The Fifth Way: Argument from Design

This is my fault. The title of the OP is a bit misleading. It’s not an argument against evolution.

I don’t even think Aquinas would be against evolution if he were here today.

I don’t think there is anything problematic with the idea that particular natures have particular effects, and it is not by chance. Even if you say that some things happen by chance, the statement is still true.

The OP is focused primarily on natural bodies. The question of freewill doesn’t come into it.

As you and I have stated, we know that a chance confluence of different causal factors is involved in the production of many particular effects. That’s not the type of chance you were referring to in the first proposition (I say this for the benefit of others; I’m not correcting you).

What we mean is that cause A tends towards effect Y (or even different, but not random, effects depending upon the circumstances) instead of A having no tendency and just producing unrelated random effects at any given moment. St. Thomas’ point is that there is causal regularity even in entities lacking intelligence.

And that point is just the first and second proposition, not the whole argument.

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Should we rule out entities with intelligence (free will) or do we count them as being governed by these causal principles.

Is free will a natural or an unnatural property? Is it governed by pre-existing causal principles or can it override them.
Since the human being is a natural phenomenon, why would it not be governed by the same principles as everything else found in nature?

For the third and final time, the question has nought to do with the argument. The argument concerns entities lacking intelligence exhibiting causal regularity.

Your question isn’t a bad one in itself, but it is a major tangent away from the subject of the topic. So this is the last time I’ll respond to you bringing it up until we’ve beaten the actual topic’s subject to death.

If I’m not burnt out by 8PM tonight I’ll have time to comment on the actual argument instead of its starting premises.


Free agent can override the chain of causality. In simple word, free agent can initiate and terminate chain of causality. The effect of decision looks random from third perspective point but it is not intrinsically random.

I think that we all know that there are different versions of this argument. And I’m glad you have revised your original proposal (I appreciate it’s not a correction as such). The new proposal has just about removed teleology - which actually means that none of my arguments so far stated are applicable.

Now that we have taken off the table the proposal that rain (for example) has a purpose or a goal (and that’s effectively what teleology would mean in this case), then we can discuss whether the very fact that we have rain is in some way an indication of ID.

And there is a problem right there. Because that term has a lot of baggage but it is what we are now discussing. That nature cannot or could not operate the way it does without an intelligent overseer. That the fact that water evaporates and then condenses to produce rain is guided by an intelligent designer. That God has actually designed it that way. And not just certain aspects of nature.

This isn’t Behe pointing out irreducible complexity in certain organisms. This isn’t saying that this appears to have been designed or that appears to have some aspects of what we might class as design. This is saying that it’s all designed. That the very laws of physics have been intelligently designed to produce relatively stable, repeatable results that have led us to this point.

And I say ‘led us to this point’ because why else would God have designed existence in a specific way if not to result in the emergence of mankind. It’s not as if He set things up and wondered where it might lead.

When Behe makes his arguments that some aspects of the natural world appear to have been designed then the standard response is to ask how we can tell a natural object from a designed one. Now we have to decide if the term ‘natural’ actually means anything at all. Because IWG’s new first proposal is that nothing is natural. Because if the underlying structure of nature has been designed and there has been a divine purpose to an end result then literally ‘everything’ has been designed. If not explicitly then implicitly.

If there were no laws of physics then nothing would really exist. So if the suggestion is that God set up the laws of physics then the argument becomes 'There is something rather than nothing (or at least chaos), therefore God.

You’re ignoring everything that’s been said and projecting misconceptions. There’s also no claim that every thing, such as rain or a mountain range, has a purpose, let alone some existential higher purpose. Water in itself exhibits causal regularities. The rain cycle exhibits causal regularities. That’s it.

As for the rest regarding the state of nature, I’ll leave that for after my intended post on the actual argument of the Fifth Way.

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Not a purpose in itself. Not teleology. We have discounted that. But if water exhibits causal regularities then it has been designed that way. That’s the actual proposal. That water is a designed substance. God has set up the physical laws so that a liquid we call water is formed in a certain way and no other way and has properties that we can determine. Because the way we have been ‘designed’ means we need that water.

And not just water. But literally everything. And I assume that you believe that we are here for a purpose and that God has always intended us to be here. So the system He has set up hasn’t accidently arrived at mankind. It has been designed (that’s the proposal) and has resulted in its intended goal. So everything leading to us has been part of the design process.

So what in heaven’s name does ‘natural’ now mean? Does it mean features of existence that are accidental? Or incidental?

From a scientific standpoint, natural simply means that we find that things have a particular activity according to their nature and not because an intelligence is temporally interfering directly with it’s processes; for example angels are not turning the planets. Physical reality has real laws and it would not be correct to describe it as a puppet on a string. That’s very different from the philosophical idea that a thing naturally-exists, that it’s nature or rules of behaviour is fundamental to why there is something rather than absolutely nothing at all.

I prefer my interpretation of the fifth way because i think it removes any unnecessary difficulties, but i am very interested in what Wesrock has to say.

Needless to say that the first cause argument argument does actually propose that an intelligence is constantly sustaining the process. I’m not sure if you should be denying that argument to bolster another.

And your first proposal implies that everything doesn’t naturally exist. That the underlying features of existence are set up to specifically result in everything we see. So water exists according to its nature but God has decided on that nature. He could have decided that it would have a different nature but He didn’t. This is your first proposal.

I don’t see how i am denying the first cause argument. In fact as soon as you establish that the uncaused cause is a sustaining cause, that in it’self is enough to implicate intelligence and only serves to bolster the fifth way as i see it. The fifth way closes the case and removes any possibility of denying that the uncaused cause is intelligent. To me it is just the icing on the cake.

No, it implies that anything that is governed by physical laws including the laws themselves are not natural. And that which created them is in fact existentially natural.

In no way have i argued that everything is not natural.

But you suggested that ‘natural’ simply means that we find that things have a particular activity according to their nature and not because an intelligence is temporally interfering directly with it’s processes.’

But the first cause does say that ‘an intelligence is temporally interfering directly with it’s processes.’ On that basis, and on your proposal above, there is nothing we can class as natural.

And in any case, and to repeat, if we say natural means that something has an activity according to its nature but God has decided what that nature is to be - He has designed that nature, then how can we describe that something as natural?

If a piece of wood is natural but I decide the nature of that piece of wood is to be a table, then we cannot describe that table as being a natural object. Take it back a step and if we say that molecules are natural but God has decided that the nature of a certain arrangement of molecules are wood, then wood cannot be described as natural. If we say that atoms are natural…etc etc.

Where does that lead do you think?

No it does not. To say that physical reality including the laws of physics are not natural, is to say that the uncaused cause created the laws of physics. That is not the same thing as temporally interfering with a process that already exists.

If a thing moves according to it’s nature, this does not discount the idea that the uncaused cause created it’s nature or the rules of it’s behaviour. It moves naturally, but it’s existence is not natural.

The first cause conclusion is that: ‘Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause’. And that first efficient cause is constantly sustaining existence.

In addition to that you suggest that all physcial processes - the nature of those processes, are designed by God.

So not only is the nature of things designed by God (as per the argument from design) but God is sustaining the processes themseves (as per the argument for a first cause).

What does the term natural actually mean?

Isn’t it obvious by now lool. :upside_down_face:

Science discovers particular natures that have particular effects, and they find those effects to be regularly occurring according to the natures of particular causes. If i throw an apple across the room, it didn’t get there naturally. My intelligence interfered with the nature of the apple and made it do something that would not occur naturally. The apple by itself is doing what is does naturally. That is what is mean’t by the term natural in that particular context. Ontologically speaking there is a question of whether or not the apple or the laws that govern apples naturally exist, and in this context we are using the word natural in a different sense, because now we are asking if it is a things nature to exist. The first cause argument argues that it is not. The fifth way argues for the necessity of an intelligent cause to explain the existence of regularities or physical laws. In fact it argues that there cannot possibly be regularities in nature without a governing intelligence behind it, because nature is blind to it’s own ends.

Physical reality doesn’t create it’s own laws from nothing. There is nothing to say that the laws of physics couldn’t have been fundamentally different, so the fact that any particular regularities exist at all is unintelligible without an ordering intelligence.

The laws that govern how apples exist ensure that the apple does what it does naturally. Now you are suggesting that laws themselves do not naturally exist. So we can rephrase the first sentence:

The laws that govern how apples exist are designed to ensure that the apple does what it does naturally.

I could bend over backwards and accept that in the sense that we could ‘design’ procedures to plant an apple tree which would allow the apples to grow naturally. Part of the process is design but the effect could be described as natural.

But we are only talking of why objects in themselves have the nature which they do. And if you design an apple to do what it does then we cannot use the term ‘natural’ to describe it.

This is the simplest and most satisfying argument as far as I’m concerned. If God is the brute fact which we are asked to accept caused the universe then why not slice away with Mr. Ockham’s razor and say that the universe itself is a brute fact. I think it was Bertram Russel who said ‘It just is’.

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It depends on the context. Physical reality will behave in a particular way until an intelligence interferes with it. In a scientific context an intelligence has made it do what it wouldn’t naturally do if it were left alone.

That’s simple enough. The word natural is being used here to distinguish between events that are not being directly interfered with by an intelligence and ones that are. Outside of the scientific context words take on different meanings and the relevance of a particular word has different consequences.

If God designed the laws of physics, that would have no relevance to what is meant by the word natural in scientific context. But since you wish to frame everything within the scientific context, you will continue to have difficulty understanding something quite simple.

God created nature, but God left nature to act according to it’s nature, in this sense things are acting naturally. If this is true, no amount of semantics is going to change that.

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