Following is an article by a Professor Stanislau Dundon, of California State University Sacramento. I took Business and Computer Ethics under him and found him to be thoughtful and thought-provoking. He held several principled and unpopular public opinions on campus and remained a respected and important member of that community of higher learning. I do not agree with everything he says or teaches, but his beliefs have merit if only to serve to cause us to look harder at our own beliefs. The article is long, beginning with a note specifically addressed to teachers using this article in their classrooms, and ending with quite an extensive list of endnotes and a bibliography. Professor Dundon, when I asked his permission in posting his article here, wished me to convey that he
“would be delighted to speak to any audience on why so many biologists think, without justification, that Darwin cancels God when all that evolution does is place incredible weight on the power of the non-living universe to form the background potential for biological evolution. Which is why so many prominent physicists, including Nobelists, are convinced theists.”
Read the article on the following pages.
(Reprinted by permission of the author)
Explanatory Introduction For Philosophy Teachers Wishing To Use The Undesigned Designer
Many bright students are subjected, especially in “Introduction to Philosophy” courses, to very definitive refutations of proofs of the existence of God constructed by capable and sincere philosophers. But to understand the full power of the refutation one must have a deeper knowledge of the philosophic system it is embedded in than can be attained in an introductory course. No philosophic system enters into this question of the existence of God at an introductory level of that philosophic system. A second difficulty is that mutually incompatible philosophic systems have adherents on both sides of proofs of existence of God. When the “Introduction to Philosophy” texts provide refutations which are mutually incompatible even when they share the same conclusions against the proofs, it gives the impression of the “any stick to beat the dog”, which surely does not impress students with our professionalism. Finally a difficulty exists in certain refutations of proofs of the existence of God, namely that the refutation assumes that the burden of the proof is to arrive at a notion of God somehow clearly that of mainline Catholic or Protestant religions. Yet none of the religious thinkers of those traditions who were also philosophers have ever confused the rather spare notion of God arrived at by philosophy with the notion contained in their faith. It is usually maintained that there should be no direct contradiction between the notions derived from reason and faith, but that faith will contain much that reason could not attain.
The following treatment is meant to avoid some of these difficulties, but it cannot fully avoid the difficulty of entering a discussion of God with persons who have not carefully examined the philosophic foundation on which this discussion is based. It is a poor way to proceed, but the stimulation of the question itself and the practice of editors and teachers who wish to deal with exciting questions first guarantee that this question is going to be discussed very early in most undergraduate philosophy courses. Hence I will offer a proof which rests on a realist philosophic system which I think a significant segment of undergraduates adhere to in an unexamined way, and which I believe is justified on its own merits regardless of its ability to provide a foundation for a good proof of God’s existence.
I do not wish to suggest that every student is an adherent of some unsophisticated realism. On the contrary, in the undergraduate audience one will find the nascent forms of practically every philosophic tradition. This makes it as difficult to work on a proof of the existence of God with them as it would be among philosophers from diverse traditions.
Among science students, however, one can find generally a kind of poorly examined empiricism with a rough kind of materialistic bias, but with a view that knowledge is a reliable report of the world distinct from the knower. They accept material causality and demand adequacy in causal explanations in the way that physical science has taught them. Of course, some of their favorite causes are rather ill-defined, verging on science-fiction, but they remain well enough within the realist tradition to enable one to discuss a proof of the existence of God profitably with them. It is not necessary to argue out each epistemological point with them, but to simply draw upon what their basic belief in material science requires of them. The following proof will proceed in that fashion. For the sake of philosophically sophisticated readers of this paper, however, I wish to present an apology for presupposing a kind of unexamined realism in this paper. Some of this material will be repeated in the body of the paper.
First, any proof or refutation of a proof of the existence of God which comes as a kind of culmination of significant prior work or at least long chains of prior assumptions in the philosophic system in which it is embedded will have tremendous problems in achieving brevity. The seductive brevity of Aquinas’ five proofs (also written for bright college level students) mushrooms into massive volumes of explication even by authors who totally accept Aquinas’ assumptions and merely wish to make them explicit (Garrigou-Lagrange, 1934). Hence it is convenient to target a proof toward an audience which shares the largely epistemological and philosophy of science assumptions on which the proof is based.
Second, one would not want, of course, to hold such a breath-taking conclusion as the existence of God needlessly hostage to the acceptance of any philosophic system. But appropriately tolerant philosophic ecumenism should not be required to reconcile traditions whose premises might turn out to be inherently intolerant of supporting the discovery of any being independent of the thinking philosopher, let alone a being independent of all finite beings. The present author, following the lead of Cornelius Fabro (l968), is of the opinion that many well constructed and consistent forms of idealistic philosophy lead to the denial of God out of sheer and praiseworthy fidelity to their first premises. But since I suspect that my acceptance of sophisticated moderate realism affects my perception of proofs of the existence of God in the idealist tradition, I think it better to let the idealists construct their own proofs. The ecumenical effort may simply produce incompatible premises with the ill consequences noted above.
For these reasons the following proof is going to be based on the realist tradition in philosophy. At the outset we need not state that realism any more strongly than the belief that the human mind somehow knows a world whose existence and nature is not the creation of the human mind. The human mind can gain imperfect knowledge of that world by the tools of science. Also, by those same tools the mind can, over time, attain to more and more adequate causes to explain events in the world. What aspects of these “adequate causes” are therefore held to be real and which are the discardable hypotheses of an advancing science need not be determined for the sake of this paper. The certitude upon which this proof relies is that there must be adequate real causes whose pursuit in science is worthwhile.
In addition we are presuming that the audience possesses implicitly agreed-upon criteria of what constitutes adequacy for causes. I hope to be able to cite such criteria as we progress, and sever them in part from the criterion of precise quantitative predictive success. To the extent that old theories are discarded for new ones on the basis of improved adequacy, rational scientific change testifies to the existence of such consensus criteria of adequacy. Thus I will rely implicitly only on those kinds of epistemological principles which seem to function in any working theory and which are nevertheless foundational, vague and general enough to be cited against that theory and for a rival in time of scientific revolution. For those who would deny that there are any rational epistemological or other philosophic principles which govern the selection of new theories, or at least govern their entry into candidacy, I have no answer. If the explanation of nature by its own intrinsic principles (or causes) is an irrational business, then clearly no rational discovery of the need to appeal to extrinsic principles, or to the author of the intrinsic principles is possible. If our discovery of the design of nature is wholly illusory, then the need for an undesigned author of that design is a worse illusion.
The end-notes which accompany this paper are intended principally for teachers who might use this paper in class, or for philosophic readers.
THE UNDESIGNED DESIGNER
GOD FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS OF SCIENCE
What Causes Science To Seek An External Real Cause?
The common intellectual habits of scientists with respect to seeking causes of events are fairly common-sense, “intuitive” habits which are quite capable of philosophic defense in a realist tradition. Thus the scientist would not claim that any individual human being could explain his/her own existence completely for two reasons: 1) The complete explanation of a human being requires the explanation of the origin of the human. 2) The human being is a complex structure of parts which cannot act on their own to form that structure immediately. Hence the scientist usually resorts to a mediated series of causes operating in a system called evolution. It is not simply because we are used to seeing humans born from mothers that we reach the conclusion that no human can explain him/herself. And since humans do all that they do in virtue of the already constituted structure of their individual bodies and minds, they do not have the power to explain the formation of their individual selves. This inability to find self-explanation is not removed by positing an infinite series of mothers and offspring, each dependent on the previous one.<1> Hence some cause external not only to this individual human, but even to any series of nearly identical humans is sought.
We know the accepted resort of biologists. Man is explained via evolution by some simpler species, or at least earlier species. Naturally living forms complex enough to produce the offspring in which natural selection can operate are as incapable of self-explanation as man. Hence the search turns to the origin of life in the non-living (or non-organic) levels of chemicals. Rather than rely on the precise theoretical details of chemical structure to explain the possibility of the spontaneous origin of life, let us ask what sort of chemicals could sustain evolutionary living organisms.
Firstly, even without the testimony of chemists one could reasonably conclude from the similarity of offspring composed of matter that there is an abundance of matter of the same sort from which bodies of similar properties can be constructed. Matter is repetitious.Secondly, the supposed random motions of the particles of matter lead not to an infinite variety of combinations but to less than 100 varieties. Of these only 5 or 6 varieties occur in any significant quantity, from which most natural components are formed. Therefore, repetitious matter is biased. No matter what chemical theory may be accepted 1,000 years from now, it is hard to imagine how the demands of organic structures could be met without the availability of similarly biased material out of which to construct their similar tissues. Random motions of matter cannot produce biased results by means of randomness but by means of the ordered or biased structure of the particles. Hydrogen and oxygen may come together by random motion, but they produce water in certain precise quantities and not peanut butter or not water in just any quantity because of the precise and quantitatively exact design of the hydrogen and oxygen. Order is never explained by chaos but by more basic kinds of order. The randomness of both evolutionary innovation and of chemical events is an extremely small part of the explanatory system. The predictive successes which sometimes assist in establishing any theory are based on regularities of the matter. Although Kantian theories of science and some explanations of quantum theory regard some of these regularities as properties of the method or mind of the theoretician rather than of the matter, it is the property of no theoretician’s mind that matter is regularly capable of forming water or squirrels. Hence at the base of our causal chain we have repetitiously well formed matter, usually visualized in discrete enough portions (atoms or molecules) to account for the repetition. Even in field theories there must be some sort of repeated nodules to account for macroscopic repetition.
Is it reasonable to rest satisfied with large quantities of particles of one or several families( the elements) which possess a fairly high degree of fine structure as the ultimate explanation of the universe? Ultimate particulate material explanation currently includes at least three varieties of theory: single fundamental particle or “quark” theory, several fundamental particles (but with few persons contented with a nuclear zoo), and no fundamental particle or “bootstrap” theories. The theories have this in common: They all suppose such high degree of versatile fine structure that the whole universe can be constructed out of an extremely large number of repetitions of a single or very few patterns, by utilizing different combinations of the potentials of the patterns.<2>
Modern Physics Depends On Design
There was a time, close to the beginnings of modern physics with Isaac Newton, that philosopher-scientists thought that one could construct physics without much dependence on design characteristics of matter. These same philosopher-scientists objected to the effort of Newtonians to introduce a new natural design characteristic, namely the well defined power of gravity belonging to each particle of matter. A recent but now dying philosophy of science, logical positivism, says that the anti-Newtonians won the argument and that scientists really should not believe that physics discovers or depends on believing that particles really exist with real well defined masses, inertial, electro-magnetic, gravitational and quantum properties, color, charm or any new design characteristics which will be proposed by the time you read this paper.
This proof does not depend on any of those properties being real. It depends on the fact that without some kind of quantitative definition at the material base of the universe, the physicist would have no place to start. Logicians and some mathematicians like to show that you could redefine most of the fundamental quantitative properties of particles and still come up with a good physics which could explain the visible material world fairly well. I admit this. But these logicians and mathematicians deceive themselves if they believe that because varieties of definition are possible, no definition need exist at all. Mathematics can offer successful revisions or reductions of one set of properties to another. History is full of efforts to reduce gravity, inertia, and electromagnetic forces to a simpler single force. But this does not make physics a branch of purely mental mathematics. No definite physics can start from mathematics alone. It must start from some definite physical design. We can discard any specific design proposal, but not the generic necessity of some design to begin physics. One reason for this can be found in the nature of mathematics itself, as it must operate in a realist physics. Mathematics is the language for expressing size. If it is biased against certain sizes, it will run the risk of hiding them from the physicist. It must be indifferent to, but capable of expressing any size. As such, mathematics cannot be the radical source of the definite sizes physics proposes at the base of the universe, the basic sizes from which it builds a system capable of explaining the sizes and quantities which we experience and use to test the goodness of the theories.
The thinkers who try to reduce the design which is so evident in the descriptions of particles in physics to the nature of the mathematics chosen by the mathematician and the imagination of the physicist have some justification. After all, the theories are constantly being thrown out for later ones which paint much different pictures.
But there is another way of reading this constant replacement of one picture with another. If each picture is the creation of the mind or pure mathematics, why change at all? The need to change is felt in the resistance of the material studied in the laboratory to some aspect of the mental picture. The mind of the scientist is struggling with something over which it does not have control, something to which the scientist is trying to conform his/her picture. This is the whole point of the experimental method. If the picture were totally creative, there would be no need to experiment at all.
Those who see the knowledge we have gained in physics as being entirely of our mind’s own making resemble “idealist” philosophers. This particular class of philosophers, according to Cornelio Fabro (1968), have extreme difficulty arriving at a proof of the existence of God even though many of them have tried with great tenacity and piety. The trouble should be clear. If physics itself, an effort to explain matter by its own internal design principles, is entirely in the mind, then any God will be similarly a product, and not an author, of the mind. We have to be able to have some knowledge of nature which is independent of our minds, to which our minds conform, or seek conformity by fidelity to an experimental method, in order for that nature to be able to proclaim its dependency (or non-dependency) on God.
But that “some knowledge” is not every aspect of the theories we hold today. How do we know, then, whether the intense design characteristics are aspects we can rely on? It is important to note that as science progresses, it does not throw out the hard experimental data from which the older theories were constructed. If that data is not completely embodied in the new theory, that failure by the new theory will be a weakness in it. The data of all the theories is, by an large, design data, i.e. data which reveals the generic requirement of design in any explanatory system of a material cause.
Physics Must Have Repetitious Design
Not only chemistry, therefore, but physics, because it explains chemistry, must have repetitiously well designed particles by which to explain the repetitiously identical objects and events by which we judge the physical theories.
Once again if we grant only generically correct hypotheses to physics those repetitiously well designed particles of the universe are of a quite striking complexity. But that complexity is not the greatest burden against their being the ultimate explanation of the universe. The burden is in the fact that many of the particles are identical twins of one another, but they have no common father. There may be several families of these identical particles, but the problem is severe if we have only one type of particle, with an identical blueprint repeated almost countlessly. If they are the foundation, they have no father. Yet they are identical! Whence the identity?
Resort To “Temporarily” Fundamental Status
Suppose we back off from the claim that they are fundamental in the absolute sense and say that they are fundamental only to current theory but they may have been produced by a previous cosmos. Would such a material cosmos be capable of producing by material processes the fine structure of this world without any such order of its own? It would not seem likely. Moreover the notion of such a world-generating previous cosmos would introduce a new explanatory weakness of its own. By its own internal matter-based laws it had a time to give birth. But the logic of a definite birth time shows that its pregnancy had to have begun a finite time ago. The material process which goes off (generates this universe) at a certain time is like an alarm clock which goes off. It the alarm was set an infinite time ago, it would have gone off an infinite time ago.<3> The cosmos that generated this universe in the death throes of its natural history had to have had a beginning a finite time ago. In turn it needed a natural parent, with the same problem repeated. An infinite series of such generating universes has been intuitively seen by most writers of cosmogony as useless.<4> Hence it is common to posit some sort of a cyclic universe with one eternal matter with a set of properties capable of rewinding what is unwinding now. These aentropic properties are hidden now, but they are as natural to matter as those of the present entropic state and constitute a near doubling of the complexity and fine structure of the material base of the cosmos. The quarks, the nuclear zoo, or the bootstrapping matrix of potential forms must now carry not only all the powers to govern this universe but the powers which determine the switch to the return cycle, the running of the return cycle and the switch to begin the next run of the present cycle.<5> We are left with eternal particles, eternally in possession of their all powerful properties, each a twin of millions of others with no common father to explain the twinning, and not producing one another. Is this a satisfactory ultimate explanation? I think their eternity could be accepted.<6> But these particles have a duality of a Platonic sort, a sameness (the pattern) and difference, (the many instances of the pattern are in different places and are therefore materially different). The Aristotelian (and lately Heisenberg) resort to a neutral matter molded into a repeating design (called “hylomophic composition”) to explain this duality may impress some philosophically oriented physicists even as it impressed Heisenberg. It might suggest to them that there must be a divine potter to cast all primeval clay into one or several families of pots (particles). But I believe repetitiously exact particulate matter is impressive enough if we simply look at the immense creative burden which the design potentials of the particles must bear (since those designs are responsible for the whole universe). That design-based power of the particles calls for a divine architect. Why? Once again, because the design belongs to many particles who are not causes of each other and who have no common material father. The design and its repetition both demand explanation.
Requirements Of A Material Source Of Particle Identity
To escape the resort to an architect who intellectually possessed the design and imposed it by volition on any kind of Platonic or Aristotelian matter or “principle of multiplicity” there are two related moves (at least) possible. One is to make the design so simple that no architect would be needed, and the other is to propose an automatic material imprinter of the pattern. With regard to the latter, it is not necessary to see any architect working at tedious reproductions to explain the similarity of waffles to one another. The materially possessed and materially active blueprint of the waffle iron and a supply of batter are enough. Of course one does not want to introduce a complex cosmic waffle iron to stamp out quarks. What it would gain in ability to explain the similarities it would lose in ability to explain complexity, because its own greater complexity would be more difficult to accept as self-explanatory. If the parts of the complex machine do not of themselves tend to come together in the way needed to produce the machine, then we must regress to a material maker of the machine whose material mode of operation is less dependent on a complex structure. And finally one would be left with the ultimate particles of some earlier cosmos.<7>
The Limits Of Material Simplicity
The preceding reflections, then, make clear that for a plausibly self-explanatory material cause of particle identity, we need a non-complex physical cause. How non-complex, i.e. how simple can such a physical cause in a previous cosmos be and still be able to explain the complexity and multiplicity of the particles of the present cosmos? Clearly the cause must be simple enough to make a useful reduction in the complexity of the particles commonly proposed today—thus lessening the need for the architect—and which would still be able to repeatedly make the kinds of particles needed for our present cosmos.
Without hesitation we can say that any self-moving cause which operates materially will have at least two parts if it operates regularly and repeatedly. (Both regularity and repetition are needed to explain the many particles of the same sort or pattern.) The two parts are: one which does not move or change during the making operation and hence explains the regularity(the pattern identity), and one part which does move or change to do the impressing of the constant pattern. <8>
The part that does move can explain the beginning, middle and the end of causal action and the multiplicity of the causal actions. The identity of the outcome is traceable to the part which undergoes no change. Moreover, one part must change to manipulate the matter, yet it should be clear that the whole machine cannot be undergoing change since the directive components would then be changing and not give the correct directions.<9> Intelligent architects can rely on a constant intention to make a multiplicity of buildings according to a certain plan and on some means of retaining the directive details of the plan, while the self-moving, non-intelligent material agent must have material analogs of these components of regular repetitive creativity. Hence, no matter what physical model is proposed for the cosmos which generates this present one, it will still have at least two parts articulated together to function as required.<10>
This articulation of these two parts into an harmoniously operating unit is one good place of “evidence” for the design excellence of any cosmos prior to and capable of generating this one. This is only “evidence” on the hypothesis that this present cosmos was generated by a preceding one. But the reason for proposing a preceding cosmos is to explain the design of this present one and yet the prior cosmos must itself have design, as just argued, a design of some complexity to account for the regularity of its operation, whether that regularity was carried out over time, or all at once but in different places. It is, therefore, just as non-self-explanatory as this universe. It will not form a reasonable ultimate source of the present universe. We might just as well claim that the fundamental particles of this present universe are the eternal and self-explanatory source of all things.<11> As proposed by current theory of physics, we will just as reasonably rest with unnumbered billions of particles of exactly the same pattern, twins without a common parent, as the self-explanatory cause. Some might be content to do this. But I argue that it is at least inconsistent with the search for a cause whenever common patterns are found, a search which leads scientists not to settle for the chemical elements as basic.<12> The 90-odd designs of the naturally occurring elements in chemistry are traced to physical components. Why not accept the elements as ultimate and treat the rest of the discoveries of physics as chips of matter whose regularity is due to the regularity of the axe (the particle accelerator) and the constant skill of the woodsman?
Recourse To Infinite Series
In my earlier remarks on the possibility of the infinite series I was concerned mainly with the scientific theorist. The choice of cyclic or steady state universes by cosmogonists is a witness merely to a common sense awareness of the uselessness of the infinite series, but here I wish to examine the philosophic defenses of such series. The kind of series which would seem useful here would be a series of universes whose design characteristics were traceable to the stable and ordered complex of the preceding universe. These being design characteristics, they in turn would demand explanations and so on ad infinitum. Since infinite time is at our disposal, why must we make a break in this chain and introduce an intelligent designer who would be simple, i.e. not dependent on a complex of its own material parts in order to impose design on matter? Why must there be an undesigned designer? At this point the usual claim against the infinite series is that if each member of a series is dependent, the “whole” series is dependent in the same way and hence there is a need to introduce a non-dependent cause. I prefer to put it differently. The presence of the dependent characteristic is evident and undeniable, and the denial of an independent source equates to a denial of the evident dependency. But the defenders of the infinite series can reply that any series member is completely explained by the efficacy of the prior member and since every member has a prior member, there is no need for a non-dependent agent.<13>
Explanatory Uselessness Of The Infinite Series
Current scholarship has noted the importance, in the careful defenses of the Aristotelian and medieval elaborations of the cosmological arguments, the difference between two types of proposed infinite series of causes and effects. One type(called the per se series) requires that all members co-exist and act simultaneously) and the other(called the per accidens series) allows earlier members to cease acting and existing while the causal action carries on, like falling dominoes. There is no need to argue the demand for a first mover in a per se series. By definition the per se series requires the existence and constant action of the first cause of motion, the first mover. The motion would simply stop without such a mover.<14> Since per accidens series allow the earlier causes to pass out of existence while the later causes remain active it seems harder to prove that any first cause is needed.
Per accidens series are the only type which physical scientists generally give much attention to since they consider most forms of local motion to be natural “states” or properties which need causes of their coming into existence (causes in fieri) not a cause which must be there constantly to explain their active existence (cause in esse) as causes. Indeed, some historians of science feel that this change in the view of motion is what has led to the rejection of all cosmological arguments.<15> What must be shown to be useless here is an infinite per accidens series of designed design causers, i.e. worlds generating ordered worlds in virtue of their own design. I am indebted to Patterson Brown for this example of a per accidens series which illustrates the uselessness of such a series in providing an explanation:<16> In a series of rear-ended cars, the driver who had been stopped immediately at the cross walk who is forced into the intersection by the impact, thus going through the red light, can claim he is not responsible, and so can each driver back in line. The claim they make is that as moral agents they were stopped with foot lightly on the brake and hence were not causes of the lurching forward after being impacted from behind. Now, will the policeman reasonably settle for any series in which there is not finally someone who drove into a stopped car? (This agent could also be acting without responsibility, say due to a heart attack, but he will not be one who was stopped.) The policeman may never find a blameable driver, but he must find a different kind of driver, i.e., the one who moved without being rear-ended. A series of morally responsible drivers, stopped at a light, are not the cause of starting a per accidens causal chain of lurchings and rear-endings. No matter how long the series, the question is just as unanswered as when asked of the first driver. What is the explanation of the lurching? The series does not become self-explanatory. The lurching is unexplained by that kind of driver no matter how many you get. If we seriously ask the question of the first driver and accept his disclaimer, then we are bound by logic to continue asking every driver like him and accepting the disclaimer. The infinity will not produce satisfaction. No novelty, no surprise comes from mere addition of instances.
Do we seriously question the origin of design in a complex body, or the origin of many instances of particles of the same blueprint which we then attribute to a prior cosmos capable of generating the design of this one in virtue of its own design? If design is a problem, then the disclaimer “it cannot explain its own design” repeats itself with every designed cosmos. No explanation has been achieved by the infinite series. Yet our asking for explanation in one case is an admission that design needs explanation, even in an infinity of cases.<17>
The point is that we do ask for an explanation. Aquinas’ argument from design seemed conclusive until the acceptance of the Darwinian mechanism of nature by which order is achieved and preserved. But the very same question about the origin of biological design which is satisfied (in an incomplete and tentative way, but with good promise of more adequate solution) by the advanced forms of Darwinianism is asked and unanswered when we appeal to the infinite series to explain chemical design. And the biological design is extremely dependent on the chemical design. If we can say that it does not have to be answered, that it is an optional question, then why have the scientists felt otherwise to this point? Stopping the questioning before obtaining a satisfactory answer is not significantly different than for the policeman to stop seeking the “real” cause of the chain-reaction series of rear-endings. A series, finite or infinite, of fully alert and responsible agents without one being “guilty” is absurd.
The Undesigned Cause Of Design
Similarly an agent which can fully explain design would have to be outside of the series of designed designers, different from them in the only way that counts here, i.e. not dependent on any established material design internal to its own constitution in order to have its ability to operate in imposing design on the later members of the series. To be capable of explaining a series, whether finite or infinite, of design dependent designers we find ourselves forced to propose a design independent designer, an undesigned designer. To be undesigned here means to be without dependence for operation on a prior integration of material parts into an operative unit. Yet the undesigned designer is an operative unit, since it is imposed on our intellects only by the need to have an operative cause adequate to explain the marvel of material design itself. Such a cause must be capable of imposing design repeatedly, with goal-oriented action, and a non-material ability to keep “in mind” the pattern to be continually (or simultaneously but in many places) imposed on matter. These capabilities are called will and intellect. But in the undesigned designer, these capabilities must not be seen as materially separate faculties, but aspects of a simple intelligent agent.
The utter simplicity and sheer intellectual efficacy of a being who without dependence on integration of material parts into a working creative unit boggles our minds. Hence we must be careful that this description contains nothing more than required to satisfy the case, an ultimate explanation of material design. As noted, that is no more (yet still breathtaking) than an agent who can fit parts (means) to a whole (end) and create the first designed designer or an infinite series of designed designers. It would seem to include immateriality, intellectuality and at least despotic power of will over matter. It is not necessarily an originator of matter out of nothing, since it is only the order or design of matter which has set us on this quest for a first cause, and not matter itself.
Methodological Obstacles To A First Cause
There are two obstacles to acceptance by a realist scientist of a “first” cause like the undesigned designer. The first is the startling character of an undesigned designer (or any other ultimate explanation). The second is that most physical scientists do not notice that there is any real necessity to any aspects of their customary kind of explanatory ultimates. All such ultimates (atomicity, elasticity, gravity, charm, color) are cheerfully hypothesized and dropped if their predictive successes are not rich enough. And those successes are almost always determined by quantitative correspondence between prediction and outcome. But when we ask about the very source of quantitatively precise design, we are not asking for a cause which must produce any precise quantity, but rather simply the ability to produce design of any sort without being dependent on design. It should be clear that such an hypothesis is not testable by the accustomed techniques of the scientist. His accustomed mode of reassurance after an hypothesis is chosen makes no sense here. This cause does not have to explain the specifics of any precise design because it is not a precise design seen in this or that specific quantity which requires explanation, but design itself in general. Hence no precision-oriented test is reasonable. The only test is the recognition that design exists which is not self-explanatory. Yet it really exists. And it therefore demands a real and adequate explanation, one which does not repeat the problem of all well-designedness in general. Only an undesigned designer can explain it. Such a cause is not accepted because it is the most adequate among reasonable alternatives, but because we are intellectually compelled to accept a totally stunning and unfamiliar necessity. Any reasonable alternative would be preferable.
Many philosophers and some physicists would deny the reasonableness of an undesigned designer, not by a demonstration of a more reasonable hypothesis, but by a methodological answer which has overtones of an ethical objection. They say it is not a reasonable hypothesis because it is not an appropriate hypothesis. It is inappropriate, they would maintain, to violate the professional identity and expertise of the physicist which is to propose quantitatively testable hypotheses only. Hence they should not answer the question, should pass no judgment, should lend no authority to, should remain “officially” agnostic about the ultimate explanation of design. This refusal to discuss the last question would be tolerable and answerable if the agnosticism simply meant “I cannot give you a mathematically confirmable solution.” But what makes this seemingly modest “professional” agnosticism intolerable is the veiled suggestion that the limits the physicist places on his rational methods coincide with the limits of reason itself. Only piety or some idiosyncratic intuition allows one to escape the agnosticism, because in this realm of the ultimate explanation of the material world no one except the physicist speaks for reason. No one else has the skill.
This device delights some philosophers because it enables them to proclaim the unique function of philosophy.<18> I see this veiling of the physicists’ eyes so that they cannot ask or answer ultimate questions as a troublesome repetition of a trick which Leibniz used to prevent Newtonians from asking why nature might not be more messy (from a Germanic point of view) than Leibniz was comfortable with. Only Leibniz gets to say how God could operate, not those chaotic English thinkers. So keep them to questions which have quantitative answers only. If it is not just a trivial and pedantic distinction of function, then what content has the agnosticism? If a scientist in search of cause of cancer found that practically everything in the lab is carcinogenic on Mondays and began to look for the reason, would he/she refuse to accept the explanation that the week-end custodian was dropping his cigar ashes in the test-tubes? Would he/she have to become some mysterious new kind of thinker in order to see it as a reasonable solution? If the custodian dies or is scared off so that no verification can be done, will the lack of quantitative precision, prediction, repeatability, etc. lead to the rejection of this hypothesis? A person is a physicist because of the phenomena he/she studies, not because of the kind of answers given, if those answers are the best suggested by reason. If seeking an answer to radiation disease in biology leads a biologist into physics, does the bio-physicist she/he now is cease to be a biologist? We may grant that the physicist who suggests the undesigned designer is a philosophical physicist, but like the biologist, I would prefer to call her/him a person looking for adequate explanation.
A Priori Objections To An Immaterial First Cause Of Design
Although the “undesigned designer” may be put to use by any number of religious traditions, it is scarcely a fair attack on it to wed it to a particular tradition, draw out some property of “god” from that religious tradition and then show that no such god can exist, hence the undesigned designer does not exist. Our proof is really only an attempt to show the need for an immaterial intelligent cause of design in matter. What other properties this cause might or must not have would be a matter of elaboration. In spite of appearance in works of good philosophers, from Cicero to Scriven, this attack on proofs of the existence of God is still a sophism as Rosmini pointed out. <19>
It is totally inappropriate to place prior limitations on a rational hypothesis, especially those from non-rational sources. But even those from rational sources, such as the existence of evil, are raised appropriately only later. How much evil will a good father allow his son to get into? One must know the aims of the father in fathering. Surely knowledge of these aims is posterior to knowing whether a father is a reasonable hypothesis at all. One can only see it as an intolerance for the father-hypothesis which could cause one to neglect the plausibility of the claim that a father who allows his son the exercise of real responsibility (and therefore must tolerate some evil) has significantly higher aims for the son than the one who aims at a “perfect” world at the cost of automatizing or infantilizing his sons.
Plausible Properties Of The Undesigned Designer
An immaterial intelligent cause of design has been given as the minimal “description” of the being reached by the demonstration offered here. Immateriality would not have to be absolute in the sense of no association with matter. But that association must not involve the dependency-for-action which was the reason for calling for an undesigned designer. This means that the designer can initiate its essential operations without the matter it may happen to be associated with. Dependency on the integration of material parts into an operating whole, when that integration is not the result of the designer’s action but is presupposed to that action, is the very definition of a designed designer. Any material association, then, is a kind of an ad libitum condition for the undesigned designer. This ad libitum characteristic of its possible materiality will form a permanent negation of any real pantheism, no matter how deeply the designer may immerse itself in the matter.
Although other and better metaphysical arguments for the total metaphysical simplicity and indestructibility of the first cause exist, the present demonstration leads to indestructibility at least in the sense of non-disintegration. The undesigned designer is not a complex of parts which can come spatially apart or upon whose material integration there is any functional dependence.<20>
Uniqueness is a very plausible property not merely for the accustomed application of Occam’s Razor (one undesigned designer is clearly enough) but for the a posteriori reason that the design of nature seems to be single and harmonious.
In general these arguments for the properties of the first cause lack some of the rigor of which metaphysical approaches are capable, but in general this is true of the whole of the cosmological argument. As Aristotle noted, a principal merit of the cosmological argument may be less in establishing the best proof of the existence of God than in making plausible the existence of immaterial being in the first place. This plausibility then leads to the cultivation of metaphysics in which more forceful and fertile proofs are discussed.
[These notes are intended as teaching aides for those desiring to use the “Undesigned Designer” in an introductory philosophy class. Bibliography for internal references in the following notes may be found at the end of the “Undesigned Designer”]
- The rejection of the infinite series is not a claim that such a series is impossible, but merely that it is useless. If a modest woman viewing a fence painting operation in her negligee with the curtain open only far enough to see the brush going up and down on the fence were to inform her husband that the painter is present, could he disprove the claim by stating that the woman had no assurance that the painter is present, given that she did not actually see him? Suppose he were to claim that by “painter” he meant any man or machine (robot, if you like) capable of originating the painting operation. He sets out his rebuttal this way: The brush is moved because the rivets through the metal band fastening the bristles are moving the band, and hence the bristles, up and down. The rivets are moved by the adjacent piece of wood on the handle, and this piece of wood, due to the chemical bonding to the next segment of wood in the handle, is moved by that segment, which is moved in turn by the next segment, and all that is needed is an infinitely long paint brush handle. The woman would rightly answer: What surprise will this infinite carry unless finally somewhere there is self-moving piece of wood? But any contractor who had such a piece of wood would be a fool to put it out at infinity, why not fix it right to the rivets. Repetitious infinity solves nothing. Innovative infinity need not have the burden of the infinity of multiplicity to produce explanation.
Of course, insertion of a long paint brush into a higher order design, like balancing the handle on a sawhorse and giving one end a twang with a resulting up-and-down motion of the bristles, could provide painting without a painter. But this is accomplished only by introducing a universe with stable laws and forces, such as elasticity, inertia, conservation of angular momentum, etc. It is precisely this kind of stable, well designed world which we must explain.
- The difference is that in bootstrap theories the pattern is rather one of a complex of potentials which can be brought out by different interactions with no “natural” or fundamental state (the foundation would be the whole complex of potentials) whereas the quark is the foundation in its theory and its properties are the actual components of the pattern.
- Thus the natural, physical law governing when the birth of the present cosmos was to take place would have triggered the birth an infinite time ago and the present universe would by now have passed any of the finitely distant stages of entropic degradation predicted by the laws of thermodynamics.
- This would really be but another version of the infinitely long paint-brush handle discussed in note #1, except that the simultaneous existence of the parts and unity into one instrument is called for in the paintbrush handle, while the universes could pass away after their causation is finished. A series which requires simultaneity of its parts and unifies into a single instrument is called a per se series, while the looser series is called a per accidens series.
- For convenience I have treated matter as if it is all contemporaneously in one cycle or the other, but it is proposed reasonably by some authors that matter elsewhere in space is in its aentropic stage and that is what the “black holes” in fact are. I see no way in which this lessens the evidence of a high degree of architectural perfection in matter, the whole point of this discussion.
- It has been one of the pitfalls of cosmological arguments to paradoxically use both the perfections and the imperfections of matter as proof of the existence of God. But clearly a God who could not make atoms hard enough to wear eternally without wearing out would be a less powerful God than one who could, if He so chose. Whether he should choose eternal creation or not is simply not a question to be entered into at this point.
Nevertheless, unlike those English philosopher-divines who feared the nearly self-sufficient matter which the Newtonians were erecting in the beginning of the scientific revolution, we should see in the perfection of matter the very thing which calls for its further explanation. There is a kind of perfection which demands explanation the more intense it is, and that is the perfection of construction, the perfection of the complex which cannot operate (or explain its own complexity) except in virtue of the already constituted complexity. But that no first moment need be assigned to that constitution is not a claim for total self-sufficiency at all.
- A good illustration of the uselessness of appealing to material pattern-imposers as an explanation of patterned matter consider the following fable: It was rumored that astronauts who first landed on the moon found a Datsun parked in a crater and began to take copious notes speculating on its origin until they found a Datsun stamping machine which was clearly capable of making an entire Datsun in a single liquid mold procedure, including the glass and rubber. Fully automated and with adequate supplies of mold-ready raw materials, the machine could explain the Datsun, so they never mentioned the Datsun to any of the debriefing officers.
- A spiritual agent, if the imagination can stretch so far, like any agent, does not undergo change precisely as agent(the teacher does not forget the truths he teaches, the chisel doesn’t lose its edge precisely as cutting a straight cut, but cuts an imperfect cut to the extent that it is a patient in the cutting, i.e., losing its edge) and could have set its will to act from all eternity hence have only the maturing of the patient to explain the lateness of the appearance of the effect, not the fact that the agent changed from not causing to causing. Hence such a cause could be utterly simple.
- In the self-propelled robot which makes some product repeatedly, its instructions cannot be undergoing change, hence the two radically different parts are always in evidence, the moving and the non-moving, and the latter explains the similarity of multiple products. Non-self-moving instruments have greater simplicity, but at the price of operative helplessness, e.g., a manually operated cookie cutter has one part.
- This kind of apparently a priori imposition on all models including those not yet excogitated has been regarded as totally discredited in certain types of the philosophy of science, since it clearly goes beyond the demands of mere logic. The crucial question is whether it is a priori or whether there are certain vaguely but firmly known generic requirements of material causative systems which are learned by sophisticated reflection on material causation as it occurs in the world. The demands placed on rival models by critics intending to adopt one or the other model have been depressed by some of the best historical analysts of scientific revolution to the point of being largely non-rational or even irrational demands. It is for this reason, I believe, that many historians of science find the theories on scientific revolution irrelevant to an understanding of science. They contain nothing but what we need to beware of, nothing of the rational, defensible reasons which men would consciously adopt in selecting a scientific mode. There is no wonder that the proponents of the Kuhnian views find themselves pulled either to the deliberate cultivation of scientific eccentrics in order to assure a supply of the needed innovative theories or to the view that revolution is not an especially revealing time in the history of science. One of the reasons that Kuhnian supporters have relinquished more and more claims to importance and relevance is this loss of courage about the presence of valid experiential yet pre-scientific world views which contain a measure of rational compulsion. These world views would be the philosophic foundations of the science, demands of reason going beyond logic, and yet not the philosophy of some constituted science. When a philosophy of science is wedded to the science of the day it is destined to fall with that science and to be useless in the rational ushering in of a replacement.
- Naturally we cannot exclude the possible eternal status of some set of particles, and we must give reasons why any set is not self-explanatory. The properties of self-explanation and eternity, normally assigned to God, must, of course, be allowed to the atheists as hypothetical properties of matter since, however breath-taking they may be, without them the atheist has a poor case. Aristotle, I feel, poked unfair fun at the atheists for this “divinization” of matter.
- Boyle (1744, Vol. 1, p. 300) in his revulsion against the abuse of the “substantial form” as an explanatory device tried to prevent design from being a predicate of ultimate particles. The design of “natures” which chemists seemed to detect he tried to keep at a level above the ultimate particles. The “primary concretions” produce the rest of chemical order and diversity, while the ultimate particles are beneath and produce the primary concretions. They were imagined to be extremely simple. Much of what I have said as well as the main trends of modern physics suggests that it is impossible to make design “emerge” in this way, working with extremely neutral, unbiased and characterless particles and forces.
- Three articles in Baruch Brody ( 1974) show that recent authors are finally getting at least the distinctions of the scholastic defenders of the cosmological argument straight, even if they do not become convinced thereby. Paul Edwards, in his contribution (p. 71-83) attempts to salvage Russell’s defense of the utility of the infinite series by removing the category mistake of Russell and treating the set members as each being dependent and yet the collection of the set as not needing an explanation. He does not succeed, however, because the dependency is not serial, but unrelated. The Eskimos are too much like Russell’s set, i.e., with mere definitional dependency, not the physical “in-line” dependency of my infinitely long paint-brush handle (see note #1 above). (Russell’s retort to Copleston, in the famous BBC debate, was that just because each human has a mother, the human race does not necessarily have one.) It is precisely because the series is nothing beyond the members and offers no surprises as it gets longer, that it appears as useless. Edwards does see the distinction between “in fieri” and “in esse” causes which correspond respectively to an accidental and per se series as laid out by Patterson Brown in his article (pp. 98-lll). Rowe’s refutation of Russell (pp. 83-98) I take to be conclusive, as well as his rejection of the Edward’s Eskimo argument. My own argument belongs to the accidental series (causa in fieri) type, since the cosmos which generates and gives the order to the following cosmos can and does pass out of existence and needs not be in operation to explain the later efficacy of the cosmos it generated. Hence my infinitely long paint-brush handle is not a completely appropriate example since that would be a per se series, i.e., one in which the operation of any member is dependent on the coexistent and simultaneous operation of every member, hence demanding the presence of the first cause.
- A good example of a per se series is contained in the following scene. Bootleggers have been unloading rum into a landing boat off a ship deck with a winch. The winch is winding down. Suddenly a police boat is spotted in the distance. The winch begins to wind upward, turned by the bootlegger who has determined to save the case of rum in its sling before escaping. We have the following series: The case begins to rise, the cause of the rise is the rope shortening, the cause of the shortening is the winding on the cam, the turning on the winch handle causes that, and the turning up is motivated (caused, in a mental order) by the desire to save the rum and escape, which is caused by the approach of the police boat, and by the supposed jurisdiction and ability to enforce the law on the part of the police. Remove one link in this chain (a chain which is largely mental, and must be removed mentally, e.g. a loss of jurisdiction, say through the expiration of a law, would have to be known to the bootleggers) and the winch will stop winding up. But if there is no source of jurisdiction, there will be no threat and the whole chain is like an instrument which cannot move itself. Patterson Brown makes quite clear in Brody (1974, p.107) that that it is this composition of the series into a single instrument which makes it ineffective as an adequate explanation. Regardless of the possibility of an actualized infinity, an agent or principal cause is needed.
The trouble that all such arguments dealing with per se series have in the minds of physical scientists is that somewhere there is a self-moving or inertially moving member. Such a member has a non-instrumental efficacy once it has been put into motion. The imparter of motion (application of force) is a causa in fieri only and ceases to operate while the moved object contains its own motion “naturally” i.e. inertially. In our case the freshman physics problem comes to mind. How long will the rum case continue to move up after the bootlegger starts to wind down? This instant, in the cosmological scheme, could be the whole era of our present cosmos, continuing to spin on long after the Platonic demiurge gave it its last whirl. For the physicist, the per accidens series is really the only one which we can use, because the inertially moving member, having a limited kind of self-contained causal efficacy, breaks up the unity of the series and allows simultaneity to be discarded, making it a per accidens series.
- It is true that the pious Newtonians and Newton himself clung to the inability of motion to sustain itself (given the presence of friction and collision, prior to the establishment of the principle of conservation of energy) as a defense of theism and at times feared the utilization of gravitation as an argument by atheists that matter could not only sustain motion (and hence not need a cause thereof in esse), but even initiate it by a natural power and hence, eliminate the divine watch-winder, or cause of motion in fieri. (Guerlac, 1963)
- Brown, in Brody(pp. 110-111) did not describe this as a per accidens series, but it is such and perfectly fits the definition thereof which he takes from Aquinas and Scotus, on page 100 of the article.
- Note, this is not the kind of design proposed by Paley and criticized by Hume except by applying the design to the chemical world. Paley’s clock-making machine is somewhat apropos. (Brody, pp. 116-117). Hume does speak to an issue involved in my case when he suggests that chaos could produce real order, and even self-perpetuating order. (Brody, pp. 134-135). The thesis which Hume suggests is of no practical consequence for this world since no realistically defended theory sees the kind of material disorder he imagines. 98% of the world is composed of only 10 elements and more fundamental theories propose great simplification. The interesting application is the suggestion that totally disordered particles of a finite multitude, given infinite time, could attain an ordered state by chance and then maintain it. Biological systems are sometimes regarded as such systems, but it is my contention that all such capacity to preserve ordered foundations in order to act with consistent, ordered and repeated acts (all needed to generate the particles of this world) demands an order in the particles of the generating universe. In the biological sphere, at least, it is not claimed that the preservation of survival-favoring mutations, arrived at by chance, is without explanation. This preservation is attributed to chemical mechanisms inherent in the powers of the chemicals in the structure. To put it in the adopted terminology, the function of chance is merely to be a cause of order in fieri, while chemical powers and regularities are the cause of that order in esse. But it is clear in both Paley and Hume that it is the design of biological entities and systems which they are the most clearly impressed by as evidence for God.
- See Fabro (p. 13) and Luijpen,(1964, p. 62). But I see a danger in this device for science itself. We must not allow science to be identified with a type of answer rather than with a type of question. The history of science reveals the mischief which a priori categories of legitimate answers cause during a time of scientific revolution. Nearly every time defenders of fundamental theory object to a solution because it is unreasonable even if successful by other criteria (an often finally adopted as the common solution, as with Newtonian gravitation) we find that the charge of unreasonableness is due to an illegitimate identification of explanation with a given paradigm of explanation. Only immediate mechanical causes, then only impact-with-inertial cause, then elasticity is allowed, then attractive forces, then attractive and repulsive forces, but at each change the cry “unreasonable” was heard from very credible sources. Now what we see in this methodological agnosticism at the point of ultimate explanation is “only quantifiably testible material causes.”
- Fabro (p. 55) and Rosmini (1867, pp. 283 and ss.) “If the gods exist they must have virtues, but they cannot have human virtues, therefore they do not exist.” Rosmini suggests that because we are ignorant of the nature of virtues proper to the divinity, and because we see that the divinity neither manifests nor could be thought to have human virtues, we deny the existence of the divinity. It is an interesting temptation, but dishonest for all that, especially if it comes from a person aware of the modes of hypothesizing in the sciences. Successful hypotheses (e.g. the Bohr atom, andthe wave-particle duality) often have apparent internal inconsistencies. But for their explanatory power they continue to be cultivated, and means to resolve or learn to live with the “inconsistencies” are sought.
- The disintegration of a psychic unit in which the parts are operationally distinct (an intellect to know, a will to act, etc.) is an issue too complex to examine here and one which would carry us into realms of philosophy which would normally be outside the competence of the expert at physical explanation. The line of metaphysical argument for the indestructibility here, short of the metaphysical impossibility of disintegration of “pure act”, is that the agent sought must be capable of knowing and acting and that dependence on integration of truly separable parts even in the psychic order would define another kind of design dependence, to be eliminated by finally discovering an intelligent agent in which intellect and will are only operationally distinct without being ontologically distinct, i.e., without being really separable. Without this real separability, destruction through disintegration is excluded. In the metaphysical realm, there is a kind of axiom which by analogy I appealed to in this demonstration: “The diverse are not of themselves one unless they be caused to be one.” If Plato’s limit and the unlimited cannot act when separate, they cannot explain why they are together except by appeal to a cause capable of applying the limit to the unlimited. The ultimate cause cannot therefore be itself composed of a limit and an unlimited, but must therefore be an unlimited (the unlimited, pure act) which is also unlimitedly dynamic.
The Undesigned Designer
- Boyle, Robert. The Sceptical Chemist, Vol.1 in The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle. Edited by Thomas Birch. 5 Vols. London, 1744.
- Brody, Baruch A. Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1968
- Fabro, Cornelio. God in Exile: Modern Atheism. trans. by Arthur Gibson. Westminster: Newman Press, 1968.
- Garrigou-Lagrange,R. God, His Existence and His Nature. trans. by Bede Rose. 2 vols. St. Louis: Herder, 1948.
- Guerlac, Henry E. Newton et Epicure. Paris, 1963
- Heisenberg, Werner. Physics and Philosophy. New York: Harper, 1958.
- Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von. Leibniz Selections. Edited by Philip P. Weiner. New York, 1951. pp. 137-156. The orginal source of this material is not identified by Weiner. It comes from Acta Eruditorum, September, 1698, pp. 427 and ss.
- Luijpen, William A.. Phenomenology and Atheism. Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press, 1964.
- Rosmini, A.. Logica. 2nd. ed. 1867.