The Argument from Design
Are the laws of physics fine-tuned for life ?
A natural guess, when considering that the universe is ultimately
created by and made of consciousness, is that it would be fine-tuned
and designed for life.
So we have to examine this guess.
Let us start the consideration with the laws of physics. They form
very remarkable and wonderful theories indeed, so that it would be
quite hard to imagine a universe made of more elegant laws. But
these laws are formed with a number of seemingly arbitrary choices
of structures among other conceivable possibilities, as well as a
list of seemingly arbitrary constants, for which we currently have
How well-designed for life is that ?
A first parameter to consider (so obvious that some forget it) is
the number of dimensions: we are in a space-time with 4 dimensions,
divided into 3 space dimensions and 1 time dimension, together
forming a Minkowski space that is very similar to Euclidean geometry
(making time be somehow like space, despite the fact that it does
not feel so in everyday experience).
The fact there is only 1 time dimension, is required by the
properties of conscious existence, that we previously described.
But, why does our space have 3 dimensions, rather than another
In fact, roughly the same laws of physics (general relativity and
quantum physics) could apply to space-times with other numbers of
space dimensions (and even with other numbers of time dimensions).
However, these would not be suitable for life by any similar means
to those that we are familiar with:
What about other parameters in the laws of physics, which seem
arbitrary ? Some authors have claimed that they would be remarkably
fine-tuned for life. Victor
Stenger disagreed. Precisely, he considered how would a
universe behave with other values of the main physical constants in
some range around their value in our universe, and found that such
variants could be suitable for life as well (if the modifications of
the constants are "not big"). But someone
replied. Let us leave this debate to specialists... (random example
of debate on the subject)
- General relativity (that describes gravitation) can be applied
to spaces of other dimensions as well. However, its effective
appearance as the Newtonian force of attraction in 1/R2 only
comes in the case of 3 space dimensions; with 2 dimensions it
does not provide any force of attraction, while for n>2, its
application to a space-time with (n+1) space dimensions gives an
attractive force in 1/Rn, which (for n>2) cannot
give any chance for a planet to have a stable orbit around a
- As the formula of the attractive force ( 1/Rn in
(n+1) space dimensions) happens the same with electromagnetism,
atoms as we know them (electrons in quantum stable orbits around
nucleus by the electromagnetic interaction) could not stand with
more than 3 space dimensions.
The scientific consensus for natural evolution
Now admitting the laws of physics with all its constants as fixed,
what about the emergence and evolution of life: has the evolution of
live been guided in a conscious manner, with some plan on where it
is going ?
This is a serious question, where purely philosophical expectations
would lead to see it as highly plausible.
So, in terms of pure thinking and expectations, the idea of
intelligent design could have been a plausible idea. However, this
idea has to be compared to observational evidence.
A lot of evidence on how life evolved, has been gathered by
biologists and paleontologists.
From this evidence, a large consensus has emerged among them, that
the genetic evolution of life has all the characteristics of being
the result of blind natural selection processes, with no observed
significant trace of remarkable guidance from a mysterious origin
(not to speak about young-Earth creationist views that have no
plausibility at all - as Christian preachers once had trouble trying
to evangelize the Chinese who had an older record of ancient history
than the creation time claimed by the Bible).
The difficulties debating the subject - scientific illiteracy
I recently saw a Christian Web site (I guess there may be many like
this) speaking about science, and trying to argue that Intelligent
Design would be a scientific position, while Darwinism would be
That site tried to explain that Intelligent Design would be
falsifiable while Darwinism would not.
I happened to hear from Christians at some times a number of claims
against Darwinism (even made with a tone of mockery against
Darwinism) arguing about the Missing
Links (e.g claiming that no intermediate forms between apes
and humans could be found), or that some complex organs such as eyes
are so "well-designed" with all parts necessary for the working of
the whole, so that it could not have appeared by mere chance and
Such claims are so well falsifiable, indeed, that they have already
been fully refuted, for example by the discovery of explicit
explanations of the evolutionary development of the eye step by
step, with each step being selected as it brings a better ability.
The consensus of the scientific community for natural evolution, is
remarkable in front of oppositions by otherwise dominating
ideologies, not only on the
right but also on the left
(but these "right" and left" sides can be understood as similar
religions taking the same side of the real opposition, that is the
side of feelings and a priori value judgments against reason, and
the side of popular stupidity against intelligence).
It would be rather pointless to try to answer all anti-darwinist
arguments in much details. Who do they think they are ? Do they
claim to teach scientists about what is science ? Do they think that
99.9% of biologists are ignorant about their own field or about what
is science ? Who are they trying to convince ? If such a few pages
made of a couple of childish "arguments" will succeed to confort
their ignorant Christian readers in their feelings and desires to
believe that Darwinism is stupid and that their faith in Jesus makes
them much more clever scientists than the professional ones, can
this "success" ever have anything to do with the truth ?
(see also about the
fundamental misconception "Scientists Are Arrogant, But They Can’t
Seriously, whatever may be their arguments or what I would try to
answer, would not change the very heavy trend of what emerged from
the huge amount of observational evidence in biology: that, given
the available evidence, the only rational position that can resist
is the Darwinian position, while Intelligent Design happens to be an
irrational position, in the sense that to persist giving it any
credit (as many ignorant people do) against the available evidence,
happens to require quite irrational attitudes.
But no matter the refutations, anti-darwinists carefully keep
ignoring the experience of how often their claims happened to be
refuted, and keep claiming to make much wiser predictions on future
discoveries than scientists.
In fact, the continuing public opposition to Darwinism is mainly
based on a great deal of ignorance of the existing evidence: (from
A 1997 study
found that fewer than 20% of Americans possessed basic scientific
literacy and a People for the American
Way poll found that less than half (48%) of those polled
chose the correct definition of evolution from a list. In 2006,
New Scientist reported that almost 2/3 of Americans believe they
share less than half their genes with "monkeys", when in fact the
figure is between 95–99% depending on the primate and comparison
Thus, a majority of very ignorant people who politically support
(through the Republican Party...) an educational system marked by
scientific illiteracy, as well as a literature with some completely
indefensible pseudo-scientific claims that conveniently give an
illusion of scientific credibility for their religious creeds,
suffices to explain the social persistence of this nonsense,
disconnected from all existing evidence.
But to those who still think they would have arguments against
Darwinism...this is a too big and hard subject for making it
possible to give here a significant account of all the arguments
that can be said. A summarized presentation may not be able to give
it justice, while anti-scientific propaganda may be the strongest.
here (about attempts by proponents of intelligent design, at
inserting "critical analysis" of evolution in some curriculum, but
in a way that perverts the debate):
"The good feelings didn't last
long. Early this year, a board-appointed committee unveiled
sample lessons that laid out the kind of evolution questions
students should debate. The models appeared to lift their
examples from Wells' book Icons of Evolution. "When I
first saw it, I was speechless," says Princehouse.(...)
However, let's try.
After months of uproar, the most obvious Icons-inspired lessons
were removed. But scientists remain furious. "The ones they left
in are still arguments for special creation - but you'd have to
know the literature to understand what they are saying. They've
used so much technical jargon that anybody who doesn't know a
whole lot of evolutionary biology looks at it and says 'It
sounds scientific to me, what's the matter with it?'" says
Princehouse. "As a friend of mine said, it takes a half a second
for a baby to throw up all over your sweater. It takes hours to
get it clean." "
The evidence from poor design
Moreover, it even happens that our eyes
are not as well-designed as they could be, as there does exist
other animals with better designed eyes than our own: Octopus has
better designed eyes than vertebrates, and Mammals have lost the
tetrachromatic vision, which other terrestrial vertebrates (birds,
reptiles...) inherited from the first tetrapods.
Also, a large part of the genome in humans and many other organisms,
is made of a lot of wasteful copies of the same genes whose only
function is to multiply the number of their copies inside this
genome (or otherwise promote itself during reproduction) - a
property which is considered to have been inherited from some
primitive virus that settled in its host durably in early
Some more examples of bad designs (among many other possible
examples) are in the Argument
poor design page (against the existence of God).
Other examples are given by the many cases of extinct species: what
were they designed for ? Were they designed for extinction ?
The evidence from human-driven evolution
A few times I happened to discuss with people who don't "believe in
evolution", they just fail to grasp the mathematical structure
explaining how negative genetic mutations are generally wiped out by
natural selection, while positive ones are much more likely to "win"
the population, so as to explain how positive mutations prevail at
the end despite the fact they are much less likely to occur at first
than negative ones. Terrible but real. This might be considered a
waste time with basic children logic, but let's develop it.
In fact, it's not very difficult to debunk the main naive thesis put
forward by opponents of evolution, that consists in disbelieving the
theoretical possibility for all those "wonderful" complex
functionalities in living organisms, to have emerged out of mere
random mutations and natural selection. Somehow we may consider this
question to be a "purely mathematical" question, as it is
mathematically rather well-defined (except for the conscious
behavior of animals, which can be driven out of the equation by
restricting the consideration to the evolution of plants), but of
course the difficulty is its astronomic complexity, as it involves
the processes occurring all over the planet during about 1 billion
years, which is most probably too big even for the most powerful of
our super-calculators to simulate. Without the possibility of
effectively operating such a simulation, different people might keep
diverse and opposite convictions according to their personal
feelings (intuitions) about "what the rational view must be", each
one considering one's own view as the reasonable one, and dismissing
the opposite view as blind faith, but with no easy objective way to
decide whose intuition is right.
However we do have some hints out of experience. The accessible
experience is not as big as the whole history of life, but it is
already significant. I want to point out the experience of the
documented evolution of species that occurred under the human
control since humans took over the planet, especially agricultural
species and pets (to not speak about the extinction of many species
exterminated by humans for different reasons - species that God
designed for being finally exterminated, probably). Examples among
many others: yellow
bananas appeared in the 19th century and need human
intervention to survive because they have no seeds; dogs evolved
into quite diverse races under the human control after a common
origin; bacteria developed resistance to antibiotics... Improvements
are even perceptible during a farmer's lifetime (which is why they
bother caring about selecting their animals).
Very important positive changes occurred by natural mutation with
just an artificial selection by human control.
Would anyone claim that this evolution was mysterious, beyond
explanation, and requiring some supernatural intervention ? Hardly
so. Mutations were natural; humans did not choose them. These
species had a much longer evolution, before being domesticated,
where they were not a priori designed for humans. It is the hand of
man operating the selection, that changed them into this "design"
(for human convenience; or inconvenience, in the case of bacteria).
This happened in a very short time (centuries, millenia or tenths of
millenia...) relatively to the history of life (hundreds of million
years): less than 1/1000 of it.
Thus, why the hell should we dismiss the plausibility for natural
selection to have driven evolution towards the many complex useful
features for survival that we observe, considering it had over 1000
times more time for this, than the already dramatic evolution
towards human convenience which we admit to have been the natural
consequence of human selection over natural mutations ?
The Criminal Incarnation Problem
The problem is this one: why are there souls coming to incarnate
in embryos/fetuses even in cases when it is harmful to do so,
rather than letting them die ?
Indeed, there are clearly cases when the best action for souls
would consist in letting embryos die by prohibitting any sould
from incarning there. But this is not what is happening, and the
world clearly suffers of adverse consequences of irresponsible
I see two main predictibly adverse consequences of the
incarnation and thus lively birth of some bodies: Stupid Design of
the species, and overpopulation.
The Stupid Design action, consists in letting souls incarnate
bodies with bad genetic characters: those of violence, egoism,
stupidity and other defects, that will kake the room on earth from
better and more virtuous genetic characters to develop.
Of course, such a concern would be inappropriate at times the
population would be scarce and struggling for survival, in risk to
just disappear by lack of members if the game of selective
incarnation was played. But the point is that it is not always the
case, as the population sometimes (and especially in this and the
last centuries) happens to become too numerous with quite adverse
It should not be considered an emergency to incarnate to any body
that may come as soon as possible: the life of some individuals
can be just an obstacle to the life and reproduction of better
ones. If some souls did not incarnate just immediately at a given
time, it may bring them better chances to incarnate into an even
more interesting life later, once many of the world's troubles
would have been solved or so.
For the same reason, the absence of incarnation should not have
to be anyway something as awful as the birth of a dead-born or
zombie baby: the same tool of intelligent design by selective
incarnation should have been used many millions years ago to
select the embryo developping processes that would ensure that an
absence of incarnation would hardly be anything worse than an
unnoticed rejection of the embryo after a couple of weeks, or
perhaps a sterility.
So, why do so many souls still decide to commit the bad action to
incarnate into some new bodies ? Is it because they are not aware
of the consequences ???
The convenience of scientific research ?
Admittedly, there are other viewpoints about why to see Intelligent
Design as an irrational idea.
For example, this
argument against Intelligent Design. states the following
point among others:
"Yet it's fundamental to the
philosophy of intelligent design: I don't know what this is. I
don't know how it works. It's too complicated for me to figure
out. It's too complicated for any human being to figure out. So
it must be the product of a higher intelligence(...) How
presumptuous it would be for me to claim that if I can't solve a
problem, neither can any other person who has ever lived or who
will ever be born.
Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a
philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery
on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the
answer to a problem. "
Indeed it could have been much more problematic to develop
scientific research and knowledge on how life could develop on the
Earth if the evolutionary process received an important deal of
influence from supernatural intervention.
Fortunately for scientists (and very unfortunately for the very many
miserable lives of animals that had a hard time during this long and
painful evolutionary process), this is not the case.
Criticism by Bertrand Russell
See page 6 of Russell's
I also once found this supposed quotation in French but could not
verify its source as it is not exactly contained in that above
"N'y a-t-il pas quelque chose d'un peu absurde dans le spectacle
d'êtres humains qui tiennent devant eux un miroir et qui pensent que
ce qu'ils y voient est tellement excellent que cela prouve qu'il
doit y avoir une Intention Cosmique qui, depuis toujours, visait ce
but...Si j'étais tout-puissant et si je disposais de millions
d'années pour me livrer à des expériences, dont le résultat final
serait l'Homme, je ne considérerais pas que j'aurais beaucoup de
raisons de me vanter."
Links and references
Statement of the
scientific consensus by the American Anthropological Association
of support for evolution
"99.9 percent of scientists accept
the scientific community considers intelligent design, a
neo-creationist offshoot, to be unscientific,pseudoscience, or
a coalition representing more than 70,000 Australian scientists
and science teachers issued a statement saying "intelligent design
is not science" and calling on "all schools not to teach
Intelligent Design (ID) as science, because it fails to qualify on
every count as a scientific theory"
The same article mentions a variable level of support for evolution
There has even been official support for evolution by religious
to V. Stenger (physicist and skeptic)
abysmal self-complacency can see in Man a reason which
Omniscience could consider adequate as a motive for the Creator.
The Copernican revolution will not have done its work until it
has taught men more modesty than is to be found among those who
think Man sufficient evidence of Cosmic Purpose."
of science :"Scientists Have an Atheist Agenda"
because no scientific study has indicated the presence or need
for a deity in the universe does not mean that this was the
intent of the work. It may be true scientific study in general
has the overwhelming lack of indication that the universe has
any outside influence, but that does not mean that is what
scientists wanted to believe."
Searching for the
No Intelligent Designer Needed! Debunking the Watchmaker argument video
Design Arguments for the
Existence of God at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
from design at Rationalwiki
Wikipedia : Teleological
On the intelligibility of the universe: some fqxi essays on the connections
between maths and physics
Does life has a
purpose ? A fictional debate
The best proof of
Darwinian evolution of the mind-matter interaction