Evolution by explaining the diversity of species is historically taken to refute or atleast lower the plausibility of species being designed by a being. The success of physics and other phenomena that we thought to be impossible or unexplainable by natural law being eventually explained through natural means also is proposed to lower the plausibility.

But a natural explanation for things != without design. Sure, evolution by natural selection gives us a natural way to explain the diversification of species, but this explanation isn’t complete. Surely, these rely upon classical physical laws, laws that are more foundationally underpinned by quantum mechanics, a field which is proposed to have true randomness in it and a field that as of yet we do not fully have a complete ontology of.

But the fundamentals of physics have not been proven or shown to be “blind” or “without design”. Until this is shown, how does finding an explanation that doesn’t violate natural law reduce the plausibility of design if the fundamentals of those laws have not been shown to be undesigned? Doesn’t this beg the question by assuming that natural laws are not designed?

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    What does "created by a designer" add in explanatory terms that cannot be cut by Occam's Razor? Would adding ontological fluff not need further justification?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 13:05
  • @PhilipKlöcking I agree that adding ontological fluff seems to need further justification. But that wasn’t the question. The question is whether finding a natural explanation reduces the plausibility of design. But a natural explanation relies on natural laws, the origin of which we don’t fully understand. Wouldn’t one need to also presume a “blind”/“undesigned” ontological fluff behind those laws if they don’t think the universe is designed as well?
    – user62907
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 13:13
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    The question reminds me of the chapter “The Dragon in My Garage” in Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. The fact that finding natural explanations for a phenomenon doesn’t disprove supernatural explanations can serve as the inspiration to expound an infinite library of supernatural “explanations” of ridiculous assertions. Consider, for instance , that maybe the Universe was created by a being who never did and never will exist. This being is so powerful, that even its own non existence can be no impediment to its wonderful accomplishments. Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 14:51
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    Umm, okay. But how about a being who is its own son. There exist people who don’t find that to be “a contradiction and thus impossible.” Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 15:07
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    Is design an objective or measurable feature of physical objects? I can write you an answer, but I need to know your position on this side question first.
    – Corbin
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


What are the historical arguments for a species being created by a being? I feel like that is a large factor in the issue you're posing.

You seem to overlook that scientific advancement historically refutes those arguments because those arguments in particular used gaps in our understanding of natural law as their explanation for a god.

What it comes down to is that there's no evidence that can ultimately prove that a god does not exist, but it can limit the properties and behaviour of the god to fit within what we know of the natural world.

Scientific advancements refute specific design arguments that rely on assumptions which are not supported by the science. They cannot refute all design arguments as a whole, since to my knowledge there is no possible scientific evidence or discovery that couldn't add "and this is because of god" to the end of it.

  • Good points. As Quine showed, all theory is infinitely malleable, hence demanding that design be definitively refuted is an unachievable standard. What we DO know is that evolution does a much better job explaining faults/anomalies in how living things operate than a "flawed design theory" does. These examples count as strong evidence against design of life. Design of the universe -- was always a weaker case. Sure "no design" fails Munchausen's Trilemma, but so does "God Did It". We don't HAVE a valid solution to Munchausen. Deist initiation should still be accepted as a live option.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 21:21

I think it's important to look at the historical context. Not many centuries ago, the official line in many countries was that god made man and everything else in seven days, so the creator/designer concept was taken very literally. With the gradual influence of ideas such as evolution and the Big Bang theory, it has become obvious that the role of a potential designer has been at least put to the back of a very long process in which the Universe and everything in it have evolved in accordance with a relatively small number of laws. You can still argue, if you wish, that a designer was needed to make a universe with laws, but that argument seems a little weaker in force now that it used to be in the days when there was absolutely no other obvious explanation than a designer. Also, you might take the view that if a god/designer wanted there to be humans (which is what many western religions assume) then why design a Universe in which humans only evolve after 13 billion years? Why not create a Universe with humans in it from the get-go? So yes, the opponents of the argument by design do assume that the universe didn't need to be designed, but I think the main thrust is that it's far less clear that you need a designer to explain a handful of laws governing the universe than it would be if humans had just appeared without evolution etc.

  • I think the faulty principle of the design argument is more in line with what Dawkins says about it. Positing a complex creator seems harder to assert without evidence than it is to say that laws or other rules exist by themselves. The same would apply to humans existing without evolution since the supposed designer would be even more complex and perhaps more so in need of explanation or justification.
    – user62907
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 16:29

In classical physics the underlying ontology is somehow in accordance with entities that can easily be grasped, even for the non-initiated ones. For example mass, distance, speed, time, etc. all are entities that are correlated to our everyday experience. So, it's like a "common sense" ontology, where these entities are formulated in equations which - with some semantics - form the laws of physics. In the beggining these laws were considered as the laws of God and later on as mathematical models of nature. Although then, these models were understood as "our" models, at least they were approximations of reality; while the underlying "common sense" ontology was still preserved.

But with the advent of modern physics all this changed! What is time? what is mass? what is distance? So beginning with general relativity and then with quantum mechanics, the underlying ontology became a mess: the entities of "common sense" became mathematical entities (it's not only that mathematical formulas represent the entities as in the classical physics - we have a fundamental change here: the entities themselves became mathematical notations). So we ended up with mathematical models/structures that have a high approximation in representing reality, but with not even close to common sense ontological meanings.

This "design" you are talking about then, seems that it cannot be found in a "fine grained formula" representing common sense entities, but in realizing that what can be considered "real" to us, is only what appears to be real and not only that, but this appearance is mingled with our observation of it.

Whether this "design" is by a God or just a matter of how things work - I think - is a matter of one's own belief.

But if you evaluate that - which modern physics led us to - in the "God" context, what it basically says is that we can never prove God exists, but we can only perceive His manifestations but even then, these would be subjective experiences.

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