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The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design - Page 14

As William A. Dembski notes: "The who-designed-the-designer question invites a regress that is readily declined... because such a regress arises whenever scientists introduce a novel theoretical entity... the question is whether design does useful conceptual work." 160 Dawkins objects that: "A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape." 161 In other words, the argument is that:

  1. Once you posit one designer to explain organized complexity you have to posit an infinite regress of designers (because any designer capable of designing anything would necessarily demand the same kind of explanation in its own right, and so on),
  2. but there cannot be an infinite regress of designers,
  3. therefore one cannot rationally posit a designer in the first place.

Being consistent, one must of course make exactly the same objection to the design inference in every case, including the cases that Dawkins himself admits are legitimate (such as the design inference from a sequence of prime numbers in a radio signal). The obvious legitimacy of design inferences in some cases constitutes an ad absurdum argument against the soundness of the above, logically valid argument. Dawkins rejects the plausibility of explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress, and objects to the design inference using a premise that implies the necessity of just such an infinite regress of explanations in all cases, despite the fact that he accepts the design inference in some cases. He can't have it both ways. Unless Dawkins is prepared to eliminate design inferences altogether, he must reject the "who designed the designer" objection as unsound. Since the argument is logically valid, he can do this either by embracing explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress, or by rejecting the premise that once you posit one designer you have to posit an infinite regress of designers. Dawkins actually rejects the first premise of the "who designed the designer" objection (as do I), accepting the validity of design inferences where the posited designer is an agent that he thinks he can maintain is a wholly physical being that must (he deduces) have some sort of an evolutionary explanation: "The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn't start that way." 162 Once again, Dawkins simply resorts to asserting his naturalistic worldview, begging the question against his opponents. As Woodward explains: "Dawkins... veers here into blatant circular argumentation. He simply asserts - without any evidence-based argument or philosophical proof - that no intelligence can ever exist who is a necessary (uncaused) being..." 163

According to Dawkins: "God, or any intelligent, decision-making, calculating agent, would have to be highly improbable in the very same statistical sense as the entities he is supposed to explain." 164 This is incorrect. Part of the crucial difference between a God and god-like extraterrestrials is that the former's provenance is radically different because some of its properties are radically different from those of the latter. For example, if God exists then God is a necessary being and not a contingent being, whereas if an alien exists it is a contingent being and not a necessary being.

Swinburne argues that, as "the greatest possible being", God is metaphysically simple in a way that finite entities are not. With a finite entity one always has questions about why it has this or that property and why it has this or that degree of this or that property. Such questions do not arise with God, because, as a matter of definition, God must have the maximum possible amount of every great making property (goodness, power, knowledge, etc), including the great making property of ontological security (being uncaused, independent and necessarily existent). As J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig point out that: "A mind's ideas may be complex, but a mind itself is a remarkably simple thing, being an immaterial entity not composed of pieces or separable parts." 165 Unlike a watch, God is not a contingent physical object composed of separable parts that are combined in a contingent order and which can therefore be assigned a statistical probability of one possible arrangement out of a certain finite number of possible arrangements. Not only is God not a physical object, but God is not even a contingent object; and it is a pre-requisite of the design inference that it begin with a contingent object of study. As Dembski explains: "Because information presupposes contingency, necessity is by definition incapable of producing information, much less complex specified information..." 166

Precisely because it is unreasonable to posit explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress, it is reasonable to hold that not all designers can require a designer and therefore that not all designers exhibit specified complexity. If the universe exhibits signs of design (i.e. specified and/or irreducible complexity) that would otherwise imply an infinite regress of designers, it is reasonable to hypothesise the existence of a designer who does not exhibit such signs of design and thus does not trigger a design inference. A necessarily existent theistic deity is clearly a prime candidate for a designer who exhibits no specified or irreducible complexity.


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