The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
15 Points

The Teleological Argument is failed, and should NEVER BE USED EVER AGAIN.

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Post Voting Period
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after 5 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/16/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,137 times Debate No: 29021
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (5)




To claify the resolution, the subject is exclusively the validity of the TAG, and its ability to support the conclusion that god(s) exist. It is NOT about other supports to the existence of god(s). As an example of what I mean by this, if one were to say "god(s) because KCA" that would not be a support of "god(s) because TAG".

Further, I do not expect my opponent to argue for some specific god(s), however as the Teleological Argument is concerned with Teleology I do expect my opponent to argue the support of creative agency as it is required of the TAG, and so for Deism as a conclusion in the very least. I also accept that it is my own burden to establish that the TAG itself is fundamentally flawed in some way rather than resorting to some OTHER available disproof of creative agency; I accept that any disproof must be related to the premise.

The burdens of proof in this debate for CON will include answering any charges brought of circularity or special pleading in the TAG. Such a charges include "If complexity implies design, why does the complexity of the designer not imply design?", and "if complexity does not imply design, from whence comes the claim of 'design!', if not from begging the question?"

Finally, this is a debate about a logical argument; that which is nonsensical or otherwise not logical (ignoring the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded middle) are not valid here.

1) First round is acceptance*, second round is argument, third round is rebuttal, fourth round is counter-rebuttal and closing. No new supporting argments may be advanced after round 2, except as rebuttal.
2) Responses shall be directed towards the previous rounds(s) only.
3) *CON may go first; if CON uses his first round for argument, PRO agrees his last round shall be a blank post, and for the purposes of voting and posting, rounds shall be offset by one post.
4) No direct "vote pandering". An argument ought stand on its own, without appeals to emotion or ad hominem. The only place it may be acceptable to provide a proposed RFD is at the end of closing, and it must still be free of appeal to emotion, outright lies, or ad-hom attacks.
5) No "sneaky ****erism". This is defined as making declarations to win or troll an argument rather than making an attempt to investigate whether a claim is actually valid or supported by reason (including semantic games). The winning argument here is to be determined as that argument which stands up to reason, not which argument/person people subjectively like more. In accepting, CON agrees that any votes which do not reflect an objective evaluation of the arguments (subjective votes) are invalid and to be ignored during final evaluation, retracted, or negated.
6) No extension of argment character space or via gratuitous formatting liberties, except if mutually agreed upon.
7) Shared BoP; all positive claims must be defended, and all arguments must be supported with reason. this is a philosophical debate, and first principles must be mutually accepted if used as a basis of argument. Argument from authority, argument from tradition, and the naturalistic fallacy are all accepted as fallacies by CON.
8) Shared participation is encouraged; while there can only be one formal "PRO" and one formal "CON", any independently supported argument may be advanced and picked up by the formal debators.
9) First principles accepted in this debate must include that: "The universe exists"; "knowledge exists"; "all descriptive models have greater value than any non-descriptive model"; and that "equals OUGHT be treated equally".


I accept Pro's debate, and will await him making the first argument. The resolution that he must support is that the Teleological Argument (the argument from Fine-Tuning or Design) has been refuted and should never be used again. If he fails to support one or both of those contentions, then he fails to win the debate.

The form of the TAG I will be defending from Pro's attack will be the TAG commonly used by William Lane Craig:

1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3) Therefore, it is due to design. [1]

An alternate version that can be given is as follows:

1) The universe resulted either from physical necessity, design, or chance.
2) It is highly improbable that it resulted from physical necessity or chance.
3) Therefore, it is highly probable that the universe was designed.

Using the guarding terms "highly improbable" and "highly probable" make the argument a little easier to support. Since it is very difficult to prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt, it can be shown that God's existence (due to the fine-tuning of the universe) is more probable than his not existing.

Considering that different forms of the TAG has existed since at least the time of the early Greek's (though it was popularized by Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)) [3], it is highly unlikely that Pro has some new evidence that would refute it completely and suggest that it should never be used again.

With that, I will await Pro's argument as to why the TAG should be done away with and used no more. I will make my opening argument to support the TAG in the next round (and rebuttals if I have space in that round).

*NB: It seems that by linking to a video in my footnote, the video will appear in the argument. I do not expect anyone to watch the entire video (though it is quite interesting, should you wish to watch it anyway). You only need to watch about 20 seconds in to see the argument in question.

[2] Norm L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, 2000, p. 718.
[3] ibid., p. 714.
Debate Round No. 1


The TAG is a particularly useless argument for Gods (or even against Gods) as I shall outline below. It is a trivial statement that arguments which cannot support any conclusion are particularly useless, and that their use is misguided at best and in many situations their use would be outright dishonest. I see it as uncontroversial to identify that such arguments should not ever be used.

The crux of my argument rests on the inability of form to inform history absent without external context. As there can never be external context to the universe, however, it seems to be an open and shut case against the TAG. Further, it is quite apparent that any proposed designer is necessarily complex, and if the complexiy and agency of human life in the universe implies a designer, the designer itself would imply an even more complex designer, into infinte regress.

So, the charges I level against the TAG is that complexity neither implies agency, nor does agency imply complexity, and secondly that it is trivial to identify that the TAG engages in special pleading. For these reasons, the TAG fails and should not be used.

  1. Complexity does not imply agency, and agency does not imply complexity.
    1. Many things are made complex WITHOUT an intelligent agency.
      1. First, all things visible on a macro scale are incredibly complex on the scale of visible matter. A simple unassuming rock composed primarily of quartz contains roughly 90 elementary particles per molecule. In only 1 gram of rock there are roughly 10^22 molecules. That’s roughly 9*10^23 molecules in a specific arrangement. If such an arrangement of that many objects is not “complex” I do not know what is, and we have seen “dumb” forces create such complex arrangements of matter; in fact the likelihood of some thing having happened is nearly 100%, even if the chances of any particular outcome was low.
      2. Large systems of things display complexity and lack intelligent agency. Good examples of such things include crystals and simple self-replicating organic chemicals, natural bridges, and weather systems.
    2. Many things involving agency are not complex, and appear lacking in agency, or are also produced without agency.
      1. It is not a difficult thing to imagine an object which appears as one of the above objects, both lacking in agency yet owing its existence to that agency. A man with intent may make a computer program that spits out compatible orientations of 10^22 molecules of Silicon Dioxide and random impurities and structural defects and then to build that object, and then afterward putting the resultant pebble into a rock tumbler so that it would have the appearance of an unassuming river-tumbled pebble. It could be placed in any stream with similar looking pebbles, and if observed by a person would be assumed to be entirely lacking in agency.
    3. Function does not imply purpose; many functions are clearly incidental.
      1. Natural bridges have a function for an agent in allowing them to cross an obstacle, but that function is entirely incidental.
      2. In observed instances of evolution, many neutral mutations occur which are only selected for after the fact. A structure which functions as an ion pump in a stationary organism may be entirely neutral or even detrimental to its survival; but a second incidental change which causes the cement which affixes it to its position, itself normally detrimental, might cause both to become highly beneficial to the organism’s survival.
      3. Evolution and life in fact relies upon the lack of purpose, and upon incidentally functional mutation. Many such incidentally useful mutations have been observed, and until the evolution of intelligent agents, there was no other form of adaptation.
    4. The problem of induction invalidates the TAG in every way.
      1. Judgements and assumptions of design are made through inductive reasoning: we look at things involving agency and things not involving agency, and we make a Bayesian determination as to which category a thing is in. It is only obvious that a thing is designed when we have context of how people have done things before. With only one point of information for universal design and no external context no induction is possible; any statement of probability is further impossible to make.
      2. The universe, being the sum total of observable stuff, does not allow any placement into context. Without being able to observe an undesigned universe, it is utterly impossible to make an inductive determination that this is not just such an undesigned universe, nor is it possible to make any such judgement that it is; the teleological argument is particularly useless to either conclusion.
      3. There is no data to inform the assertion that other values of the constants of our universe are even possible in the first place.
    5. The universe itself is neither entirely hostile nor particularly nurturing to life, nor are the specific qualities of the universe necessary for complex arrangements of stuff (such as life) to exist.
      1. There is a lot of “wiggle room” in the constants of the universe which would allow for life: in fact the universe would not be all that different even absent a fundamental force of nature, the weak force.
      2. There is no basis for the assertion that some other form of complex intelligent agency existing as a subunit of the universe (such as ourselves) would be impossible even outside of those bounds. Certainly many universes prohibit life in the form of our own, made of carbon, however it is entirely plausible that some other form of self-replicating adapters might exist in many other universes.
      3. The vast majority of the universe is extremely hostile to life. Between black holes, poisonous hydrogen nebulae, stars hostile to any possibility of life, pulsars which fry all of everything near them, even our own planet which is subject to meteor hits, caldera-forming eruptions, gamma ray bursts and solar flares, it is obvious that life is fragile. Why would a creator make a universe so hostile to life, if life was the intent?
      4. Only in universes where agency is possible does life occur which may question if the universe had agency. Our agency is indistinguishable from that which would be incidental. We're here as this is the world we can be here in, and that does not imply that it is here purely because we can be in it.
      5. Life could not exist as we know it even in our own solar system for ~9 billion years.
    6. The TAG is essentially an argument from ignorance: I don't know how it happened, therefore GODDIDIT.
  2. The TAG engages forces special pleading
    1. Design implies intent
    2. Intent implies agency
    3. Agency implies complexity
    4. The TAG assumes complexity implies design
    5. Therefore the TAG must answer why the designer does not itself require a designer of its own.
  3. Conclusions
    1. The TAG fails for multiple factual reasons.
    2. The TAG fails because it is fallacious.
    3. Therefore the teleological argument for god fails.
    4. Failed arguments should not be used to support a premise, because they do not support any premise; predictiveness gives models value and the TAG has no predictive strength.
    5. Therefore the Teleological argument is a failed argument and should not be used.


I wish to thank Pro for his argument. As per the rules, I will not offer a rebuttal of his argument in this round. I will use this round to support the argument, then rebut his opening argument in the next round.

As I indicated last round, this is the form of the argument I will be defending:

1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, design, or chance.
2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3) Therefore, it is due to design.
(see round one for source)

Premise one -- The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, design, or chance.

This is self-explanatory, and I don't feel it needs any arguments to support it. This simply lists the three possible alternatives that could account for the existence of our universe.

Premise two -- It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

What is meant by "fine-tuning"? William Lane Craig explains,

"The physical laws of nature, when given mathematical expression, contain various constants, such as the gravitational constant, whose values are independent of the laws themselves; moreover, there are certain arbitrary quantities which are simply put in as boundary conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the initial low entropy condition of the universe. By "fine-tuning" one means that the actual values assumed by the constants and quantities in question are such that small deviations from those values would render the universe life-prohibiting or, alternatively, that the range of life-permitting values is exquisitely narrow in comparison with the range of assumable values." [1]

The anthropic principle states that the universe was fitted from the very first moment of its existence for the emergence of life in general and human life in particular. [2] As agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow noted, the universe is amazingly preadapted to the eventual appearance of humanity. [3] For if there were even the slightest variation at the moment of the Big Bang, making conditions different, even to a small degree, no life of any kind would exist. [4]

So what can account for the sheer near impossibility that life would have arisen in our universe?

Physical necessity?

Claiming that we are here because we must be here begs the question because it argues in a circle. We are here. So the universe must have adapted itself for our survival; it couldn't have arisen any other way. But how do we know that? Because we are here. So physical necessity can not be used to explain how we are here. There is no reason that, given a completely random universe, it could not have resulted in a different, non-life-permitting universe.


This is highly improbable. The odds are astronomically stacked against it, in fact.

Julian Huxley, an arch-defender of Evolution, estimated that at the known rate of helpful mutations over the known time scale, the ods against evolution happening by pure chance are 1 followed by 3 million zeros (fifteen hundred pages of zeros) to one. [5] Additionally, there are quite a lot of factors in our universe that have to be "just so," otherwise life would be impossible. There are so many of these factors that I couldn't possibly give them all here. A few examples include:

The fact that our universe exists in three dimensions. It is due to its basic three-dimensionality that the world possesses the chemistry that it does, which furnishes some key conditions necessary for the existence of life. We don't know why the universe possesses three dimension, but if it didn't then we wouldn't exist to ask that question. [6]

Additionally, the values of the various forces of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life. One example would be that if the strong force of nature were increased as much as 1%, nuclear resonance levels would be so altered that almost all carbon would be burned into oxygen; an increase of 2% would preclude formation of protons out of quarks, preventing the existence of atoms. Furthermore, weakening the strong force by as much as 5% would unbind deuteron, which is essential to stellar nucleosynthesis, leading to a universe composed only of hydrogen. It has been estimated that the strong force must be within 0.8 and 1.2 its actual strength or all elements of atomic weight greater than four would not have formed.

And so on. It is simply not at all likely that the universe could have resulted from chance.


Design seems to be the more plausible explanation, when all factors of the state of our universe are taken into account.

Conclusion -- Therefore, it is due to design.

To reiterate, there are only three alternatives -- that our universe was fine-tuned by physical necessity, chance, or design. There is no reason to suppose physical necessity; in fact, doing so begs the question. The odds against chance are so astronomical as to be, for all intents and purposes, impossible. The only possibility is that our universe is the result of design.

I look forward to Pro's rebuttal.

[2] Norm L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, 2000, p. 27.
[3] Robert Jastrow, "A Scientist Caught," as noted in ibid, p. 26.
[4] ibid.
[5] Julian Huxley, Evolution in Action, as quoted in ibid., p. 718.
[7] ibid. See the article for more evidence on fine-tuning.
Debate Round No. 2


I wish to thank CON for his prompt response.

Because I wish to address CON’s argument in a coherent way, I will focus first on his arguments and then only later on his sources, all of which are unable to support his conclusion.

To make my points here, I will draw heavily upon counter-example: That of an unassuming piece of rock, made of quartz and feldspar. In my initial example, it is an object of roughly 10^22 molecules for a rock weighing an ounce, and to correct my initial argument, 9*10^23 fundamental particles. Not only may this bit of rock have been made smaller in mass by 10^22 different gradations (or larger in many more), but the orientation of the molecules and crystals that they form are incalculably variable, and even the variability of the overall shape is staggeringly huge. The odds of this rock being as it is are astronomically low, but every day rocks form as a consequent of what are apparently dumb forces, lacking intelligent agency or fine-tuning of any kind, each with such staggeringly low odds of being as it is.

On physical necessity and chance

CON’s case in this matter is nonsensical. It is a simple thing to deduct that if he claims the anthropic principle that fine tuning by design necessitates our existence, then he too is claiming we are here because we must be here, and he is by his own (fallacious) logic also begging the question and arguing in a circle. Rather, I would pose that existence itself is tautological, and there is no fallacy in saying “it is certain I exist”, as there are indeed self-evident truths.

As stated in my opening argument, it is a fallacious claim to say that just because we are here that the universe is specifically adapted towards us being here. It is mere assertion to state that it could not have been any other way, suffering from the fallacy of “argument from incredulity”. Only in universes where life arises does life have the opportunity to muse that the universe may be specifically adapted to produce that life.

I will look now to my rock. If the universe it is a part of is itself deterministic, then it is as it is out of physical necessity, and that DOES explain why the traits of the rock are there. If it arises in a non-deterministic universe, despite the randomness which produced it in its current form, what happened is simply what happened, and its traits are self-evidently the product of chance. Finally, because there is no way to know whether it is a deterministic or non-deterministic universe, it is rational to simply treat it as if it were due to chance, and in any case it is still the product of dumb forces.

Evolution is not “chance”

First I would like to note that my opponent’s source on the subject of evolution is invalid, as will be discussed later. His discussion of long odds and chance is silly. Evolution is in fact a necessary trait of any system of mutating self-replicators, by which the specific mutations arise by chance and in which the individuals may be destroyed by environmental factors or preserved by traits of the individual.

The second problem with my opponent’s argument is in fact that evolution does not act with intent, and that all new traits are only incidentally useful, and no such mutations (except perhaps those introduced by viruses or external genetic modification) are accomplished by the intent of any such agent. The odds of our specific evolution are low, but again like the rock, a set of organisms was produced, and THIS is the set that happened to be made. Certainly if things had been different, different life would have been produced; it is up to my opponent to show that NO life could have happened if not specifically this life.

There is no basis CON’s assertions about particular physics

Simply put, our universe is certainly not 3-dimensional nor is life necessarily exclusive to the dimensionality our universe does have. As it stands we do not know how many dimensions the universe possesses, spatial, temporal, or otherwise [1][2]. It is again an argument from incredulity to say life could not be in other dimensionalities.

I must note that his argument is further flawed as that many (and perhaps all but one) of the fundamental values of the forces of our universe are possibly consequent to other phenomena, and without a theory of quantum gravity it cannot be said in either direction that our universe has any particular number of arbitrary constants or that it does not. There is no basis for the declaration that the fundamental “constants” CAN be different from what they are now, and as such the TAG cannot be honestly made.

Not Design

As I outlined in my initial argument and from my example of the rock, just because some thing is complex does not imply that it was designed for that complexity. It is not at all apparent that the factors of our universe fail to be consequential to some primary factor or are otherwise unnecessary or that they are unable to have arisen from chance. It is astronomically unlikely that the rock ends up in the way that it does, however it still happens due to what is apparently blind and purposeless chance.

CON’s Sources

To address CON’s second and third sources there are various different anthropic principles. The Strong Anthropic Principle proposed by CON is a begging of the question. Does the puddle fit the hole, or does the hole fit to the puddle? Indeed Douglas Adams seems to be the intellectual superior to Norm L. Geisler and Robert Jastrow in identifying that the puddle in fact formed to fit the hole [3], and by analogy that life evolved to fit some environment in the universe and not the other way around.

Next, CON’s statement that ”[I]f there were even the slightest life of any kind would exist,” it is simultaneously a bare assertion, an argument from incredulity [4], unsupported by any source; CON’s link is dead and he provided no specific source information.

On Julian Huxley, he wrote the book quoted during or before 1953. This was one year or less after the hereditary nature of DNA was confirmed, and before the double-helix nature of DNA had been discovered. Without this knowledge, how could he possibly make any ascertainment of how probable mutation or evolution by “chance” was? He didn’t even have a hope of possibly knowing how it actually happens!

This brings me to William Lane Craig, consummate idiot and huckster. In almost every way that he can be abusive of science, he manages to be. He vomits gibberish and quote mines to affirm his faulty views. We know nothing of how the constants came to be as they are, but this does not mean that they are arbitrary. Nothing happening before 1 Planck Time known in physics. The proper position for honest people is “we do not know how the ‘constants’ came to be what they are, OR if they could be different”, and it will be that way until a coherent theory of quantum gravity is discovered. Further, he makes an unacceptable argument from ignorance in his statement that the majority of other possible values preclude life as he cannot know what values are possible, nor the results of those values absent a universe simulator. From observation of his quotation of Huxley, Craig demonstrates a marked disregard for intellectual honesty. From his established track record, every claim made by Craig warrants the utmost scrutiny.


All of CON’s arguments stand refuted. All of his sources lay in shambles. I look forward to CON’s rebuttal of my initial argument, and continue to stand by those initial arguments.


[3] Adams, D. (2002). The salmon of doubt: hitchhiking the galaxy one last time. Crown. Quoation available at


Pro certainly has not refuted the TAG, and he has certainly not shown that it should never be used again. The argument is certainly not dishonest. It is a perfectly logically valid and sound argument.

The majority of Pro’s argument seems based on verbal abuse than on actual reasoning, which is unfortunate consider he alleges that he is interested in philosophy. The ethical way to do philosophy is to give your opponent the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect. His contention that Dr. Craig is a “consummate idiot and huckster” is unfounded, considering he has a Ph.D. and two M.A.’s. You may not appreciate his arguments, but he is certainly not an idiot. Besides, Pro has given no indication that he even understands the subject matter at question (and didn’t source anything in his opening argument).

Let’s talk sources for a minute. I am using actual scholars to support my arguments (Dr. Craig, Dr. Geisler, and Dr. Jastrow). Pro used two sources from Wikipedia (which anyone can edit), Douglas Adams (who is a writer, not a scholar by any means, and certainly not the intellectual superior of the scholars I quoted from), and one webpage from Dr. Hawking, a brilliant physicist but a lousy philosopher. I do apologize that my links didn’t work. All you have to do is click the links, then type either “Theistic Critiques of Atheism” or “The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle” into the search bar and those two articles, which I used as my sources, will be the first article that pops up (after the respective search).

I’m also not sure Pro read my argument very carefully. Craig didn’t quote from Huxley, Geisler did.

Pro’s case, apart from abuse, is built on red herrings and imagined fallacies. I’ll rebut his opening argument, then his second one.

His statement, “as there can never be external context to the universe, however, it seems to be an open and shut case against the TAG,” is a classic case of begging the question in favor of naturalism. The TAG is proposed specifically to decide if there is a Designer. If God exists, then he exists externally to the universe.

Arguments like the TAG are designed specifically to avoid infinite regress. Without God, you are left with an infinite regress of causes. But Theism posits that there is a Being who exists necessarily, a “first cause,” if you will, so as to avoid the problem of infinite regress which Atheism can’t avoid.

1. Complexity does not imply a designer, and agency does not imply complexity.

If complexity does not imply a designer, then why is SETI set up to look for intelligent life? If they found a complex structure on another planet, do you honestly think SETI won’t consider that evidence for intelligent life?

As Dr. Craig informs us, the cutting edge of Christian apologists today do not argue from design, but from the fine-tuning of the universe. I set out the argument I will be defending right from the start. Unfortunately, most of Pro’s opening argument is nothing more than a red herring. I am not arguing from design but from fine-tuning. Incidentally, parts a-d can be rejected as irrelevant to a critique of the argument.

As for part e, Pro’s assertion that there is a lot of “wiggle room” in the constants of the universe that would allow for life is simply false. I have supported my arguments with a scholarly article (which you could search and find quite easily on the website). Pro accuses me of making an “argument from ignorance,” but that’s exactly what he does by positing that it is “plausible that some other form of self-replicating adapters might exist in many other universes.” He has not supported a contention that there are other universes, and using “it’s possible” is not an argument against the fine-tuning in this universe.

His contention that the vast majority of the universe is hostile to life is true, of course, but does nothing to refute this argument. We have an environment perfectly suited for human life, here on this planet.

The TAG is not an argument from ignorance. In fact, the first premise examines the three possibilities of how the universe could have arisen. The argument rejects necessity and chance and arrives at design.

2. The TAG engages special pleading.

Nor is it a case of special pleading, for the same reason. If the only alternatives are physical necessity, chance, or design, and physical necessity or chance don’t account for the universe, then it must be by design.

Also his question of “who designed the designer” is simply not a good response. One does not need an explanation of the explanation to know the explanation is true. For example, if a primitive culture unearthed arrowheads and other trinkets, they would not have to have knowledge of Native American tribes to know that someone designed them.

Regarding his previous argument:

Pro’s argument from the rock is, again, a red herring. His arguments show that he really doesn’t even understand the TAG (especially as Dr. Craig has formulated it), bringing into serious question Pro’s comment as to the intelligence of Dr. Craig.

Pro’s argument of “nu-uh,” trying to show that I’m begging the question is simply incorrect. I have shown that the argument from physical necessity begs the question, but I have used reasoned arguments to show that the best possibility is from design, as per the premises in the TAG. I have never stated that we are here so the universe is specifically adapted for our being here. That’s the argument from physical necessity. My argument is that if physical necessity or chance doesn’t explain our being here, design does.

My quote on Evolution is not invalid. The odds of Evolution occurring by itself (through chance) are so astronomical as to be essentially nil. So if Evolution happened, it’s only further evidence that God exists, not evidence against his existence.

Pro still seems to be arguing from physical necessity (chances of our evolution are low, but yet this is the set that was made) is still begging the question. It’s arguing in a circle. We only know this is the set that was made because we are here. We are here so this is the set we are made. Yes, the chances are low, but as Pro doesn’t seem to understand, they are astronomically low. There’s absolutely no way these things could have arisen without outside intervention.

Pro’s assertion that the three-dimensionality of the universe is an argument from incredulity is simply untrue. We know that there are three-dimensions (height, width, and depth). You can’t dismiss that by saying “we don’t know how many there are.” I am arguing from the dimensions that we do know, and because of these dimensions life is permitted in this universe.


Pro’s entire case is built on verbal abuse, red herrings, and imagined fallacies. He has not refuted the TAG, nor has he established that it should never be used again. In fact, he doesn’t really even understand the argument, which is painfully evidence. The TAG stands strong as a sound argument for God’s existence.
Debate Round No. 3


Over the course of this debate, CON has failed to demonstrate the validity of the TAG. It is important to note that the validity of an argument is whether the argument stands scrutiny of reason, not whether or not the source is recognized as an “authority” on the topic. The rules of this debate establish that argument from authority is not to be tolerated. CON’s claims that the TAG is a valid support for the premise that god(s) exist is entirely without reliable support.

He claims that “The ethical way to do philosophy is to give your opponent the benefit of the doubt”, and I have done that. I have given him every skeptical scrutiny I can muster, and his arguments have fallen flat. I will let the voters determine who they think has the most reputable and accurate sources, particularly on matters of science, between the combination of a Wikipedia article with contemporary primary research cited plus a renowned physicist who has published books and papers which support his theories OR a philosopher who is too lazy to ask whether any of his claims are even consistent with the body of modern evidence.

Let us ask for a moment if the argument against the strong anthropic principle made by Adams is well reasoned: Does the puddle shape to the form of its world, or does the world shape to the form of the puddle? It is ridiculous to think that the world was made for the life in it because such a claim suffers from selection bias. I showed why Crag et. al. were unreliable. CON merely asserted it of my own sources.

Con asserts (wrongly) that “Without God, you are left with an infinite regress of causes.” however Naturalism has no problem with infinite regress of causes. Only the theist has such a problem. Further, If there might be a being that is self-causing, it is special pleading to pose that the universe cannot also be such an identity but that the external being can. In short, I have no problem with infinite regress of causality, nor with a self-caused universe, but if CON wishes to argue that point he will have to engage me on the KCA.

1. Complexity does not imply a designer, and agency does not imply complexity.

“[W]hy is SETI set up to look for intelligent life?”

Because SETI is looking for life resembling our own, set against the context of human life. Otherwise, it would be pseudo-science and worthless speculation.

“If they found a complex structure on another planet, do you honestly think SETI won’t consider that evidence for intelligent life?”

They would not. If this structure resembles the structures humans make, then and only then may it constitute such evidence; otherwise it is just worthless speculation.

CON made the contention that the complexity of life and the universe (or some object(s) or event(s) in it) imply astronomical odds, and that astronomical odds imply “fine tuning”. Again I go back to the question posed by Douglas Adams. We cannot know one way or the other with the universe, and honest position is “we cannot know”.

An argument from ignorance is “We cannot know between X or Y, therefore (X or Y)”. CON has argued that even though we cannot know that other life is possible therefore life is impossible. Con’s form clearly falls into the form of an argument from ignorance, whereas my form is “We cannot know X or Y, therefore declarations of X or Y are invalid”. This is neither fallacious nor an argument from ignorance. Any claim that life is either possible or impossible for other possible universes, or that other universes are not possible is entirely untenable.

Finally, he presents design as different from chance or necessity when it is still either chance or necessity even in the case of design, depending on whether the proposed designer exists in a deterministic or non-deterministic super-universe.

2. The TAG engages special pleading.

It is not a request for “an explanation of the explanation” to request one side to adequately account for a prediction made by an argument which is hostile to the goals of the person arguing. CON has already made the implication that he has a problem with infinite regress, however his own hypothesis apparently predicts infinite regress: If the greatness of men must come from greater gods, then the gods’ greatness must come from something greater still.

As such, it is not an explanation of the explanation which I demand but rather a squaring of the implications attached to his explanations with his original premise! Either he must admit that there are god(s) which created his god(s), that there is an infinite regress that he is hostile to, OR produce some evidence or a metaphysical reason as to why this is not the case. He has failed, and thus has failed to support his BOP

3. The rock ROCKS!

I will gladly let the voters decide whether or not my rock speaks to CON’s argument or not; I reason that it does, as the argument presented by CON is itself reliant on the exclusion of long odds being possible absent divine intent, particularly given CON’s quote here:

The odds of Evolution occurring by itself (through chance) are so astronomical as to be essentially nil. So if Evolution happened, it’s only further evidence that God exists, not evidence against his existence.” (emphasis mine)

I can only assume that by “evolution occurring by itself through chance” that he refers to our specific evolution, as whether or not evolution happens is not the subject of this debate, and he has failed to support any other interpretation. As my rock shows, a specific outcome among myriad outcomes happening can and does happen through dumb forces!

The only reason I have not calculated the specific odds against my rock is that ~10^22 molecules divided between two chemicals (SiO2 and KAlSi3O8) solely as a binary representation entirely disregarding gross form and crystallization pattern is 2^(10^22), which is 103010299956639811952138 : 1 odds against! If this is not astronomical odds against a specific outcome, I do not know what is! Again I must argue that long odds do not imply intent for the outcome, and chance or necessity are sufficient for those astronomical odds in a result to be explained!

3. Conclusion

To reiterate my core argument in succinct form:

Traits do not imply meta-traits; only CONTEXT in a larger system allows discernment of meta-traits. Otherwise, they would be just traits. Fine tuning is a meta-trait (a trait describing something using external context). Therefore the specific outcome of our universe (its observable traits) does not imply fine tuning OR not-fine-tuning (which are meta-traits). CON has failed to bring adequate challenge to this central metaphysical truth; The existence of a FIVE does not imply that the extant FIVE was in fact reached by the combining of TWO and THREE, nor does the existence of (universe) imply that (universe) was reached by (design processes). Knowing more requires the ability to observe outside the universe. CON has provided no reliable evidence that he can do so, and thus this argument stands.

Astronomical odds against an outcome do not imply fine-tuning or not-fine-tuning; a rock is not fine-tuned, but despite the apparent astronomical odds against the rock being as it is, it DOES arise either by chance or necessity; no design is required, nor is it precluded.

Just because the laws of the universe allow life does not imply that there is outside purpose involved or that there is an absence of such outside purpose. It is apparently incidental, as incidental functionality is consistent with metaphysics, a point which CON did not adequately refute.

CON never actually satisfied his burden of proof against special pleading, he merely asserted his burden does not exist.

CON dropped many points which outright invalidate the TAG.

CON failed to adequately defend his sources, nor invalidate my own.

The TAG has been shown as unable to support ANY premise, and thus it should not be used to support a premise ever again.


Pro has not demonstrated any flaws in the TAG, and he has certainly not demonstrated that it should never be used again. Failing in only one of these counts would lose Pro the debate, but he has failed at both.

I have not failed to demonstrate the validity of the TAG. It is a perfectly valid argument (in that the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises). I have also demonstrated that it is a sound argument, and Pro has not refuted my support for the argument (for example, how the values of the various forces of nature are very much fine-tuned for life to exist). He did try to argue from design, but the form of the TAG I was supporting (which I mentioned right from the start) is an argument from fine-tuning, which is what modern Christian theologians argue from. As such, I extend my arguments.

Pro is simply incorrect that the validity of an argument is whether the argument stands scrutiny of reason. It is a logically valid argument, and I have demonstrated its soundness (which Pro confuses for validity). Pro accuses me of making an argument from authority, which ignoring his own argument from authority (using a non-authority, Douglas Adams, as support of his argument). I have used actual scholars in the relevant fields, and explained how their arguments support the TAG. Pro has made a fallacious argument from authority, not me.

In fact, it’s even quite ironic that Pro would quote Dr. Hawking, since Hawking recognizes the fine tuning in the universe: “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron...The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” [1] So to deny fine-tuning goes against modern scientific research. I have plainly demonstrated that the reason for the fine-tuning in the universe is more adequately explained by design, rather than chance or physical necessity. Pro has not refuted this. Also, I have supported my arguments with quotes from scholars, and Pro has not (except for the aforementioned dubious sources).

It is a simple fact of science that if numerous items in our universe were slightly different, life would not have arisen. Life would not have “evolved” or “adapted” to fit the universe; life would not have arisen at all. We didn’t “grow” to fit the “puddle,” everything our life needed was there from the start.

The Atheist has a problem with infinite regress, in that an actual infinite cannot exist. But that is beyond the scope of this debate to argue for. Pro’s contention that we require an explanation of the explanation is just plain ridiculous, as I have shown. Also, not all Theists have a problem with infinite regress. Thomas Aquinas’ First Way argues for a First Cause, admitting the possibility that the universe has existed eternally. However, since Pro seems to care about modern science, his statement that “naturalism has no problem with infinite regress of causes” is puzzling, since modern science has shown that the universe had a beginning (with the Big Bang). Incidentally, I told Pro that I would have rather debated the KCA with him (in the comments on another debate), but he insisted on the TAG.

No Theist has ever argued that God was self-caused. I would urge Pro to actually read the arguments for himself, rather than relying on biased Atheists to argue against them (since Atheists rarely understand Theistic arguments properly).

Point 1.

Of course scientists are looking for structures that resemble our own. They wouldn’t be so foolish as to think aliens created natural structures, like rock or mountains. But they are looking for structures that were designed, because design points to a designer.

My contention was that between the three possibilities of physical necessity, chance, or design, design is more likely. This is not an argument from ignorance, especially since a reasoned argument has been made.

He then asserts that chance or necessity is still chance or necessity in the face of design, further demonstrating that he does not understand the argument.

Point 2.

My argument does not imply infinite regress, or special pleading, as I have already shown. It is even beyond the scope of this argument to show exactly who designed the universe, or that God was the “first cause” if he created the universe. All the TAG attempts to show is that the universe was more likely designed, than resulting from chance or physically necessity.

This is why theologians, like William Lane Craig, make a cumulative case to prove that God exists, and the God who exists is the Christian God. If Pro wishes, I could debate him on exactly which God exists. But that’s not what the TAG hopes to established, just that the universe was fine-tuned for life, and that fine-tuning points to a fine-tuner.

The rock does not speak to my argument, since the argument is from fine-tuning. Regardless of whether or not evolution could have arisen by chance, he did not refute my evidence for the fine-tuning of the universe.

Pro is also being silly when he talks of the rock being a “long shot.” Ten to one odds is a long shot. Someone who bets on a horse with 10:1 odds against can justify it by the old adage “more risk equals more reward.” Odds of the magnitude Pro even admits are astronomical -- if there was a horse with that odds against them, you may as well bet on a horse that’s not even racing. Those odds are negligible -- they could not happen by chance.


I have supported the TAG in spades, and Pro has done nothing to refute it (or to show that it should never be argued again). I mentioned from the out-set that the argument has been around since the ancient Greeks and popularized by Thomas Aquinas. I was correct in saying that Pro has offered no new evidence to show that the TAG is flawed and should never again be used.

Additionally, Pro asserted that the TAG can't support any premise, which is demonstrably false. Premise one is obvious, that the fine-tuning in the universe resulted either from physical necessity, chance, or design. These are the three alternatives, and Pro did not attempt to add any other alternatives. This shows that he is arguing from bias, and not knowledge of what he was trying to debate about. I have also shown that premise two, that it did not result from physical necessity or chance, is also well-supported.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you found the debate enjoyable.

[1] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, (Bantam Books, 1988), p. 125. I owe my friend, Grace Dunlap, for bringing this quote to my attention.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by likespeace 5 years ago
Jarhyn, I did note the ambiguity of the resolution.

The title states, "The Teleological Argument is failed, and should NEVER BE USED EVER AGAIN"

Round one states, "To claify the resolution, the subject is EXCLUSIVELY the validity of the TAG, and its ability to support the conclusion that god(s) exist."

My vote focused on the resolution you made in round one, as is the convention here, since round one tends to give you more space to explain your position. Still, I would have voted identically if the title were the resolution, for as Con states you did not provide evidence that the Teleological Argument should NEVER BE USED AGAIN. Even if I were to judge one of the premises "more likely false than true" today, it may be worth re-visiting every 100 years or so as humanity accumulates knowledge. Alternatively, it might be a good argument for a student to practice deconstructing.

I will take a second look at the statements both sides made regarding infinite regression.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
First, I'd like to remind likespeace that the resolution uses the word "failed" rather than "invalid", and my opening argument is pursuant to the interpretation of "failed" as "unsound". Second, I'd like to point out that it was KeytarHero who in the course of the debate outright stated that theism in his formulation had a problem with infinite regress: "Without God, you are left with an infinite regress of causes" "But Theism posits that there is a Being who exists necessarily, a 'first cause,'". Just food for thought.
Posted by KeytarHero 5 years ago

Not only what you mentioned, but Thomas Aquinas, who was a Christian Theist, formulated a version of the Cosmological Argument that accepted the possibility that the universe was eternal.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
While I am still in the process of writing my rebuttal, I feel I should give my opponent the benefit of time in knowing that the source of my rebuttal is thus: A particular rock, as noted in my opening statement, is quite unlikely, however given a universe in which rocks will exist without any apparent intelligent agency to make them, any given rock is astronomically unlikely to ever form. Even so, rocks do form as a necessary function of such a universe, and despite the unlikelihood of that particular rock that does form, it is indeed there and lacking in agency. Therefore the astronomical unlikeliness of a particular rock does not mean that the rock was formed with intelligent agency.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
well, round 2, since round 1 is acceptance. Unless you present first.
Posted by Jarhyn 5 years ago
If it is four rounds, initial arguments (presentation of points) will be limited to round 1, to give each side an opportunity to counter their opponent's rebuttals.
Posted by KeytarHero 5 years ago
Also, I'm going to be out of town for the next five or six days, so I won't be able to accept until I get back. If the debate expires, you can feel free to challenge me again.
Posted by KeytarHero 5 years ago
I'll accept under two conditions:

1) Please change the voting period to at least 2 weeks.
2) Please change the number of rounds to four. Five rounds is too long, especially with an 8,000 character limit.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by Apeiron 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The resolution demonstrates that Pro had a very large BoP than if it were just that the TAG is unsound. Indeed the mere showmanship of folks like Hawking to so increase the probabilistic resources to a near infinite set of universe just to eradicate what the fine-tuning implies is like a back-handed compliment to the TAG. And I think other cosmologists see this (think of Antony Flew, a life-long atheist who, upon seeing the fine-tuning of carbon renounced non-theism as a whole). Hence Pro had a large mountain to climb from the start, but did he scale it? ... It's not clear, For Con supported each premise sufficiently, used better resources, and showed how the inductive argument is logically airtight. The most Pro did was use possibilities as a refutation, but that comes cheap in probabilistic arguments.
Vote Placed by andrewkletzien 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Given that Con has predicated his argument on the improbability of "creation" from chance or necessity, and my agreement that the argument from chance is a weak one, then I have nothing to base my vote on except necessity. My vote is then based on my seeing Con's explanation of what necessity implies as fundamentally wrong; for necessity does not simply say that we must be here, but that the processes that have brought about our existence could not have happened *in any other way.* This question has remained quite unanswered due to what Pro points out: that we are in only our universe, and extrapolations from our universe to the purpose or need for said universe should be highly suspected. Because Con's arguments heavily depend on the certainty he claims we have regarding the question of necessity, arguments go to Pro.
Vote Placed by likespeace 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's resolution was about the validity of the TAG--whether the conclusions followed from the premises. The debate was not about the TAG's soundness--which encompasses the truth of its premises. Pro inexplicably spent a great deal of time arguing against the premises and on ad hominem attacks against Con's sources. Con pointed out the problem with both of these approaches. While I would give Con the edge on soundness, Con clearly wins on validity. I didn't see any compelling reasons presented to consider the TAG invalid. The other component of the debate was about whether TAG supported the existance of God. Pro counters that we could use the same argument to show God himself had a creator, and recursion invalidates Theism. Con points out that recursion, even infinite recursion, is not a problem for all variants of Theism. (Eg, Chronos could bare Zeus who bore Athena...)
Vote Placed by philochristos 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: I have never been a big fan of teleological arguments, but I thought Pro's case against them was unusually weak. I'm fairly certain I could've launched a better critique of it myself. Pro doesn't seem to have a very good grasp of the argument. His posts were full of assertions without support, inconsistencies, incoherencies, and misunderstandings. His tone was somehow hostile. I was tempted give conduct to Con for that, but since the hostility wasn't directed at Con, I didn't. Con's argument was a simple and straight forward process of elimination. One weakness is Con's argument was his failure to explain why the constants of nature are contingent, but Pro made no argument against their contingency (or for their necessity), so he didn't really refute Con's point of view. Besides, it seems like contingency ought to be the default position because "possibility" is a weaker claim than "necessity."
Vote Placed by johnlubba 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Following this debate over the past couple of days, I think Pro did a bad job representing his case, Con was actually very clear in his contentions but Pro was very hard to follow, I do not feel Pro did enough to contend that the tag is never to be used again, and that his arguments make it a closed case. In fact he did very little to even structure a good argument, always refering to a rock argument that became a little confusing, Con had much better manners and kept a cool head throughout whilst Pro resorted to name calling Con's sources although he hold's enough credentials regarding philosophy. Con rebutted Pro's arguments sufficently, Plus resorting to an infinte regress to make a strong case or denial of Cons point that life is made possible by the slimmest of chances and if the physical laws were twaeked in the slightest variation, is only going against main stream thinking and leading physicists. As con points out.