Design Arguments for the Existence of God Design arguments are empirical arguments for the existence of God

. These arguments typically, though not always, proceed by attempting to identify various empirical features of the world that constitute evidence of intelligent design and inferring God’s existence as the best explanation for these features. Since the concepts of design and purpose are closely related, design arguments are also known as teleological arguments, which incorporate “telos,” the Greek word for “goal” or “purpose.” Design arguments typically consist of (1) a premise that asserts that the material universe exhibits some empirical property F; (2) a premise (or sub-argument) that asserts (or concludes) that F is persuasive evidence of intelligent design or purpose; and (3) a premise (or subargument) that asserts (or concludes) that the best or most probable explanation for the fact that the material universe exhibits F is that there exists an intelligent designer who intentionally brought it about that the material universe exists and exhibits F. There are a number of classic and contemporary versions of the argument from design. This article will cover seven different ones. Among the classical versions are: (1) the “Fifth Way” of St. Thomas Aquinas; (2) the argument from simple analogy; (3) Paley’s watchmaker argument; and (4) the argument from guided evolution. The more contemporary versions include: (5) the argument from irreducible biochemical complexity; (6) the argument from biological information; and (7) the fine-tuning argument. 1. The Classical Versions of the Design Argument a. Scriptural Roots and Aquinas’s Fifth Way The scriptures of each of the major classically theistic religions contain language that suggests that there is evidence of divine design in the world. Psalms 19:1 of the Old Testament, scripture to both Judaism and Christianity, states that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work.” Similarly, Romans 1:19-21 of the New Testament states:

Further. on Aquinas’s view. however.For what can be known about God is plain to them. Koran 31:20 asks “Do you not see that Allah has made what is in the heavens and what is in the earth subservient to you. as a logical matter. as opposed to true). Since the operations of all natural bodies. non-contradictory. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end. only by the existence of an intelligent being who directs that system or process towards its end. so as to obtain the best result. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature. and this is evident from their acting always. and this being we call God (Aquinas. According to Aquinas’s Fifth Way: We see that things which lack knowledge. then it provides a logically possible explanation for how the end-directedness of the . Hence it is plain that they achieve their end. and made complete to you His favors outwardly and inwardly?” While these verses do not specifically indicate which properties or features of the world is evidence of God’s intelligent nature. It is worth noting that Aquinas’s version of the argument relies on a very strong claim about the explanation for ends and processes: the existence of any end-directed system or process can be explained. are directed towards some specific end that conduces to. unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence. the empirical fact that the operations of natural objects are directed towards ends shows that an intelligent Deity exists. these operations can be explained only by the existence of an intelligent being. Now whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end. such as natural bodies. Perhaps the earliest philosophically rigorous version of the design argument owes to St. seems to be refuted by the mere possibility of an evolutionary explanation. not fortuitously. invisible though they are. So they are without excuse. at the very least. Accordingly. If a Darwinian explanation is even coherent (that is. but designedly. Thomas Aquinas. This crucial claim. in the same way. or nearly always. and Question 2). each presupposes that the world exhibits such features and that they are readily discernable to a reasonably conscientious agent. the preservation of the object. Summa Theologica. have been understood and seen through the things he has made. act for an end. because God has shown it to them. Article 3. as the arrow is directed by the archer.

Richard Bentley saw evidence of intelligent design in Newton’s discovery of the law of gravitation. it shows that Aquinas is wrong in thinking that “whatever lacks knowledge cannot move towards an end. In Part II of his famous Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. and intelligence. wisdom. throughout all nature. subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines. The Argument from Simple Analogy The next important version of the design argument came in the 17th and 18th Centuries. the drum of the ear. William Derham. we are led to infer. Hume formulates the argument as follows: Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: you will find it to be nothing but one great machine. organisms that have evolved some system that performs a fitness-enhancing operation are more likely to survive and leave offspring. If this explanation is possibly true. though possessed of much larger faculties. saw evidence of intelligent design in the vision of birds. John Ray. It is noteworthy that each of these thinkers attempted to give scientifically-based arguments for the existence of God. are adjusted to each other with an accuracy which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. other things being equal. such operations evolve through a process by which random genetic mutations are naturally selected for their adaptive value. The curious adapting of means to ends. of human designs.” b. and William Derham drew on scientific discoveries of the 16th and 17th Century to argue for the existence of an intelligent Deity.operations of living beings in this world might have come about. All these various machines. by all the rules of analogy. that the causes also resemble. David Hume is the most famous critic of these arguments. for example. Pursuing a strategy that has been adopted by the contemporary intelligent design movement. and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man. resembles exactly. unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence. thought. the eye-socket. According to this explanation. which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. and the digestive system. though it much exceeds. therefore. and even their most minute parts. the effects resemble each other. than organisms that have not evolved such systems. the productions of human contrivance. Richard Bentley. Since. proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he .

3. “wherever you depart in the least. which is confessedly liable to error and uncertainty” (Hume. Dialogues. the design in the material universe is the effect of having been made by an intelligent creator. As Hume states the relevant rule of analogy. Hume criticizes the argument on two main grounds. on this analysis. First. By this argument a posteriori. since we obviously lack such experience. Hume then goes on to argue that the cases are simply too dissimilar to support an inference that they are like effects having like causes: Since the analogy fails. from the similarity of the cases. Hume rejects the analogy between the material universe and any particular human artifact. Part II). As expressed in this passage. even if the resemblance between the material universe and human artifacts justified thinking they have similar causes. the argument is a straightforward argument from analogy with the following structure: 1. the universe has a universemaker. we lack adequate justification for the claim that the material universe has an intelligent cause. and by this argument alone. Hume argues that. you diminish proportionably the evidence. Therefore. Hume argues that we would need to have experience with the creation of material worlds in order to justify any a posteriori claims about the causes of any particular material world.has executed. Second. The material universe resembles the intelligent productions of human beings in that it exhibits design. The design in any human artifact is the effect of having been made by an intelligent being. Like effects have like causes. we can infer “by all the rules of analogy” the existence of an intelligent designer who created the world. it would not justify thinking that an all- . do we prove at once the existence of a Deity. and his similarity to human mind and intelligence? Since the world. 2. then. then. is closely analogous to the most intricate artifacts produced by human beings. and may at last bring it to a very weak analogy. Just as the watch has a watchmaker. 4.

Paley’s Watchmaker Argument Though often confused with the argument from simple analogy. it performs some function that an intelligent agent would regard as valuable. in rearing a city. there is nothing in the argument that would warrant the inference that the creator of the universe is perfectly intelligent or perfectly good. and . For example. and arrangement of its parts suggests that the watch has these characteristics because some intelligent agency designed it to these specifications. the fact that the ability of a watch to keep time depends on the precise shape. Taken together. Paley’s argument proceeds by identifying what he takes to be a reliable indicator of intelligent design: There are thus two features of a watch that reliably indicate that it is the result of an intelligent design. the fact that the watch performs the function of keeping time is something that has value to an intelligent agent. in framing a commonwealth. First. Instead of simply asserting a similarity between the material world and some human artifact. every manifestation of design.perfect God exists and created the world. Part V)? c. the watch could not perform this function if its parts and mechanisms were differently sized or arranged. with the difference. the watchmaker argument from William Paley is a more sophisticated design argument that attempts to avoid Hume’s objection to the analogy between worlds and artifacts. Indeed. exists in the works of nature. on the side of nature. size. Hume argues that there is nothing there that would justify thinking even that there is just one deity: “what shadow of an argument… can you produce from your hypothesis to prove the unity of the Deity? A great number of men join in building a house or ship. these two characteristics endow the watch with a functional complexity that reliably distinguishes objects that have intelligent designers from objects that do not. of being greater and more. which existed in the watch. why may not several deities combine in contriving and framing a world” (Hume Dialogues. Second. Paley then goes on to argue that the material universe exhibits the same kind of functional complexity as a watch: Every indicator of contrivance.

that in a degree which exceeds all computation. is generally thought to have been refuted by Charles Darwin’s competing explanation for complex organisms. and curiosity of the mechanism. but with occasional errors. in the complexity. The consequence will be differential reproduction down the generations—in other words. Regardless of how dissimilar any particular natural object might otherwise be from a watch. are not less evidently mechanical. Paley’s watchmaker argument is clearly not vulnerable to Hume’s criticism that the works of nature and human artifacts are too dissimilar to infer that they are like effects having like causes. As Julian Huxley describes the logic of this process: The evolutionary process results immediately and automatically from the basic property of living matter—that of self-copying. than are the most perfect productions of human ingenuity (Paley 1867. I mean that the contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances of art. yet in a multitude of cases. 4). not less evidently accommodated to their end. unlike arguments from analogy. 13). the replication of genetic material in an organism results in mutations that give rise to new traits in the organism’s offspring. Darwin argued that more complex biological organisms evolved gradually over millions of years from simpler organisms through a process of natural selection. Paley’s version of the argument. In The Origin of the Species. both objects exhibit the sort of functional complexity that warrants an inference that it was made by an intelligent designer. or suited to their office. if possible. subtitle. not less evidently contrivances. the errors in self-copying are what we call mutations. but sometimes these new traits enable the . does not depend on a premise asserting a general resemblance between the objects of comparison. Sometimes these new traits are so unfavorable to a being’s survival prospects that beings with the traits die off. Over time. however. do they go beyond them in number and variety. and mutations will inevitably confer different degrees of biological advantage or disadvantage on their possessors. Self-copying leads to multiplication and competition. natural selection (Huxley 1953. What matters for Paley’s argument is that works of nature and human artifacts have a particular property that reliably indicates design. Paley’s argument. and still more.

or aught but purposive intelligence” (Tennant 1928-30. d. intelligence. and morality. such as the evolution of penicillin-resistant bacteria) but deny the occurrence of “macroevolution” (that is. frequently maintain that the existence of God is needed to explain the purposive quality of the evolutionary process. this influential move infers design. As is readily evident from Huxley’s description of the process. The result is that the probability of evolving functionally complex organisms capable of surviving a wide variety of conditions is increased to such an extent that it exceeds the probability of the design explanation. If the trait is sufficiently favorable. only members of the species with the trait will survive. 121). one species evolving from a distinct species). As he puts the matter. Evolution is. on this line of response. The problem with Paley’s watchmaker argument. some theists accept the theory of evolution as consistent with theism and with their own denominational religious commitments. as Dawkins explains it. or of blind formative power. . guided by an intelligent Deity. so too the purposive quality of natural selection is best explained by intelligent design. The first theist widely known to have made such an argument is Frederick Robert Tennant. Guided Evolution While many theists are creationists who accept the occurrence of “microevolution” (that is. however. Just as the purposive quality of the cumulative-step computer program above is best explained by intelligent design. “the multitude of interwoven adaptations by which the world is constituted a theatre of life. evolution that occurs within a species. By this natural process. is that it falsely assumes that all of the other possible competing explanations are sufficiently improbable to warrant an inference of design. functionally complex organisms gradually evolve over millions of years from primordially simple organisms. not from the existence of functionally complex organisms.possessors to survive conditions that kill off beings without them. Such thinkers. but from the purposive quality of the evolutionary process itself. cannot reasonably be regarded as an outcome of mechanism. Darwinian evolution is a cumulative-step selection method that closely resembles in general structure the second computer program. In effect. in Volume 2 of Philosophical Theology.

First. Third. While each of the design inferences in these arguments has legitimate empirical uses. 147). a. is irreducibly complex because the removal of even one part results in complete loss of function. A mousetrap. however.2. The Argument from Irreducible Biochemical Complexity Design theorists distinguish two types of complexity that can be instantiated by any given structure. Second they argue that some feature or features of the world exhibits P. Like the functions of a watch or a mousetrap. in contrast. services. design arguments appear unable to stand by themselves as arguments for God’s existence. they identify some property P that is thought to be a probabilistically reliable index of design in the following sense: a design explanation for P is significantly more probable than any explanation that relies on chance or random processes. As we will see. a cilium . and buildings without rendering it unable to perform its function. or property. Behe. As William Dembski describes the distinction: a system or structure is cumulatively complex “if the components of the system can be arranged sequentially so that the successive removal of components never leads to the complete loss of function”. These versions typically contain three main elements—though they are not always explicitly articulated. entity. all of the contemporary versions of the design inference seem to be vulnerable to roughly the same objection. Contemporary Versions of the Design Argument Contemporary versions of the design argument typically attempt to articulate a more sophisticated strategy for detecting evidence of design in the world. have identified a number of biochemical systems that they take to be irreducibly complex. those uses occur only in contexts where we have strong antecedent reason for believing there exist intelligent agents with the ability to bring about the relevant event. they conclude that the design explanation is significantly more likely to be true. A city is cumulatively complex since one can successively remove people. Design proponents. a system or structure is irreducibly complex “if it consists of several interrelated parts so that removing even one part completely destroys the system’s function” (Dembski 1999. like Michael J. But since it is the very existence of such a being that is at issue in the debates about the existence of God.

First.” as Behe believes. are missing. as a general matter. the probability a subspecies of organisms with the precursor survives and propagates is the same. In such cases. we would not be justified in inferring a design . the blood-clotting function cannot perform its function if either of its key ingredients. but there is nothing in Darwinian theory that implies they are necessarily any less fit. leave offspring. a precursor to a fully functional cilium are no fitter than they would have been without it. and evolve is not unusually small. Nevertheless. irreducibly complex systems “cannot be produced gradually”). If having a precursor to an irreducibly complex system does not render the organism less fit for survival. as the probability that a subspecies of organisms without the precursor survives and propagates. even if we knew that the prospect that the precursor-subspecies would survive was “vanishingly small. Organisms that have. he is more charitably construed as claiming only that the probability of gradually producing irreducibly complex systems is very small. the prospect that the subspecies with the precursor will continue to thrive. irreducibly complex—rather than cumulatively complex. then. according to Darwinian theory. small enough to warrant assuming that the probability of the design explanation must be higher. Both systems are.cannot perform its function unless its microtubules. Similarly. The stronger construction of the conclusion (and argument) incorrectly presupposes that Darwinian theory implies that every precursor to a fully functional system must itself perform some function that makes the organism more fit to survive. Though Behe states his conclusion in categorical terms (that is. the argument from irreducible biochemical complexity is more plausibly construed as showing that the design explanation for such complexity is more probable than the evolutionary explanation. remove any component from the system and it cannot perform its function. there is no reason to think that it is logically or nomologically impossible. Thus. nexin linkers. there is little reason to think that the probability of evolving irreducibly complex systems is. Accordingly. other things being equal. for a set of organisms with a precursor to a fully functional cilium to evolve into a set of organisms that has fully functional cilia. vitamin K and antihemophilic factor. on this view. Accordingly. this more modest interpretation is problematic. and motor proteins are all arranged and structured in precisely the manner in which they are structured. say.

The argument from biological information is concerned with only the second of these problems. In the absence of some further information about the probability that such an agent exists. by itself. Darwinian theories are intended only to explain how it is that more complex living organisms developed from primordially simple living organisms. RNA. we cannot legitimately infer design as the explanation of irreducible biochemical complexity. The first is to explain how it is that a set of non-organic substances could combine to produce the amino acids that are the building blocks of every living substance. and (4) intelligent design. There are two distinct problems involved in explaining the origin of life from a naturalistic standpoint. and proteins. the argument from biological information focuses on the problem of generating living organisms in the first place. In particular. (3) chemical necessity. The problem. b.explanation on probabilistic grounds. simply does not justify inferring that the probability that such an agent exists and brought about the existence of that system is not vanishingly small. it attempts to evaluate four potential explanations for the origin of biological information: (1) chance. The argument from biological information is concerned with an explanation of how it is that the world went from a state in which it contained no living organisms to a state in which it contained living organisms. (2) a pre-biotic form of natural selection. The Argument from Biological Information While the argument from irreducible biochemical complexity focuses on the probability of evolving irreducibly complex living systems or organisms from simpler living systems or organisms. is that the claim that a complex system has some property that would be valued by an intelligent agent with the right abilities. . we need some reason to think that the probability of the design explanation is not vanishingly small. The argument concludes that intelligent design is the most probable explanation for the information present in large biomacromolecules like DNA. that is to say. it is concerned with the explanation of the very first forms of life. and hence do not even purport to explain the origin of the latter. The second is to explain the origin of the information expressed by the sequences of nucleotides that form DNA molecules. however. To infer that the design explanation is more probable than an explanation of vanishingly small probability.

. But.” For example. Thus. Meyer argues the probability of generating short functional protein is 1 in 10125—a number that is vanishingly small. highly specified. Although it is logically possible to obtain functioning sequences of amino acids through purely random processes.” The problem is that highly repetitive sequences like the former are not sufficiently complex and varied to express information. it is extremely unlikely that a random search through all the possible amino acid sequences could generate even a single relatively short functional protein in the time available since the beginning of the universe (let alone the time available on the early earth)” (Meyer 2002. Because processes involving chemical necessity are highly regular and predictable in character. 75). at most. while chemical necessity can explain periodic order among nucleotide letters. the development of highly repetitive ordered sequences incapable of representing information. some researchers have estimated the probability of doing so under the most favorable of assumptions at approximately 1 in 1065. Theories of chemical necessity are problematic because chemical necessity can explain. in doing so.” it cannot explain specified but highly irregular sequences like “the house is on fire. it lacks the resources logically needed to explain the periodic. as a logical matter. explain the origin of biological information. this leaves only chance and design as logically viable explanations of biological information. complexity of a sequence capable of expressing information. Theories of pre-biotic natural selection are problematic because they illicitly assume the very feature they are trying to explain. they are capable of producing only highly repetitive sequences of “letters. while chemical necessity could presumably explain a sequence like “ababababababab. These explanations proceed by asserting that the most complex nonliving molecules will reproduce more efficiently than less complex nonliving molecules. theories of pre-biotic natural selection fail. In the absence of some sort of explanation as to how non-organic reproduction could occur. Pre-biotic natural selection and chemical necessity cannot. Meyer concludes: “given the complexity of proteins. they assume that nonliving chemicals instantiate precisely the kind of replication mechanism that biological information is needed to explain in the case of living organisms. Ultimately.The argument proceeds as follows. Factoring in more realistic assumptions about pre-biotic conditions.

by itself. To justify preferring one explanation as more probable than another. It is immediately tempting to think that the probability of a fine-tuned universe is so small that intelligent design simply must be the more probable explanation. the universe appears “fine-tuned” for life. It is true. we must have information about the probability of each explanation. like the argument from biochemical complexity. tells us nothing obvious about the probability that it is the result of intelligent design. it will not inductively justify inferring the existence of an intelligent agency with causal powers that depart as radically from our experience as the powers that are traditionally attributed to God. the only two explanations . Since. For example. The mere fact that certain sequences take a certain shape that we can see meaning or value in. as the matter is commonly put.The problem. of course. life would not be possible if the force of the big bang explosion had differed by one part in 1060. but our experience is limited to the activity of human beings—beings that are frequently engaged in activities that are intended to produce information content. seems incapable of standing alone as an argument for God’s existence. The argument from biological information. The supposition that it is a matter of chance that so many things could be exactly what they need to be for life to exist in the universe just seems implausibly improbable. The Fine-Tuning Arguments Scientists have determined that life in the universe would not be possible if more than about two dozen properties of the universe were even slightly different from what they are. is that it is the very existence of an intelligent Deity that is at issue. however. the universe would have either collapsed on itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. that “experience affirms that information content not only routinely arises but always arises from the activity of intelligent minds” (Meyer 2002. While that experience will inductively justify inferring that some human agency is the cause of any information that could be explained by human beings. Similarly. the occurrence of sequences of nucleotides that can be described as “representing information” does not obviously warrant an inference of intelligent design—no matter how improbable the chance explanation might be. c. on this intuition. life would not be possible if the force binding protons to neutrons differed by even five percent. In the absence of some antecedent reason for thinking there exists an intelligent Deity capable of creating biological information. 92).

000. does not give us any reason to think that it was the result of intelligent design. it is not just that we got lucky with respect to one property-lottery game.000. After all.000 games is exactly the same as the probability of winning one 1-in-1. Schlesinger. however. attempts to formalize the fine-tuning intuition in a way that avoids this objection. Suppose we flip a fair coin 1000 times and record the results in succession. however.000 lotteries. To understand Schlesinger’s argument.for the highly improbable appearance of fine-tuning are chance and an intelligent agent who deliberately designed the universe to be hospitable to life. If. i. The structure of the latter event is such that it is justifies a belief that intelligent design is the cause: the fact that John got lucky in three consecutive lotteries is a reliable indicator that his winning was the intended result of someone’s intelligent agency. you would immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. by itself. we got lucky with respect to two dozen property-lottery games—lotteries that we had to win in order for there to be life in the . As intuitively tempting as it may be to conclude from just the apparent improbability of a fine-tuned universe that it is the result of divine agency. Despite the fact that the probability of winning three consecutive 1-in-1. Schlesinger argues that the fact that the universe is fine-tuned for life is improbable in exactly the same way that John’s winning three consecutive lotteries is improbable.000 game. consider your reaction to two different events. The mere fact that it is enormously improbable that an event occurred by chance. If John wins a 1-in-1.000.000. gives us no reason to think that it occurred by design. Schlesinger believes that the intuitive reaction to these two scenarios is epistemically justified. the former event is of a kind that is surprising in a way that warrants an inference of intelligent design. by itself.000 lottery game. you would not immediately be tempted to think that John (or someone acting on his behalf) cheated. This natural line of argument is vulnerable to a cogent objection. the inference is unsound. The Argument from Suspicious Improbability’s George N. John won three consecutive 1-in-1. the latter simply has to be the better explanation. The probability of getting the particular outcome is vanishingly small: 1 in 21000 to be precise. But it is clear that the mere fact that such a sequence is so improbable.

then there is nothing particularly suspicious about the fact that there is a fine-tuned universe. while it might be clear that carbonbased life would not be possible if the universe were slightly different with respect to these twodozen fine-tuned properties. Second.universe. First. rather than a principle that is contrived to distinguish events or entities that are explained by intelligent design from events or entities explained by other factors. we do not have any past experience with the genesis of worlds and are hence not in a position to know whether the existence of fine-tuned universes are usually explained by the deliberate agency of some intelligent agency. has probability 1) if all every material universe is eventually realized in the multiverse. had to win. we are even more justified in inferring intelligent design in the case of our winning two dozen much more improbable property lotteries. the most probable explanation for the remarkable fact that the universe has exactly the right properties to sustain life is that an intelligent Deity intentionally created the universe such as to sustain life. As before. . so to speak. First. If this highly speculative hypothesis is correct. The Confirmatory Argument Robin Collins defends a more modest version of the fine-tuning argument that relies on a general principle of confirmation theory. and more obviously. some physicists speculate that this physical universe is but one material universe in a “multiverse” in which all possible material universes are ultimately realized. Since some universe. ii. the very point of the argument is to establish the fact that there exists an intelligent agency that has the right causal abilities and motivations to bring the existence of a universe capable of sustaining life. Second. This argument is vulnerable to a number of criticisms. the problem for the fine-tuning argument is that we lack both of the pieces that are needed to justify an inference of design. we are not justified in inferring that there exists an intelligent Deity who deliberately created a universe capable of sustaining life. it is not clear that no form of life would be possible. Thus. since the existence of such a universe is inevitable (that is. Because we lack this essential background information. Given that we are justified in inferring intelligent design in the case of John’s winning three consecutive lotteries. the fact that ours won does not demand any special explanation. Schlesinger concludes.

the Prime Principle of Confirmation “is a general principle of reasoning which tells us when some observation counts as evidence in favor of one hypothesis over another” (Collins 1999. 51). and it is a matter of chance that the universe has the fine-tuned properties needed to sustain life. The Design Hypothesis: there exists a God who created the universe such as to sustain life. Indeed. Assuming the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis is true. It tells us only that the observation of finetuning provides one reason for accepting the Theistic Hypothesis over the Atheistic SingleUniverse Hypothesis—and one that can be rebutted by other evidence. As he explains. the probability that the universe has the fine-tuned properties approaches (if it does not equal) 1. Assuming the Design Hypothesis is true. Applying the Prime Principle of Confirmation. 2. 53). At the outset. This version of the fine-tuning argument proceeds by comparing the relative likelihood of a finetuned universe under two hypotheses: 1. The Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis: there exists one material universe. The confirmatory version of the fine-tuning argument is not vulnerable to the objection that it relies on an inference strategy that presupposes that we have independent evidence for thinking the right kind of intelligent agency exists. The idea is that the fact that an observation is more likely under the assumption that H1 is true than under the assumption H2 is true counts as evidence in favor of H1. As a general scientific principle. then O provides a reason for preferring H1 over H2. the Prime Principle of . Collins concludes that the observation of fine-tuned properties provides reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis over the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis. the probability that the universe has the fine-tuned properties is very small— though it is not clear exactly how small. or even that it is likely that the universe was designed” (Collins 1999.Collins’s version of the argument relies on what he calls the Prime Principle of Confirmation: If observation O is more probable under hypothesis H1 than under hypothesis H2. it is crucial to note that Collins does not intend the fine-tuned argument as a proof of God’s existence. he explicitly acknowledges that “the argument does not say that the fine-tuning evidence proves that the universe was designed.

the Democrats drew the top ballot position 40 of 41 times. for example. The Scientifically Legitimate Uses of Design Inferences It is worth noting that proponents are correct in thinking that design inferences have a variety of legitimate scientific uses. During Caputo’s tenure. If the observation of a fine-tuned universe is more probable under the Theistic Hypothesis than under the Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis. 3.Confirmation can be applied in a wide variety of circumstances and is not limited to circumstances in which we have other reasons to believe the relevant conclusion is true. provides a weak reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis over the Atheistic Single Universe Hypothesis. then this observation provides some reason to prefer the former. The Republican Party filed suit against Caputo. Consider. was a public official responsible for conducting drawings to determine the relative ballot positions of Democrats and Republicans. Although Collins is certainly correct in thinking the observation of fine-tuning provides a reason for accepting the Design Hypothesis and hence rational ground for belief that God exists. A single application of the Prime Principle of Confirmation. including criminal and insurance investigations. For this reason. by itself. then this fact is a reason for preferring the Design Hypothesis to Atheistic Single-Universe Hypothesis. If all we know about the world is that John Doe won a lottery and the only possible explanations for this observation are the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis and the Chance Lottery Hypothesis. As is readily evident. that reason is simply not strong enough to do much in the way of changing the minds of either agnostics or atheists. But it does not take much counterevidence to rebut the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis: a single observation of a lottery that relies on a random selection process will suffice. the notorious case of Nicholas Caputo. . making it far more likely that an undecided voter would vote for the Democratic candidate than for the Republican candidate. a member of the Democratic Party. the confirmatory version of the fine-tuning argument. by itself. is simply not designed to provide the sort of reason that would warrant much confidence in preferring one hypothesis to another. Such inferences are used to detect intelligent agency in a large variety of contexts. the above reasoning. by itself. Caputo. provides very weak support for the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis.

justify thinking that there are other intelligent life forms in the universe. after all. by itself. While our existence in the universe—and this is crucial—does not. the intelligibility of the pattern.arguing he deliberately rigged the ballot to favor his own party. seems to justify the inference that the transmission sequence is the result of intelligent design. we are already justified in thinking that the right sort of intelligent beings exist even in this case. In this case. we would be justified in inferring design as the explanation of such a sequence on the strength of three facts: (1) the probability of such a chance occurrence is 1 in 21136. researchers monitor radio transmissions for patterns that would support a design inference that such transmissions are sent by intelligent beings. After noting that the probability of picking the Democrats 40 out of 41 times was less than 1 in 50 billion. In every context in which design inferences are routinely made by scientists. We already know. it would be reasonable to infer that some intelligent extraterrestrial beings were responsible for a transmission of discrete signals and pauses that effectively enumerated the prime numbers from 2 to 101. together with the improbability of its occurring randomly. they already have conclusive independent reason for believing there exist intelligent agents with the right abilities and motivations to bring about the apparent instance of design. In response. that we exist and have the right sort of motivations and abilities to bring about such transmissions because we send them into space hoping that some other life form will detect our existence. For example. the court legitimately made a design inference. As it turns out. As is well-known. however. one might be tempted to argue that there is one context in which scientists employ the design inference without already having sufficient reason to think the right sort of intelligent agency exists. (2) there exist .” What proponents of design arguments for God’s existence. it does justify thinking that the probability that there are such life forms is higher than the astronomically small probability (1 in 21136 to be precise) that a sequence of discrete radio signals and pauses that enumerates the prime numbers from 2 to 101 is the result of chance. have not noticed is that each one of these indubitably legitimate uses occurs in a context in which we are already justified in thinking that intelligent beings with the right motivations and abilities exist. Thus. concluding that “few persons of reason will accept the explanation of blind chance.

It is the very existence of the right kind of intelligent being that is at issue in the dispute over whether God exists. they cannot stand alone as arguments for God’s existence. Indeed. if we already have adequate reason to believe that God exists. In so far as the legitimate application of design inferences presupposes that we have antecedent reason to believe the right kind of intelligent being exists. Similarly. Conclusion If this is correct. . then design inferences can enable us to distinguish features of the world that merely happen from features of the world that are deliberately brought about by the agency of God. While design inferences have a variety of scientifically legitimate uses. it is obviously more reasonable to believe that God deliberately structured the universe to have the fine-tuned properties than it is to believe that somehow this occurred by chance. Insofar as they presuppose that we already know the right kind of intelligent being exists. they can enable us to distinguish what such beings do from what merely happens. and (3) the sequence of discrete signals and pauses has a special significance to intelligent beings. then design inferences can enable us to distinguish lottery results that merely happen from lottery results that are deliberately brought about by such agents. to the extent that we are antecedently justified in believing that God exists. then design inferences simply cannot do the job they are asked to do in design arguments for God’s existence. In particular.intelligent beings in the universe capable of bringing about such an occurrence. for example. (2) and (3) tell us that the probability that design explains such an occurrence is significantly higher than 1 in 21136—though it is not clear exactly what the probability is. If we already know. that there exist beings capable of rigging a lottery. they cannot stand alone as a justification for believing that God exists.

1998) William Dembski. 1999)    Charles Darwin. 1996.” in Michael J. MI: William B. 2002) . 1692-1693) Robin Collins.). No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence (Rowman & Littlefield. A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World (London: H. Murray (ed. Behe. “A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God. 1996)  Richard Bentley. Reason for the Hope Within (Grand Rapids. 1947) Richard Dawkins. Everyman’s Library (London: J. The Design Inference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.. The Origin of Species.References  Michael J. Mortlock. Dent.M. originally published in 1986)   William Dembski. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Touchstone Books. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (New York: Norton Publishing.