This is a continuation of examination into the following essay by Dallas Willard:
DW's argument for the "first stage of theistic evidence" is being examined in the previous thread Thread 145948
My intention for this thread is to open up discussion on DW's argument for the "second stage of theistic evidence".
DW's second stage argument is a version of what he calls the "argument to design".
I find his argument in this section thoroughly confusing and unclear. I think DW needs to take a step back and figure out what exactly he intends to argue in this stage. This is evidenced by the fact that he cannot seem to summarize his "challenge" to the atheist in any sensible fashion:
"So at this second stage we have a challenge to offer the atheist….we urge him to find one case of ordered being – or just being, for, whatever it is, it will certainly be ordered – originating from being without order."
Well, unfortunately for DW, that challenge does not seem to make any sense; or is at least in some sense question-begging. If DW is going to stipulate or presuppose that any being, whatever it is, is certainly with order; then he cannot reasonably expect anyone to present to his own satisfaction an example of being without order, let alone some example of some ordered being that originated from being without order. So, this "challenge" is a bit of a head-scratcher.
As for DW's argument, here are what seem to be his main working points, which I am just going to list in the order in which they appear:
"…evolution…cannot…be a theory of ultimate origins of existence or order….Let us quite generally state, then, that any sort of evolution of order of any kind will always presuppose pre-existing order and pre-existing entities governed by it."
"It follows as a simple matter of logic that not all order evolved. Given the physical world – however much of evolution it may or may not contain – there is or was some order in it which did not evolve. However it may have originated (if it originated), that order did not evolve."
"We should pause to notice that the order from which cosmic and biological evolution takes rise must have been one of considerable power and complexity, since it provided the basis of, precisely, cosmic and biological evolution. Evolution itself is a process that exhibits order of stunning dimensions, diachronic as well as synchronic….That specific type of structure found in evolution did not itself come about through evolution, any more than…the laws of mechanics were instituted by the laws of mechanics."
"…we all have experience…of order entering the physical world from minds – our minds as well as from that of others. Not as if the physical world were totally disordered before our plan or 'design' surfaced there. Of course it is not. We have no experience of ex nihilo creation, and the second stage of theistic evidence does not aim to establish such creation. But, to go back to Paley's classical example of finding a watch in the wilderness, we clearly know that the order that is in a watch first presented itself to the human mind without being present in physical reality, and only because of that did it later emerge within the physical world. We know that locomotives, bridges, and a huge number of other things exist in the physical world because the 'design' for them previously existed in a mind. Some person designed them."
"So what do we have at the second stage of theistic evidence? We have established that not all order is evolved and that relative to our data there is a probability of zero that order should emerge from chaos or from nothing into the physical world. In addition, we have experience of order from minds (our minds) into the physical world….Now what is the effect of all this? Certainly no demonstration of God in the full theistic sense. But…the possibility of there being such a God has become significantly more substantial….once it becomes clear that order is not self-generating and could not all have originated from evolution, and in light of the fact that order does, at least in some limited sense, upon some occasions actually enter the physical world from mind, we would want to know exactly why – given all of this – we should rule out some fairly direct role of 'larger minds.'"
Now, one problem here is that nowhere – absolutely nowhere – in this essay does DW define or even hint at what he means by the term 'order'. Leaving this aside for the moment, I guess his argument can be distilled down roughly as follows:
2.1 Any sort of evolution of order of any kind will always presuppose pre-existing order.
2.2 There is order in the physical world.
2.3 From 2.1 & 2.2, there is or was some order in the physical world which did
not evolve. Additionally, relative to our data there is a probability of zero that this order emerged from chaos or from nothing into the physical world.
2.4 We have experience of order entering the physical world from human minds.
2.C In light of 2.1 – 2.4, the possibility of there being a God (in the full theistic sense) has become significantly more substantial.
Well, I agree with DW that this is no demonstration of God in the full theistic sense. That's because it is no demonstration of God in any sense whatsoever. First off, I do not know what to make of most of his premises, since it is not at all clear to me what he means by the term 'order' (and I would like to know how he reconciles order as a property of things -- actually all things or any being whatever it is, by his own words – and as a thing itself which can take on "power and complexity" that can give rise to things like cosmic or biological evolution). Regardless, I can see no reasonable reading of the term 'order' under which the conclusion of this argument, 2.C, makes any sense. I see no way in which 2.1 – 2.4, even if true, would make the possibility of God's existence "significantly more substantial".
KJ, do you have comments or corrections?