Subject: argument by design redux? John Polkinghorne, a British physicist turned priest, i

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From: Jeffrey Shallit Subject: argument by design redux? John Polkinghorne, a British physicist turned priest, is visiting our university, giving a series of lectures on science and religion. It is part of the "Pascal lecture series", a privately- financed group that seeks to promote "search for truth through the Christian faith" (wording approximate). I went to the first talk, "Taking Science Seriously", last night. I'm sorry to say that I found nothing new in his remarks -- it was a rehash of many of the old tired arguments used by creationists. For example, he gave much attention to the supposed 'untweakability' of various physical constants, saying that if this force or that force were changed just the slightest, we would not have a dynamic universe in which stellar evolution, and therefore life, was possible. Since there are many such constants, he concluded this was evidence of a highly unlikely event suggesting the existence of god. I find this argument singularly unconvincing, for several reasons. One is that it smacks of "if a bird were a fish, it wouldn't be able to fly". Another is that we have no idea how universes could be 'designed' (for lack of a better word), and therefore no idea how the constants are 'linked' together. If we *were* able to change one ("if pi were e"), perhaps many of them would change. Third, there seems to me no rational basis by which one could estimate the probability, for example, that the exponent in ``our'' law of gravitational attraction would have turned out to be 2.001 rather than 2. Finally, it seems like a posteriori reasoning. If one calculates the probability that I would exist to write this posting, based on the amazing coincidence of my father and mother meeting, their grandparents meeting, etc., one must (!) conclude that it is very close to 0, and hence this message is divinely inspired. I would like to hear any discussions of this "new" argument from design. Pointers to discussions in books or articles would be particularly helpful. ------------------------------------- I have been informed that my first version of this post was more than a little vague. Since I really can't believe the problem lies on the part of David Hume, let me clarify what I thought I was saying... The Paleyesque argument via design runs something as follows. If I found a watch sitting in an empty field, I would immediately recognize that it has been created because it exhibits all the signs of design. I look at the Universe and it appears to be designed, therefore it must have been created. This is an argument by analogy in which one claims that since the design exhibited by a watch means there must have been a watchmaker, the design exhibited by the universe must mean that there was a Creator. As Hume correctly pointed out (and which I didn't muff too terribly the first go round), argument via analogy only holds if the arguments are analogous. Okay, now to clear up the confusion I am sure I inflicted... If I were to hand an object to Bob Bales, for example, in the overwhelming majority of cases he would be able to correctly identify it as either a manmade artifact or a natural artifact. This amazing ability of every human to separate out manmade from natural artifacts is only possible because we have been able to repeatedly examine both types of objects, and we are familiar with the characteristics of both natural and human artifacts. Now on the other hand, you have the Universe which contains everything you can see/touch/taste/smell/hear. You have no point of reference to compare the Universe to (and we are starting out under the assumption that we are not sure whether the Universe was created or not). If the Universe is the handiwork of a Creator, you can only experience what a Universe designed by a Creator is like. If it is not designed by a Creator you can only experience what a Universe that is not designed by a Creator is like. In the case of the watch or any item I may hand you, you have two clearly distinct designations, manmade or natural. For the Universe you only have one designation (and you are not sure which designation, Created or Noncreated). Therefore, the primary attributes of the object and the Universe that is the subject of the analogy is known, a priori, NOT to be analogous (even if we are not sure exactly what the state of the Universe is with regard to the createdness question). It is for this reason that a Paleyesque version of the watchmaker argument is fallacious. It might hearten some Creationists to know, however, that the same fallacy will also destroy any evolutionists attempts to reverse the argument. (Of course, I've never seen an evolutionist try to argue this in reverse, but I'm sure it could happen.) This concludes episode #2 of "Matt Brinkman Quotes Arguments from Wizard- Class Philosophers". I hope this helps to clear up the confusion I inflicted on the gentle readers of in episode #1.


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