This post is one of a serious that picks apart the arguments for god that can be found at the link below. This post addresses number 8:
If you don’t want to click over there to read it, the full argument goes like this:
8. The Argument from the World as an Interacting Whole
Norris Clarke, who taught metaphysics and philosophy of religion for many years at Fordham, has circulated privately an intriguing version of the design argument. We present it here, slightly abridged and revised; for your reflection.
Starting point. This world is given to us as a dynamic, ordered system of many active component elements. Their natures (natural properties) are ordered to interact with each other in stable, reciprocal relationships which we call physical laws. For example, every hydrogen atom in our universe is ordered to combine with every oxygen atom in the proportion of 2:1 (which implies that every oxygen atom is reciprocally ordered to combine with every hydrogen atom in the proportion of 1:2). So it is with the chemical valences of all the basic elements. So too all particles with mass are ordered to move toward every other according to the fixed proportions of the law of gravity.
In such an interconnected, interlocking, dynamic system, the active nature of each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act. Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.
Argument. In any such system as the above (like our world) no component part or active element can be self-sufficient or self-explanatory. For any part presupposes all the other parts—the whole system already in place—to match its own relational properties. It can’t act unless the others are there to interact reciprocally with it. Any one part could be self-sufficient only if it were the cause of the whole rest of the system—which is impossible, since no part can act except in collaboration with the others.
Nor can the system as a whole explain its own existence, since it is made up of the component parts and is not a separate being, on its own, independent of them. So neither the parts nor the whole are self-sufficient; neither can explain the actual existence of this dynamically interactive system.
Since the parts make sense only within the whole, and neither the whole nor the parts can explain their own existence, then such a system as our world requires a unifying efficient cause to posit it in existence as a unified whole.
Any such cause must be an intelligent cause, one that brings the system into being according to a unifying idea. For the unity of the whole—and of each one of the overarching, cosmic-wide, physical laws uniting elements under themselves—is what determines and correlates the parts. Hence it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor. But the unity, the wholeness, of the whole transcends any one part, and therefore cannot be contained in any one part. To be actually present all at once as a whole this unity can only be the unity of an organizing unifying idea. For only an idea can hold together many different elements at once without destroying or fusing their distinctness. That is almost the definition of an idea. Since the actual parts are spread out over space and time, the only way they can be together at once as an intelligible unity is within an idea. Hence the system of the world as a whole must live first within the unity of an idea.
Now a real idea cannot actually exist and be effectively operative save in a real mind, which has the creative power to bring such a system into real existence. Hence the sufficient reason for our ordered world-system must ultimately be a creative ordering Mind. A cosmic-wide order requires a cosmic-wide Orderer, which can only be a Mind.
Such an ordering Mind must be independent of the system itself, that is, transcendent; not dependent on the system for its own existence and operation. For if it were dependent on—or part of—the system, it would have to presuppose the latter as already existing in order to operate, and would thus have to both precede and follow itself. But this is absurd. Hence it must exist and be able to operate prior to and independent of the system.
Thus our material universe necessarily requires, as the sufficient reason for its actual existence as an operating whole, a Transcendent Creative Mind.
This argument reads like it’s a subtle variation of others already addressed. I really am getting the feeling that these 20 arguments are varying shades of grey and that the whole block set does not actually represent 20 distinct and separate arguments. To make things worse, this one seems worded to obfuscate rather than to clarify. Which is itself unhelpful.
That said, the argument starts with the claim that the world (did he actually mean universe?) is dynamic and ordered. Chaos theory and the laws of thermodynamics might have something to say about that. Critically, what is meant by ordered is not defined.
The description of hydrogen and oxygen combining is misleading and over simplistic (intentionally so?). The structure of the hydrogen atom is such that it can only form one bond, irrespective of what it is bonding to. The structure of oxygen is such that it can form two bonds, irrespective of what it is bonding to. This means that where oxygen and hydrogen bond, you will always and only get the 2:1 ratio described. The reason is down to the nature of atoms, each atom is different and bonds accordingly. That we get a pair of atoms that bond 2:1 is to be expected, there is nothing special or miraculous about that relationship.
each component is defined by its relation with others, and so presupposes the others for its own intelligibility and ability to act
Note how once again the assumption is made, with no support, we’re supposed to accept that without question.
Things interact in nature, that they do does not mean that they were made for each other. It just means that they interact. It is as absurd as saying that a hole presupposes that there will be a puddle to fit it.
Contemporary science reveals to us that our world-system is not merely an aggregate of many separate, unrelated laws, but rather a tightly interlocking whole, where relationship to the whole structures and determines the parts. The parts can no longer be understood apart from the whole; its influence permeates them all.
Claims without reference again. This is also a pretty meaningless snippet, it’s the sort of faux wonder you’d expect from a New Age healing pamphlet. Yes, the particles interact, yes the whole often helps us to understand the parts, that’s due to the nature of the interactions. So why the odd wording and the blatant avoidance of references to what it is that science has revealed?
Talking of new Age, the author makes the amazingly bold claim that there is a cosmic-wide Mind (note the capitol M) which must have created and ordered everything. Well, a mind can’t exist without a physical brain so where is the Brain (capitol B required) in which the Mind must live? Erp, we’ve fallen foul of the X requires Y of the previous argument. If the Mind requires the Brain, then where is the stuff that the Brain depends on. It seems the author was a bit sloppy in putting this one together.
Lets jump to the conclusions.
Atoms join up, make something bigger, it’s all amazing which means that there is….
a unifying efficient cause
must be an intelligent cause
it must be somehow actually present as an effective organizing factor.
Note how there is not a single justification, explanation or reference to why this must be so. It is because the author says so.