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The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 30101

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Design means voluntary action, combined with foreknowledge.

(A.) Evidence of Design.

Seems overwhelming throughout organic nature; and we are not appealing to it to show the Creator's existence, but merely His foreknowledge.

(1.) The example of a watch: its marks of design show that it had a maker who foresaw its use.

(2.) The example of an eye: this also has marks of design, and must also have had a Designer.

(3.) The evidence cumulative.

(B.) The Evolution Objection.

(1.) The meaning of Evolution: it is a process, not a cause.

(2.) The effect of Evolution on the present argument: it increases the evidence for design.

(C.) The Free Will Objection.

(1.) Its great improbability: for several reasons.

(2.) Free Will and Foreknowledge not inconsistent; so the chief argument in its favour cannot be maintained. Conclusion.

Having decided that the universe had a Creator, we have next to examine whether the Creator designed the universe. Now by Design is meant any voluntary action, combined with foreknowledge of the results that will follow from such action. So when the Creator originated the universe, if He foreknew the results of His action, it would be to design those results, as the word is here used. And these include, either directly or indirectly, the whole course of the universe, everything that exists, or that ever has existed in the world.

By the word foreknew it is not meant that the Creator necessarily thought of all future events, however insignificant, such as the position of the leaves on each tree; but merely that He was able to foresee any of them He wished, and in this sense foreknew them. Compare the case of memory; a man may be able to remember a thousand events in his life; but they are not all before his mind's eye at the same time, and the insignificant ones may never be. In the same way the Creator may have been able to foresee all future events in the world's history without actually thinking about them. At all events, this is the kind of foresight, or rather foreknowledge, which is meant to be included in the term design.

(A.) Evidence of Design.

Passing on now to the evidence of design, this is of the most varied kind, especially throughout organic nature, where we find countless objects, which seem to point to the foresight of the Cause which produced them. The evidence is indeed so vast that it is difficult to deal with it satisfactorily. Perhaps the best way will be to follow the well-known watch argument of Paley, first showing by the example of a watch what it is that constitutes marks of design; next, how a single organ, say the human eye, possesses these marks; and then, the cumulative nature of the evidence.

(1.) The example of a watch.

Now, when we examine a watch, we see that it has marks of design, because the several parts are put together for a purpose. They are so shaped and arranged as to produce motion, and this motion is so regulated as to point out the hour of the day. While, if they had been differently shaped or differently arranged, either no motion at all would have been produced, or none which would have answered the same purpose. And from this, we may infer two things. The first is that the watch had a maker somewhere and at some time; and the second is that this maker understood its construction, and designed it for the purpose which it actually serves.

These conclusions, it will be noticed, would not be altered by the fact that we had never seen a watch made; never knew a man capable of making one; and had no idea how the work could be done. All this would only exalt our opinion of the unknown watchmaker's skill, but would raise no doubt in our minds either as to his existence, or as to his having made the watch for the purpose of telling the time.

Nor should we feel that the watch was explained by being told that every part of it worked in strict accordance with natural laws, and could not possibly move otherwise than it did; in fact, that there was no design to account for. We should feel that, though the action of every part might be in strict accordance with law, yet the fact that all these parts agreed in this one particular, that they all helped to enable the watch to tell the time, did show design somewhere. In other words, we should feel that the properties of matter could only partly account for the watch, and that it required a skilful watchmaker as well, who made use of these properties so as to enable the watch to tell the time.

Now suppose on further investigation we found that the watch also possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movements another watch very like itself. It might, for instance, contain a mould in which the new works were cast, and some machinery which fitted them together. What effect would this have on our former conclusions? It would plainly increase our admiration for the watch, and for the skill of its unknown maker. If without this extra property, the watch required a skilful maker, still more would it do so with it. And this conclusion would not be altered by the fact that very possibly the watch we were examining was itself produced in this way from some previous one, and perhaps that from another. We should feel that, though each watch might be thus produced from a previous one, it was in no sense designed by it. And hence this would not in any way weaken our conviction as to the existence of a watchmaker somewhere and at some time who designed the whole series.

This, then, is the watch argument. Wherever we find marks of design, there must be a designer somewhere; and this conclusion cannot be altered by any other considerations whatever. If, then, we find in nature any objects showing marks of design, the obvious inference is that they also had a designer. And this inference, it should be noticed, does not depend on any supposed analogy between the works of man and the works of nature. The example of the watch is merely given as an example, to show clearly what the design argument is; but the argument itself would be just as sound if man never had made, and never could make, any object showing marks of design.

Moreover, to complete the example, we must assume that the existence of the watchmaker, and the fact of his having made the watch, are already admitted for other reasons. And we are only appealing to these marks of design to show that when he made the watch, he must have known that it would be able to tell the time, and presumably made it for that purpose. And in this case the inference seems, if possible, to be still stronger.

(2.) The example of an eye.

We will next consider the human eye as an example of natural organs showing marks of design. It is a well-known instance, but none the worse on that account. Now, in order to see anything clearly, it is necessary that an image or picture of it should be formed at the back of the eye, that is, on the retina from whence the impression is communicated to the brain. And the eye is an instrument used for producing this picture, and in some respects very similar to a telescope. And its marks of design are abundant and overwhelming.

To begin with, in both the eye and the telescope the rays of light have to be refracted, so as to produce a distinct image; and the lens, and humours in the eye, which effect this, somewhat resemble the lenses of a telescope. While the different humours through which the rays pass, prevent them from being partly split up into different colours. The same difficulty had of course to be overcome in telescopes, and this does not seem to have been effected till it occurred to some one to imitate in glasses made from different materials the effect of the different humours in the eye.[1]

[1] Encyc. Brit., 9th edit., vol. xxiii., p. 137.

In the next place, the eye has to be suited to perceive objects at different distances, varying from inches to miles. In telescopes this would be done either by putting in another lens, or by some focussing arrangement. In the eye it is effected by slightly altering the shape of the lens, making it more or less convex. A landscape of several miles is thus brought within a space of half an inch in diameter, though the objects it contains, at least the larger ones, are all preserved, and can each be distinguished in its size, shape, colour, and position. Yet the same eye that can do this can read a book at the distance of a few inches.

Again, the eye has to be adapted to different degrees of light. This is effected by the iris, which is a kind of screen in the shape of a ring, capable of expanding or contracting so as to alter the size of the central hole or pupil, yet always retaining its circular form. Moreover, it is somehow or other self-adjusting; for if the light is too strong, the pupil at once contracts. It is needless to point out how useful such a contrivance would be in photography, and how much we should admire the skill of its inventor.

Again, the eye can perceive objects in different directions; for it is so constructed that it can turn with the greatest rapidity right or left, up or down, without moving the head. It is also provided in duplicate, the two eyes being so arranged that though each can see separately should the other get injured, they can, as a rule, see together with perfect harmony. Lastly, our admiration for the eye is still further increased when we remember that it was formed before birth. It was what is called a prospective organ, of no use at the time when it was made; and this, when carefully considered, shows design more plainly than anything else.

On the whole, then, the eye appears to be an optical instrument of great ingenuity; and the conclusion that it must have been made by someone, and that whoever made it must have known and designed its use, seems inevitable.

These conclusions, it will be noticed, like the similar ones in regard to the watch, are not affected by our ignorance on many points. We may have no idea as to how an eye can be made, and yet feel certain that, as it exists, it must have been made by someone, and that its maker designed it for the purpose it serves.

Nor should we feel that the eye is explained by being told that every part of it has been produced in strict accordance with natural laws, and could not have been otherwise; in fact, that there is no design to account for. No doubt every single part has been thus produced, and if it stood alone there might be little to account for. But it does not stand alone. All the various and complicated parts of the eye agree in this one remarkable point, and in this one only, that they all help to enable man to see; and it is this that requires explanation. We feel that there must be some connection between the cause which brought all these parts together and the fact of man's seeing. In other words, the result must have been designed.

Nor does the fact that every organism in nature is produced from a previous one of the same kind alter this conclusion. Indeed, as was shown with reference to the watch, it can only increase our admiration for the skill which must have been spent on the first organism of each kind. Moreover, no part of the design can be attributed to the parents. If, for instance, the eyes of a child show design, it is not due to the intelligence or designing power of its father and mother. They have not calculated the proper shape for the lens, or the mechanism of the iris, and as a rule know nothing whatever about it. And the same applies to their parents, so that our going back ever so far in this way brings us no nearer to what we are in search of. The design is still unaccounted for, we still want a designer.

We hence conclude that the marks of design in the eye afford, at all events, what seems to be a very strong argument in favour of a Designer. And if only one eye existed in the universe, and there were no other mark of design in nature, this conclusion would be none the less clear.

(3.) The evidence cumulative.

But the argument is far stronger than this. It is cumulative in a triple sense. To begin with, an eye is found not in one man only, but in millions of men, each separately showing marks of design, and each separately requiring a designer. Secondly, the human eye is only one example out of hundreds in the human body. The ear or the mouth would lead to the same conclusion, and so would the lungs or the heart. While, thirdly, human beings are but one out of many thousands of organisms in nature, all bearing marks of design, and showing in some cases an even greater ingenuity than in the human eye. Of course, as a rule, the lower organisms, being less complicated than the higher ones, have less striking marks of design, but their existence is equally clear; the flowers of plants affording some well-known examples.

Nor is this all, for even the world itself bears traces of having been designed. Had it been a mere chaos, we might have thought that the Creator was unaware of what would be the result of His action. But a planet like our earth, so admirably adapted for the support of life, can scarcely have been brought about by accident.

We conclude then, on reviewing the whole subject, that there are countless objects in nature, more especially organs like the eye, which bear strong marks of having been designed. And then the Unity of Nature, and the fact that all its parts act on one another in so many ways (the eye for instance being useless without light), shows that if anything has been designed, everything has been designed. Now there are two, and only two, important objections to this argument, which may be called the Evolution and the Free Will objection.

(B.) The Evolution Objection.

The first objection is that the whole of nature has been brought about in accordance with fixed laws by the process of Evolution. Therefore, though it is possible the Creator may have foreseen everything that exists; yet the apparent marks of design in nature, being all the necessary results of these laws, do not afford any evidence that He actually did so. And before discussing this objection we must first consider what we mean by laws of nature and natural forces.

Now by a law of nature is meant any regular, or uniform action which we observe in nature. For example, it is called a law, or rule of nature that (with certain exceptions) heat should expand bodies, which merely means that we see that it does so. In other words, we observe that heat is followed by expansion, and we therefore assume that the one is the cause of the other. But calling it a law of nature for heat to expand bodies, does not in any way account for its doing so. And the same is true in other cases, so that a law of nature explains nothing, it is merely a summary of the facts to be explained.

It should also be noticed that a law of nature effects nothing. It has no coercive, or compelling power whatever. The law of gravitation, for inst

ance, has never moved a planet, any more than the rules of navigation have steered a ship. In each case it is some power or force acting according to law which does it. And natural forces are those which, as far as we know, always act according to some fixed law. They have no freedom of choice, they cannot act or not as they like; they must always and everywhere act the same under the same circumstances. We pass on now to the subject of Evolution, first considering its meaning, and then its effect on the present argument.

(1.) The meaning of Evolution.

Now by the term Evolution is meant to be included the processes of Organic Evolution, Natural Selection, and the Survival of the Fittest. The former may be described as meaning that all the different forms of life now existing, or that ever have existed on this earth, are the descendants of earlier and less developed forms, and those again of simpler ones; and so on, till we get back to the earliest form of life, whatever that may have been.

And the theories of Natural Selection and the Survival of the Fittest explain how this may have taken place. For among the slight modifications that would most likely occur in every organism, those, and only those, would be perpetuated which were of advantage to it in the struggle for existence. And they would in time, it is assumed, become hereditary in its descendants, and thus higher forms of life would be gradually produced. And the value of these theories is that they show how Organic Evolution may have taken place without involving any sudden change, such as a monkey giving birth to a man. We must remember, however, that the subject is far from settled; and even now naturalists are beginning to doubt whether all the modifications were in reality very slight. But still, speaking broadly, this is the theory we have to discuss.

It will, of course, be noticed that Evolution is thus a process, and not a cause. It is the method in which certain changes have been brought about, and not the cause which brings them about. Every slight modification must have been caused somehow. When such modifications were caused, then Natural Selection can explain how the useful ones alone were perpetuated, but it cannot explain how the modifications themselves arose. On the contrary, it supposes them as already existing, otherwise there would be nothing to select from. Natural Selection, then, rather weeds than plants, and would be better described as Natural Rejection. It merely shows how, as a rule, among the various modifications in an organism, some good and some bad, the useless ones would disappear, and the useful ones would remain; in other words, how the fittest would survive. But this survival of the fittest does not explain in the slightest degree how the fitness arose. If, as an extreme example, out of a hundred animals, fifty had eyes and fifty had not, it is easy to understand how those that had eyes would be more likely to have descendants; but this does not explain how they first got eyes. And the same applies in other cases.

How, then, did the variations in each organism first arise? In common language they may be ascribed to chance; but, strictly speaking, such a thing is impossible. The word chance is merely a convenient term for the results of certain forces of nature when we are unable to calculate them. Chance, then, must be excluded; and there seem to be only two alternatives. Either the organisms in nature possessed free will, and acted as they did voluntarily; or else they did not possess free will, and acted as they did necessarily. The former theory will be examined later on; the latter is the one we are now considering.

(2.) The effect of Evolution.

How then would this theory affect our previous conclusion that the Creator designed all the organs of nature, such as the eye, and hence presumably the whole of the universe? As we shall see, it only confirms it. For to put it plainly, if all free will on the part of the organisms is excluded, so that they were all bound to act exactly as they did, it is clear that the earth and all it contains is like a vast mass of machinery. And however complicated its parts, and however much they may act on one another, and however long they may take in doing so, yet if in the end they produce an organ showing design, this must have been foreseen and intended by the Maker of the machinery. In the same way if a mass of machinery after working for a long time eventually turned out a watch, we should have no hesitation in saying that whoever made the machinery, and set it going, intended it to do so. And is the inference less clear, if it not only turned out a watch, but a watchmaker as well, and everything else that exists on this planet?

All then that evolution does is this. It shows that the whole of nature forms such a long and continuous process; that if the end has been foreseen at all, it must have been foreseen from the beginning. In other words, just as the Unity of Nature shows that if anything has been designed, everything has been designed; so Evolution shows that if it has been designed at all, it has been designed from the beginning. We must hence conclude that the organs in nature, such as the eye, which undoubtedly show design, were not designed separately or as after-thoughts, but were all included in one grand design from the beginning. And this can only increase our admiration for the Designer. Thus evolution, even in its most extreme and automatic form, cannot get rid of a Designer. Still less can it do so, if (as is probable) it is not automatic at all; but is due to the continuous action of the Creator, who is what is called immanent in nature, and directs every step.

It should be noticed, moreover, that in one respect evolution rather increases the evidence of design. For if, to take a single example, a human hand has been evolved from a monkey's foot merely by the monkey using it as a hand, and taking hold of things; it increases the amount of design which must have been spent on the foot to enable it to do so. And if all the organs in nature have been evolved in this way from simpler ones, it increases the amount of design which must have been spent on those simpler ones to an extent which is practically infinite.

Thus Evolution implies a previous Involution; since all forms of life must have been involved in the first form before they could be evolved from it; so that creation by evolution is more wonderful than creation by direct manufacture. And it seems to many to be a far nobler conception of the Creator that He should obtain all the results He desired, by one grand system of evolution, rather than by a large number of separate creations. For then the method in which the results were obtained would be as marvellous, and show as much wisdom and foresight as the results themselves; and each would be worthy of the other. Evolution, then, seems to be the highest form of creation; and so far from destroying the present argument, it only destroys its difficulties, by showing that every single part of every single organism may have been designed, and yet in a manner worthy of the great Creator.

Nor is the conclusion altered if we carry back the process of evolution, and assume that the earliest form of life was itself evolved from some previous form of inanimate matter; and this again from a simpler one, and so on till we get back to the original form of matter, whatever that may have been. For if the results as we now see them show design, then the argument for a Designer is not weakened, but our ideas of His skill are still further increased, if we believe that they were already secured when our earth was merely a nebula.

(C.) The Free Will Objection.

We have, lastly, to consider the other, and more important objection, that arising from Free Will. Why, it is urged, may not all organisms in nature have possessed free will within certain limits, and have selected those forms which suited them best? For example, referring to the case of a watch, if telling the time were of any advantage to the watch itself, and if the spring, wheels, and hands possessed free will; then it might be thought that they had formed themselves into that arrangement which suited them best. And if so, the idea that the watchmaker foresaw and intended them to adopt this arrangement seems unnecessary.

Now, in the case before us, as the organs showing design in nature, such as the eye, always conduce to the welfare of their possessor, the objection is certainly worth considering. But as we shall see, it is most improbable, while the chief argument in its favour cannot be maintained. It need scarcely be pointed out that we are not assuming that the organisms have free will, but merely admitting that they may have it; and if anyone denies this, the objection, as far as he is concerned, falls to the ground at once.

(1.) Its great improbability.

This is apparent because low down in the scale of nature (plants, trees, etc.), the free will of the organisms, if they have any, must be extremely limited; yet they bear unmistakable marks of design. While, in higher beings which have (or may have) an undoubted free will, it is hard to believe that it can effect anything like what is required. Would, for instance, wishing to see or trying to see, even if blind animals were capable of either, have ever given them eyes? And the same applies in other cases. It is hence most improbable that the marks of design in nature are due to the organisms themselves, rather than to their Creator.

But there is one important argument on the other side, which, if it could be maintained, would be sufficient to outweigh all this improbability. It is, that some beings, such as man, do, as a matter of fact, possess a free will, and that man can and does alter his condition, to a slight extent, by using that free will. Therefore, it is said, it is impossible for the Creator to have foreknown what man's condition would be, because free will and foreknowledge are necessarily inconsistent. But this latter point is disputed.

(2.) Free Will and Foreknowledge not inconsistent.

Now, although at first sight freedom of action seems inconsistent with any foreknowledge of what that action will be, yet on closer examination this will be found to be at least doubtful. For our own experience seems to show that in some cases, at all events, it is not in the nature of things impossible to know how a free being will act.

For example, I myself may know how, under given external conditions, I will act to-morrow. Never being sure of these, I cannot be said to actually foreknow the event; so that foreknowing with man is never more than foreguessing. But I may be quite sure how, under given conditions, I will act. For instance, I may know that, provided I keep in good health, provided I receive no news from anyone, provided, etc, I will go to my office some time to-morrow morning.

Yet I feel equally sure that this foreknowledge of mine does not prevent the act when it comes from being quite free on my part. My knowing this evening what I will do to-morrow does not oblige me to do it. My foreknowledge of the event does not bring the event about. It is in no sense its cause. The act when it comes is due to my own free will, I merely foreknow what use I will make of my freedom. And these are probably the common feelings of mankind on the subject.

It seems, then, that my foreknowledge need not be inconsistent with my free will. And hence, if I tell someone else how I will act, his foreknowledge would not be inconsistent with my free will. So that in some cases, and under given conditions, it does not seem impossible for a man to foreknow how another man will act, yet without interfering with his freedom. In short, free will does not seem to be necessarily inconsistent with the foreknowledge even of man, though it is always practically so, owing to man's imperfect knowledge of the surrounding circumstances. But the Creator knows, or may know, these circumstances fully, therefore it must be still less inconsistent with His foreknowledge.

Of course it may be said that if the Creator foreknows how I will act to-morrow, I am certain to act in that way; and this is doubtless true. But it does not follow that I need act in that way; for certainty is not the same as necessity. This is obvious enough in regard to a past event. I certainly did it, but I need not have done it; and it may be equally true in regard to a future event. I will certainly do it, but I need not do it. Therefore the Creator may know that I will do it, though it will still be free on my part.

And this is strongly confirmed when we reflect that the difficulty of knowing how a free being will act, however great in itself, seems as nothing compared with the difficulty of creating a free being. Apart from experience, we should probably have thought this to be impossible. Yet man has been created somehow. Is it then unlikely that the Being who was able to overcome the greater difficulty, and create a free man, should also be able to overcome the lesser difficulty, and foreknow how he would act?

Moreover, if free will and foreknowledge are always and necessarily inconsistent, then the Creator cannot have any foreknowledge of His Own acts, or else they are not free on His part; neither of which seems at all probable. We are not, of course, arguing from this that He actually does foreknow how He will act Himself, or how a free man will act, but only that it is not in the nature of things impossible that He should do so; in other words, that free will and foreknowledge are not necessarily inconsistent.

And this is precisely what we had to show. The marks of design in nature afford what seems to be overwhelming evidence in favour of the foreknowledge of the Creator. The objection we are considering is that, in spite of all this evidence, we must still deny it, because some of the organisms in nature, such as man, possess a free will; and therefore any foreknowledge is in the nature of things impossible. And the instant it is shown that such foreknowledge is not impossible, the objection falls to the ground.

We may now sum up the argument in this chapter. We first explained that by Design was meant any voluntary action combined with foreknowledge of the results of that action. We next considered the evidence for design in nature, taking, as a single example, the human eye. And this evidence appeared complete and overwhelming; more especially as we were not appealing to it to show the existence of a Creator, which is already admitted, but merely His foreknowledge. And we have since considered the two apparent objections to this argument arising from Evolution and Free Will. But when carefully examined, the former only strengthens the argument, while the latter does not weaken it. We therefore conclude, on reviewing the whole subject, that the Creator designed the universe.

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