The Atheist Claim for the Illusion of Design is Self-Referentially Incoherent

The current view of atheist scientists seems to be, at least on a popular level, that things in the universe have an appearance of design, but that in reality this is not the case.  As Richard Dawkins has stated, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” (Blind Watchmaker, p.1) Indeed, the appearance is rather strong: “The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool.” (River Out of Eden, p. 98). “We really need Darwin’s powerful crane to account for the diversity of life on Earth, and especially the persuasive illusion of design.” (God Delusion, p.168) If one looks hard enough, however, it seems atheists can see past this illusion: “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics . . .” (Watchmaker, p.5).  Ultimately, a trained person is presumably supposed to be able to see past the illusion to the true nature of reality: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” (Eden, p.133)

So according to learned atheists such as Dawkins there is an illusion that has fooled some people, such as creationists, into thinking that there is design in the universe, while in reality there is not. For the atheists’ explanation to be the case, there has to be a reality apart from the mind that contains the factors necessary for the illusion of design. Separate from this reality there would also have to be a mind capable of evaluating the phenomenon and coming to the judgement that the design is an appearance, while the true nature of reality is without design or purpose of any sort. The judgement is held to be objective and valid, for men such as Dawkins do not hold their conclusions to be private opinions, but instead maintain they are true representations of reality. So the mind evaluates the world and concludes that reality has an appearance of design but is in reality without purpose or design of any sort. Dawkins statement about blind indifference is categorical and leaves no room for a designer to wedge a foot in the door, even at a lower level.

However, this theory is undermined when we then consider the popular atheists’ view of mind, which is said to be fully explained as an emergent property of the physical brain. The human mind is therefore said to be a part of the same universe that presents itself as having the illusion of design which we must see past. In the atheists’ explanation, the mind is fully caused by physics and chemistry, the same physics and chemistry that is the source of all appearances in the world that we are supposed to see beyond.

Mind, in order to see beyond the illusion of design to the reality of purposelessness, must contain a purpose and designed function itself. The atheists’ minds would have to have enough design and purpose to make accurate evaluations and judgements about the false appearances in the world. But if there is no design in the world, and our minds are emergent properties of this same purposeless world, then the mind cannot protect itself from the same illusion that it accuses the world of having. The functions of the mind would, at bottom, have no design or purpose, nothing but blind indifference. The mind and all its workings would be part of the illusion.

If the atheists conclude that the human mind is objective and valid enough to make accurate judgments about the complete illusion of design in the world, but the functions and conclusions of the mind are part of but not subject to this same world, they have made a self-refuting claim. The effect of the human mind would have potential that does not exist in the cause. If, on the contrary, the atheists hold that the human mind is also subject to the same illusions as the world that the mind is part of, then we have no assurance that our thinking is an illusion as well. Since this second line of thinking ultimately ends in total skepticism, it is also self-refuting.

If the atheists claim that the mental judgement about non-design is real and objective, then they are saying that design exists in the world. Therefore either the mind must not be an emergent property and has design, or the claim for the illusion of design in the world is invalid, or both.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Atheism, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Atheist Claim for the Illusion of Design is Self-Referentially Incoherent

  1. Megan says:

    While I do think that Dawkins is the Rush Limbaugh of atheist thought, he provides an important clue into the driving factor behind his movement…his own inherent superiority, both in species and as an individual. The trust of science requires the assumption that man is sufficient to accurately observe the physical world. I’m fine with that, but I recognize it as an assumption.

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Pingback: The Atheist Claim for the Illusion of Design is Self-Referentially Incoherent | A disciple's study

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