Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Argument from Order

The argument from order has long been used as a defense of the Christian faith. It also has serious problems. So serious that some have been inclined not to use it. Part of the problem turns on what we mean by it.

One way to approach it is to see the universe as being designed for us. This runs right straight into the traditional problem of evil. If the universe is designed for us, why do so many bad things happen? Even the argument from size, which I generally consider a very weak one (Does something's importance depend on its size?) is relevant here. If God designed things for us, why so much empty space? There are things that can be said in answer here. We can say that this is a world in rebellion against God, resulting in the existence of evil. We can ask, with Philip Yancey, why there is pleasure and beauty in the world even when there does not obviously need to be. We can ask, with C. S. Lewis, where we get the idea of evil if there is no God to base it on. But all these are arguing points. It may be questioned whether we can make this into a powerful argument for God's existence. And there is a danger here of falling into an unrealistic sentimentalism that ignores all the bad things in the world and only sees the good. I can see how a person might weigh out the things in the world, the good and the bad, and still conclude there is an argument here for God's existence But it is not something to make a real skeptic pause.

There is, however, another argument from design that I believe has some real substance to it. That is the argument from complexity. This argument claims that this universe is too complex to be explained by pure chance. This has to be distinguished from another argument I believe has value, which is why something rather then nothing is here. The argument from complexity looks at how that something is organized and asks whether it looks like it could have come about by chance. It looks at the complexity of the living cell and asks whether it could have simply happened. It looks at the complexity of the physical laws and asks how they came about. It asks questions about irreducible complexity and fine tuning. In this effort, I find science is in many ways on our side. When it was  thought the universe could be explained by simple substances acting according to simple laws, it made sense that the only thing God had to do, if anything, was to kick things off, and they would all continue automatically. But the universe is more complicated than that. And we have to ask, given that, whether the explanation of chance really works. I believe there is a worthwhile point to be made here if we can distinguish it from the first version of the argument.

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