Monday, February 16, 2009

A Few Thoughts Regarding the Argument from Design

This posting has been removed in deference to JKJ's complaint. I apologize for any unintentional offense. Although it seemed to me within the acceptable bounds of behavior to post my all too sparse thoughts on this all too sparsely read blog, still: viola. The offending post is dead. Long live the new inoffensive post.


In his reply post below, JKJ makes reference to "Scaling the Secular City by J.P. Moreland". I, not having read Mr. Moreland's tome, searched for a competent review from the atheist perspective.


The reviewer pinpoints Moreland's ample fallacies and praises his scholarship. He concludes that:

As I have stated earlier, I commend Moreland's scholarship. His book was forthright in citing alternative views so that his readers can check them if they wish, and for the most part lacked the irrational emotional assertions so common to Christian apologetics. However, that does not make his assertions valid, and as I hope I have demonstrated, every single one of his major arguments possesses serious flaws. Especially damaging to his case was his defense of creationism and the several occasions on which he correctly refutes a fallacious argument against theism, only to then apply that exact same fallacious argument to atheism. Otherwise I view him as a competent expounder of Christian theology, and therefore I view the flaws in his arguments as lying within Christianity itself, not merely his presentation of it. Scaling the Secular City showed conclusively, in my mind, that the logical gaps and problems in this belief system cannot be overcome.

Here is a link to a brief critique of Moreland's book.

link to Jim Lipard's critique of J.P. Moreland's Scaling the Secular City


J. K. Jones said...

I would have preferred that you let me know you were going to post this on your blog. It would seem the courteous thing to do. As you did not, I have reprinted my response to your original comment below, essentially as it was written.

Robert Bumbalough,

I apologize for the delay in responding to your comments. I have had some significant personal health issues recently that have lead to a battery of medical tests, and I have been distracted.

I will respond to Hume’s detailed argument in a longer comment in the future. (I reserve the right to make this response on my own blog. If I do that, I’ll let you know here.) For right now, I would refer you to the following references.

“Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity,” by J. P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987) p. 62-70 (See also p. 56-62 for different forms of the design argument, some of which are based on a priori assumptions and are not vulnerable to Hume’s criticisms.)

Introduction by Fredrick Ferre’ in “Introduction to Natural Theology: Selections,” by William Paley (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril, 1963) p. xi-xxxii.

A response to your last comment:

If an apple falls from a tree, the law of gravity being what it is, the apple will hit the ground. If an apple falls from a tree, and I reach out and catch it, then I have intervened. The law of gravity still works just fine, but the apple did not hit the ground because I caught it.

If I can intervene without violating the laws of nature, then God could so intervene in a much more dramatic way.

Making an assumption for the sake of argument, God set up the world in such a way as to enable us to live in it. We are able, because of the uniformity of nature, to anticipate what will happen in the future and extrapolate what has happened in the past. This makes science possible, as Hume himself noted.

There are reasons why God would specifically intervene in an unusual way at certain points in his creation, the most obvious of which is to enable us to discover his presence. We can’t, after all, identify his intervention without a consistent background to see it against.

Besides, if we argue that God is sustaining the world right now, then God is technically directly intervening in the present at all points in the universe. I think that can be successfully argued, but it is a separate argument.

“…it is an argument for a non-personal deity or general creative force of nature rather than a personal God…”

The argument from design is not generally used by itself. The argument proves intervention by an intelligence(s). That is all it is intended to prove on its own.

Again, it is not used on its own. I don’t usually start with it, but, since Flew mentioned it at length in the book under discussion, I decided to enter the fray at that point.

It is significant that Flew used this type of argument since he is regarded as an expert on Hume’s philosophy, having published a noted book on it.

I refer you to the book that has been discussed in this tread: “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” by Anthony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) p. 95-122.

Flew argues that intelligence proves a basically theistic deity because that deity is the simplest explanation of intelligent intervention. He also uses a valid form of the argument from necessary being, and that one provides evidence for some of the other attributes of God (p. 133-146).

None of the philosophical arguments I find convincing prove the existence of the particular God of Christianity.

I do not think that the Christian God can be proved apart from arguments that show evidence of His personal intervention in history. (Of course, I think those arguments have been provided and are convincing. See the Appendix by N. T. Wright and Flew’s comments on pages 185-213 of the aforementioned book.) I do think, however, that we can provide arguments for a form of personal deity with attributes that approximate the Christian God from the things we see in nature.

It makes sense to me to prove that there is a god of some stripe out there somewhere before we talk about His intervention in the world, much less his special revelation in His Word, the Bible. God must exist before He can speak, after all.

By the way, I would prefer to thoroughly discuss the argument at hand before moving on to arguments from Scripture. It will be tempting to jump into those arguments at this point, and I do expect to get hammered. But I would not recommend that we proceed to all of that yet. Again, god must exist before he/she can speak.

Thank you for your carefully reasoned responses. I have learned a lot already, and I am sure I will learn more. To paraphrase Dr. McCoy from the Star Trek series, “…Jim, I am an engineer, not a philosopher.”

Robert Bumbalough said...

Mr. Jones, Thank you for your comment. There is so much wrong in your thinking that I dread the task of correcting the writhing squirming wad of fallacy you present.

Rather than waste my time with your delusions, I refer you to this link where I make my argument proving your fantasy of a god to be impossible.

Your god is impossible

If I find time to engage your silly assertions, I'll post and notify.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Mr. Jones: it is my hope you and yours are well.

I submit a link to an essay defending Hume's destruction of the design argument.


Sir, you wrote: ...different forms of the design argument, some of which are based on a priori assumptions and are not vulnerable to Hume’s criticisms.

Mr. Jones the design argument rests upon analogy from order instilled by human design into mechanical systems and structures, to the apparent order in nature. This is necessarily an a posteriori form of argument as it requires direct comparison of physically instantiated objects and systems.

The a priori form of the design argument depended upon by Moreland involves asserting that the super-natural intelligent designer is the best explanation for the uniformity of nature. To indulge in that flight of fantasy is to commit a stolen concept fallacy. By stealing the concept of intelligence from existing material organic conscious beings an then ascribing it to an immaterial transcendent consciousness divorced from a brain or physical mind and to further credit that fantasy with designing nature is to deny the genetic concepts of existence and and evolved physical organic brains or manufactured artificial intelligence. Intelligence and more basically consciousness are concepts that are entirely dependent upon nature and existence. Consequently a super-natural, transcendent, conscious, intelligence as designer is a contradiction in terms and is thus precluded from consideration as an explanation for the order apparent in nature. Religious apologists have no epistemic justification for simply making shit up and calling it a valid argument as they and Moreland have done.

As time permits, I will address your comments.

Good luck with the medical procedures.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Greetings Mr. Jones:

There is another consideration as to why intelligent design is not the best explanation for order, complexity, and uniformity in nature that defeats the assertions of religious apologists that a priori notions establish an argument from design. Evolution is actually known to occur in reality. Since knowledge is a mental grasp of the facts of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation, we can be certain that Evolution Theory is true because evidence harvested from reality indicates Evolution Theory is true.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Mr Jones: One false supposition you may, and in my opinion probably do, hold is that the opposite of design is random chance. Nothing can be further from the truth. The opposite of design is not chance; it is causality. The Law of Identity, A=A (a thing is all of what it is), and the Law of Non-Contradiction, A=/=~A (a thing is only what it is and is not something else), entail that existents behave according to their specific nature. Matter exhibits a natural property for self-organization that is innate to its basal foundational metaphysical nature.

More later. Best Regards

J. K. Jones said...

"The opposite of design is not chance; it is causality."

Then what was the initiator of all of this causality? We can't have an unending regress of causes, now can we?

“Intelligence and more basically consciousness are concepts that are entirely dependent upon nature and existence.”

But why does a being have to be physical in order to be intelligent and conscious? You are making a hole bunch of assumptions here.

“… the design argument rests upon analogy from order instilled by human design into mechanical systems and structures, to the apparent order in nature.”

What do we find when we look at nature?

The information content of DNA, expressed in four “letters” and containing many bites of information. How much more analogous to human communication can you get?

We find the interaction between RNA, DNA, and proteins which swap information in what amounts to a detailed algorithm. How much more analogous to computer programming can you get?

The very physical organization of the universe, from its very conception, is arranged in such a way as to provide a platform for life as we know it. My brother-in-in law sets up fish aquariums in much the same way. He makes the environment ready to support the life of his fish.

Assuming evolution to be true, we find a process that moves from disorder to an organized end (the promotion and improvement of life). Its just like the many manufacturing processes we humans engage in make things we want.

By the way, none of this information was available to Hume in 1776 when he wrote his ‘refutation’ of the design argument. I wonder if he would have followed the same course.

I’ll engage your argument that you linked to on that post.

Robert Bumbalough said...

Mr Jones: Good evening. I hope you and your family are well. I will address all your comments in a single essay that I shall post as a blog article. Its been some time since my last more lengthy piece. I estimate that this work will take at least two weeks and perhaps as long as a month. Like you, I've other irons in the fire. If you are not monitoring this thread, I will notify you when my post is complete.

Many Thanks for taking time to communicate with me.

Best Regards and Wishes