Intelligent Design

Answering the Who Designed the Designer Objection Yet Again

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In my prior post CalvinsBulldog has some interesting questions, which I address here:

Calvin, Thank you for your comments.

While ID tries to be comfortably agnostic about the designer, orthodox Christians know that the designer is none other than God

I would put the case somewhat differently. I would say orthodox Christians “believe” the designer is none other than God. Here the ontology/epistemology category issue arises again. Ontologically (the reality of the matter), design is obvious. Even Dawkins admits the appearance of design is “overwhelming.” Epistemology (what we can know about design): Without question the data warrant a design inference. On the face of it, operating empirically, what can we know about the designer? Not much other than that he/she/it is able to design and leave behind the indicia of design that warrant the design inference. The data, on their face, do not give warrant to a Christian (nor anyone else) to infer that God is necessarily the designer. To say that it does would be, quite simply, false. Certainly God is a plausible candidate for the designer (duh), and that is what many ID proponents (myself included) believe. But the issue is whether the data compel that conclusion. They do not. You say that ID is “comfortably agnostic” about the designer. I would say ID is “modestly agnostic” about the designer, because it does not push its conclusions beyond what the data will bear.

Summary:

Ontology:
It is obvious that many features of living things were designed by an intelligent agent for a purpose.

Epistemology:
(1) We KNOW empirically a designer did it.
(2) A Christian BELIEVES by faith the designer was God.
(3) Saying that the empirical data compel the conclusion that the designer is God is simply false.
(4) When ID refuses to say the empirical data on their face compel the conclusion that the designer is God, it is not being coy or false. It is simply telling the truth.

For while ID-advocates propose a designer, they philosophically shy away from revealing anything about it, or indeed, even speculating too much about the designer. This is quite puzzling

I don’t know why it should be puzzling. As explained above the ID proponent makes conclusions that are warranted (indeed, practically compelled) by that data (i.e. many aspects of life are best explained by design). The ID proponent does not say the data compel a conclusion that the data do not, as a strictly logical matter, compel (i.e., the designer is God).

So I am afraid I do not see where Spearshake’s logic breaks down. He is being perfectly consistent with his own position.

Of course Spearshake is not being consistent within his own position. His position rests on two presuppositions: (1) That supernatural acts are absolutely unnecessary for life to begin and evolve. (2) If a designer designed life the designer must be supernatural. Do you not see that the first presupposition is not only not consistent with the first presupposition; it is in fact absolutely precluded by the first supposition.

He rightly identifies that the only rational candidate for designer even with an Intelligent Design framework is God.

No. Spearshake believes life is nothing but super-sophisticated physics and chemistry. Given that premise “God is the designer” is not, as you suggest, the only rational conclusion. Certainly “God is the designer” is a plausible conclusion. But for that conclusion to be the only rational one, “God is the designer” would have to be the only possible conclusion. As I explained above, if, as Spearshake says, it is all just chemistry and physics, “God is the designer” is not the only possible conclusion. Spearshake’s own premises preclude him from saying that a supernatural act is required for life to begin and then evolve.

The problem here should be quite obvious: this is a recipe for an infinite regress. . . . the old atheist chestnut finally becomes relevant: “Who designed the designer?”

Yes, it is a chestnut, a chestnut that has been refuted so many times we have put the response in the WAC (Click on “Resources” above. I quote WAC 22 in full:

22] Who Designed the Designer?

Intelligent design theory seeks only to determine whether or not an object was designed. Since it studies only the empirically evident effects of design, it cannot directly detect the identity of the designer; much less, can it detect the identity of the “designer’s designer.” Science, per se, can only discern the evidence-based implication that a designer was once present.

The only way to resolve this is to posit an intelligent designer that exists outsider of nature – that is, by definition, a supernatural being.

As a matter of logic this is simply false. There is another way to resolve the matter. What is wrong with saying “the empirical data compel the conclusion there was a designer. The empirical data do not compel any conclusion about the identity of the designer”

37 Replies to “Answering the Who Designed the Designer Objection Yet Again

  1. 1
    william spearshake says:

    Barry: “Of course Spearshake is not being consistent within his own position. His position rests on two presuppositions: (1) That supernatural acts are absolutely unnecessary for life to begin and evolve. (2) If a designer designed life the designer must be supernatural. Do you not see that the first presupposition is not only not consistent with the first presupposition; it is in fact absolutely precluded by the first supposition.”

    Your conclusion that I hold two contradictory views (presuppositions) is based on a falsehood. I never presupposed that if a designer exists that it must be supernatural. Those, obviously, are words that you are putting in my mouth. I don’t think that is very charitable of you.

    I have no problem when someone throws my words back in my face as part of an argument. We are all guilty of making contradictory statements at times. But when someone throws words at me that I never voiced, or claims about me that cannot even be remotely inferred from what I have written, then I have to question the honesty and integrity of that person.

  2. 2
    Heartlander says:

    When talking about the ‘Prime Mover’ Designer of our universe, the question, ‘Who designed the designer?’ – makes as much sense as – How long did it take to create time? How much area was required to create space? How much mass was needed to create matter?

    When talking strictly about biologic design on Earth, nothing precludes the ‘designer’ from being an advanced alien race and seeded by panspermia – but we may never know how this alien race came into existence.

    Regardless, western civilization and science assumed design, intelligence, and a designer – it’s only recently that science has removed design as an agent. But by removing design and intelligence, you are by definition left only with stupidity (lack of intelligence). So to counter the materialist’s recent question of, ‘Who designed the designer?’ I would ask – What caused all of your stupidity?

  3. 3
    william spearshake says:

    Heartlander: “So to counter the materialist’s recent question of, ‘Who designed the designer?’ I would ask – What caused all of your stupidity?”

    Barry, can I assume that this is an observation and not an insult? Just asking. I must be suffering from Definition Deficit Disorder.

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    ‘The empirical data do not compel any conclusion about the identity of the designer”

    For what it’s worth, I would disagree with you, here, Barry, I would contend that, in aggregate, the empirical data is so awesomely beyond the scope of the human imagination to conceive, unaided, that they indicate a designer who must be both omniscient and omnipotent.

    Still, I happen to believe that Christian faith and knowledge form a continuum; likewise, secular faith and knowledge; and both form a continuum with each other! Hence, in part, at least, the massive advantage for the Christian scientist.

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    WS, you constantly insult our intelligence.

  6. 6
    Axel says:

    Heartlander @2

    Nice one, HL! Our current, benighted, anti-scientific paradigm. The idiotic cult, conceived and enforced by the multinational paymasters of Academia, whose atheistic values are felt to be threatened. Barmy!

    This is where the so-called ‘free market’ has brought us:

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.co.uk/

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    WS:

    Until they can propose the nature of a designer who isn’t a god, what else can I think?

    WS:

    I never presupposed that if a designer exists that it must be supernatural.

  8. 8
    Heartlander says:

    Billy @ 3

    Lighten up Francis.

    Maybe I can help with your “Definition Deficit Disorder”.

    stupid
    /’stu’pid/ adj
    › lacking thought or intelligence:
    c : lacking intelligence or reason :

    By definition, materialism is existence from stupidity.

  9. 9
    william spearshake says:

    Lighten up Francis.”

    Ahh, Ghostbusters. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but I didn’t take the supernatural plot line as reality. That would just be stupid.

  10. 10
    william spearshake says:

    Mung: “WS, you constantly insult our intelligence.”

    How is that possible?

  11. 11
    Heartlander says:

    Billy @ 9

    The quote is from Stripes. Now this is from Ghostbusters:

    Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve *worked* in the private sector. They expect *results*.

  12. 12
    Tim says:

    WS, let us stipulate that you did NOT in YOUR OWN WORDS say the second premise. You readily agreed to the first premise and I could find no account of you saying those exact words (I didn’t look too hard), so illuminate us. Shed light on what aspects of the second premise you do not ascribe to.

    Here it is again:

    2) If a designer designed life the designer must be supernatural.

    See, we seem to think that you would say such a thing, in fact, in so many words, have said such. So, what would you say. Indeed, what else could anyone say?

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    Mung: “WS, you constantly insult our intelligence.”

    WS: How is that possible?

    By constantly acting as if we lack intelligence.

  14. 14
    VunderGuy says:

    Heartland:

    Ahhhh! A man who knows what an uncreated and necessary being is! For the record, future reference, and for all of the lurkers out there, would you mind telling us what those two things are and why they are ‘necessary’ (pardon the pun) in order to prevent an infinite regress and why an infinite regress is a bad thing?

  15. 15
    the bystander says:

    I have come to understand that ID is deductive reasoning – since complex processes cannot evolve unguided, there has to be an intelligent agent.
    My question is -‘Why is there no attempt to identify the agent?’. Why leave it to imagination and belief of a person?

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    t b:

    I have come to understand that ID is deductive reasoning

    congratulations

    Do you still believe in Santa?

  17. 17
    anthropic says:

    TB 15

    ID proponents sometimes do attempt to identify the agent. Most have opinions, usually of theistic variety. However, they acknowledge that, as BA said, the inference to design is a separate issue from the identity of the designer.

    Or to put it another way, observable evidence can lead us to a warranted inference to design, but not necessarily to a warranted inference to the designer. For that, philosophy & metaphysics is necessary.

    By the way, I am puzzled as to why this is a problem from a scientific perspective. Physicists often do not know the “why” certain natural laws are the way they are, nor the initial conditions of the universe. That does not mean their research into what these laws are and how they are work aren’t valid.

  18. 18
    CalvinsBulldog says:

    I would put the case somewhat differently. I would say orthodox Christians “believe” the designer is none other than God.

    St. Paul disagrees that this is a matter of mere belief which to my mind is presented here as a lesser form of knowledge. In fact, St. Paul declares that knowledge of God is possessed by everyone, but some suppress that knowledge. Unsurprisingly, I side with St. Paul.

    Even Dawkins admits the appearance of design is “overwhelming.” Epistemology (what we can know about design): Without question the data warrant a design inference.

    To a certain extent, I think elements of the design inference is at least implicitly held by evolutionists as much as by ID-proponents or Creationists. Evolutionists, like Dawkins, will say that animals and plants show signs of design that enables them to fill their niche in nature. However, Dawkins and other evolutionists also point out that some things (in their estimation) are poorly designed. This, they say, is evidence that the “designer” is a blind, indifferent process.

    I tend to think the word “design” is taken to mean slightly different things to both camps who bring their own rhetorical and conceptual baggage to the term. An ardent evolutionist like Dawkins who admits to design is not, of course, admitting to the Intelligent Design hypothesis. He has something rather different in mind.

    The data, on their face, do not give warrant to a Christian (nor anyone else) to infer that God is necessarily the designer. To say that it does would be, quite simply, false.

    I would appeal at this point to Dr. William Lane Craig’s work on the nature of the designer. Craig may have several faults (one of which is the elevation of philosophy over theology), but he makes a rational and convincing case that the evidence points inevitably to a supernatural designer.

    Craig points out that whoever designed life must be more complex and have a vastly superior intellect than that which is designed. Craig makes an excellent case that the designer must be eternal. He finally argues that whatever designed life must also be personal. These characteristics properly describe only God.

    When the ID-proponent argues that the designer is not necessarily supernatural, this is really something of a shell game that dodges around the necessary characteristics of what the designer of all life on earth must be like.

    When it come to the designer of life, we can make several logical inferences. Indeed, it is both irrational and false to suggest that we must remain agnostic about the designer, while concurrently accepting that design has transpired!

    We can at the very least posit that the designer of life on earth is far more intelligent than we are. Indeed, so complex are the processes of life, we should also conclude that the designer is likely to be intricately complex too. This is a logical point. A designer cannot design a complexity that he neither fathoms nor exhibits.

    The designer must be personal. The very nature of Intelligent Design is a concession that blind, indifferent and random processes do not design anything. To even use the term “Intelligent Design” is an effective concession of this point. For design requires intelligence and Mind. Design requires rationality, self-conciousness, volition, and other attributes of personality. We must necessarily conclude therefore that the designer of life on earth is a personal being. We recognise that abstract, impersonal forces cannot create intelligently because they are rationally impotent. Extending this logic beyond the ID-box, the inverse must be true for the designer.

    (1) We KNOW empirically a designer did it.
    (2) A Christian BELIEVES by faith the designer was God.
    (3) Saying that the empirical data compel the conclusion that the designer is God is simply false.
    (4) When ID refuses to say the empirical data on their face compel the conclusion that the designer is God, it is not being coy or false. It is simply telling the truth.

    It is not. It is an artificially limited and constrained view. Creationists and even evolutionists do not merely isolate their understanding of the creative force to what they see in the biological world. They combine this with what they perceive in cosmology and the actual raw stuff of the material universe. In other words, evolution – and indeed Creationism – is intimately linked with issues of the origin of the universe (i.e. the Big Bang).

    When inferences about life are combined with inferences about the origin of the universe, you end up with a very tight case for an eternal God. For instance, if it is true that the universe began to exist, it therefore must have a casual agent that is outside of space, time, matter, and even energy, for these did not begin to exist until the universe began.

    Thus an idea of a designer is constructed from a more complex analysis of the world in which we find ourselves than ID-proponents are often willing to allow. ID strikes me as the hypothesis you get if (primarily) biologists craft a theory. But biology can and should be combined with other disciplines to construct a fuller view.

    But even without dipping into the realm of cosmology, the ID-proponent – by the very nature of “Intelligent Design” – must be on the hunt for a personal, immensely intelligent and immensely complex being. If they will not grant a supernatural being, I guess they could posit aliens as a potential designer, which is pretty close to what Dawkins was saying a while back.

    This is what startles me about ID-proponents. Although their initial reasoning is divergent to some degree, they nonetheless often arrive at conclusions almost indistinguishable from that of evolutionists, particularly a notable agnosticism regarding the ultimate origin of life.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: UD’s WAC 22, in toto:

    _______________

    >> 22] Who Designed the Designer?

    Intelligent design theory seeks only to determine whether or not an object was designed. Since it studies only the empirically evident effects of design, it cannot directly detect the identity of the designer; much less, can it detect the identity of the “designer’s designer.” Science, per se, can only discern the evidence-based implication that a designer was once present.

    Moreover, according to the principles of natural theology, the designer of the universe, in principle, does not need another designer at all. If the designer could need a designer, then so could the designer’s designer, and so on. From the time of Aristotle till the present, philosophers and theologians have pointed out that what needs a causal explanation is that which begins to exist. So, they have concludes that such a series of causal chains cannot go on indefinitely. According to the principle of “infinite regress,” all such chains must end with and/or be grounded on a “causeless cause,” a self-existent being that has no need for a cause and depends on nothing except itself. (Indeed, before the general acceptance of the Big Bang theory, materialists commonly thought that the logically implied self-existing, necessary being was the observed universe. But now, we have good reason to think that it came into existence – is thus a contingent being — and so must have a cause itself.)

    Ultimately, there can really be only one final cause of the cosmos.

    To ask, therefore, “who designed the designer,” is to ask a frivolous question. Typically, radical Darwinists raise the issue because, as believers in a materialistic, mechanistic universe, they assume that all effects must be generated by causes exactly like themselves. This leads to a follow-up objection . . . >>
    _______________

    I trust this clarifies.

    KF

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    CB: It may help you to observe a definition of knowledge, warranted, credibly true belief. Reality is what is, our knowledge of reality pivots on a process of warrant and credible belief. What we claim as knowledge is not equivalent to reality, though we may have justifiably high confidence in certain items of knowledge to the point of moral certainty such that it would be irresponsible to act as though it were false. KF

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    WS/A_b (etc): The design inference is explicitly inductive, a case of inference to the best explanation of tested, reliable signs that in our broad experience of cause and effect . . . and on trillions of examples with zero to the contrary (backed up by the needle in haystack blind config search challenge that helps us understand), strongly indicate design as key causal factor. As an inductive inference, the evidence reported in the premises support the concluding inference, they are not assumptions that deductively necessitate it; as, has been pointed out and explained to you and others of like ilk many, many times. Please, refrain from further strawman tactic caricature. KF

  22. 22
    the bystander says:

    Mung @ 16

    congratulations

    Do you still believe in Santa?

    No adult believes in Santa.Iam puzzled- What has that got to do with ID ?

    anthropic @ 17

    By the way, I am puzzled as to why this is a problem from a scientific perspective. Physicists often do not know the “why” certain natural laws are the way they are, nor the initial conditions of the universe. That does not mean their research into what these laws are and how they are work aren’t valid.

    You are right, but there always is an attempt to explain the various phenomenon and observations. Theories – even if crazy- are being tested out constantly.
    Why is that no one has even bothered to carry out any test to identify ID agent or has not put out any theory of how ID agent works? Shouldn’t there be an attempt ?

  23. 23
    DavidD says:

    Bogart’s Sock

    “Your conclusion that I hold two contradictory views (presuppositions) is based on a falsehood. I never presupposed that if a designer exists that it must be supernatural.”

    Now why would you even attempt a lie like this ? Of course your very presence here is because you resent the fact that others may believe in a supernatural designers and you are clearly offended by the concept and it’s implications. Otherwise there is no clear reason for you to be here. You never once provided any scrap of evidence of “Dirt did it”, so your combat motive against anything Biblical is not assumed, it’s actually been etched in stone.

    Bogart’s Sock

    ” But when someone throws words at me that I never voiced, or claims about me that cannot even be remotely inferred from what I have written, then I have to question the honesty and integrity of that person.”

    Unbelievable, numerous expressions or sayings come to mind, “double standard”, “Pot to Kettle”, “Pharasaic hypocrite = Do as I say, not as I do”, etc, etc, etc.

  24. 24
    phoodoo says:

    Who designed the word design? Until materialists can answer this question, they are left with infinite regress.

    Every concept you can think of has infinite regress. That does absolutely nothing to nullify the concept.

  25. 25
    phoodoo says:

    What is the materialists answer to who designed the laws of nature? Their only answer is that it just is. How can that put them in any position to criticize?

  26. 26
    CalvinsBulldog says:

    It may help you to observe a definition of knowledge, warranted, credibly true belief.

    Thanks for the comment, Kairo. I am reasonably familiar with the fundamentals of epistemology, but I think the key difference here is that I do not exclude the power or right of God to disclose himself to people through the Holy Spirit. Such a disclosure would result in a warranted, credible, and true apprehension of an objective reality.

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    ES: Yes, a true revelation of God given to properly functioning faculties in a proper environment is warranted, credibly true and believed. That does not exclude the problem of perceived but false revelation out of one’s imagination or worse. There are sadly many deluded people who toss around what God told them . . . in my corner of the world, often aided by a certain weed. Discernment of claimed revelation is a longstanding challenge and duty. Do not despise prophesyings, test all things, hold to the good, abstain from the very appearance of evil. KF

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    OOPS, CB. Sorry. KF

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    Worst Objection to Theism?: ‘Who Created God?’ – new(InspiringPhilosophy) video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKKIvmcO5LQ

  30. 30
    VunderGuy says:

    “Craig may have several faults (one of which is the elevation of philosophy over theology)”

    Ummm… no, he doesn’t, assuming you mean he’s a theistic rationalist. Frankly, I don;t even know what this means, especially since he’s certainly no advocate for platonic forms or platonism.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    CB @ 18:

    St. Paul declares that knowledge of God is possessed by everyone

    Paul had quite a lot to say about epistimology.

    He declared that now we see through a glass darkly.

    He declared that now he knows in part but that someday he would know even as he is also known.

    He wrote about walking by faith as opposed to walking by sight.

    Yes, he did declare that we all have knowledge of God and are therefore without excuse.

    How do we arrive at a synthesis of the various statements? Let me suggest we can know at a certain level without knowing at a different, more definite, level. I “know” that God exists because I have evaluated the evidence and arrived at a conclusion. I understand, however, that some measure of faith (reasoned and reasonable faith, to be sure, but faith all the same) is nevertheless required. God understands this as well. See Hebrews 11:1.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    CB @ 18 again:

    Let assume merely for the sake of argument that a super-intelligent but not supernatural alien with access to ultra-sophisticated bio-technology was the designer of life on earth.

    Craig points out that whoever designed life must be more complex and have a vastly superior intellect than that which is designed. Check

    Whatever designed life must also be personal. Check.

    Craig makes an excellent case that the designer must be eternal. I don’t see why this is so at the level of biological design.

    So, unless you can demonstrate to me why at the level of biological design the designer must be eternal (and if you can demonstrate that I will concede the designer must be God), then we are back to my conclusion. As a matter of strict logic, the designer may be God (and I personally believe it is), but it is not necessarily God.

  33. 33
    Querius says:

    Great points, Barry! Worth repeating, 😉

    -Q

    [Barry responds: whoops; tee hee; dupe deleted]

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    CB:

    But even without dipping into the realm of cosmology, the ID-proponent – by the very nature of “Intelligent Design” – must be on the hunt for a personal, immensely intelligent and immensely complex being.

    Which, as I said above, might be a super-sophisticated by non-supernatural alien.

    If they will not grant a supernatural being, I guess they could posit aliens as a potential designer, which is pretty close to what Dawkins was saying a while back.

    You seem to agree that at the biological level the inference to God as the designer is permissible but not as a matter of logic strictly compelled. And that is why I do not know why you should disagree with us when we say that at the biological level an inference to God as the designer is permissible but not logically compelled by the data. Does is matter that Dawkins might say that as a strictly logical matter we cannot rule out that aliens might have designed life on earth? When Dawkins is right, he is right even if he is a despicable man and wrong about practically everything else.

    BTW, I agree that at the cosmological level the inference to design also almost certainly leads to an inference to a supernatural designer.

    This is what startles me about ID-proponents. Although their initial reasoning is divergent to some degree, they nonetheless often arrive at conclusions almost indistinguishable from that of evolutionists, particularly a notable agnosticism regarding the ultimate origin of life.

    I have argued before that biological ID is not strictly at odds with materialist philosophy. See
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....al-causes/

    Nevertheless, your statement makes no sense to me. Materialists deny that intelligence had any role in the origin and evolution of life. ID proponents argue that it did. Neither is, as you say, agnostic about that point. And their conclusions are irreconcilably opposed.

  35. 35
    logically_speaking says:

    In my opinion questions such as who was the designer and who designed the designer are only important after design has been detected. Infact this is how many branches of scientific endeavor must proceed. Ask any detective at a crime scene, do they ask who was the murderer before answering the question of was any murder committed in the first place.

    I also have a few other points to try to get across to those people who think ID theory needs to answer the who the designer was.

    ID is simply about detecting real design by intelligence as appose to chance and/or necessity in whatever it is your looking at.

    When you see a beautiful painting, you know that it has been painted by an intelligent artist, unless the painting has a signature on it you may not know who created such a master piece. Even though you may wish to know who the artist was, it is not necessary to know who did it to know the painting was designed by intelligence.

    Who, what, why, when and how questions are all important questions but they are answered using different means and methods, ID can answer the whats and maybe the whens, hows and whys but it probably can’t answer the who unless the designer left his signature on the design.

    Now my question to materialists and atheists and evolutionists who ask who designed the designer is,

    Why don’t you ask when you look at the painting who painted the painter?

  36. 36
    mjazzguitar says:

    What about non-biological design?
    Chances are, the Nitrogen molecule is the same throughout the universe, as are the others.
    So who or what designed them, or more importantly, created, them?

  37. 37
    Heartlander says:

    MJG @ 36

    Hmmm… The non-biological design of a nitrogen molecule – as compared to the non-biological design of your question that is not the same throughout the universe?…

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