Argument for God from Complexity


The universe is complicated to the point where many people believe there must be some designer who created it. But certainly, God is extremely complicated, much more so then this universe by unimaginable factors, given that he is infinite and perfect.

If you can’t believe that this universe, whose complexity arises from a few fundamental forces (which we are now attempting to simplify further) and the complexity of life arises from a very well known mechanism (evolution), then how can you believe that an infinitely more complex entity with no known mechanism to bring it into existence must simply exist?

Say you journeyed to a part of the world where you are completely certain no humans have ever existed. An island, for example, which you have searched and can tell there are no traces of any human life there. You go to the middle of a field and find 10 leaves which are all in a perfect line on the ground. Is it rational to say that since there is no way that complexity could exist without a designer, there must be a mechanized robot with working treads powered by wheels powered by an engine powered by naturally occuring gasoline which has a computer circuit complicated enough to make it’s robot arm find and place 10 leaves in a line which simply has always existed, with no explanation, because it just has to in order for those 10 leaves to be in a line?

The answer is no. Of course not. Complexity, especially that which can be explained by a mechanism of non-chance (evolution is the opposite of chance) does not demand that there be a further super complex entity that doesn’t even have a mechanism to allow it to develop.

I’d like to know where this logical step came from.

Maybe I should add up front that if you define God as the thing that doesn’t need a creator or something like that, you are begging the question and assuming the conclusion.

Erm, I’m asking for logic here, by the way, not random assertions or “it just feels right.”


this is the same argument that dawkins makes in his book the god delusion.

as far as i can tell, your (and dawkins’) argument, such as it is, is simply that evolution is a better explanation of organized complexity than god is, because god would have to be at least as complex as the phenomena he is being used to explain, which means using god as an explanation of this sort is an example of circular reasoning.

even though your example of the leaves is a little off (you should stick with hoyle’s 747 in a junkyard, since that’s the magnitude of unlikelihood we’re dealing with here), there are other, deeper problems with your reasoning:

  1. why is god complex? traditional theology asserts that god is, in fact, perfectly ***simple ***- do you have a reason to think otherwise?

  2. the argument from design is probabilistic: it suggests that the organized complexity we see around us is way less likely as the result of random processes than it is on the supposition that there is an intelligent designer who made it this way; the belief that god “simply is” is the conclusion of a different line of modal reasoning: god is because god has to be. he is necessary.

  3. it seems that if your argument proves anything, it proves too much, since it apparently renders illegitimate any appeal to design by designers that are at least as complex as the thing that they’re being used to explain. for example, i find a car that’s not mine parked in my garage one morning; since the supposition “someone must have put it here” requires a being equally as complex as the car whose presence i’m trying to explain, i can’t make that assumption; instead, i’m left with something like “the car randomly appeared in my garage”…doesn’t make much sense to me.


Perhaps I’m missing something here, but coming across ten leaves in a row doesn’t strike me as a particularly stunning find.


The obvious response is request evidence for traditional theology’s assertions.


sure. but if i’m saying that god is not simple, i am in just as much need of supporting argument.

the burden of proof lies with anyone making positive assertions - i.e. that something is or is not the case.

if it helps, let me put it this way: why should anyone believe that god is complex?


I see your point, John, but clearly the underlying question is the existence of God, though Ian neglected to mention it.

You can’t require proof of X if X is dependent upon an unaccepted premise. That’s essentially the “are you still beating your wife” kind of approach.

Personally, I don’t think the Divine Simplicity argument is a sufficient answer to the Complexity Argument because it refers to an entity that supposedly exists outside of the material universe who would nevertheless appear infinitely complex in it’s interactions with the physical universe. It is reasonable to assert that an entity that created every quantum particle in the universe, who is aware of everything that happens in that universe, and who interacts, listens to, and loves everything in that universe, while all the time remaining invisible and hidden would necessary be a very complex (not to mention hypothetical - since we can’t detect it via our senses) being.


If you have some time on your hands, this is a good read. Alvin Plantinga’s take on Dawkins’ argument/book.


I think you left a word out there. But suppose I can believe that those few fundamental forces “expain” the universe, and evolution “explains” life. So what? Why do the forces exist? Why does matter and energy exist? What are the “known mechanisms” to explain any of that?

Besides, if your argument is that complexity can and does arise from simplicity, then why couldn’t God’s even greater “complexity” arise from His even greater “simplicity”?


You have the advantage of having no tangible evidence in existence that supports God whatsoever, so you’re right that I cannot, for example, point to God’s brain to show that he is complex, because he has no brain. Regardless, God is intelligent, hence the argument from “intelligent design.” If God is not intelligent, I’m not sure why you’re worshipping him.


this is still missing the point…

ian has this as a premise for his argument:

  1. god is complex

or, to take it back a step:

  1. a cause must be at leasat as complex as its effect.

all i am doing is asking for evidence for either or both of these premises; which has got nothing to do with loaded questioning (are you still beating your wife?). at all.

this is rock-bottom reasoning here, i’m afraid, and there’s no good way around it: if you make a claim, then you have to be ready to back it up. period.

ian has made a claim; i just want him to back it up.


Ignoring the very ad-hoc-ness of that, you’re basically proving my point. In other words, God is absolutely not necessary. This certainly doesn’t disprove him, but it destroys the major argument for his existence.

Existence does not prove that there exists some personal being outside of time.

If “God” is, in fact, very simple, then he is really just another word for the ‘laws’ which govern the universe, be they strings if string theory happens to be correct, or whatever we find at the end of ends, if there even is one.

You can play word games, but really, the only God you’re referring to is the universe itself. It exists, and whatever complexity it seems to have stems from very simple forces and processes.

And finally, anything you ask of the universe can be asked of god.

Where did God come from?

Who created him?

Take those answers, and apply them to the universe.

Why does matter and energy exist?

If these questions demand that the answer be a more complicated being, then God’s existence demands the same thing. God, and specifically your god, does not get a free pass because you want him to exist. Either he, and everything, needs a cause, or there are some things that don’t.

Ultimately, if God doesn’t need a cause, neither does the universe, for the exact same reasons.


So are you asserting that the universe has always existed, or that it spontaneously sprang into existence, or what?


god didn’t come into being. the universe did.

that’s why the universe needs a cause and god doesn’t.


why does intelligence entail complexity? i mean, brains are certainly complex, but why does intelligence entail anything like a brain? remember, you can’t assume materialism without begging the question.


You don’t know that the universe came into being.


complexity doesn’t indicate design


Having read the article previously, I think hecd2 summed it up quite nicely. I have nothing to add to that.


Thanks again for the link, I had lost it before. It’s enough that atheists and agnostics have been raining on the delusion parade - but it was nice to see a theist highlight just how weak Dawkin’s grasp of the philosophical issues truly is.

As for the general argument for God from complexity - I’m not sure it’s a cohesive argument on its own. I follow the ID camp, but I just see no way to prove (well, falsify, I suppose) scientifically that the grand scheme of things is designed and intended.

On the other hand, the problems of ID has also highlighted something else - that it’s just as impossible to falsify the opposite, (that there is no design/intention behind the grand scheme of things). The two attitudes have to fall back to philosophy. But there, I think the ‘design/intended’ argument holds quite a lot of power/persuasion. My view only, naturally.


. . . presupposes that reality is reducible to matter: “To be” is to be material.

The universe is no more than matter, and its cause (“God”), *if *it has one, is likewise material. Since a cause cannot be lesser than its effect, if the universe is complex, then its cause must be even more complex.

But if the complexity of the universe requires a cause, how much more God’s complexity, which exceeds the complexity of his effect-- the universe.

Not only do we have the inescapable problem of regression-- complexity upon complexity ad infinitum– which violates the principle of non-contradiction, the complexity of the universe can be more elegantly explained through an evolutionary mechanism.

The complexity of the universe, therefore, does not prove the existence of God . . .
But wait . . .**

What about its materialistic presupposition.**

**Is reality reducible to matter?
Is “To be” to be material? ****

I ask *that *to be demonstrated.


yes. i do.

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