Revisiting the Design Argument

I have been thinking recently about the design argument for the existence of God and thinking that I might perhaps write something about it. This is just for starters, a setting out point in the the hope of gathering a little bit of feedback.

The design argument is one which is so very easy to caricature that it becomes difficult for the skeptic to engage with it and at the same time avoid slipping into the style of the smart-ass ten-year-old who enjoys sneering at the little kids who still believe in Father Christmas. But it is worth making the effort.

I begin with that caricatured version of the argument, which goes something like this: We only have to look around the natural world to notice that wherever we look, things clearly exhibit all the features of purposeful design. It follows straight off from that that there has to be a designer, namely, God.

There are two major difficulties with this. If it were, indeed, true that everything shows evidence of design, would it not be rather difficult for us to distinguish between what is designed and made by human agency and what is designed and made by a greater Designer? Surely it would be difficult for young children to learn how to tell the difference. But nobody ever seems to have any trouble in this regard.

The other problem is that even if the argument did demonstrate the existence of a Great Designer, it does not establish any connection between this Designer and the God of any particlar religious narrative. Or, to put it another way, is this Designer Vishnu, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Zeus or who?

It is tempting at this point to dismiss the design argument, but we can give it a better run for its money. First, we try to set it out without inadvertantly building in any presuppositions which we can later pull out of the hat as proof of the existence of God. So here goes:

Everything which exists is capable of being explained in terms of whatever existed immediately prior to its coming into being. And that prior existing circumstance in turn can be explained in terms of whatever existed immediately before it. And so on. We can easily visualise and infinte regression of explanations such that what exists now is explained in terms of all that has existed before from the dawn of time. Each time we move one step further back in this regression of causes what we discover is another prior cause. Never do we come to anything different, only ever another prior cause.

I suggest that we term this principle of explicable coming-to-be, Logos, borrowing a term from ancient Greek philosophy. Logos means much more than simply word. It means also rational principle, or reason, or account, or pattern. So when translating ancient philosophical and metaphysical texts it is usually best to leave it untranslated so as not to impose any unintended meaning upon the text.

Now, with these thoughts in mind,let’s have a go at setting out a Logos account of origins:

In the beginning there was Logos. And Logos was where we would normally place God. Or, you could say Logos was God. It was directly from Logos that things came into being – without Logos nothing came into being. And in due course, Logos resulted in life – living creatures. So we see its glory all around – the glory of God, if you like, or the glory of parent and child.

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