The Extra Face in Mount Rushmore

Continuing the discussion from I am Open to Design Arguments of a Sort:

I asked @pnelson some diagnostic questions. I’d love to hear from @Agauger, @kirk, @EricMH, and @bjmiller too.

I think God designed them all. Though there is a twist in Mount Rushmore…

There are the four faces of presidents on the mountain:


But there is also this face:


Beautiful, right? Just by rotating the picture, we see there is a much larger face looking up to the sky. Was this face designed? By whom? How do we tell? I’m curious the ID analysis that could be brought to bear that would tell us if someone (God? the human sculpter?) designed this face.

Can you tell us?

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Wow! @swamidass,

I was actually preparing myself for you to adopt a less definitive answer to this…

If you are willing to go on the record that God designed Mt Rushmore too, then I withdraw any of my qualifications.

Very impressive! Thanks!

To be clear, I believe that God created all things, and in this sense He designed all things. In the case of Mount Rushmore, He created the mountain, and a human designer carved it under God’s providential governance.

I’m just not sure what “design” gets us as a term over creation. In fact, if it means denying that God created Everest, it seems that “design” leaves out core affirmations of creation.

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I am in complete agreement, @swamidass

If we are going to continue these endless disputes with ID, let’s dispute THIS topic, instead of all the other stuff…

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Did God design malaria? Auschwitz?

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In the sense that he created all things, yes he did. However, we can be certain that Auschwitz was not his idea, and it is true evil. Remember, God created everything good, but it is also fallen, corrupted. Auschwitz reminds us that God’s good creation was corrupted.

But he created all things. Didn’t he create the corruption? It’s a thing. I don’t think this all hangs together. And are you saying that the fall resulted in malaria? Theodicy remains an insoluble problem.

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I am sympathetic to various evidential arguments from evil. And there are some I believe pose problems for Theism and I’m working through them. But it seems to me most rely on the existence of gratuitous suffering, and hey maybe it’s exists. But I don’t think it’s incompatible with Theism. It seems to me these types of arguments assume some type of meticulous providence and i think that’s a position most scholars frown upon. I believe there are some good answers for the PoE. I like Depoe’s positive skeptical Theism as opposed to the more popular negative skeptical theism


This ancient complaint is one of the reasons I came up with the Termite version of your Question #2.

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I agree. It’s only incompatible with some sorts of theism. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent: pick two.

I’m curious as to what they are.

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The conversation seems to have taken a left turn into the problem of evil (which is interesting by itself, and for which I have published several papers in journals of philosophy), but back to the face problem Josh presented, I think it is an interesting one … one that I have previously put some thought into. I’d like to take a swing at it, but today is already booked for me, so I’ll have to see if I can respond on Monday. For starters, however, from reading the comments, it seems that “design”, as used by Josh, refers to any outcome of creation (the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe). As a result,

Somehow, part of Mt Rushmore looks “designed” in a way that the rest of the mountain (and Mount Everest) does not. So I think a more precise definition of “design” is needed that aligns with the way we normally use the word when we say things like “… a human designer carved it …”. What is it about that particular section of Mount Rushmore that prompts us to say it is the product of design (human in this case) vs. the rest of Mount Rushmore which does not? An objective method is needed to distinguish between the two. I’ll float something by you all on Monday.


Thanks for giving it a shot @kirk, but in my estimation the fifth face of Mt. Rushmore actually seems to be designed. It is concievably possible that some day we will find a diary of the architect somewhere that reveals he intentionally placed that fifth face as an Easter egg into the monument. You say it does not look designed, but it certainly looks designed to me.

How do we tell which intuition or instinct is correct?

I agree also that we need a better definition of design. I’m not sure the analogy to human design is consistent with good theology. I’m not sure how to untangle this knot.

I thought @Agauger made a good point on the other thread. You have your background design, which is like your general providence and Mt. Everest. Then your more upfront design, or your special providence, which is what ID seems to be arguing for. Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t think the knot is too difficult to untangle.

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Id start here. Depoe’s work changed my thinking on some things:

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I can’t read that because I won’t register or give the site access to my contacts.

All you should have to do is request the PDF BY typing in your email

For that reason, the fifth face is a good test for anything we may propose, including the one I’lll propose on Monday or Tuesday. It reminds me of a neighbour we had in Winnipeg, a professor in Architecture, who deliberately designed his front lawn to resemble an untouched patch of prairie … the way it would have looked before the arrival of the first European settlers.


I would be very interested if you can show how we can measure design in an empirical and objective manner. Of course, an empirical and objective measure would entail some mathematical formulas, units, means, standard deviations, standard error, and those sort of things. Some sort of p value would be nice, too.

In my past experience, I have yet to see values like these. What it tends to boil down to is the subjective opinion that something looks designed.

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If that fifth face is a real thing, then it seems to me it would be an easy problem to solve. You go up close and you look for signs of how it was made: blast marks, chisel marks, sanding, marks that look like the product of tool use. Or you look for signs of weathering, rock fracture due to freezing and expansion of water, etc. I don’t know for sure that there are distinguishable marks, but would expect there are–anthropologists seem to be able to do it on artifacts.
Maybe I am missing something?

Humans have the ability to see faces everywhere.
How about this - oldest woman figure?