The Drifting Argument from Design

Imagine the following 3 beaches.

  1. A beach on which there are a billion stacks of clams, all stacked 4-high.
  2. A beach on which there are only 4 clams, stacked 4-high.
  3. A beach on which there are 4 clams stacked 4-high, plus a billion other unstacked clams.

Which beach has an intelligence likely visited?

Most rational persons would say beach #1 since it is highly unlikely that what is perceived as of human design (a stack of 4 clams) would have been duplicated a billion times. Beach #2 would be second since it would be unlikely that, if there were 4 clams on the beach, those 4 clams would be stacked on top of each other.

However, most humans would concede that, with a billion clams on an ocean beach, it is quite likely that what would be unlikely on the uncluttered beach #2 would exist naturally on busy beach #3.

Now consider which hypothetical universe below would offer greatest evidence of intelligent design.

  1. A universe in which there are a billion planets, all populated by intelligence.20130908-205116.jpg
  2. A universe in which there is only one planet, populated by intelligence.
  3. A universe in which there is only one planet, populated by intelligence, plus a billion other unpopulated planets.

I think you get the picture.

For centuries, the argument for design was promoted under the assumption of universe #2; that there were no other planets. Now that we have indeed ascertained that there are billions of potential worlds out there, theists have exchanged the old argument for a new argument. Why would this planet, of all the billions of planets, be the only one known to be populated by intelligence?

They have forgotten their previous argument, and fail to consider that, on a beach with a billion clams, it is far from unlikely that you would find 4 clams stacked 4-high, and in a universe with a billion planets, it is far from unlikely that you would find a single planet with some sort of complexity.

The argument from design remains a possibly valid argument if it can be shown that nature can not by itself generate complexity to the point of intelligence, but to suggest that this argument is now now significantly weaker than in centuries past in which we accepted #2 is dishonest. And the question of why an actual intelligent designer would not have created universe #1 or #2 warrants doubt about the existence of any proposed intelligent designer.

I remain open-minded but unconvinced that the universe required an intelligent designer, especially since there has been no substantiated case of an intelligence existing apart from a material substrate.