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OfflineBullfrog1
Discovery BeyondImagination

Registered: 07/03/02
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Last seen: 9 years, 1 month
Argument by Design
    #881552 - 09/13/02 09:39 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)


Here is a copy of an interesting analogy. Someone sent me a copy via e-mail. I've already made my obsevations and drawn my own conclusions. Interested in hearing what any of you think.

The Argument by Design

The argument by design argues that the universe shows it was designed, and showing design, requires a designer, which is then identified with God. There are numerous versions of the argument. We will look at two of the more common versions.

Version one: via purpose.

P1 - The universe is like a huge clock: both a clock and the universe are composed of parts that work together for a purpose.

P2 - A clock exhibits the ingenuity of its maker. (We can infer a designer from the clock?s design.)

C - So the universe exhibits the ingenuity of its maker. (We can infer the universe has a maker.)

Comparison of asserted similarities:

When we talk of the parts of something "working together," we are saying that the parts act so as to either: 1) maintain the parts themselves and the system they are part of, as in a clock, or 2) further develop the system, as in biological growth. Another way of putting it is that things that work together act in a constructive way and things that do not work together act in a destructive way. But while a clock has parts that work together in this sense, the universe is more of a mixed bag. It has some parts that work together, like solar radiation and plant life, and some that do not , e.g., hurricanes, floods, diseases, meteorites colliding with planets, stars colliding and wiping out their planets, etc. There does not appear to be any objective sense in which the universe as a whole can be characterized as consisting of parts that work together. It all depends on what parts and processes one looks at.

We have a more serious problem in talking about purpose in the first premise. A clock certainly has a human imposed and designed purpose, but it is not clear that the universe does. Having a purpose implies having an intended goal or function, and it is not clear that the universe has the ability to formulate a goal for itself (like humans can) or that a goal has been formulated for the universe by something else (as humans do for other people and for their artifacts). If the universe has a purpose but cannot formulate the purpose for itself, then it must have a maker who formulated the purpose. The maker designs the artifact to serve that intended function. By attributing purpose to the universe, the argument has assumed what it is trying to prove, namely that the universe has a maker. The argument is circular. (Example of a circular argument: "We know Jesus was divine because he walked on water. How do we know that Jesus walked on water? Because he was divine." The argument reverses the dependent and independent clauses.) Circularity is a fatal flaw for an inductive argument, which seeks to convince one that if the premises are true, then the conclusion (which is not supposed to be contained in the premises) is very likely true. Since this version of the argument by design assumes what it needs to prove and since the similarity between the clock and the universe is weak, this version of the argument by design is seriously flawed.

Version two: via function rather than purpose.

If one objects strongly to attributing purpose to the universe, we can instead attribute the adapting of means to ends to the universe. Examples are plentiful. The sun provides light and warmth for life on earth. The earth spins on its axis and thereby avoids a freezing, dark half and a desert hot, bright half. A flower unfolds its pedals so as to attract bees that aid the plant in its reproduction. Our front teeth are shaped liked chisels to cut while our inner teeth are shaped for grinding. The adapting of means to ends in the universe resembles, though it greatly exceeds, the productions of human contrivance (planning and construction). Since the effects resemble each other, the causes must resemble each other; and that the Author of nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much greater faculties proportional to the greater grandeur of His work. The deductive form of this argument is:

P1: Anything that shows the adapting of means to ends shows intelligent design, i.e., it is an artifact and hence has an intelligent maker.

P2: The universe shows the adapting of means to ends.

C: Therefore the universe shows intelligent design.

This argument is also deductively valid, but its premises are questionable.

Analysis:

1) One of the primary attributes of human artifacts is that they are constructed out of already existing materials. We merely arrange materials, we do not create them. If the universe is similar to a human artifact, it has been engineered out of already existing materials, not created de novo. God is an engineer, not a creator.

2) Evidence of design, if actually present, only indicates a designer, not a supernatural designer.

3) There is a lot of random activity, destruction and suffering in the universe. At the biological level, all species have redundancy and significant and sub-optimal anatomical and physiological "design" that reveal the opportunistic compromises of evolution. In the struggle for survival, evolution has to make use of whatever resources it has for adaptation, and these come down to the genes and physiology inherited by the organism and what ever random genetic mutations the organism receives. Evolution proceeds by trial and error, and an organism?s design is constrained by structures already in place. While evolution can modify those structures, evolution is extremely limited in its ability to undo them. The "design" of all organisms is thus a compromise between legacy hardware and conflicting needs. The human body has many such design contradictions and compromises.

For example, the optic nerve that connects the light-sensing retina of our eyes to our brain emerges as a bundle of nerve fibers from a point behind the retina and spread out over the retina. Light, of course, must pass through this mesh of nerve fibers before it can reach the light sensitive retinal cells. This organization results in a blind spot, a reduction of resolution and a structural weakness that promotes detached retinas. The squid eye, in contrast, is free from these flaws because its optic nerve attaches to the back side of the retina, which avoids a blind spot and anchors the retina. Our eyes have their organizational shortcoming because the basic design of the human eye has been inherited from our distant mammalian ancestors. Hundreds of millions of years ago, as a matter of chance mutations, the layer of cells that happened to become light sensitive were located differently than the corresponding layer in ancestors of squids. Both designs evolved along separate tracks, and for the human eye there is no going back.

The organization of the prostate in males is so bad that if it were designed by an engineer it would be an indication of outright incompetence. The urethra tube, which channels urine from the kidney to the penis, passes through the prostate gland. As the prostate enlarges with age, it squeezes the urethra tube, obstructing the flow of urine and even causes death in extreme cases. A simple fix would be to have the urethra tube run along the outside of the prostate.

A striking example of evolutionary opportunism and compromise is the design of the human spinal column. As a species, we are especially prone to lower back problems. The reason for this is that we are a bipedal species, and standing and walking upright requires that all of the body?s weigh above the legs be supported by the spinal column and balanced at the pivot points where the backbone meets the hips, resulting in a great deal of stress on the lower backbone. Part of the problem here is a conflict between structural support and the need of the human female?s birth channel to pass a large brained infant at birth. The other part of the problem is that the human backbone-hip design is a modification of the basic quadrupedal design. Our distant vertebrate ancestors walked on all fours, and in this context, the skeletal design is quite efficient.

There are many other examples (our immune system, our rib cage, which is to short to fully enclose and protect most vital organs, and so on), but the point has been made. If the various life forms have been designed by a creator, it appears that the creator is not particularly skilled or knowledgeable. Things appear to be been done in a trial and error manner. (If you?re interested, you could take a look at "The Scars of Evolution: What Our Bodies Tell Us About Human Origins" by Elaine Morgan, "The Panda?s Thumb: More Reflections on Natural History" by Stephen Jay Gould and "The Blind Watchmaker: Why The Evidence Of Evolution Reveals A Universe Without Design" by Richard Dawkins.)

4) Many natural processes like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods are well suited to the destruction of our homes. Pestilence is well adapted to wiping out our crops and inducing famine, and so on. If this is design, is it not evil design?

5) Many viruses and microorganisms in the world are well adapted to inflict suffering and death upon their human victims. The bacteria Mycobacterium leprae is well adapted to the infection of our body. It enters the body silently and infiltrates the skin and nerves. It multiplies for years and ultimately destroys the nerves, resulting in paralysis, mutilation and disfigurement. The parasite Leishmania is an exquisitely adapted and deadly parasite. It is carried about by sand flies, and when transported to a mammalian victim, it bores through the victim?s sinuses and eats out the victim?s brain. The hookworm, which infects 1.3 billion people worldwide, sinks its teeth into the host?s intestinal wall and sucks blood from the wound. The blood fluke, Schistosoma, infects some 200 million people worldwide. It swims in ponds until it comes into contact with its primary host, humans. It then releases skin-softening chemicals and drills into the ankles of its human host, Once inside, it infects its host by traveling throughout the circulatory system. The microscopic crustacean Sacculina infects crabs and turns them into castrated, mindless slaves that serve the needs of the parasite instead of themselves. Another, finger-sized parasite crustacean devours the tongue of its fish host and replaces it with itself, thereby getting first shot at any incoming food. The list goes on, through thousands upon thousands of such examples of parasitic adaptations; indeed, most biologists consider parasites among the most successful organisms on our planet.

6) Most animal species exist in and are highly specialized to rather violent predator-prey relations. A) The digger wasp is well adapted to carefully sting and paralyze caterpillars and lay their eggs inside the caterpillar?s still alive and hence preserved body. The wasp?s larva are designed to hatch and slowly eat the alive but paralyzed caterpillar from the inside out, devouring the non-vital organs first so as to keep the caterpillar alive as long as possible. (This parasitic behavior is quite common. Another example is phorid flies, which inject their eggs into the bodies of leaf-cutter ants. When the eggs hatch in the still alive ant, the fly larva chew their way through the ant?s innards, finishing with the brain to leave an empty, headless corpse.) B) God designed the cheetah with teeth, claws, eyes, nose, leg muscles, backbone and brain specialized to the efficient killing of gazelles. The gazelle in turn is specialized to out maneuver the cheetah and to run longer than it, thereby starving the cheetah and its offspring. So we have evidence of design for both the survival of cheetahs and the violent consumption of gazelles and the survival of gazelles and the starvation of cheetahs. Actually, this looks more like designs of competing gods, or of a sadistic god who enjoys spectator blood sports (sort of a divine Roman circus for competing animal species). C) In Lake Victoria, there is a species of Cichlid fish that has acquired an unusual way to protect its young from the many predators of the lake: its stores its eggs in its mouth and even keeps its young in there after hatching until they grow too large for such safe keeping. However, in the competition between fishes of the lake, a species of cat fish has evolved an insidious response: it lays its eggs right where the cichlid does so that the cichlid mother fish will take the cat fish?s eggs into its mouth along with its own eggs. Unfortunately for the cichlid, the eggs of the cat fish hatch before those of the cichlid, and they eat the young cichlids as they hatch, all in the mouth of the protective cichlid mother fish. And the cicklid mother fish, not knowing the young predatory cat fish are not her own, continues to house them in her protective mouth while they grow larger and devour her own.

7) Even relations within a species can be violent: The red-back spider was designed with the female many times larger than the male and their behavior fine tuned to a most gruesome mating ritual. During copulation in a "69" position, the male offers its abdomen to the fangs of the female for consumption. This gains the male time for further insemination. To be a father and pass on his genes, he has to be a meal. Another example of familial cannibalism is the Stegodyphus spider, whose young eat their mother before leaving their maternal web.

8) The overall degree of resemblance of the non-human adaptation of means to ends in the world and the human adaptation of means to ends is not clear or significant, i.e., it is not clear that natural systems are similar to human artifacts. It all depends on what examples and what attributes you consider. Is the solar system really similar to a clock? Is a dog really similar to a vacuum cleaner?

9) There are some significant differences between artifacts and natural systems:

1. The plans of human engineers (blueprints) are in principle knowable, but we have no evidence of an externally imposed design for the universe, the solar system, plants, or animals.

2. We observe the human construction of artifacts, but we never observe the construction of natural systems by an external maker. The solar system formed naturally via the action of gravity within a primordial cloud of interstellar gas and dust. Plants and animals grow - they are not constructed. Perhaps the universe is more like a plant than a clock.

3. Human artifacts are characterized primarily by possessing attributes not found in nature, not by their function. Humans can build totally non-functional things, but if the composition of those things could not occur naturally, they are still be judged to be artifacts. Archaeologists often find things they judge to be artifacts (by markings, material composition) even though they do not know their purpose. In the future, astronauts might find things on alien planets that are judged to be artifacts while their function remains unknown. In other words, something is judged an artifact (a product of design) when its attributes are not found in nature, not because it is adapted to an end. In contrast, natural things, including those adapted to ends, have attributes found in nature, and so it is not the case that the natural adapting of means to ends implies intelligent design. If the primary characteristic of human artifacts is missing from natural things, the difference between human artifacts and natural things is more significant than the similarity (means adapted to an end), and the first premise of the argument is unjustified.

Conclusion: the first premise of Argument from Design is unjustified, and the second premise is not generally the case. The argument as a whole then is unsound.

Let me conclude with a quote from the great 17th century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza: ".. they (humans) find in themselves and outside themselves many means that will assist them not a little in their search for what is useful, for instance, eyes for seeing, teeth for chewing, herbs and animals for yielding food, the sun for giving light, the sea for breeding fish, etc., they come to look on the whole of nature as a means for obtaining such conveniences. Now, as they are aware, that they found these conveniences and did not make them, they think they have cause for believing the some other being has made them for their use. As they look upon things as means, they cannot believe them to be self-created; but, judging from the means they are accustomed to prepare for themselves, they are bound to believe in some ruler or rulers of the universe endowed with human freedom, who have arranged and adapted everything for human use. They are bound to estimate the nature of such rulers in accordance with their own nature, and therefore they assert that the gods ordained everything for the use of man." Spinoza goes on to offer an additional and very interesting observation about the consequences of this belief: "Among the many helps of nature they were bound to find hindrances, such as storms, earthquakes, diseases, etc., so they declared that such things happen because the gods are angry at some wrong done them by men, or at some fault committed in their worship. Experience day by day protested and showed by infinite examples that good and evil fortunes fall to the lot of the pious and impious alike; still they would not abandon their inverterate prejudice, for it was more easy for them to class such contradictions among other unknown things of whose use they were ignorant, and thus retain their actual and innate condition of ignorance, than to destroy the whole fabric of their reasoning and start afresh. They therefore laid down as an axiom (deserting in the process the very principle with which they began) that God?s judgment far transcends human understanding." (The Chief Works of Benedict De Spinoza, pp. 75-76) So we see here that the argument by design leads directly to the problem of evil.

Swirl that around in your mind for a while  :wink:

Bullfrog1
 


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InvisibleWhiskeyClone
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: Bullfrog1]
    #881652 - 09/13/02 10:23 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

Wow. That was a great read.


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Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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Offlinemirrorsaww
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: Bullfrog1]
    #881705 - 09/13/02 10:48 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

What about the physical laws of the universe as proof of intention to create life? got anything other than the one of many universes theory? (Which scientists sometimes use without admitting that it isn't science but is rather a philosophical speculation.)


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InvisibleWhiskeyClone
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: mirrorsaww]
    #881729 - 09/13/02 11:00 AM (14 years, 2 months ago)

In reply to:

What about the physical laws of the universe as proof of intention to create life?




Such as...?


--------------------
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

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OfflineRylmonkey
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: WhiskeyClone]
    #7726586 - 12/07/07 12:09 AM (9 years, 2 days ago)

such as the bacterial flagellum.


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OfflineHolly
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Registered: 12/14/04
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: mirrorsaww]
    #7726817 - 12/07/07 01:27 AM (9 years, 2 days ago)

Quote:

mirrorsaww said:
What about the physical laws of the universe as proof of intention to create life? got anything other than the one of many universes theory? (Which scientists sometimes use without admitting that it isn't science but is rather a philosophical speculation.)




Are you referring to the anthropic principal? The idea that since the universe is fine-tuned to life existing that it must have been designed that way? If you are, there are a few problems with that idea. One is that the very fact that we exist means that the universe can support us, but not that it was made to support us. Much like a frozen puddle fits the hole it's in perfectly not because the hole was designed to fit the ice puddle but because the ice conformed to the hole. It took the best shape in response to its surroundings. If the hole had been different, a different ice puddle would exist, and perhaps marvel at the perfection of the fit of its home.

Secondly, the universe is not "fine tuned" for life as many people say. If it were, it would be quite abundant, but so far we can't find evidence of it existing anywhere but on earth (at least not in any form we understand as life) so it's hardly a perfect universe for life. Most likely life does exist elsewhere in some other form adapted to another kind of environment, but until we find it that's just speculation.

Thirdly, the bacterial flagellum comment makes me think you subscribe to irreducible complexity, which has not been demonstrated. In fact the flagellum can be reduced quite a bit and still be functional. Check out Ken Miller's lecture on youtube for the details. Often what looks like it's irreducibly complex shows itself to be a by-product of some other process that no longer exists. For example, you build an arch by first putting a support underneath and then removing it when the arch is completed. Without the support the arch wouldn't stand up long enough to be completed. Somebody who didn't know how it was built might conclude it was impossible to build and so must have always existed in its current form. But that's just from ignorance about the process by which it came about.

Sorry for going off on a rant, I don't even know if I answered any questions.


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OfflineFocusHawaii
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: Holly]
    #7727314 - 12/07/07 04:56 AM (9 years, 2 days ago)

It's easy to think all of the amazing things in the universe as evidence of God. But what about the not so nice:



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InvisibleWhiskeyClone
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: Rylmonkey]
    #7727542 - 12/07/07 08:58 AM (9 years, 2 days ago)

You guys aware this thread is five years old?

I was wondering when I last posted in this forum :smile:


--------------------
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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InvisibleOrgoneConclusion
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: WhiskeyClone]
    #7728246 - 12/07/07 12:56 PM (9 years, 1 day ago)

Is there a statute of limitations?


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Re: Argument by Design [Re: OrgoneConclusion]
    #7728261 - 12/07/07 01:00 PM (9 years, 1 day ago)

Guess not


--------------------
Welcome evermore to gods and men is the self-helping man.  For him all doors are flung wide: him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.  Our love goes out to him and embraces him, because he did not need it.

~ R.W. Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

:heartpump:


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OfflineHolly
pastede on yay

Registered: 12/14/04
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Re: Argument by Design [Re: WhiskeyClone]
    #7737938 - 12/09/07 09:38 PM (8 years, 11 months ago)

Sorry, I didn't even look at the date :blush:


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