Re: [asa] The argument against the argument against design

From: Chris Barden <>
Date: Wed Jun 03 2009 - 07:37:57 EDT


I concur that the defeater could be read as a reason not to believe
anything in particular, but the argument I presented is not usually
couched as such. You're right to say that often arguments against
design are not too rigorous. The most charitable reading of such is
to infer that scenarios S2-m are all exclusively non-design scenarios,
such that regardless of which S2-m obtains (many who make this
argument seem not to care, or treat evolution as a capital-S Scenario
that subsumes the others), it is far more likely that non-design
prevails given there are m-1 (where m is a large number) of those and
only 1 design scenario. How do we know there is only one way in which
design happens, or that it is necessarily disjoint with the other
scenarios? The users of this argument don't say. This is the
pejorative sense in which evolution is "overwhelming" -- when it is
used as a rhetorical bludgeon.

As to your first argument, I don't see that it would need to be
probabilistic at all. It is quite interesting. If all the premises
hold, then the conclusion follows. I note, though, that contra
premise 10 there _is_ at least one property P a world must have if it
is designed: when P is "is designed". If "is designed" is itself a
property, then your argument needs to be modified, perhaps modified in
a way that some would argue impermissibly imports the conclusion into
the premise. If "is designed" is not a property, then the modal
reality of the argument does not cohere (i.e. there must be some way
to distinguish a world W that is designed or not that does not depend
on its being actual). These issues may be redeemable however.

Your second argument is much more like a particular flavor of the
argument against design, what I think of as the "theological" argument
against design. If God really designed world W, and God is really
all-good as well as free and all-powerful, then why does property P
obtain, where P is something generally regarded as evil or at least
distasteful, inefficient, non-optimal, etc.? Seeing as most
supporters of this argument are not theists, they have
(philosophically speaking) no absolute ground for deciding what is
good. Thus it is at least indefinite as to how the argument should be


On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 8:36 PM, wjp <> wrote:
> Chris:
> This argument, at least in its most crude summary presented here, appears to be a defeater for all arguments.  After all, even if we have only two different reasons to believe anything, and we (as this argument does) judge them to be of equal weight, we would only have a 50% probability of choosing one over the other.  And if we have a large number of different reasons for believing something, each being treated equally, we would have good reasons to conclude that we ought to believe nothing.
> It appears to me that such an argument is perhaps commonly made, but is the constant companion of predoominantly lazy thinkers, or people who simply want to believe that what they believe is as good as anything that anyone else believes, and doesn't want to be bothered with the specifics.
> I can see that there may be more to the argument.  That's just my take on cursory review.
> bill
> On Fri, 29 May 2009 10:31:16 -0300, Chris Barden <> wrote:
>> Bill,
>> The argument against design I am more familiar with is probabilistic
>> and could be considered as follows:
>> 1) If this world is designed, then properties P1-n obtain (scenario S1).
>> 2) If this world is not designed, then properties P1-n obtain because
>> of ... (scenarios S2-m).
>> 3) P1-n obtain.
>> 4) m is a large number.
>> 5) Therefore, it is much more likely that P1-n obtain due to scenarios
>> S2-m than due to scenario S1.
>> I was wondering if you could provide a real-life example of your
>> formulation of an argument against design, as it seems different from
>> the ones I am familiar with.
>> Chris
>> On Wed, May 27, 2009 at 10:11 AM, wjp <> wrote:
>>> Terry et al. have presented an argument, or perhaps I might say
>>> a scenario, which purports to cohere a world designed by God
>>> and yet ruled by chance and necessity.
>>> I here use this scenario to offer an argument against what I
>>> will call the argument against design.
>>> It is an argument much like Plantinga's Free Will Defense.
>>> Consider the argument against design as going something like
>>> this:
>>> 1) Necessarily if a world W is designed, W will have property P.
>>> 2) Property P does not obtain in this world.
>>> 3) Therefore, This world is not designed.
>>> To defeat this argument all we need show is that it is possible
>>> that a world W could be designed and not possess property P.
>>> In order to defeat this argument against design,
>>> we need not argue that world W obtains, nor that W is the
>>> actual world (this world).
>>> 1) Suppose there is an all powerful designer D with perfect
>> foreknowledge F
>>> and free will.
>>> 2) By premise (2) above, there is a world W in which P does not obtain.
>>> 3) Because of F the designer D can foresee all the events and properties
>>> of world W.
>>> 4) Because D is all powerful and free, D can freely choose to realize
>>> any possible world.
>>> 5) To design something is to be able to freely choose to bring something
>>> into being.
>>> 6) To freely bring something into being entails that it would be
>> possible
>>> for the agent to not bring it into being.
>>> 7) The designer D freely decides to realize world W
>>> knowing it does not possess property P,
>>> even though D could have realized a world where property P obtains.
>>> 8) Therefore, world W is designed.
>>> 9) Hence, it is possible for a world W with property P to be designed.
>>> 10) Hence, there is no property P such that if that world were designed
>>> that it would have to have property P.
>>> 11) Hence, any possible world could have been designed.
>>> Note, that this argument defeats also the argument that if
>>> a world W is designed, then necessarily W has property P.
>>> It does not, however, affect an argument from design that might
>>> argue that necessarily if P obtains, then W is designed.
>>> bill
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Received on Wed Jun 3 07:38:31 2009

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