The story goes: you are walking in the woods and see a wrist-watch on the ground; you don’t know how it got there or why it has come to be abandoned here, but you can surmise that someone somewhere designed and made it due to its complexity. This is the basic premise of the argument for intelligent design, mobilized by the religious in their efforts to demonstrate evidence for their belief in a divine creator. So how does this relatively simple story translate into a more fully fleshed out philosophy for understanding our world and universe, and how does that philosophy stand up to mathematical scrutiny? This is what Professor Elliott Sober works to elaborate in his new book The Design Argument, which is a monograph in Cambridge University Press’s series “Elements in the Philosophy of Religion.”
Sober’s book analyzes the various forms that design arguments for the existence of God can take and focuses primarily on two of these. The first is known as biological creationism and concerns the complex adaptive features that organisms have. The second design argument––referred to as the argument from fine-tuning––begins with the assertion that life could not exist in our universe if the constants found in the laws of physics had values that differed more than a little from their actual values and our remarkable luck here points to a divine creator.
Elliott Sober is the William F. Vilas Research Professor and Hans Reichenbach Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. He is widely regarded as having played a formative role in the establishment of the field of philosophy of biology and is the recipient of the 2014 Hempel Award for lifetime accomplishment in the philosophy of science.
Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.