A Case for Frozen Accidents
A Case for Frozen Accidents
Why Trusting in Science is Better than any New Age Hocus-pocus Creationist Conjecture
“Einstein once asked the question: ‘How much choice did God have in constructing the universe?’ …This, however, may not really have been all that much of a choice; there may well be only one, or a small number, of complete unified theories, such as the heterotic string theory, that are self-consistent and allow the existence of structures as complicated as human beings who can investigate the laws of the universe and ask about the nature of God.” –Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time)
Christians for centuries have argued for a very different universe than the example we see. Only recently have the failed predictions and presuppositions of Christianity caused theologians to offer ad hoc suppositions as to God’s actual intent when he designed the universe we do see. Facts cannot be made to fit theories, theories are based upon the facts. Yet this correction making to have the facts conform to the Creationist "theory" is the ultimate sign of a weakness and is entirely unnecessary if you take a naturalistic view of the universe. In this essay we will explore the reasons why the naturalistic view of the universe is correct and why the Christian hypothesis of the origins of both the cosmos and us is grossly inaccurate if not utterly wrong.
Not Good Enough: The Creationist Argument
Creationists have two basic causes, to deny (or otherwise attempt to destroy) Darwinism in all of its forms, and also, to ignore the laws of nature to support their unscientifically derived concept that God created the universe. Now both of these comments might sound like digs to the creationist who may, in fact, believe they are onto something when they say that “Something” had to put forth the initial energy which caused the big bang. For the Creationist the big bang goes hand in hand with the word of God, and what it says in the book of Genesis, Fiat Lux, or that God created light from nothingness. However, honest scientists like Michael Shermer, the author of Why Darwin Matters, have proven how ludicrous a claim this is considering what would have to hold true for the creationist argument in light of what is scientifically known.
For example, we know the Earth is roughly 4.54 billion years old, whereas the Young Earth Creationists cite Biblical genealogy from Adam onward to argue that the Earth is a paltry 6,000 some odd years old. Because the Bible is not consistent with what we do see in our current calculations, we know it is entirely inaccurate in at least one of its primary depictions of the world and universe we do live in. In reality, nothing in the Bible says exactly what it ought to in view of a universe created by God, or for that matter, in order for it to be consistent with the universe we actually scientifically can observer and be witness to.
In his short depiction of a scientific retelling of the biblical Genesis myth called “Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story,” Shermer exposes the copious contradictions surrounding the biblical claims of the origin of the universe in light of the known scientific evidence.
And God said, Let there be lots of fusion light makers in the sky. Some of these fusion makers He grouped into collections He called galaxies, and these appeared to be millions and even billions of light years from Earth, which would mean that they were created before the first creation in 4004 B.C. This was confusing, so God created tired light, and the creation story was preserved.[i]
Taking the Creationist train of thought, however, is to deny science and reason altogether. We know for certain that we could not possibly see the galaxies around us if God created the universe roughly 4000 B.C. since the light traveling from those far off distant stars would have yet to reach us. We know this because light has a finite speed,[ii] and so, we know that the Bible story cannot be an accurate portrait of the origin of the universe. Even as modern physics has only a theoretical model of what may have happened at the onset of the big bang we must realize this model is based off of observation of the viewable universe. Likewise, this is how we know the big bang (i.e. quantum fluctuations) has occurred.
Something from Nothingness
The American physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered what we might deem leftovers from the big bang in the form of microwave radiation in 1965, and together showed that an evenly distributed temperature, still in cooling, was spread throughout the universe. In turn, this discovery suggests that the universe once had a much hotter initial state. This discovery coincided with George Gamow’s earlier prediction that the universe formed from a hot dense state and has ever since been cooling down.
Along with these correlated observations, Edwin Hubble discovered as far back as 1929 that the distances from the viewer to far away galaxies were generally proportional to their redshifts (change in red light). To be precise, this means that the visible electromagnetic light emitted by nearby moving galaxies is continually shifting to the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and this observation indicates that all very distant galaxies and clusters have an apparent velocity moving away from our vantage point. This discovery showed us that the greater the redshift of a galaxy is, the faster it is moving away. Hubble’s study of the redshift of galaxies proved beyond a reason of a doubt that the observable galaxies were moving away from each other and picking up speed, and so too, proved the universe’s steady expansion.
Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe suggests that everything started from a more compact ultra dense, even infinitely dense state of hotly compressed matter and energy. Furthermore, the farther away a galaxy is from us the higher the apparent velocity is as it moves away from us. If the distance between galaxy clusters is increasing and moving further apart today, having done so for the entire age of the universe which is nearly 14 billion years old, then everything must have been closer together in the past. Discoveries like these lend credit to the idea that if you rewind the tape backwards through time you might see everything collapse into a hot initial pre-explosion of infinitely dense space and time. Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson, George Gamow, and Edwin Hubble’s observations work in tandem to accurately predict the initial singularity, aka quantum flux, which we know as the ‘big bang’ and, furthermore, suggest that this theory, in part, is a highly accurate model of how the universe likely began.
The Creationist claim of what caused the initial output of energy, however, is to say that it was the facilitating hand of God. This very well may be, it’s hypothetically plausible, although there is no evidence for it, and so to argue that God sparked the universe into being is to argue a farfetched theory. As any physicist would point out, anything before the initial big bang event cannot be accurately known since it is outside of our current knowledge and understanding; but perhaps not indefinitely. Beyond the big bang singularity, however, answers are currently on the sparse end, and the job of science is to offer theories based on evidence and observation, not speculation. This doesn’t mean we don’t have good physics models to rely on which do seem to describe the universe as we see it, like heterotic M-theory and the ekpyrotic and Cyclic universe models which point to an exciting new area of cosmology not yet fully understood.
Closing the Gaps and Breaking Down the Design
This limitation to see past the point where time begins is where Creationists will gladly cite that since it is impossible to prove what caused the big bang singularity, and the ensuing inflation, they like to insist that science cannot prove (or disprove) God’s existence—hoping this gap in understanding alone will strengthen their God hypothesis. This is also called the God of the gaps argument. Once Creationists feel comfortable in assuming science can go no further they like to designate a divine agent, or artificer, and offer a supernatural cause allowing them to leap to the preemptive conclusion that since the universe as we know it exists, and is seemingly full of design with function and purpose, that this is evidence for positing the theory of a divine intelligent agent--e.g. a Creator.
William Paley was one of the first to articulate the implications of finding the appearance of design all around us in nature in his 1802 work Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature, positing the idea that if you were walking along the beach one day and saw a clock watch lying on the ground, that one would instantly recognize it as being something purposefully designed, distinguishable from a rock which lacks the appearance of intended design. This gives us the oft mentioned argument from design.
From here creationists often suggest that the outwardly appearance of various facets found in nature ostensibly look designed, and this underlying pattern which seemingly holds everything together is evidence for “intelligent design,” which is in turn evidence enough for believing that there must have been an intelligent designer. But here is where the logic leap error occurs, because creationist advocates undeniably go one step further in asserting that it couldn’t have all just spontaneously come about at random, and so imply that God must have created it all, thus inserting the pseudoscience of “Intelligent Design,” or ID for short. Often goes ignored, however, is the fact that design must be proved, and moreover proved not to have arisen from natural causes, before a designer can be inferred.
But ID is not really a new theory (if you can even consider it a theory since theories are based off evidence--not the other way around like IDers claim), as the argument from design also known as the teleological argument, has been around for ages. But to assert that it was God, and leave it at that, fails to explain anything else, especially that which we do know about, and is clearly not reliant upon genuine science.
The physicist Victor Stenger, and outspoken nonbeliever, suggests we brush up on our scientific prowess before simply arriving at the unfounded conclusion that design necessitates divine agency. In his book God The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, Stenger makes the rejoinder:
In his beautifully illustrated book The Self-Made Tapestry, Philip Ball gives many examples of pattern formation in nature that should provide a strong antidote for those who still labor under the delusion that mindless natural processes are unable to account for the complex world we see around us. The fact that many patterns observed in biological systems are also present in nonliving systems and can be understood in terms of elementary, reductionist physics also should provide an antidote for those who still labor under the delusion that special holistic or nonreductive processes are needed to account for the complexity of life.[iii]
Since all science stems from observation and attempts to make sense of the universe, and by experiment show how the laws of physics apply and hold true—even as the universe seems more and more chaotic and random than initially thought, we are slowly sewing up the gaps, and the patterns which are coming together, show no signs of divine tampering.
The Intelligent Design Controversy
The scientist Jerry Coyne of Chicago University, and author of Why Evolution is True, has stated, “Intelligent Design, or ID, is a modern form of creationism cleverly constructed to circumvent the many court decisions that have banned, on First Amendment grounds, the teaching of religious views in the science classroom.”[iv] Modern science and physics is our best proof that ID is actually unintelligent wishful thinking.
Ordinary believers rarely delve into the real world of science because to do so would enlighten them on many things they think they already know, only to prove they are still lacking the crucial answers required in justifying their claims. For example, creationists never ask the question: what if the apparent design we see in creation actually comes from nothingness, or rather, from chaos and complete randomness? I feel they avoid this question because it would be contrary to their faith-based convictions, and so their faith gets in the way of any objective pursuit of the truth. Yet, in proving the randomness of the universe ID would naturally be refuted, and thus would be a failed concept which should be abandoned.
In disproving ID we need not look any further than my own favorite example of Fractal Geometry and the mathematical equation: zn+1 = zn2 + c as discovered by Benoît B. Mandelbrot (1924). There are many alternate theories as to why we see design in the universe, after all we are pattern seekers trying to fill in the gaps and find meaning in a sea of never ending lacunae, but this one equation is intriguing to me mainly because it shows that out of random chaos we are able to get substantial patterns.
To elaborate, consider that during the winter solstice when the earth’s axial tilt is pointed away from the sun, out of the chaotic thermal currents swirling above, icy winter winds with fluctuating temperatures form, and if the precipitation and temperature meet the right prerequisites and all the conditions fall into place, we can get a pristine snowflake. With its brilliant architecture and beautifully display of intricacy of pattern and flawless symmetry, to the naked eye, a snow flake is seemingly designed when examined up close. It would be easy to see how a religious person who believes in superstitious claims, and lacks the crucial scientific knowledge, could jump to the conclusion that these patterns denote deliberate design without ever realizing that, coincidentally, such patterns as found in the snow flake are revealed by the above equation to actually come out of the lack of intended design. The appearance of design, quintessentially, can form naturally and unintentionally without the imposition of having to manifest a complex deity of vast intelligence and cosmically acute artistic skill.
Mandelbrot’s electronic research at IBM in the late 1950’s ultimately led to a great breakthrough summarized by the abovementioned simple mathematical formula, the Mandelbrot Set (named after its inventor), which some say is the greatest discovery in twentieth century mathematics.[v] It is significant to understand that this formula could not have been discovered without the aid of modern computers (probably the reason for why it is unaccounted for in the book of Genesis when God supposedly created it all by “design”). Speaking on the irregular roughness of objects seen in nature, such as snowflakes, clouds, and the pattern of lighting, and applied to cosmology as an alternative explanation which adequately addresses the Olbers’ Paradox (of why in an infinitely dense starry filled universe we see a “dark night sky” at all),[vi] we learn from the indispensably useful resource Wikipedia, that:
Before Mandelbrot, they had been regarded as isolated curiosities with unnatural and non-intuitive properties. Mandelbrot brought these objects together for the first time and turned them into essential tools for the long-stalled effort to extend the scope of science to non-smooth objects in the real world. He highlighted their common properties, such as self-similarity (linear, non-linear, or statistical), scale invariance, and a (usually) non-integer Hausdorff dimension… He also emphasized the use of fractals as realistic and useful models of many “rough” phenomena in the real world. Natural fractals include the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies; and Brownian motion. Fractals are found in human pursuits, such as music, painting, architecture, and stock market prices.[vii]
Decidedly, I feel this revelation complicates matters for the existence of any grand intelligent designer—one which instead of orchestrating the universe into being, as Theists like to argue, instead deliberately chose random chaos as the vehicle for bringing about stable patterns in the design we see all around us—all the while knowing we would never discover his magnificent work unless we could eventually design and assemble modern day computer processors (which is not what religious holy books tend to say on their assurance that God is real or that he created it all). That’s assuming we know the quirky mathematical preferences of a divine being, and so is assuming more than we can really know. In reality, the basic fact is that humans are born to see patterns in the world—we’re psychologically hard wired to seek out patterns, connect the dots, and see things that aren’t there.
Haven’t believers been overstating this creationist bent for decades without any real foundation to stand on? And now that there is amassing evidence that the design found in nature may simply be an illusion, that the cosmos is truly sporadic, IDers (conveniently) change their tune on an ad hoc basis? It’s clear that most ID proponents could use a lesson in logic: Faith is not to fact as randomness is not to design.
Meanwhile, the Mandelbrot set is a dynamic calculation based on the iteration (calculation based on constant feedback) of complex numbers with zero as the starting point. The order behind the chaotic production of numbers created by the formula zn+1 = zn2 + c can only be seen by the computer calculation and graphic portrayal of these numbers. Otherwise, without the aid of the speedy micro processors and the Pentium chip, the formula appears to generate a totally random and meaningless set of numbers. It is only when millions of computations are perfunctorily executed and plotted on a two dimensional plane, such as your flat panel computer screen at home, that the hidden geometric order of the Mandelbrot set is revealed.
The amazing thing is that the Mandelbrot set is only one tool of many which can explain why we perceive patterns in everyday life and, simultaneously, lends to our mathematical and scientific understanding of some of the heretofore secret workings of nature. For example, we know that fractal forms are also found in the human body. The best known example is the self-similar tree-like branching of the arteries and veins and capillaries in mammalian vascular systems. Not only this, but through Fractal Geometry we understand for the first time why when two trees growing next to each other in the forest at the same time from the same stock with the same genes will still end up uniquely distinct. They will be similar to be sure, but never identical.
Similarly, even though a snow flake looks entirely designed when viewed up close, we know every snow flake falling from the same cloud at the same time under identical conditions is still unique, different from all of the rest, formed from random variables of climate and temperature and wind speed. This is only possible because of the infinity which lies in the dimensions and the interplay of chance—in other words—of unpredictable chaos.
In his science heavy book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dan Dennett asserts:
We began with a somewhat childish vision of an anthropomorphic, Handicrafter God, and recognized that this idea, taken literally, was well on the road to extinction. When we looked through Darwin’s eyes at the actual processes of design of which we and all the wonders of nature are the products to date, we found that Paley was right to see these effects as the result of a lot of design work, but we found a non-miraculous account of it: a massively parallel, and hence prodigiously wasteful, process of mindless, algorithmic design-trying, in which, however, the minimal increments of design have been thriftily husbanded, copied and re-used over billions of years. The wonderful particularity of individuality of the creation was due, not to Shakespearean inventive genius, but to the incessant contributions of chance, a growing sequence of what Crick has called “frozen accidents.”[viii]
Nature, it would seem, does a fine job of explaining the discernible design we find in the universe. As such, adding the imposing intellect of a supreme Handicrafter only seems to complicate the ID theory, since science can explain design in multiple ways and none of it requires an all powerful mind. This revelation diminishes the argument for ID, if not flat out steamrolls it into the ground. If the God of Intelligent Design theory was the grand Creator of the universe, then there would have to be better evidence of his “creating capacity” and “tinkering” than the possibility of “design,” which has already been accounted for and explained away by scientific means.
Intelligent Design, and of course Creationism, seems to offer little more than denial lacking in all tangible proof, if you ask me. The only way a person can honestly deny the scientific evidence, throw away all the confirmations and proofs, and suggest science is mistaken is if they lie to themselves and convince themselves that the science is somehow faulty. Well, the science isn’t, but ID certainly is. Faulty, not only because it throws out the baby with the bathwater, but also because it then chooses to theorize a hypothetical supernatural agent deity, an intelligent one non-the-less, in place of all the real evidence they have discriminatorily tossed out. This is what we call a folie à deux process of theology.
To simplify the problem we must ask: where is the evidence for their Intelligent Designer? Their answer is: the design we see all around us in the universe. Design, let’s not forget, which is begotten out of the random chaos of the universe and has already been proved to arise naturally via scientific methods. Thus the ID argument is back where is started, either needing to prove God another way or wear itself out going in circles until it becomes so tired out everyone gives up on it—which, I think, would be the sensible thing to do.[ix]
To Be or Not to Be: Not Really a Question
Given what we do know the evidence supported by modern sciences, such as the current fields of cosmology, astronomy, molecular biology, medicine and so on, we find there is some design, although not specifically always, in the known universe. This idea of arbitrary design spontaneously springing up, viewed as accidental coincidences after billions upon billions of failed tries not only agrees with the Darwinian theory of Evolution, but also, fits the recent premises proposed by leading cosmologists. Therefore, there is no reason to assume the origin of the cosmos wasn’t also an entirely random act, yet to come to any consensus we must look towards the findings of modern day astronomers, physicists, and cosmologists.
Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, proposes that where the universe began quantum theory of gravity suggests there would be no boundary to space-time. The no boundary model, developed by Hawking and James Hartle suggests that, as Hawking informs, “One could say: ‘The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.’ The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE,”[x] and that, “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end; it would simply be. What place then, for a creator?”[xi]
Even as the beginning of all things still proves to be a difficulty for the physicist, although perhaps not indefinitely, Stephen Hawking brings up one final point worth considering, when he ponders:
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws.[xii]
The First Cause
Obviously the excuse that because the universe exits it must have had a Creator, which exists, also known as The Kalâm Cosmological Argument first proposed by William Lange Craig, is not a good enough foundation to stand on as it so easily crumples under scrutiny and is crushed by the weight of existing knowledge.[xiii] The Kalâm Cosmological Argument is a contemporary version of the cosmological argument which attempts to prove the existence of God by appealing to the principle of universal causality. Similar arguments are found in the theologies of Judaism and Christianity where it is known as the “uncaused cause” or “first cause” argument. But at best this argument, a favorite of Theists, is simply an illusion of explanatory depth. In actuality, the Kalâm Cosmological Argument only offers a Perseity Loop, i.e. God alone is supposed to be describable as per se esse, that is, existing out of his or her own inner necessity. This form of thinking stems from Aquinas, who believed that God was ‘quod est per se, simper est prius eo quod est per aliud’—that which is per se is always prior to that which depends upon something else. Yet there are inherent faults to this form of reasoning. The evolutionary psychologist Bruce M. Hood has stated, “A human mind that links events in this way is always in danger of committing the mistake of post hoc, ergo propter hoc: “after this, therefore because of this,””[xiv] which is exactly what Craig has incidentally done, whether he realizes it or not. But such reasoning, for me, is not enough to establish the belief in a creator being, let alone a God, since all it has done is turn God into a semantic paradox: Creation exists therefore the Creator who created it must exist. So we can’t say the universe exists because of God, or claim that God exists because the universe does, this is circular logic—and it is faulty because it is contrary to what the real evidence reveals.
The truth of the matter is there is just not enough evidence to claim that God, or some supreme creator being, caused it all. This is going outside of what the evidence allows for, and it ignores the quidditative knowledge found in modern physics and cosmology, according to which the universe began creatio ex nihilo, from nothing, everything is made.[xv]
So if God didn’t create the universe, then what did? Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, authors of Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang—Rewriting Cosmic History, present a bold new theory which suggests that what we commonly think of as the moment of creation, the big bang and the consequent inflationary expansion, was simply part of an infinite cycle of immense periodic collisions between our universe and other parallel ones (part of modern Brane cosmology) in which the universe follows infinite, self-sustaining cycles.
Both distinguished theoretical physicists, who helped establish the big bang theory as the standard model, recount the remarkable developments in astronomy, particle physics, and superstring theory that form the basis for their groundbreaking up-to-the-minute “Cyclic Universe” theory. According to this theory, the big bang was not the beginning of time but the bridge to a past filled with endlessly repeating cycles of evolution, each accompanied by the creation of new matter and the formation of new galaxies, stars, and planets. Each time one of these myriad of microcosms consisting of multi-dimensional universes, called membranes, existing like wafting energy blankets, slam into one another an entirely new big bang occurs and a new universe is created.
Unlike the religious theories which are invulnerable to disproof, since their claims remain outside of the natural universe, and so remain irrefutable—a clear sign of rigid unimaginative weakness—this radical theory that the cosmos is brought forth by an endless series of cyclic cataclysms and crashes (literally a string of “big bangs”) lends credence to the idea that there is a constant generating and re-generating of matter and energy (re-cycling perhaps?) going on in the universe if not among multiple universes. In other words, the infinite initiator agent which is at work endlessly recycling energy and recreating everything in existence is the universe itself!
The fact that “Cyclic model” may resolve some unification issues between the standard model of physics and quantum theory seems to lend it the credence of being that much more believable.[xvi] This theory has, at least, the distinct honor of being testable and so too refutable—making it the stronger hypothesis. No matter how outwardly science-fiction like such a hypothesis might seem to us, it at least benefits from fitting the observable facts, relies on genuine science, real mathematical equations, and explains away more problems than it creates. As such, the “Cyclic Universe” theory suggests the cosmos may have had no one particular creator agent, but rather, is constantly being recreated by its own agency, and the heat death of the universe via entropy is not a bitter cold end, but a new beginning. So while we know the universe had a beginning in the big bang singularity, the nature of that beginning continues to remain mysterious and illusive.
Fine Tuning or just Tuned Right?
From here, feeling the tension of their strained arguments, such as the first cause argument or Kalâm Cosmological argument, as proposed by William Lane Craig, we move onto the “fine-tuning” argument, a favorite among believers and Christian apologists such as the Creationist Hugh Ross. The physicist Victor Stenger, and author of Has Science Found God? and God: The Failed Hypothesis, describes the fine-tuning argument like this:
Believers also often ask how the universe itself can have appeared, why there is something rather than nothing, how the laws of nature and human reason could possibly have arisen—all without the action of a supreme being who transcends the world of space, time, and matter.[xvii]
The fine tuning argument advocates that the precision tuned nature of the universe, the laws and constants of physics being “fine-tuned” just so to bring about and contain life, is due to the conscious involvement of a “tuner,” e.g. God, or as Dan Dennett calls it, a Handicrafter. Well, this argument is absurd on the face of it, for a couple of reasons. First, it is implying super-paranormal causes as performed by a supernatural agent, or God, i.e. a “fine-tuner” Handicrafter, before even establishing the existence of such a Handicrafter. As such, the argument only complicates matters and should be rejected on the basis that even if it supplied a good enough theory in order for that theory to be possible the Handicrafter would have to be proven to exist. Yet since most of us know this is probably impossible to do, it stems to reason that the theory no matter how good, will not be adequate enough to get the job done. The inference of a Handicrafter or “fine-tuner” is only added speculation and ultimately fails the test before it has ever had a chance to begin.
Secondly, the premise of the universe needing a Handicrafter to tune it just so that life would exist is grossly inaccurate according to what we do know about the nature of our universe, and not only this, but by the nature of the proposition for a “fine-tuner” it clearly suggest the person positing the argument is in need of a better scientific education on the work which has already been done for a well rounded understanding of the way the cosmos functions.
Work such as that of Alan Boss, author of The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets, an astrophysicist working on the Kepler mission with NASA in the field of stellar planetary system formation, suggests that super-Earths and extrasolar planets are extremely familiar. Boss hypothesizes that Earth-like planets are likely even more abundant than Michelle Mayor’s observed 30% statistic for known super-Earths in systems with suns similar to our own and with planets residing in the coveted “Goldilocks Zone,” where it’s not too hot or too cold, but just right to sustain life.
In other words, the “fine-tuning” argument only works for theists when it suggests somehow that life is rare, uncommon, precious, or sacred enough to the point where such a holy status of existence couldn’t be possible without the gift of divine grace, the will of God. But such a conclusion only shows a paramount bias, and reveals a lack of understanding about the real universe while imposing religious interpretations onto the mundane. This sort of thinking has always been with us, it is what begets superstitious myth in the first place.
Men and women with little to no scientific knowledge, if superstitious, posit supernatural causes where none rightly exist. We’ve heard such suggestions before, including the common tale of the island natives becoming dreadfully fearful when a volcano explodes wiping out their entire village. Who wouldn’t be distraught by such a vicious, unpredictable, act of devastation? But without the proper scientific know how, the islanders looking for answers, yet unable to discover any, become weary and resort to falling back on superstition. After all, roasting a pig and sacrificing a goat seemed to settle the grumbling volcano last time. Low and behold, they tossed the kicking and screaming kid into the fiery molten lava and the volcanic turbulence ceased.
Predictably, when the superstitious tribe’s people deduce it must have been an angry god causing their volcanic woes, supposing they have done something to anger the all mighty being they decide the only way to appease this temperamental god is to offer up another blood sacrifice. And so, to ensure it works again, they readily prepare to sacrifice an even greater bounty, perhaps an innocent young virgin girl, just to appease their angry volcano puffing deity. But this is the exact sort of reasoning which is insufficient, archaic, and looks downright silly in today’s modern world.
Every day we are discovering that life, however uncommon, is frequent and statistically speaking, exists almost everywhere in our universe.[xviii] The cosmos is jam packed with it—and although life remains precious, it’s not logically feasible to presume, as the religious do, that it was all “fine-tuned” by a supreme being because (they think) this entity had us in mind. This is projecting religious assumptions onto a perfectly straight forward fact—the universe functions as it should, properly, with no strings (or gods) attached.
The religious argument for God creating the universe is null and void, not only because it creates more questions than it can possibly answer, but also, it doesn’t rely on any observable or empirical evidence; and so cannot be adequately tested; and therefore is not subject to critical analysis perchance to be refuted. What can be said about the God theory versus the wild scientific theories bordering on the realm of science fiction? Namely that, God theories all too often reside in the realm of fantasy—not scientific reality—making it all but impossible to suspend belief in God when all the evidence points the other way or is out of our reach altogether. It’s a non-theory, so it is a non-argument.
So, if we were to have to choose right now between having faith in non-scientific fluff (supreme-supernatural-creator-beings and extra-dimensional minds with us in mind) equivalent to pure fantasy, or else, put our faith into genuine theories based off real physics, perhaps science-fiction but maybe not, I should think that where the science outweighs the fiction the choice is plainly obvious. No matter how farfetched the theory, I feel it would be the more prudent choice to side with the theory which is best supported by the available evidence and which has the best chance of being refuted. In this case: theoretical physics, such as string theory, membrane cosmology and other active areas of cosmological research, are the better bet. Betting on God is like betting on a losing horse only after the race has begun. Only a frivolous gambling addict with no common sense and bad judgment would lay a wager on a virtually done deal against his own favor. It makes no logical sense to bet on God being a designer or creator for this reason.
Science offers far better models which describe in precise terms how we came into existence naturally, and answers our deep questions of why and how life came to be, without the added problems, conflicts, and inconsistencies supposing the unnecessary existence of a creator being brings. And by this virtue we can be confident that God doesn’t exist. Victor Stenger appeals to our common sense when he accurately sums it up:
In short, according to our best current cosmological understanding, our universe began with no structure or organization, designed or otherwise. It was a state of chaos… We are thus forced to conclude that the complex order we now observe could not have been the result of any initial design built into the universe at the so called creation. The universe preserves no record of what went on before the big bang. The Creator, if he existed, left no imprint. Thus he might as well have been nonexistent.[xix]
The Bible can’t explain how order came out of chaos, nor can any holy book, so to side with the religious opinion that it is all part of God’s design, without any evidence of this supposed design, is to embrace ignorance. In order to learn such truths we must look toward science and books such as Stenger’s The Comprehensible Cosmos and Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee’s book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. Uncommon does not, however, mean the same as miraculous. Yet even this presumption that life is rare in the universe might be a wee bit hasty. With the recent discovery of the amino acid glycine, a key building block in the formation of life, recovered from the tail of the comet Wild 2 by the NASA spacecraft Stardust from deep within our solar system, we can be sure this evidence strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare.
Indeed, we should all feel lucky that we have won the lottery and have ended up on this pale blue dot in the corner of the cosmos which can support life, much more still, be aware of it. Instead of pretending to know we had the winning ticket all along, as religious types never get tired of professing, we could exercise a little more intellectual honesty and admit that we are just as pleasantly surprised as the next person that we hit the jackpot. In so doing, I think you’ll find that we never have to assume God is behind any of it to feel the awesome sense of gratitude for our existence.
 Archbishop Ussher of Ireland, between 1625 and 1656, calculated the Universe was created on the nightfall proceeding the 23rd of October 4004 B.C.E. by counting the Biblical Davidic genealogies back to Adam. Although this particular scientific reasoning of counting human generations, excluding the fact that the premise of the calculation was in fact not quite right, is highly outmoded as it neglects all the other bloodlines and genetic ties of humans which existed centuries before the Biblical King David, and so could not have been listed in the Bible, nor does Ussher’s method include estimated life expectancies for each generation according to their corresponding time periods.
[i] See: Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, New York, W. W. Norton, 2001.
[ii] In imperial units, the speed of light is about 670,616,629.4 miles per hour (roughly one foot per nanosecond), which is equivalent to 186,282.397 miles per second. In a more common unit of the standard metric system, the speed of light is about 1,079,252,848 km/h (just over a billion km/h). Astronomical distances are sometimes measured in light-years (the distance that light would travel in one Earth year), because light travels at a quick but finite speed, it takes time for light to cover large distances.
An important note to keep in mind is that the light from distant objects in the universe was emitted from them long ago. In effect, an observer at a large distance sees a star or galaxies’ distant past. Even the light from our own sun takes just a fraction over eight minutes to reach the Earth. A pessimist might ponder, if the light from the sun were to cease at this instant, inexplicably distinguished, we would not know about it here on Earth for several minutes afterward. That means we could lie on the beach basking in the sun getting nice and baked for eight full minutes even without the existence of our sun!
[iii] Victor Stenger, God the Failed Hypothesis, p. 61
[iv] See: Jerry Coyne, “The Great Mutator,” The New Republic, available online at the Foundation for Reason & Science: http://richarddawkins.net/print.php?id=1271
[v] See: “The Wisdom of Fractal Geometry,” available online:
[vi] Olbers’ Paradox, as described by the German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers in 1823, is the argument that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the supposition of an infinite and eternal static universe (this is the Biblical depiction of the universe as well). Interestingly enough the first thinker to adequately articulate the failings of Olbers’ Paradox was the American Poet Edgar Allan Poe. Poe effectively solved the night sky riddle in 1848, when he observed in his essay Eureka: A Prose Poem:
Were the succession of stars endless, then the background of the sky would present us a uniform luminosity, like that displayed by the Galaxy –since there could be absolutely no point, in all that background, at which would not exist a star. The only mode, therefore, in which, under such a state of affairs, we could comprehend the voids which our telescopes find in innumerable directions, would be by supposing the distance of the invisible background so immense that no ray from it has yet been able to reach us at all.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Eureka: A Prose Poem” (also called: Eureka: An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe) is available for free online at: http://books.eserver.org/poetry/poe/eureka.html
[vii] To learn about Fractals and the Mandelbrot set visit Wikipedia, online:
[viii] Dan Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, p. 184
[ix] Speaking of throwing out Intelligent Design theory, Judge John E. Jones dismissed the Creationist’s case to get “ID” into Dover Pennsylvania public school systems in 2005, when he ruled that “intelligent design” is not only unscientific, but is designed to inveigle a religious view of life into the biology classroom as a doctrine based firmly on religious convictions. See: The case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District et. Al.
[x] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p.151
[xi] Ibid., p.140-141
[xii] Ibid., p.156-157
[xiii] The Physicist Victor Stenger has pointed out Craig’s incorrect assumptions and wrong physics which Craig still refuses to correct. This makes me question Craig’s true motives, because it is not objective, or for that matter scientific, to simply let errors lay because you disagree with the real conclusions. In order for Craig’s theory to even be considered, he has to at least be in tune with what the facts say, and to refuse to amend his errors simply because he wants to win a few debates makes him completely unreliable, in my estimation.
[xv] Distinguished Physicist Lawrence Krauss, Associate Director of the Beyond Center, co-director of the Cosmology Initiative, and the director New Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, talks about the origins of the universe in this insightful video:
[xvi] So far there is no evidence to support such a theory as a “creator being” or deity with a thinking mind, and there should be no confusion about the nature of agency or whether the cause behind the cause of the universe is an intelligent mind of any kind. It’s highly unlikely, but for that small percent chance which religious believers like to quibble over, I like to juxtapose their “Intelligent Design” theories with my opposing theory of “Cognitive Space Whales Hypothesis,” i.e. intergalactic whales wafting through the multiverse and purposefully crashing into each other to create life and new universes. Such a hypothesis is an equally viable claim to any perceived ‘intelligent designing’ and should satisfy the religious demand to know what caused the initial cause (although somehow I doubt they’ll take my word for it). My own “Cognitive Space Whales Hypothesis,” is of course, unashamedly derived from the current, albeit highly controversial, membrane cosmology and what we can know about the universe at the sub atomic level using Quantum Mechanics.
For more on Membrane cosmology, as well as String Theory and Quantum mechanics, please see Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok’s Endless Universe. Also feel free to check out Lisa Randall’s mind bending book Warped Passages, and John Polkinghorne’s Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction.
[xvii] Victor Stenger, God the Failed Hypothesis, p. 48
[xviii] Note: I don’t wish to confuse the reader by stating life is uncommon but frequent. Life is uncommon, meaning rare, unique, and splendid. But the probability of life occurring in our universe, according to most cosmologists’ estimates, is actually quite high. And we are currently looking for it with surprising results with the Hubble, Kepler, and Web satellite telescopes. One might contend this is the same thing as being common, except for the fact that the universe is so vast that detecting life becomes a challenge, sort of like detecting a needle in a hay stack. Also, because of the universe’s rate of expansion, the occurrence of life is getting stretched out over and infinite landscape, and so becomes even harder to detect as more time passes.
[xix] Ibid. , p.121