Thread: Evolution Supports Paley's Design Argument for God Board: Purgatory / Ship of Fools.

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Posted by SecondRateMind (# 18898) on :
So by way of preamble, I have decided to study college ('A') level religious studies and philosophy, with the idea of getting into university in 2020. I am reading stuff, and doing the set questions in the text books, though I shall not be starting the course until later in the year. This short essay arises from that, and I would be grateful for any comment or criticism you might want to make on style and/or substance. However, it's the first essay I've attempted in a long, long time, so please be gentle with me!

Evolution supports Paley's Design Argument for God

It has to be admitted that the bulk of Paley's 'Natural Theology', 1802, (19 of the 27 chapters) is directly concerned with the appearance of design in biological organisms. And in 'The Origin of Species' 1859, Darwin provides us with an alternative explanation for this appearance of design, more feasible than Paley's busily micro-managing God. Any objective review of the evidence for Darwin's theory must concede this, though an enumeration of this evidence is outside the scope of this essay. Nevertheless, I shall contend that the theory of evolution does indeed support Paley's view that there exists an intelligent designer of the universe. We first need to be clear on Paley's argument:

What Paley says:
1. The universe is complex
2. The universe is regular
3. Complex and regular things generally have a purpose (by analogy with the watch)
4. Therefore, the universe probably has a purpose
5. Things that have a purpose are deliberately designed and made to fulfil that purpose
6. Therefore, if the universe probably has a purpose, then it probably has a deliberate, purposeful designer and maker, commonly known as God.

Objection to Paley:
Paley spends much time in explaining how living creatures are complex, and regular, and particularly suited to their styles of life. However, since Darwin, we have had an alternative explanation for how living creatures might have become complex, and regular, and suited to their circumstances. But we now need to be clear on what Darwin says, and how he explains that the appearance of design in living things might be the result of natural processes:

What Darwin says:
1. When living things reproduce, the offspring inherit of the features of their parents
2. However, they also tend to be subtly (or sometimes, substantially) different, to their parents, and to each other.
3. Not all these offspring will survive to reproduce themselves.
4. Those that do so survive will tend to be those most suited to their environment.
5. Over time, (long term, many generations, sometimes even geological eons), the tendency by incremental change will be for living creatures to accumulate beneficial differences and become adapted to their environment.
6. According to the features they inherit, and the features that differ, and the local environments they inhabit, sub-populations may adapt in different ways, giving rise to new species.

Response to the Darwinian objection to Paley:
Even if living things gradually adapt to the environment in this way, that still leaves a lot to be explained. The natural processes came into being somehow, and their suitability not only to support life, but to befit life for the circumstances in which it finds itself living, may be an indication that these processes were themselves designed. The sub-point being that maybe inter-reaction with the environment is the method by which God chose to design living things.

Objections to Darwinism as a universal explanation:
Problem of abiogenesis. Evolution, of course, occurs only among living creatures; inanimate matter that does not reproduce does not evolve. Scientists have some ideas around how inanimate matter might have first become animate, but to the best of my knowledge they remain speculation, and no one has yet demonstrated how life first began at all, Until we have a workable, testable, repeatable account of this development, then abiogenesis will remain an outstanding issue for those who want to claim that life is explicable through purely natural processes.
Evolution does not explain itself. Evolution did not itself evolve; it is the direct consequence of the natural laws that are, and depends upon them for its efficacy. Without the physical, chemical and biological laws, and without the laws of logic and mathematics that uphold them, evolution could not happen. A multiply contingent process, such as evolution, seems to me to stand far more in need of explanation than a rationally necessary one, such as, say, an arithmetic calculation. To say that evolution accounts for life as we know it immediately demands the follow up question 'Then what accounts for evolution?'
Why is there anything, at all? Darwin wrote nothing that addresses this question. Until such time as science can explain how matter, energy, space and time first came into existence out of nothing, along with the natural laws that govern them (which it may, in due course), and how life came to become out of inanimate matter, (which, again, science may someday accomplish) the notion of a God the Creator remains quite as reasonable an hypothesis as any other.

Response to objections to Darwinism: Dawkins
Banner-bearers for the neo Darwinist movement, such as Professor Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, do not generally tackle these objections to their world-view. Rather, they are quite content to confine their argument to the limit that evolution explains all about 'life, the universe and everything' that needs to be explained, including religion, (that being a simple matter of replicating 'memes') and so that belief in God is a mere delusion. So confident are they in their case, that the 'bootstrapping crane of gradual evolution' is a better explanation of the being of everything than 'divine skyhooks' (to use Dawkins' terminology) that even Dawkins himself in his book 'The God Delusion', 2006, does not feel the need to explain what, in general, a delusion is, and how it differs from reality, and how one might definitively tell the two apart. Rather, he simply implies that he and his like-minded cronies have a monopoly on truth, and that anyone who disagrees with them is, by definition, deluded. This is not a particularly persuasive line of argument, for all the bluster. (I find it somewhat reminiscent of Karl Marx's ideas around 'false consciousness', which Karl Popper considered to remove Marx from any possible criticism or refutation, and thereby from the scientific enterprise altogether). But then, Dawkins is a popular biologist by trade, and not a philosopher.

Reconciling Paley and Darwin.
So there it is. Though there are areas of overlap, where Darwin seems unassailable, Paley and Darwin are tackling different questions at different levels. Paley is keen to show in overview that the appearance of design in the world implies a designing creator (His final, concluding, chapter heading is: 'Natural Theology paves the way for Revelation'), while Darwin's quest is more modest, in that he simply wants a natural explanation for the diversity of life that confronts us. Paley is concerned with what can be known of God, and God's nature, as revealed by His creation; Darwin simply with the process by which species are created (not inconceivably, indirectly by God). These two projects are not necessarily incompatible, Paley being about the who created the universe, and Darwin about the how created living diversity.

To conclude, then, while much of Paley's alleged evidence for divine design amongst biological entities is better explained by Darwin's ideas on evolution, that does not necessarily mean that all of Paley's work is without merit. One can imagine without any contradiction to Darwin a God who conceived the physical, chemical and biological laws that make evolution possible, decided it would be 'a good thing' if they actually existed, and then contrived to build a universe in which they did. In this way, the sheer aesthetic quality of Darwin's theory, its simplicity and elegance and economy, combined with its scientific plausibility, broad explanatory scope and thorough-going coherence, itself is part of the corroboration a Paley familiar with Darwin's 'Origin of Species' could submit as evidence of design, in preference to the brute fact consequences of evolution as he listed them. In this way, evolution could indeed be said to support Paley's argument for God from design.
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
Somebody will be along in moment to say we don't mark homework.

ID is completely dead once the universe's initial parameters are dealt with.

I'm with Craig until somebody can explain how creation can be rational without a creator. If a rational universe can happen then irrational stuff can't? If irrational stuff can happen then there certainly can't be rational stuff?

[ 14. January 2018, 14:22: Message edited by: Martin60 ]
Posted by SecondRateMind (# 18898) on :
Originally posted by Martin60:
Somebody will be along in moment to say we don't mark homework.

Oh, OK. I'll be less honest in future vis-a-vis the issues arising from my studies that interest me. Thanks for the tip.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Posted by Boogie (# 13538) on :
Originally posted by SecondRateMind:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Somebody will be along in moment to say we don't mark homework.

Oh, OK. I'll be less honest in future vis-a-vis the issues arising from my studies that interest me. Thanks for the tip.

Best wishes, 2RM.

The Ship has been around nearly as long as the Internet. Our revered Hosts can spot a homework thread at 1000 yards, honest or less honest.

I wouldn’t bother.
Posted by quetzalcoatl (# 16740) on :
It's a very thin argument. Evolution itself looks designed, OK. God thought that flightless birds are peachy, so those damn wings had to go. But he gave ostriches damn fine legs.

The trouble with 'why' questions, is that they often smuggle in the sense of purpose. This is cheating really, since if you ask, 'for what purpose does the universe exist?', you can see the question begging more clearly.
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
" would be inexplicable why anything and everything does not randomly appear into existence."

"...if something (e.g. universe=physical reality as a whole) begins to exist without any antecedent necessary condition whatsoever, then many other kinds of things which can begin to exist within our universe would also begin to exist within our universe without antecedent condition, because (i) there would not be any antecedent condition which would make it the case that only universes (rather than these other kinds of things) begins to exist, and (ii) the properties of universes and the properties of other kinds of things which differentiate between them would be had by them only when they had already begun to exist. In that case our universe would have been very different."

Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :
Read Stephen Jay Gould's 1996 book Full House. There is no directionality in evolution. Only adaptation local conditions. Which means some organisms become complex and others more simple. Which energy is more successful I the local environment at the moment.

I sure hate it when students of theology and philosophy think they can find biological arguments for their ideas. (And also when scientists do it the other way.) It is a first year univ class this essay is for?
Posted by Anselmina (# 3032) on :
Originally posted by SecondRateMind:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Somebody will be along in moment to say we don't mark homework.

Oh, OK. I'll be less honest in future vis-a-vis the issues arising from my studies that interest me. Thanks for the tip.

Best wishes, 2RM.

Why would you 'be less honest'? It's just a case of being more appropriate in your approach to interacting on a debate forum.

It's a fascinating subject, but presenting your OP as an academic essay, it doesn't lend itself to debate; only to commentative analysis of what you've written. Which isn't really what the debate is about, is it?
Posted by Eutychus (# 3081) on :

1. We don't do homework threads*

2. This is not a blog

3. This subject falls clearly within the guidelines for our Dead Horses board.

If people want to continue discussing the issues raised here, then please start a thread in DH to do so; this one is closed.


*We are also good at spotting disguised homework threads.

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