Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Kinds of Evidence- Arguments from Origin

After several years of research, I have found that the arguments for/against the validity of a certain belief system, including topics which apply to the existence of God, all fall into a few simple categories. It can be helpful to understand these categories while performing your own research. The first and most common type of argument, which will be examined in this post, are arguments from origins.

  1. Arguments From Origin
Consider, if you will, the following sand castle:

Castle #1
If you were to walk along a beach and see castle #1, you might stop and ask yourself "where did this come from?" You notice the fine detail and purposeful organization of the sculpture. You see repeating patterns, such as the multiple trees or the multiple towers. You take note that there are no other piles of sand which resemble it anywhere else on the beach. In addition, you recall the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the entropy of the universe increases over time (the amount of disorder in the universe is always increasing). You would have a hard time figuring out how Castle #1 could have come into existence by purely natural means. Some would say that it is impossible for something like Castle #1 to come into existence unless there is some force outside of nature acting upon the sand! (For how could the wind or the tides cause the sand to pile up in such an ordered fashion?) You would rightly have a high index of suspicion that the particles of sand which make up Castle #1 were specifically placed by an intelligent being for a specific purpose. You would be asking and looking for an answer to a Question of Origins.

A few examples of a arguments from origins are the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and the argument from the origin of life. In the case of the cosmological argument, you walk along the beach and notice the entire universe and say "hmmm... This is a heck of an interesting thingy we have here... I wonder where it came from?" In the case of the teleological argument, you walk along the beach and notice objective morality (or at least the perception of objective morality) and say "I wonder where right, wrong, good and evil come from?" Finally, with the argument from the origin of life, you walk along the beach and see thousands of highly complex organisms, including yourself, and ask "Where could all of the diversity, order, and complexity that is life have originated?"

In each instance we must decide what the best explanation for the origin of the entity is. Two possible explanations for the origin of life, for example, are an intelligent designer (i.e. God) and evolution. Even more importantly, there are occasions when we must recognize that we do not have enough evidence to be able to say with certainty that "X must have caused Y!" or "The best explanation for Y is X!" Sometimes the best answer is "We don't know right now." (The implication being that we will continue to search for more evidence so that we will be able to come to a conclusion some day)

Tune in next time for more kinds of evidence!

For fun, here are two more sand castles. They are unnecessary for the previous conversation, but I find them philosophically interesting.
Castle #2
Do you think that we should have an index of suspicion for a non-natural influence on this conformation of sand? Should that index of suspicion be as high as with Castle #1?

This castle lacks the minute detail found in Castle #1. However, one would still have difficulty in writing this conformation off as a purely natural phenomenon (especially in light of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). One can see what could appear to be remants of old towers and the remains of two courtyards encircled by walls. On the other hand, one also notes the 'naturalness' of the eroded portions of the castle.

What do you think?

One more castle:
Castle #3
(The guy in the upper left corner is scratching his head and wondering, "did this configuration of sand come about through natural or supernatural means?")
Could this conformation have been created by natural means? Could it have been created by a higher power? Do we have a high index of suspicion that it was created by a super-natural force? How about compared to Castles 1 and 2? The guy in the top left of the photo is trying to figure out just that.

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