Monday, September 17, 2012

A Teleological Argument from Providence

The following argument is logically valid.

1. There are patterns of regularity found in the laws of nature. (Premise)

2. The laws of nature are either the result of chance, necessity or design. (Premise)

3. Patterns of regularity cannot be the result of chance alone. (Premise)

4. Therefore, the laws of nature are either the result of necessity or design. (From 1 - 3)

Whether the laws of nature are explained by necessity or design is inconsequential at this point of the argument.  After all, given that chance is a very poor explanation, the laws of nature must be the result of someone or something's providence.

That providence is what we believers call, "God."  If it's a "someone," then we have an argument for a personal designer.  If it's a "something," then we're left with some form of pantheism.

To be honest, I just don't get why atheists won't embrace pantheism.  I think there are a lot of problems with pantheism, but pantheism makes much more sense to me than atheism.  If the atheist will simply come to terms with pantheism being a more viable belief than atheism, then I think we can make some real progress.  The debate would no longer be about theism versus atheism, but rather theism versus pantheism.


  1. Does pantheism logically follow if the laws of nature are necessary?

  2. The notion that Nature (with a capital "N") has necessary existence has traditionally been associated with pantheism. I'm not saying there aren't people who label themselves as atheists who also hold to a similar view. However, I can't think of any thinker throughout the history of philosophy who claims that Nature is necessary and that atheism is true. The idea that the laws of nature are necessary was made famous by Spinoza, an ardent pantheist. I'm open to correction, though.

  3. What about the multiverse objection? I get that the multiverse is not scientifically supported, but consider something like Rich Carrier's argument against "ex nihilo nihil fit." Basically, he defines "nothing" as only the existence of that which is logically necessary and nothing else (Here he denies any sort of Ontological Argument, claiming that they all fail, but that's a seperate argument). For him, logically necessary includes the laws of logic, such as the Law of Noncontradiction. Next, he argues that in such a state, where nothing exists except for the laws of logic, there is nothing that prevents the spontaneous generation of an infinite number of universes, including one such as ours. So, a universe such as ours can logically arise from nothing, without cause. He goes on to say that after a universe such as ours is established, the further spontaneous appearance of another universe within ours is constrained due to QM.

  4. Thanks for your comments! With all due respect to Carrier, I'm baffled that he would defend an argument like this. The laws of logic don't stand in causal relations. The fact that there is no strict logical contradiction in the notion of something arising from nothing is simply irrelevant. It is *metaphysically* impossible for something to arise from nothing. If there were literally nothing, then there wouldn't even exist the potentiality for anything to come into being. As for the multiverse objection, what about the mechanism that produces all of these universes? Is this mechanism itself ordered or entirely chaotic? If it were chaotic, then it would be impossible to have knowledge of it. Since the concept of a multiverse's generating mechanism is intelligible, and intelligibility presupposes order, it follows that the mechanism that produces multiple universes is itself lawlike. The argument from providence is perfectly consistent with a multiverse theory.

  5. If you have time, perhaps you can check out his original formulation, it's a post on his blog called "Ex Nihilo Onus Merdae Fit." He claims that "Nothing can only produce nothing" is not a logical necessity, and thus it cannot "govern" a state of nothing. He says that in a state of nothing, all "potential things" exist, even when they do not actually exist. He follows by saying that in this state, anything that is not "prevented" to exist will come into existence. For example, a square circle is "prevented" from coming into existence by the law of Non-contradiction. He claims that this state of "nothing" is an actual which has the potential to be something (like a universe). "Nothing" has all logically necessary properties. In a state of "nothing," anything that can potentially exist will actualize itself and begin to exist. I admit, this sounds very dubious, especially since I'm no philosopher, but I might be misconstruing him somewhere. Lastly, you state that even though it may be logically possible for something to appear from nothing, it is metaphysically impossible. Is there a place I could learn more about logical possibility vs metaphysical impossibility? I know that physical impossibility does not entail logical impossibility, but I was under the impression that logical impossibility = metaphysical impossibility. Thanks for your time.

  6. No problem, and thanks for the comments. I don't have an axe to grind against Carrier, but if that's his argument, I think he's way off. Nothingness cannot allow for any potentialities, since only *things* can allow or disallow potentialities and actualities. Based on your summary, I'd say he's reifying nothingness into an entity of its own. With respect to your latter question, it all depends on who you ask. Some do, in fact, equate logical possibility with metaphysical possibility. I equate metaphysical necessity, for example, with ontological necessity. For instance, to say that God is metaphysically or ontologically necessary is to say that if God exists in some possible world w1, then God cannot fail to exist in w1. This is a more modest claim than stating that God is logically necessary, which entails that God exists and must exist in all possible worlds. So, while there may be no strict logical contradiction with the notion of something coming from nothing (maybe it can happen in some possible world), it's impossible in the actual world. The best references I can give you would be from either John Hick, Charles Hartshorne or Richard Swinburne.

  7. Greetings sir Doug!

    My inquiry is, what's the justification for Premise 3? I think that's the most, if not only, probable point of dispute, and thus, wonder why you haven't give a word for it.

    Moreover, isn't the laws of nature is itself contingent? Surely there is a possible world where water do not boil at 100 degC at atmospheric pressure. And if it is begotten by some temporally prior natural law, then that law would also be contingent for it seems that the very nature of natural law is to be contingent. So how could the laws of nature be a result of necessity?

    Or am I missing something?

    Thanks much!

  8. Greetings to you, as well!

    I think premise (3)'s truth is known through experience. Whenever something happens over and over again, it's not the result of chance. If you were to win the lottery once, you would probably think you were lucky. Imagine instead that you win a thousand times in a row! At some point you would begin to suspect that the lottery had been rigged.

    With respect to your second question, I absolutely agree that the laws of nature are contingent. This leaves us with the conclusion that the laws of nature are the result of design, which is exactly what a theist like myself would conclude. :)