of complex, functional things that are not designed.1

Third, the Design Argument is another argument from ignorance. Even a Christian does not accept any other kind of argument from ignorance: “We don’t understand how salamanders can grow back their tails, therefore Quezelcoatl does it.” Ignorance is no argument. It is a complete lack of argument.

Fourth, supernatural explanations have always been replaced by natural ones. So it’s very unlikely that natural phenomena will be found to have supernatural causes.

Fifth, if complexity implies a designer, then what of the infinitely complex God? Who designed him?

However good it sounds, the Design Argument fails many times over when you apply the same logic you’d apply to anything else – when you apply common sense.

God the Designer

I’m puzzled by the world.
I cannot deem
The timepiece real,
Its maker but a dream

Voltaire

The Design Argument is probably the most popular argument for the existence of God. Even a nonreligious person may look at the world, so complex and beautiful, and decide it must have been created by somebody smart and powerful. Really smart guys like Voltaire and Thomas Jefferson thought religions were absurd, but they also thought there must have been a Creator.

As always, let’s apply this kind of thinking to a similar situation and see if it holds up.

Deism

First, Christians do not argue for God in general, but for a specific god: Yahweh. They’re really saying, “The world is complex, so Yahweh must have created it.” But we might as well say, “The world is complex, so Mbombo must have created it.” Or, “The world is complex, so an alien race must have designed it.”

Even if it succeeds, the Design Argument only gets you as far as a Creator. It does not support the existence of Yahweh any better than it supports a million other possible creators. And given how much bad design there is in the world (see the chapter Bad Design), I think it’s more likely to have been designed by a committee of gods than a single, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good god. Our world looks like the work of Congress.

Design in the world says nothing about Yahweh, revelation, miracles, prayer, virgin birth, sin, redemption, or Jesus.

Emergent systems

But there is another, more basic way in which the Design Argument suffers from special thinking. There are many complex things that are not designed. Why infer design from the complex universe when we cannot infer it from other complex things?

Complex things that were not designed are called “emergent systems,” because their complexity emerges from simple – sometimes random – rules.

Our brains have trouble with emergent systems. It’s easier for us to think of a carpenter building something than a complex system emerging from thousands of simple interactions.

Biological evolution is one such emergent system, but I’ll discuss that later (see page X). Let’s look at some others.

Simple physical rules grow crystals and snowflakes into extremely complex and organized forms, often perfect geometric shapes.

Repeated freezing and thawing of groundwater can cause patterned ground: organized circles, polygons, steps, and stripes across the ground. If I hadn’t learned about patterned ground, I would have assumed these places were ancient burial sites.

One termite species builds colonies so high that if the termites were as big as humans, their skyscrapers would be almost . times as tall as the Empire State Building. But termites have no architects or engineers, just simple rules of behavior and millions of tiny interactions.

Human language is another example. Noah Webster did not design the English language. It emerged from millions of human communications over hundreds of years, and continues to evolve today. Yet it looks very much as though it was designed for beauty and function.

Argument from ignorance

Weather offers more examples of emergent systems. A tornado may look like the finger of God, but it’s just a particular collision of warm and cool air. Lightning looks like God’s Amazing Laser Show, but it emerges from simple electrical charges. Ancient peoples probably saw tornadoes and lightning as proofs of God, because they did not understand air pressure and electricity. Should we accept other complex things as proofs of God just because there are many things we don’t yet understand?

In this way, the Argument from Design is a “God of the gaps” argument. We can’t simply fill the gaps in our knowledge with “God,” for the same reason it was wrong for the ancient Greeks to plug the gaps in their knowledge with “Zeus.”

A big trend

And there’s another problem. Sure, it’s possible that consciousness or something else we don’t yet understand isn’t an emergent system, but is really governed by magic. Possible. But very unlikely.

Here’s why. History has been one long story of us replacing supernatural explanations with natural ones. It has happened tens of thousands of times. Why crops grow; why the sun rises and sets; why floods happen; why eclipses happen; why disease spreads; why kids look like their parents; why seizures happen. All these and more were once explained by gods or spirits. Today we know their natural causes.

Now, how many times has a natural explanation been replaced by a supernatural one?

Exactly zero times.

Given this pattern, it’s possible we’ll find a supernatural explanation for consciousness or whatever, but very unlikely. Don’t retreat to the possible. We want to know what is likely to be true.

Now imagine we had a few examples of miracles confirmed by solid evidence. Not evidence that convinced just the particular religious group that wanted to believe it, but evidence that convinced people of all faiths. Even with a few examples – monumental as they would be – we would still weigh them against the thousands of examples of natural explanations replacing supernatural ones. We would still know it is far more likely we will find a a natural explanation for some instance of complexity, rather than a supernatural one.

Isn’t God complex?

There is yet another kind of special thinking in the Design Argument. Christians argue that complexity implies design, so the complexity of the world implies a Designer. But wait a minute. If a Designer was smart enough to design a universe, wouldn’t the Designer have to be extremely complex, too? By the Christian’s own logic, then, the Designer must have had a Designer. And that Designer must have had a Designer. And on into infinity, which is absurd.

Summary

The Design Argument may sound good at first, but a close look shows that it suffers from special thinking in many ways. First, there is no reason to infer any particular god from a complex world, or even one god instead of a committee.

Second, complexity does not imply design. There are thousands of complex, functional things that are not designed.

Third, the Design Argument is another argument from ignorance. Even a Christian does not accept any other kind of argument from ignorance: “We don’t understand how salamanders can grow back their tails, therefore Quezelcoatl does it.” Ignorance is no argument. It is a complete lack of argument.

Fourth, supernatural explanations have always been replaced by natural ones. So it’s very unlikely that natural phenomena will be found to have supernatural causes.

Fifth, if complexity implies a designer, then what of the infinitely complex God? Who designed him?

However good it sounds, the Design Argument fails many times over when you apply the same logic you’d apply to anything else – when you apply common sense.

A Fine-Tuned Universe?

The universe is not f

A nice little page on snowflake formation is here: http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/primer/primer.htm.

Wikipedia says the termite species Macrotermes bellicosus is about  inches long, and builds colonies as high as  feet ( inches). That is  times taller than the termites. If we say a human is about  feet tall, the comparable building would be  feet tall. The Empire State Building is  feet tall.

This history of supernatural explanations being replaced by natural ones is Greta Christina’s favorite argument, and I owe her all the credit for it: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/01/the_unexplained.html.

Sure, supernatural explanations are invented all the time, but they are not backed up by evidence or agreement between believers and non-believers. They look exactly like all the past supernatural explanations that have been debunked: completely without testable evidence and believed only by the adherents of one religion.

Another version of this argument about a complex designer needing an even more complex designer is Richard Dawkins’ “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit,” from chapter  of his The God Delusion.

Other examples of emergent systems include rules of the road, common law, other colonial insects, free market economies, the formation of stars and planets, molecular self-assembly, the immune system, protein folding, flocking behavior, cellular automata, evolutionary computation, the World Wide Web, groupthink, criminal networks, and more. See Wikipedia’s articles on Emergence and Self-organization.

  1. Other examples of emergent systems include rules of the road, common law, other colonial insects, free market economies, the formation of stars and planets, molecular self0assembly, the immune system, protein folding, flocking behavior, cellular automata, evolutionary computation, the World Wide Web, groupthink, and more. []

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Haukur July 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Here we go with Zeus and the lightning-bolt again. Can I recommend Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus?

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Scooter July 2, 2009 at 5:13 pm

The concept of the “infinte regress” boggles my mind.  In my limited understanding of the world, I see no way around this paradox.  How could there be no before the Bg Bang”?  How could there be a unit that can’t be further divided into smaller component parts?  What’s outside the universe? 

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Hylomorphic July 2, 2009 at 6:32 pm

“But wait a minute. If a Designer was smart enough to design a universe, wouldn’t the Designer have to be extremely complex, too?”
 
Nope. As you already noted, complex things arise from simple things all the time.
 
It’s not complexity from which the Teleological Argument infers God’s design, but–as the name implies–the apparent teleological orderedness of the world. A randomized deck of cards has a great deal of complexity, but none of the order of, e.g., the solar system.

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Derek July 2, 2009 at 6:39 pm


Some of your alleged examples of “emergent systems” are instances of post hoc reasoning.
 
 
 
“Biological evolution is one such emergent system.”  Boil all the data down:
 
diversity of species.
Species change in minute ways from generation to generation.
Some current species bear similarity relations to others, some of which are extinct.

A common factor in the data: “gene mutation” and “replication occurs when species survives.”
 
Ergo, what explains the diversity of species is gene mutation and survival.
 
 
To make the emergent systems inference, you notice that the physical “laws” stay the same but species get more and more complex, and then you infer that order can come from disorder, or simple things can bring about complex things, as if you’re explained something.
 
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
 
 
“Simple rules grow crystals and snowflakes into extremely complex and organized forms, often perfect geometric shapes.”
 
 
Observation: “Simple rules” + basic structures à complex structures.
 
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
 
 
The last two examples of alleged emergent systems are cases of systems emerging from other systems, but it seems quite clear that the first systems contains the complexity of emergent systems, in which case, they aren’t cases of disorder to order, or simplicity to complexity.
 
 
“One termite species builds colonies so high that if the termites were as big as humans, their skyscrapers would be almost 1.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building.1 But termites have no architects or engineers, just simple rules of behavior and millions of tiny interactions.”
 
 
Surely termites are, via their very nature, the architects and engineers.  Termites are not just independent atoms moving around, they’re complex self-replicating organisms that are probably hundreds of times more complex than their behavior and function. So theirs is a case, not of disorder moving to order, nor simplicity bringing about complexity, but complexity bringing about complexity.
 
 
The same could be said about the evolution of language.  The English language is complex, but those who brought it about, namely the humans throughout the history of its use, are much more complex than it.   Like the termites, this is a case of complexity bringing about complexity.
 

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lukeprog July 2, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Haukur,

If only theists would stop using arguments from ignorance, I would stop mentioning Zeus!

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lukeprog July 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Derek: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

This fallacy occurs if I’ve claimed that “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.” Where did I commit this fallacy? Once again, as far as I can tell, you are trying to attack abductive reasoning by appealing to a fallacy of deductive reasoning. Are you a purely deductive rationalist, who totally rejects the methods of science, or something?

Termites skyscrapers and human languages evolve as products of other systems which are themselves products of simpler systems. The point is that no intelligent overseer was required to ‘design’ either one – they emerged from much simpler systems with no oversight or ‘knowing’ intelligent design at all.

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lukeprog July 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Hylomorphic,

No, lots of theists have inferred God from the complexity of the world. Granted, more careful theists have made a better case than this, and they will be a subject of different posts. For example, my upcoming series on Robin Collins’ chapter for The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

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Hylomorphic July 2, 2009 at 8:13 pm

“No, lots of theists have inferred God from the complexity of the world.”
 
Let’s be charitable. Who would assume a randomized deck of cards to be more likely to be intentionally ordered than one put in numerical ascending order by suit? Similarly, theists would not be likely to infer God from a sludge filled with all kinds of chemicals, despite its greater complexity than a pile of diamonds or snowflakes.
 
Surely, these theists are not talking merely about complexity. They must be talking about something else, even if they lack the language to properly articulate it.

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Derek July 2, 2009 at 8:54 pm

“This fallacy occurs if I’ve claimed that “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.” Where did I commit this fallacy? ”
Any inference from the observation:
 ”simple system SS is temporally connected with (was preceded by)  complex system CS” 
to the conclusion-premise: “state of SS caused CS.” commits the ad hoc fallacy. 
So is  the generalization that “many simple systems can cause complex systems.” 
“Once again, as far as I can tell, you are trying to attack abductive reasoning by appealing to a fallacy of deductive reasoning.”
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc is an informal fallacy.  Logical validity (deductive logic) is silent about causation. 
” Are you a purely deductive rationalist, who totally rejects the methods of science, or something?”
Depends how you define “science”.  I think Hume’s critique in conjunction with a contemporary empiricist epistemology entail that any positive causal claims are mythical.  No causation, no explanation, and therefore modern “science” doesn’t explain anything.  
“The point is that no intelligent overseer was required to ‘design’ either one – they emerged from much simpler systems with no oversight or ‘knowing’ intelligent design at all.”
But clearly, at each stage of development of the English language, whatever complexity that is introduced to it is derivative of the complexity of those who affected it so. 

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Derek July 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm

 ”simple system SS is temporally connected with (proceeded*)  complex system CS”

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Taranu July 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm

On the topic of emergence Stuart Kauffman’s book Reinventing the Sacred might be very useful.
 

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Heuristics July 2, 2009 at 11:26 pm

“The world is complex, so Yahweh must have created it.”

I would be interested in an example of an argument for this. The arguments I have read about this tend to make it very clear that they are infact using the arguments only for some of the more basic attributes of God and that other arguments would be needed for the plausibility of the burning bush or the virgin birth events.

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TK July 2, 2009 at 11:47 pm

The Empire State Building is not 381 feet tall.

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Chuck July 3, 2009 at 12:22 am

Luke,
In fairness to the Design Argument, there is one version of it that fairs slightly better than the rest. What is sometimes called the Anthropic Argument or Improbable Universe Argument.
Also, in the summary, I’m not sure what is meant by “special thinking”. Did you mean “special pleading”?

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Haecceitas July 3, 2009 at 12:26 am

In a sense, every single inference to the best explanation that anyone can present is an argument from ignorance. There’s always a chance that we are ignorant of some explanation that would explain the evidence better than the one that we currently argue for.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 5:08 am

Chuck, the term “special thinking” is linked directly to the post that explains what I mean by that.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 5:20 am

Derek,

My reasoning about complexity arising from simplicity is not so simple as that. Evolution is by FAR the best explanation for the complexity of biological systems, and is supported by millions of pieces of convergent evidence. The same goes for the formation of snow crystals – physical laws we already understand are by far the best explanation available. Of course it’s possible that invisible gremlins are constantly working to magically shape these crystals as they form, or that Zeus or Yahweh are doing the same through unknown means, but such hypotheses fail Occam’s razor and other tests of a good explanation quite terribly.

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 6:44 am

Design in the world says nothing about …, miracles, …

A design argument is a claim for past miracles. It says nothing about ongoing miracles.

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 6:53 am

Scooter: The concept of the “infinte regress” boggles my mind. In my limited understanding of the world, I see no way around this paradox.

The concept that the universe had a beginning boggles my mind. The concept that the universe has no beginning boggles my mind. Unfortunately, the “argument from my mind is boggled” is not as impressive as having actually shown a logical contradiction.
 

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 7:01 am

Emergence is an interesting concept. But be careful if you hear a theologian using the word, they tend to use it as an opportunity to sneak in some supernatural influence while nobody is looking.
 

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Apollo July 3, 2009 at 7:39 am

There are a lot of problems with this short article. Let me lay some out in point form:
1. Your term “special thinking” is simply be a way to dismiss all religious or supernatural claims. Arguments have to be met with solid counter-arguments–which you generally do–rather than simply dismissed as being the product of  “special thinking.” The term itself should be eliminated from any future articles since it is simply hand-waving.
2.  The fact that if we can show design we cannot then infer Allah or Yahweh or any other specific god is a valid point but it’s also irrelevant. At least at this stage of the game. It certainly wouldn’t weaken any strong design argument.
3. While many design arguments are indeed arguments from ignorance many clearly are not. There are probability arguments that deal with the odds of the big bang producing a planet capable of supporting any type of life, the odds of abiogenesis occurring, etc. There is no “special thinking” involved here.
4. While the English language as a whole was not designed by any god and dropped in our collective laps it was produced by human beings who had specific ends in mind. In addition, would it be “special thinking” to read “Hamlet” and declare it to be designed by an intelligence?
5. If a creator-god exists why would he/she/it necessarily have to be complex? This argument from Dawkins works just fine if the god in question is a physical being but not if it is the type of god traditionally conceived of in the Western world. This god would be a being beyond the dimensions of our universe. How could we possibly claim to know without a doubt that such a being would have to be complex? Dawkins presumes way too much when he trumpets this idea about and you would be better off not mimicking his ignorance.
6. Consider just the existence of all the physical constants that have to be just-so for our universe to be capable of producing a life-supporting planet; they each have to have numerical values within very limited confines and in addition have exist in, to say the least, a very delicate relationship with each other. To simply say all this occurred by chance seems naive in the extreme. Indeed, it appears to be a different and very real species of “special thinking.”

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Chuck July 3, 2009 at 7:51 am

 

lukeprog: Chuck, the term “special thinking” is linked directly to the post that explains what I mean by that.

Found it. It isn’t linked in the summary (where I had trouble).
 

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Chuck July 3, 2009 at 8:00 am

Apollo, the term “special thinking” doesn’t rule out religion a priori. It simply says to apply the same standards for reasoning and evidence to religion that you do with everything else in your life.

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drj July 3, 2009 at 8:38 am

6. Consider just the existence of all the physical constants that have to be just-so for our universe to be capable of producing a life-supporting planet; they each have to have numerical values within very limited confines and in addition have exist in, to say the least, a very delicate relationship with each other. To simply say all this occurred by chance seems naive in the extreme. Indeed, it appears to be a different and very real species of “special thinking.”

 
Appeals to the universal constants are definitely arguments from ignorance (very bad ones, at that).    The values of the constants could easily be necessarily constrained by some unintelligent mindless force, just as things in our universe are necessarily constrained by the constants.  The best you can do is perhaps leave on the table a very tentative, speculative hypothesis that there is a designer that made the universal constants what they are, but not much else.
 
But the fact that every other coincidence or unusual symmetry in nature, that has thus far been explained, has been explained by way of mindless, unintelligent forces, I believe, makes the inference of a designer in the case of the constants, specious.  As luke says… special thinking.
 
On a side note, I ran across an interesting article that was passed around a while back.  It claimed that all the noise about variation of the universal constants was really unsubstantiated… that no one really bothered to actually do any serious calculations.   The article talked about a researcher who actually wrote some software to model universes with varied constants.  He used star formation as the criteria for a possible universe in which life could arise.    His models showed that star formation could occur in universes with constants that differed significantly from our own.  I’m having trouble re-finding it, but will continue to look.
 

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Haukur July 3, 2009 at 9:14 am

Here’s the thing, Luke. One of the central themes of your blog, implied even in the Roberts quote on top of it is this syllogism:
1. Paganism is stupid.
2. Christianity is like paganism.
3. Christianity is stupid.
But you never spend any time actually arguing for the first premise, you assume that both your atheistic and Christian audience will take it for granted. So we hear a lot about Zeus and the lightning-bolt but we never hear what any actual pagans have to say about Zeus or his lightning-bolt, just your ad hoc assumptions on what pagan thought is like.

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 9:27 am

Zeus-ism is just one brand of paganism. Most pagans are laughing at the Zeus-lightning thing because they know that lightning is really cause by Tlaloc, or Fulgora, or Tawhaki, or …
 

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

Chuck: In fairness to the Design Argument, there is one version of it that fairs slightly better than the rest. What is sometimes called the Anthropic Argument or Improbable Universe Argument.

I’d like to point out that the Biological Design argument (life couldn’t possibly have developed to its current extent by  entirely natural means, therefore god) is quite the opposite of the Anthropic Design argument (life could have developed by natural means, therefore God). Coupling the two together makes for a “heads I win, tails you lose” pairing.
 

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Reginald Selkirk July 3, 2009 at 9:35 am

 

drj: On a side note, I ran across an interesting article that was passed around a while back. It claimed that all the noise about variation of the universal constants was really unsubstantiated…

That sounds like Victor Stenger.
 
 

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Scooter July 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Reginald Selkirk: Unfortunately, the “argument from my mind is boggled” is not as impressive as having actually shown a logical contradiction.

I’ll leave the logic to you, sir.  My mind is still boggling

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Haukur July 3, 2009 at 1:49 pm

 

Reginald Selkirk: Zeus-ism is just one brand of paganism. Most pagans are laughing at the Zeus-lightning thing because they know that lightning is really cause by Tlaloc, or Fulgora, or Tawhaki, or …

And do you have any actual examples of such pagans? The usual practice when you have some barbarians who tell you god X is the lightning-god is to assume that god X is in some way identical with Zeus. That’s why dies Jovis is Thursday in English.
 

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TK July 3, 2009 at 4:03 pm

TK: The Empire State Building is not 381 feet tall.

I just double-checked this. It is 381 meters tall, which is about 1250 feet.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Apollo,

1. ‘Special thinking’ has a specific meaning and use, and I’ll continue to use it.

2. This remains an important point to make, since many theists assume WAY too many properties about God than are shown by their arguments, even if these arguments DID succeed.

3. I shall have other articles about arguments from design which are not arguments from ignorance.

4. Early languages, probably, did not have anything like a conscious design.

5. Every single instance we have ever observed of intelligent design involves a highly complex thing designing something less complex then itself. There’s my evidence: every single piece of relevant evidence ever observed.

6. I’ve commented elsewhere about the fallacies in this particular species of design argument, but I’ll say more about it later.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

drj, I’d like to read that. Please post if you find it.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Haukur,

The reason I make these comparisons is that it is clear to most people why Zeus is a terrible explanation for anything. But Yahweh is just as bad an explanation for anything, for exactly the same reasons. It’s just that people don’t notice this when they’ve been raised to believe in Yahweh but not Zeus. I think most people are quite rational about Zeus, but they apply a different standard to their own pet God. My goal is to remind people of why Zeus is a bad explanation, and show them how Yahweh is also a bad explanation, for the exact same reasons.

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lukeprog July 3, 2009 at 11:57 pm

TK,

Oops! Thanks, fixed.

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