Wednesday, May 9, 2012

[PHI 3000] The Audioslave Problem

One version of the argument from design is an analogical argument that goes roughly like this:
  1. Man-made artifacts exhibit design because they were created by intelligent beings.
  2. Nature exhibits design.
  3. Therefore, nature was created by an intelligent being.
As Philo points out in David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, there are several problems with the man-made artifacts : human designer :: nature : divine designer (or, as it is more commonly known, watch : watchmaker :: world : world-maker) analogy:
  • If we take this analogy seriously, then we might as well conclude that nature was created by a committee of divine designers, since man-made artifacts usually take more than one person to make.
  • If we take this analogy seriously, then we might as well conclude that nature was created by a malevolent divine designer, since natural disasters bring about pain and suffering to living creatures.
The latter, of course, leads to the Problem of Evil.

Now, consider another, similar question. According to many theists, life is supposed to be a gift from God. At the very least, life is something that is granted to humans by God. If that is the case, given the man-made artifacts : human designer :: nature : divine designer analogy, doesn't it seem strange that God would give us something without a single and clear instruction manual? After all, man-made artifacts come with a single and clear instruction manual. So, by analogy....

If one takes the man-made artifacts : human designers :: nature : divine designer analogy seriously, it seems that one can argue as follows:
  1. If the divine designer were like human designers, then the divine designer would give us a single, clear instruction manual with the gift of life.
  2. The gift of life doesn't come with a single, clear instruction manual.
  3. Therefore, the divine designer is not like human designers.
What do you make of this argument? Does it show that the man-made artifacts : human designers :: nature : divine designer analogy, and hence the analogical argument from design, is weak?


  1. The argument that you have illustrated, in my opinion, is a weak argument because of the following reasons.

    1. Divine Designer does not necessarily have to be like a human designer. He might be just a designer, who is unlike human, and who has something else in mind other than to hand us with a manual that all of us can abide by. If there exists a manual, we would be just "machines" who follow a set of guidelines, instead of using our own intelligence, to live life in ways we deem appropriate. God gave us intelligence for a reason, so that we do not need a manual but can come up with one for ourselves.

    2. How do we know that the manual does not exist?
    According to Buddhism, which I believe is a form of Eastern philosophy rather than religion, we were all born good, and then in the course of life, the goodness is overtaken by desires and that is when the goodness starts to disappear. Analogously speaking, God might have endowed us with the manual but in the course of life, the manual got lost because of the overwhelming negligence of its usage by people.
    Secondly, technically, manuals for life (not even a single manual) exists. Philosophy since its birth, from Aristotle to Epicurus to Buddhism to Nietzche, has come up with the ways on how to live happy lives. These manuals are actually the product of God who gave us the intelligence to come up with these.

    Because of these two reasons, I believe that the argument against the analogical argument from design is weak.

  2. The argument does pose as a strong opposition for the claim that God created life. However we need to take into account that human designers create man-made artifacts while the "divine designer" created the world. The difference here is that the man-made artifacts do not have free will. Hence, it is easier to write an instruction manual for man-made artifacts than it is for life.
    The argument does weaken the analogical argument from design because God should have provided an instruction manual for life. However, there is also the concern that if God made himself known, then it takes away our choice of whether to believe or not. We would be forced to believe in him because his existence would be undeniable.
    I do agree with the conclusion that "the divine designer is not like human designers" because if he was, he would have provided an instruction manual.

  3. I think that the argument does not reveal and glaring weakness in the analogical argument from design. The argument against the analogical argument from design seems to be making the claim that human designers and divine designers must be the same. I do not believe this to be the case. I think there is the potential that a divine designer could create something which would be completely clear to any other divine beings, but could make absolutely no sense to humans.
    Humans have the capacity to understand their designs, while other animal species can not. I think it is completely plausible that a divine being would have a far superior ability to comprehend the gift of life and therefore there very well may be a simple instruction manual for a divine being, but not for humans.


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