UPDATE: Tabarrok is still clued out. If God suddenly appeared, all lighting bolts etc., the correct scientific reaction would not be “oh, I guess the theists were right all along.” It would be: “Gee, I wonder where God came from.”
Again, if we can just accept the existence of organised complexity as a brute fact of the matter which needs no further explanation, then why do we need God to explain anything? Let’s just accept the existence of life itself as a brute fact that needs no further explanation.
But that would be dumb, right?
For no apparent reason, Alex Tabarrok over at MR has jumped into the creationism debate.
His conclusion is that both creationism and atheistic evolutionism are consistent positions, but that anyone else (evolutionary theists, or creationist atheists, I guess) is confused.
Here’s his take on Paley’s old watchmaker argument:
Suppose that you find a watch in the forest. If you know there is no watchmaker then the theory of evolution is a brilliant and compelling explanation for the presence of complexity without design. But suppose that you know a watchmaker exists then surely the simplest and most compelling explanation is that the watchmaker made the watch. Any other explanation, particularly one so improbable (see extension) as evolution would seem to be preposterous and beside the point.
Thus for someone who knows, really knows, that god(s) exists (and there are many people who claim to know that god(s) exists) then some form of creationism (see the extension) follows as a rational deduction from the premises.
The irrefregable reply to this argument is given by Richard Dawkins, about 2/3 of the way through The Blind Watchmaker, and it goes like this:
The creationist says:
1. A watch is something that exhibits organised complexity.
2. Organised complexity requires an explanation.
3. The existence of a watchmaker would suffice as an explanation for the existence of the watch
4. A watchmaker exists
5. We have a simple, satisfactory explanation for the watch.
6. Creationism is true (and evolution false)
Dawkins’ reply is as follows. He begins by accepting the entire argument 1-5 above. But he denies that this entails the conclusion.
Simple. Because a watchmaker is also something that exhibits organised complexity. This is a classic case of begging the question, i.e. assuming as a premise what you are trying to solve. The entire problem of life stems from the question: “how did we get all of this organised complexity?”
If you can simply posit the existence of organised complexity (“a watchmaker did it!”), then you have not explained anything. You have merely assumed as a premise (the existence of organised complexity) what you are trying to explain.
So, Tabarrok is wrong: Creationism is not a consistent position. Or at least, it is consistent at the price of being utterly vacuous, insofar as the conclusion is included in the premisses.