Does God exist?

On argument from design

Aparthib Zaman

This is a follow-up on this thread to my previous message. Here I wish to dwell on the suggestion by some that there is evidence for the existence of God from scientific observations, i.e argument form design

There are many who argue that the fact that the universe looks so orderly and designed, that must be an evidence of a "creator" This is called argument from design (Rather intelligent design, "ID" in short) for the existence of God. It is proposed as a sort of scientific proof for the existence of God. If the question is "Can Science be used to find God?", the indisputable answer is NO. Although there are still some scientists who believe in some abstract creator God (but very few in the traditional God of revelations), no scientist today worth their reputation, can with a straight face claim to be able to prove the existence of God through science. What some can do and have done is to suggest "intelligent" design. But that also has now been shown to be an illusion in the way one looks and interprets scientific facts, not an assertion of an actual fact of observation. The argument for an intelligent design to prove the existence of a creator (God) is very old one. This is an intuitive argument that most humans, of any level of intellect come up with. This reflects a naive attempt to answer a very profound question that is really unanswerable. Saying that something which LOOKS designed IS designed is stating a conclusion (That "LOOKS" = "IS") without a proof. Secondly to say "is designed" implicitly assumes that there already exists a designer, because "looks designed" , or "doesn't look designed" can only make sense with respect to a pre-existing designer. But that is assuming what one intended to prove in the first place! ( i.e that there happens to be a designer). To prove that "looks designed = is designed" one must first prove that there exists a designer and next has to prove that what is being claimed to be designed has indeed been designed by that designer and by nothing else. The proof, if has to be a valid one must involve both these two independent steps.

The expression "looks designed" itself is a biased interpretation of human mind based on familiarity with previous experience. For example we know a watch is designed by a human from our previous knowledge of another watch being designed by a human, or by observing the cogs and springs in the watch which are known to be designed by humans etc. So being "designed" is a perception based on context and experience from similar instances. Hence "LOOKS = IS" is an inductive statement of generalization from familiar human experience. We encounter objects in the world, which we categorize into two classes, those that look designed due to our previous knowledge of many other similar things known to be designed by humans to serve human purpose, and things that look random (to humans) as they are known to be not designed by humans, found in nature. So according to our mental map, our world consists of a set of both orderly and random objects which enables us to inductively conclude if anything arbitrary we come across is designed or not. But such inductive generalization does not make sense when we push it to the extreme case of the entire creation and and call it designed, because, we don't have such similar experiences of many other universes that were designed by known designers. The whole universe we live in is just one instance. No inductive generalization can make any logical sense when applied to universe as a whole, because there is nothing similar to generalize inductively from! So the statement LOOKS(Designed) = IS(Designed) is flawed if applied to the entire universe. Not only that, the entire universe contains both designed and undersigned objects. So we cannot strictly say that the universe is designed because it is composed of undersigned (perceived) objects too.

All the objects that we call designed, are called so because we KNOW they would not exist without a designer, a watch for example, where we KNOW there is a designer (A himan). But the same cannot be said about natural objects, like a tree. Because we don't KNOW (In the same sense as watch) that a tree would not exist without a creator (in the sense of a creator of a watch). We cannot extend inductive arguments from the class of man made objects to natural objects by rules of logic.

The fact that humans and animals look like designed objects again is rooted in bias from knowledge about manufactured objects which are known to have a designer. Besides evolution can provide a much simpler explanation of emergence of complex organs of animals by selection and mutation. At the heart of all evolution is simple incremental steps dictated by laws of Physics. So Laws of Physics can be said to be the designer of all living and non-living objects, in the entire universe, and behind the evolution (But not the existence) of the entire universe. Do the Laws of Physics then need a designer? A law giver? Again we don't have any precedence at the cosmic level to inductively generalize from to arrive at this conclusion. A belief in an uncaused, eternal God as the law giver is no more logically appealing than an uncaused eternally existing Laws of Physics governing the universe. The former is explaining the known by an unknown, the latter is explaining a known by a known, obviously a simpler one. And simpler explanation is always preferred. Not that there is any absolute way to prove one or another. The fact that the former "explanation" offers more emotional appeal to some does not make it a more plausible one from a rational or scientific view.

The perception of something being designed or not designed is not a scientific decision, but inherently a subjective one, and thus not guaranteed to be accurate. For example some abstract piece of art, if we were not told that it was by a famous artist, may have been mistaken as due to accidental splash of colors. On the other hand, an artist may have spilled some color by mistake, but it may appear to be an impressive work of by him to someone unaware of that fact of spilling! In other words, there can be objects which look designed but have no designer, and there can be objects which doesn't look designed but indeed have a designer. As Noble Laureate Steven Weinberg says:

"Even a universe that is completely chaotic, without any laws or regularities at all, could be supposed to have been designed by an idiot" (p-232, "Facing UP")

So non-randomness or regularity is no guarantee of any conscious designer.

Those who cites order in the universe as the proof of the existence of a creator invariably answers the question as to who created the creator by saying that the creator of the universe is uncreated and exists necessarily. Now if one insists that there exists a creator necessarily, then it is a fallacy to argue that a creator exists because there is order in the universe. Because if the creator exists necessarily, then its existence is independent of any order and would exists even if there is no order. There is no reason to believe that a creator will always want there to be an order in the universe. A creator might very well choose to create an orderlies universe. An order or design has no significance without an accompanying "intent". We know a watch has a designer because we KNOW that there is a purpose or intention for designing it. If an object does not look designed or shows any mark of intent, we would not assume it has a designer. For example an artist may decide to design an abstract piece of art which unless one is told, may not look designed and would thus not be considered to have a designer.


The whole argument of positing a creator based on the appearance of order or regularity is based on personal bias, not logic.

Finally the perception that there are indeed eternal laws governing our universe itself is debatable. Many scientists have argued that the laws of science in its most elegant form is nothing but an intelligent construct of human mind starting from some very basic and simple, almost common sensical set of "rules". For example Physicist and author Victor Stenger makes that point in his article at: 

He also shows how the design in the universe can also be explained naturally without invoking a deity at:  which is part of his book "Has science found God?"

The question of the objective reality of scientific laws has also been addressed in my articles at: 

The second problem is in the "logic" that "God created this universe because everything not random needs a creator, thus the universe must need a creator (God)". The logic above also contains an assertion of faith that God does not need a creator. That is s case of mixing faith and logic. The first part is applying a logic (inductive generalization). The second part (That God does not need a creator) is an article of pure faith, which is not dictated by logic. By mixing faith and logic one can make anything possible or impossible. By the same logic that one insists that universe has to have a creator because it is not random, one must also insist that God (Surely not a random entity either) also has to have a creator too. So only an additional clause of faith can resolve this fallacy. But then that clause of faith is beyond rationalism and totally arbitrary. Arbitrary and irrational article of faith can make anything possible or impossible mixing it with logic as mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, in the very word creator, the "-or" implies a conscious being, something again derived from an inductive generalization based on human experiences, because all the objects we call designed in the world are known to be designed by human, a conscious being. But we don't call a snowflake designed although it certainly is not a random or irregular object. Although the advocates of design argument may call it an object of intelligent design of God also. So when ID advocates cannot identify a human designer of an object that looks designed (by human perception) they will postulate an invisible (conscious) humanlike designer. This is called argument from ignorance and is a fallacy. Moreover such an inductive generalization of a conscious designer is also a flawed extension of ordinary logic to uncharted territory where ordinary intuition and human logic is not guaranteed to be meaningful, let alone applicable. We already know that in the Quantum world ordinary causality does not hold. Events at the microscopic level do not have distinct cause-effect identities, they only satisfy certain fundamental laws which are completely time-symmetric. Causality is an emergent phenomena at the macroscopic level.

Now let us turn to the so called fine tuning argument which is often cited as the proof for God. So many parameters in the universe seemed to be so finely tuned just so that life can flourish and evolve, which would not have been possible had any of those parameters been slightly different, hence there must be intelligent design at work behind such fine tuning. This argument is also scientifically flawed. The fact is that such fine-tuning is viewed as having a supernatural (i.e beyond physics) implication is due to (a) improper understanding of statistics (b) relying on our intuitive notion of causality from day to day experience and extending it to the extreme. To illustrate (a) for example, if we roll ten dice the likelihood of getting the sequence 6526553214 is the same as the sequence 6666666666, both of which are equally likely and are also each very unlikely to occur in one trial (1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/ 6x1/6x1/6x1/6). But the former will not catch anyone's attention, the latter will. When one is dealt a hand of thirteen cards from an ordinary deck of 52 playing cards, the probability of being dealt that particular hand is one in 600 billion (52 factorial = 52 x 51... x 2 x 1, to be exact) Yet, it would be absurd to conclude that he could not have been dealt that very hand because it is so very improbable or that there must have been a supernatural connection for him to get this rare hand!

Another important aspect of probability that is not appreciated by many that time and numbers play a very important role in statistics. A very unlikely event will eventually occur given enough time. Or equivalently if many trials are conducted for an unlikely event simultaneously, one of the trial will materialize the very unlikely. Those who have studied statistical Physics will recognize this in the ergodic hypothesis, a very important concept, which basically says that a system will traverse all possible phase trajectories given enough time. The more common example of this is illustrated by the proverbial case of million monkeys hammering at the piano when one of them will end up composing Beethoven's fifth symphony after millions of years. If someone at that moment only witnessed that particular monkey, not aware of the other millions hammering away for millions of years would find it a miracle. The same is the case of the fact of our witnessing life in the universe. We are amazed that out the billions of known stars and their planets only Sun harbors wonderful life forms and only in the planet earth. Is that a surprise. Life requires a sensitive range of conditions of temperature, gravity, density of atmosphere, right distance from star, right tilt of the axis etc for life to evolve. Only earth satisfies this condition. Its like 6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6 people rolling ten dice at once. One of them will certainly roll 6666666666. Any surprise? All the billions of planets are like ten rolled dice. Only one (earth) is 666666666 (ie. has conditions suitable for life forms). So here we are, on planet earth wondering about life. If planet "X" instead satisfied the conditions of life instead of earth then we would be on planet "X". But then we would call "X" earth. Its only a matter of label. Going a step further, it may appear that our universe with so many fine tuned parameters conspiring together to allow life to evolve in our universe must be special, an act of intelligent design. But there are two fallacies in such thinking. There is no logical or scientific evidence that the APRIORI probability for those parameters to assume any other values are the same. We cannot rule out the possibility that the ultimate laws of nature (Theory of Everything, when it is discovered) require that the parameters take on the fine tuned values, allowing no other values. Then it would not be a contingency, but a necessity of the laws of nature. Secondly we cannot rule out the new Quantum Cosmological view of infinite number of independent chaotic universes continuously being born and evolving with all different values of the Physical parameters, and where the universes which do not have the required values will not evolve to contain intelligent lives, or may not even have stars and die out soon. And there will be some which will lead to star formation and even life, which have the parameters within that narrow range, like the universe we happen to be in. It is analogous to the situation where among all the known planets and stars only Sun and Earth are suitable for life form. And as we saw above, that is a tautological fact. So the design can be ultimately traced to the laws of Physics, and it is the laws of Physics that will remain unaccounted for. But then causality is a human construct. The laws of Physics can simply "BE". It need not be subject to the same laws of causality that other emergent phenomena in nature are seen to follow. To be conservative and honest, we have to say we don't even know what to ask, believe or theorize beyond a certain limit (which is always moving further), when it comes to ultimate reality of the very existence of the universe (or universes). There is no valid scientific argument to prove the existence of a conscious creator or an intelligent designer. All such arguments at some point have to make an arbitrary assertion of faith and invoke some ill-defined non-scientific notion.

Response/Rebuttal :


On argument from design - A response to Mr. Ahmed by Mainul Ahsan

On argument from design - my response by Aparthib



Related links in Mukto-mona:

Who created you ?  : By Aparthib Zaman 

Does God Really Exist ?  : By Aparthib Zaman, Avijit Roy and Ashraful Alam 

"God" - Design Argument By  Avijit Roy 



Debate in Mukto-mona and NFB :

Rebuttal: Why A Scientist Believes In God

It is amusing, to say the least, to find such a document as A. Cressy Morrison�s �Seven Reasons Why a Scientist Believes in God,� still in circulation over a half century after it was first written and discredited. It has long been understood for what it is, the medieval �Argument From Design� clothed with technical jargon in a failed attempt to make it sound scientific when it is not.  (Read more)


Published at Mukto-mona 

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