Does science need God?

An Either-Or on Science and Theism:

I have had a lot of students coming to my office of late to discuss intelligent design.  I am not going to take on the ID debate itself, instead I want to back up a step and make a more general teleological argument.

Here is the either/or:


Assumption:  Scientists really know truths about the world. 

Science, of course, uses an empirical method in order to discern laws.  Scientific laws (like laws in physics) are thought to be regulative and uniform.  That is, the condition for the possibility of knowledge in science is that nature is regular and uniform (intelligible).  (Unintelligent things act in ways that are governed and intelligible, like rocks predictably and uniformly falling toward earth at discernible rates). 

Genuine knowledge is based on justifiable assumptions.  Science is genuine knowledge based on the assumption of the principle of the uniformity of nature, so the principle of the uniformity of nature must be justifiable.

How to justify it?  How to explain the intelligibility of the natural world?  Well, if the effect is intelligible, then the cause must be intelligent (for how could intelligibility arise out of random chaos?).  Therefore, there must be an intelligent cause (one might say both first and final) of nature.


Assumption: There is no justified reason for thinking there is an intelligent cause of nature.

Genuine knowledge is based on justifiable assumptions.  The principle of the uniformity of nature is not justifiable, therefore science (which depends on the PUN) is not genuine knowledge.

In short, here is your choice:

a) You either think science is genuine knowledge, in which case you must be a theist of some sort (you need at least an Unmoved Mover)

b) You deny God (UMM), and so must deny that science is genuine knowledge.

That is, you can either be a theist or a skeptic about all empirical knowledge.  You can choose God and science, or no God and no science.

This seems too easy.  It might be.  There is a third option:

c) Options (a) and (b) presume a foundationalist account of knowledge.  Instead we should have a coherentist account.  In other words, one could say: I do think that scientific knowledge is genuine knowledge about the world, with a disclaimer (you decide if it is small or large disclaimer).  The disclaimer is that we admit that the principle of the uniformity of nature is unjustified, but that science is still a coherent system and so we can call it ‘knowledge’.

Those that want to deny an Unmoved Mover are probably wisest to choose c, though even that option is not without its problems.  That said, I don’t think that most of my students who think science does not need an Unmoved Mover (God) can choose option c.  Two reasons for this:  1) Most of them are really puffed up over their science and so probably don’t want any disclaimers on its legitimacy at all (they seem to think that science has ‘proved’ all sorts of things rather than science being theory) and 2) I think most of my students have a foundationalist view of knowledge. 

One could raise some questions, of course, with option (a).  For instance, must we think that intelligible effects can only arise out of intelligible causes?  (I do think there is good reason to think this, but I can imagine someone disputing it too). 





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About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

55 thoughts on “Does science need God?

  1. Kleiner Post author

    I had never heard of this type of ‘transcendental argument’, it is certainly not in the mainstream of Christian apologetics (as he points out). And I think my argument is different, quite different, from TAG on several fronts. Though there seems to be some overlap, there are several areas where I would distance myself from this ‘transcendental argument’ (for example, I make no mention of a Christian God, but just an Unmoved Mover ). So I am not attaching myself to that version of this argument, I am only attaching myself to my version.

    I am not impressed with several of his responses. That said, it is worth pointing out that, in one of his responses to it, he basically cedes my point:
    ‘Similarly, if, as Bahnsen claimed, the Christian worldview is presupposed by science, logic, and objective ethics, it does not follow that the Christian worldview is true. It might be the case that science, logic, and ethics are impossible and should be rejected. ‘

    My point is that most atheists don’t want to reject science.

    I also think his ‘makes sense’ test misses the point of my argument, since it packs in the ‘Christian God’ where I have only mentioned the Unmoved Mover. He says,
    ‘What about the claim that induction presupposes the Christian God? There is nothing nonsensical in supposing that inductive inference is justified and that Christianity is false. We do not need to assume Christianity to make sense of induction. Indeed, that no such assumption is necessary would be the position of most Christians.’

    I agree. But my point is that if you want to make sense of induction you are going to have to appeal to something that justifies the principle of the uniformity of nature. If it is not the Xian God, then fine. But it sure looks like it is going to have to be something like an Unmoved Mover (unless you think intelligibility can arise out of accidental causes and chaos).

    Anyway, since not everyone has read (or even heard of) this ‘transcendental argument’, let’s try to restrict the discussion to the argument as I have laid it out. Many of Martin’s arguments won’t work because they argue against something different (and more loaded) than what I have presented. If you think something can be salvaged from his argument against TAG (or if you have some other objection/response to my argument), spell it out for us.


  2. Jon Adams

    Fair enough. I didn’t mean to conflate your argument with traditional Christian TAG, but yours is still very much a transcendental argument for God. And I should’ve linked to a better Martin article–this one was too Christian-specific.

    That notwithstanding, I still think a few arguments can be “salvaged” from this article.

    Just one:

    “Is the uniformity of nature…necessary for human learning?…The absence of the uniformity of nature is compatible with learning from induction so long as there is local uniformity on Earth and its environs. Inductive chaos might reign in the universe, but so long as uniformities continued on Earth, humans could learn from experience. In addition, learning from induction is compatible even with local failure of the present laws so long as this is not complete. Suppose, for example, that after 1998 only statistical laws held on the macro level so that for instance fire is hot only 98% of the time. This would be sufficient to teach us not to get burned.”


  3. Jon Adams

    Also, could you elaborate on (1) why an Unmoved Mover would guarantee the uniformity of nature and (2) why intelligibility cannot arise out of chaos?


  4. Mike Otteson

    Isn’t assuming the existence of an unmoved mover just removing a step? Won’t we then have to figure out why this entity is orderly, and what made it that way? We can say that this being/force doesn’t abide by our rules, but then can’t we say the same thing about the universe? Whose to say that the universe (on a grand scale) has to play by our rules? If I wasn’t clear, let me know.


  5. Kleiner Post author

    I do think that the principle of the uniformity of nature (PUN) is necessary for scientific knowledge to be called ‘knowledge’ (I follow Hume here). Would it be enough for us to have ‘localized’ uniformity in our neck of the universe? Yes, but that does not really dodge the issue as you think. One still might then ask for an account as to why our neck of the universe is uniform? (In fact, it might point to an anthropic account, pointed to in the big bang machine article I posted).

    I don’t think playing with probability helps either. (Huenemeann might post on this point since he knows more about than I do, but yesterday when he and I were chatting he suggested that this way of squirming out of the problem does not get you far). Anyway, I guess you could say that high probability is enough for ‘useful information’ (this is exactly what Hume says, that high probability makes for useful conclusions but not ‘knowledge’). My point is that most atheists don’t want to say that – most atheists (and theists, I might add) think that science has proven that, say, an object will fall toward the object of greatest density (gravity) EVERY time. That is, I think most people think that science has discovered real LAWS, not just probabilities.
    So that might be an out, but it involves ‘biting a bullet’ (weakening of scientific knowledge) that I don’t think most people want to bite. To be a consistent atheist, we might say, will involve far more skepticism about science than most atheists want, since most atheists want to flex science’s muscles. After all, it is their precious science that has [allegedly] shown that the gaps for God in explanations of the universe have shrunk away to near nothing.

    I never ‘assumed’ the existence of an Unmoved Mover (UMM). I tried to prove the existence of the UMM. I should have defined the UMM a bit more clearly, for those that have not read much Aristotle or Aquinas. By UMM, I mean a first and final cause of the universe. The UMM is meant to stop the infinite regress, one can’t ask ‘what made it orderly’ since it is itself unmoved (uncaused). Aristotle and Aquinas arrive at an UMM since they think that infinite regresses of explanation are impossible. And I think Mike O turns the argument upside down. The argument does not seek to prove that the UMM ‘plays by our rules’, rather it seeks to show that the world must play by its rules. So why would the UMM guarantee the PUN? The argument seeks to show that there must be something that guarantees the PUN (on pain of sacrificing science on the altar of atheism), so the UMM serves as that necessary principle. There must be some [ultimate] cause that of the intelligibility of the world (the effect). So we posit certain necessary attributes of this UMM, if it is to provide the explanatory power that it must. The UMM must be intelligent, perfect, unchanging (unmoved), which means the UMM will be identified with Being rather than becoming, etc.

    So the UMM provides an account, I think the best account, for why we find intelligibility in the world. What of the other possible account, that is, why think that intelligibility cannot arise out of chaos? I think this is the place atheists should focus, since it seems to me to be the linchpin premise of the whole argument. So why think that cosmos cannot arise out of chaos? Because in our experience we never see anything intelligible arise out of something that is not intelligent. (Remember that Aristotle is an empiricist of sorts, so he’ll make appeals to empirical experience to drive his theories).


  6. Jon Adams

    “Anyway, I guess you could say that high probability is enough for ‘useful information’ (this is exactly what Hume says, that high probability makes for useful conclusions but not ‘knowledge’).”

    I should have disclosed from the start that I am actually willing to say that “knowledge” is elusive and that all we have is “useful information.” What’s more, Martin didn’t say that with local uniformity we can still have “knowledge”, but “learning.” That is, through are experiences, we have justified in believing that the future will resemble the past. For instance, I don’t think it’s an act of faith to think the sun will rise tomorrow, as it has every day in the recorded past.

    About the UMM: I’m familiar with why Aristotle and Aquinas saw the UMM as appealing. But the choice isn’t between an UMM and an infinite regress. You universe may just as well, I think, be eternal or even uncaused. The premise that all things need a cause for their existence is very much in doubt, in light of sciences like quantum physics. On a quantum level, things like quarks come into existence from nothing, for no reason.


  7. Huenemann

    I thought I’d provide a recap of some of the responses I gave to Kleiner’s argument when we were visiting yesterday.

    First, I think the argument presumes a “foundationalist” epistemology — the view that you don’t know X unless it can be demonstrated or at least rendered plausible upon very evident premises. So if you claim to know X, and that depends on Y, which depends on Z, but you can’t show that Z is true, then you don’t know X. But we don’t have to be foundationalists. A scientist might say, “Sure, all my specific claims presume that nature is lawful, and I can’t prove that it is, but that doesn’t mean my claims are false; they just depend on that assumption.” Note, though, that it is a hard assumption for humans to reject, for whatever reason!

    Second, I’m not sure that the existence of lawfulness requires an explanation. It would if we somehow knew that there could be an unordered universe, or (Jon’s point) that order cannot arise from disorder. Maybe “orderliness” is a metaphysically necessary feature of any universe.

    Third, I’m skeptical of statistical responses to Hume because those answers work only if you make certain assumptions about the laws of probability. So inductive reasoners spend all their time trying to figure out the percentage of confidence they should accord to a proposition, given available evidence. But doesn’t that presume that, in similar cases, similar percentages should be assigned? And isn’t that the sort of assumption Hume calls into question?


  8. Huenemann

    By the way, for an excellent example of how otherwise intelligent people turn themselves into nasty, childish, third-rate thinkers over the ID controversy, see this review by A.C. Grayling of Steve Fuller’s book, and be sure to skim Fuller’s response to Grayling, and Grayling’s further response. And I thought the Herald Journal letters to the editor were bestial!


  9. Kleiner Post author

    Jon – to be clear, when you say ‘The premise that all things need a cause for their existence is very much in doubt’ — I very much agree! The UMM exists (my argument hopes to show) but it is not caused!

    But in believing that the future will resemble the past (HIGHLY probable I agree), it an ‘act of faith’ of a sort since you cannot prove the PUN! That is Hume’s whole point!

    I would like Huenemann to sort out, if possible, what he means when he says that ‘orderliness is a necessary feature of any universe’. Why must that be?


  10. Mike Otteson

    Let me clarify some things. From my understanding of what you are saying, Aquinas and Aristotle believed that there needed to be a reason for the order of the universe, and the reason they gave was the UMM. My question is why we have to assume that the universe has to have a creator. Since we know so little about its origins, why can’t we just say that “Let’s draw a conclusion about its existence later when we know more about it”? Secondly, if the UMM can be without a cause, why can’t the universe?

    I don’t think that we as humans can avoid relying on the past as an indication of the future. As Hume points out, it’s fundamentally impossible. Even by typing this sentence, I’m relying on the idea that the characters and words mean the same thing that they did five minutes ago. In fact, I bet we can make the argument that idea that the past doesn’t affect the future relies on some sort of past experience, and thus succumbs to the very thing it’s trying to attack.


  11. Huenemann

    Mike — even if you show that humans can’t avoid assuming the orderliness of nature, that wouldn’t show nature is or must be orderly — it could just be common human foible.

    Kleiner — I wish I could sort that out. But I’m only a somewhat-evolved primate! I suppose I might try to argue that one cannot even begin to describe the details of an unordered universe. It would be like Kant’s description of experience without the categories — “less even than a dream.”


  12. Kleiner Post author

    I am not trying to avoid the ‘problem’ of assuming that nature is uniform (that the future resembles the past). I’m not trying to undermine the PUN, I am trying to justify it. I think the universe is uniform, I think the future does resemble the past. I place great value on past experiences and empirical evidence! And someone that appeals to the UMM can have great confidence in experience as a means to acquire knowledge about the world because they have justified the PUN.

    Why think the universe has to have a ‘creator’? Well, Aristotle would not really call the UMM a ‘creator’, probably better he would call it an ‘orderer’. (It is Aquinas who moves the UMM into the ex nihilo Creator we now think of). Anyway, why do this? He treats the intelligibility of the world as an effect, and every effect must have a cause.


  13. Jon Adams

    “Jon – to be clear, when you say ‘The premise that all things need a cause for their existence is very much in doubt’ — I very much agree! The UMM exists (my argument hopes to show) but it is not caused!”

    Haha, right right. But perhaps you misunderstood me. My point is this: if things can be uncaused, why not the universe?

    But in believing that the future will resemble the past (HIGHLY probable I agree), it an ‘act of faith’ of a sort since you cannot prove the PUN! That is Hume’s whole point!”

    I don’t share your definition of “faith.” Faith is NOT a belief in things for which there is no PROOF. Rather, faith is a belief in things for which there is not SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE. There is, as you admit, sufficient evidence that the sun will rise tomorrow, so believing as such is not and “act of faith.”


  14. Kleiner Post author

    The universe is not a ‘thing’, but is a collection of things. Each of those things in the universe has a cause (there is no such thing as an effect that does not have a cause).
    Can this string of causes go back in an infinite regress? Here is Aquinas’ argument:
    1) Any infinite cause/effect chain would have no first member (no “first cause”).
    [by definition]
    2) If a causal chain has no first member, then it will have no later members.
    [since to take away the cause is to take away the effect]
    3) But there exists a causal chain with later members.
    [these are the events we witness]
    4) Therefore, there are no infinite cause/effect chains.

    I might add that it is not only theistic philosophers who hate infinite regresses. It is a widely held view by philosophers that regressive explanations are not explanations at all.

    I was using ‘faith’ more loosely (perhaps too loosely) as being identical with ‘belief’ (as opposed to ‘knowledge’). Anyway, we would have to decide what counts as ‘sufficient evidence’ for a belief to start looking like ‘knowledge’. You suggest that certain probabilities will do the trick. But I think that most people want to cling to their science more than you do – that is, they want to say that they KNOW the rock will fall to the ground, not just that it is highly probable that it will. Futhermore, any evidence (statistical probability) that we could put forth to prove that the sun will rise tomorrow only counts as applicable insofar as you ASSUME the PUN. So we are back to the original point (like Huenemann, I just don’t think playing around with probabilities really resolves the issue).


  15. Jon Adams

    “The universe is not a ‘thing’, but is a collection of things. Each of those things in the universe has a cause (there is no such thing as an effect that does not have a cause).”

    As I’ve argued elsewhere on this site, the universe may not need a cause. Advances in scientific understanding, especially in quantum cosmology, have shown how the universe could be uncaused or self-caused.

    Energy cannot be created nor destroyed–it is eternal. Einstein showed that mass and energy are the same things, expressed differently in nature. Energy can convert into mass and mass into energy.

    Physical particles (namely quarks) can also occur in the universe spontaneously (without cause) out of a what appears to be completely empty space–a perfect vacuum. This natural phenomenon is known as quantum fluctuation.

    Given this account of our universe, there is no need for your UMM. The universe could be its own.


  16. Jon Adams

    Now, this obviously doesn’t guarantee PUN. I’m forced to agree (until convinced otherwise) that PUN is an assumption. It is, all the same, a useful one. Empiricism has yielded plenty of results. Assuming those results happened…ha ha. Damn.

    I think PUN can be true without a God. I see no reason why order (or intelligibility) can not come out of chaos–evolution is an instance of this. Before I further articulate (or attempt to articulate) why order can arise out of chaos, I’d like to make sure I understand your argument. Is it that PUN cannot exist without God, or that without God, PUN cannot be guaranteed?


  17. Kleiner Post author

    To Jon’s first post: I am not here intending the UMM argument as an argument for origins in general, that is, I am not appealing to it in order to explain why there is something rather than nothing. Rather, I am appealing to it to explain the intelligibility of what is. (That said, I would want to make that other argument, though perhaps re-phrased so that it asks ‘why there is something other than nothing, no matter how long that something has been around’. But I won’t do that here, let’s focus on the intelligibility/order point.)

    To the second post: I think, for those that want to solidify science’s claims, one needs an account of the PUN. The issue does seem to come to this – can order arise out of chaos or not? I don’t think that evolution is so obviously an instance of this occurring.
    I suppose the argument I am defending could be parsed in either of the two ways you mention (I am not sure how much difference there is between the two, but there is some):
    1) Without some intelligent principle (UMM, or what we all call ‘God’) that can serve as the ‘ground/cause’ of inteligibility, the PUN cannot exist. That is, without some ordering cause there would be no order. Order does not (cannot?) arise accidentally.
    2) Without appealing to some intelligent principle (UMM), we cannot guarantee the PUN.


  18. Mike Otteson

    Isn’t PUN a Catch 22? Yes, there is no evidence that things that have happened in the past hold true in the future. However, if I come to that conclusion, am I not using logical principles based on past human understanding of the universe? Correct me if I’m wrong, but reason is derived from this existence. I have no reason to conclude that they would hold true in the future, or even that they held true in the past (as I have no way of knowing whether or not those memories of the collective human experience are real). Thus, on what grounds can I say that the past doesn’t relate the the future? Tell me if that wasn’t clear.


  19. Huenemann

    By the way, I think Aquinas’s “first cause” argument has an equivocation on “later.” “Later” could mean (a) “causes other than a first cause” or it could mean (b) “causes after the first.” It needs to have meaning (b) to make premise 2 palatable, but meaning (a) for premise 3 to have traction.


  20. Huenemann

    Mike – we may want to keep separate two efforts. One is to try to show the rationality of assuming that the future will resemble the past (Hume’s problem). The other is to somehow justify our trust in rationality generally (Kierkegaard’s problem).


  21. Kleiner Post author

    I’d rather stick to the PUN issue, since that is what drove my original post. My original post asserted:
    1) Most atheists think science gives you real knowledge (something like certain or justified knowledge).
    1a) Most of these atheists have a foundationalist view of knowledge
    2) Scientific knowledge can only be justified if you can know the PUN.
    3) The PUN can only be justified by appealing to some intelligent principle (UMM)

    Perhaps I am arguing against no one here, since most posters on this blog stream have been willing to admit that science is not knowledge in this more robust sense of ‘knowledge’. But I think they are the exception rather than the rule – I don’t think I am wrong when I accuse the great majority of atheists with this inconsistency.
    But perhaps we have settled this matter. Can we say that we all agree that those with a foundationalist view of knowledge who do not posit an UMM can not have knowledge of the PUN (that is, is Hume right?).
    If we do all agree on that, I would at least want to point to a lesson one might learn from all this: Perhaps, on an occasional break from attacking theists for their ‘dogmatism’, neo-atheists should have a run at some of their own clan in this regard? And perhaps those that have this ‘weakened’ view of science should be a bit more reticent in confidently putting forth scientific knowledge* as having so obviously ‘demonstrated’ that God is unnecessary?
    knowledge* = Useful predictions about the world that are ultimately based on an unjustified principle


  22. Jon Adams

    “Can we say that we all agree that those with a foundationalist view of knowledge who do not posit an UMM can not have knowledge of the PUN (that is, is Hume right?).”

    I would agree with that, but go further. I’d argue that even those who do posit an UMM can not have knowledge of the PUN. Because before you’d be able to know of the PUN, you’d first have to know of your UMM, which I don’t think is possible.

    But I am still unclear on one issue: Do you believe that the PUN is impossible on naturalism, or just that the PUN can not be guaranteed on naturalism as you think it can be on theism? Those are distinct issues. I guess this hinges on whether intelligibility can arise out of chaos. You have yet to argue, though, why it can not.


  23. Kleiner Post author

    I certainly don’t think that naturalism can guarantee the PUN as theism can. (Another odd consequence, from the neo-athiest’s point of view – that the theist can be more confident in science than the atheist!!). I think I would also commit myself to the larger claim that the PUN is impossible without an UMM.

    You are quite right, the whole argument does hinge on whether intelligibility can arise out of chaos. But I think the onus is on you to show that it can. Until you do that, I think it is only reasonable to conclude that it can’t – since all of our experience suggests that intelligibilty can only arise out of intelligence (I have in mind, following Aristotle, the craftsman-artefact analogy).
    To put it another way (and I bark at Huenemann about this all the time): The onus is on you to show that the teleology that we all see is only apparent teleology. In other words, you need to show that the obvious fact that non-intelligent things behave in intelligible ways (like rocks falling toward the ground or turtles coming ashore in order to lay eggs) is only an apparently obvious fact. Whether you persuaded by it or not, Aristotle’s metaphysics and physics do give an account of such things. (For more on this, read Machuga’s book ‘In Defense of the Soul’, he came and gave a nice talk on it last year).


  24. Huenemann

    What exactly is an Unmoved Mover, apart from “that which explains the uniformity of nature”? For if that’s all it is, then I don’t think an explanation has really been provided.


  25. Kleiner Post author

    I’ve been a little sloppy, switching back and forth from claims about efficient causes and final causes (though I think these causes are intertwined). This happened, in part, because I wanted to avoid using the phrase ‘intelligent designer’ since I worried that the Hitchens Hooligans might freak out at that (meant as a joke, meant as a joke).

    But if you look back at my first either/or, I am really making a broad-based design claim. Our experience is an experience of a world of pervasive order (regularity, uniformity, both in efficient and final causally explained movements). There is no way this pervasive order could have arisen by chance, therefore the universe is the product of intelligent design. Design only comes from a designer.
    Then one can (as both Aristotle and Aquinas do) extrapolate from this that the UMM/Designer is perfect, simple, unchanging (pure act, not in any way in potency), good, etc.

    My initial either/or was this:
    Either 1) You think science is real knowledge, but real knowledge is knowledge of that which is knowable, so thinking that science is real knowledge presumes that the world is intelligible. And in order to explain the intelligibility of the world you have to appeal to something beyond the world (the UMM/Designer).
    Or 2) You refuse to make an appeal to something that might ground the intelligibility of the world, and in so doing you must sacrifice your science.


  26. Huenemann

    But I guess I need a clearer idea of how appeal to the UMM is supposed to ground the intelligibility of the world. If it’s just, “Well, the UMM is supposed to be the sort of thing that provides such grounding,” then that is an empty appeal. It would be like saying, “We don’t know what causes colds,” and being told, “Sure we do — the cold-causer causes colds.”


  27. Kleiner Post author

    I am surely missing your point (and spending the afternoon at the White Owl is surely not helping). Funny how one thing can seem to obvious to a person but not at all obvious to another.

    Let us assume, for the moment, that the world is ordered/intelligible. This is a fact that demands explanation. There seems to be two explanatory options: Either the order and intelligibility of the world arose by chance, or it arose out of design. Order cannot arise from chance (I know there is some debate on this point). So the world must be a product of design. Design comes only from a mind (a designer). Therefore there must be some intelligent designer that is the ‘ground’ of the intelligibility of the world.
    How is this different from the obviously silly cold-causer example? — well, there you are asking for a proximate cause rather than an ultimate one. Colds can be explained in any number of ways. The intelligibility of the world cannot (so the argument goes) be explained in any number of ways.

    All this said, no question that one driving assumption here is an ‘epistemic optimism’. Aquinas and Aristotle take it for granted that knowledge is possible and real. They, and I, have a very high regard for human reason (humanism after all!, in fact, Thomism might be more ‘humanistic’ than secular humanism can be!!). So there is a fact – human knowledge (however limited) – that needs to be explained. Someone, like Huenemann, who is ‘epistemically pessimistic’ – will not sign on to the driving assumption and so will be unmoved by the argument. But he does so at the cost of being a thoroughgoing skeptic (which, in a day to day way, is inconsistent with ordinary experience).
    But my point all along has been that most neo-atheists are not nearly so consistent. They do have this high regard for human reason (particularly scientific reason), but refuse to affirm the existence of the the sole thing that could ground it.


  28. Mike Otteson


    I still don’t understand why the universe has to have a designer and the designer doesn’t. What is the origin of your creator, as you have asserted that order can’t come from chaos?


  29. Jon Adams

    Prof. Kleiner, I take it you believe in evolution. Evolution effectively showed that biocomplexity and diversity are not evidence of design. So when you speak of design, are you referring to order in the universe?

    In short, I think astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has the best response to the design argument:

    For an omniscient, omnipotent being, your Creator is rather incompetent.


  30. Huenemann

    First, I don’t see why it’s obvious why order needs an explanation. Do we know that order happens only with a cause?

    Second, I don’t see how the existence of a mind/designer ‘grounds’ or ‘explains’ the existence of order. How does a mind turn chaos (or nothingness) into an ordered something? we have examples of humans building things, but that’s a weak analogy, since that manufacturing already presupposes order (following the laws of nature) among the components.I can’t think of any case where a totally random field becomes ordered through the work of a mind. (Well, maybe quantum mechanics….)


  31. Kleiner Post author

    I will respond to Jon’s point later, for now to Huenemann.

    Your first point has two parts:
    a) Why does order need an explanation? If your response to the order we find in the world is the sports cliche, ‘It is what it is’, well then I find that deeply unsatisfying. If you are satisfied with that answer, well then I guess this conversation can go no further. I think questions like ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ and ‘why is the world ordered instead of disordered’ demand a response, and a response that is deeper than ‘well, it just is that way’ (and philosophers have thought as much from the very beginning of western philosophy).
    Now surely I am mistaking your point here, because I can’t imagine you really saying what I just acted like you said.

    b) The second part, ‘Do we know that order happens only with a cause’ is a little different. If you want to argue that order can arise out of chaos, that would provide an explanation. But that is the point that is in dispute.

    Your second question is a ‘how’ question. ‘How’ does a mind order something that is disordered? Briefly, how the hell would I know?! I really doubt anyone does, or perhaps can, know ‘how’ God made the world in the way that it is. But Aristotle arrives at the ‘necessity’ for such an ordering principle not by asking ‘how’ questions but by asking ‘why’ questions.

    When it comes to the ‘how’, our only real analogy is to human craftsmanship. I think it is a decent analogy though, as you point out, it is far from a perfect one. This would be especially the case for Thomas, who thinks that the UMM creates ex nihilo, which is a fundamentally different way of ‘making’ than the kind of making we do. Our making, as you point out, already presumes order (form) all the way down. (The craftsman imposes a bell form on the matter, but the matter is not radically un-informed, it is already copper, etc.).

    Notice, though, that it is reliance on teleology that has driven the argument. It is a why and not a how question that drives this thing. Moderns in general (who tend to think science is the only legitimate way of disclosing the world) have a hard time not thinking solely in terms of the ‘how’ (that is, they reduce all thinking to technological thinking). Since you are deeply skeptical of teleological reasoning, I’m not all that surprised that you find yourself unmoved by the unmoved mover argument.

    Point is this – don’t you agree that the question, ‘Why is the world ordered and intelligible?’ is a good and important question?
    Assuming it is, then it seems that this order/intelligibility can arise either from accidental causes (out of chaos without some ordering principle/causee imposing the order) or through some ordering principle that does impose the order. Doesn’t that exhaust the possibilities? (Perhaps not, you’ve flirted with the idea that ‘universes just come this way’). For my position, then, I am arguing that:
    a) Order/intelligibility cannot arise accidentally (out of chaos)
    b) Order is not necessary (there is at least one possible world that is not ordered)
    c) By process of elimination, then, there must be some ordering cause.


  32. Huenemann

    I’m asking, “Are we sure that the question, ‘Why is there order?” is a sensible question?” I’m not sure it is. It might be like asking, “Why is it that 2+2 always equals 4, and never 6?” or “Why is red always red and never yellow?” I don’t think any sensible answer can be given. As I relayed to you in conversation, it may be that an unordered or totally chaotic universe is metaphysically impossible, and, if so, there is no explanation for order. It just is a fundamental feature of existence. It may be that it is the presence of disorder that requires an explanation — indeed, how does disorder arise from order? — and ‘order is the ‘default setting’ of the universe.

    On the other point: well, if you don’t really know how a mind imposes order on disordered stuff or nothingness, then I fail to see how positing a UMM is supposed to explain anything. It’s equivalent to just saying “Grapefruit.”


  33. Jon Adams

    I think Dr. Richard Carrier gives an illustrative example of order arising from chaos. He explains that when you roll the dice enought times, “the odds become very good that you will roll the exact orderly sequence of 1,2,3,4,5,6. The odds against such a sequence are something like one in fifty thousdand.” So, he argues, “it follows that from chaos we can predict order, even incredibly complex order.”

    So just as we find order in a random roll of the dice, we find order/complexity in our universe. It has been estimated that there are between 1 to 30 billion planets in our galaxy and about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. That’s a lot of rolls of the dice! So even if, say, life is astronomically improbable, life will still have arisen on countless planets–of which Earth is one.

    Moreover, should we expect to find anything else but order? If there were not order in the universe, we could not be around to muse on it–it seems that, as Huenemann suggest, order is a fundamental (necessary?) feature of existence.

    I’ve mentioned elsewhere that many scientists believe that order and somethingness are more likely than disorder and nothingness. Victor Stenger, in “God: the Failed Hypothesis,” was even bold enough to argue that “the probability for there being something rather than nothing can actually be calculated; it’s over 60%.” Now don’t ask me to explain this–I’m just a lowly poli sci major haha. I’ll defer to the scientists on that point.

    Oh, and I still hold that evolution is another example that order arising from chaos. The source of evolution is the epitome of chaos–random mutation. And yet from random mutations (via natural selection) comes order. Again, if you believe in evolution, then you can not point to biocomplexity and diversity as evidence of design.


  34. Kleiner Post author

    Wait a minute here. Let’s assume an unordered world is impossible. You don’t point to some designer to posit the order, but you have order. If everything is, and must be ordered, just as a feature of existence, then radical evolutionary theory must be false (for it claims that at least one thing – biodiversity and its development – is not ordered but is instead random). If radical evolutionary theory is true, then it must be possible for things to be disordered. (Note that evolution does not try to explain how order fell into disorder).
    In trying to fight off the UMM, aren’t you sinking the science of evolution (or at least, the brand of which is supposed to show the UMM is unnecessary)?

    Also I think you are being much too hard on me for not knowing the details of the ‘how’. I don’t give a crap what you call the intelligent designer (‘grapefruit’ would be an odd name though), but it is not an empty concept. Instead, Aristotle thinks that we can demonstrate a number of necessary qualities (pure act, perfection, unchanging, …). And I can tell you how some minds impose order of a certain sort – it is called human making (the woodworker takes a ‘chaotic’ pile of wood and makes a bed).
    If I find a watch on a deserted island, it is only reasonable to assert that it was a product of design (and hence has a designer). I may not know ‘how’ the designer made it, but I can still with good reason assert that there was a designer. Same thing here. We find an ordered thing (the world), and so we reasonably assert that there must have been a designer.
    Forgive me for being a little testy here, but just because I cannot give a complete mechanical account of the ‘how’ does not mean that I am just saying ‘grapefruit’ to dodge something. We are back to the hatred of mystery, frankly. I think some things can be known about the UMM, so for you to call it a cheap ‘grapefruit’ move (as if I am just giving the unknown a name and calling it an account) just because my account does not satisfy your reduced view of what can count as an explanation (a mechanical ‘how’ answer) is, I think, pretty unfair.

    To Jon:
    I don’t find the dice example all that compelling, for a few reasons.
    The random order you would get on that long shot is a different kind of order. It is only ‘apparent order’, and I say that because it is not repeatable and cannot make sense of the kind of order I am talking about (teleological). (Aristotle makes this distinction between homogenous and heterogenous order). The order we see is not of this sort, where we have seen x be followed by y. Instead, we think x must be followed by y. In other words, that ‘order’ cannot be generalized and is order by coincidence. But the universe seems (to scientists more than anyone) to be governed by laws (generalizable principles). Science is possible only if there are norms, it is not possible if everything is exceptional. (I think Dawkins speaks of this issue and the need for ‘replicators’ to take all this chance and let it accumulate into competitive attributes. Once you have replicators, the system can run, but Dawkins admits that getting the first few replicators was pure luck).

    Besides, I’ve heard other accounts of this, and some suggest that the universe is not old enough to have randomly sorted through all the possible events in order to come up with the world (and its biodiversity) that we have. Behe gives an account like this in one of his books. Even if that is not so, I think the UMM account is far more likely than the astronomical (frankly unthinkable) odds you would be talking about. I guess it is logically possible that the watch I find on the deserted island was not designed, that the tides just slowly eroded and shaped little bits of metal over millions of years and over millions more years the tides washed up and by totally random chance the parts found themselves in an apparently ordered system that could tell time. Seems pretty far fetched to me, and the bio-complexity we are talking about (not to mention the existence of rational agents!!!) is all the more so. Dawkins says, in the Blind Watchmaker, that ‘we haven’t the faintest hope of duplicating such a fantastically lucky, miraculous event as the origin of life in our laboratory experiments.’ (funny how the word ‘miracle’ snuck in there).

    And to the point that if there were no order, we could not muse on it. First of all, I am not denying that the world is ordered – I think it is! (you are the one that is denying that point, or is at least claiming that some corners of the universe are disordered). Besides, the mere fact that we can muse on order does not necessitate that order is a necessary feature of existence. A Kantian could argue that we always experience the world as ordered but that this is no reason to think that the world itself is ordered.

    I will have an answer to the evolution point. Just need to think on it a bit more.


  35. Kleiner Post author

    I found a bit more on the odds here, this from a review by Machuga of Behe’s book:

    But now consider the construction, not the destruction, of protein machinery. “Generating a single new cellular protein-protein binding site is of the same order of difficulty or worse than the developmentof chloroquine resistance in the malarial parasite.” Now simple math demonstrates that if the odds of rolling a single 6 on a six-sided die are one in 6, then the odds of rolling two 6’s in a row are 6 squared or one in 36. So if the odds of a single protein binding site are 1020, then the odds of having two binding sites (i.e., a three-protein bond), where all three proteins are necessary to do what they were intended to do, are 1040.

    How should we score this round? Before answering, consider this: the sum total of bacterial cells that have existed on earth during its entire history has yet to reach 1040. Here’s Behe’s conclusion: “Admittedly, statistics are all about averages, so some freak event like this might happen—it’s not ruled out by force of logic. But it is not biologically reasonable to expect it … . In short, complexes of just three or more different proteins are beyond the edge of evolution.” In other words, if it’s alive and smaller than a cell, then science is pretty much clueless concerning its origin.

    We are not at the logically impossible here, but we sure are getting close. (I just noticed that the powers did not come through in the paste, so all the above numbers are 10 to whatever power)

    I think Machuga nails it at the end of his review:
    ‘But design and heterogeneous ordering are necessarily invisible to the most sophisticated scientific instruments, which can only measure quantities. If you limit your reasoning to what is quantifiable, you’ll never find design in nature. No matter how long the odds, materialists will simply demand more time or tries. But if you don’t limit your reasoning to what is quantifiable, you can’t miss the design implicit in even so simple a truth as: The first pair of claws on a lobster are pincers.’

    We are back to the same old argument, Huenemann! Prove to me that materialism is true and that the obvious teleology we see in the world (which is also a condition for the possibility of meaning) is only apparent, and I will shut up.


  36. Jon Adams

    You draw a fair distinction between real and apparent order. But it hasn’t been clear throughout this debate which definition you were using. At times, and perhaps I misread your comments, you seemed to conflate order with complexity, intelligibilty, and design.

    Still, my dice example is relevant against some aspects of the teleological argument. Isn’t the watch you stumble across on the beach (Paley’s obligatory example) as much an instance of apparent design as is the “1,2,3,4,5,6” number sequence?

    And are you using’s Paley’s watchmaker example to argue for the apparent design of life on Earth or the apparent design of the universe? Because Paley used it in regards to the former. But with Darwin’s account of life on Earth, Paley’s argument lost its traction. I’ve been trying to tease out of you whether you believe in evolution for some time now. If evolution is true, then the products of evolution (living things) can not be counted among evidences for design.

    You misunderstood my point about musing on order in the universe. I know that you think our world is ordered, I just don’t think you should be impressed that it is, given that order in the universe is a prerequisite for life. I can’t really articulate this point further, so if you don’t follow then I’ll drop it. It was more an anecdote than an argument anyway.

    I agree with you that the universe exhibits order, but where I disagree (of course) is that it exhibits design–not at least by a loving Creator. The universe is too indifferent toward suffering, too imperfect for me to believe that it was designed. How can you reconcile those things mentioned in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s presentation “Stupid Design” with a supposedly intelligent designer?


  37. Kleiner Post author

    By ‘order’ I do not mean ‘complexity’. I do mean something like regularity (in both efficient and final cause), but more than random regularity since I mean something intelligible.

    I am agnostic on evolution, to be honest. I am not an expert in such things, and don’t pretend to be. (I wish some of the scientists would quit pretending to be expert philosophers!!). I am inclined to say that it is ‘more than just a theory’. But the matter is complicated, and it is not obvious to me that the claim by some evolutionists that all evolution can be explained by random mutation is true. I think those that think this has been adequately demonstrated are, at the very least, rushing to judgment. Even if it is true, evolution can at best give us an account of the material cause, so to speak. But I think the order that we know arises out of the formal and final cause, which are not materially determined.

    I don’t think the watchmaker example loses as much traction as you think. Darwin himself never claimed to give an explanation of the origin of life, he sought to explain how the biologically diverse species we see can be traced back to common ancestors.

    But I think we are making progress. You even seem to hint that you might be open to some kind of design, so long as it is not the design of a loving Creator. This is, of course, why I have couched all my arguments in Aristotelian terms. I am not here arguing for the Christian God (though I would argue that the Xian God is compatible with the UMM). But your main beef might have nothing to do with justifying the PUN by appealing to an UMM, rather you are worried about the Problem of Evil. Fair enough too, that is by far the best argument against the God that most theists believe in (who has many more characteristics, including being good and personable, than the UMM). But why not be a deist instead of an atheist? Perhaps you might be thinking that if you give in on the UMM then it would be like pouring gas on the fire, and then those religious wackos will think they are actually on to something!!!

    Also, I don’t think the burden of proof I demand is ‘whack’. Why? Because I have presented arguments for an immaterial soul and for teleology (not on this stream, but on this blog). But, unless my memory is failing me, no one has presented arguments FOR materialism yet (only against the view that some things are immaterial, and most of those have been at best inconclusive). In fact, I am told (by a materialist of sorts) that most materialists just assume materialism is true and never bother to argue for it. And I am almost sure that I have not heard an argument for the reduction of human reason to merely quantitative/mechanical reasoning.


  38. James Patton

    All this talk about order/complexity and randomness/chaos is really starting to touch on some very well-studied areas of mathematics, and I’m going to attempt to pin down some ideas related to those, and why exactly order can arise from chaos (indeed, I think it is actually an unavoidable feature of any system).

    First, definitions. Chaos doesn’t mean the same thing as randomness, at least in math and physics. Essentially, chaos refers simply to unpredictability, not true randomness. A chaotic system is deterministic, following often simple rules, but the rules can combine in synergistic ways and give rise to quite complex behavior. Also, a chaotic system is very sensitive to its initial conditions, and tiny, slight differences or perturbations can lead to wildly different outcomes.

    Weather is a typical example. At the “bottom”, the weather is determined by fairly simple rules (the “laws” of physics) related to heat, light, the behavior of gases, and so forth, so it is not “random” (as in, ungoverned by any sort of rule). We can really only predict the weather out to about a week or so, and the probability of being right drops off by the day. If we had sufficient data about the initial conditions that our prediction was based on (and we’d probably need a large enough supercomputer as well), the weather could be predicted out for an arbitrary time period, at least in principle. I’ll leave aside the question of whether or not it’s possible to have enough initial data, for now.

    Conway’s Game of Life is another really good example, with simple rules for filling squares leading to all sorts of complex patterns. It’s chaotic in that it’s very difficult to predict the next n iterations, and that it’s very sensitive to the starting conditions. Changing a single square is enough to dramatically alter what happens. The “Notable Programs” section of that page has some simulators you can download to get a feel for how it works.

    As far as a definition of order, “pattern” is probably the closest word. There are lots of strict definitions used by different branches of math, so I’ll try not to muddy the water too much with those. And to attempt to avoid questions of “actual” vs. “perceived” pattern, I’ll try to use simple examples.

    I also want to draw a distinction between global and local order.


  39. James Patton

    I may have misunderstood Kleiner’s objection to the dice example, so that may also apply to this coin example.

    A coin flip is the go-to example of a random event, although in physical reality it’s really chaotic, per my definition above. True randomness is actually quite rare. But whatever, I’ll still use it.

    Suppose I play a game with one rule: flip a coin and write down ‘0’ for ‘head’ and ‘1’ for tails. The outcome is, for our current discussion, random. Now, I play the game ten times, and end up with a string of numbers something like: 1001011011. You may notice that the split isn’t actually 50/50, but 60/40. This is actually very likely with a sample size of only ten! The more flips I do, the closer the ratio comes to its true value of 50/50 with a fair coin.

    So I do 100,000 flips, and end up with 100,000 ones and zeros. Now the string as a whole displays global randomness. But since I’ve increased the number of flips I have, I’ve actually made it very very likely that somewhere in the 100,000, there is a sequence of ten zeroes. This was pretty improbably when we did just ten flips. The longer the string, the more likely it has local order, even at the same time it displays global disorder.

    This applies with any pattern. As another example, the digits of pi are “random”, in that I can’t come up with any rule for predicting the 101st if I know the first 100. All irrational numbers are like this. But at the same time, the string of the digits of pi is very highly ordered! At least on a local level. If I go out far enough, and since it is in fact infinite, I’m guaranteed to find the digits of my phone number, area code included, somewhere.

    It’s generally accepted among mathematicians that true randomness necessarily gives rise to local order. And on the other hand, chaos as technically meant is not actually random. I seem to remember there even being mathematical proofs along these lines, but I can’t promise I’d understand them well enough to attempt an explanation.


  40. James Patton

    As for the Behe quote, I’ll have to go into depth on this some other time, but suffice to say the main problem with his “analysis” is that bacteria reproduce. He misses (I sometimes thing deliberately) the role of natural selection in evolution, and natural selection isn’t random.

    “I am inclined to say that it is ‘more than just a theory’. But the matter is complicated, and it is not obvious to me that the claim by some evolutionists that all evolution can be explained by random mutation is true.”

    Most biologists don’t really think this, I understand. The role of mutation as the *sole* driver of evolution is coming into question, in light of discoveries in fields like epigenetics. Maybe I’ll have to do an evolution presentation for SHAFT sometime.


  41. Jon Adams

    “I don’t think the watchmaker example loses as much traction as you think. Darwin himself never claimed to give an explanation of the origin of life…”

    Of course, of course. It was my understanding, though, that Paley used his watchmaker argument as an argument from design. Paley’s example doesn’t work as neatly (if at all) as an argument about the origin of life. I mean, the point of the watchmaker example isn’t so much that the watch is on the beach, but that the watch was designed. No?

    “But, unless my memory is failing me, no one has presented arguments FOR materialism yet…”

    I’m not arguing as a materialist. In fact, I don’t rule out the possibility of the supernatural. If I were insisting that there is no supernatural, then, yes, I would have a burden of proof. I’d be making a positive claim, much like your insistence that there is a supernatural. But what claims am I making? I’m simply demanding evidence of your claims.

    “But I think we are making progress. You even seem to hint that you might be open to some kind of design, so long as it is not the design of a loving Creator.”

    All I meant is that it’s more reasonable to believe in an incompetent or callous Creator that the Christian God. You’re welcome to call that progress ha ha.

    “But why not be a deist instead of an atheist?”

    Primarily because–and this is the crux of our disagreement–I don’t think order in the universe implies a designer. And if, as you claim, order cannot come from disorder, then this UMM must be highly ordered rather than chaotic. Therefore, the order inherent in the UMM demands its own explanation.

    And about Behe: The two-protein-binding-site theory set out in his new book is bunk. Here’s a critical review from a scientist, not a philosopher:


  42. Jon Adams

    “I think the UMM account is far more likely than the astronomical (frankly unthinkable) odds you would be talking about.”

    Again, even the astronomically improbably is made probable (if not inevitable) by the sheer vastness of our universe. Dr. Victor Stenger notes, however, that while our specific kind of life (carbon-based) is unlikely, “a wide variation of constants of physics leads to universes that are long-lived enough for life to evolve.”

    And isn’t the fine-tuning argument a double-edged sword for the theist. With this argument, the theist is admitting that their God made the universe largely hostile to life. Dr. Richard Carrier asks what intelligent designer makes a universe wherein black holes are more predominant than life-conducive planets?

    One last thought for the night on fine-tuning. I think the argument plays to our own self-absorption. The fine-tuning argument would have us believe that the sun radiates light so that we can see. In actuality, the human eye evolved to be sensitive to light from the sun. The universe is not fine-tuned for humanity; humanity is fine-tuned to the universe.


  43. Kleiner Post author

    A few things:

    One of Mike’s post seemed out of place, because I went back and deleted part of a post of mine on the dice example after thinking about it more. Sorry Mike.

    I did not have in mind Paley in my watch example, I was actually thinking Hume (that is who I have been thinking all along). Note that I did not cite the complexity of the watch, I cited its functionality. For this precise reason, in fact, I think Paley’s example has some issues.

    I know Dawkins thinks that billions and billions of planets makes the ridiculously long odds, to use Jon’s word, ‘probable’. I don’t know how to proceed from there, other than to say that I think the odds are still astronomically long. Remember, the odds show that it would be a ‘miracle’ (Dawkins word!) for a single simple protein to develop in a corner of the universe. I think it is a very real possibility that the universe is simply not old enough for all of the random cycles to have been sorted through (I don’t know that, this is sheer speculation).

    I am no expert on evolution, so I would love for James to give a talk on it. I’ve read enough to not be a complete idiot (I think), but not much more since I’d frankly rather read Plato. :) All I know is this: whenever I encounter people that seem to have excessive confidence in what evolutionary theory has shown I am (a) immediately hesitant and (b) I go talk to Huenemann. I do the latter because he knows far more than I do and also because I know he will give it to me square (he won’t make a lot of apologies for the theist point of view!). And Huenemann, without fail, thinks that we should be much less confident in our evolutionary science – the matter (the broad theory not to mention the details) is hardly settled, and it is far from clear that design has been bounced out of the picture. Last time I stopped by to talk to him about all this, he gave a pretty nice little defense of the Intelligent Design concern!! (Skeptics, you love em when they help you out, and they are frustrating as hell when they won’t see your side!)

    To the previous claim about evolution (from Jon) that supposedly makes no room for order arising out of chaos (note: James rightly takes us to task for being pretty sloppy in our use of ‘chaos’ and ‘random’, etc).
    I never made what is now called the ‘design argument’. I never couched my argument in terms of complexity. I couched my argument in terms of causal uniformity (both efficient and final causality).
    I will quote from Machuga’s book, since he knows more about these things vis a vis this debate, so I might as well not paraphrase him:

    The use of final cause is not only permitted but necessary in biology. Nothing that Darwin and his successors have learned about evolution eliminates biologist’s need for final causation. [Biologists say things like this all the time, ‘The turtle came ashore to lay its eggs’.] … It is only Paley that is refuted by Darwin; Aristotle’s arguments are untouched. The reason is simple – without an appeal to genetic codes, natural selection is unintelligible. But like words, no code can be understood in wholly material terms. Without forms, there is no form-ation.

    I think the Aristotelian view just makes better sense of ordinary observations. And I think much of the matter here comes down to the reductionistic tendency of naturalists. I will quote from a footnote in Machuga’s book:

    Darwin wrote in a 1870 letter to J. Hooker, ‘I cannot look at the universe as a result of blind chance. Yet I see no evidence of beneficient design, or indeed any design in the details.’ Jaki responds, ‘Darwin was much too short-sighted philosophically to realize that in order to see design one needed, in addition to physical eyes, mental eyes’ (The Purpose of it all’ p49). Note too the backwards glance to the problem of evil in the phrase ‘beneficient design’.

    If materialists and naturalists are unwilling to accept that there is reason beyond scientific (quantitative/mechanical/technological) reason, then we will be at an impasse. But I think they make that reduction at a very high price – they might well cost themselves meaning in language. (To put that another way, the reduction might make unintelligible some of their obvious scientific claims, like ‘turtles come ashore in order to lay eggs’.
    Science cannot answer the philosopher’s questions, just as purely philosophical or theological answers are out of place in the scientific community. I think all these thinkers should step back and begin respecting something like a ‘natural division in labor’ that Plato discusses in the Republic. I promise not to do bad science if the scientists promise not to do bad philosophy. Reading some Platonic dialogues of late really accentuates this – in the Apology, ‘The [good scientist] seems to have the same fault as the poets: each of them, because of his success at his [science], thought himself very wise in other most important pursuits, and this error of theirs overshadowed the [scientific] wisdom they had.’


  44. Huenemann

    Just a quick note in my own defense: in claiming order might be a necessary feature of the universe, that doesn’t preclude randomness, so long as the random events follow stochastic laws (as in quantum mechanics. Also, I don’t see why it is unfair for me to expect someone who posits the existence of an UMM to have some account of why making such a postulation actually does explain what it is meant to explain. If, in the end, positing an UMM ends up leaving as many mysteries as it was meant to solve, then the postulation seems hardly justified.


  45. Kleiner Post author

    I didn’t mean to be unfair to you – maybe I am unclear on what you were asking me, I had the sense you were asking me for a sort of recipe-like formula for how the UMM moves things. But I am arguing from the other direction. Things are teleologically moved (fact about the world). Undirected natural causes will never constitute a sufficient explanation of our language and experience (and scientific understanding) of this regular and directed movement. So, at the end of the day, I think naturalism is not only insufficient but it is even incoherent (see CS Lewis in his book on miracles). Intelligent causation is, I and Lewis and Machuga argue, the only coherent explanation of our understanding of natural laws and our ability to speak of them.
    I think we should have someone come in sometime and lecture on this issue. (Or maybe we’ve beaten this dead horse long enough). Actually, I would love for a materialist to present on why the obvious teleology in the world is only apparent.


  46. Kleiner Post author

    I am going to defer this a bit – I will provide a much more thorough answer when we get to Aristotle and Aquinas in the Intro class. I think you’ll have a much better view of the whole view then (I’ve been piece-mealing it here).
    But, here are a few quick examples:
    I went on a run this afternoon for the sake of getting some exercise.
    Eyes are for seeing.
    Birds gather twigs and things in order to have a place to nest their eggs.
    Penguins sit on their young in order to prevent them from freezing to death.

    If you watch the Discovery Channel, for instance, you will see that almost everything they say during nature shows is teleological. I rather suspect that almost everything we say about ourselves and about our world has teleological significations.

    I don’t think there is any debate on this point. The debate is whether the teleological significations are real or apparent (whether they grab on to a real feature of things or not). (Correct me if I am wrong on that, Huenemann.)


  47. Becky

    I just stumbled across a really interesting website, in which it was announced that “Healing the Rift,” written by Leo Kim,
    is to be released in October- next month.
    In reading the website, I read that the book details the author’s experience of working in a cancer ward with dying patients. He discusses his philosophy of both spirituality and science coexisting based on his scientific knowledge and his spiritual experiences. It Definitely sounds like an interesting read, no matter what your beliefs are.



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