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Is there a good argument for the existence of God as a purposeful designer? - blackburn and Taylor's arguments

Updated on January 15, 2013

Those are the arguments supplied by Blackburn and Taylor presented in the best objective manner :)

Is there a good argument for the existence of God as a purposeful designer?

Throughout history theologians have indulged themselves in the debate regarding the existence of god and whether the world around us stands as evidence. This essay deals with the argument for design or the existence of a wise architect supplied by Blackburn’s and Taylor’s readings. Unlike other views, the argument for design derives it standing point from observations of the intricate world around us, concludes that the latter is not chaotic or the result of mere accidents, and reasons out with uncertainty the existence of a wise architect. The sections below tackle Taylor’s and Blackburn’s views of the arguments as well as the major counterarguments.

Unlike Blackburn’s style in presenting his arguments in the opening of the text, Taylor begins with two examples which he thoroughly inspects while aiming to present the reader with the basic outline of the argument he addresses. He supposes a person riding on a train glances out the window and sees a group of white stones arranged in a manner that spells out a statement regarding arriving to Wales and presents two interpretations. Solely by looking at the stone arrangement, you can assume that the stones were purposefully arranged in this manner to signal the arrival to Wales, hence they were not the result of mere accident or natural phenomenon. On the other hand, you can assume that the arrangement was the result of natural factors that led the white stones to fall in this specific manner, thus, it does not serve a purpose for the viewer.

In the next sections, Taylor begins by expanding on the second perspective by drawing a distinction between how things may appear and what they actually are. In fact, some stuff with their intricate structures, may point out to a purposeful designer yet, may be explained by the laws of physics and biology among others. For example, snowflakes viewed under the microscope seem to exhibit complex structures of which we might infer the existence of purposeful designer. Yet, this structure can be explained under the laws of crystallization. Hence, this supports the second notion regarding that complex structures around us can be the results of mere coincidence and natural phenomenon.

On the other hand, the railroad example is extended by stating that if the viewer solely concludes from observing the stone arrangement that he arrived to Wales, then it would be irrational to believe that the stones were arranged in a purposeful manner to deliver that message. Had the person believed that the stones were the mere results of chance and accident, he would not have concluded his arrival to his destination. One striking note regarding the structure of Taylor’s argument is the restriction of the conclusion the viewer makes to the observed message portrayed by the stones. Had Taylor not made such a restriction, the reliance on the message delivered by the stone arrangement would not hold and thus the conclusion would be faulty.

Similarly, Taylor’s stone with weird markings that resemble that of an ancient language serves the same purpose. Initially, the stone is dug to show markings that may be purposefully carved to portray a certain message, yet based on the distinction made earlier regarding appearances and reality of objects, the markings could be the result of natural phenomenon such as earthquakes or glaciations as pointed out by Taylor. Following the same logic above, if markings translate to a sentence referring to certain events that took place in the past and a person solely relies on these markings to make conclusions regarding the information presented, then he can’t believe that the markings are the results of natural phenomenon or accident as they were purposefully designed to convey that message.

As we have seen through Taylor’s argument, the interpretation of whether there exists a purposeful designer our senses and how we rely on them. Human creations resemble human organs. Yet the latter are more intricate and serve wider ranges of purposes. For example, the camera is similar to the human eye, yet the latter is more complex, allows a person to perceive the world around and draw conclusions about what his surroundings. Taylor then concludes that the human eye’s intricate construction as well as other senses and faculties may serve a higher purpose for its construction or could be the result of biological phenomenon such as genetic mutation, natural selection, etc. Yet, just like with the stone arrangement, we do rely on our senses to perceive the world and draw conclusions, although our sense maybe fallible, then it would be irrational to rely on our senses and yet hold the belief that their construction wasn’t of a premeditated purpose.

Blackburn begins discussing the argument at hand under the section “The Wise Architect”, by initiating it with Cleanthes’ argument (a character in Hume’s dialogues). Cleanthes observes that the world around us resembles a gigantic machine with subdivisions each serving as a mean attending to a predetermined end. Following the analogy’s rationale, he states that the effects or the products of the world around us resemble those of human production, although the prior are grander, more complex and serve a purpose or an end, then the world around us was created by a wise architect to serve a certain purpose much grander and genuine.

When constructing an analogy, the points of similarity between the two object and the freedom of stretching the analogy to derive a conclusion without being at fault is essential. Yet, the argument in Blackburn’s text is a posteriori, i.e. the analogous nature of the argument yields various weaknesses as pointed out by Blackburn, Philo and Darwinists. Initially, any two items can have similarities which can be used to construct an analogy yet, fall short when it comes to inferring conclusions regarding a second party while relying on the similarities both items exhibit which is applicable to the machine analogy. Although the universe exhibits a complex and intricate structure similar to that of a watch, this similarity is insufficient for drawing general and drastic conclusions regarding a single aspect the existence of a purposeful designer. To expand on this counterargument, consider that chimpanzees and humans share almost the same set of DNA (seem to have the same intricate structure). Human are capable of doing high level mathematical yet inferring that chimpanzees are capable of doing such acts is irrational. Another point suggested by external sources show that the DNA similarity and the ability to do high mathematical thinking can be tested. On the other hand, going back to the analogy of the watch’s purpose is obvious yet the purpose behind the universe can’t be put to test; you can ask the watchmaker about the method of construction, what each subdivision of the watch serve, yet you face a dead end when you attempt such a test with the universe. Therefore, as an analogy is stretched it becomes more prone to being at fault.

Similarly, intricate human productions such as skyscrapers, space shuttles, or space stations require the collaborative effort of many designers, thinkers, builders etc. , yet the analogy suggests the existence of only one designer for a far more genuine and complex world. Perhaps the analogy’s suggestion of one god is the product of religious beliefs relating to the existence of one creator for the universe. This counter argument would not be sufficient to refute the argument of design if the latter expands its notion to multiple designers which may cause an up roar from certain faiths.

Another objection stated Blackburn’s text goes as the following, if we are to consider that the world exhibits similarities with human productions, why not suggest that the universe is like animals or vegetation. And just as the latter grow and exist by generation and reproduction then is it not faulty to conclude that the universe is the result of such processes. The natural generation argument leads to the crumble of the analogy by refuting the existence of a purposeful designer.

We see trees growing in nature on their own, yet an important point to consider here is perhaps this intricate nature of theirs that allows them natural generation is also the production of a purposeful designer just like how tools used by the watchmaker are the product of human work (tools are analogous to generation here and phenomenon of natural selection). Then, the counterargument in Blackburn’s article is refuted.

As we have seen the argument of design’s faults lie in its analogical nature, assumption of existence of one god, lack of understanding of causality, and the purpose behind such a design. On the other hand, some philosophers such as Voltaire argue that even if the argument of design were valid, it wouldn’t be capable of proving the existence of wise architect who possess the characteristics that the concept of “god” is usually attributed to (omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent), for by the end of the day he can be an extremely powerful human with superior abilities. Also, the argument of design raises questions regarding choosing complexity as an indicator for god’s existence (Premise of the argument). We have seen in our business courses that indicators (such as gross income of a bank) chosen to assess operational risk should have a rationale behind them, yet, we can’t not assess on what basis complexity was considered a leading indicator to the existence of a creator. It is like attributing everything complex and unexplainable to god. As a conclusion, arguments may differ, points of views may class yet, there is no doubt that the belief regarding the existence of god is a personal and philosophical one which will always intrigue human minds.


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