Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

FYI-FTR*: Part 3, Is it so, that >> . . . What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer>>


It has become apparent that a major objection by EL et al, is that ” . . . What undermines the “case for design” chiefly, is that there isn’t a case for a designer” — clearly implying God as Designer/ Creator. This objection is closely backed by the now far too common atheistical/ secularist notion that belief in God (especially the God of the Bible) is utterly irrational and therefore a menace to the community.

As we continue this for record* response series — 1st, 2nd, so far . . .  —  we need to address this objection. Not, because design theory is “Creationism in a cheap tuxedo” [a canard that should long since have been apologised for by those who projected it . . . ], but because such an attitude is wrong-headed, unjust, liable to lead to stereotypical caricaturing of theists, and is generally prejudicial to the best interests of our civilisation.

Box, gave a useful summary from VJT:

>> . . . Here are Vincent Torley’s 10 arguments for the existence of the Designer:

(1) The fine tuning of the universe.
(2) The moral sense.
(3) The fact that a natural universe cannot logically have a natural cause.
(4) The fact that there is something instead of nothing.
(5) The overwhelming odds against the Darwinian story being true (estimated at 10^-1018 by atheist Eugene Koonin).
(6) The irreducible complexity of biological systems.
(7) The vast amounts of complex computer-like code stored in DNA.
(8) The miracles that have been reported throughout history.
(9) My subjective self-awareness.
(10)The fact that we do not even have plausible speculations to account for the origin of life.>>

That is, in addition to scientific observations and issues that point to design as origins process, such as cosmological fine tuning, functionally specific complex [often irreducibly so] organisation and associated information for both origin of life and that of major body plans, we face far more deep-rooted, longstanding worldview grounding issues and facts of history or personal experience that do not sit well with an evolutionary materialistic view, such as:

– why is there something, instead of nothing? (So, also, what is the root of reality?)

– the problem of the one and the many: why is there unity and diversity in an ordered, coherent cosmos [as opposed to a chaos]?

– why do we find ourselves to be responsibly free, capable of reasoning and knowing, and to be under moral government?

– why do millions report encountering God in life-transforming, often miraculous ways?

 Such questions are deeper than science, and a responsible worldview will have responsible, respectful answers to them.

My own comment in reply to Box may also be helpful:

>>evidence for God is indeed evidence of a designer, and I happen to believe that especially the joint ontological and moral cases taken together with the problem of mindedness as a condition for our being able to reason and know, multiplied by the fact of millions of people who have experienced life transforming encounters with God, are decisive.

Those who would object should start with showing cause that a necessary being root of the cosmos is implausible, and that God is not a serious candidate necessary being, or that God as conceived by ethical theism is impossible as a square circle is impossible.

Once there are grounds for viewing God as a serious candidate to be the necessary being at the root of reality, then those who object to God need to show cause that God as so conceived is impossible. For, a serious necessary being candidate will be either impossible or actual.

Those who try to project the notion that believing in God is akin to believing in fairy tales, are not discussing at any serious level. (As the just linked demonstrates.)

However, there is a separate evidential issue on design as process that leaves reliable, observable traces that point to design as cause.

From design, we may very legitimately infer designer as adequate explanation of the design.

EL et al are making the selectively hyperskeptical blunder of demanding direct evidence of designer, on cases where the causal process is known to be beyond our direct observation. Already a bad sign.

Then, they seem to want to rhetorically restate such blatant hyperskepticism in a form that is loaded and can easily intimidate: there is no evidence, as a gambit.

A more reasonable, straightforward way to speak would be, there is no evidence I am willing to accept.

But then, the heart of the problem would at once be obvious and the confident “there is no evidence” assertions would instantly collapse.

On specifics, I see that [t]here is considerable evidence of a fine tuned cosmos set up for C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life.

OOL and OO body plans, alike speak to deign of just such cell based life.

Lastly, so do our mindedness and finding ourselves under moral government . . . >>

Likewise, my onward linked answer to AS on the reasonableness of ethical theism will help, starting with John Lennox’s response:

[youtube YPaBXf0gXNg]

. . . where also, the ontological-moral case for the reasonableness of ethical theism needs to be faced by objectors, e.g. the 101-level outline:

 >>I have long since suggested that we start with the foundations of worldviews and then overnight, that we focus on a pivotal issue, root of being in a necessary being and of what character. Cf here for an outline i/l/o modes of being and ontology:


. . . .  Let me do a basic outline of key points:

1: A world, patently exists.

2: Nothing, denotes just that, non-being.

3: A genuine nothing, can have no causal capacity.

4: If ever there were an utter nothing, that is exactly what would forever obtain.

5: But, per 1, we and a world exist, so there was always something.

6: This raises the issue of modes of being, first possible vs impossible.

7: A possible being would exist if a relevant state of affairs were realised, e.g. heat + fuel + oxidiser + chain rxn –> fire (a causal process, showing fire to depend on external enabling factors)


8: An impossible being such as a square circle has contradictory core characteristics and cannot be in any possible world. (Worlds being patently possible as one is actual.)

9: Of possible beings, we see contingent ones, e.g. fires. This also highlights that if something begins, there are circumstances under which it may not be, and so, it is contingent and is caused as the fire illustrates.

10: Our observed cosmos had a beginning and is caused. This implies a deeper root of being, as necessarily, something always was.

11: Another possible mode of being is a necessary being. To see such, consider a candidate being that has no dependence on external, on/off enabling factors.

12: Such (if actual) has no beginning and cannot end, it is either impossible or actual and would exist in any possible world. For instance, a square circle is impossible,

One and the same object cannot be circular and square in the same sense and place at the same time

. . . but there is no possible world in which two-ness does not exist.

13: To see such, begin with the set that collects nothing and proceed:

{ } –> 0

{0} –> 1

{0, 1} –> 2


14: We thus see on analysis of being, that we have possible vs impossible and of possible beings, contingent vs necessary.

15: Also, that of serious candidate necessary beings, they will either be impossible or actual in any possible world. That’s the only way they can be, they have to be in the [world-]substructure in some way so that once a world can exist they are there necessarily.

16: Something like a flying spaghetti monster or the like, is contingent [here, not least as composed of parts and materials], and is not a serious candidate. (Cf also the discussions in the linked thread for other parodies and why they fail.)

Flying Spaghetti Monster Creation of Adam

17: By contrast, God is a serious candidate necessary being, The Eternal Root of being. Where, a necessary being root of reality is the best class of candidates to always have been.

18: The choice, as discussed in the already linked, is between God as impossible or as actual. Where, there is no good reason to see God as impossible, or not a serious candidate to be a necessary being, or to be contingent, etc.

19: So, to deny God is to imply and to need to shoulder the burden of showing God impossible. [U/D April 4, 2015: We can for illustrative instance cf. a form of Godel’s argument, demonstrated to be valid:]


20: Moreover, we find ourselves under moral government, to be under OUGHT.

21: This, post the valid part of Hume’s guillotine argument (on pain of the absurdity of ultimate amorality and might/manipulation makes ‘right’) implies that there is a world foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

22: Across many centuries of debates, there is only one serious candidate: the inherently good, eternal creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty, respect, service through doing the good and even worship.

23: Where in this course of argument, no recourse has been had to specifically religious experiences or testimony of same, or to religious traditions; we here have what has been called the God of the philosophers, with more than adequate reason to accept his reality such that it is not delusional or immature to be a theist or to adhere to ethical theism.

24: Where, ironically, we here see exposed, precisely the emotional appeal and hostility of too many who reject and dismiss the reality of God (and of our being under moral government) without adequate reason.>>

In short, ethical theism is a reasonable worldview.

Let me add a few words on responsible freedom, mindedness and the significance of our being under moral government.

First, we need to clear the air of confusing redefinitions of liberty inspired by “compatibilism,”  that end up in a new-speak type confusion where if psycho-social and/or genetic programming are internalised, one acting under such impulses is said to be free . . . with the subtext, that’s as good a definition of freedom as any other. In short, we first have to take back even the basic meaning of key words. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is apt, here:

>>LIB’ERTY, noun [Latin libertas, from liber, free.]

1. Freedom from restraint, in a general sense, and applicable to the body, or to the will or mind. The body is at liberty when not confined; the will or mind is at liberty when not checked or controlled. A man enjoys liberty when no physical force operates to restrain his actions or volitions.

2. Natural liberty consists in the power of acting as one thinks fit, without any restraint or control, except from the laws of nature. It is a state of exemption from the control of others, and from positive laws and the institutions of social life. This liberty is abridged by the establishment of government.

3. Civil liberty is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty . . . >>

In short, in the relevant sense, one who is viewed as under the unconscious control of blind forces tracing to chance and mechanical necessity through genetic inheritance and/or internalised psycho-social conditioning is not responsibly free. And without responsible freedom of will and mind, a person is not rational or moral, cannot be. In short this sort of reduction to determinism modified by chance and accident, is a reduction to grand delusion, thence to utter irrationality and amorality.

Nor its this just some dismissible bloggist out there saying whatever silly notions pop into his head:

Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994: >>. . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing. >>

Provine, U.Tenn Darwin Day Keynote Address, 1997: >>Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .>>

Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,”  Sci Am Aug 1995 (also, River out of Eden): >>Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This lesson is one of the hardest for humans to learn. We cannot accept that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous: indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose . . . . In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference . . . . DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. >>

J B S Haldane long ago put his finger on the underlying saw- off- the- branch- on- which- we- sit absurdity:

>> “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. >>

Likewise, Nancey Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth:

>>A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .  An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction.>>

That is, any worldview level claim that implies general delusion is self-falsifying by reason of self referential absurdity. And patently, evolutionary materialist scientism is just that.

This problem then extends fairly directly to the implication of such a view that responsible freedom and being under government of OUGHT are delusional. For, it means that general delusion is let loose, where there are no firewalls in our minds — including that of the one suggesting that s/he has hit on evidence an good reason that mean that our sense of responsible freedom under moral and logical government is delusional.

Self-referential incoherence again.

Such responsible freedom under moral and logical government is perhaps a mystery, but we are fully entitled to take it as a first fact of self-aware mindedness and as a necessary foundation for the life of reason and responsibility.

Let the worldviews chips that come from that then lie where they fly.

When it comes to specifically Christian convictions, I invite reflection on the 101-level case here on, and viewing of this video:

[vimeo 17960119]

(On attitude to the Scriptures, surely, it is reasonable to take the same view as one’s risen Lord and Saviour: ” the scriptures cannot be broken.” Especially, in a context, where the core ethics of the Christian faith are outlined in the Sermon on the Mount, especially in the Golden Rule: You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” driven by the prior commitment that one must love the inherently Good God and common Father with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Thus, we see Paul’s responsive summary: “. . . the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”)

In short, pace the confident manner dismissals, there is evidence for design and so also not only a designer but a Designer of the cosmos and of the world of life up to and including us. There is further evidence and reason at worldview foundation level to hold that ethical theism, and particularly the Judaeo-Christian worldview is a serious, intellectually and ethically responsible faith-commitment and life stance. Where, here, “faith” does not mean blind and irrational adherence to ill-founded notions, but instead confident, well founded conviction and trust leading to a life that acts on such conviction.

Such is not offered on the notion that it will convince determined objectors. Not at all, too often only a shattering existential experience will open the door to reconsideration for those who are sufficiently determined on a life-path. But, it is high time for surrendering the sort of attitudes and talking points just answered, and more broadly for a restoration of reasonableness in the debates over design, origins and worldview foundations. END


* F/N: Due to an unfortunate insistent current tactic of side-tracking the discussion into a pointless, distractive, patently ill-founded polarising debate over alleged censorship [cf. a thread where I had to abort commenting, here, on Saturday last . . . a thread, BTW, that from the opening words of its title, invited, “Let’s discuss . . . “], I am forced to put up responses for the record for this series of posts without direct access to a comment exchange; thus making the debate more like an old fashioned exchange of magazine articles. The bottom-line is simple: I will not tolerate incivility, abuse and enabling of stalking and worse as a demanded price of interactive dialogue. (Hopefully, the circle of objectors will eventually reconsider the side-track and polarise tactic.)