Warren Christian Apologetics Center
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James D. Bales

Who Designed The Designer

Percy B. Shelly, the English poet, once wrote a pamphlet on The Necessity of Atheism, which, however, A. M. D. Hughes said should be called The Uncertainty of Deism (66). Shelley was not an atheist. After he was expelled from Oxford for writing this pamphlet "he wrote to someone . . . complaining bitterly of the excessive penalty for what he had written as 'amusement on a rainy day' [he had published and scattered the pamphlet], and 'carried perhaps a little too far some of the arguments of Locke.' He had been classed with 'wretches, the bane of society' whose openly professed atheism was the last effusion of depravity' and a menace to all virtue and happiness" (71).

   Shelley’s argument was against “a creative deity,” but “the hypoth­esis of a pervading spirit co-eternal with the universe remains un­shaken,” he said (68, cf. 244). This was in 1811 (63). In 1814 he published A Refuta­tion of Deism in which, among other things, he raised such questions as who designed the Designer. This was intended to refute Paley's argument from design. The implication being that the argument from design is fallacious because one can always ask who designed the de­signer. The same attitude is taken sometimes toward the argument from the First Cause. One can always ask who caused the first cause, and “why put on a cause of causes?”(243). [Note: For a modern example of this question see H. S. Jennings, The Universe and Life. New York : Yale UP, 1933, pp. 63-65. He was Henry Walters Professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Laboratory of The John Hopkins University.] 

   There are two fallacies in his line of argument. First, everyone must grant that something has always existed, that it is, in other words, self-existent, uncaused. This self-existence is the cause of the world and life. Our world did not always exist and neither did human lifealways exist. There must have been something in the beginning which caused the world and life. For if there was nothing to begin with there would be nothing to end with, for out of nothing comes nothing. So even the materialist must grant that something has always existed, thatsomething was self-existent, uncaused. He affirms that it was matter, but on the point that it was something, that something had to always exist, the materialist has no argument with the theist. The only issue is as to the nature of the original cause. A cause to be a cause must be adequate. It is irrational to believe, it is contrary to all the scientific evidence which we have, that matter gave birth to life; that from that which had no consciousness, thought, or morality, came consciousness, thought, and morality. Since natural means and human life did not place life on this globe—scientists grant that the earth has not always been habitable, and that as far as scientific research goes life comes only from life—something supernatural and superhuman must have placed it here. That Power or Cause is certainly more than human but it could not be less than human. 

   Second, the question as to who designed the Designer is absurd because all must grant that something has always existed and is the cause of all the order in the world (for examples of order see Lawrence T. Henderson’s The Fitness of the Environment). Thus when it is shown how great that source of order must be, it is irrational to ask what is the source of that source, for all must grant that something has always existed and that the present order and life have not always existed. 

    This may be illustrated from everyday life. You see a house which you greatly admire and you ask who is the architect and who designed the furniture. Jones and Smith, is the answer. Do you then ask: Who “architected” the architect, and who designed the designer of thefurniture? (that is, unless one plans to go on and make an argument for the existence of God). The designer of the house is greater than the house, and we would not be satisfied with the answer that the house designed itself, or that some thing designed it, but we are satisfied when we get back to a person. We realize that a person is a cause adequate to explain the house. But we are satisfied with nothing less than a person. Just so, although the mind is satisfied with nothing less than God, it is satisfied with God.  

Works Cited: 

Hughes, A. M. D. The Nascent Mind of Shelley. Oxford : Clarendon, 1947.

The Thinking Christian
Ed. James D. Bales
Searcy , AR