Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Episode 7 - A Simple Argument Against Design

Sorry things have been a little quiet over the past week and they will probably remain so for the next week. To make up for it, here is a podcast I recorded. It covers Dan Moller's article "A Simple Argument against Design".

Here are links to some of the other papers I mention during the podcast:

Dougherty and Poston "User's Guide to Design Arguments" -- This paper details the tension between fine-tuning arguments and arguments from biological design. To put it succinctly, a fine-tuning argument only works if the probability of life given the observed cosmological parameters is high; contrariwise, a biological design argument only works if the probability of life given the observed cosmological parameters is low.

McGrew, McGrew and Vestrup "Probabilities and the Fine-Tuning Argument: A Skeptical View" -- This paper covers the normalisability problem and its relevance to the FTA.

Note: The sound quality is bad for the first couple of seconds of this but, fortunately, it improves thereafter.


  1. Hi John,

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion of my argument. Bringing up the renormalization problem is interesting. I myself don't see it as a problem, though.

    First, the possible values for the age of the earth aren't infinite. The earth couldn't have been infinitely old, consistent with known physics and geology, nor are there infinite alternatives to homologous organs.

    Second, we can divide up the various values and ask about the probabilities of the intervals: e.g., organs that are homologous vs. those that are not. Our evidence gives no reason to suppose they would be homologous on divine creation, and that's enough to run the argument.

    Dan Moller
    dmoller atsymbol

  2. I think I would want to press the argument further and consider its weaknesses. For example, considering the world as we know it, and the theories of evolution and teleology, which holds the greatest likelihood as being true conditional upon the evidence? There is a danger with this approach where likelihood is mistakenly understood as a suitable gap-filling substance. What if I were to say - well, evolution does not account for the origin of life, only the development, whilst teleology accounts for the origin,: what's the likelihood that God created life (as teleology claims) and that evolution is a process he put into place to fulfil his desired teleos of forming a habitat where humans can live?

    This would be a God of the Gaps sort of argument, although still I argue that there is greater likelihood that that theory accounts for the origin of life, than Darwinian evolution, as Darwinian evolution does not, of itself, account for the origin of life.

    Yet here we see the error of judgement:
    • Say there is problem a.
    • Solution x does not even address a, indeed, x is a description of a in action (posteriori)
    • Solution y addresses a directly, and embraces x to recognisable and valid degree
    • Solution y seems more likely to account for a than x does, but say the actual account for a is solution z.
    • Would solution y, although wrong, still be more likely right in comparison to x? In other words, is a wrong answer which actually addresses a question more likely to be right than giving a response which itself doesn't actually attempt to answer the question?