Sunday, March 18, 2007

We Don't Have the Right Dataset to Make the Design Argument

Here are some more ideas about design that follow from the previous post.

What sort of physically manifest, empirically observable features of objects in the universe would allow us to infer that 1) those objects must have been created from nothing, and 2) the creator of those objects must have been outside and superior to natural law itself? The objects themselves cannot tell us either of those conclusions. That is to say, the design argument to the conclusion that an omni-being with power and existence beyond physical matter is underdetermined. The strongest conclusion we could possibly derive from the existence of orderly, complicated, artifact-like objects in the world, is that there may have been some creator within the context of matter and physical laws who was responsible.


In order to make the sort of analogous reasoning the design argument requires, we would need to be in this sort of extraordinary position. We would need to be witness to the origins of a large number of universes, some ex nihilo and some not, and some with physical laws and some without. Then we might be in a position to say that in the vast majority of cases, when we find a universe like X, with features A, B, and C, then that universe was created by an omni-being from nothing and that being instantiated those natural laws from a state with no natural laws. Then if it was true that the universe we currently inhabit possesses features A, B, and C, whatever they are, we could reasonably draw an inference to the strong God conclusion.


Being privy to no cases of creation ex nihilo and no cases of the creation of natural laws or of universes, the design argument is grossly underdetermined by the evidence.

2 comments:

Robert said...
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Robert said...

It would appear that the core principal at work in this argument is that:

" the physical domain bears no relations and no entailments to the meta-physical domain."

Lets call it principal P+

Though perhaps the argument need not appeal to a principal as strong as P+, a similar principal is definitely at work here. 

Personally I would agree with a principal like P+, with proper qualifications. But it is very important to note that such a principal is a strong pill to swallow. Such a principal would certainly require its own independent support / argumentation / verification. 

Moving beyond such concerns, P+ style principals are certainly useful in blocking arguments that attempt to reason from empirical (or rather physical) content to meta-physical content. And is certainly correctly and aptly applied in the Argument. 

Interestingly enough though, the principal can also be applied to an Atheistic / naturalistic position that attempts to make the same sort of maneuver. 

To set up my straw man, perhaps there is some sort of position or argument out there which makes some assertion about the state of things previous to the big bang, knowing full well that according to current understanding Space, Time and all natural law began and originated from the big bang. According to principal P+ we could not make such an assertion, so long as we are extending our reasoning from the post big bang data set. 

In fact According to a principal as strong as P+ any sort of reasoning that steps beyond the physical content to the meta-physical would be nothing more than mere speculation. This perhaps entails the even stronger almost Wittgensteinian worry that "Whereof we cannot speak thereof we must remain silent"