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Notes on Mackie's Criticisms of the Design Argument in The Miracle of Theism

Mackie’s (and Hume’s) Criticisms of the Design Argument

1) The analogy between the universe (and biological organisms and their parts) and human artifacts is weak: they don’t resemble each other very well

-objection: this point only applies to the analogical version of the design argument; not the best explanation version.

-reply: Mackie agrees (see p. 137). But then he argues that if we treat intelligent design as an inference to the best explanation, this is weak. For the hypothesis doesn’t have the predictive and explanatory virtues of normal scientific hypotheses.

2) There are rival hypotheses that explain apparent design equally well

-evolution explains the apparent design of biological organisms and their parts

-natural laws and processes, and the constants of nature explain why evolution is possible

3) The same features that lead the theist to infer design imply that the designer’s mind requires a designer

-Theist’s reply #1: The designer’s mind doesn’t need a designer, even though it’s complex and orderly, and its parts work together for a purpose.

-criticism of the reply: If we allow that something can bear the marks of apparent design without being designed, then why can’t we say the same thing about objects with marks of apparent design in the natural world?

-Theist’s reply #2: The designer’s mind may need a designer, but the designer may count as an explanation before we discover the explanation of the designer’s mind.

-criticism of the reply: Okay. But then why can’t we do the same thing when it comes to explaining apparent design in the natural world? E.g., explain apparent design in terms of a natural process (e.g., evolution, which in turn is explained in terms of natural processes and laws that make evolution possible)?

-theist’s rejoinder: We can’t end the explanation in terms of natural processes, for all of our evidence supports the double-barreled principle that order arises from intelligence, and it never arises from natural processes.

-criticism of the rejoinder: Actually, all of our evidence suggests that all order, even the order in minds, is the result of natural processes. Thus, we have the best possible reason to prefer a natural-non-intelligent basis for order and apparent design in the universe.

4) Even if intelligent design were the most reasonable explanation, we can’t infer, from the mere fact that the universe or some of its parts are designed, that therefore the designer is the god of traditional theism:
-can’t infer that the designer is all- powerful, all-knowing, or morally perfect
-can’t infer that the designer is immaterial/incorporeal
-can’t infer that there is just one designer:
-can’t infer that the designer still exists:

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