I am Open to Design Arguments of a Sort

The challenge for you and other ID advocates is developing this design intuition into an empirically testable scientific hypothesis/theory. This is true for every idea that every scientist has had, so don’t take this as an insult or something of that kind. I tend to think that line between intuition/belief and science is the line @swamidass is talking about. A more interesting global question is why ID advocates think this line needs to be crossed.


Not so in my last example. Spoil heaps are a necessary part of a sculptor’s world, and a careful sculptor will plan them carefully - he may even recycle them. But the degree of order between Michaelangelo’s David and Michelangelo’s marble chippings is demonstrable.

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Not I am curious. Explain.

But doesn’t the beauty of Mount Everest guide us to intuit that God created it? Doesn’t it’s granduer point to something greater? Im not sure I can grant it looks less “designed” than Rushmore, unless we are really trying to say God created versus human designed.

In many ways isn’t he more directly and exclusively involved in Everest than Rushmore? If we focus in on Rushmore, our intuition is polluted by the assumption that Gods design is like our design. That may not be true. This is not a problem when considering Everest because no one would think a human shaped Everest. We know that God created all things and governed the process that gave rise to Everest. This seems to be a better image of how his design appears to us.

It’s a question of perception. It might be difficult to quantify (ask a CAD expert whether he can specify David as easily as a pile of chippings), but if you put both in a gallery, everyone will think that David is intentional, whereas most people will think the chippings are builders’ materials unless someone carefully explains Tracey Emin meant something by it - and even after that, many will believe it makes more rational sense as builders’ materials.

In my original analogy, Michaelangelo designs his pile to be tidy, but with a view to its greater organisation in future, such as selling it to a builder to pave the gallery… or maybe to Tracey Emin to make his own work look better. Nobody mistakes his sculpture for builders’ supplies.

There again the danger of the false natural/supernatural divide that catches ID people and others out routinely. Rightly, you recognise all as God’s work. The comparison between Rushmore and Everest is, properly, the distinction between man’s handiwork and God’s, not between design and nature.

Yet in traditional theology there are degrees of glory within creation (cf 1 Cor 15), so that though Everest has its glory and redeemed humanity its own kind of glory, yet the latter is not only distinguishable, but greater because reflecting the image of Christ in a way that Everest doesn’t.

It seems legitimate to see the hand of God in a providential deliverance (see my Hump piece on Bacon) in a way that differs from seeing Mount Everest, accepting both to be, by faith and/or by the intuition of nature, God’s work.

So might there not be a difference in degree between, say, contemplating the way the human hand or eye works, and that same Mount Everest? And might that not, as in Michaelangelo’s work, be something to do with the contingency of David or of the hand, as opposed to the regular lawlikeness of Everest or marble chippings?

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I think you are surfacing a very interesting argument. I agree all things are designed and so in reality there is no designed vs not designed.

The issue may be in detection and how humans can perceive intent and purpose in one object versus another. The closer something is to a human design the easier it is for us to detect design.

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Would this not compare to Gould’s notion of spandrels? Of course one could also get a purely natural pile of marble fragments, so how could one ever tell that such a pile was designed, even in the limited sense you use here?

So in fact you;'re conceding my point that the issue is one of perception. One cannot tell that Tracey Emin’s rockpile is designed, whereas one can tell that Michelangelo’s David is designed. Sounds like a design inference to me.

Why Mount Everest? It happens to be the tallest, but so? What about all the other mountains? And the hills? And high places? And flat areas with their particular flatness or unevenness? Ad infinitum. I don’t see why God would have to take an interest in these basically mundane matters.

I had no idea that was your point, so perhaps I have. But I’m not sure what you mean by “one of perception”. If you mean that “design” is an ambiguous term that could apply both to purposeful and accidental products, and that the latter (even the former) might be indistinguishable from purely natural phenomena, then sure. Hasn’t the case been made here, countless times, that theistic evolution could be indistinguishable from purely natural evolution? That created Adam could be indistinguishable from naturally evolved Adam, etc.?



If this were not considered science proper, but rather philosophical musings on the implications of scientific findings, would you have any problem with this book by Michael Denton?

I feel like many at Biologos represents a weak evolutionary natural theology whereas Christians like Polkinghorne, Lamoureux, Conway Morris, and Robin Collins represent a strong evolutionary natural theology. Though Denton seems to be some sort of deist or generic theist, this is probably exactly where he would fit if he didn’t write for the DI and give his books unnecessarily controversial titles.


Who designed that pot hole down the street?

Maybe we should credit Henry Ford as the designer :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I like Denton and I’ve enjoyed the privileged planet stuff

I’m not sure why Denton doesn’t just drop his anti-evolutionary rhetoric and work with Conway Morris. They both practically wrote the same book on water. Haha. If Denton dropped his “theory in crisis” theatrics, I’m sure Templeton would love to fund his privileged species books.

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Yes, and I’ve made it - the design argument is made at the level of metaphysics, not physical evidence.


I have enjoyed reading you for some time, and I find your arguments congenial–everything is God’s handiwork–but some is more obviously so, or so it seems to me. I think there will be a way to show it, too, beyond what we already see.


Thanks Ann

For a number of years I’ve realised that there is (currently) no formal way of distinguishing design from chance: it is always possible for someone to say that Michaelangelo’s David arose by an amazing lucky fluke in a multiverse. They cannot be proven wrong, but only refuted on the basis of plausibility - which is an intuition.

There are, therefore, two (and essentially only two) competing metaphysical choices: that apparent order can arise by ontological chance (Epicureanism) or that it can only arise by choice (theism). So those who ground everything on fundamental laws of nature are, by implication, making a choice that such laws arose without, or with, a lawgiver.

I don’t know any way, beyond the intutive arguments that distinguished Aristotle from Democritus or the Church Fathers from the Epicureans of their day, to decide between them. All the scientific determinations, however, are downstream of that subjective (but no less accountable, for all that) choice between metaphysical axioms.


Things have changed a lot less than people think.

The epicureans were just as sophisticated as the best of today’s modern day atheists and Gregory of Nyssa’s responses to them in On the Soul and the Resurrection and On the Making of Man are every bit as cutting as anything coming from Plantinga or other analytic theists.

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I honestly consider some of the Church Fathers better than most theologians today.

Just putting it out there.

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Oh, and another thing. Have you read Origen’s Contra Celsum ?

In there he defends Christianity from Celsum a pagan philosopher.

Celsum argued that Christian doctrines are “irrational” denounced Christians as uneducated, deluded, unpatriotic, close-minded towards reason, and too accepting of sinners." He accused Jesus of “performing his miracles using black magic rather than actual divine powers and of plagiarizing his teachings from Plato.” And he warned that “Christianity itself was drawing people away from traditional religion and claimed that its growth would lead to a collapse of traditional, conservative values.”

Ah, those were the days.