Argument from Design is well Designed

I see in the comments from my last post that it may have been unclear. A word is in order.

Please note that the column there is only addressing the fine-tuning argument.

Such arguments propose, for example, that the Earth must be precisely her current distance from the sun for the liquid water to be found on her surface without which life cannot arise, and the moon just so to prevent the Earth from dying under meteor impacts, or the precise properties of subatomic particles for atoms to form, or the precise values of physical constants for the Big Bang to have expanded, and so on.

The argument then proposes some number value expressing the number of times, out of a hundred, universes have been formed where these physical constants and distances differed.

This value is always not merely arbitrary, but illogical.


The argument finally proposes that this value is so small that it is beyond imagination it could have arisen by chance. Anything not done by change is done by design; ergo the cosmos had a designer, and this all men know to be God.

Here is why I call it illogical:

Walking along the beach where a resent dice game has been played, you come across a single die half-buried in the sand with only its upper face showing.

You find two gamblers, a winner and a loser, quarreling over the half-buried die. It seems the winner, call him Sky Masterson, won a bet by correctly guessing, before they looked, what the upper face would show one pip. The loser, call him Nathan Detroit, accuses Sky of cheating, that is, of putting the die into the sand with his thumb, so that the winning number would be face-up.

As they argue, it appears neither knows the shape of the die nor the number of faces. If the buried die is a cube (as standard dice are) then the chance of finding this result is one in six. But if it is an octohedron, one in eight, a dodecahedron one in twelve, icosahedron, twenty. But if it is a chiliagon, that is, a thousand-faced polygon, the chance is one in one thousand. If it is a myriagon, a million-sided die, the chance is one in a million.

Since the die is buried in a special hypothetical sand invented only for this hypothetical, digging up the die and counting the other sides is impossible.

The Nathan Detroit argues that since the die could be any shape, from a two sided poker chip to a thousand sided chiliagon or a million sided myriagon,  the chance of fairly rolling a ‘one’ by random chance is less than one in a thousand, less than one in a million. That is simply too unlikely to have happened by random chance, therefore the Sky Masterson cheated.

What is wrong with his argument?

First, it is merely a slovenly habit of speech to refer to things one does not know as being equally probable. While the gamblers do not know the shape of the die, it does not follow that, merely because a die of any number of faces is possible, that each possibility is equally probable.

Probable means that in a situation where all other variables are controlled, an unknown variable will produce, out of one hundred trials, a given percentage of results. If a cube is balanced, and thrown unintentionally, the chance of rolling a one is one in six. If, out of one hundred throws, the die always lands with one pip face up, the conclusion is valid that some other factor is outweighing the uncontrolled factors is present, that is, the die is loaded.

If you throw the die once and once only, you cannot deduce that the percent chance of any given result.  By definition, one can record the percent chance of anything only after one hundred trials. (“Per cent” means “per centum” that is, out of one hundred times.)

If you are inspecting an object where no other result has ever been obtained or ever can be obtained, even the idea that other results are possible is unsupported. Just because you can invent in your head the idea of a thousand sided die buried in the sand, does not mean that this is one possibility equal out of a hundred trials with the possibility of a six sided die. For all you know, the thing buried in the sand might be a poker chip with one pip on both sides, so that no other result is possible.

More to the point, even if you roll a thousand sided die, and even if the die is perfectly balanced and no cheating is involved, Sky Masterson might win if he bets on one. It might roll a one. Some face has to end up face up.

The die in this case is the spacetime continuum, and the result is the specific physical constants and astronomical nuances needed to bring forth Sky Masterson. The die has only been rolled once, and the other possibilities are as imaginary as the chiliagon. So the argument that random chance, rather than the thumb of the gambler, put or did not put the result in place is vain and silly.

Second example: you walk into a room where Nicely-nicely Johnson has just been seen with a deck of cards. You find a deck of cards in perfect order by number and suit. Sky and Nathan, still arguing, follow you, and demand you settle their bet. One of them says that Nicely-nicely shuffled the cards and that they just so happened to have ended up in perfect numerical order. The other says he put the cards in order deliberately, on the ground that it is too unlikely that fifty two cards would be in this order by chance.

But when you ask whether this particular pack was ever opened, neither one knows. You point out that if the pack was never opened, it could never have been shuffled at all, either into a likely nor into an unlikely order, neither deliberately nor by chance.

There is no such thing as deducing the percent chance of anything or the likelihood of anything  from one example or trial of something where (1) there are no other examples nor trials and (2)  even the question of whether or not other examples and trials could possibly exist is unknown and unknowable.

A thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters typing for a thousand years could not produce HAVE SPACE SUIT WILL TRAVEL by Robert Heinlein, by any random arrangement of twenty-six Roman letters, six punctuation marks, and ten Arabic digits for the simple reason that the manuscript contains phrase of music written in musical notation, which cannot be produced by a typewriter. My point is that the other possible version of this book existing in hypothetical parallel universes cannot be calculated merely by imagining different arrangements of the elements of a typewriter. You cannot assign a number value to something whose elements you do not know.

Random chance does not produce results nor decide results. That is merely a sloppy way of speaking. Unknown physical factors, or factors too fine and slippery for deliberate control, we call random if we cannot count them or account for them.

All talk of probability is by definition talking about the limits of human knowledge. You know a coin will land heads or tails because the coin only has two sides, and if it is not one, it is the other. But you do not know which will come up. The coin is tossed too quickly and spins too rapidly for the human eye to anticipate which way it will land.

But the calculated path of a moonrocket to the moon can be anticipated precisely. To say the coin toss is random is to say that you are not currently able to measure the pressure imparted by the thumb, or the tiny irregularities in air motions or surface texture to calculate the rebound.

These elements exist, for the spinning coin is moved by the same Newtonian forces as spin the Earth, but in the first case you do not know them, for the coin is small and human thumb is uncertain, whereas the earth is large.

So much for the fine-tuning argument. It is fallacious.

On the other hand, I am not disputing or even discussing the argument from design, which simply does not contain this flaw.

That argument, also called the Watchmaker argument, goes as follows: If you find something that is made for a purpose, then it was made by an intelligence. In nature we see birds building nests and other goal-directed acts which birds themselves never imagined, conceived, invented, nor intended. Yet the behavior is deliberate, that is, it could not have been selected save as a means to an end. Ergo the instinct producing the behavior was deliberately designed into the bird. Deliberate design implies a deliberate designer, and this all men know to be God.

I see no fallacy in the argument. The best possible counter argument is to propose that deliberate-seeming acts can arise without deliberation if and when the purposeful nature of the behavior arises as an emergent property from non-deliberate mechanical motions of organized but non-deliberate actions of living things.

In other words, the argument is that blind nature will kill off all birds who, while impelled for random genetic reasons randomly to play with twigs, fail to build a serviceable nest out of twigs, and therefore all birds whose genes for no reason whatsoever had them just so happen to weave an intricate and serviceable nest, put their eggs in it rather than pebbles or beetles. Because of this, blind nature will produce a result that looks like nests are meant to be built to hold eggs rather than seashells, but this appearance is an illusion, and only the Gnostic illuminati with special magic mindreading powers can look into the mind of blind nature and see she did not really mean to produce nest-building birds.

And this is why we also see all other animals, weasels, penguins, and whales, periodically playing with sticks, accidentally making nests, thrusting random objects into them, and why also we see tens of thousands of eggs and young creatures of all species dying every spring, and only the one egg placed merely by accident into a nest survives.

Except we don’t. The argument about emergent design issuing from non-design is badly designed.