The Infinite Regress – The Poverty of the Design Inference
Inspired by Richard Dawkins
Theists adore presenting the argument from improbability to justify their belief in God. Generally, they argue, “The cosmos is far too complex to have arisen by pure chance, thus it must have been intelligently designed. We call this designer God.” The problem with this design inference is obvious: Any designer capable of crafting something as complex as the cosmos surely also is complex enough to require its own designer. Indeed any designer, by definition, would have to be complex; the very act of “designing” requires the presence of a mind. This is because design, by definition, is planning/executing something with a specific goal with respect to the end result. Mind, the only entity capable of design work, simply is too complex to arise by pure chance [Remember, this is the dichotomy with which creationists present us, pure chance versus design. Working from their own (I would argue false) dichotomy, mind requires design, and thus designers require design.] Note: Natural Selection does not constitute design because Natural Selection never works toward a specified end goal. It takes what it can get at stage one, without regard to what might happen at stage nine.
So now we conclude that our complex—by virtue of its mind—intelligent designer also must have been designed (since it is too statistically improbable that mind would arise by pure chance). In reaching this conclusion, all I am doing is applying the design inference uniformly and accepting the creationists’ own dichotomy of pure chance versus design. Continuing logically then, the Super designer of the original intelligent designer also must have been designed. That work must have been done by a Supreme intelligent designer, who again, by virtue of the presence of its mind, must too be the product of design [Remember, design work only can be done by a mind, and a mind—given our accepted creationist dichotomy—must be the product of design, since it statistically could not arise by pure chance.] This reasoning dooms us to an infinite regress wherein every designer, each of whom possesses a mind, would need its own designer in turn.
In case the above is too convoluted (alas, creationist reasoning), I'll put the whole thing into argument form. For the sake of clarity, I also will define "mind" as follows: "An entity capable of devising plans and seeing those plans through – step by step – to a predetermined goal."
P1. Design work requires the presence of "mind" (although not necessarily a brain, per se).
P2. Designers, by definition, do design work.
C1. Designers must possess mind.
P3. Mind statistically is too complex to arise by pure chance.
P4. According to creationists' own dichotomy, the alternative to pure chance is design.
C2. Mind must be designed.
P5. Designers must possess mind.
P6. Mind must be designed.
C3. A designer (or, at least, a designer's mind) must be designed. [Ad infinitum]
Theists may presume to argue that their original intelligent designer always has existed, designed itself or some other such pseudo-philosophical proposition. In that case, I ask for hard, scientific evidence to support such an assertion. How could we, the mere creations of an intelligent designer, presume to know about that designer’s origin? The only way I can imagine would be through revelation, such as the revealed Truth of Scripture. But no serious scientist will be convinced by knowledge via revelation, if only because the Bible is full of gross inconsistencies, scientific impossibilities and historical improbabilities [Not to mention the fact that the Bible was composed by many writers, with their own agendas, which then was filtered through rewriters and powers of the day.] Saying “God always has existed” or “God designed himself” explains nothing, but instead offers a permanently inaccessible black box. Positing God simply replaces one mystery (the origin of the cosmos) with an even more baffling mystery (the origin of the designer, the origin of the designer’s designer, ad infinitum). Citing God does not explain anything. The design hypothesis is a path to infinite regress, wherein every designer would demand its own. Creationists’ dichotomy is false. Their reasoning? And the road leads to nowhere…