Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crap-Shoot of Weighty and Starry Existence

God Cannot be Derived from the Cosmological Argument or Argument from Design

An intelligent Christian blogger I often come across online, ran by a quote which he found and put to me:

Why not consider the possibility that life is what it so evidently seems to be, the product of creative intelligence? Science would not come to an end, because the task would remain of deciphering the languages in which genetic information is communicated, and in general finding out how the whole system works. What scientists would lose is not an inspiring research program, but the illusion of total mastery of nature. They would have to face the possibility that beyond the natural world there is a further reality which transcends science. (Johnson, p.110)

Johnson, Phillip. Darwin on Trial, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1991.

This is a pro-Creationist quote, and nothing against the author, but it specifically asks to consider the hypothesis that there is an ultimate or divine artificer which is evidently the source for life, and therefore appears to be an intelligent designer behind it all. This is the crude hypothesis of Intelligent Design, which I’ve written about before, and which I find to be wholly lacking in support, and so is invalid and cannot be used. But the question isn’t asking us to review the hard evidence, which is all but lacking, however it asks us to suspend our skepticism long enough to simply consider the possibility.

Okay, let’s consider the possibility of a creative intelligence.

First off, I’d have to be critical of his so called “intelligence” since the design we find here on Earth appears to be a hobbled together, trial and error, tapestry stretching back to our cosmic origins. The formation of life from non-living matter, amino acids and proteins, via a complex process of chemical bonds and reactions has been well documented by the scientific community. This is the stepping stone to getting slightly more complex organisms and then natural selection takes over and evolution becomes an incontestable fact. But in all of this happenstance there is no sign or stamp of a handicrafter or divine intelligent creator of any kind. Life itself can arise naturally, and that’s the thing that puzzles people who have not grasped the more involved aspects of scientific understanding. 

I won’t go into detail about evolution, because there is enough we know about it to know that there is no intelligence behind it, and even though we can comprehend it well enough, the leftovers of evolution, the flaws and failures of trial by error processes, have left us with a slew of handicaps and useless vestigial traits which are themselves proof of the unguided and unintelligent influences which compel all living things to evolve. Evidence which directly disproves the Creationist hypothesis. So I must assume the question is referring to the idea that, perhaps, somehow, beyond our current understanding there is a deity of some sort that wrote the basic laws into the universe so that we can decipher it and see the hand-print of God himself. This is also known as the Cosmological Argument [already famously put into contention by thinkers such as David Hume and Immanuel Kant just to name a couple].

Cosmological Arguments and necessary existence all sound well and good, but here I must object. Because it is unclear of which God or gods we are looking for exactly. If the case be that we are looking for one universal, generic, entity with no religious affiliation except for it being an intelligence of some kind, either within or beyond the known universe, then the deist which looks for the signs of this sort of deity beyond the reality we know will be, in all likelihood, greatly disappointed. Any evidence for this sort of being can only be had in this reality and space and time.

Justifiably, we know that it is highly improbable, although, admittedly not altogether impossible, that such a being should exist at all. But the fact remains—we just can’t know of it if it should exist. Not because his signature couldn’t be deciphered and found in nature via the plethora of data we have available to us, but for the fact that all the data available to us precludes any possibility of an intelligent designer of any kind in the first place. A better understanding of the laws of physics will reveal, as it has to me, that we are faced with the serious possibility that the Big Bang was not a one off event, that parallel dimensions are very plausible, that dark flow suggests universes outside of the dark rim of our own infinitely expanding universe, that gravity may be shared between membranes, and that all of this may describe a time before the Big Bang. It also alludes to the fact the Big Bang was not the first event possible, but one of an infinite series of catalysts sparking one of an infinitude of possible universes into existence. Why don’t I think any deity is behind it? Because these quantum fluctuations which we call Big Bangs are described by Quantum Mechanics as being entirely random, and without a doubt, completely arbitrary.

What this means is, there is NO rhyme or reason behind them. 

The Big Bang precludes the possibility of a designer because 1) it was probably  a random event (and even if it wasn't there is no reliable evidence of what the initial conditions were predating the big bang therefore the probability of it being caused by a "designer" is exactly the same of it not having been caused by a "designer" thus, once again, an intelligent designer cannot be assumed), and 2) although it is highly probable that a universe would pop into existence (since the laws of Quantum Mechanics dictates that it is, peculiarly enough, even more improbable that it wouldn’t have) is the fact that 3) this universe seemingly sprang from nothing (which we have good evidence for. See video below).

We might ask, where in all this is the fingerprint of a Creator? I, for one, simply don’t see it. An eager theist may posit that this aforementioned quantum complexity is the language of God, that Quantum Mechanics seems so impossible to unravel or understand because the Creator is that complex. But this comes from the same people who have posited that the Creator is intelligent, so could not an intelligence of such magnitude be capable of speaking precisely and concisely enough to be comprehended by those fledgling consciousnesses and growing intelligences which spring up in the cosmic garden of his so called creation? 

It would seem to me, assuming a supreme intelligent creator exists beyond the known cosmos, that he has hidden himself behind a series of haphazard and completely random events which camouflage any direct involvement whatsoever. If there is a God of this sort, we cannot discover it, and certainly we cannot know anything of it. And this leaves me with the distinct hunch that there is no such intelligent being of such a shy and reclusive predisposition. 

Deism of this type, although in the smallest degree imaginable is ostensibly feasible, the burden of proof is too demanding and it ultimately remains unverifiable, therefore becomes highly doubtful, and cannot just be assumed. Anything more than a postulation is special pleading and will not suffice.

In conclusion, it seems to me that life does not evidently appear to be the product of any creative intelligence. 

Life is the strange consequence of an infinity of crap-shoots in which out of uncertainty there is so vast a number of chances that every once in a while we get the winning number—the crap-shoot of weighty and starry existence. I find the analogy of winning a lottery well suited when discussing such probabilities. Our lucky existence may turn out to be very much like winning a lottery. 

If it (i.e.g, existence of life) is played just once, the odds are unanimously against our chances of winning. But if our chances to win the lottery are infinite, and truly arbitrary, then odds are good that with an infinite amount of tries we’ll come out with a big win. It's a statistical thing, basically.

In fact, with the possibilities of winning stretching into infinity and beyond, it is more than likely we will all win that lottery, and most probably more than once. Which means it is more than likely that other life does exist, and given the right conditions other universes too, as unbelievable as it sounds, it would be even more unbelievable if it weren’t the case.

So I have no qualms with going with what the real evidence depicts, and what it depicts is an exclusively natural world and existence with no traces of divine magic tinkering or supernatural involvement of any recognizable kind. 

But even if there was a divinity of some sort, if one day there should be real tangible evidence for a God, science will gladly begin to study that too. 

Until then, my atheism is vindicated by the knowledge and understanding of the scientific evidence we do have and can discern—all of which precludes the possibility of any such intelligent designer or God.


Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist