American philosopher Bill Vallicella responds to the claim that design in nature is a form of circular reasoning:
It would be circular to try to explain complexity in terms of complexity. But it is not circular to explain one form of complexity in terms of another. The complexity that needs to be explained is the complexity that seems to have been designed. To invoke a crude analogy, it is not the complexity of a pile of rocks that needs personal explanation, but the complexity of a cairn, a pile of rocks whose assembly shows that they mark the trail. Now I cannot account for a pile of rock’s being a cairn by invoking natural processes; I need to invoke an intelligent designer, a person such as a trail-blazer or trail-maintainer. Of course, this person is even more complex than his product. But there is no circularity since material complexity is not being explained by material complexity but by the thoughts, intentions and actions of a person. Material complexity is being explained by personal complexity. Hence there is no circularity in the explanation. More.
Note: Vallicella’s motto is Study everything, join nothing Having read this, Bencze writes to say,
Hikers will sometimes set up trail markers known as “cairns” which are simply a stack of flat stones. Since a cairn is built up of local stones it would seem possible that they might form naturally in rock slides. In fact, you might think that such stacks would be common. When I lived in Oregon and drove regularly east and west along I-84 along side the basalt cliffs, I kept an eye out for a stack of flat rocks that might have formed naturally. But amongst all the talus slopes I never found so much as a single flat stone atop another, not to speak of the seven or more that mark a human built cairn. Chance seems not to favor even such simple structures.
But I kept up the search and finally, on a country road near Ashland Oregon, I found this rock slide:
I pulled over to the shoulder and examined more carefully. At last I encountered this:
“How unimpressive,” would be a normal response and I agree with it. But, my goodness, how difficult it was even to find this double stack. What are the odds of finding a triple stack? I’d say negligible. And a triple stack wouldn’t qualify as a cairn. It takes at least seven or more stones for that. Now let’s compare the odds of some stones sliding on top of each other with the odds of several hundred amino acids forming a functional protein in some primordial soup. Case closed.
Our philosopher friend clearly does not belong to a Skeptics group. Otherwise, he would just know it IS possible, possibly in another universe. 😉