Posts tagged ‘teleological argument’

July 5th, 2012

Why Deductive Fine-Tuning Arguments are Weak

by Max Andrews

In a correct deductive argument if the premises are true the conclusion is true regardless of whether or not further evidence is considered.  There must be a reasonable connection or relationship between the conditions in a deductive argument (in the instance of implication).  Consider the argument, as modus ponens, that if the moon’s core is made of cheese then my desk is made out of mahogany.  What relationship do these two conditions have?  The truth-value is valid (F-T-T).  However, I recognize that this is merely a preference, which is, at times, convenient.  When making a novel explanans and prediction the relationship between the conditions may not be epistemically evident.

There are generally three options, which are often considered as an explanation for the fine-tuning data: chance, necessity, a combination of chance and necessity,[1] or a fine-tuner.  One immediate problem in implementing explanatory options in a deductive manner is that the first premise may be false wherein it may be lacking in options and the argument still is valid.  When these options are used in a [strict] deductive argument[2] it may appear as:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.[3]
    read more »

May 2nd, 2012

Does Bad Design Affect the Argument From Design?

by Max Andrews

The ‘bad-design’ objection is from observing the natural data and claiming that it could not have been designed because there are some things that lack proper function or there could have been a better way for a certain [i.e. organ] to function.  This objection is often made by many theistic evolutionists, though, still non-theists object as well, is based on an inappropriate and misconceived understanding of design.[1]  The design hypothesis merely states that there is intelligent causation that permits the existence of life (a probability factor).  Optimality of what has been designed is not a criterion for design.  Motor vehicles break down and computers crash.  With comparing motor vehicles to design, there is a natural decay and effects of heat, friction, and weather decay. 

March 25th, 2012

What if God Commanded You to do Something Wrong?

by Max Andrews

While at the VT Debate on the existence of God one of the atheists’, in passing, briefly mentioned the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This came up in the Q&A as well.  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer. (Also, see my moral argument I presented at this debate).

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

*∀= for all…, ☐=necessarily, ◊=possibly.  For instance, RIGHT is read as for all actions, ϕ, ϕ is right if and only if God commands ϕ.

March 24th, 2012

The Fine-Tuning Argument and Random Sampling

by Max Andrews

One of the objections raised by an audience member at the VT debate on the existence of God was against the fine-tuning argument and probability (for my method of argumentation please see: VT Debate-My Method of Argumentation).  In statistics a random sample drawn must have the same chance of being sampled as all the other samples.  The objection was based on this problem.  Since we know of only one universe we don’t know what the range of values for the constants and physics could be.  This was also brought up in conversation with both atheists after the debate.  Since we don’t know how narrow or broad these ranges could be there’s no way of drawing out any probability based argument from fine-tuning.  The thing is that we can know what other universes would be like if the values were different.  If our natural laws have counterfactuals that are in any way incoherent then this is an appropriate sampling.  Also, to make this objection and advocate that we just so happen to live in a life permitting universe in the multiverse then this objection cannot be made since the claim that we happen to life in a life-permitting one amongst countless others suggest we can know what the other samplings are.  For instance, here are a few examples:

March 24th, 2012

VT Debate–The Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is David Baggett’s moral argument* for the existence of a perfectly moral person I used in the VT debate on the existence of God. (I highly recommend Baggett’s book co-authored with Jerry Walls Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.) This version of the moral argument is an abductive version. I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument. You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig. For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

  1. There are objective axiological/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.

In essence, it seems that there are objective moral facts and this asks the question, “What’s the best explanation for these facts?”

March 24th, 2012

VT Debate–The Fine-Tuning Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is Robin Collins’ fine-tuning argument for the existence of a fine-tuner I used in the VT debate on the existence of God.  This version of the fine-tuning argument is an abductive version.  I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument.  You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig.  For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

The fine-tuning argument argues that when the physics and the laws of nature are expressed mathematically their values are ever so balanced in a way that permits the existence of life.  This claim is made on the basis that existence of vital substances such as carbon, and the properties of objects such as stable long-lived stars, depend rather sensitively on the values of certain physical parameters, and on the cosmological initial conditions.[1]  I’m merely arguing that the universe/multiverse is fine-tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires for cosmic and biological evolution to even occur.

  1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe/multiverse (LPM) is very, very epistemically unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPM|~FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPM is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPM|FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  3. Therefore, LPM strongly supports FT over ~FT. [2]
    read more »

October 2nd, 2011

The Method Behind the Design Argument

by Max Andrews

The argument from design is modest in what it purports.  The final claim and conclusion is that there is an extremely intelligent and personal mind, which is responsible for the design in the universe.[1]  The Greek word, telos, is an end goal or purpose.  The design argument was first developed by the ancient Greeks and popularized by William Paley (1743-1805).  The objections to Paley, which served as a catalyst for the arguments popularity among science and philosophy, were purported by David Hume (1711-1776).

The current state of the argument has gained considerable advances in interest in philosophy, theology, science, and even culture.  Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking purported in his recent [paradoxically titled] book, The Grand Design, that the universe no longer needs intervention or a supernatural being to account for the design and creation of the universe.[2]  Most of the interests in the design argument are advances in the scientific account for the beginning of the universe, which are used to argue against the fine-tuning, which will be evaluated.

It is paramount to explicate from the beginning that this is philosophy of science.  This practice is not theological.[3]  The argument is a posteriori gathered from the natural sciences.  The method by which design will be inferred is a historical science.  There are four differences between a historical science and a laboratory science.  First, repeatability is not applicable in the historical sciences; it is a metacriterion for laboratory science.  Second, historical science assumes uniformitarianism, that is, there are presently known causes to phenomena, which can be inferred by perceived effects.[4]  Third, the theories and explanatory hypotheses must lay in empirical harms way.  The conclusions must be falsifiable.  It should be noted that the type of scientific inquiry will be that of an Augustinian science as opposed to a Duhemian science.  Augustinian science permits and carries open metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Duhemian science strips science of all metaphysical imports.  This point yields to the final distinction, which is the understanding that historical science must use non-controversial reasoning.  The controversial claim for the design proponent is simply the introduction of intelligent causation.  However, this is not as controversial as much of the scientific community makes it out to be.  Agency is publicly accepted evidence by experience.[5]

Such methods are derived from the use of abductive reasoning.  The American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce first described abduction.  He noted that, unlike inductive reasoning, in which a universal law or principle is established from repeated observations of the same phenomena, and unlike deductive reasoning, in which a particular fact is deduced by applying a general law to another particular fact or case, abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present.[6] Consider the following syllogism:

If it rains, the streets will get wet.

The streets are wet.

Therefore, it rained.

The use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take.  This syllogism commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  One cannot deduce from the data, that the streets are wet, that it rained because there are many other explanations for why the streets are wet.  It could have been the case that a fire hydrant was allowed to flow, a street cleaner came through, a concerned citizen who wanted to clean the chalk off of the streets from the little children drawing pictures or writing words, there are many possibilities that could explain why the road was wet.  This was the problem that posed Peirce:  How was it that despite the logical problem of affirming the consequent, one nevertheless frequently makes conclusive inferences about the past?  The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation.  Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation.  Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon.  He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records.  Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.”[7]  Despite the apparent fallacy, W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

X is antecedently necessary to Y,

Y exists,

Therefore, X existed

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[8]

The suggestion was that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[9]  The only causally adequate explanation of the life-permitting data is intelligent causation.  Minds, by experience, are capable of presenting and originating specified complex information.


            [1] The most modest claims of the argument are for an intelligent cause.  I choose to add a “personal mind” to the argument due to metaphysical implications of an intelligent causation that will be examined later.  I will be using design, teleology, and fine-tuning interchangeably.

            [2] Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York:  Random House, 2010), 8.  Hawking and Mlodinow base their positions on a model-dependent realism approach.  This ultimately voids all objective claims and their objections to design, primarily their confidence in M-Theory, will be covered with the multiverse objection.

            [3] The argument, when combined with a cumulative case, may then be exported as philosophy of religion, but for now, the methods and data that will be examined will be done so from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

            [4] The method of uniformitarianism is currently understood in the scientific community as an assumption of the regular course of events as well as catastrophism (which would be implied by the presently known cause and effect relationships).

            [5] This is not based on religious explanations or religious experience.

            [6] In the words of Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York:  Harper Collins, 2009), 153.  Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375; “Abduction and Induction.”

            [7] Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375.

            [8] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

             [9] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.

August 7th, 2011

A History of the Design Argument

by Max Andrews

The teleological argument was not articulated and popularized as an argument for the existence of intelligent causation (God) until William Paley (1743-1805) authored his seminal work Natural Theology.  Arguments for designed existence long before Paley.  Plato (429-347 BC), in Book X of The Republic, presented an argument for design.  In the Philebus dialogue, Socrates is discussing nature with Protarchus and Socrates appeals to the apparent order in nature.  Plato articulates that “mind rules the universe” and that the mind is the cause of all.  The famous Roman orator, Cicero made a similar argument in On the Nature of the Gods (45 BC), that man may infer design by intelligent causation, that of a mind.

Paley resumes and revitalizes the argument by applying analogy to it.  He states, “When one encounters a watch, the complexity of this artifact and the interrelations of its parts lead to the inference that it was the product of a purposive design.”  The complexity of life exhibits the design like that of a mind.  The Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), responded to Paley’s claims and objected to the argument from analogy on nine different points in his work Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

Hume’s first objection was that the argument does not conclude that God exists, merely a designer.  Using Paley’s work as the referent for his objections, this may seem appropriate since Paley spends the large majority of his book reviewing the attributes of the designer, whom he calls God.  The problem with this objection is that Paley arrives to the attributes and identifies the designer only after other metaphysical implications and other evidences.  Hume’s objection is precisely the argument.  The argument does not argue for God, it argues for a designer.

The second objection is that one may only use analogy to argue for things that are similar, but the universe is unique.  The error here is that everything is unique in its own respect.  In order to properly use analogy, there must be at least some properties of the two things being compared for it to function.  The third objection Hume proposed was that analogy can only be used for things that have been experienced, and no one has experienced the beginning of the universe.  The response would be that it is not true, scientists infer the existence of operations of inexperienced entities all the time and analogizing the cause and effect relationships from what is already known by experience.  Fourth, the designer would need a designer and so on to an infinite regress (presupposing the impossibility of an actual infinite).  This objection would bring an abrupt halt to all scientific inquiry.  One does not need an explanation of the explanation in order for that explanation to be the best explanation.  This is particularly true if the explanation is an agent; agent causation is internally originating without any necessary external causes to consider.

Hume’s fifth objection was that all known designers are corporeal human beings, therefore the most one can infer is a super human being.  This objection is similar to the first objection, not all properties have to be similar in using an analogy.  Sixth, why would the design proponent not postulate more than one designer since there is no evidence of a single designer?  This would be a simple application of Occam’s razor, the principle of simplicity argues for only one unless there is evidence for more.  Even if the design proponent was to concede this objection that would be entirely within the scope of the argument’s claims because it does not defeat the need for at least one.  Seventh, the universe may be more like an organism than a machine.  This objection is a repetition of one of the arguing points for the design proponent because he claims that organisms still show evidence of design.

Hume’s eighth objection is that it is still possible that order in the universe was brought about by chance and randomness.  This is a misunderstanding of the argument.  Referring back to the evidences for design, the chance probability is infinitesimally small.  The design argument merely argues for the best explanation and the greatest probability.  The final objection Hume raised to Paley’s argument was that there are many signs of disorder in the universe.  Hume has an implicit concession of design within his own objection.  One can only infer disorder if there is supposed to be order.  The whole universe must not even exhibit order to use the argument, all one would need is one piece of evidence that exhibited design to make the argument.

August 2nd, 2011

The Methodology Behind the Teleological Argument

by Max Andrews

The argument from design is modest in what it purports.  The final claim and conclusion is that there is an extremely intelligent and personal mind, which is responsible for the design in the universe.[1]  The Greek word, telos, is an end goal or purpose.  The design argument was first developed by the ancient Greeks and popularized by William Paley (1743-1805).  The objections to Paley, which served as a catalyst for the arguments popularity among science and philosophy, were purported by David Hume (1711-1776).

The current state of the argument has gained considerable advances in interest in philosophy, theology, science, and even culture.  Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking purported in his recent [paradoxically titled] book, The Grand Design, that the universe no longer needs intervention or a supernatural being to account for the design and creation of the universe.[2]  Most of the interests in the design argument are advances in the scientific account for the beginning of the universe, which are used to argue against the fine-tuning, which will be evaluated.

It is paramount to explicate from the beginning that this is philosophy of science.  This practice is not theological.[3]  The argument is a posteriori gathered from the natural sciences.  The method by which design will be inferred is a historical science.  There are four differences between a historical science and a laboratory science.  First, repeatability is not applicable in the historical sciences; it is a metacriterion for laboratory science.  Second, historical science assumes uniformitarianism, that is, there are presently known causes to phenomena, which can be inferred by perceived effects.[4]  Third, the theories and explanatory hypotheses must lay in empirical harms way.  The conclusions must be falsifiable.  It should be noted that the type of scientific inquiry will be that of an Augustinian science as opposed to a Duhemian science.  Augustinian science permits and carries open metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Duhemian science strips science of all metaphysical imports.  This point yields to the final distinction, which is the understanding that historical science must use non-controversial reasoning.  The controversial claim for the design proponent is simply the introduction of intelligent causation.  However, this is not as controversial as much of the scientific community makes it out to be.  Agency is publically accepted evidence by experience.[5]

Such methods are derived from the use of abductive reasoning.  The American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce first described abduction.  He noted that, unlike inductive reasoning, in which a universal law or principle is established from repeated observations of the same phenomena, and unlike deductive reasoning, in which a particular fact is deduced by applying a general law to another particular fact or case, abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present.[6] Consider the following syllogism:

If it rains, the streets will get wet.

The streets are wet.

Therefore, it rained.

The use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take.  This syllogism commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  One cannot deduce from the data, that the streets are wet, that it rained because there are many other explanations for why the streets are wet.  It could have been the case that a fire hydrant was allowed to flow, a street cleaner came through, a concerned citizen who wanted to clean the chalk off of the streets from the little children drawing pictures or writing words, there are many possibilities that could explain why the road was wet.  This was the problem that posed Peirce:  How was it that despite the logical problem of affirming the consequent, one nevertheless frequently makes conclusive inferences about the past?  The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation.  Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation.  Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon.  He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records.  Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.”[7]  Despite the apparent fallacy, W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

X is antecedently necessary to Y,

Y exists,

Therefore, X existed

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[8]

The suggestion was that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[9]  The only causally adequate explanation of the life-permitting data is intelligent causation.  Minds, by experience, are capable of presenting and originating specified complex information.


            [1] The most modest claims of the argument are for an intelligent cause.  I choose to add a “personal mind” to the argument due to metaphysical implications of an intelligent causation.

            [2] Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York:  Random House, 2010), 8.  Hawking and Mlodinow base their positions on a model-dependent realism approach.  This ultimately voids all objective claims and their objections to design, primarily due to their confidence in M-Theory.

            [3] The argument, when combined with a cumulative case, may then be exported as philosophy of religion, but for now, the methods and data that will be examined will be done so from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

             [4] The method of uniformitarianism is currently understood in the scientific community as an assumption of the regular course of events as well as catastrophism (which would be implied by the presently known cause and effect relationships).

            [5] This is not based on religious explanations or religious experience.

            [6] In the words of Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York:  Harper Collins, 2009), 153.  Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375; “Abduction and Induction.”

            [7] Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375.

            [8] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

            [9] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.