(Null hypothesis: A does not lead to B until such a time that it has been demonstrated that A leads to B)
‘Look at the trees, look at the stars, don’t try and tell me that they all just happened by accident.’
The argument from design is basically that; we intuit design when we observe objects around us. Complex structures in biology, the fine-tuning that allows Earth to support life, the formation of the eye, etc. There had to be a mind behind this as it could not have happened by mistake. To think so would require a larger leap of faith than the person arguing a designer.
“A painting must have a painter, a building must have a builder” – Ray Comfort
Several takes on William Paley’s watchmaker analogy have popped up in apologetics over the years. An argument that has been reworded and repackaged to the point where our current knowledge has had to reduce the argument to the questioning of objective reality.
First issue I take with the argument is that it’s a classic argument from ignorance fallacy to assume a creator because you can’t imagine any other way it could have happened. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but it means that they’re not reasonable in holding that position.
The second being how our minds inherently intuit design because of our predisposition to seeing patterns. We spot coincidences and keep to routines as it has been evolutionary beneficial to maintaining a society, as we are a social species. However, our desire to make sense out of a process we don’t fully understand doesn’t make it reasonable to assume a pattern or an intuitive answer.
The third issue being the general mistaking of the points of the argument. Complexity is not a hallmark of design, quite the contrary, simplicity is, we see it in our current technology (products that were designed), we try to create things that can complete a complex task, but is simple in design, the iPhone for example; capable of so much, but being of very basic and user friendly mechanics.
The other mistaken point being that we distinguish things that have been designed against things that occur naturally. The analogy’s conclusion essentially says that everything was designed, which would leave the question of how one could determine the conclusion in the first place without something to contrast it with. Paley walks along the beach and finds a watch and determines it must have been designed, but he’s walking on a field of watches on a planet made of watches and picks one up and makes that determination. What is natural then, in such a world?
The equivocation fallacy of stating that if a building has to have a builder, then humans have to have a designer is flimsy at best. We only have examples of buildings being built, we have no examples of them occurring naturally, we know that buildings do not have the biological mechanism for self replication, all of which does not apply to life. The only humans we have examples of were reproduced from other humans. That’s a contrast one would need to be able to see in order to determine whether something has been designed or not.
None of these arguments prove that there wasn’t a designer, but an understanding of the null hypothesis would lead one to know that holding that position cannot be reasonable. One particularly difficult problem would be an infinite regress of designers, which I will go more in-depth when I write about the cosmological argument.
Essentially, without a point of contrast or an understanding of the premise, the Teleological argument stays in the realm of philosophical theology where it doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of its peers, and doesn’t even enter the realm of science. A non-starter, an argument that should have been left by the wayside hundreds of years ago.