"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Argument Regarding Design

Douglas Adams - Not a design advocateThe History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question "How can we eat?", the second by the question "Why do we eat?" and the third by the question, "Where shall we have lunch?"

- from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams

By the end of the twentieth century, the Western World thought it was pretty damn smart. Science in agriculture meant no-one went hungry. (No-one worth speaking of, anyway). Science in nutrition and medicine brought long life to most. And science in capitalism brought us a wide range of affordable choices of where and what to eat.

But in the twenty first century, some people want to push us back from the third phase.

While writing this post, I found my very argument used in an old entry at Confessing Evangelical:

...the religious "How?" phase is probably the most fertile ground for the Gospel...

In the "Why?" phase, things can get trickier... because people are assaulting the foundations on which its proclamation rests... But at least people in the "Why?" phase can be reasoned with, and persuaded to reconsider their position in the light of biblical teaching.

However, people in the "Where shall we have lunch?" phase can be very difficult to reach, since they will listen and nod politely as we proclaim the Gospel, before... turning away to see what else is on the menu...
WilliamPaley - Design AdvocateThe primary tool being used to push culture back from questions of "Where" to questions of "Why" is known in skeptical circles as The Argument Regarding Design, or "TARD".

It goes thusly: Many people think the The Universe appears to be "designed". The mere existence of life, the universe and everything seems so remarkable, wondrous and ridiculous that it just has to have an explanation, and it's reasonable, they say, to infer that this explanation is "god".

This argument has never convinced everyone. In fact, more people than ever see the notion of "god" as a human construct. None of this means that God does not exist, of course, or that non-believers don't think that the universe is remarkable, wondrous and ridiculous.

But we live in a cultural battleground, and for as long as TARD has existed, some have sought to argue that unbelief is unreasonable - and even dangerous.

Warriors for TARD such as William Dembski, William Lane Craig and Denyse O'Leary seek to head a vanguard of churchmen, bloggers and lay commentators all arguing that without "god" or some similar designer, the Universe and everything in it simply could not and would not exist. There would be no life, no evolution, no human laws, no scientific "laws", no mathematics, and no moral standards.

St Thomas Aquinas - Design AdvocateTo non believers, this is begging the question, amongst any number of other logical fallacies.

Only the droolingly delusional would argue that life, evolution, scientific "laws", mathematics and moral standards don't exist to some extent or another; quite a lot of people don't agree that "god" exists; and even amongst those who agree that "god" exists, there's a wide range of interpretation as to what "god" might be.

Worse, throughout history even "believers" have accepted that TARD is only compelling to other believers. Their conclusion? Non-believers do believe secretly - they just pretend they don't. This is TARD writ large.

Does God exist? Maybe he does, maybe he doesnae.

The problem for non-believers is that some people who use TARD also believe in all sorts of crazy nonsense, whether it's seventy-two virgins or Jesus riding dinosaurs. That's pure TARD.

That's not to say people who accept The Argument From Design aren't smart. Some are beyond brilliant. And it's also not to say that God doesn't exist or that the Universe isn't designed or that only atheists are right or anything like that. It's just saying that TARD can never prove that disbelief is unreasonable.

So here, in its place, is a call for unity - a call to make sure we don't end up being broadsided by people who want to bomb us back to the first question.

Whoever we are, believers and non-believers, let's stop pretending we have all the answers. Lets work together to ensure that no-one has to ask "how can we eat". And please, while we keep asking "why do we eat", lets not be so foolish as to pretend that there's only one place to have lunch.


"Let me get this straight: You believe that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father will let you live forever if you pretend to eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that he put there a long time ago as punishment for all humanity because a rib-woman made from a dust-man was convinced by a talking snake to eat fruit from a magical tree." - Unknown

"...a series of diverse sects pretty much all of whom believe that the eternal intelligent entity, who supposedly created the entire awesome expanse of the universe and every creature in it, sent one part of his threefold yet singular self disguised as an ape to this insignificant planet in a "remote" part of the galaxy to be born to a female ape who'd never had sex, and for who's species there was little to no evidence of parthenogenesis, live like a tit and die nailed to a bit of dead tree two-ish thousand years ago just so some apes could feel good about cornholing their neighbour's wife and coveting a golden calf..." - Louis, AtBC, 13 Feb 2008

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