“Who Designed the Designer?” and other ID Questions

I recently noted that a visitor named Brian raised a number of challenges to the idea of intelligent design. Because of the large number of questions that he asked, I felt it better to respond by means of this new blog rather than add to the comments section of an older post.

Before beginning, however, I think it is important to note the general rule that it always easier to ask the hard question than to give even a simplified answer to it. Thus, when he asks his first question, it is a very complex question in and of itself which will require a great deal more time to answer fully than I have in a blog format. Thus, if some of the answers seem incomplete, it is because they are only intended to give rough answers to his inquiries.

Brian’s first question:

If the universe was created by an intelligent designer, where did the intelligent designer come from?

This is not an uncommon objection to both Intelligent Design (“ID”) and to the Argument from Design for the Existence of God (the “Design Argument”) generally. However, since Brian is asking this question in the context of ID, then that is the context to which I will limit my answer. The answer is: we don’t know, nor does ID seek to answer that question. You see, Brian is mixing up ID with the Design Argument. Whereas the Design Argument says that there must be a god who designed the universe, ID merely looks at nature and points out evidence of design. ID does not take a position on who or what designed or the designer’s nature (beyond noting that he/she/it must have an advanced intellect to be able to design what we see in nature).

Brian’s second question is more of an observation than a question:

You are right, intelligent design does not stipulate one or many gods... after all, as the Raelians point out, life on earth could have been created by extraterrestials. The point is meaningless.

I guess it is meaningless only if you are taking the position that the Christian God is the creator and that the only purpose of Intelligent Design is to lead people to a belief in the Christian God. Again, this exposes a misunderstanding of the nature of ID. ID is not about leading people to Christianity. It is about looking at nature and noting that the appearance of design that is recognized by many scientists may not simply be an appearance, but may actually be designed. The identity and nature of the designer is not directly knowable from science. It could be extraterrestials, but ID itself does not speculate on the issue of “who” so much as “there is evidence of design.”

Brian describes his third question as the “more important question.”

If a supreme being (beings) created the universe, how did they (he/she/it) do it? What processes did they use? Maybe we could use SCIENCE, the study of NATURE, as a way of determining how the universe was created? Oh wait, we are... evolution and the big bang!

Because of his obviously flippant attitude, Brian doesn’t see that he is very close to being right. Let me make this clear: ID does not stand in the way of science. For centuries, scientists have studied nature not to prove how nature worked absent a god, but to find out how God used the processes of nature in the creation of the world around us. So, to the extent Brian is trying to set up a false conflict between Christianity and science, he is missing the point that they are not seen by most Christian philosophers as actually being in conflict.

But again, Brian is reading Christianity into ID, and it isn’t there. ID is science based. ID starts with the scientific study of nature but merely refuses to unnecessarily expand natural processes beyond their natural boundaries in order to support a naturalistic world view. If the evidence shows that something evolved, then it evolved! But if the evidence leads a scientist to infer that evolution or other natural processes cannot account for a thing, should a scientist merely accept the reigning paradigm or should he argue that the evidence points in another direction? ID says no. Many scientists apparently think that these theorists should keep their mouths shut and support the reigning paradigm which the scientist is questioning.

This is about integrity in science. This is about looking at the evidence without unwarranted presuppositions. This is about not restricting scientific research to purely naturalistic answers if the evidence points in that direction.

Oh, and by the way, the present scientific viewpoint that there was a Big Bang actually supports the idea of an outside designer because one must ask what caused the Big Bang to bang, where the singularity which banged came from, and why the bang ended up banging in a way that made a universe that supports life (when it didn’t need to).

After a side comment, Brian continues:

It is ridiculous to use your argument that no atheist has disproven the existence of a god! How many times do logicians need to make the statement,

"You CANNOT prove a negative!"

You can't prove that God doesn't exist. Likewise, you cannot prove that vampires, wumpuses, or mermaids do not exist!

Okay, I agree. So why are there so many atheists? If it is impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist, then the best that they should say is that they are strongly agnostic. But that is not what they say, and I take them at their word. If you think that they are being ridiculous, then I accept your word without further comment.

Brian continues:

How do you prove that a god exists? How do you separate a god from naturally occurring forces?

For the answer to the first question, I cannot “prove” that God exists because I cannot “prove” anything to someone who doesn’t want to believe it. If you don’t want to believe I exist, I cannot prove it to you. But if you want evidence, I can point you to much evidence for the existence of God. Try looking over our website which links to many many sources that will provide both arguments and evidence for the existence of God. I encourage you to have an open mind on this subject.

With respect to the question of how to determine God from a naturally occurring force, I urge you to read some of the literature of the ID movement which spends a great deal of time explaining what criteria is used to try to make that distinction. You can agree or disagree, but if you read it carefully and fairly, you will admit that it isn’t pseudo-science.

Brian closes:

If a god materialized in front of you, how do you prove that it is a god and not a highly intelligent extraterrestial (or time-traveler) pulling your leg?

Good question. Answering from a Christian perspective, I suggest that since God has said he will not make a second coming to earth until the second coming referenced in Revelations, I would be inclined to seriously doubt anyone suddenly appearing and claiming to be God. Of course, this is not the least bit relevant to ID which would simply say that the extraterrestrial may be the designer. I suspect ID would say that if it claims to be a god, it is your call as to whether you treat him that way or whether you treat him as simply a rather advanced fellow being.

Category: Intelligent Design


Will G said…
I answer the 'who designed God argument' by saying that a pre-requirement for any design argument (be it atheist or theist) is NOT showing that said characteristics are marvellous, or special (as God's and to a far lesser extent, any species) but in showing that such characteristics are unlikely. It doesn't matter a whit whether God's characteristics are marvellous and spectacular unless you can demonstrate that they are unlikely given a god. So basically, the ball is in the atheist's court to show how this is the case.
Weekend Fisher said…
Some of the questions later in the post were kind of interesting to me.

"How do you prove that a god exists? How do you separate a god from naturally occurring forces?"

Let's start with "naturally occurring forces". Logically, we're nearly bound to agree on at least that: there's something that's natural, a force to be reckoned with, that caused the universe to come into being. If there's reason and will involved, then "God". Otherwise, "may the force be with you." The "reason and will" view is normally dismissed out of hand just because people have decided that the most obvious explanation is "unscientific". But that's assertion; there's nothing inherently "unscientific" about the cause having reason and will. What, the most obvious, logical, and intuitive explanation is supposed to be swept under the rug because not all theists are boy scouts and because mankind knew less centuries ago than we know now?

I've talked to atheists who seem to think that, if the cause of the universe has reason and will, that amounts to "giving up on scientific inquiry." I really don't see how they figure. Of course there's a semi-allergic reaction to the "G" word.

Take care & God bless
rooobosmith said…
If improbable complexity is the sole evidence of design, then you cannot posit an even more complex intelligence as the source of the design. This is an inherent contradiction.

In addition, reputed insufficient evidence for one particular theory (evolution) does not constitute evidence FOR any other particular theory of the creation of man.

There are volumes of evidence in support of evolution. What is the POSITIVE evidence for ID? Other than the red herring that evolution has not been proven and is improbable? Remember, given an infinite sample space anything which is possible will happen. Man's existence proves it is possible.
BK said…

There is nothing inherently contradictory about positing an intelligence to explain the source of design. If I note that the carvings of the Presidents' faces on Mt. Rushmore bears the earmarks of design, does that mean that it is inheretly impossible to posit that there was a designer for the carvings on Mt. Rushmore? Obviously not.

To your second point, ID does not rely solely on the deficiencies of evolutionary theory. It seeks to point out design based on the factors of probabalistic complexity and conditionally independent patterns.

The third point you make is, to beg your pardon, almost silly. We don't have an infinite sample space. And there is no showing that (as an example) evolution of the first cell is possible because there is no showing as to how it possibly could have happened.

Positive evidence for ID? Look at the simplest cell and tell me what is the better explanation for the information contained in the DNA -- chance or design? Given the complexity and the functionality, the answer is obvious if you would only open your eyes to see it.
rooobosmith said…
An even more complex intelligence as the source of design is inherently contradictory, because you've already assumed that the less complex entity required a designer. Therefore the more complex entity also requires a designer....

Mt Rushmore is a silly comparison. It is nowhere near the complexity we are discussing. Besides, I never said the design of complexity is impossible, just that its existence does not prove design and that it is contradictory to state that all complexity requires a more complex designer. Many people find what they believe are (super) naturally occurring images of Mary, or other faces, on rocks, buns and vegetables. If you look in enough places, you are bound to find what you want to see.

How do you know the sample space is not infinite? The one we can observe is already close. And our obseration technology is really quite crude. If you'll note, I did not say the sample space IS infinite, just that give a sufficiently large sample space, wildly improbable events become certain.

If you're going to posit an intelligent designer, and then just say you "don't know" how that designer came to exist, then why not just say you don't know how life came to exist?
BK said…

No offense, but your first comment simply is not logical as written. Perhaps you need to restate it?

I use Mt. Rushmore as an example because it is a simpler example of what we are discussing. And yes, I think that the complexity in biological systems is much more complex than Mt. Rushmore, which makes a strong case that biological systems are designed. And your mantra that a complex system requires a more complex designer is an unsupported inference.

Astronomy tells us that the universe is of a finite size and only 14billion years old. They are believed to be finite by our best scientific evidence.

We don't say we don't know because of the apparent design. Its that simple.
BK said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rooobosmith said…
I'll state it more concisely:

If you state that anything of sufficiently ordered complexity requires an intelligent designer, then that intelligent designer must be of that complexity or greater, otherwise it would not be considered to be "intelligent." Therefore, that intelligent designer must have been designed by an even more intelligent designer, and so on, ad absurdum.

There is as much evidence for ID as there is for the contention that life was established by time travel (another logically inconsistent loop.)
BK said…

I'm curious, as part of your response, you say: " . . . that intelligent designer must be of that complexity or greater, otherwise it would not be considered to be "intelligent." On what basis do you make that assertion?
rooobosmith said…
Are you suggesting that it is possible that "intelligence" may be achieved by an entity of less complexity than that which "requires" a "designer?" I have thought of the possibility, but believe that it is inconsistent with the premise of ID. It is more consistent with the premise of evolution, wherein more complex entities are assembled from less complex entities whether through random acts of nature or the purposeful guidance of man.

Man, despite his extensive efforts, has yet to design anything nearly as complex as himself, although we may be getting close to the complexity of a single cell (just not in biology). I am not aware of any indisputable reasoning which prevents the design of something more complex than the entity which designed it, but it seems that source entity would at least need to be as intelligent and complex as man. I also find it difficult to believe that man will ever design something more complex than himself, although with the feedback loop of using complex tools to design ever more complex tools, it may happen.
Lurchling said…
I'm a practicing Christian and an evolution advocate. Basically, I know enough to realize that any kind of argument from evolution to disprove God is at best a waste of time. Even one of my anthropology professors at school says he has heard some very convincing cases for God. No science can prove or disprove things happen for a reason or not. No science can bring us to if Jesus did the things he did or not. Plus all this talk of there being no God because things are created via some sort of process through time is also pointless. The fact that we live in four dimensional space makes how we perceive time somewhat of an illusion. Basically since the creation of the universe some 13.7 billion years ago, time is a facet which one could see all events of a worldline or a persons life at one point. If I could see your life from beyond our limited 3-dimensional + time view and get into our true 4-D reality, changes through time are an illusion and there is no such thing as past or future. I could see all the events of your life in one moment. That seems kind of like omniscience from a cosmological view is somewhat possible, eh? So weird our universe exists in such a way that lines up with very ancient ideas of God's all-knowing nature. Even if time was not a facet, an all-knowing being would still be able to see existence in such a way. So any complexity can still very easily be because of a creator which has things here for a reason and no science can ultimately be the answer to the God question. Plus you ignore cause and effect(uncertainty principle ignores cause and effect-its inherent flaw). "We were bound to happen" is only avoiding the whole issue and proves or reasons nothing about the meaning of life and God. You are also thinking of this sentience behind existence in too material or biological a way that it must be complex in the way you think it must be. God is just that eternal spirit that is and knows. Completely unfalsifiable but with enough evidence from Christ and existence to infer he's there for us. Evolution(in terms of disproving God) is trumped by time being a facet. The omniscience of a creator trumps evolution. Cause and effect makes a case against evolution. Christ makes a case for God and against aimless existence. I have full faith in the ability of science and I'm sure we will understand the origin of life someday, but just like evolution and all other aspects of nature, they are the creative tools of a creator. No science or philosophy has yet created a solid case against the creator and it never will. Science can't be used for such things. It has it's limits.

Popular posts from this blog

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

Why Christian Theism Is Almost Certainly True: A Reply to Cale Nearing

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

The Criteria of Embarrassment and Jesus' Baptism in the Gospel of Mark

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Scientifically Documented Miracles

Extraordinary Claims, Ordinary Fallacies, and Evolution