Saturday, November 13, 2010

Design Argument


I cannot believe that the beauty and complexity we perceive in God happened by chance. Design requires a designer. Therefore humans exist.

12 comments:

Andrew T. said...

Atheists choose to believe that this incredibly fine-tuned and complex universe, formed ex nihilo, that allows everything to exist and sustain itself, up to and including human sapient consciousness, is the result of an incredibly improbable series of blind accidents. I, on the other hand, believe that it is the work of a benevolent Creator, one Who is so far beyond our comprehension that attributes like "complexity" as we understand it can not be used to describe Him. Neither proposition can ever be proven irrefutably. It is a judgment call.

Seeing that you've abandoned theism altogether, now even ridiculing good arguments in its favor, I am surprised you still attend a church, even a liberal one.

Andrew T. said...

See Rabbi David Eidensohn's refutation of Dawkins' contention that the proposition of an intelligent Creator does not explain anything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lqeoDC3jL8

(Note: He mistakenly calls Dawkins a physicist, when Dawkins is in fact an evolutionary biologist. Still, I agree with the Rabbi's arguments in this video)

Peter said...

Hey Andrew,

I do not think the cosmos formed ex nihilio--the cosmos has always existed.

Calling the universe "fine-tuned" in some-ways is comparable to looking at a US map and marveling at how so many rivers align with state borders. It is easy to draw a circle around where one is standing and likewise marvel over how unlikely the center is, over all possible centers in the world, to sport one's feet.

Thus is how I see design arguments: they take the seeming unlikeliness of current conditions and circumscribe themselves with a bold circle.

However, when we realize that it is not merely blind accidents that brought us to where we are today but also natural selection which favors reproducibility, then we can see why order and increased complexity is the direction that the material cosmos goes. In fact, from what we can see of the material cosmos, complexity and sapience appears in greater frequency the further removed one is from the original and less ordered cosmic past. The material cosmos teaches us to expect increased order, complexity, and sapience and not the reverse. To posit that an uncreated deity, a supremely complex sapience, was present at the outset of the process is in many ways to reverse the the same process.

So, let me emphasize, natural selection, present even in cosmic, non-biotic arenas, moves the cosmos into greater degrees of order and complexity (of course there will be a plateau and a stopping point in the distant future...before the possible "big crunch"). We are not looking at mere accident...we see natural selection and accident working together to produce what we see today.

If there is a "judgment call," I do not not think it is a matter of faith vs faith. Positing the existence of an uncreated God just pushes the design and order question back one more level. Instead of asserting that the cosmos is all there is, one has to then account for the uncreated God and the "complexity and grandeur" that we see in this God.

I do not see any good arguments for theism. I am able to respect theists who do not cross the line and assert tribalistic and fundamentalist virtues, but they are far too few.

Yes, I attend a liberal church. Am I an atheist? Methodologically I am certainly an atheist and a naturalist. Though, metaphysically, I am more agnostic and transtheistic. My church promotes dialogue, questioning, and discussion. There are a significant number of other atheists that attend. Today's sermon is entitled "I was once found but now am lost" (or something like that". I suspect it will be about the virtue of moving away from dogmatic certainties and the ignorance and intolerance that dogmatism promotes.

Peter said...

Hey Andrew,

I've had a chance to watch most of the video. Please don't take this as an insult because it isn't, but I really expect more of you. The logical inconsistencies of Eidensohn's presentation along with his repeated factual errors make this video difficult to watch. He faults the "physicist" Dawkins for dabbling in philosophy and then, as a rabbi, starts dabbling himself in astrophysics.

And if this gross inconsistency isn't enough, he then goes on to claim that the "anthropic principle" is the "physics of today" that is that it is somehow a mainstream commonality of modern physics. He is right if he is talking about creationist philosophers who dabble from time to time in astrophysics, but he is, at best, misrepresenting or, at worst, lying about the reality. Find one journal article in a peer reviewed astrophysics or astronomy journal that posits the "anthropic principle."

Andrew, I know that you are a bright person with an inquisitive mind. I really do expect more of you than to be persuaded by this [misre]presenter.

Fizlowski said...

"...ridiculing a good argument..."

Hardly.

The cosmological argument would have us believe that everything that exists requires a creator, but the creator (who exists) does not require a creator. This is not a "judgment call", this is special pleading, and fallacious by the terms of the argument itself. The cosmological argument proves nothing except the inability of its adherents to think things through.

Even if you could convince me that the universe needs to look outside of itself for causation, but that God somehow magically does not, it is a huge and baseless leap to say that it was your God who did the creating (and he allegedly did it ex nihilo, by the way). Maybe it was it was Brahma, or Ptah, or Marduk, or Mbombo. Maybe it was one of a thousand other creator-gods that pre-scientific cultures invented. Or maybe it was some heretofor unnamed god. Why not? We have just as much proof for Brahma as we have for the God of Genesis.

Andrew T. said...

Hi Peter,

I think it is clear that the universe was created ex nihilo -- from a single point with (as far as one could guess) infinite properties, and furthermore, is constantly and irretrievably moving away from that beginning state. To better facilitate a Godless view, physicists like Stephen Hawkins posit many universes or even all possible universes existing simultaneously. They choose this model, supported only by the most tenuous imaginable mathematics and speculation, for what I consider obvious reasons -- it is consistent with their atheism (both methodological and metaphysical) and strict materialism.

The innumerable and extremely improbable great leaps forward (greatest of all the leap that originated self-reproducing cellular life supposedly from a primordial stew of amino acids) up to the present apex of sapient life are too great to be ascribed to naturalistic processes alone. I think an intelligent designer's handiwork occurred at certain points in that supremely long-winded process, and I reject methodological atheism.

As I implied before, God is so different from anything we can perceive or understand that it is reasonable only to guess that He exists -- not to speculate on why or how. He is simply beyond explanation. The closest we can get to "knowing" Him is through His provisions, Torah and the Messiah, Yeshua.

I think the anthropic principle is a sound enough argument, especially when considered intuitively and even spiritually and not purely in the abstract. Perhaps it isn't widely accepted because physicists avoid anything suggestive of theism. Yes, I truly believe today's scientific community is militantly atheistic and specifically rejects viewpoints that do not corroborate atheism and materialism.

The Rabbi I referred you to is a much better social than scientific commentator. I merely found his video roughly agreeable in spite of its gloss-overs and contradictions.

To conclude on a humorous note: "Woah! Double rainbow! What does this mean!?"

Andrew T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew T. said...

Fizlowski,

I believe the God that has been revealed to the bulk of the nations of this world is the true God, whereas historical creator gods of ancient pagan religions like Marduk or Ptah were imagined (not that these imagined didn't have some attributes that could be ascribed to the one true and ineffable God). I believe the Jewish people are God's chosen nation, the originators of the monotheistic message that eventually spread to the whole world and the hub-point from which His covenants and blessings issue forth to the nations. The very history of Israel and its continuous survival throughout thousands of years is a great miracle. Christianity, with all its bumps, imperfections, contradictions, persecutions, and historical blunders, represents the reception of God's Word by the many nations of this world. I am not really sure what to make of Islam much less other major religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, nor do I pretend to know. Suffice it to say I don't believe in a God that condemns someone for being born into a particular culture. He is just.

Peter said...

Hey Andrew,

Thank you for your contributions.

I do not find it any more obvious that the cosmos has a “single-point” inception than it is that God is the Unmoved Mover. The concept of “single point” either as a spatial or temporal reference is inadequate and overly anthropomorphic. Speaking of a “single point” is akin to picking a random point on the surface of a perfect sphere and calling it the middle point. Notice that cosmic background radiation is uniform throughout the cosmos—there is no center yet everything is expanding. Using the sphere illustration, consider a balloon that is filling with air. As the surface of the balloon stretches, every point on the surface becomes more and more distant from the next, and there is no unmoved superficial center or middle.

To posit a Designer beyond the cosmos is to posit a Design beyond the apparent design that inheres to our view of the cosmos. Doing so simply places the question of design and order one step further—it multiplies entities. We do not know how contingent our currently observed “anthropic principle” is. With every iteration of the cosmos, it might be that the laws are always the same. Or, it might be that the laws are often quite different. Additionally, we do not know the limits of life. There might be another universe or there may have been a previous universe with different laws in which intelligent, sapient beings discussed the amazing, fine-tuning for their species. To posit the design argument or the anthropic principle is to circumscribe oneself in a bold circle and marvel at how amazing or unlikely it is that the center of your circle is you.

Science cannot operate with supernatural assumptions. Science works through empirical experimentation, reproducibility, and consensus. There can be no consensus on metaphysical claims. Why favor the miracles of the Exodus story and reject the “miracle of the Quran?” There can be no consensus on metaphysical matters, and one’s birth becomes the strongest determinant of one’s metaphysics. I would not call science militantly atheistic—it is simply methodologically naturalistic. The supernatural may exist, but it is beyond the scope of scientific investigation (here I am disagreeing with Dawkins).

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

I am a religious person. My belief is a matter of intuition and not empirical evidence. I favor the explanation of a Creator revealed through history to any number of rationalistic speculations, such as multiple universes or a recurring cosmos. There is just no such thing as metaphysical certainty, so I frankly prefer the more spiritually fulfilling and comforting explanation (which can not be irrefutably verified any better than the nontheistic one). Perhaps in time you will come around again to the beauty of what you left behind.

I am not really familiar with how the Quran was composed, and I'm not sure what aspects of its composition Muslims regard as miraculous. I know that it was dictated to scribes in various Suras throughout Mohammad's lifetime and his followers arranged and canonized it soon after his death, and that Muslims follow an exegetical rule that whenever two passages contradict, the one that was written later takes precedent. Mohammad was not a literate man yet appears to have been adequately familiar with Biblical concepts and events, so perhaps that makes the Quran miraculous? Being no expert, I think Mohammad was a mix of good (e.g. ethical monotheism) and bad (e.g. his subjugation of women; his murders; his claim that the Bible had been irretrievably corrupted, which the Dead Sea Scrolls among other archaeological finds prove false, and that his one-man revelation was sufficient to usurp its authority). Not that the Israel portrayed in the book of Joshua was in any way the paragon of tolerance and enlightened morality...

Science in the abstract is intended to be methodologically naturalist and not militantly atheistic, but that does not mean that many individual scientists aren't. Dawkins certainly is.

Peter said...

Hello Andrew,

Yes, science is, as you note methodologically naturalistic. This allows scientists to arrive at consensus apart from personally held metaphysical beliefs or lack thereof. Nothing in science disproves or proves the supernatural in any absolute sense, but the track record of the supernatural is poor as a means for explaining the phenomenal world.

I would be cautious about what you say about the Quran. I am all for open criticism of the Quran, but it seems that many are too quick to assume of the Quran ideas or practices that are not so clear. When it comes to the subjugation of women, the Quran offers a far more egalitarian legal code than the Pentateuch. For example, in the Pentateuch, women are property of men, and the groom pays the dowry to the father. In the Quran, women receive the dowry and are permitted to have their own independent earnings. ...just one example.

However, as I hope to discuss soon, there are also counter examples.

Anonymous said...

"Atheists choose to believe that this incredibly fine-tuned and complex universe, formed ex nihilo, that allows everything to exist and sustain itself, up to and including human sapient consciousness, is the result of an incredibly improbable series of blind accidents"

The vast majority of this "fine-tuned" universe is utterly uninhabitable.