Philosophical Questions: On the Relevance of the Argument from Design

Philosophical Questions: Maze

It is the easiest thing in the world to believe in God. We are facing an infinite universe that works like a clock. You can then deduce that the clock must have had a clock-maker. And there you are: now you have a God, i.e., an infinite active intelligence. This is the short form of the argument from design, one of the most famous philosophical questions.

Many scientists and philosophers deny or ridicule this argument, claiming that the universal order is not something created but which has emerged spontaneously, gradually, and very slowly over millions of years. Concerning such a reply, one can see immediately what poor metaphysicians they are and how superficial their understanding of such philosophical questions is when they think they can understand the actions of an infinite intelligence. 

Infinity is, by definition, incomprehensible to a finite mind. Thus, when they deny the universal order we see right now in the world, they show themselves as Besserwissers; namely, they think that they know better than an infinite intelligence how to create, order, and keep an infinite universe functioning over millions of eons, or perhaps, even an infinite series of parallel or successive universes.

It would be laughable if it were not sad to see such clever persons proceeding like left-handed cobblers in such matters. 

However, the problem is not that there are no arguments for the existence of God. The issue in discussion is not so much a religious problem but rather a moral one. In other words, we can easily rise to the idea that a universal intelligence might have created the universe and think we solved this kind of philosophical questions.

But then, like Voltaire, when we contemplate the universe and its contents, we are compelled to think of this cosmic intelligence as a mad genius: a genius that is unsurpassable in creativity but also in the annihilation of its creations. 

It is not that we cannot believe in God. It is that we cannot believe in a loving God who, while creating absolute beauty, also produces such dreadful and worthless suffering as we see either in nature or among humans. Human history, as Hegel once said, is not the garden of happiness.

And how many abominable things have been done in the name of God! Even God’s supposed Son was crucified, dying a terrifying death. 

You could think of all the martyrs of the past as naive, or even stupid. If the Church’s dogma is accepted, then they sacrificed themselves for a God, Creator of the highest beauty and good. 

However, it is hard to think that they were so blind not to see how deficient in beauty and good the world was. And even God’s Son, who praised His Father as the most loving parent, should have been profoundly disappointed by that love, which put Him, the Lamb of God, on the cross.

How cruel such an almighty Father should be, who did not want to save His own Son although it was in His power!

But then, we read also about a different story: although created by a loving God, this world is not the initial world of Creation. It is a fallen world, a world imbued with sin and, therefore, with pain. And, what is more, apart from this fallen world, there is a truer one, the Afterlife.

The Son of God claimed to be a king in that world and not in this one. And all the martyrs died hoping they would be redeemed and resurrected in that world. Some are even said to have died happy and with shining smiles on their faces – despite the excruciating pain – as if welcomed into the Beyond by their Lord.  

It is clear that the idea of such a transcendent Afterlife cannot be grounded any longer on the perfection of this visible world or on simply solving logically such philosophical questions. Therefore, any argument of design or its rejection has no value if related to this Beyond. Even the word redemption conveys the idea that those redeemed are redeemed from the Evil and not from the perfection of this world. 

Due to the repelling character of this world, there have even, in the past, been beliefs that considered it was not the creation of a good but of an evil god, and that Christ was the Savior who – begotten by the true and good God, but who lived in a different world – came from this other world to redeem His Own.

Gnosticism – because this is the name of the religious stream that nourished this belief – also considered that the true God – the God of light – and the mundane god – the god of darkness – were in a perpetual conflict that would end only with the end of this world, when the God of light would finally defeat the god of darkness. 

This is mythological thought, and perhaps this was one of the reasons why the Christian Church rejected Gnosticism. However, it makes it evident that during the millenary history of Christianity, enough people clearly saw how bad this world was, how impossible it is to ground a religious belief on its perfection and why philosophical questions can be, to some extent, irrelevant for the religious faith. 

You cannot develop the argument from design in its full scope with our present-day way of thinking. This type of thinking denies the existence of eternal essences of material things and considers that the latter are the result of an immensely long history of accidental processes that stabilized over millions of years into a functional dynamic world. 

In contrast, the type of thinking on which the argument from design was initially built was a substantialist way of thinking that, when solving philosophical questions, considered that the essences or eternal substances that sustain material things are still present in the world, maintaining and helping it to thrive when possible.

Therefore, although the world is not a garden of happiness, it still carries along the seeds of its initial perfection, the essences. Indeed, it is a fallen world, but not a hopelessly fallen one. 

The human being was also seen as having an essence, an eternal soul buried in this mortal body. What was needed then was only to become aware of it and consequently to fight the good fight, to oppose chaotic impulses of the body and evil mundane temptations.

If you followed these temptations, you were doomed to eternal damnation, meaning that in a reckless life, you managed to poison your innate essence entirely. 

Man could not become aware of that eternal soul through his own powers. This is why he needed a Teacher, a Savior, who knew the Truth and also knew from where man comes and where he goes. This is a common idea in all religions. 

Now we can see why, for religious people either trained or interested in philosophical questions, the evil character of the world and man’s wickedness could not have been a strong argument against the existence of God in the past.

Neither this world nor the human being are perfect in how they are and show themselves, but they keep the seed of their perfection, and that seed of perfection is the argument for the existence of God, and not how the world and man look today. 

Thus religion does not go from what is seen but from a preceding worldview through which it assesses the visible things. This is why it is entirely false to criticize religions based on how the world is: the world as such is in no way. It is in some way only if we assess it based on those precursory ideas or that worldview

And modern thinkers and scientists proceed in the same way; namely, they do not deny God’s existence due to how the world looks but deny it because, in their view, suffering should not exist in a God-created world.

And it should not exist because suffering is something bad. This is our modern, liberal way of thinking that believes in everlasting progress, elimination of suffering, and Heaven on earth.        

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