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

From: wjp <>
Date: Wed Jun 03 2009 - 16:12:53 EDT


Regarding your first comment wherein the S2-m nondesign arguments are far
greater than the one design argument, I had thought of this argument.
However, I believe that it makes no difference in my comments.
Everyone of the m distinct arguments are in the same position.
Given any argument Sn the remaining m-1 arguments are non-Sn arguments.
We just happen to have a name for one of them.
From a Bayesian perspective the structure of this argument makes sense only
if we have no reason to prefer one argument over another.

Regarding your second comment, I believe you are correct.
Design is surely a property of a world, and therefore it is
possible that the property P be Design, D.

It is a tautology to say that
1) necessarily (D -> D)

As such there would be no way for any argument to prove this false.

Of course, no one in their right mind would recommend that the property
P be design, D.

Nonetheless, the argument needs to be amended so that the property P
explicitly excludes the property D.

Taking the argument a little more seriously than I originally intended, I
can see some problems.

1) The argument intends to show that the first premise of the argument against
the design, i.e., Necessarily (D -> P), is false.
2) It does this by showing that it is Possible (D & ~P), i.e., there is a
world that has the property of Design and yet lacks the property P (now
amended to exclude the property D).
3) The method employed is to show that it is possible that a Designer could
design a world by selecting one through foreknowledge that possessed certain
properties and yet in every other respect appeared undesigned.
The act of design in this case is invisible.
4) If the mark of design is outside the world and invisible, it is plausible
that any world could possibly be designed.
5) How does such an argument do when confronted with something like the problem
of evil (e.g., the existence of ticks)? Presumably the designer would have
known that such evil would arise. Why did He not select another world?
Etc. We seem to have not escaped endless theodocies.
6) The world with evil, even horrendous evil, may have been selected for, and in that
sense designed, but whether selected for outside the world, or enforced from
within, the Designer's choices may nonetheless need to be justified.
7) We can say to the anti-design advocate that his argument fails, but we have
not escaped the task of theodocy.
8) The argument does better, I think, against those who use as the property P
something like a world of chance and necessity. For such a world, as
everyone has observed, can be employed by a designer to obtain certain
9) For me it is not so much a question of whether God is complete control
and has perfect Foreknowledge (although these are orthodox attributes of
God). What is more important and more clearly affirmed by Scripture and
the foundation of our Faith is that He can and will do as He promises.
For Him to do so it may not require the kind of absolute control and foreknowledge we


On Wed, 3 Jun 2009 08:37:57 -0300, Chris Barden <> wrote:
> Bill:
> 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
> read.
> Chris
> 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, 3 Jun 2009 14:12:53 -0600

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