Friday, July 16, 2010

A new argument for design

  1. (Premise) The platypus is genuinely funny.
  2. (Premise) The genuinely funny is incongruous.
  3. (Premise) The platypus is either a result of evolution or design (by a designer) or both.
  4. (Premise) If the platypus is a result of evolution without design (by a designer), it is not incongruous.
  5. Therefore, the platypus is a result of design (by a designer).
  6. Therefore, there is a designer (by a designer).
The most controversial premise is (4). But look—if evolution is running the platypus show, without a designer, behind everything there is randomness. But there is nothing incongruous in weird stuff that arose from randomness.

It is tempting to conclude from (6) that the designer has a sense of humor. But that takes extra steps. For there are two ways that a designer can produce something funny: by comic skill and by comic failure. So we would need a way of eliminating the latter possibility. I think to do that one would need a plausibility argument: the platypus requires great intelligence, and does not appear to be a failure.

Light-hearted as the above argument is, it points to an important feature of the debate between the naturalist and the theist. The theist can take as independent objective explananda features of the world that the naturalist has to eliminate away, reduce to the agent's subjectivity (e.g., the platypus being funny just means we find it funny; M 42 being beautiful just means we find it beautiful) or explain by means of a coincidence (e.g., such-and-such features were a selective advantage, and as it happens, it is a necessary truth that such-and-such features are funny or beautiful or whatever). The theist can take many of these humanly significant features of the world at face value, and then explain them as taken at face value.

[Minor changes made.-ARP]

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