For whatever reason the topic of Design seems to come up quite often lately, so I think I’ll offer my take on teleology and what I think is wrong with it. Despite the fact, that we have overwhelming evidence for evolution, this age old argument still seems to enjoy some popularity among Creationists circles. Especially the Master Apologist Ray Comfort seems to be a fan of it.
Typically when I bring up one line of evidence for evolution like comparative anatomy and how it supports common ancestry, the first response I get is that “this isn’t evidence for a common ancestor but for a common designer.”
There are multiple problems with that but the biggest one I see, is that that simply isn’t true.
I don’t know much about art but I do know that there have been different times, where contemporary artists have all painted (or built) in similar styles. Not every cubistic piece of art you’ll find on the internet will have been painted by Pablo Picasso, there were painters like Georges Braque who painted similarly.
Is then common design evidence of common designers? Is different design evidence of different designers?
If we take the claim to its logical conclusion, then this would imply that every piece of art from Cubism must’ve been painted by Picasso and every time we see a painting that that wasn’t painted in the style of Cubism we can automatically rule out Picasso as the painter. Yet here I found a painting from his blue Period bin 1903
(for those interested this painting is known as “the blind man’s meal” )
The argument that common design is evidence for a common designer is demonstrably wrong. It’s also terrible theology because if common design implies a common designer (it doesn’t), then different design implies a different designer. This would lead us to Polytheism.
If we want to be accurate then all we can say is that design is evidence of a designer and a certain designing style. Of course when we apply the principle that design is evidence for a designer to nature, where the very design is in question, then we’re dealing with a circular argument.
What would be the criteria by which we can determine design? One may argue from complexity, that organisms are just so incredibly complex, that it indicates a designer. Aside from the fact, that this would be an argument from ignorance it is also, once again, demonstrably false. Unless you’re Storkist and thereby reject reproductive biology, we know that complexity is emerging via natural processes during pregnancy.
We also know from computer simulations and from experiments that complexity can emerge from the bottom up via natural processes. One example would be the Lenski experiment during which e.coli gained a completely new trait namely the ability to digest citrate.
It is true that one might conclude that things like our body look designed but there are many things we can observe in our world, that also look designed but that are most definitely not designed, which even the Creationist would have to admit.
Let’s take a look at the Vinicunca mountain in Peru.
We all agree that this mountain is a result of geological processes whether it has been over millions of years or one gigantic Flood. I think it also certainly looks designed. There are beautiful rainbow colours and it has a good shape as well. Yet we know that it isn’t designed, so we know that our abilities to detect design in nature are faulty.
The final reason why I find the argument to be rather weak, is because of what we find in other organisms as well as ourselves.
I am talking about poor design.
My favorite examples to use are the way our esophagus and our trachea are connected leading people to choke to death. The other example I often use is the blind spot within our eyes. This blind spot can lead to fatal car accidents. Finally our brains can often deceive us, when we’re hallucinating or have false memories.
This design is faulty and it is inexcusably faulty if God directly designed us, instead of using the process we called evolution, which does work in general but is only imperfect.
So in Summary: If we can detect design, it is evidence for a Designer or multiple Designers but we’re in no position to conclude either way. When we observe in our world, it is often the case that we see design where there really isn’t any design. Even if we see design in organisms, we can infer devastating consequences for God as the designer, concluding that he has goals for us in mind, which aren’t consistent with the notion of a loving God.
This argument, even if evolution doesn’t debunk it conclusively, is unconvincing and might very well be used against its proponents.
Goodbye from yours truly,
Rene von Boenninghausen @Renevelation