One of the classical arguments for the existence of God is the Argument from the Governance of the World, which works like this. The universe is not a hectic, buzzing confusion in which nothing makes sense and nothing hangs together. On the contrary, we see that things have purposes, and they nearly always act in such a way as to bring these purposes about. For example, hearts exist for the purpose of pumping blood, and they nearly always do pump it. But such things as hearts cannot direct themselves according to their purposes, because they have no intelligence. Therefore, however long it may have taken to do so, some being with intelligence must have arranged the purposeful order that we see in nature, and we call this being God.
One of the main objections to the Argument from the Governance of the World is the supposed discovery that purposeful order can arise spontaneously, without any need for directive intelligence. In each field of study, this claim takes a different form. One mechanism of spontaneous order is proposed for markets, another for the origin of biological processes, another for the flocking of birds, yet another for the crystallization of molecules.
But a distinction is needed. If the hypothesis of spontaneous order means that contingent forms of order – forms of order that might not have been – can come to pass without continuous, interfering micromanagement, it is certainly true. But if it means that such order can come to pass without prior order, that it can be altogether spontaneous, then it is certainly false.
To see this, consider what happens if I toss nine three-inch-square blocks into a nine-inch-square box, then jostle the box. The blocks will spontaneously arrange themselves into a symmetrical three-by-three block grid. But they will do so only because they are just the right number, shape, and size to fit, a set of features unlikely to arise by chance.
In general, the more elaborate the spontaneous order, the more prior contrivance is necessarily to make it come to pass “on its own.” Evidently the maxim that you can’t get something from nothing applies not only to the matter and energy embodied in an arrangement, but to the order embodied in it too.
Now if each instance of contingent order does require prior order, then we must ask whether the prior order is also contingent. If it is, then we must ask whether its prior order is also contingent. To avoid an infinite regression of forms of order, we must assume a First Principle of Order, the existence of which is not contingent . So we still come back to God.