Today I want to continue the series on “Does God exist”. Last week we looked at the question of causality and more specifically; what caused the universe to come into being. The conclusion was that it’s not an illusion and, it’s can’t be self-created as a thing cannot be ontologically prior to itself. The main two options we covered was whether the universe is eternal and self-existent or whether it was created or caused by someone/something else that is eternal and self-existent. In the end, atheists concluded that they don’t know as the proposed natural explanations such as Plane or Multiverse cosmology, eternal universe, etc doesn't carry any evidence to support them and some also accepted the possibility of a deity. Christians concluded that it was a supernatural cause, being God, who created the universe and the laws that govern it.
Today I want to take a deeper look at observations and evidence that lead us closer to what/who this uncaused cause of the universe is.
Would you say that Mount Rushmore was created by wind, rain, and time? Or that arrow heads discovered in the sand were the result of water and erosion? Or that cave drawings and painting were the result of some natural means…just some lines on a cave wall formed naturally over time?
The truth is that we instinctively recognise marks of intelligence and can differentiate an intelligent cause from a natural cause. So how do we recognise intelligence? Well the central principle in forensic science is the “Principle of Uniformity”, which states that causes and effects in the past are like causes and effects observed today. By the Principle of Uniformity, we assume that an intelligent effect is the result of an intelligent cause.
Thomas Aquinas said the following “Every agent acts for an end, even natural agents. Now what acts for an end manifests intelligence. But natural agents have no intelligence of their own. Therefore, they are directed to their end by some Intelligence.”
Aquina’s first premise is simply the self-evident principle of finality. The second premise states that all things move to some end. The third premise says whatever lacks intelligence must be directed by intelligence, as an arrow is towards a target. The conclusion follows that all things are directed by some intelligence.
So we need to identify intelligence at the right level. For example, is a fully robotic assembly line not a work of intelligence simply because no humans are present? No, the intelligence is just one step removed. The same can be said of the many biological micro-machines present in life.
Let’s take a look at the Teleological (design) argument for God:
The argument states that the universe and humankind exhibit marks of intelligence and design.
1) Behind every complex design is a designer.
2) The universe has a complex design.
3) Therefore, the universe has a designer.
So the key question is “does the universe exhibit design?”
Most atheists answer “Yes, but…”
Richard Dawkins said “Living objects . . . look designed; they look overwhelmingly as though they’re designed. Biology is the study of complicated things which give the impression of having been designed for a purpose.”
“It seems to me that Richard Dawkins constantly overlooks the fact that Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” Anthony Flew, who was a former outspoken atheist.
Listen to what Francis Crick, a molecular biologist and neuroscientist and also one of the co-discoverers of DNA, said “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
“Darwinian biologists must keep repeating that reminder to themselves because otherwise they might become conscious of the reality that is staring them in the face and trying to get their attention.” Phillip Johnson, Berkley Law Professor.
Let’s take a look at two key pieces of evidence for an intelligent designer:
1) The Fine Tuning Argument (or Anthropic Principle).
2) Specified Complexity.
The Fine Tuning Argument:
Sometimes called “The Goldilocks Effect” and “Anticipatory Design”, it purposes that the fundamental constants and quantities of nature fall into an exquisitely narrow range of values which render our universe life-permitting. It states that if these constants and quantities were altered by even a hair’s breadth, the delicate balance would be upset and life could not exist. It also argues that the naturalist proposal of time + matter + change is insufficient to explain the conditions we find that support life.
A few examples of fine tuning:
- Oxygen currently makes up 21 percent of the atmosphere. Were it 25 percent, fires would erupt everywhere and if it were 15 percent, humans would suffocate.
- If gravity was altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, the sun would not exist and the moon would crash into earth.
- If the centrifugal force of planetary movements did not precisely balance the gravitational forces, nothing could be held in orbit around the sun.
- If the universe was expanding at a rate one millionth more slowly than it is, the temperature on earth would be 10,000 degrees.
- If Jupiter was not exactly where it is, earth would be bombarded by space material that would threaten life on the planet.
- If the thickness of the earth’s crust was greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life, and if it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life impossible.
- The axis of the earth is set so carefully that, if it were altered ever so slightly, surface temperatures of the earth would be far too great.
- If water vapor levels in the atmosphere were greater than they are now, a runaway greenhouse effect would cause temperatures to rise far too high on the planet – life would die out. And if they were less, an insufficient greenhouse effect would make the earth too cold to support life.
- Many more…about 122 at last count!
What are the odds?
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has calculated that the odds of all anthropic constants and quantities (122 at last count) to be in place for any planet in the universe by luck alone to be one chance in ten with 138 zeros after it. This number becomes even more incredible when one realizes there are only 1070 atoms in the entire universe. Mathematicians point out that anything which exceeds 1050 power is the exact same thing as zero chance (mathematical law of probability).
So what are the possible explanations for fine tuning?:
- Physical Necessity – not possible as the cosmological constants exist outside of the environment. The constants and quantities could be different; they don’t have to be what they are.
- Chance – exceeds any mathematical possibility. As for the multi-verse, no empirical data exists to confirm its existence.
- Intelligent Designer – best answer for an appeal to best explanation. Only ruled out by atheists because of anti-supernatural worldview.
Stephen Hawking said “The initial configuration of the universe” appears to have been “very carefully chosen.”
Arno Penzias, a Nobel Laureate scientist said “In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.”
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections", Annual Reviews of Astonomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982), 16.
“In my view, the question of origin seems to be left unanswered if we explore from a scientific view alone. Thus, I believe there is a need for some religious or metaphysical explanation. I believe in the concept of God and in His existence.” Charles Townes, Nobel lauriate, quoted by Henry F. Schaeffer III in "Steven Hawking, the Big Bang, and God", 1994
The Specified Complexity Argument:
It argues that nature and life (e.g. human beings) contain the imprint of an intelligent cause, with evidence such as DNA bearing the marks of a Designer; it purposes that life is encoded with information that demonstrates an intelligent cause.
Atheists like Darwinist Richard Dawkins admit that the message found in just the cell nucleus of an amoeba is more than all thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The entire amoeba itself has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The important thing to understand here is that the makeup of these entities is not random, but instead the information is highly organized.
Richard Dawkins said “What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, warm breath, nor a ‘spark of life’. It is information, words, instructions…. Think of a billion discrete digital characters.... If you want to understand life think about information technology.”
Very quickly…what is the difference between “data” and “information”; well, an example would be the difference between the alphabet (data) and Moby Dick (information). Information is “organized data”.
“Ask anybody what the physical world is made of, and you are likely to be told "matter and energy." Yet if we have learned anything from engineering, biology and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient.” Scientific American, July 2003.
“If you’re trying to explain an event in the remote past you should rely on our knowledge of the cause/effect structure of the world and you should be looking for a cause that has the capability or power to produce the known effect in question. . . . Darwin’s mentor Charles Lyell . . . put it this way: ‘In investigating the past we should be looking for causes now in operation’. Now as to Information and intelligence: What is the cause now in operation of digital information? That is intelligence. By using Darwin’s own principle of reasoning, we can use an inference to the best explanation: intelligence produces information.” Stephen Meyer
“At first approximation, one can therefore think of DNA as an instructional script, a software program, sitting in the nucleus of the cell. Its coding language has only four letters (or two bits, in computer terms). A particular instruction known as a gene, is made up of hundreds or thousands of letters of code.” Francis Collins
So DNA resembles software design.
Herbert Yockey, a non-theist biologies, said “It is important to understand that we are not reasoning by analogy [with DNA]. The sequence hypothesis applies directly to the protein and the genetic text as well as to written language and therefore the treatment is mathematically identical.”
So DNA is mathematically identical to a language, and what language has ever risen without an intelligent cause? So DNA bears the mark of an Intelligent Cause.
“Investigations of many organisms, from bacteria to humans, revealed that this ‘genetic code’, by which information in DNA and RNA is translated into protein, is universal in all known organisms. No tower of Babel was to be allowed in the language of life. . . . How deeply satisfying is the digital elegance of DNA!” Francis Collins
Dean Kenyon, a biophysicist, said “If science is based on [evidential] experience, then science tells us that the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. What kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist.”
“Is it not to be wondered at that our archaeologist immediately infers intelligent origin when faced with a few simple scratches whereas some scientists, when faced with the 3.5 billion letter sequence of the human genome, inform us that it is to be explained solely in terms of chance and necessity?” John Lennox
Interestingly, when you look at the view along the axis of the DNA Double Helix, it resembles the Rose Window in York Minster. Yet atheists will assert an intelligent designer for the former, but fight it for the latter.
Astronomer Alan Sandage concluded that “the world is too complicated in all of its parts to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception. The more one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some kind of organizing principle—an architect...”
Anthony Flew, a former outspoken atheist, said “I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.”