Heathen Apologetics, Part 2: The Argument from Design
Today’s post marks the second installment of my Heathen Apologetics series. For those of you who may have missed the first entry in this series, I recommend checking out my initial post on the matter to get a better understanding of my motivations and purpose in writing these– also, so you can see the Heathen version of Pascal’s Wager. Today, however, I’ll tackle another popular argument for God’s existence. This argument is known in scholarly circles as the teleological argument. But despite the complex name, it’s so commonly argued that you’ve probably heard such an argument, before, without realizing what it was called.
The universe contains patterns, complexity, and order which must have been intentionally designed by the gods.
Basically, as we look at the physical cosmos, we are confronted with beautiful and wondrous machinations. From things we utilize all the time, like our own eyes, to the abstract and esoteric, like the initial entropy conditions of the universe, we find things which are incredibly complex, and which seem to serve a specific purpose. Such complexity and purpose are indications that these things must have been crafted, deliberately, by intelligent designers.
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say that you are walking down the beach, on vacation, looking for pretty things to add to a collection. You find some gorgeous seashells and some beautifully polished stones, but eventually you stumble upon something rather curious. A shiny, gold pocket watch lies half-buried in the sand, its hands still ticking away and its gears still turning. Now, the seashells could easily have washed up on the shore with the recent tide, having been cast off by some sea creature; and the stones could always have been on the beach, for all you know, being polished by the buffeting waves. But how did this pocket watch come to be? Is it reasonable to conclude that, like the stones, it may have always just been here? Or that, like the shells, it is simply the remains of some now-dead organism? Of course not. We look at the symbols inscribed on its face, the interlocking gears, the winding springs, the obvious complexity and purpose behind the pocket watch, and we conclude that it must have been constructed by a company of people who construct watches.
Just as the pocket watch has intricate interlocking mechanisms and obvious purpose, so too can we see such things in the natural world. For example, the Earth has been conducive to life, as we know it, only because of a great number of independent factors which have all come to work together on this one world. Our position from the sun is just far enough that we are able to maintain a gaseous atmosphere, but not so close to the sun that the greenhouse effect superheats our planet, nor so far that global temperatures are bitter cold. We have a solid iron core which provides the Earth with a magnetic field, without which our atmosphere would dissipate into space. But even that core wouldn’t be enough to produce the magnetic field, if it were not for the Earth’s daily rotation inducing the necessary current. That selfsame rotation combines with our precise 23.5° axial tilt and complete orbit of the sun in a manner which allows us the ability to calculate time and seasons. Our moon’s radius is more than a quarter of the radius of our planet– something we have not seen in any of the other 7 planets in our Solar System– and the moon’s precise size and distance from the Earth are necessary for producing tidal conditions, weather patterns, and other effects which have contributed to life on this planet. Our atmosphere is composed largely of breathable oxygen, our surface consists largely of life-conducive water, and our planet is rich in nutrients and minerals to be metabolized by living creatures.
All of these minute, individual parts had to come together into a working whole in order for life as we know it to survive, here on Earth. So, each of these parts is analagous to the gears, springs, and sprockets in that golden pocket watch. And just as the obvious purpose of the pocket watch is to discern time, so the obvious purpose of the Earth is to support the life which resides upon it. Given that we can find the same indicators of design in the Earth as in our pocket watch, doesn’t it make sense to conclude that the Earth was also a product of intelligent design?
So, what do the Eddas, the books of the Norse religion, tell us about such matters? Well, we are told in the Völuspá that Odin, Vili, and Ve slew the jotun, Ymir, and deliberately shaped his body into the Earth. We are told of how the gods intentionally designed the many aspects of our world from that frost giant’s corpse for the purpose of bringing about life. The Vafþrúðnismál tells us that the motion of the Sun and Moon relative to the Earth was intentionally scored out by the gods Mundilfæri, Maní, and Sól so that we could discern time through the passage of seasons and years. Throughout the Eddas, we constantly find references to the natural things of this world being created for the purpose of engendering life. This maps precisely to the data that we observe! Granted, the Eddas tell these stories in a highly allegorical fashion, but the truth in the words does not require that the stories, themselves, be literally and historically factual accounts. The truth of the Eddas is in their description of the facets of the world having been set about by the gods.
Given the apparent design in nature, it is only right to conclude that there must have been intentional design from intelligent designers. The Eddas tell us that the gods designed these things for a purpose. Therefore, it is perfectly right and good to assert that the Norse gods are the true intelligent designers of the cosmos, and that we cannot truly explain our universe without their intervention.