Articles and materials offered by the EPS

EPS Article Library

The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design - Page 13

According to Dawkins: "This objection [to the no-design hypothesis] can be answered by the suggestion... that there are many universes..." 150 Whether or not Dawkins is right about this (the "many worlds" move commits the "inflationary fallacy" of multiplying probabilistic resources without independent evidence), it is important to notice that Dawkins accepts the point of the stories told by Swinburne and Leslie, which is that the anthropic principle is not "an alternative to the design hypothesis" 151 as Dawkins states, but is rather a description of the problem to which the design hypothesis is one answer and the many world's hypothesis is another. As Gonzalez comments: "World Ensemble advocates are obviously driven by the desire to avoid the "God-hypothesis," and, in adopting such extravagant and unnecessary assumptions, they are effectively conceding that the WAP has been impotent in discrediting the teleological interpretation." 152 It is the "many world's" hypothesis that competes with the design hypothesis to explain the observation of a "life friendly" universe, planet, etc., not the anthropic principle itself. The reason that "religious apologists love the anthropic principle" is clearly not "some reason that makes no sense at all", as Dawkins fatuously opines, but the belief that the design hypothesis is a better explanation of the anthropic principle than the many world's hypothesis.

Dawkins' "Unrebuttable Refutation" Rebutted

Dawkins champions what he considers "a very serious argument against the existence of God, and one to which I have yet to hear a theologian give a convincing answer despite numerous opportunities and invitations to do so. Dan Dennett rightly describes it as "an unrebuttable refutation..."" 153 Dawkins writes that this unrebuttable refutation of the God hypothesis is "the central argument of my book", the heart of which runs as follows:

One of the greatest challenges to the [atheistic] human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person. This temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a "crane", not a "skyhook", for only a crane can do the business of working gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. 154

Design theorists will welcome Dawkins' re-affirmation of the fact that there exists an "improbable appearance of design in the universe" and that the "natural" thing to do is to attribute this "appearance of design" to actual design. As Jakob Wolf argues:

Biological entities appear to be designed. It is very important to note that everybody agrees on the phenomenological description of the living organism. Disagreement sets in when it comes to explaining the nature of what everybody observes. Is it possible to account for the evolution of the complex organism by appeal to unintelligent causes alone, or does an intelligent cause need to be invoked? The most obvious conclusion to draw is that... an intelligent cause is needed. This perception of the matter is the one that most readily imposes itself upon us and has done for centuries. If you think otherwise, the burden of proof rests squarely with you. 155

Behe agrees:

A crucial, often-overlooked point is that the overwhelming appearance of design strongly affects the burden of proof: in the presence of manifest design, the onus of proof is on the one who denies the plain evidence of his eyes. For example, a person who conjectured that the statues on Easter Island or the images on Mount Rushmore were actually the result of unintelligent forces would bear the substantial burden of proof the claim demanded. In those examples, the positive evidence for design would be there for all to see in the purposeful arrangement of parts to produce the images. Any putative evidence for the claim that the images were actually the result of unintelligent processes (perhaps erosion shaped by some vague, hypothesized chaotic forces) would have to clearly show that the postulated unintelligent process could indeed do the job. In the absence of such a clear demonstration, any person would be rationally justified to prefer the design explanation. 156

Faced with the claim that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex (and therefore best explained in terms of design), Dawkins misrepresents the ID argument and begs the question by deducing the existence of an "easy", indirect path up the back of Mount Improbable from his assumption that there is no designer. Darwinian evolution by natural selection may indeed be the "most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered", but being the best available explanation compatible with the assumption of naturalism does not guarantee being a plausible explanation (let alone the best available explanation). Indeed, Dawkins' poor handling of the IC test demonstrates that we should remain sceptical of the claim that evolution can "do the business" and receptive towards the hypothesis of intelligent design.

Of course, Dawkins has what he considers an unrebuttable response to this line of thought ready and waiting: "the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable." 157 There may actually be two overlapping objections here: the "who designed the designer" objection, and the "explaining something with something more complex" objection. The "who designed the designer" objection is a question that can be posed to all design inferences, but as Jay Richards observes, no one would raise this question as an objection to the design inference in any other field of explanation: "If someone explains some buried earthenware as the result of artisans from the second century BC, no one complains, "Yeah, but who made the artisans?"" 158 Even supposing we can't answer the "who designed the designer" question, this does nothing to invalidate the inference that there was a designer. Dawkins fundamentally misunderstands the nature of explanation. William Lane Craig comments:

It is widely recognized that in order for an explanation to be the best explanation, one needn't have an explanation of the explanation (indeed, such a requirement would generate an infinite regress, so that everything becomes inexplicable)... believing that the design hypothesis is the best explanation... doesn't depend upon our ability to explain the designer. 159


 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15 
Academic Disciplines, Faithfulness, and the Christian Scholar Christian Philosophers and the Secular Academy EPS Apologetics MP3s