February 22, 2021

Designs and Deities

Timothy Birdnow

Jim Church was discussing the Freedom from Atheism Foundation and Willis Eschenbach took umbrage with that outfit for being Intelligent Design theorists. An interesting argument about God v. Nature resulted.

Willis Eschenbach states:

This argument is often presented in the form that when we see a mechanical wristwatch, say a Rolex, it is so complex and well-made and finely crafted that we have to assume there is a watchmaker ... which is the argument above, with God as the watchmaker.

The problem with that argument is that the watchmaker must perforce be much more complex, well-made, and finely crafted than the watch.

So if you assume the watch must have a watchmaker, you perforce must assume that the watchmaker must have a watchmaker-maker ... and so on ad infinitum.


Jim Church says:

it takes a whole lot more faith to believe that Nothing creates something, a finely tuned something at that, than that there is intelligent, discoverable design created by an Intelligent Designer. Agnostic David Berlinski, "The Devil’s Delusion”, makes a strong case along this line as does John Lennox in his rebuttal of Stephen Hawking, "God and Stephen Hawking, whose design is it anyway”.

I reply:

Willis that is actually an old argument going WAY back. God was sometimes referred to as the "unmoved mover" and it was introduced into astronomy by Ptolemy (the "Primum Mobile") It was thought that God was the first source of the movement of the stars. I understand your dislike of the argument, because it is "elephants all the way" BUT one must expect God not to conform to the normal laws of cause and effect, because He is outside of the Universe and universal laws. Like singularities around black holes, the human mind balks at the concept. But what could God be but the Granddaddy of all singularities? God would be outside of our ability to understand rationally, which is limited by our physical universe. That's why religion is a matter of faith and not reason alone. But there are plenty of scientific arguments that do not prove the existence of God but provide evidence (enough to get a Grand Jury to act). There is the Anthropic Principle, for instance, which argues that the Universe is uniquely tailored to us and we would be impossible if any one aspect of this universe were slightly different. (The Many Worlds hypothesis is an attempt to break out of the Strong Anthropic Principle and winds up requiring even more faith than does just believing in God, in my opinion.) You have the Big Bang, which is eerily similar to the Book of Genesis. You have a lot of stuff in mathematics that suggests some sort of design or order in the Universe. I could go on but you get the point. There is no smoking gun proof but there is some tantalizing evidence. And if we are to assume our existence has a purpose (something human beings are compelled to do) we would assume that God wouldn't show Himself for the very reason that then we would be compelled to obey the rules out of our knowledge of His existence and fear of punishment rather than out of our own volition. In other words, free will. It would completely distort the purpose of life (assuming it has a purpose, which an atheistic universe, self-created out of nothing and having no ultimate destiny except heat death or the big crunch). And I would add belief in a God or gods is ubiquitous in the human condition and apparently the default "programming" of human beings. One must ask why. (The Bible says there is an inborn belief in everyone.) It is often argued that it is a way to explain what is unknown, but why do that? Why wouldn't human beings simply say "I don't know" and set out to find the answers? To create fanciful explanations where none is required makes little sense. It's rather as though there is a natural inborn sense of a deity while a lack of specific knowledge. I would add when Yahweh appeared to Moses He called himself "I Am" meaning "none of your business" when Moses asked who He was. At any rate, I didn't mean to ramble on. I just wanted to clarify my and others position here.

Jim Church adds:

To follow up on Timothy’s comment: And to deny all of the evidence of Intelligent Design/Designer appears to be much like the Climategate reveal exposing the deniers of the Medieval Warm Period: "we will have to find a way of making it disappear,” or words to that effect. When the obvious makes one feel uncomfortable we have to either make up our own facts, like climate alarmists do, or humble ourselves and accept those facts explain reality — even though there is a whole lot of that reality we still don’t fully comprehend!

Willis retorted:

So the answer is, a watchmaker perforce requires a watchmaker, and a watchmaker perforce requires a watchmaker-maker we call "GOD" ... but the watchmaker-make r arose spontaneously in just exactly the manner that you deny that life could arise, because reasons.

Got it.

Please understand, I do believe that "there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men".

I also believe that life emerged spontaneously, in the same way that a thunderstorm arises spontaneously. A thunderstorm is a huge unimaginably complex phenomenon ... but we all seem to agree that it can arise spontaneously.

Funny world, huh?

Jim Church replied:

Actually it would appear to me, forgive me if I’m wrong, that you have been hoodwinked by Dawkins’s "argument” of infinite regression, as have many. As an old Irishman once said, "Well, such an argument proves one thing — if they had a better argument they would use it.”
By asking the question Dawkins shows he has a created God in his own mind. And it is then scarcely surprising that he calls his book "The God Delusion”. Because that is precisely what his created god is, a delusion by definition. A better title would have been "The Created-God Delusion”.
On the other hand the God who created the universe, and all of its discoverable laws, was not created as Dawkins speculates. He is eternal. He was not ‘made’ and therefore subject to the laws that science discovers. It is He who has made the universe with its laws. And that constitutes the fundamental distinction between God and the universe. He existed before the universe and is independent of it.

Dawkins is more akin to the ancient Greeks and their notion of gods descended from the heavens and earth and are therefore themselves created. I’m sure we have graduated in our understanding far beyond those Ionian philosopher — although it would appear Dawkins may not have!
Certainly that is not the picture painted for us in the Bible. One Saul of Tarsus, now renamed Paul, no intellectual slouch, coming from the university city of Tarsus, well versed in Greek thinking and philosophy, had much to say to the sophisticated crowd in Athens. After noticing their plethora of created gods, about which they like Dawkins held many delusional and inadequate ideas he addressed the philosophical school of the Areopagus. In doing so he did not fit into the stereotype of an anti-intellectual fanatic, but knew their worldviews. He pointed out to them that one of their own poets had grasped that human beings are creations of God. He then drew the logical inference for them to consider: "Being then God’s offspring we ought not to think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by art and the imagination of man.”

You see the Bible long ago anticipated Dawkins false representation of God and the inherently infinite regression argument.

The real issue between Dawkins and a believer in God is NOT whether it makes sense to question ultimate facts — I have MANY questions! — it is rather which facts are ultimate? Dawkins ultimate ‘fact’ is matter. The theist’s ultimate fact is God. It takes more faith to believe that life emerges from nothing as he postulates than to accept the Divine intelligently created all of this glorious and, to us, complex world which He affords us to study intelligently.

Willis replied:

Thanks, Jim. I fear that waving your hands and saying God is Eternal and God is not subject to natural laws and the like is NOT an argument against the idea that life arose spontaneously. In fact, it's not an argument at all. Look up "Deux ex machina".

Look, I have no problem with the idea of God. And I see no contradiction between that idea and the idea that life arose spontaneously.

But saying "life is complex therefore there must be a God" is not an argument. It is a statement of faith, fine as far as it goes, but not a logical argument of any kind.

Finally, if life has taught me one thing about scientists, it's that outside their specialized field they are often idiots. Using a Nobel Prize winning Christian to state your belief is just an admission that your argument is very weak.

I replied:

Willis Eschenbach I don't think Jim Church is arguing there are no natural processes in play in abiogenesis and the evolution of life, but that isn't what most atheists argue anyway. They tend to make a straw man arguments so they can say there is no God. OF COURSE there are natural processes involved, and that isn't in dispute (at least not in the intellectual circles.)

The final argument comes down to whether the universe spontaneously created itself and life - including intelligent life (which even includes some human beings - Democrats and Progressives exempted, of course). In both cases it is impossible to prove the assertion of whether God exists or not.

Nobody can prove the universe created itself any more than they can prove God created the universe. The evidence is entirely too marginal. But that is what we should expect given our limitations and very scant knowledge on the subject. It DOES come down to testimony and faith.

That is why the persecution of the early Church was so important; a bunch of people died horribly rather than recant their faith. Why? What did that accomplish? A great deal insofar as it showed they were willing to be put to death (often horribly tortured in the process) because they believed it. Testimony. As I said earlier, it's not something that can be proven beyond doubt but could be acceptable in a court of law.

There are miracles that have been chronicled over the years, too. Now I know a lot of people will scoff at that, which in it's own way is the point. Again, I point out that the majority of people have an innate sense of the Divine, and belief in God or gods is ubiquitous. Remember, the Founding Fathers believed even when they didn't; they were big on Natural Law, which presupposed the existence of "Nature and Nature's God". That presupposed a kind of law built into the universe.

Your statement "But saying "life is complex therefore there must be a God" is not an argument. It is a statement of faith, fine as far as it goes, but not a logical argument of any kind" can equally apply to the argument there is no God. It is an article of faith, not of fact. There are no facts at this level of reality. We can either believe the evidence for God or against God. It ultimately is a matter of choice. Many people believe in String Theory too with about as much evidence as there is for the existence of God. I would point out that multiple legends in science - Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Michael Faraday, James Maxwell,, and a host of others were devout believers. What does that prove? Perhaps nothing, but it shows there is no contradiction between faith and reason.

So why believe? Well, there is Pascal's Wager to consider. Of course, in the end, what does anyone hope to achieve in life? Life is a pretty bad joke if there is no God. The universe is pointless, and the fact so many young people now are taught that is why they commit suicide at record rates and embrace socialism so readily; they seek to make an Earthly paradise. Nobody wants their lives to be pointless.

I know that doesn't mean it's correct, but at the same time it doesn't make it incorrect either.

I do not think Intelligent Design is a smoking gun piece of evidence. I think it has the same problems that every argument for or against God suffers. But it's just one more part of the total, like the shutting down of vote counting at three a.m. is part of the total picture of vote fraud in the last election; it doesn't PROVE anything but does give some tantalizing evidence.

Willis you say:

"I fear that waving your hands and saying God is Eternal and God is not subject to natural laws and the like is NOT an argument against the idea that life arose spontaneously. In fact, it's not an argument at all. Look up "Deux ex machina"."

Perhaps, but isn't the point of science to provide the mechanisms of HOW a natural process worked? Isn't that the whole point? To say "it just happened" is the Original Sin of science. So the burden of proof is on those who claim it just happened. They must provide the mechanisms. Those who believe in God have made it plain Faith plays a critical part. And remember, it was Christianity and the Church which invented the Scientific Method and the other aspects of Science - the Greeks had philosophy, not science as we know it. The very thing attacking religion now is the stepchild of that very religion, which sought to promote an understanding of the universe as a means to understand God.

There are other arguments too, such as the Aquinas' moral arguments. This discussion could go on for a long time and I doubt you want to spend all your time at it. I would say your "deux ex machina" argument applies doubly to the claim the universe created itself and life spontaneously generated - in a universe governed by entropic decay. I have yet to see an iPhone spontaneously generate around my cat's leavings in his box.


Jim Church adds:

But of course there is no credible science that would affirm the alarmist’s claims that humans would expire at any level up to and even exceeding 1,200 ppm. Indeed submariners and astronauts survive much higher dosages with no ill effects.

Climate alarmists think that theory actually creates actions rather than explains them. Their theory can do neither!

Similarly Stephen Hawking invented a theory out of whole cloth which he claimed was ‘the Theory of Everything”. It was a deceptive way of avoiding his previous conclusion that the fine-tuning of the universe pointed inexorably to a Grand Designer. But he, like the AGW theorists failed in basic science in that their theories are not supported by observations.

Roger Penrose, Hawking’s one time close colleague, called Hawking’s TOE "just a nice idea”, nothing more. He went on to say, "It’s very far from any testability...it’s a collection of ideas, hopes, aspirations.” Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, said Penrose, "is a bit misleading. It gives you the impression of a theory that is going to explain everything; it’s nothing of the sort. It’s not even a theory” and "hardly science”.

The same could be said, and has been, by eminently insightful people, about AGW "science”. It has been created, not from sound observational science, but purely speculative, self-serving hubris masquerading as ‘science’. And the more they cling to their ideology through bullying and censorship the less and less credible they become in the eyes of reasonable people who carefully try to weigh all the evidence.

That is what I appreciate about Willis and others who work through the actual evidence and seek to come to reasonable and supported conclusions, all the while admitting there are vast areas of relevant science which we really do not yet know a whole lot.

There may indeed come a final climax to human civilization but it won’t come by accident, and the AGW theory certainly won’t make it happen.

Tim replies:

Jim Church you say "Roger Penrose, Hawking’s one time close colleague, called Hawking’s TOE "just a nice idea”' That's why the atheists in science are going after things like the Big Bang theory these days; they are an embarrassment to the claim the universe is self-created. If it has a beginning and an end it suggests there is a Creator. That's also why there are so many who support the Many Worlds hypothesis; it is a way out of the Anthropic Principle which argues the universe is designed for us, not the other way around. (The AP says that if even one condition here was slightly different life would be impossible, so the Many Worlds gets around it by postulating infinite numbers of universes each slightly different so it was inevitable one would exist that was capable of creating and supporting our kind of life.)

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1 For whatever it's worth, a thunderstorm most certainly does not arise spontaneously. It is created by a very specific set of circumstances and can be predicted with great precision.

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