I have seen this argument posed by people like Dawkins et. al, but is this actually true? Many have pointed to how complex things in nature generally come from simpler origins, but clearly, this isn't always true. For example, a watch is not as complex as a human, but is created by a humans. It is an example of a thing being created by something more complex.

You could say that the relevant cause in question is not the cause of the watch in the preceding step which in this case would be a human but the ultimate first cause of everything. But now we're just back at square one: is there an eternal first cause?

Let's suppose that there is. Is now a simple eternal first cause more likely than a complex one?

Dawkins says, and I quote, "However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. (p113-114)"

Why does this follow? What if this complex, intelligent first cause is physically necessary? Then, it is not statistically improbable. The whole notion of statistical improbability to a potential necessary first cause seems to be a misnomer.

  • 1
    What do you mean by "complex" ? If it's "made of several elements working together" (like a clock is made of less elements than a human), then we need an explanation for how each of those parts came to be and work with the others. The more pieces, the more difficult to prove and less likely is our idea of a cause. If there is somehow a single origin or no origin at all for all those pieces and their arrangement, then we are not any better of than with a simple cause.
    – armand
    Nov 25, 2022 at 9:39

2 Answers 2


Dawkins just has a physicalist-materialist bias. I see it as a language issue.

Consider the Anthropic Principle. In this view, universes without laws to allow the potential of minds, cannot be observed, and only have reality as necessary implications in some way of arriving at universe with subjectivities. The sets of laws without minds are only within our universe as non-real potential.

A common way of picture Creation, is as thoughts in the mind of a totalising being. For instance Plato, with his picture of the Forms as the ideas of such a mind. Switching to this can allow an understanding of the universe that includes volition, to it having a telos or purposes. And so account for departing from pure potential, as a choice rather than a necessity.

I think you can reconcile physicalist-materialism with this kind of thinking. If you take Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, and you picture the final distribution of photons as impacting the new universe, not only structurally but the precise laws, then any universe where a subjectivity of any kind occurs might be expected to impact the universe in a way that makes more subjectivities possible (and, minds that do this would be memes, those that don't would not). So, you can have just the Uncertainty Principle as a simple eternal first cause. But also a necessary subjectivity, for anything to be observable, and meaningfully real, which will cumulatively shape the cosmos for minds, and imbue it with that telos.


The designer is necessarily more complex than the designed entity and therefore also statistically more improbable. However, this difference in probability is not essential, it is more like misleading.

The entity we seek to explain does already exist, the probability of its existence is 1. Whatever it was that caused the existence of that entity must also exist/have existed with probability of 1.

Applying probability to past events makes no sense.

You cannot explain anything with a designer, unless you know the identity of that designer and have some evidence supporting the idea of that designer being responsible for that design.

If you have no knowledge about the designer you have no reason to assume there is one.

  • Yet, the Find Tuning problem exists. 19ish fundamental constants, that need to be accurate to within at least 9 decimal places to allow stellar nucleosynthesis, & the very complex chemistry of life. Accounting for it as pure chance, seems insufficient
    – CriglCragl
    Nov 25, 2022 at 14:02

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