Thursday, March 29, 2012


The following argument is valid:

  1. Many butterflies are works of art.
  2. If God does not exist, then no butterfly is a work of art.
  3. So, God exists.

Note that with the progress of genetic engineering, we may have to modify (2) to "If God does not exist, then no butterfly that isn't genetically engineered is a work of art" and then strengthen (1) to say that many non-engineered butterflies are works of art.

The thought behind (1) is not just that butterflies are beautiful, but that the best way to appreciate their aesthetic qualities is to see them as works of art.


Neil Bakker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Huume said...

When you say, 'no butterfly is a work of art', are you also saying that a work of art can only be produced by a mind?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Yes, I think a work of art requires intention.

Huume said...

I would agree

Huume said...

I got into quite a lively discussion (I reposted this blog post on my facebook).

Two objections I encountered; I was wondering if you could give your imput on them? If you have time to respond:

"The problems I see with this argument are as follows:

1. The circular nature of premise 1 (resulting from the hidden presupposition that "many" butterflies are a product of design) begs the question... An illustration:

Apologist: Many butterflies are a work of art.

Skeptic: Why do you say that?

Apologist: Because many butterflies are beautifully designed.

Skeptic: How do you know these butterflies are a product of design?

Apologist: Because these butterflies are a work of art…Didn‘t I already say that?

2. Premise 2 relies on the circular logic of premise 1. Premise 2 also begs the question in that it assumes that God is the only entity capable of designing butterflies for the purpose of aesthetic appeal. It is equally possible that a super advanced race of free lovin, hippie aliens could have used their unfathomably powerful technology to create and set loose pretty little butterflies upon the earth for the purpose of beautifying an otherwise drab terrestrial world…..Far out man.

3. Given the "question begging" of 1 & 2, the conclusion of this argument cannot be shown to logically follow from its premises...Rendering it, in my opinion, invalid."

(I disagree with that rebuttal and expressed my reasons why but I was hoping you could speak to that)


"@Acelot: the argument is similar in form to and, I feel, shares a logical fallacy with the below classic atheistic argument. I'm not black belt enough to classify it formally.

Q: Can God create an unmoveable rock?
Q2: Can God move an unmoveable rock?

If Yes to both, then God failed to create an unmovable rock, so he is not really all-powerful.

Bad argument. Takes advantage of *unclear definition* of unmoveable rock to hook you in question 1, then tries to set the hook on question 2. Your argument exploits an unclear definition of art to presuppose a Purposer. Ultimately, the person you are talking to can just back out of agreeing that butterflies are art. Does that make sense?"

I know you are a very busy man so if you dont have time to respond I wont take it personally.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The grounds for believing 1 is that (a) they look like a work of art, and (b) treating them like a work of art seems to be the aesthetically appropriate attitude to take.

Of course, (a) and (b) is fallible evidence for the butterflies being a work of art. But fallible evidence is evidence nonetheless.

By the way, a literally circular argument, which this is not, where the conclusion is one of the premises is always valid. For validity requires that the premises couldn't be true without the conclusion being true. And if the conclusion is one of the premises, then that's trivially so.

Huume said...

Wow, what a swift response!

"The grounds for believing 1 is that (a) they look like a work of art, and (b) treating them like a work of art seems to be the aesthetically appropriate attitude to take."

Thats kind of what I was thinking and communicated too. Thank you for clearing up the circular part (which I didnt see this argument as circular either for the same reason you stated).

Thank you very much for that!

norsefire1 said...

What if the Skeptic argues that the butterfly only *appears* to be a work of art? That in reality, the beauty of the butterfly is an illusion produced by evolutionary processes.

Alexander R Pruss said...

That something appears such-and-such is evidence that it is such-and-such.

And illusionism is a game both sides can play that threatens to lead to scepticism.