Reverse Design Argument

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On a message board long ago and far away an atheist called "1337" argues:


I contend that the theistic version of god doesn't exist. Why do I say this? Because the assertion that there is a personal god seems to be baseless. In fact, it is christian apologists that eroded my faith away. They continue to make qualifications about why it seems that god does nothing, until eventually the view that god exists is no different from the view that he doesn't exist.

People assert that god makes a difference in their lives. My question to you is, what would the world look like if that god didn't exist? What differences would we notice?

(NOTE: If anyone responds by saying "without god the world couldn't exist at all" I'll just ignore it, that's not the point of the discussion)

In the discussion that ensued this turned into a reverse design argument. It's reversal because he's saying basically that Christians can show anything that would actually be different if there wasn't a God.

I made two criticisms. They have both gone unanswered.

(1) It's the same mistake the design argument makes, it doesn't have another universe to compare to.

(2) It treats belief in God as though it's just adding a fact to the universe instead of a whole other universe. Belief in God entails a totally different universe than the one atheists believe in.

The Second issue is the one I will focus upon: the "reverse design argument."

The reverse design argument does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non-existence of God. If it is illogical to reason from the world to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God. For this reason I swore off design arguments years ago. I have violated that oath twice, but for good reason (I'll get to those in a minute). In any case, there is a great deal wrong with this argument, and in figuring up all the many problems I see it I began to think of two things:

(1) Perhaps it would be instructive to delineate the cases under which one can argue from the state of the world to the existence of God.

(2) In pondering this question, I began to think about perhaps what might be the ultimate God argument.


If you think about it, almost all probabilistic arguments are really arguing from the state of the world to the probable existence of God. But somehow this seem less drastic in some cases than others. I know there are those who just turn off at any kind of God argument. But for us Connoisseurs of God arguments, this should be a thorny issue. After all, what's the real difference between arguing form the contingency of the world, and arguing from the design of the world? Well, off hand the real difference is that one can be compared to something, the other can't. That's one of the major problems with this atheist argument, which was advanced at one point by Richard Carrier. We do not have a designed universe to compare ours to, so we don't know what we are observing, design or random development?

The argument says if we were to consider a random universe that came about by accident, you couldn't do better than our own. It really looks accidental. Life is precarious and rare, the universe is very hostile to it. It's vast, far more vast than it has to be. On the one tiny oasis we know of where life took root it blossomed into something as glorious as Richard Carrier's ego, we have no really obvious clue that God exists. If we were to consider what a purposeful logical creator would do we should expect sign posts to his existence everywhere, right? Well, maybe. maybe not. That's the problem the argument is nothing more than begging the question. It assumes we know what God would do, and after constructing a straw man God who behaves the way we want him to, we just assume we know what he would do and than access the tragic fact that it hasn't been done. So by golly, there must not be a God, because this non God doesn't' follow my advice! Of course the model for his straw God is fundamentalism. Atheists are so afraid to take on liberal theology honestly, but it's because they are all secretly fundamentalists. What I mean by that is they are the "tails" to the fundies "heads." Like communist and anti-communists, they are both parts of the same thing.

The difference in this argument and one that actually has something to compare, a base line from which to work, should be obvious. The atheist who argues for Carrier's idea must forge his own base line by setting up a straw man (um, God) and then privileging his assumptions about the nature of religion in such a way that he just nixes the possibly of any other kind of theology. That's not a real comparison. The fine tuning argument can compare fine tuning to lack thereof, compare target levels to the actual mark that is hit. The contingency arguments (quantum and other forms of cosmology) can compare contingency to necessity. Religious experience arguments are drawn from the results of experience, they compare experience to non experience. The two instances in which I do use design arguments are those in which comparisons can be made between the nature of the world and state of existence known to lack that attribute as known non designed reality; the use of the "God Pod" as evoking innate ideas. We can compare reactions to God talk to other kinds of talk and see that our brains only react to God talk in the way that they do. Thus we can compare the innate ideas of God to reactions to other ideas. The other instance is the fine tuning argument,which has already been explained. But the Carrier reverse design argument has nothing to compare except Ricard's idea of what he thinks God should do. With that as the standard for assumptions, we have no basis upon which to draw conclusions about the nature of God from the state of the universe.

This argument does have one other troubling application. It could be a "possible defeater" for proper basically. To be properly basic an idea must be logically apprehended as it is, with no possible alternative explanations, or "defeaters." The argument is a possible defeater only if we understand it to be indicative of the kind of universe God would not make. But we can't make that assumption because we can't pretend to know all the things God would do. Once can find many alternative theological explanations that involve both Evangelical views of God and non Evangelical views. The most obvious non Evangelical view is that of process theology. The atheist can only think of God as a big man upstairs. This is the basic image they rebel against. The will of the father is their Kryptonite. They foresee a big man on a throne who decides and deliberates such a potentate wants to be served, they reason, and thus must make a universe in which he is known commonly to all. So we should expect the universe to be smaller, easier to navigate, easier to understand, filled with sign posts of God. No disease, no problems and everyone automatically given tons of faith so the world would be a paradise. If some serpent spoiled it, it should be put right immediately so that we can go on in our little heavens, where no doubt we get to listen to Richard Dawkins directing the chores of angels.

The God of process theology, on the other hand, is more like the Hegeian dialectic, or like some organizing principle. This is not a God deliberates and decides. this is a God who is potential in one realm, and who micro manages (literally) creation in the other; almost a law of physics, changing with creation, bringing subatomic particles into being and ushering them out of being. This is more of a stage director in the play of the universe (and in other bipolar structure stage director and producer) than a big king on a throne. Such a God would start the process of life and allow it go where it will, then embrace (to whatever extent possible) any beings that evolve sufficiently to come up to its level.

Another version would be my own idea of God as being itself (Tillich's idea--). This version of God is much like the process God, but I fell that God is too sacred a mystery to pin down to bipolar structures or to analyze all of "his" ("her," "its") doings. God is the great wholly (Holy) other. WE cannot know except through mystical union what God is doing. But such a God is the basis upon which being proceeds into concrescence and the basic reality of the Platonic forms. Such a God does not design or make plans, but the whole of creation is a non deliberating plan in the sense of being an expression of God's charter indwell; yet not necessity the result of raciocentination. Thus God starts a principle of life emerging from the nature of being, because that's what being does it spreads the beings, it "let's be" (John Mcquarrie). The evolutionary course that is followed may be assisted in an automatic sort of way, not as a plan, not as a deliberate gesture, but as the result of a nature that has to manifest itself creatively. This being doesn't' say "I will make men, and men will serve me." But men evolve out of the storm and the wastes of the abyss and they naturally come to find God because that's the nature of being, it is there to be found in the sense of the numinous. When humanity reaches a point where it comprehends the numinous, it seeks God and finds God.

Humanity finds God in a million different places. It finds God in flowers and trees, in brooks (and in books), in grass, in each other. It finds God in storms and scary things, and in the night. It finds God in the sky and the stars in the darkness of a vast and endless expanse. It reaches out for what is there because it has been put into it to do so; not because God sat and said "I will make men and men will seek me" but because God provided for the reality of the Imago Dei to evolve and develop in whatever species reached the point where humanity has come to. God did this automatically as an aspect of self expression, as an outgrowth of consciousness. This kind of God would make a universe of the type we see around us. This type of God would also place in that universe hints so that whatever species reaches that level that God's manifestation would be waiting to show them God's solidarity with them. God would plant a thousand clues, not as a matter of deliberation like one plants Easter eggs, but as the result of being what God is--self communicating and creative. Thus we have design arguments and fine tuning arguments, and contingencies and necessities and the lot. We can find the God Pod in our heads that lights up when it hears God ideas. We can do studies and determine that our religious experiences are better for us than unbelief, because the clues are endless because the universe bears the marks of its creator.

Yet these marks are sublet for a reason. This is where the Evangelical view of God can also be a sophisticated view. The Evangelical God can also be the God of Tillich and the God of process, after all, these are all derived from the same tradition and the Evangelicals have as much right to escape anthropomorphism as anyone. The Evangelical God seeks a moral universe. This God wants believers who have internalized the values of the good. We do not internalize that which we are forced to acknowledge. Thus God knows that a search in the heart is better to internalizing values than is a rational formally logical argument, or a scientific proof. Thus we have a soteriological drama in which we can't tell if there is or is not a God just by looking at the nature of nature. That must remain neutral and must enlighten us because it is not given to us to have direct and absolute knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is a privilege. We must seek it through the heart, that's where it is to be found. It's a privilege but faith is a gift.

Comments

Anonymous said…
JH: The reverse design argument does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non-existence of God. If it is illogical to reason from the world to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God.

Nonsense. It is illogical to reason from the world to the existence of leprechauns, but that does not make it illogical to reason that there are no leprechauns. The design argument is rejected because of the flaws in the reasoning, not because i is illogical to reason about God.

JH: That's the problem the argument is nothing more than begging the question. It assumes we know what God would do, and after constructing a straw man God who behaves the way we want him to, we just assume we know what he would do and than access the tragic fact that it hasn't been done. So by golly, there must not be a God, because this non God doesn't' follow my advice! Of course the model for his straw God is fundamentalism. Atheists are so afraid to take on liberal theology honestly, but it's because they are all secretly fundamentalists. What I mean by that is they are the "tails" to the fundies "heads." Like communist and anti-communists, they are both parts of the same thing.

Okay, I can see what you are saying, however... The liberal view of God is so plastic as to be meaningless. All Christians seem happy to embrace the claim that God is both one thing and three. And the Jesus was both wholly human and wholly God. Throw in liberal views on God, and he is both all-powerful and all knowing, whilst at the same time merely an attribute, a simple fundamental, the ground of being.

It feels like the liberal view of God is whatever is convenient at the moment, stated sufficiently vaguely that they cannot be held down to anything later.

JH: But the Carrier reverse design argument has nothing to compare except Ricard's idea of what he thinks God should do.

Great case in point. Carrier has an idea of what God should do. Point me to where the liberal theologians have done.

You cannot. Sure, they will say God would do exactly what we see around us, based on what we see around us, but where are the predictions of what God would do, given the nature of God? All religion can do is think of excuses for dodging the question.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous said...
JH: The reverse design argument does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non-existence of God. If it is illogical to reason from the world to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God.

Nonsense. It is illogical to reason from the world to the existence of leprechauns, but that does not make it illogical to reason that there are no leprechauns. The design argument is rejected because of the flaws in the reasoning, not because i is illogical to reason about God.

that's right Px. The piece of the puzzle you re missing here is that I don't accept the design argument either,for the same reason I just said I don't accept the reverse, because neither compares their universe to another universe they knkow is destined, no control.

design doesn't prove God and anti-design doesn't disprove God.

Joe Hinman said…
kay, I can see what you are saying, however... The liberal view of God is so plastic as to be meaningless. All Christians seem happy to embrace the claim that God is both one thing and three. And the Jesus was both wholly human and wholly God. Throw in liberal views on God, and he is both all-powerful and all knowing, whilst at the same time merely an attribute, a simple fundamental, the ground of being.

Most liberal theologians are not Trinitarians, you make a criticism of liberal theology but your example is of orthodox theology. I will defend both.

It feels like the liberal view of God is whatever is convenient at the moment, stated sufficiently vaguely that they cannot be held down to anything later.

you are not studying it, you arte getting a proprietor of my view which are really made of both liberal and orthodox. In fact you are not even studying my views,so you have NO systematic presentation. I went to seminary and studied systematic theology.


Joe Hinman said…

JH: But the Carrier reverse design argument has nothing to compare except Ricard's idea of what he thinks God should do.

Great case in point. Carrier has an idea of what God should do. Point me to where the liberal theologians have done.

what we think 'god should do irrelevant. What matters is what God has done and is doing, that's what theologians study.

You cannot. Sure, they will say God would do exactly what we see around us, based on what we see around us, but where are the predictions of what God would do, given the nature of God? All religion can do is think of excuses for dodging the question.

no different than the atheist saying if god existed he would do all the stuff we don't see, So both sides are full of shit. But most liberal theologians do not do designed argument.Most liberal theologians would say it's an invalid way to argue, I think that can be picked up if you read the piece carefully. you are so ready to do battle with fundies you don't even know there's a difference.

you have so much to learn about theology.you would known ore if you paid attention these last months,
Anonymous said…
JH: that's right Px. The piece of the puzzle you re missing here is that I don't accept the design argument either,for the same reason I just said I don't accept the reverse, because neither compares their universe to another universe they knkow is destined, no control.

Okay, as long as we are clear that that is not the usual reason to reject the design argument. Scientists reject it because the reasdoning is flawed; you reject it because we have no other uinoverse to compare to.

I assume you also reject the Big Bang, given we have no other universe to compare to?

JH: Most liberal theologians are not Trinitarians, you make a criticism of liberal theology but your example is of orthodox theology. I will defend both.

Apologies. I understood that posts at CADRE had to believe the Nicene creed, which I understood to be a statement about the trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It never occurred to me that liberal theology rejects the trinity (and it is worth noting that Wikipedia is also unaware of that fact too).

JH: you are not studying it, you arte getting a proprietor of my view which are really made of both liberal and orthodox. In fact you are not even studying my views,so you have NO systematic presentation. I went to seminary and studied systematic theology.

So can you point me to some of your writing that makes clear what God is? I mean comprehensively, I know you have pieces on God as the ground of being, and other pieces on Scripture, but a single document that brings that altogether in a single, cohesive theory. I say this, because it seems to me that you almost have different gods. If you want a first cause, you go to your Ground of Being God, who is fundamentally simple. Other times you invoke the Christian God, an infinitely complex character, who is all knowing.

JH: what we think 'god should do irrelevant. What matters is what God has done and is doing, that's what theologians study.

How God would act follows naturally from the nature of God. The sad fact is that theologies cannot say how God would act because they have no comprehensive and cohesive theory of the nature of God.

Instead, as you admit, theologians study what they claim god has done. Anyone can do that. See the News last night. The Flying Spaghetti Monster did that. Don't ask me how. Or Why. We have defined theology so it does not have to answer those questions. Theology is just about asserting that your favourite god did it - if it was a good thing.

Wow, I am learning a lot about theology today.

Pix
BK said…
Pix, just curious: why would you assume Joe rejects the Big Bang "given we have no other universe to compare to"? The Big Bang is theorized to exist because we can see that the universe is expanding which suggests at some point it was much more compact. Belief in the Big Bang is not depending on the existence of other universes. I would add that even though the Big Bang can be used to argue for the existence of other universes, other universes are not necessary to believe in the Big Bang.
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous said...
JH: that's right Px. The piece of the puzzle you re missing here is that I don't accept the design argument either,for the same reason I just said I don't accept the reverse, because neither compares their universe to another universe they knkow is destined, no control.

Okay, as long as we are clear that that is not the usual reason to reject the design argument. Scientists reject it because the reasoning is flawed; you reject it because we have no other universe to compare to.


that's part of the reasoning, asserting that we know what a designed world looks like is part of the flawed reasoning. There is no flawed in the reasoning that says design demands a designer, that's true, The issue is, is this a designed world? we don't know

I assume you also reject the Big Bang, given we have no other universe to compare to?

you are so ghettoized, so stuck in your own little world if it's not chemistry you don't know shit about it. you think the design comparison thing is some christian idea so it must be stupid it's an argument made by atheist philosophers going way back.

you don't need to compare universes to understand they Big Bang because we can see the expansion.expansion is less tricky than design.


JH: Most liberal theologians are not Trinitarians, you make a criticism of liberal theology but your example is of orthodox theology. I will defend both.

Apologies. I understood that posts at CADRE had to believe the Nicene creed, which I understood to be a statement about the trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It never occurred to me that liberal theology rejects the trinity (and it is worth noting that Wikipedia is also unaware of that fact too).

actually Nicene cred settled Jesus deity and Athenian creed settled Trinity, there are some liberal Trinidadian I'm one of them.

Joe Hinman said…
JH: you are not studying it, you arte getting a proprietor of my view which are really made of both liberal and orthodox. In fact you are not even studying my views,so you have NO systematic presentation. I went to seminary and studied systematic theology.

So can you point me to some of your writing that makes clear what God is? I mean comprehensively, I know you have pieces on God as the ground of being, and other pieces on Scripture, but a single document that brings that altogether in a single, cohesive theory. I say this, because it seems to me that you almost have different gods. If you want a first cause, you go to your Ground of Being God, who is fundamentally simple. Other times you invoke the Christian God, an infinitely complex character, who is all knowing.

God is beyond our comprehension,we have to commune with God experiential we can't understand him intellectually. WE can understand bits and pieces which is why it seems fragmented. In the over all mystical experience it all comes together. I'll look at my writings.

JH: what we think 'god should do irrelevant. What matters is what God has done and is doing, that's what theologians study.

How God would act follows naturally from the nature of God. The sad fact is that theologies cannot say how God would act because they have no comprehensive and cohesive theory of the nature of God.

yes they do, three or four of them, super essentially, Thomism, process, panentheism, hybreds like Tillich who combined superessentialism with panentheisnm,

Instead, as you admit, theologians study what they claim god has done. Anyone can do that. See the News last night. The Flying Spaghetti Monster did that. Don't ask me how. Or Why. We have defined theology so it does not have to answer those questions. Theology is just about asserting that your favourite god did it - if it was a good thing.

somehow you misunderstood my meaning because i don';t remember drawing that dichotomy between doing and being. you are ragging on a academic disciplined you know nothing about, theologians talk about the nature of god all the time,

Wow, I am learning a lot about theology today.

you are not even listeningm kin fact you are noteven reasoningabout your own nudddle,
Joe Hinman said…
here is one I wrote on super essentially and Tillich's view, That talks abouit the nature of God.

Super essential Godhead
Anonymous said…
BK: Pix, just curious: why would you assume Joe rejects the Big Bang "given we have no other universe to compare to"? The Big Bang is theorized to exist because we can see that the universe is expanding which suggests at some point it was much more compact. Belief in the Big Bang is not depending on the existence of other universes. I would add that even though the Big Bang can be used to argue for the existence of other universes, other universes are not necessary to believe in the Big Bang.

As you say, the Big Bang reasons from the apparent state of the world (universe). Joe's position is this:

The reverse design argument does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non-existence of God. If it is illogical to reason from the world to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God. For this reason I swore off design arguments years ago.

In Joe's world, it is "illogical" to reason from the current state of the world. Of course, what he really means is that it is illogical when talking specifically about religion, because you might end up with an answer he does not like. He has no problem with reasoning from the current state of the universe to the Big Bang, or an Old Earth or whatever, as long as that reasoning is not treading on the toes of religion.

For specific to my comment, he say:

(1) It's the same mistake the design argument makes, it doesn't have another universe to compare to.

We also do not have another universe to compare to for the Big Bang. Does he therefore reject the Big Bang? Of course not. It does not impact on his religious views.

He rejects the "reverse design" argument because it contradicts his beliefs, and then he has tried to rationalise that with something that sounds logical, but faiuls to apply that same logic to other claims.

In brief: I was highlighting that his position is inconsistent.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
n Joe's world, it is "illogical" to reason from the current state of the world. Of course, what he really means is that it is illogical when talking specifically about religion, because you might end up with an answer he does not like. He has no problem with reasoning from the current state of the universe to the Big Bang, or an Old Earth or whatever, as long as that reasoning is not treading on the toes of religion.


These steps are so obvious, the imposition between design argument and big bang so obvious you are so oblivious I have to wonder about your acuity. I actually already provided the answer. You are clearly not willing to think about the things I say,It makes me consider that even talking to you is worth while.


Design argument labels order as"design" which is a special kind of order based upon purpose. The Big Bang doesn't need that step. We know what expansion is and it doesn't have to be a special kind of expansion caused by a purposeful act it's just expansion; so these are vastly different things.

Reverse design argument says disorder like design in that it is indicative of some state in relation to purpose only now it's no purpose. so it assumes design but sees disorder as proof of no design.Either way the assumption is made we know purpose in nature look like,
all very different from Big bang because we know what expansion looks like,it doesn't require purpose,


For specific to my comment, he say:

(1) It's the same mistake the design argument makes, it doesn't have another universe to compare to.

We also do not have another universe to compare to for the Big Bang. Does he therefore reject the Big Bang? Of course not. It does not impact on his religious views.

we don't need one we have examples of explosion they are un-mistakable in Doppler shift,

He rejects the "reverse design" argument because it contradicts his beliefs, and then he has tried to rationalist that with something that sounds logical, but faiuls to apply that same logic to other claims.

I gave the reason didn't I? what was the reason? i said it and you readit? you saw it in front of your face. why now pretend I didn't say it? but is there any idiot can can go back and read it. you must assert my reason is merely because it disagrees with my view when in reality I gave a perfectly logical reason didn't I? It is a reason related to the design argument, isn't it? it's another version it's parallel isn't it? any fool can see that.

why are you pretending I didn't have a reason?


Joe Hinman said…
Pix says:In brief: I was highlighting that his position is inconsistent.


really? by ignoring the logical reason I gave, Look at how unmistakably consistent my reasoning is, and calling it inconsistent?

design argument says order = design,

the world is orderly

therefore the world is deigned

the reverse design argument says:

the world is disorderly

disorder = no design

therefore the world is not deigned,

are those inconsistent? aren't they different versions of each other? one is reversal of the other,so that might explain why it's called "reverse design" is it not?

how inconsistent is that really?
Anonymous said…
JH: These steps are so obvious, the imposition between design argument and big bang so obvious you are so oblivious I have to wonder about your acuity. I actually already provided the answer. You are clearly not willing to think about the things I say,It makes me consider that even talking to you is worth while.

Design argument labels order as"design" which is a special kind of order based upon purpose. The Big Bang doesn't need that step. We know what expansion is and it doesn't have to be a special kind of expansion caused by a purposeful act it's just expansion; so these are vastly different things.

Reverse design argument says disorder like design in that it is indicative of some state in relation to purpose only now it's no purpose. so it assumes design but sees disorder as proof of no design.Either way the assumption is made we know purpose in nature look like,
all very different from Big bang because we know what expansion looks like,it doesn't require purpose,


You are missing my point. In the post, you say your reason for rejecting the "reverse design" argument is that it is based on what we see of the world today and because we have no alternative universes to compare to. Those reasons apply equally to the Big Bang.

The fact that you do not reject the Big Bang shows that actually you know those two considerations to be bad reasons to reject a claim.

JH: I gave the reason didn't I? what was the reason? i said it and you readit? you saw it in front of your face. why now pretend I didn't say it? but is there any idiot can can go back and read it. you must assert my reason is merely because it disagrees with my view when in reality I gave a perfectly logical reason didn't I? It is a reason related to the design argument, isn't it? it's another version it's parallel isn't it? any fool can see that.

why are you pretending I didn't have a reason?


I am not saying you have no reason, I am saying you have two bad reasons; two bad reasons that you use only for claims you want to dismiss, and choose not to apply to claims you want to uphold, such as the Big Bang.

JH: really? by ignoring the logical reason I gave, Look at how unmistakably consistent my reasoning is, and calling it inconsistent?
design argument says order = design,
the world is orderly
therefore the world is deigned
the reverse design argument says:
the world is disorderly
disorder = no design
therefore the world is not deigned,
are those inconsistent? aren't they different versions of each other? one is reversal of the other,so that might explain why it's called "reverse design" is it not?
how inconsistent is that really?


That is not the inconsistency I am talking about. I am talking about an inconsistency between how you treat the "reverse design" argument and the Big Bang. I am saying you use a specific argument against the former that if you also applied to the latter would lead you to reject the Big Bang.

Again, what you claim is that it is "illogical" to "reason from the apparent state of the world" to establish origins. In case you have forgotten, this is what you said:

The reverse design argument does exactly what the design argument does, which is probably reason enough to disregard it; it reasons form the apparent state of the world to the probable non-existence of God. If it is illogical to reason from the world to God, it is equally illogical to reason from the world to not God.

How do you think the Big Bang was established, if not from the apparent state of the world?

Pix

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