According to some atheists, such as science educator Richard Dawkins God does not explain the beginning of the universe nor the appearance of design in the universe because this raises the further question, “Who designed the Designer?” I remember asking this same question as a child, “Who created God?” More sophisticated thinkers may similarly ask, “Does positing a God as the creator and designer of the universe solve the problem of an infinite regress of causes?”
Questions of origin aside
God solves the problem of the universe’s beginning and apparent design because He would be a suitable candidate for the cause and design of the universe. Just as you don’t need to know anything about my origin or intelligence to know that I am a suitable candidate to be the author of this text, we don’t need to know about God’s origin nor much about His nature to understand that some sort of intelligent being beyond space and time must be responsible for the universe’s beginning and apparent design.
Does God solve the problem of an infinite regress of causes? Yes. When we thought the universe was eternal, we could stop at the universe as a brute fact that didn’t require an external explanation. Now we know better, we can no longer appeal to the universe as an explanatory stopping point. But as God is eternal, he doesn’t have a beginning that needs explaining. Moreover, God is a necessary or self-existent being, meaning the reason for His existence is found within his own nature rather than it being in an external cause like all other creaturely things. As this concept of God doesn’t require an external explanation for his existence, He is therefore a suitable explanatory stopping point for everything else.
Accordingly, the question “who designed the designer?” is a nonsense question. It makes a category error, which is a highly odd or infelicitous use of terms. For instance, consider the phrase “The theory of relativity is eating breakfast” This is infelicitous because the theory of relativity is not the kind of thing that eats breakfast. Likewise, God is not the type of entity that is designed. The question is like asking when was the beginning of the eternal universe? In fact, it’s literally asking; What was the cause of the uncaused-cause? Who moved the unmoved-mover? When did the beginning-less-beginner begin? When you think about it, it’s a bit silly, isn’t it?
Destructive of Science
We must also recognise that we don’t need to know about a designer to be able to infer that something is designed. As it is put by philosophers of science, “In order to recognise an explanation (x) is the best explanation, you don’t need an explanation of the explanation (x).” The explanation of the explanation can be left as an open question for further inquiry.
Take for example you found a bunch of machinery on the dark side of the moon. You would be justified in inferring that this machinery was the product of an intelligent mind. Take the example of a tree-hut in the jungle. You would be justified in inferring that his tree-hut was built of some forgotten tribe of humans. You needn’t know anything about the extra-terrestrial/lunar mechanics or jungle-dwellers to recognise these artefacts were themselves designed. Likewise, if you see the hallmarks of design in the fine-tuning of the universe or the biological sphere, you can be justified that these could be the product of an intelligent mind without knowing anything else of the intelligent mind responsible.
If you did require further explanation of the explanation in order for the explanation to be the best explanation, it would lead to an infinite regress. You would require an explanation of the explanation of the explanation. Then an explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation. And so forth. Accordingly, you would not be able to explain anything. Science would implode. Ironically, it would destroy the very discipline that people like Dawkins originally set out to protect.
God is Simple
Dawkins says God is not a good explanation because an explanation must be simpler than what you’re explaining. That’s obviously a false principle. Think of an artwork. The human producing a painting is miles more intricate and complex than the swirls of pigments he places on a canvas. But for the principle of simplicity is worth, we needn’t reject God as the best explanation. That’s because God is extraordinarily simple. As an unembodied mind He cannot be divided into parts, nor change in his essential attributes. The doctrine of simplicity of God is well-known to Thomists and those familiar with the subject of Dawkin’s criticisms. He obviously confuses God’s ideas, which can be extraordinarily complex, with God’s being, which is extraordinarily simple.
In brief, the question “Who designed the designer?” is a category mistake, as well as commits the error of requiring an explanation of an explanation which would destroy science.