Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Sigh, a house is not a universe

The return of the Faulty Analogy Fallacy

Sometimes I get this argument popping up. It’s an argument from analogy. Kind of, because we know houses were designed and built, and a house is like the universe, it must be that the universe was designed and built by a creator.

Like most arguments from analogy, it is a weak argument*. It is not an appeal to evidence. It is an appeal to all sorts of hidden assumptions and presumptions that get attached to it. It fails simply because those assumptions aren’t shared by others.

We can test the claim that houses are designed objects. This is based on the following traits:
  • Observations: We actually see houses getting built by human agents. So far, nobody has observed a universe being built by an external agent.
  • Objective: A house has a specific objective. It provides shelter for the occupants. It is this use- to which it is purposely built- that tells us its designed. Nobody has proved that the universe has a like-objective. The universe appears entirely indifferent to our existence. It was around about 14bn years before we turned up, and will continue long after our solar-system dies.
  • Efficiency: This relatives to objective. Objects that are designed try to meet their objectives in efficient ways- needless redundancy, wastage of materials, inflated risks- all invalidate the idea of design. A vast universe that hurtles deadly space rocks at us, and bathes us in deadly UV radiation, could do with some tweaks.
  • Economy: designed artifacts are constrained by the resources available for their use. The decision to use one input over another, is driven by a conscious and deliberate observable decision. We don’t observe these substitutions occurring in the universe.
* Indeed, if you have to make an argument based on an analogy that cannot be supported by evidence, chances are it’s fatally flawed. Please stop.

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