Random thoughts and views of Tim Young

So is God Designed? (In Christian Perspective)

with 12 comments

Last post I pointed out that the “Who designed the designer?” objection to intelligent design is a red herring. Pointing out that the designer is complex and therefore in need of a designer itself doesn’t mean that the universe wasn’t designed. Maybe the designer is complex? So what? If ID is true, then the universe is designed regardless.


But still, might it be the case that God is designed? After all, wouldn’t God be more intricate and more complex than any feature of the universe? Sure cells, flagellums, humans, etc., are complex but wouldn’t God be even more complex than they? And if we’re arguing that the complex features of the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer, then how much more would this principle apply to God?

So, can this problem be escaped? I think so. The first question we’ve got to ask is this: Why should we believe God is designed? The argument for that goes something like this:

1. Complex things are best explained by an intelligent designer.

2. God is a complex thing.

3. Therefore God is best explained by an intelligent designer.

No doubt, the first premise will be accepted by ID proponents. Indeed some would argue that ID entails (1). After all, ID proponents like Michael Behe, for example, often appeal to the complexity of cells as evidence for them being designed by an intelligent designer. So for now we can accept the first premise. What about the second premise ? Why should we believe God is complex? As best I can tell the assumption for (2) goes something like this: Any being who could design all the complex features of the universe would in all likelihood be at least as complex as those things it designed. And naturally this seems like a reasonable assumption. There are many examples of manmade things in our world: machinery, computers, cars, architecture, art, data structures, etc., etc., and no matter how complex and amazing these things are, there is still something that’s even more complex than they are: their designer–in short, human beings. The same is true for other animals as well. Birds make intricate bird nests, and ants make intricate underground networks, but a bird and an ant are far more complex than those things they “design”. Thus–or so the argument goes–it is reasonable for us to assume that if God designed the universe, then in all likelihood He is at least as complex as the universe itself, and probably more so. Hence we get (2), and (3) follows logically.

Now it’s worth noting at this point that ID proponents typically view complexity in terms of the arrangement of material parts. Just reflect for a moment on what is commonly appealed to in intelligent design arguments. Cells, DNA, flagellums, eyes, etc. What should be fairly obvious is that these are all material things and they are “complex” in that they are constituted by an intricate arrangement of material parts unlikely to have arisen by chance. In fact, the probability of their parts being arranged as they are completely by chance is extremely low. Something like the probability of a tornado going through a junk yard and producing a 747 jet…and I don’t think that any of us would hold our breath waiting for that to happen.

So why is this important? Well because it would appear that according to ID a necessary condition for X to be complex is that X be a material object.  In other words, anything called “complex” (in the ID sense of the word) has got to be a material object or some sort. We don’t find, for example, ID proponents speaking of the irreducible complexity of “souls,” or minds, or abstract entities like numbers. They’re always talking about some physical object: cells, bacteria, etc.

So according to (2) God must be a material object of some sort.  But why should we suppose that God is a material object? After all, doesn’t the Bible make abundantly clear that God is spirit (e.g. John 4:24)? Furthermore, why should we believe that God is complex? Isn’t it, for example, a Christian tradition of ours that God is simple i.e. not a composite being? It’s quite clear that the Christian conception of God doesn’t fit (2).

So again, why is it that we should suppose that God is complex? Well the argument for (2) above was essentially that in all our experiences with design the designer is always more complex then its design, thus we have good reason to believe that in the case of God and the universe, God is more complex than the universe. But isn’t there something a bit odd about this claim? Suppose it is the case that the Christian God exists. If that be the case, then there are many designed things which are more complex than their designer. In fact, everything that God designed would be more complex then He is. The universe would be filled with such examples, and we’d come in contact with them on a daily basis. So the argument in support of (2) does nothing more then beg the question. What really needs to be shown is why God must be complex which, unfortunately, is an argument I’ve yet to find. Maybe someone reading this knows of one?


Written by Tim

March 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Hi Tim, interesting post.

    Suppose it is the case that the Christian God exists. If that be the case, then there are many designed things which are more complex than their designer. In fact, everything that God designed would be more complex then He is.

    Which things are more complex than God? I think there are things that science learns about and “discovers”, but I believe that God knew about them all along, since He created them. What are you counting as more complex than God?


    March 17, 2009 at 6:07 pm

  2. Hi Philippa,

    Everything in the physical universe would be more complex than God is. You, me, rocks, etc. This is because by “complex” I mean “material (physical) parts arranged in a fashion unlikely to have arrisen by chance alone.” Since God isn’t a physical being, He isn’t complex.

    I definitely agree with you about science and about God knowing everything.


    March 17, 2009 at 7:41 pm

  3. I see. So essentially you’re saying that because God is not made of matter, and the complex is made of matter, therefore everything is more complex than God.

    It’s an interesting, and somewhat odd (I think :-)) way of looking at it, because all |God did was speak, and matter came into being. He is so far above our wildest imaginings that I think we can’t even begin to comprehend what He is or isn’t capable of.


    March 17, 2009 at 8:08 pm

  4. Yes that’s basically what I’m saying. Keep in mind though, Phillippa, that I’m simply responding to a cristcism some people raise against the design argument. When a Christian points out to them that the universe is complex, and that God best explains this complexity, their response is “Well since God designed all this complex stuff, he’s got to be even more complex than the universe. So who designed him?” I’m simply pointing out that in THAT sense of the word “complex” (the sense relevant to intelligent design) God is not complex. Hope that makes senses…

    Thank you for the response!


    March 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

  5. Well, I finally came across a unique theistic argument. Bravo.


    March 17, 2009 at 9:12 pm

  6. Thanks, though it’s not all that unique. You can find something similar, for example, in Alvin Plantinga’s article “The Dawkins Confusion”


    March 18, 2009 at 6:54 am

  7. That’s a really interesting article.


    March 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

  8. who designed the designer?



    March 19, 2009 at 9:11 pm

  9. Just out of curiosity, aforcier, do you answer the question of if God exists or not in your book i.e., do you provide arguments one way or the other?


    March 19, 2009 at 9:57 pm

  10. tim,

    actually i do. there is an answer.

    (it is not really an argument. it is simply going back to the origin of the “god” story and see what happened deep into antiquity.)


    March 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

  11. Ok thanks aforcier. So it’s not really a defense of atheism, it’s more of an examination of the historic development of theism?


    March 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm

  12. tim,

    yes, it pinpoints the historical natural “event” which is at the origin of humanity’s long affair with the belief in a god(s). it is actually a facinating story.

    then… what is the natural meaning of existence?

    but then it also look


    March 21, 2009 at 8:28 am

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