Arguments for God’s Existence: Teleological

Anthony Weber —  February 14, 2012 — 11 Comments

In condensed form, the Teleological Argument for God states that since the universe and all that is in it show teleological (from the Greek telos, or end) design – order, consistency, and unity – there must be a designer.

Though Anaxagoras, Socrates, and Philo all discussed this argument, Plato was the first to cite design in nature as a proof of theexistence of God.[1]   Aristotle referenced motion and contingency to bolster the teleological argument, thus using the cosmological and ontological to support the teleological.   Aquinas’s Fifth Way argues that even things lacking knowledge are moving toward an end result; as they are lacking knowledge, they must be directed toward this end much like an arrow is directed by an archer.

William Paley, archdeacon of Carlisle, used the analogy of a watch and a watchmaker to show the correlation between an intricately designed object and the necessity of an intelligence to bring about that design. He argued that human artifacts are products of intelligence; the universe resembles human artifacts; therefore, the universe is a product of intelligent design.  Since the universe is huge compared to human artifacts, the designer must be far more intelligent and powerful than we are.”[2]

F.R. Tennant later offered six signs of design: the intelligibility of the world; the adaptation of life; the conduciveness of the inorganic world to the emergence and maintenance of life; the aesthetic value of nature; the moral life of people; and the progressiveness of evolution.[3]

Scientists such as Isaac Newton spoke of the impressive stability of the universe to demonstrate that the universe as a whole also shows intelligent design[4].  This argument states that the world is a unified system of adaptations, and we can only give an intelligible explanation of this by believing the world was created by an intelligent being with a plan.

In response, David Hume argued that the mind of the Designer would then also require an explanation as to why his mind is so well fitted to designing.  Also, based on the principle that effects have similar causes, Hume argued against Paley’s approach to teleology by reasoning that the analogy (which he thought was weak) holds only if life is machine-like, which he did not believe.

    Richard Dawkins agrees with Hume: “A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.”

However, current scientists such as Michael Denton argue that science has discovered that life really is analogous to the most complex of machines, thus making Hume’s argument support rather than undermine Paley’s.[5] Alvin Plantinga has also noted that in crucial ways the universe is sufficiently like other things, so we cannot rule out the accuracy of the argument from analogy.[6]

A. E. Taylor has also noted that the teleological argument suggests that nature reveals not just order, but anticipatory order, also known as the anthropic principle.[7]  The watchmaker could not have been visionless, with no foresight or sight. For example, life could not exist except in a three dimensional universe; a change of temperature of one part of a million million would rule out the very existence of the universe; and gravity could not change by even one percent, or the universe could not support life.[8]

Ed Harrison, a cosmologist, has noted in Masks of the Universe:“Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.” 

Finding a Designer still does not answer questions concerning the Designer’s character or attributes. For this reason, the teleological argument is often combined with the Cosmological and Ontological in order to provide a more comprehensive view of God which addresses issues of character as well as existence.

Ultimately, if one cannot find a Designer, one is left with either the frustration of a designed universe in which the Designer is undiscoverable, or the absurdity of an apparently designed universe that is actually the product of unintelligent matter brought together by unexplainable chance.[9]  However, if one does find the Designer, one is that much close to answering the great questions of origin, meaning, and destiny.

(Part 1: Arguments for God’s Existence: Cosmological) 


[1] Reese, William R.  “Teleological Argument.” Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion. (Amherst: Humanity Books, 1999), 761.

[2] “The Teleological Argument.”  Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. 2002. Internet. Available from www.carm.org/apologetics/teleological.htm.  Accessed April 23, 2003.

[3] Paul Edwards, ed. “Teleological arguments for the existence of God” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Volume Eight. (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967), 86.

[4] Noble, David. Understanding the Times.(Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 1995),   318.

[5] Noble Times, 322.

[6] Geisler, Norman. “Teleological Argument.”  Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, 2002), 716.

[7] Geisler “Teleological Argument,” 717.

[8] Craig, William Lane. “The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle.” 2003. Internet. Available from www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/teleo.html. Accessed April 23, 2003.

[9] “The Design Argument.” 2003. Internet. Available from www.biblesearch.com/belingod/argue2.htm. Accessed April 23, 2003.

Anthony Weber

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Anthony graduated from Cedarville University in 1995 with a degree in English Education, and from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana in 2004 with a Master's Degree in Theology and Philosophy. Anthony is a husband and father of three, an author ("Learning to Jump Again"), high school and college teacher, pastor, blogger (tcapologetics.org, empiresandmangers.blogspot.com), and co-founder of etcetera, a "street-level philosophy group" in Traverse City, Michigan.
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  • Taylor

    Who designed the designer? Purporting the existence of a designer presupposes that the universe was designed. It doesn’t get us closer to truth. It complicates the question. Why not just assume that there was no design and things operate the way they do for no other reason than that’s how things operate. The problem with these arguments is that they suppose our universe could have been anything and operated any which way, but was “designed” to operate the way that it does. This only muddies our perception. Perhaps the universe operates the way that it does because that is how it operates. That is just the way things operate. Perhaps there is no reason or unknowable intention. It’s not because of chance or randomness. It is because of intrinsic order. This is an order we’ve begun, in our recent history, to understand to great consequence. The watch doesn’t work solely because the watchmaker designed it. The watch works because the watchmaker manipulated matter in a way that utilizes a discovered order of the universe. The watchmaker is merely a pragmatist, as artful as his utility may be. In point of fact, the only designers for which we have evidence design from a foundation of physical order for which they’ve no responsibility and from which there is no deviance.

    • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

      Thanks for weighing in on this, Taylor. You’re right – the watch doesn’t work solely because the watchmaker designed it. But it wouldn’t work at all if there were no watchmaker. I don’t think you would say of the watch what you say of the universe: “It operates the way it does because that’s just the way things operate.” Aside from the circularity of the statement, it’s a viewpoint the seems to spell the end of inquisitiveness.
      You ask, “Why not assume there is no design?” I don’t assume this about the universe for the same reason I don’t assume that about a watch. It clearly bears all the markings of design – even Richard Dawkins agrees with that. The burden of proof would seem to be on those who claim there is no design, in much the same way someone skeptical of a watch being designed would have to show how his/her conclusion runs so counter to what we perceive.
      My belief about God is the God with mind, will, emotion, and volition existed independent of contingent things, and brought them into being. He is Plato’s Unmoved Mover. Something had to be uncreated (if there is no infinite regress). God is the Uncreated Creator, so asking who made or designed him seems to ignore a key part of the definition of what makes God, well, God (in the Christian tradition, at least).
      I wonder, in fact, how different your “intrinsic order” is from a philosophy of God. I cite God; you cite an intrinsic order that, I assume, has always been there, or was the Thing that got Everything Else going, (Correct me if I’m wrong – I know I am reading between the lines). Do you not have to answer the same question you asked me: How did that intrinsic order begin? Where did it come from? Is it eternal? And if it was in some way eternal, what caused a state of existence with no substance, will, or volition to act in such a way as to create?
      I look forward to your response!

      • Taylor

        Thanks for responding, Anthony! I appreciate the dialogue and your even-handed manner. It tends to be an emotional topic, so it is nice to engage in a thoughtful, respectful conversation. I aim to keep it that way, so if I offend, please know it is unintentional and mention it. I’d like to address each paragraph.
        1. If we assume that the universe was created, then we assume it could have been otherwise. However, if we assume that the universe is the way it is because of a pervasive, intrinsic, infinite order, then we assume things could not have been otherwise. These are the assumptions I’m interested in. There is nothing to suggest the the universe could have been otherwise. This doesn’t negate the possibility of a creator, but a creator is no longer necessary if we assume infinite order (not to be confused with stagnation). Our universe operates by order. This doesn’t mean order was implemented. This doesn’t mean the order could have been otherwise. It also doesn’t spell the end of inquisitiveness. There is no limit to our drive to inquire. We inquire to seek order and so order we find. That we discover this order doesn’t suggest that the order could have been otherwise (which would necessitate creation). After all, if there is no otherwise, then we’ve no need to marvel at the minute chance that things could have been the way they are. They just are the way they are. It is not chance that 2+2=4. There is nothing to marvel at. That is discovered intrinsic order. 2+2 doesn’t equal other numbers not because of chance, but because that’s the way things work.
        2. Design is a human understanding of agency. We assume what is unnatural is a product of agency because it hasn’t occurred naturally. Let’s not confuse complexity with unnaturalness. The order of our universe is infinitely complex. So much so that we’ll probably only scratch the surface of comprehension over the course of all of human existence. But complexity does not necessitate agency (design). The burden of proof lies with those purporting a hypothesis (e.g., the unmoved mover). If there are plausible alternatives to a hypothesis, then the hypothesis must be tested and proven. Hypothesis attempting to explain phenomena have the burden proof. If they are not proven, they cannot be accepted unequivocally. A tree does not behave like a tree because it has been designed. We have no evidence of this. A tree behaves like a tree in accordance with natural processes. A watch behaves like a watch in ways that aren’t in accordance with natural processes. This suggests agency. Humans are hard-wired to look for agency. It’s a tremendous evolutionary tool. When we saw grass moving in the savanna in our early history, it was evolutionarily advantageous to assume it was caused by an intentional being, a lion, for instance. Thus, we took precautionary action, even if it was just the wind blowing the grass. We assumed agency. This helped us survive. So, that humans see the complexity of the universe and assume agency is no accident. It is an elemental characteristic that is in part responsible for our continued survival. It isn’t always accurate, however. Usually it’s just the wind.
        3. This only extends the dilemma of infinite regress by a factor of 1 (that is to say, further complicate). To say, the universe must have had a creator because things that are moving have to have been moved further complicates the problem. There can’t be an unmoved mover if things that move have to have been moved. This is a contradiction. It simplifies the problem to assume that the matter in the universe is infinite. It has gone through different processes and forms, but was never created. If we say that which moves must have been moved, then that which moved the moved must have been moved, too. It is a slippery slope and falls into a trap of infinite regress. You can’t evade this trap by stating that there is an exception to the axiom that that which is moving must have been moved. It is no longer an axiom, as self-evident, universal truths don’t have exceptions. So, if nothing moved God, and god exists, then it is not true that all that moves must have been moved. I agree, it defies rationality to consider that something was created from nothing (that doesn’t make it impossible). That doesn’t mean that the universe must have been created. If God always existed, the universe just as easily could have. God then becomes ad hoc and complicates the problem. In such instances, we defer to Occam’s Razor.
        4. A philosophy of God assumes intent, awareness, agency. Order doesn’t assume these things. Order is simply how things work. In that respect, an idea of intrinsic order is quite different from a philosophy of God. I don’t know the answers to your questions. I don’t know that the universe operates in accordance to an intrinsic order. I don’t know that God isn’t responsible (though I don’t believe in God). I don’t know where it would come from or if it would come from anywhere. I do know that it is conceivable that matter has always existed and always obeyed rules and that those rules have no volition, will, or substance. And that it is conceivable means an unmoved mover is not a self-evident truth. Sorry so long!

        • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

          Taylor, I too am enjoying this conversation. I see too many
          message boards, Facebook posts, and TV shows that can’t seem to dial down the
          rhetoric. I appreciate you taking the time to respond so thoroughly and
          carefully. Here’s some thoughts…sorry if they are long-winded! (And if you can think of a better format for this discussion let me know).

          1) I’m
          not sure it follows that assuming the world was created necessarily assumes it
          could have been otherwise (with “necessarily” being the key word). Could it be
          possible that if there is a Creator, and that Creator is of a nature delineated
          by the Christian worldview, the created world is the only possible one which could
          have been actualized, as all the others would fail to reflect the different
          aspects of God’s nature to the extent this world does? If God has an
          interest in making the best world he can – not perfect, of course – the other
          Possible Worlds are not even on the table.
          If that’s true, this is not a Best (or Second or Third Best) Possible
          World. It’s an Only Possible World.

          2) You used the
          phrase, “Pervasive, intrinsic, infinite order.” I would be interested to hear
          your argument for an actual infinite regress in the physical world. My
          understanding is that infinite physical regress is an intriguing philosophical
          idea, but one that is difficult to defend when it comes to the actual world.

          3) I may be
          misunderstanding what you have written, but “That’s the way things work” sounds
          like “The universe is the way it is because it is the way it is.” That reads more like a statement than an
          argument. I’m probably missing some
          steps in the case you are building. Do you mind writing more about that to see
          if I can understand you better?

          4) I agree that complexity does not necessitate agency, but I would argue that specified
          complexity does. For example, we have all seen photos in which there is an eerie likeness of, say, Paris Hilton on a
          piece of toast. Most of us file that
          away as odd but forgettable, slap on some peanut butter and jelly, and forget
          about it. If, however, that toast said, “Sheila, will you marry me?” we would recognize that something very different had impacted that
          piece of toast – we would assume (rightly, I think) there was an intelligence
          behind that complexity. And then we would have to find out why we got Sheila’s toast :)

          5) In your example of
          the tree and the watch, I agree that the former can be explained by natural processes, the latter not. It’s obvious how those things come into existence now, but I would claim that the tree needed an initial
          designer to start the self-replicating process just like each individual watch
          does now.

          6) You believe humans
          are hardwired to look for agency because it gave us an evolutionary advantage,
          not because it was true. I have two thoughts on this.

          First, could I
          not just as easily say that what we learn about agency in the little things
          (lions and grass) is meant to prime us
          for the existence of agency in the bigger things (the universe)? Second, if it’s true that evolution cares not
          for truth but merely survival (where truth may or may not matter), how do you
          find confidence that your thoughts about agency and causation are not
          themselves a false coping mechanism to help you succeed at life? (I don’t mean
          that as an insult…just asking…)

          7) Let me rephrase
          the Unmoved Mover idea, since “moving “ is perhaps a poor choice of words for
          what I’m trying to say. Try this: In the
          Christian worldview, there are both contingent and necessary things. Contingent
          things are effects that demand a cause – their existent is contingent upon
          something else happening first. However, there can be no infinite regress of
          contingent things. All off the universe
          (and the order within it) is contingent, and thus needs a causal explanation
          that exists outside of contingent reality. In other words, we require an explanation
          that is all Cause and no Effect. That explanation is God.

          8) I once again agree
          with you when you say that matter has always obeyed rules and those rules have
          no volition, will or substance. Here’s
          my dilemma: I don’t believe an infinite regress of matter is logically possible
          as I mentioned earlier. (I know we
          disagree on that). That leaves three
          possibilities for me: order preceded matter, matter preceded order, or both
          appeared simultaneously. I don’t think
          the first two make any sense, so I have to go with the third. If the third
          option is correct, either they popped into existence from nothing, or something
          caused them to begin. That’s the line of reasoning that brings me to the need
          for a First Cause – in my worldviews, a God who started it all.

          • Taylor

            Thanks for your response! I’m enjoying this. Sorry this is so long…

            1. If the
            Universe was created through a willful act, then it also could have not been
            created and as such could have been other than it is. Unless it wasn’t created through a willful
            act. If the Universe was created because
            it couldn’t not have been created, then that would be more along the lines of
            intrinsic order, or an order preceding corporeal existence, than a willful,
            conscious creator. Just a point of
            interest, if the created world could only be how it is, is there room left for
            the Christian conception of free will?
            Another point of interest, if God is a moral being, and his creation
            (physics) is a reflection of his being and couldn’t have been otherwise, then
            why is physics amoral?
            2. I guess a “pervasive, intrinsic, infinite order”
            would reshape conventional understanding of cause and effect. If everything does and always has obeyed
            rules, then everything is just how it should be, in fact, the only way it could
            be. This would mean everything has
            always behaved in accordance with these rules.
            No variance. There is no infinite
            regress in the sense that necessitates a first cause. Everything simply behaves how it should and
            has and will for infinity. I guess this
            conception of the universe would mean that everything always was. That is elemental. Nothing was created. It always was. It has perhaps gone through infinite
            manifestations, but the building blocks always existed. Matter and energy are never created in the
            universe. They are simply reassigned or
            reformed. Why should we assume that
            matter and energy were ever created?
            That’s not in accordance with our understanding of how the universe
            works (let it be said that I’m speaking of things I have very little scientific
            understanding of. My understanding of
            the cosmos is very limited – even by human standards J – this is purely
            philosophical rumination).

            3 3. We tend to look for “why’s.” Why’s assume that things could have been
            otherwise. Why’s assume intent. Why is the universe the way it is? Why am I here? Etc.
            But if we assume no intent, if we assume things could not have been
            otherwise, it brings a degree of clarity.
            The best and most easily understood example I can think of is arithmetic. 2+2=4.
            It is nonsensical to ask why. It
            just does because that is how the universe works. It is inconceivable that 2+2 could equal any
            other number. We wouldn’t tend to think
            arithmetic was created, it is just how things work. Perhaps the rules that govern the universe
            are the same, just much more complicated.
            After all, that is the foundation of pragmatic science; discovering an
            order we can manipulate and invariably predict/count on. So perhaps the universe is like
            arithmetic. Nothing happens for a
            reason. There is no reason to ask why
            other than to discover order. When we
            ask why to discover intent or when assuming things could be otherwise,
            everything gets extremely muddy. So
            perhaps the universe is the way it is simply because that’s how the universe
            is. Perhaps it could not have been
            otherwise. The reason I appeal to this possibility
            is that if the universe could not have been otherwise and is what it is for no
            other reason than it couldn’t have been otherwise, we circumvent needing to
            understand why/how it began. Perhaps it
            always was in some form or another, if so, God doesn’t need to be part of the
            equation.
            4. How does one differentiate complexity from
            specified complexity with reliable accuracy?
            From my thinking, the only things that suggest intelligent or
            intentional design are those that appear to have developed beyond the natural
            order of things. That would be the
            primary distinction of your toast example.
            Toast with “Sheila, will you marry me?” burned into it would surely
            suggest intelligence (not necessitate – statistically, most anything is
            possible, however improbable), but the human mind, for instance, does not. That is because we understand the human mind
            to have come about through natural processes, even if we don’t fully understand
            those processes. The toast example would
            ostensibly suggest an attempt at communication.
            Communication is inherently an endeavor of intelligences. The universe or human development or the
            natural world don’t suggest attempts at communication. In fact, through human theorizing, research,
            and understanding, they all suggest quite mindless consequences of natural
            order. The universe has come to be what
            it was through a very cold and rigid framework, humans have developed into what
            they are through billions of years of chemical reactions and mindless genetic
            mutations, the natural world, the same.
            When we explore the processes that led to Earth’s or human existence, we
            see very inhuman structure. We don’t see
            intelligence. We see things acting in
            accordance to rules.
            5. I don’t think there is anything to suggest that
            life began because it was designed. This
            is how I understand the creation needed a creator argument: “What we see and experience is so complicated
            that it couldn’t have occurred randomly (which I don’t believe it did), it must
            have had a creator.” This only
            complicates the problem. The creator is
            always more complicated than the creation.
            So, if complexity requires creation, the creator is even more in need of
            being created than the creation. So, in
            my mind, saying single-cell organisms couldn’t have come to be without a
            creator is a false alternative and complicates the problem. What is it about self-replicating organisms
            that you feel necessitates a creator that a creator would in-turn be exempt
            from? I can’t think of a single thing
            unless we build it into the definition of a creator (thus, making the argument
            circular).

            6. Your first point is certainly a possibility. There is no way to know. I guess of underlying importance is that our
            sense of agency can’t be trusted. We
            have to ask ourselves why we think something must have been designed and work
            through that thought experiment. Because
            our feeling that something was designed isn’t trustworthy. To your second point: evolution is an accident, it doesn’t “care”
            for survival. Whatever qualities a
            species has that enable it to more effectively propagate are most frequently
            expressed in the population. As these
            qualities mutate, the more beneficial qualities in terms of propagation will
            persist, and the less beneficial qualities will fade. My thinking on agency and causation result
            from an interest in thinking through phenomena in a rational way. There are certainly evolutionary advantages
            to rational thought and rational thought is important to all of us. But the conclusions I’ve arrived at aren’t
            certain. There is no way I can know what
            I believe to be so is so. The
            possibilities are limitless. Things
            could be the way they are for reasons we could never fathom. Or Earth might just be a supercomputer
            processing the answer to the question “life, the universe, and everything” (if
            you’ve read Douglas Adams). But I see
            nothing that makes the philosophy of God stand out as an explanation above any
            ad hoc explanation I can fathom. And the
            philosophy of God contradicts what we understand of the natural world (being
            that he’s supernatural). For those
            reasons, to me, I can’t accept God as an explanation of anything (again, this
            doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist).

            7.
            This
            will be somewhat related to my response to number 2. If cause and effect take place within a
            framework that has always existed, there is no need for a first cause. The framework has always dictated. If matter and energy have always existed,
            there is no need for creation. So,
            everything that is, always was.
            Everything that is is contingent on nothing but the framework (which we’ve
            been referring to as intrinsic order).
            And that framework isn’t responsible for creation, the framework is
            simply the way things work or the rules that everything that is adheres
            to. Consequently, the universe is not
            contingent, because it has always existed in some form or another (at one point
            it was very small and who knows what it was at that time or before that time). Thus, the concept of cause and effect becomes
            contextual. There is no cause and effect
            in terms of things being created when they once did not exist. Everything has always been (things just
            change forms). Matter cannot be created
            in the universe. We “know” this. If matter cannot be created now, why suspect
            that it was ever created? Cause and
            effect would thus be relegated to the context of mass and energy changing
            forms, not being created. The Earth wasn’t
            created, it was just atoms rearranged, the physical material was always
            there. Etc.

            8. I think we need to explore this idea of infinite regress more, because
            there is a fourth alternative I’m having trouble communicating, and that is
            that everything has always existed. The
            order and matter have always existed.
            Everything that is, always was.
            Nothing came from nothing.
            Nothing was created. This, to me,
            simplifies the problem. The idea that
            everything exists, but didn’t until something else that exists created it but
            this something else wasn’t created and always existed seems convoluted to
            me. It seems to muddy our exploration
            for truth. It is much simpler (to me) to
            take it right out of the equation. After
            all, if we can assume God always existed, we can just as easily assume the
            universe did. I think it does all come
            back to agency. If we look for design in
            the universe, we’re left looking for creation.
            If we don’t look for design, I think we can find possibilities that simplify
            our exploits and better align with our understanding of the universe/world,
            etc. Thanks!

          • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

            I love Douglas Adams, btw, though the movie was a disappointment. I think I have read his series two or three times! Here’s more food for thought ☺
            If it’s true that there was an “order preceding corporeal existence,” that strikes me as an observation in my favor. It is far from theism, but it would be consistent with deism. In other words, you are suggesting an organizing, incorporeal force that existed separate from and prior to the corporeal world. I am too. I believe that, in addition, this organizing force had personality and volition, which strike me as important qualities. Otherwise, you are left with an incorporeal force (or principle) with ability or desire to act.
            “Why should we assume that
matter and energy were ever created?” I think that Big Band Cosmology actually demands that. Your position differs from standard scientific theory (and I don’t mean standard Christian scientific theory). The Big Bang has increasingly become a huge hurdle for those holding your position. And positing an infinite regress of Big Bang moments runs into the wall of the Laws of Thermodynamics. The universe is running down (agreed?). As you said, matter can’t create matter. There is a closed system at some point, now matter how big or old the system is. If the universe has existed for an infinite past, it would have had an infinite amount of time already to run down. The Laws of Thermodynamics point toward a universe that had a beginning and will have an end.
            “Perhaps the universe….if we assume…” Sure. “Perhaps” and “if” are the key words. You are proposing a lot of ideas that seem at this point to simply be ideas or possibilities. Could you give me some links to articles that show a scientifically plausible argument for the eternal existence of matter? (which is your main contention, I believe). I would also be interested in some links to a scientifically plausible argument showing how complicated laws of the universe 1) simply existed before there was matter, 2) managed to spring into being, or 3)exerted a sort of creative power?
            “The universe has come to be what 
it was through a very cold and rigid framework, humans have developed into what
 they are through billions of years of chemical reactions and mindless genetic 
mutations.” Taylor, I’m struggling to see how chemicals and mindless mutations in a cold, rigid inhuman universe explain intelligence, order and humanity. I’m curious: are you confident that your brain/mind (different topic…) is trustworthy, if you are the result of the process as you describe it. Is it possible that your thoughts are not intelligent at all, but are, in fact, mindless?
            Would you agree that, as far as we have observed, specified complexity requires an intelligence? I find it intriguing that in all aspects of life we constantly acknowledge the intelligence behind things that are both specific and complex, but we look at a universe that is complex beyond understanding and reach the opposite conclusion. If we were familiar in ordinary life with specified, complex things that just pop into existence or randomly happen, there would be at least some justification for extrapolation. You noted that “If we look for design, we’re left looking for creation.” Sure. But what if say, “We found design – that’s why we are looking for the intelligence behind it.” That strikes me as a common sense approach to our observations. That’s why I think my position that there must an intelligent, creative source behind the universe seem to align more closely with what we know about reality.

  • Taylor

    I figured I’d open a new thread or whatever so that we have more horizontal space. :) Thanks for your response!

    My “order preceding corporeal existence” comment was in
    response to your contention that if the universe was created, it doesn’t
    necessarily follow that it couldn’t have been otherwise. I contended that if it was created through a
    willful act, it could have been otherwise, because it could have not been
    created. Unless it couldn’t have not
    been created, in which case it wasn’t created through a willful act. This would lead us to order preceding
    corporeal existence. It doesn’t necessarily
    follow that this order has personality or volition. However, what I posit is quite
    different. I’m suggesting the
    possibility that the universe wasn’t created.
    Not that order preceded corporeal existence (which would necessitate creation).

    “Why should we assume
    that
matter and energy were ever created?”
    I think that Big Band Cosmology actually demands that. Your position differs
    from standard scientific theory (and I don’t mean standard Christian scientific
    theory). The Big Bang has increasingly become a huge hurdle for those holding
    your position. And positing an infinite regress of Big Bang moments runs into
    the wall of the Laws of Thermodynamics. The universe is running down (agreed?).
    As you said, matter can’t create matter. There is a closed system at some
    point, now matter how big or old the system is. If the universe has existed for
    an infinite past, it would have had an infinite amount of time already to run
    down. The Laws of Thermodynamics point toward a universe that had a beginning
    and will have an end.

    I’m not familiar with “Big Band Cosmology.” J That sounds like Dizzy Gillespie’s
    cosmological rumination. J The Big Bang, as I
    understand it, doesn’t demand that matter and energy were created. The Big Bang only posits that the universe
    began expanding with the Big
    Bang. It would say matter existed prior
    to the Big Bang in an incredibly small, hot, and dense state. We know very little about this state and have
    to resort to theoretical physics to postulate.
    The current trajectory of the universe had a beginning, true, but not
    matter. Matter existed prior to the Big
    Bang. How it existed, we don’t
    know. I haven’t heard a scientific
    assertion that the Big Bang created matter.
    Please share if you have. Our
    understanding of the universe is not that it is “winding down” but that it is
    expanding at an ever-increasing rate. I
    also haven’t read anything stating the universe will end. It appears everything will continue to
    expand. Matter and energy will continue
    to be expressed in new ways, but I’ve never heard that they will at some point
    cease to exist.

    “You are proposing a
    lot ideas that seem…to simply be… possibilities.” That is correct. I have no scientific foundation for these
    ideas other than the scientific understanding that matter is not created and
    matter is a manifestation of energy. I
    haven’t read articles positing these things, so I can’t point you in that
    direction. I’m not claiming these ideas
    are absolute truth. I’m simply
    presenting credible alternatives to a Universe created by God. These alternatives seem to explain existence
    more simply than God does. God only
    complicates the problem. This doesn’t
    mean he doesn’t exist, but he isn’t necessary.
    You offered the cosmological argument as proof that God exists. If there are credible alternatives, then the
    cosmological argument fails. Regarding “articles
    that show a scientifically plausible argument for the eternal existence of
    matter,” I would only say that I’m not aware of any science claiming that
    matter was created. If matter wasn’t created,
    then it always existed. On the flip
    side, can you offer articles that offer a scientifically plausible argument for
    the existence of God? To your second
    point, “links to a scientifically plausible argument showing how complicated laws
    of the universe 1) simply existed before
    there was matter, 2) managed to spring into being, or 3)exerted a sort of
    creative power,” I would suggest none of these things. That doesn’t make them impossible, but I don’t
    believe laws existed before matter, came into being spontaneously, or exerted
    creative power.

    “Taylor, I’m struggling to see how chemicals and mindless
    mutations in a cold, rigid inhuman universe explain intelligence, order and
    humanity.” Evolution, psychology, and
    sociology all attempt to approach the problems of intelligence, order, and
    humanity from a scientific foundation.
    They all explain these phenomena through cold, unconscious processes. They all point to order, not design. Evolution is the foundation for biological
    variance. Whatever qualities have proven
    beneficial to genes being carried into new generations, tend to be
    replicated. Qualities that aren’t beneficial
    tend not to be replicated. For instance,
    if a hyper-developed frontal lobe had been detrimental to human propagation, we
    wouldn’t be as intelligent. There are
    detrimental aspects to having a huge brain.
    We need a lot of food to power it (which is probably why we are
    comparatively under-developed physically).
    If, at some point in our history, our brain development outpaced our
    ability to find adequate sustenance, we wouldn’t be as intelligent as we
    are.

    “Are you confident that your brain/mind is trustworthy, if
    you are the result of the process as you describe it. Is it possible that your
    thoughts are not intelligent at all, but are, in fact, mindless?” I am confident that my brain and mind are
    trustworthy as I use them to great utility everyday. I am able to predict that the ground will be
    hard beneath me feet, that my eyes will see and I’ll be able to interpret what
    I see to great utility, etc. This can’t
    be proven, but it is a belief based on much evidence (having many times
    accurately predicted hard ground and utilized information gained through sight). I also
    think thoughts, at their root, are mindless.
    I think they are a consequence of chemical reaction and electrical impulse. This in itself is a very interesting topic,
    but I agree, a different conversation. J

    “Would you agree that, as far as we have observed, specified
    complexity requires an intelligence?” I
    think we need to first come to a common understanding of “specified complexity.” If specified complexity is that it has a
    specific purpose, then I don’t see how that extends to the universe. We’ve seen no empirical evidence supporting
    that the universe has a purpose. We have
    evidence that watches have purpose. I
    think we need to make the distinction between complexity and purpose/preternaturalness. I would defer to my comment in the last post,
    as well. If something being “complex beyond understanding” means it was
    designed, we have to assume the designer was designed, too, right? The designer is always more complex than the
    design. So the designer is even more
    complex beyond understanding. He must
    have been designed. If not, then being
    complex beyond understanding does not require design. Thanks, Anthony!

    • Taylor

      I wrote this in MS Word. It looks like the smiley faces I made in Word are translated by this program as “J.” So anywhere there is a “J,” substitute a smiley face. This should make those comments seems less snarky. :) (or should I say, J)

    • http://learningtojumpagain.com/ Anthony Weber

      Taylor, in addition to Big Band Theory, I also am a
      proponent of the Theory of Ovalution, which suggest that circles can become
      oblong given enough time :)

      I recommend this
      site (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/beginning.html)
      for an extensive list of top notch scientists who 1) claim that an eternal
      universe is not a plausible theory mathematically or philosophically and 2)
      address what the Big Bang did.

      You said that if
      there are credible arguments against the cosmological argument, the argument
      fails. That’s like saying that just because the defense attorney provides a
      scenario that could have happened, the prosecutions theory must be wrong
      (paging OJ Simpson…). Perhaps the
      counterargument is true. Just because it
      exists does not make it so.

      “I think
      thoughts, at their root, are mindless.”
      Hmmm. What does that say about
      our conversation? :) If you are right, we
      are both in trouble here….

      My argument about
      specified complexity was not actually addressed at the universe in its
      entirety, but at the many amazing things within the universe (such as DNA and
      Cupcake Wars). I did not intend to say
      more than this: when we see things like Mt. Rushmore that are both specific and
      complex, we posit design, and hence a designer.
      Even when we don’t know the purpose of something, we believe this. I just saw the movie Prometheus, and on a
      completely alien planet, everyone assumed design, designer and purpose when
      they found objects with specified complexity.
      (Yikes. I just referenced an alien monster movie. Must…study…more…)

      Okay, gotta
      run. Thanks for the great discussion,
      Taylor!