Arguments to the Best Explanation. If we are to make any further progress, then, we need to consider what the best explanation is for clearly observable order in the world. If it turns out that the best explanation is one developed from God’s existence, then we will have an argument, of some strength at least, for God’s existence. We will not have a deductive argument, however, since the conclusion of our argument could be false even if this is unlikely while the premisses are true. Sometimes the best explanation that we have for some observation is later discovered to be false.
The argument from design was a fairly good argument at one time, because at that time design was the best available explanation for the functionality of living things. But with the development of the theory of evolution in the 19th century, the situation changed. Evolution explains the apparent adaptation of means to ends in biology. Evolution has now established itself as an extremely good explanation of biological function, and a far better one than the theistic hypothesis that an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good designer made animals and plants. To see all this more clearly, we need to examine arguments to the best explanation more closely.
An argument to the best explanation runs like this:
(1) Of the possible explanations we've been able to come up with for facts F1 through Fn, the best is E.
∴ (probably) (2) E is true.
How probable will the conclusion be? This will depend on how well E explains the fact, and how much better it is than the other possible explanations. It might be quite good at explaining the facts, but have some very good competitors as well, or it might not be very good at all, even though it is the only explanation anyone can think of. In both these cases the probability it is true may be low. If it is the only possible explanation (given the background), it must be true, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, no matter how problem-filled it is, but one needs to be sure it really is the only possible one.
The strength of the argument will also depend on the nature of the facts to be explained. If it explains a great many facts in considerable detail, an explanation is more likely to be true than if it explains only a small number of rather general facts.
If a theory explains the facts, each of the facts can be seen to follow (not necessarily deductively) from the assumption that the theory is true, together with various other things we know about the world, our background information. If a theory is the correct explanation, then the facts will be true because the theory is true, and given how the world is otherwise, they would not have been true had it not been. This is why we can regard the facts explained by the theory as clues to the true theory. The theory reports the cause or reason why the facts are true. So, if he really is the murderer, the clues are there because of the murder he did, not for some other reason, and if he had not committed the murder, the clues would not have been there.
It should be noted that each clue is explained by the theory independently, quite possibly with a different background than is relevant in the explanation of other clues. Moreover, a clue can support the theory without supporting every element of it, and different clues may support different elements. So there may be a clue that the butler was present in the room which would have been there even if the butler had not done the murder at that time. This becomes a significant clue, and is explained, within the context of doubt about where the butler might have been at the time of the murder. Given how the murder in fact occurred, the Butler had to be there, and this is something which is best explained by his being there, and so supports, within one context of doubt, our theory that the Butler did it. The set of facts that we list to be explained in any particular argument to the best explanation, then, will depend on the history of the previous discussion, on what is or is not reasonably to be doubted. A full account of the evidence for any present day scientific theory will be an historical one, and the claim to be made for the theory will be that it has proven the best theory over the history of the discussion, by explaining better than its competitors at each stage, or the most important or most recent stages, of the discussion.
The best explanation available to us is not always the correct one. It might fail in a number of ways. The correct explanation might not be one we have formulated yet—perhaps we aren’t even aware the father–in–law could be a suspect. Our background information might include false notions that lead us to think that a theory explains a fact when, given accurate background information, the theory would in fact predict its falsehood, or be irrelevant to it. The meaning of a clue, a fact to be explained, might change when we correct or expand our background information, what looked significant may now look insignificant, what implicated the maid may now implicate the butler—or we might discover that one of the supposed clues is not true at all when we find that the apparently credible witness lied. The hitherto best explanation might drop out of contention when new, relevant facts are uncovered—new clues may lead us to reassess the case completely.
To assess how good an explanation is, it is useful to look at the following requirements:
It should explain the facts to be explained. It may be that no explanation handles all the facts, and in that case one should tentatively opt for the one that explains the most and/or the most important facts, which would include those that bear on the most important doubts, and set off this theory most effectively against its competitors. What facts are most important will change as the investigation continues. An explanation may explain a fact better or worse: if the explanation depends on a non-deductive argument working from the explanation to the fact, the argument in question is stronger or weaker, and if it depends on a deductive argument, there may be premisses of that argument which are more or less probable.
It does not predict that things are true that we can ascertain are false. A theory may be forgiven false predictions if those predictions are of relatively unimportant facts, or based on fairly weak arguments with uncertain background assumptions, but a spectacular failure here may make it reasonable to reject a theory outright.
It does not contradict what we accept already as true. Even better, what we already accept as true in other areas may make the explanation a plausible one. Sometimes an explanation uses only those facts we already knew, introducing no new facts or theories, but rather pointing out the hitherto unnoticed relevance of facts and theories we already know. On other occasions an explanation will require us to give up strongly entrenched beliefs, introducing notions that are entirely new to us, perhaps in response to facts only recently uncovered. In the first case we have no trouble accepting the explanation, but in the second we will, reasonably, resist accepting it until other, more conservative explanations have been shown to be utterly inadequate. In the same vein, it may be that the explanation fits a pattern of explanation we have seen to work well in other areas, so there is sometimes cross–fertilization between fields of knowledge when a successful strategy of explanation in one area is applied in another. Sometimes we discover a causal pattern which is found in a number of different areas of research, and its presence in a specific area will seem more likely if we find it often elsewhere. One such causal pattern is the operation of dynamic equilibria. The presence of ‘restoring forces’ and dynamic equilibria in physical systems such as pendulums makes it plausible to look for them in economic systems.
It explains, or even better, predicts, new facts that it was not designed to explain, and for which we have no other explanation ready to hand. So we may feel sure that we’ve broken a code when we can decode new messages not in the original group of messages that we studied to break it.
A successful explanation may suggest new explanations in other areas, perhaps following the same causal pattern, or perhaps because the explanation leads to the discovery of new facts which lead to solutions of other problems in a kind of chain reaction. The explanation is “theoretically fruitful.”
It is simple, but not too simple. We need to generate predictions, at least predictions with some probability of being true, and so we are unable to test theories so complex that we cannot be sure what follows from them. To advance such theories may be tempting, but until we get in a position to see what follows from them more accurately, we may not be able to say how likely they are to be correct. On the other hand, the explanatory theory needs to be clearly formulated, detailed, so that it explains as much as possible in as much detail as possible, that is, it needs to be complex enough so that it explains a lot. “She died by violence” is presumably not going to be the best explanation we can find of the death, since it doesn’t explain the actual details of the death, and there are natural and important questions left unanswered. How detailed an explanation should be depends a great deal on the context of the discussion. Finding out that she died by violence may be quite significant, and a worthy achievement, if we are dealing, say, with the remains of a prehistoric woman 100,000 years old. If it is one’s sister, then we need to know a good deal more—we would like to know who did it, how, when, for what reason. It also, of course, seems likely we can know a good deal more. Information that cannot be obtained, or that can only be obtained with an unreasonable investment of resources, is reasonably regarded as information we don’t need. The drive in science, of course, is to provide the simplest explanations that explain as much as possible, and the dialectic of science often revolves around the difficulty in meeting these conflicting requirements.
It should not be too ad hoc. That is, it should explain with as little in the way of additional, special assumptions about the world not supported elsewhere in our belief system as possible, so the explanation should make as little in the way of new assumptions as can be managed. An ad hoc assumption is tailor made to support our explanation, with no good reason to believe it, and generally good reason not to believe it. One can always explain a murder, for instance, by postulating an assassin nobody knows who knew the victim a long time ago and has a grudge against him for some reason we make up, and used some very complicated method we also make up, and perhaps has special powers, and so on. Every murder could be explained by space aliens with fantastically advanced technologies who cover up their tracks perfectly, making it look like someone else did it. This last is an example of the most effective ad hoc move available to a philosopher—design a form of your theory that predicts that there won’t be any evidence for it, or even that there will be considerable evidence against it. It enables you to treat every failure to explain as a success, for if your theory is true, it will appear to be false. The space aliens, according to the theory, cover up their tracks perfectly.
To attack an argument to the best explanation, one does well to see if there isn’t an explanation of the facts not included in the list the argument works from, an explanation which may turn out better than the one being argued for. Also, of course, one may try to show that the explanation favored in fact does not do as well by these criteria as its proponent thinks, or that some already known, alternative explanation does better than the argument admits. What facts does the person advancing the argument want to explain? A narrow enough selection of facts to explain can make any explanation look good, so see if there aren’t important facts that the explanation would predict should not be facts at all. Also, of course, check the facts. It’s remarkable how often people use this form of argument, and it turns out that the facts to be explained are not facts at all. (So one might argue that some theory must be true because it is the best way to explain UFO sightings, or the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle).
In general, theories about the world, scientific and otherwise, are accepted on the basis of their explanatory power. Virtually every theory will have a few problems, some facts which it fails to explain, and some generally accepted theories have a lot of problems, but as long as we find it plausible that the problem is due, not to the theory's falsehood, but to our not yet having discovered how the theory explains the fact, or to faulty background information, or some such thing, the theory may continue to be well regarded. The question is, can the theory (or some future revision of it) be made to work, so that its current failings are our fault (not enough time put in, miscalculations, failures of insight, and so on), or are the problems the theory’s fault. In particular, as long as a theory continues to be theoretically fruitful, and to explain new facts and make new kinds of predictions that work out well, it will continue to be well-regarded. Once it ceases to do this (is no longer “progressive”), then we start casting about for a replacement that will do a better job, and if enough really important unexplained facts accumulate, we will be willing to do a fairly extensive reconstruction of our beliefs to get a better, progressive, theory in its place. It is like someone who owes a lot of money. That does not make the guy a deadbeat, as long as he is paying off his debts steadily and can be expected to pay them off in accord with the schedules agreed on. If we begin to think he cannot or will not pay off his debts on time, or possibly at all, then he will no longer be reasonably regarded as a good credit risk.
Sometimes a new scientific theory will replace an old one, and people might say it explains the facts the old one explained in a new way (and explains a lot of other facts the old one does not explain). When this happens the new theory will often describe the facts to be explained in a new way. Instead of explaining why the girl was susceptible to the bad effects of her sister’s hostile spiritual force, we explain why she was susceptible to bacterial infection, say. It is probably better to say that the new theory explains the success of the old one in explaining its “facts,” “facts” which the new theory may redescribe or not recognize as facts at all. That is to say, a theory replacing an older theory should explain why the older theory succeeded as well as it did in explanation and prediction. (It might do this by suggesting that the older theory’s predictions were approximately true, and true for all we could see, given the range of error in our instruments at the time. So Einstein’s relativity theory makes it out that Newtonian mechanics is false, but, at velocities well below the speed of light, if Einstein’s theory is correct, it produces predictions so close to those of Newton’s theory that it is impossible, given the accuracy of our measurements, to show the Newtonian predictions are wrong. That means that all the experiments supporting Newton at low velocities also support Einstein. It is only by observing things near the speed of light that we can test the two theories against each other and see which one works best. A new theory might also decide that the problem was that a lot of “facts” weren’t facts at all, so the treatment of biblical revelation by modern science, which no longer feels a need to take the account of the origin of the world in Genesis as factual.) The theory should also, of course, explain more than the old theory, or connect to other fields more fruitfully—it should be superior to the old theory in some way or other.
Scientific theories age just as people do. A new theory will typically have a lot of promise and be very suggestive, but not much of it will be worked out yet. As it matures, most of its failures at explanations will be taken care of, it will produce a number of successful predictions, and suggest a number of interesting theoretical options in other areas. Gradually its fruitfulness will drop off, until it becomes boring and routine, and perhaps more or less indispensable for our work, and as background to the explanations of other theories. This is “normal science,” and it seems clear now that much of what we regard as science (the atomic theory of chemical combination embodied in the periodic table of the elements, for instance) may constitute permanent acquisitions to our knowledge. But a theory regarded as routine may also begin to accumulate problems which seem to resist solution (observations that it fails to explain, or which even contradict its predictions outright, poor fit with other parts of our science, and so on). People become less and less happy with it, until an alternative is hit upon which explains the successes of the old theory and solves a lot of its unsolved problems, while making interesting new predictions and suggesting new theoretical approaches elsewhere. This leads to a “scientific revolution” in which the old theory is thrown out in favor of the young new theory, and the whole thing starts over again. (One needs to be careful here. It isn’t clear that traditional chemistry is thrown out and replaced with a new theory if we come up with new theories about what is presupposed in traditional chemistry, about the nature of atoms, or the chemical bond, for instance. We have ways of holding on to old, useful theories while expanding the depth and extent of our knowledge. But they don’t always work out. The disease theory is not an account of the real nature of spirit possession.) It can happen that an old theory will be resurrected in a new version after a long time, as, perhaps, Atomism, an Ancient Greek notion, was resurrected in the sixteenth century. The “refutations” of the old theory no longer look any good, so we give it another try. A more modern example is the resurrection of the particle theory of light, abandoned in the eighteenth century because of interference phenomenon, and then resurrected in twentieth-century physics. What happened was that the assumption needed for it to explain interference phenomena, the assumption that the laws of motion were different for very small particles from what they were for macroscopic things, had come to be regarded as plausible. That assumption had been suggested in the eighteenth century, but it was reasonably regarded as absurd by the “revolutionaries,” and ad hoc, there being no reason to suppose it was true at that time other than the fact that it would help out the particle theory of light.
In philosophy it is often claimed that an explanation is the only possible explanation of the facts. That should always arouse suspicion. If it is really the only possible explanation, that means it is logically impossible that the facts explained be true and the explanation proposed be false, so we have an attempt here to make an argument to the best explanation deductive. In more ordinary talk, the claim that it is the only possible explanation usually comes to this, “it is overwhelmingly the most probable explanation of all those I can think of, given what we know.” But the philosopher often means to say the absurd thing he is committed to if taken perfectly literally, not the reasonable thing we can usually take a person to be intending. Generally the “only possible explanation” turns out to have no empirical content, then, so that any observation one can imagine is consistent with it. To explain is to choose from alternative possibilities, which is why it is generally informative when one provides an explanation. “Ah, that (not this or the other thing) is the reason!”
Best Explanation and Design vs. Natural Selection
The Argument from Design as presented in William Paley is an argument to the best explanation. What is it that is supposed to be explained? Above all, the presence of functionality in animals and plants, so that they seem designed to survive and live a good life despite the problems presented by their environments, both as individuals and as species. Paley can envision only one reasonable explanation for the fact that such beings exist, and enjoy the functionality they do, namely that a person designed them with those functions in mind. The only other explanation that he can think of would be that the stuff making up animals and plants came together more or less by accident in an appropriate way, and continued thereafter because it was well adapted to survive and reproduce, and he thinks, reasonably, that such an occurrence would be so improbable that it could be ruled out entirely. In particular, given that an organism with a complex organization of interdependent parts, and a whole ecology, would have to arise in this way if an accidentally arising animal were to have a possibility of surviving, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that such an accident could have occurred. The design hypothesis explained the facts better than any other available hypothesis.
That is not to say that it explained the facts perfectly. The argument from evil establishes that well enough. It seems even we can imagine improvements in the biological order. But we can also see strategies to explain the evils in the world, and given how unlikely the only alternative view, sheer accident, is, one of these ways, even if somewhat improbable given what we know, must be right. God in his wisdom must have his reasons.
How does the design explanation go? The standard approach would assume that the designer is perfectly wise and omnipotent, so that he constructs the natural laws themselves as well as the creatures that are subject to them, and, as Hume points out, on this assumption one would expect a world much freer of evil than we in fact encounter. Of course, one could propose that the designer did not create natural laws, but simply had to work with them, or that the designer is not interested in the good, or at least not only in the good, and so on. But if one wants to ask the question Hume puts, why there was ever any functional behavior at all, then the most natural move might seem to be the assumption that mind came first, and made the physical world, not that the physical world gave rise to mind. God, then, would at least be free of the influence of physical laws, if he did not make them or cannot produce events that transgress them, and it is at least natural within Christianity to move from that freedom from the influence of physical laws to the assumption that God made the laws. As for perfect goodness, it was asked what motive God would have had to make a world, and suggested that all nasty and evil motives are rooted in weakness and insecurity, which God would not experience. So his motives must have been a desire to produce as much good as possible over and above the good entailed in his own existence.
With Darwin, a new explanation for biological functionality was proposed, i.e. natural selection. The theory has a number of very significant advantages over the design theory.
First off, it is very hard to explain on the design theory any details about biological functionality, that is, which animals and plants are functional in what ways. In the second place, it is very hard to explain lack of functionality, using the omnipotent designer theory. Presumably the best possible world is the one that God designed, but it is impossible for us to see what the best possible world would be like in any detail at all (and what we think we can see about this is apparently wrong, given the problem of evil), and so the design theorist will point out that a given arrangement in an animal is functional, attribute it to God, and leave it at that. Or else it will be argued that God did not make the best possible world, but then we will be provided with reasons he should not do this which leave it wide open what the details of the shortcomings in the world he does make might be. Natural selection can offer detailed explanations of the structure and functions of animals and plants by hypothesizing a history of their evolution through natural selection. This means (a) an account of the earlier creatures from which they evolved, and their genetic endowments and the like, (b) an account of the particular challenges faced by these creatures that made new adaptations advantageous, (c) an account how mutations might have occurred, or previously existing traits been selected for: All this is brought together to argue that the best explanation of the current facts and historical record would be a given evolutionary story. As the details of genetics, now molecular genetics, have been worked out, a complex story of the evolution of animals and plants has been worked out which explains the current situation and the fossil record far more adequately than any non-evolutionary account does.
This difference between the designer theory and the evolutionary theory is rooted in the difference between their schemes or strategies of explanation. The two theories do not either of them present fully worked out, detailed explanations, but rather a story-line, a scheme, which they propose the worked out explanations should follow.
The design explanation invites us to consider a designer, making rational calculations how best to accomplish his ends. By specifying those ends more closely, and considering his resources—he has a certain technology and certain materials at his disposal, and only so much time, manpower, and money to complete the project—and limitations, both external and internal—he is only capable of a certain level of cleverness, only has certain intellectual strategies for design available—we can fill in the details, explaining why he designed the thing this way rather than that, why he was unable to accomplish his aims in this or that particular, and so on. A scientist should endeavor to fill in as many details as he can whenever he explains something using a design hypothesis, and if he can show considerable success at this filling in of details whenever he applies the hypothesis in a certain area, then he can reasonably claim that it is the best sort of explanation for this area. So, in examining buildings, he may find that the design hypothesis can be worked up in detail—the sorts of buildings produced in a given culture can indeed be explained in detail by looking at the purposes people have for those buildings, the history of their technology, available building materials, and so on. Instances which do not readily admit of such explanations from the background information about the builders can be attributed to creativity, sometimes, but this does not mean that we give up all attempts at explaining the details even in that kind of case. Creative design depends on theoretical background, the serendipitous presence of the elements and technologies put together to make up the new design, the presence of problems and aims arising from new social movements, new inventions, new aesthetic trends, and the like. So we can explain at least the suitability, and perhaps the attractiveness and plausibility of a given creative move by reference to the details of the background to the creator’s insights and methods. We can see why a talented and creative fellow might have hit on this as a solution to the problems he faced, given his resources and intellectual background, at that time.
The design theorist in biology in fact does very little of this. His explanation of details seems defensive (“it could have gone this way”) rather than constructive (“this is what we would have expected, now that we understand the background to the event”). Broad details of the world, the very existence of biological function, say, or adaptation to the environment, are explained, but the bright promise of a good explanatory scheme, the production of many detailed explanations fitting into the scheme, rooted in background information and historical context, is not realized. The dialectic arising around the problem of evil illustrates this point amply, and the defensive and ad hoc explanatory stories that are constructed in answer to the challenge of explaining evil in the world by the design theorist may provide us with improved and new explanatory schemes (explain apparent poor design as aiming at deliberate punishment rather than due to incompetence, lack of power or lack of resources, which would not afflict God, of course), but these new schemes are no more deployed constructively than the old ones. The design theorist is on the defensive, introducing what seem to be desperately ad hoc assumptions (the immortality of the soul and an afterlife) to hold on to the bare possibility of detailed explanation, without presenting any well-confirmed actual detailed explanations within his scheme at all.
Compare this story to the story of creation presented by the design theorist. The story of the natural selection theorist has received all sorts of empirical support, first from geology (there was a great dispute over the age of the world, and it came to seem impossible to geologists, as they worked out their own historical accounts how geological features, mountains, sedimentary rocks and so on, arose, that the world was only a few thousand years old). Afterwards, Mendelian genetics provided a theoretical foundation for the evolutionary story, and the discovery of DNA has provided the chemical and physical basis for genetics. Each new discovery has made more things clear, in particular why maladaptations have occurred (due to lack of availability of suitable genes, certain advantages brought by the only available solution to a problem that counterbalanced certain disadvantages, and so on). So sickle cell anemia developed in African humans as a ‘genetic defect’ because it rendered those who had the offending genes far more resistant to malaria. This way of adapting to malaria was much more likely to develop than fancier and more effective ways without drawbacks, given the range and kind of genetic variability in African humans, and the types of mutations that were likely to occur to provide new genetic material. Some picture of the probable history of most maladaptations has been worked out, and in many cases confirmation has been discovered for such a history, or a bad fit with facts has led biologists to work out a better hypothesis within natural selection. So, the natural selection theory actually enables people to do detailed biological science, whereas the design theory never did allow that. In fact, the empirical backing for natural selection is so overwhelming at this point that the most common approach of Christian apologists of the design theory has become the so-called “directed natural selection” theory, in which it is supposed that God intervenes in the process of evolution as described by the natural selection people, somehow making some events more probable, perhaps introducing the right mutations, or the right challenges, at the right time to get the next step to happen. This ‘God of the gaps’ is introduced whenever we don’t understand how something happened, and as a result, every decade sees this God pushed out of a number of places where he had been introduced because we no longer need him to explain how that worked out.
What about problems with natural selection? The chief seem to be these: (1) How did life arise in the first place? First, a great deal of progress has been made in developing an account how this could have occurred through natural selection at the chemical level, as it were. The various stages in the development can often be verified as what might well have happened by reproducing them in the laboratory. So the problem is associated with a developing program of research, and the basic outlines of the story are becoming clearer and clearer as our understanding of the chemical basis of life becomes clearer. Second, even if biologists had no idea how to answer the question, the evidence that there has been evolutionary development and change due to natural selection after the rise of life is untouched, and no real competitor (one that is not ad hoc) to the evolution as an explanation of the evidence is currently available. Since the ‘chemical evolution’ hypothesis is the only one that admits of any real development as an explanation, it has been pretty much the only one pursued by scientists. (2) How do species arise? Only variation within species can be produced by selection, for one might fiddle with a design, but one cannot produce an entirely new design in this way. Moreover, there is no evidence of any ‘missing link’ leading from supposed ancestor to modern species. Here it must first be pointed out that we have all kinds of missing links between reptiles and birds, fish and reptiles, humans and their ancestors, and so on. Moreover, if a species is defined as a group that will not interbreed with other species, then we have actually produced new species of flies and of bacteria in the laboratory. The story how a radical reorganization could arise has been worked out for a great many interspecies and higher shifts. So the assertion that evolution can’t explain such things seems simply false. As for the presumed impossibility of a radical reorganization, in actual cases biologists find that there are very often intermediate stages which would get along quite well, so that one has a series of steps one could follow. A classical example is the eye, which Paley claimed could not have arisen by any fortuitous combination of parts, for everything has to be gotten in place perfectly for the thing to work. The lens is useless if not associated with the retina and the other parts, and placed in the right spot so that it can focus on the retina, and so on. But biologists have not only worked out a possible story of intermediate stages, from mere patches of retina, as it were, sensitive to light, to such patches with transparent protective covers, which then focus the light, making a further development of the retina into multiple nerve ending useful, and so on—biologists have also found organisms at most of these different hypothetical stages, and worked out how specific use of available genetic material and specific mutations of reasonably high probability would move the whole thing along.
Two philosophical problems with natural selection: (1) Surely mind is utterly different from matter, and could not have arisen from matter. We will look at this more closely when we look at the mind-body problem in a little while. The argument is surely a powerful one in convincing many people that evolution does not tell the whole story, at least, since it is a theory rooted in physical theory, and so the argument suggests that it cannot explain the rise of mind. (2) Why was the world such as to allow for the processes of evolution, leading to life and mind, in the first place? This is a pretty hard question to answer without suggesting a designer. Of course, it might be that the question has no answer, that this cannot be explained. Again, one might point out that the designer explanation presupposes a world consisting of an all-powerful designer, without explaining how that world (that is, God) arose. But that world is beautifully adapted to lead to life and mind. So it has not really explained anything at all, but presupposed it—unless, of course, it can explain why there is a God who is perfectly wise, good, and all-powerful. This is the sort of question that looks rather like the question why there was ever anything at all, which it would seem, cannot be answered. A theory cannot be faulted for failing to answer unanswerable questions.
Could the world have been such that its order clearly points to a designer? What would it then be like? Say there were no evils at all in the world, or that justice was always served, would that indicate a designer? [A paper topic here and in the next paragraph, if you want it.]
Could a message be encoded in the world, informing its inhabitants of the designer? What would such a message have to be like to provide indubitable evidence of a designer? Evidence of some strength?
As Immanuel Kant points out, no conceivable scientific theory would seem to be able to explain why the whole system of natural law is adapted to the production of human life. Does the postulation of God explain this? It would not seem to explain why there is any order in the first place (since God must be ordered to explain this, and so it begs the question), and so it does not seem to explain why there are laws evident in the behavior of things. But might it explain why natural laws are friendly to the development of intelligent life? How would the explanation go? Two problems: (1) We have no idea how God makes natural laws, since we only understand how things are done in accord with natural laws. So the explanation might seem to fail at this point. (2) This approach seems to make the mental the ultimate, underlying reality that produces all else. How does the mental (God) produce the physical? Perhaps he just can because he is omnipotent, but that brings us back to problem (1). Despite these problems, though, it seems that we do have an explanation here, however incomplete, why natural laws are such as to be favorable to the production of human beings—God wanted it that way. If we don’t postulate a God, or anything else, as productive of natural law and the natural world, then we don’t have any explanation of this. Might it be that there is no explanation, just as there might be no explanation why things are orderly? Consider that here we might also ask why God cares about there being human beings. Either there is no explanation, or perhaps it is because God is good. But why is God good? No explanation, or . . . ? Somewhere, even with God in the picture, explanation seems to come to an end, and it is always a jolt when it does so.