bookmark_borderProfessor Craig on Theistic Hypotheses

In 2018 I posted on SO a review of Tim Crane’s book The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View:
https://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2018/01/22/atheists-get-wrong-according-tim-crane/
Crane argues that atheists have largely misunderstood religion by regarding it as a sort of cosmological hypothesis, one that makes insupportable claims about the creation of the universe via the supernatural acts of a divine agent. By thus construing religion as a sort of spurious proto-scientific cosmology, atheists justify relegating it to the bin of irrelevance and irrationality. However, says Crane, religion should not be seen as any sort of hypothesis, but rather as consisting of the “religious impulse” and “identification.” The religious impulse is the drive to recognize a transcendent order that is both factual and normative. God is posited as real and his will is taken as defining right and wrong. “Identification” is the desire to belong to a community that defines itself in terms of a set of beliefs and practices and which understands the world in terms of those beliefs and practices. What unites these two elements is a shared experience of the sacred, which promotes a strong sense of identity. Atheists miss these points by dismissing religion as a crackpot cosmology and religious believers as superstitious.
In my comments on Crane’s claims, I note that if atheists are mistaken in regarding theism as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, this is not a gratuitous error, but is due to the fact that leading religious apologists defend theism as such a hypothesis. Defenders of “intelligent design” theory such as William Dembski and Michael Behe present their concepts of “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” as scientifically legitimate concepts. In The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne employs Bayesian confirmation theory in defense of his theistic hypothesis and appeals largely to the criterion of simplicity, which, of course, is a standard of theory choice in the natural sciences. William Lane Craig’s Kalaam cosmological argument is developed and defended in the context of physical cosmology. These considerations seem to justify the characterization of the theistic hypothesis as “proto” or “quasi” scientific.
However, such a designation is not really important. The important point is that theism is defended as a hypothesis. Whether that hypothesis is classified as “scientific,” “quasi-scientific,” or “metaphysical” is not of primary importance. In my review I make the point that, as John Hick argues in An Interpretation of Religion, the reasoning underlying religious  belief is primarily interpretive and not hypothetical. Hick says that the universe is religiously ambiguous in the sense that there are no facts that compel a religious or a naturalistic interpretation. The arguments for and against the existence of God are not compelling, and their conclusions may be reasonably rejected. Perfectly reasonable people may therefore disagree about the existence of God.
If Hick is right, what follows? Perhaps both atheists and religious apologists should cease their efforts to devise polemical weapons to bludgeon the other side into submission since we should know by now that this will not work. We should instead seek a more nuanced and informed view of belief and unbelief. We might actually learn something from each other!
In a 2018 podcast of “Reasonable Faith,” Kevin Harris interviews Professor Craig about Crane’s book and my review of it:
https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/how-atheists-get-it-wrong-part-one/
Jeff Lowder drew my attention to this just recently, and I would like to respond to it here.
Professor Craig argues that, while theistic hypotheses are explanatory, it is “tendentious and inaccurate” to characterize them in general as “semi-scientific” or “proto-scientific.” Craig does admit that the ID theorists regard their hypothesis as scientific. However, they claim that their arguments for intelligent design are religiously neutral, so I err in identifying this hypothesis as a specifically religious or theistic hypothesis.
ID theory is religiously neutral? How can that be when it was developed and promoted explicitly as part of an aggressive apologetic program? Well, to avoid church/state entanglements, ID theorists note that the designer could be something other than the God of Christian theism–something like Plato’s Demiurge, or the “Q” Continuum from Star Trek, maybe. This lawyerly ruse has no bearing on the philosophical issue, however. Could the designer be God? Of course. The most charitable reading of ID is therefore that it is an argument for a disjunction of mutually exclusive and exhaustive designer hypotheses, including the theistic hypothesis as one disjunct.
As for Swinburne’s and his own hypothesis, Craig says that they are not scientific or quasi-scientific because they posit a personal cause rather than a naturalistic one. Scientific explanations are in terms of natural laws and initial conditions, but theistic hypotheses posit a personal agent who creates by acts of volition. However, it certainly seems that, in principle, there could be scientific confirmation of a personal cause. Suppose, for instance, that the famous Hubble image of the Eagle Nebula—the “pillars of creation”—were accompanied by glowing gas in the form of Hebrew letters, light years wide, proclaiming “I, Yahweh, did this.” In this case, we would have outstanding scientific evidence of a personal cause. So, as a general demarcation criterion, the personal/impersonal distinction does not work.
Craig and Harris then have this exchange:
KEVIN HARRIS: Just to be more specific, when he [me] mentions you here, again, he says, “Craig’s Kalaam argument is specifically and explicitly a cosmological claim presented within the context of physical cosmology.”
CRAIG:Right. And it doesn’t appeal to a theistic cosmology or an alternative to contemporary cosmology. It appeals to the normal cosmological model that is affirmed by secular scientists. So it is not in any way positing God as a scientific or quasi-scientific hypothesis.
Craig’s statement here is a non sequitur. A scientific theory need not be an alternative to another theory, but could subsume it. Theory T2 subsumes theory T1 when T2 provides a deeper and more inclusive explanatory framework that accounts for T1’s empirical success within its domain while locating that domain within a larger one that T2 covers. Advances in science often occur when a new theory does not just replace an old one, but places the old theory in a broader and deeper explanatory context. Thus, Carnot’s theories were subsumed by the thermodynamics of Kelvin and Clausius. Craig’s theistic hypothesis appears intended to provide a deeper and more inclusive explanation than physical cosmology. Physical cosmology is not falsified by Craig’s theistic hypothesis, but rather is subsumed by it. Craig’s theistic cosmology aims to go beyond physical cosmology and tell us why there is a universe at all. So, the fact that Craig does not present his hypothesis as an alternative to physical cosmology, but intends to provide a deeper context for it, does not disqualify it as “quasi-scientific.”
However, since nothing much really turns on it, let’s concede the point for the sake of argument and say that Craig’s hypothesis is a “metaphysical” hypothesis rather than a “scientific” or “quasi-scientific” one. The real problem identified by Crane is that religious belief is identified as any kind of hypothesis. Crane implies and Hick argues that the reasoning underlying religious belief is interpretive rather than hypothetical. That is, the reasoning supporting a religious worldview is more like understanding a text than confirming a hypothesis. We do not understand a text by confirming piecemeal hypotheses about its meaning. Rather, we seek a reading that will give us the most coherent understanding of the text as a whole. Likewise, for religious people, their faith is what, for them, makes the most coherent and comprehensive sense of their total experience. Nothing compels such a judgment; it is inevitably personal and subjective, but not unreasonable. Similarly for atheists. Nothing compelled me to become an atheist. Rather, a naturalistic worldview is the honest and authentic articulation of my total experience and knowledge.
Craig objects that if Crane is right, then he, Swinburne, Steve Meyer, William Dembski and other defenders of religious hypotheses must misunderstand religion, which he regards as implausible.
Craig does not reply to Hick’s view directly, but chiefly expresses surprise that I have supposedly so softened my view of theism that I am now willing to endorse Hick’s view that religious belief can be as rational as naturalism. (n.b., Actually, I have always regarded some religious belief as rational and some definitely not.) What, then, do I have against the apologetic enterprise that he represents? Why do I harshly characterize it as an attempt to “bludgeon” opponents into submission? After all, he is only trying to show that his belief is rational and not to show that atheists are irrational. Why do I persist in seeing the apologetic enterprise as coercive, i.e. as an effort to show not just that their belief is justified, but that mine is not? That is not his aim at all.
I honestly do not know what to make of Craig’s claim here. Does he regard his Kalaam argument as a refutation of atheism? I cannot read his presentation and defense of that argument in any other way. In this case, the argument is not a modest claim about what he is justified in believing, but the much stronger and more aggressive claim that atheism is demonstrably false and groundless. In other words, he seems to be arguing that he is right and that atheists are dead wrong. Atheists, of course, have often argued that they are right and that Craig is wrong. The debate between apologists and atheists therefore does appear to have an oppositional and aggressive character; it is not about what one may believe but what others must believe. However, if I have been misreading Craig all these years, and his aim all along has only been to affirm the rationality of his view and not to debunk mine, then I would suggest that Hick’s position provides a much better basis for such a softer and gentler apologetic.
Finally, Craig invites listeners to look at my debate with him on the existence of God to see if I did indeed effectively criticize his theistic arguments. I also would like to extend that invitation. (I think that Craig is referring to our debate at Indiana University in February 2002, not the earlier one at Prestonwood Baptist Church.).

bookmark_borderWhen Are Appeals to Human Ignorance a Legitimate Defeater of an Evidential Argument?

(A1) Evidential arguments from ‘evil’ say: known facts about the types, quantity, and distribution of good and evil are much more probable on naturalism than on theism.
(O1) Critics of evidential arguments from evil say: we don’t know that. We have far too limited an understanding of the interconnectedness of things to make such a judgment with confidence. On the assumption that theism is true (and there exists a morally perfect and omniscient being), there could easily be reasons, way beyond our understanding, why such a being would allow the facts about good and evil to obtain.
(A2) Evidential arguments from cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ say: the life permitting conditions of our universe are much more probable on theism than on naturalism.
(O2) Critics of such arguments say: we don’t know that. We have far too limited an understanding of the early universe, the total mass-energy of the universe, quantum gravity, etc. to make such judgments with confidence. (Cosmology is a very young discipline and there is much we still don’t know. For example, 95.1% of the total mass-energy of the universe is mysterious, composed of either ‘dark energy’ (68.3%) or ‘dark matter’ (26.8%).) On the assumption that naturalism, a/k/a source physicalism, is true (and there was no one around at the earliest stages of the universe’s history to make physical observations), there could easily be mechanistic explanations, way beyond our understanding, why our universe is life-permitting.
I’ve never understood why most proponents of (A2) seem to think (O1) is a good defeater of (A1) while not simultaneously thinking (O2) is a good defeater of (A2).

bookmark_borderBlack Holes and the Problem of Evil

Data produced by the Hubble Space Telescope show that the brightest supernova ever recorded was actually a star being torn apart by a black hole in what is being called the ASASSN-15lh event.

This has a high “coolness factor” for astronomy enthusiasts. But I couldn’t help but wonder a little whether there were any planets in that ill-fated solar system with life on them. Suppose such a catastrophe were to befall Earth – what would be the theological implications? This would be a purely hypothetical or speculative instance of the Problem of Evil, but certainly one of massive scale. What would be the theistic response to the possibility of such an event?
Here are several possibilities:

(A) It couldn’t happen.

God loves the Earth too much. The destruction of Earth by a black hole is scientifically possible, but theologically impossible. Similarly, if God has seen fit to have intelligent life exist elsewhere in the universe, he would also prevent the total destruction of alien life just as he would prevent the total destruction of life on Earth.
Needless to say, I am unimpressed by such an a priori argument strategy. To say that we can know with confidence that the ASASSN-15lh event did not destroy any intelligent civilizations from the comfort of our Earthly armchairs seems too callously cavalier for my tastes.

(B) It would be deserved

Just as God (in the story of the Noahic flood) destroyed all Earthly civilizations out of righteous wrath over their wickedness, the destruction of an alien planet by black hole would only be divinely permitted if that civilization were massively sinful. Although God promised never to destroy the Earth by flood, destruction of the Earth by black hole is still on the table as a possibility.
This second response is just as unsatisfactory as the first. Is it really plausible that we can know, from millions of light-years distance, the extent of an alien civilization’s wickedness entirely by what God allows to happen to it? When we read about disaster befalling some location on Earth, only contemptible zealous reprobates think “well, that’s what happens when you allow gays to get married.” This is not relevantly different.
The theist can always, of course, by pointing out that one imaginative hypothesis deserves another: If I am going to float the suggestion that there may have been intelligent life in that distant solar system, the theist can float the suggestion that perhaps they were cruel and aggressive with plans to dominate the rest of the universe, Earth included. God, then, permitted their destruction for the morally justifiable reason of preserving other intelligent worlds. This reminds me too much of theists who respond to the question of why God permits children to die of cancer by suggesting that maybe they were going to grow up to be as evil as Hitler (which only raises the further question of why God allowed Hitler to grow up, then).

(C) Skeptical theism

Our knowledge of good and evil is so puny in comparison with God’s that we’re in no position to say that destruction of an inhabited world by black hole would be a morally bad thing for God to permit.
I have little enough patience with skeptical theism as it is, but at this point I think the appropriate reaction is to despair of the skeptical theist being able to use the terms “good” and “bad” in a truly meaningful way. To respond to the destruction of an entire planet (whether or not it is Earth) by saying, “for all we know it’s all for the best” is to abandon meaningful ethical discourse.

(D) If

It is reputed that Philip II of Macedon sent a message to Sparta saying, “Surrender immediately, for if my armies capture your lands, they will destroy your farms, kill your people, and raze your city.” The response from Sparta was the single word, “If.” The whole scenario here is purely hypothetical. There is no reason to think either that any intelligent alien civilizations have been destroyed by a black hole or that this is to be the fate of Earth.
This response concedes that the destruction of an inhabited planet by black hole would, in fact, count as reason to think that God does not exist. The conditional, “if an inhabited planet were to be destroyed by black hole, then God probably does not exist” is true, but has an unsatisfied antecedent, on this view. This is interesting because it concedes the possibility of empirical disconfirmation of God’s existence.
There are some atheists who think we don’t need to look beyond the surface of the Earth to find abundant disconfirmation of God’s existence. For them, there is already enough “bad stuff” to be found that they think the antecedent of a conditional like “if enough bad stuff were to happen in the world, then God probably does not exist” is satisfied. There are theists, too, who think this conditional is true, but are unpersuaded that the antecedent is satisfied. But at least there is common ground here. Perhaps, then, it may turn out to be true, after all, that science is capable of addressing the question of God’s existence? Just keep studying black holes.

bookmark_borderMcDowell’s Trilemma – Part 1: An Eternally Bodiless Person

Here are the basic premises of McDowell’s Trilemma Argument (hereafter: MTA), from The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (hereafter: NETDV by Josh McDowell:
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…Jesus definitely claimed to be God (see below and in Chapter 6).  So every person must answer the question: Is His claim to deity true or false?  This question deserves a most serious consideration.
[…]
Jesus’ claim to be God must be either true or false.  If Jesus’ claims are true, then He is the Lord, and we must either accept or reject His lordship.  We are “without excuse.”
If Jesus’ claims to be God were false, then there are just two options: He either knew His claims were false, or He did not know they were false. …
If, when Jesus made His claims, He knew He was not God, then He was lying. But if He was a liar, then He was also a hypocrite, because He told others to be honest, whatever the cost, while He, at the same time, was teaching and living a colassal lie.   (NETDV, p.158-159)
…for someone to think he was God, expecially in a culture that was fiercely monotheistic, and then to tell others that their eternal destiny depends on believing in him, was no slight flight of fantasy but the thoughts of a lunatic in the fullest sense.  (NETDV, p.160-161)
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The first key premise of MTA is this:

  1. Jesus claimed to be God.

This first premise appears to be false.  Jesus did NOT claim to be God.  Or, to be more accurate, there is no good reason to believe that Jesus claimed to be God.  That is to say, none of the canonical Gospels report Jesus as having asserted the claim “I am God” nor the claim “Jesus of Nazareth is God”, nor the claim “God and I are the same person”, nor the claim “God and I are the same being”, nor the claim “The Messiah is God, and I am the Messiah”, nor the claim “The Son of Man is God, and I am the Son of Man”.   Strictly speaking, none of the canonical Gospels report that Jesus claimed to be God, so premise (1) is probably false.
However, it is possible to IMPLY that a person is God without saying so directly, so it is possible that Jesus IMPLIED that he was God, but did so without saying so directly.  To determine whether Jesus IMPLIED this, we need to understand the meaning of the following sentence:
JIG: Jesus of Nazareth is God.
In order to understand (JIG), we need to understand the meaning of a more basic sentence:
G: God exists.
Here is my analysis of claim (G):
God exists IF AND ONLY IF there is exactly one person P such that:
(a) P is an eternally bodiless person, and
(b) P is an eternally omnipotent person, and
(c) P is an eternally omniscient person, and
(d) P is an eternally perfectly morally good person, and
(e) P is the creator of the universe.
So, the meaning of (JIG) can be analyzed in similar terms:
Jesus of Nazareth is God IF AND ONLY IF:
(a) Jesus of Nazareth is an eternally bodiless person, and
(b) Jesus of Nazareth is an eternally omnipotent person, and
(c) Jesus of Nazareth is an eternally omniscient person, and
(d) Jesus of Nazareth is an eternally perfectly morally good person, and
(e) Jesus of Nazareth is the creator of the universe.
So, for Jesus to clearly IMPLY that he was God, Jesus would have to make the following claims:
I am an eternally bodiless person, and an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, and I am the creator of the universe.
Does Jesus assert these claims according to the canonical Gospels?

  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts all five of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts four of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts three of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts two of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts one of these claims.

What if we weaken these claims by dropping the qualifier “eternally”? The weaker divine attributes would still work to INDICATE that Jesus was God, so  Jesus could INDICATE that he was God by making the following claims:
I am a bodiless person, and an omnipotent person, and an omniscient person, and a perfectly morally good person, and I am the creator of the universe.
Does Jesus assert these weaker divine-attribute claims according to the canonical Gospels?

  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts all five of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts four of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts three of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts two of these claims.
  • There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts one of these claims.

There is no passage in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus asserts that he has any of these basic divine attributes.  Thus, Jesus did NOT directly claim to be God, and Jesus also did NOT clearly IMPLY that he was God, nor does Jesus clearly INDICATE that he was God, based on the words and teachings of Jesus found in the canoncial Gospels.
Someone might object that I am imposing a modern conception of “God” on Jesus, and that Jesus might have had a different understanding of the meaning of the word “God” than what is presented above in my analysis of the sentence “God exists”.  But based on the words and teachings of Jesus as presented in the canonical Gospels, it appears that Jesus would probably agree with my analysis of “God exists”:
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God is spirit…   (John 4:24) This implies that God is a bodiless person.
… for God all things are possible.  (Mark 10:27)  This implies that God is an omnipotent person.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted.   (Matthew 10:29-30)  This implies that God is an omniscient person.

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:47-48)   This implies that God is a perfectly morally good person.

No one is good but God alone. (Mark 10:18)  This implies that God is a perfectly morally good person).
For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.  (Mark 13:19)   This implies that God was the creator of the universe.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  (Mark 10:6)  Jesus quotes from Genesis here implying that he accepts the inspiration and truth of the Genesis account of creation, and this account asserts that God created the  the universe.
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Although Jesus does not use the terms “bodiless person” or “omnipotent” or “omniscient” or “perfectly morally good” or “the creator of the universe”, he does say things that are very similar in meaning, and that strongly suggest these ideas.  So, it appears that the concept of “God” that is present in the words and teachings of Jesus (according to the canonical Gospels) corresponds closely with my analysis of the sentence “God exists”, even though Jesus does not use any of the key terms in my analysis of “God exists”.
But, since Jesus can suggest or indicate these various divine attributes without using the specific terms in my analysis (i.e. “bodiless person”, “omnipotent”, “omniscient” etc.), perhaps he claimed to possess one or more of these divine attributes without using the specific terms found in my analysis of “God exists”.
Jesus does not speak of God as a “bodiless person”, but he does speak of God as a “spirit”, which implies that God is a “bodiless person”.  Does Jesus ever claim to be a “spirit”?  There are no passages in any of the canonical Gospels where Jesus claims to be a spirit.  There are, however, passages where Jesus implies that he is NOT a spirit:
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Mark 14:8
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body [Jesus’s body] beforehand for its burial.
[Jesus clearly refers to his own body here, implying that he is NOT a spirit.]

Mark 14:22
22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”
[At the Last Supper, Jesus allegedly hinted at his soon-to-come death by crucifixion, and used the bread to symbolize his body and his physical death.]
Mark 14:37-39
37 He came and found them sleeping; and he [Jesus] said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?
38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.
[This implies that Jesus himself was praying because he had “flesh”, i.e. a body, and that having a body made Jesus subject to temptation.]
Luke 24:39
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
[When Jesus allegedly appeared to his disciples after rising from the dead, they thought he was a ghost, but Jesus insisted that he still had “flesh and bones”.]
John 20:27
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
[After his alleged resurrection, Jesus invites doubting Thomas to touch wounds in his hands and his side.  Clearly Jesus implies that he has hands and has a side, which means that Jesus had a body and was NOT a spirit.]
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Since I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I view the passages above from Luke 24 and John 20 as fictional.  However, a Christian believer does not have this interpretation as a viable option.  If a Christian grants me that Luke 24 and John 20 are fictional stories, then the case for the resurrection is seriously damaged, if not completely destroyed.
Because Jesus NEVER claims to be a “bodiless person”, and NEVER claims to be a “spirit”, and because Jesus repeatedly asserts that he has a physical body made of “flesh and bones”, Jesus clearly implied that he was NOT a spirit and NOT a bodiless person.  Therefore, Jesus clearly implied that he was NOT God.
In the next post on this subject, we will look at more of the divine attributes and determine whether Jesus used alternative terminology to imply that he possessed one or more of those attributes.

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 7

There are more pathetic arguments given by Marilyn Adamson in the section of her web article that she characterizes as her first reason (out of six) for believing that God exists:

The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

 After her crappy argument based on the size of the Earth and it’s distance from the Sun, she gives another crappy argument based on the properties of water:
Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:
It has wide margin between its boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.
Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that various chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.
Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.
Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.
Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.
Adamson not only fails to explain how these properties of water are supposed to provide evidence for the existence of God, she also fails to give any clues as to why they might be considered evidence for God.
Given the absence of any explantion by Adamson, one might reasonably impose the logic of her first argument concerning the size and position of the Earth on this second argument about the life-sustaining properties of water.  To parallel Adamson’s reasoning about the Earth, we need a premise that asserts the Natural Improbability Thesis about Water:
(NIT-W) Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of material substances, it is IMPROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of a substance that possesses all of the various life-sustaining properties of water.
This assumption suggests a contrast with the alternative view that there exists a God who could, and who probably would, guide, or intervene in, natural processes in order to bring about the formation of a substance that possesses all of the various life-sustaining properties of water. This second key unstated premise of Adamson’s argument I will call the  Divine Guidance Thesis about Water:
(DGT-W) If God exists, then given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of material substances, it is PROBABLE that at least one substance comes to exist with all of the various life-sustaining properties of water, because if natural processes would not cause this to happen on their own, then God would probably guide, or intervene in, those natural processes to bring about the existence of such a substance.
If (NIT-W) and (DGT-W) are both true, then the existence of water with it’s various life-sustaining properties would provide some evidence for the existence of God. But if (NIT-W) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that the existence of water constitutes evidence for the existence of God. And if (DGT-W) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that the existence of water constitutes evidence for the existence of God.
It is clear and obvious that (NIT-W) is false. Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of material substances, it is actually PROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of a substance that possesses all of the various life-sustaining properties of water.  Water is H2O, and the various life-sustaining properties of water are the results of the laws of physics and chemistry.  If you have matter consisting of electrons and neutrons and protons, and if those components of matter interact in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry that we know about, then they can form hydrogen and oxygen, and hydrogen and oxygen can combine to form H2O, and this substance, which we call “water” will necessarily have all of the life-sustaining properties that Adamson mentions.
In other words, given the laws of nature that we know about, and given the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, there is nothing improbable about the existence of water and its various life-sustaining properties.  So, (NIT-W) is false.
One could try to rescue Adamson’s argument from water by shifting the argument away from one about divine intervention in natural processes to an argument from fine-tuning.  If we think of God as a supreme engineer, then we can argue that the existence of water and it’s life-sustaining properties are to be expected given the laws of nature and the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, because God would have designed the laws of nature and the general configuration of matter and energy so that it was PROBABLE that water would be produced by the natural processes that bring about the existence of various material substances.  Nature produced water because God designed natural laws and matter in such a way that natural processes would be likely to produce water, among other material substances.
Such an argument would not be as obviously bad as one based on (NIT-W).  However, Adamson provides absolutely NO REASON whatsover to think that alternative laws of nature and alternative configurations of matter and energy in the universe would probably fail to produce a substance with the various life-sustaining properties of water.  So, if Adamson intends to be giving a fine-tuning type of argument here, she has utterly failed to provide any rational support for the key premise of this argument.
Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine how such an argument could be made.  How can we determine what are all of the various alternative systems of natural laws that could have existed?  This seems like it would be an infinite set of alternatives, and a subset of these alternatives would be an infinite number of alternative sets of highly complex systems of natural laws that would be too complex for any human being to comprehend in one lifetime (even if those laws were all clearly written out in English and mathematical formulas in a massive encyclopedia).   Also, how can we determine whether or not some hypothetical-imaginary-alternative set of natural laws would be likely to produce a substance with the life-sustaining properties of water?
Finally, even if we could somehow overcome these daunting intellectual challenges, what about the possibility that an alternative set of laws of nature and configuration of matter and energy could produce a substance with several life-sustaining properties, but a set of properties somewhat different from those of water?  In other words, even if an alternative system of laws and configuration of matter and energy failed to produce water, it might well produce a substance that was just as good, or even better than, water in terms of sustaining life.  But that would invalidate the results of the previously described investigation into alternative sets of laws of nature, and would add a whole new layer of complexity to the already daunting intellectual challenge.
If Adamson’s argument is based on the natural improbability of water, then a key premise of her argument is clearly false.  On the other hand, if Adamson’s argument was intended to be based on the natural probability of water (i.e. a fine-tuning argument), then she has a very serious intellectual challenge (i.e. a huge burden of proof) in order to show that alternative systems of laws of nature and alternative configurations of matter and energy would be unlikely to produce water (or some other substances with equally impressive life-sustaining properties), a very serious intellectual challenge that she has made ZERO intellectual effort to meet.  In short, either a key premise of her argument is false, or else a key premise of her argument is very dubious and without any rational support.

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 6

Cosmic pluralism, the plurality of worlds, or simply pluralism, describes the philosophical belief in numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth (possibly an infinite number), which may harbour extraterrestrial life.  
(from Wikipedia article “Cosmic Pluralism“)
In my criticism of Adamson’s initial argument for the existence of God, I pointed out that cosmic pluralism is an idea that has been around since the beginning of Western philosophy about 2,500 years ago (the pre-socratic philosopher Anaxagorus advocated cosmic pluralism, for example), and that cosmic pluralism was advocated in Europe more recently by Giordano Bruno, about 430 years ago. Furthermore, cosmic pluralism was a view held by many of the leading philosophers that are usually covered in introductions to philosophy and in history of philosophy courses: Gottfried Leibniz, Rene Descartes, George Berkeley, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. Some of the founding fathers of our nation were cosmic pluralists: Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and probably Thomas Jefferson too.
I previously pointed out that science fiction books, stories, movies, and television programs often assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, so even if Adamson was completely ignorant of the history of philosophy and ignorant about the cosmological beliefs of our founding fathers, she ought to have been aware of the idea of cosmic pluralism from science fiction books or movies or television shows.
One might object that cosmic pluralism is a matter of speculation.  Anaxagorus was not a scientist, at least not in the modern sense.  He did not use a telescope to observe the planets in our solar system or the stars in our galaxy.  Bruno was not a scientist; he was a philosopher and theologian.  Bruno arrived at his theory of the universe based on abstract philosophical and theological reasoning, not on the basis of empirical science, not on the basis of careful observations and measurements, not on the basis of experiments.  Science-fiction stories and movies might well assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, but that doesn’t mean that we ought to believe that cosmic pluralism is true; fiction can be based on false or unproven assumptions.
In the previous post in this series I pointed out that Bruno may have been influenced to adopt cosmic pluralism and the view that the universe was infinite by the English mathematician and astronomer Thomas Digges.  Furthermore, Bruno was burned at the stake (by the brilliant Christian leaders of the Roman Inquisition) in 1600, and just ten years later Galileo published the first scientific work of astronomy based on observations made with a telescope: Sidereal Messenger (or Sidereal Message).  In that publication, Galileo reported that he was able to see many more stars with his telescope than what others had been able to observe with the naked eye. In 1750, the English astronomer and mathematician Thomas Wright published a book which suggested that observed faint nebulae indicate that the universe includes far distant galaxies.  By the end of the 19th century, astronomers were able to observe about 125 million stars using the telescopes available at that time. In 1920, there was the “Great Debate” in astronomy over whether the universe includes far distant galaxies beyond our own galaxy (as Thomas Wright had proposed back in 1750). In that debate the astronomer Heber Curtis argued that Andromeda and other  nebulae were separate galaxies. In 1925, the astronomer Edwin Hubble presented a scientific paper that provided powerful evidence supporting Curtis’ view that the universe included far distant galaxies.
So, we see that from the time of Giordano Bruno through the 1920’s scientific investigation of the universe has provided more and more evidence supporting cosmic pluralism. However, until fairly recently, we had no scientific proof that there were other planets in the universe outside of our own solar system.  Although astronomers and other scientists have long supposed that there were other planets in other solar systems (called “exoplanets”), scientific proof of this did not exist until near the end of the 20th century:
For centuries philosophers and scientists supposed that extrasolar planets existed, but there was no way of detecting them or of knowing their frequency or how similar they might be to the planets of the Solar System. Various detection claims made in the nineteenth century were rejected by astronomers. The first confirmed detection came in 1992, with the discovery of several terrestrial-mass planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. The first confirmation of an exoplanet orbiting a main-sequence star was made in 1995, when a giant planet was found in a four-day orbit around the nearby star 51 Pegasi. Some exoplanets have been imaged directly by telescopes, but the vast majority have been detected through indirect methods such as the transit method and the radial-velocity method.  (from the Wikipedia article Exoplanet)
Many planets and planetary systems have been discovered in recent decades:
Over 3000 exoplanets have been discovered since 1988 (more specifically, 3412 planets in 2554 planetary systems, including 578 multiple planetary systems, have been confirmed, as of 23 May 2016).    (from the Wikipedia article Exoplanet)
So, we now know that Giordano Bruno’s view of the the universe was largely correct.  There are at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, and there might well be about 10 trillion planets in our galaxy.  If we use the lower estimate and assume this to be an average number for a galaxy, then the approximate number of planets in the observable universe is about the same as the number of stars:
200,000,000,000 galaxies  x  100,000,000,000 planets/galaxy =
 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets
Most of those planets are not hospitable places for plants and animals and humans, but even if only one-in-a-million planets was suitable for living creatures, that would mean that about this many planets would be suitable for life:
 20,000,000,000,000,000 planets
If there are anywhere near this number of planets that have conditions suitable for sustaining living creatures, then it is virtually certain that there are other planets in other solar systems in the universe that have living plants and animals on them, and it is highly probable that among those other planets in other solar systems that have living plants and animals, there are some intelligent animals that have developed language, mathematics, and knowledge about natural phenomena.  In other words, scientific investigation of the universe has shown that it is highly probable that cosmic pluralism is correct.
Giordano Bruno should not have been burned at the stake.  If anyone deserved to be burned at the stake, it was the shit-for-brains Christian leaders of the Roman Inquisition who should have been barbequed.  My thanks to Adamson for reminding us of the history of ignorant, dogmatic, and brutally oppressive Christian leaders in Europe by her failure to make any mention of Giordano Bruno or of cosmic pluralism, which constitute an obvious objection to her pathetic and intellectually worthless initial arguments for the existence of God.
 

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig Admits that His Fine-Tuning Argument is Based Upon Speculation

In my last post, I reported that WLC has reached the same conclusion I have regarding the scale of the universe as evidence against theism. After re-reading his article, I realized I missed an even more important announcement. Although he would deny it, in the same article he also admits that his fine-tuning argument is based upon speculation. Here’s the money quote:

Indeed, once we launch into speculating about universes operating according to different laws of nature, then we have completely lost our tether and have no idea whether such worlds would be preferable to a world like ours, especially in realizing God’s redemptive purposes for creatures created in His image. (boldface mine)

Craig argues we have no idea whether God would prefer such speculative universes to our actual universe, but he misses the fact that precisely the same point about “speculating about universes” also defeats an implied premise of his cosmic fine-tuning argument. That argument crucially depends upon an implied premise about the ratio of the number of (hypothetical) life-permitting universes to the number of (hypothetical) life-prohibiting universes. But, for the very reason Craig just gave, any estimates of such ratios are based upon pure speculation.
Indeed, this is pretty much the same point made by physicist Sean Carroll in his debate with Craig:

First, I am by no means convinced that there is a fine-tuning problem and, again, Dr. Craig offered no evidence for it. It is certainly true that if you change the parameters of nature our local conditions that we observe around us would change by a lot. I grant that quickly. I do not grant therefore life could not exist. I will start granting that once someone tells me the conditions under which life can exist. What is the definition of life, for example? If it’s just information processing, thinking or something like that, there’s a huge panoply of possibilities. They sound very “science fiction-y” but then again you’re the one who is changing the parameters of the universe. The results are going to sound like they come from a science fiction novel. Sadly, we just don’t know whether life could exist if the conditions of our universe were very different because we only see the universe that we see.

So, once again, we are beginning to see smalls signs of progress in Craig’s positions. 🙂

bookmark_borderWilliam Lane Craig Endorses My Argument from Scale against Theism!

He doesn’t mention by name, of course, and may not have even had my argument in mind, but the sort of Bayesian considerations he raises support my Bayesian argument from scale, in two ways. First, he agrees with me about the “direction” the evidence points (against theism). Second, he agrees with me about the “magnitude” of that evidential support (very weak). (The words “direction” and “magnitude” are not Craig’s words, but were inspired by David Schum, who pointed out long ago that evidence has “vector-like” properties.)
To be fair to Craig, he claims that this naturalistic evidence is greatly outweighed by other theistic evidence. But, as is typical of so many people who make such claims, he merely claims that. What he does not do is present an argument for that.
Regardless, this is progress. Next we need to get Craig to finally admit that facts about evil / pain / suffering also count against theism.
See his post here.
 

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 5

Cosmic pluralism, the plurality of worlds, or simply pluralism, describes the philosophical belief in numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth (possibly an infinite number), which may harbour extraterrestrial life.  
(from Wikipedia article “Cosmic Pluralism“)
In my criticism of Adamson’s initial argument for the existence of God, I pointed out that cosmic pluralism is an idea that has been around since the beginning of Western philosophy about 2,500 years ago (the pre-socratic philosopher Anaxagorus advocated cosmic pluralism, for example), and that cosmic pluralism was advocated in Europe more recently by Giordano Bruno, about 430 years ago.
Furthermore, cosmic pluralism was a view held by many of the leading philosophers that are usually covered in introductions to philosophy and in history of western philosophy courses: Gottfried Leibniz, Rene Descartes, George Berkeley, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant.
Some of the founding fathers of our nation were cosmic pluralists: Thomas Paine, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and probably Thomas Jefferson too.  In his Almanack of 1749, Benjamin Franklin wrote:
It is the opionion of all the modern philosophers and mathematicians, that the planets are all habitable worlds.  If so, what sort of constitutions must those people have who live on the planet Mercury? where, says Sir Isaac Newton, the heat of the sun is seven times as great as it is with us; and would make our water boil away.  (III, p.345)  
(quoted in The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900, by Michael Crowe, p.108)
I previously pointed out that science fiction books, stories, movies, and television programs often assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, so even if Adamson was completely ignorant of the history of philosophy and ignorant about the cosmological beliefs of our founding fathers, she ought to have been aware of the idea of cosmic pluralism from science fiction books or movies or television shows.
One might object, at this point, that cosmic pluralism is a matter of speculation.  Anaxagorus was not a scientist, at least not in the modern sense.  He did not use a telescope to observe the planets in our solar system or the stars in our galaxy.  Bruno was not a scientist; he was a philosopher and theologian.  Bruno arrived at his theory of the universe based on abstract philosophical and theological reasoning, not on the basis of empirical science, not on the basis of careful observations and measurements, not on the basis of experiments.  Science-fiction stories and movies might well assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, but that doesn’t mean that we ought to believe that cosmic pluralism is true; fiction can be based on false or unproven assumptions.
It is true that Bruno was not a scientist; however, it is quite possible that he was influenced to adopt cosmic pluralism and the view that the universe was infinite by the English mathematician and astronomer Thomas Digges:
Bruno is often credited with recognizing that the Copernican system allowed an infinite Universe. In truth, the idea that a heliocentric description of the solar system allowed (or at least did not rule out) an infinite Universe was first proposed by Thomas Digges in 1576 in his A Perfit Description of the Caelestial Orbes, in which Digges both presents and extends the Copernican system, suggesting that the Universe was infinite. Nor is the idea of an infinite heavens original to Digges, as there are numerous historical antecedents, specifically Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th Century and atomist Lucretius in the 1st century BC (both of whom Bruno reference, if not always consistently). Bruno’s two works most fully expounding his views of the universe, The Ash Wednesday Supper and On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, were published in 1584, 8 years after Digges, and during the period of Bruno’s exile in England. While we have no record of Digges and Bruno having met, Digges’ work was widely discussed and Bruno would likely have come into contact with the ideas if not the man himself as he spent time within the intellectual circle of Elizabethan England.
(from: “The Folly of Giordano Bruno”, by Richard W. Pogge)
So, the idea of cosmic pluralism might well have come to Bruno from the reflections of the mathematician and astronomer Thomas Digges on Copernicus’s heliocentric theory.
Furthermore, Bruno was burned at the stake (by the brilliant Christian leaders of the Roman Inquisition) in 1600, and just ten years later Galileo published the first scientific work of astronomy based on observations made with a telescope: Sidereal Messenger (or Sidereal Message).  In that publication, Galileo reported that he was able to see many more stars with his telescope than what others had been able to observe with the naked eye:
Galileo reported that he saw at least ten times more stars through the telescope than are visible to the naked eye, and he published star charts of the belt of Orion and the star cluster Pleiades showing some of the newly observed stars. With the naked eye observers could see only six stars in the Taurus constellation; through his telescope, however, Galileo was capable of seeing thirty-five – almost six times as many. When he turned his telescope on Orion, he was capable of seeing eighty stars, rather than the previously observed nine – almost nine times more. … Also, when he observed some of the “nebulous” stars in the Ptolemaic star catalogue, he saw that rather than being cloudy, they were made of many small stars. From this he deduced that the nebulae and the Milky Way were “congeries of innumerable stars grouped together in clusters” too small and distant to be resolved into individual stars by the naked eye.  
(from Wikipedia article “Sidereus Nuncius”)
Galileo’s observations did not prove that the universe was infinite or filled with billions of planets orbiting around billions of stars, but they did show that there were many more stars than what had previously been thought, and that there might well be “innumerable stars” in the nebulae and the Milky Way.  So, Galileo provided emprical evidence that was supportive of Bruno’s view of the universe.
In 1750, the English astronomer and mathematician Thomas Wright published a book which suggested that observed faint nebulae indicate that the universe includes far distant galaxies:
Wright is best known for his publication An original theory or new hypothesis of the Universe(1750), in which he explains the appearance of the Milky Way as “an optical effect due to our immersion in what locally approximates to a flat layer of stars.” This idea was taken up and elaborated by Immanuel Kant in his Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven.  Another of Thomas Wright’s ideas, which is also often attributed to Kant, was that many faint nebulae are actually incredibly distant galaxies. (from Wikipedia article “Thomas Wright”)
Wright also suggested that the Milky Way galaxy “might be a rotating body of a huge number of stars held together by gravitational forces, akin to the Solar System but on a much larger scale.” (from Wikipedia article “Galaxy”).
As astronomy continued to advance, the population of the universe continued to grow:
Toward the end of the 18th century, Charles Messier compiled a catalog containing the 109 brightest celestial objects having nebulous appearance. Subsequently, William Herschel assembled a catalog of 5,000 nebulae.
(from Wikipedia article “Galaxy”).
I found a copy of an astronomy textbook published near the end of the 19th century, and it gives an estimate of the number of stars that were observable at that time with the telescopes that were then available:
Number of the Stars. –Besides twenty stars of the first magnitude, not only are there nearly six thousand of lesser magnitude visible to the naked eye, likewise many hundreds of thousands visible in telescopes of medium size, but also millions of stars revealed by the largest telescopes. …
… But in order to discern all the uncounted millions of yet fainter stars, we need the largest instruments, like the Lick and the Yerkes telescopes. Their approximate number has been ascertained not by actual count, but by estimates based on counts of typical areas scattered in different parts of the heavens. The number of stars within reach of our present telescopes perhaps exceeds 125 millions. … (A New Astronomy, p. 368-369, by David Todd, M.A., PH.D. Professor of Astronomy and Navigation and Director of the Observatory, Amherst College. Copyright, 1897 and 1906.)
So, at the beginning of the 20th century, astronomers were able to observe over 100 million stars by means of modern telescopes.  This did not show that the universe was infinite like Bruno had claimed, but scientific astronomy had established that there was an incredible number of stars in the universe, thus providing significant empirical support for cosmic pluralism.
In 1920, there was the “Great Debate” in astronomy over whether the universe includes far distant galaxies beyond out own galaxy (as Thomas Wright had proposed back in 1750):
In astronomy, the Great Debate, also called the Shapley–Curtis Debate, was an influential debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis which concerned the nature of so-called spiral nebulae and the size of the universe. The basic issue under debate was whether distant nebulae were relatively small and lay within the outskirts of our home galaxy or whether they were in fact independent galaxies, implying that they were exceedingly large and distant. The debate took place on 26 April 1920, in the Baird auditorium of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  …
Shapley was arguing in favor of the Milky Way as the entirety of the universe. He believed that “spiral nebulae” such as Andromeda were simply part of the Milky Way. He could back up this claim by citing relative sizes—if Andromeda were not part of the Milky Way, then its distance must have been on the order of 10light years—a span most astronomers would not accept. …
Curtis on the other side contended that Andromeda and other such “nebulae” were separate galaxies, or “island universes” (a term invented by the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant, who also believed that the “spiral nebulae” were extragalactic). He showed that there were more novae in Andromeda than in the Milky Way. From this he could ask why there were more novae in one small section of the galaxy than the other sections of the galaxy, if Andromeda was not a separate galaxy but simply a nebula within our galaxy. …
(from the Wikipedia article “Great Debate (astronomy)”)
In 1925, the astronomer Edwin Hubble presented a scientific paper that provided powerful evidence supporting Curtis’ view that the universe included far distant galaxies:
Due to the work of Edwin Hubble, it is now known that the Milky Way is only one of as many as an estimated 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, proving Curtis the more accurate party in the debate.  
(from the Wikipedia article “Great Debate (astronomy)”)
Edwin Hubble’s arrival at Mount Wilson Observatory, California in 1919 coincided roughly with the completion of the 100-inch (2.5 m) Hooker Telescope, then the world’s largest. At that time, the prevailing view of the cosmos was that the universe consisted entirely of the Milky Way Galaxy. Using the Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson, Hubble identified Cepheid variables (a kind of star that is used as a means to determine the distance from the galaxy… in several spiral nebulae, including the Andromeda Nebula and Triangulum. His observations, made in 1922–1923, proved conclusively that these nebulae were much too distant to be part of the Milky Way and were, in fact, entire galaxies outside our own, suspected by researchers at least as early as 1755 when Immanuel Kant’s General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens appeared. This idea had been opposed by many in the astronomy establishment of the time, in particular by the Harvard University-based Harlow Shapley. Despite the opposition, Hubble, then a thirty-five-year-old scientist, had his findings first published in The New York Times on November 23, 1924, and then more formally presented in the form of a paper at the January 1, 1925 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
(from the Wikipedia article “Edwin Hubble”)
Thus, in the 1920s the astronomers Heber Curtis and Edwin Hubble showed us that the universe was much larger than most other astronomers supposed and that the universe contained a fantastically huge number of stars, well beyond the 125 million stars that were observable at the beginning of the 20th century.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 4

Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored a website called EveryStudent.com, a site that targets college students as its primary audience.  The director of the website is Marilyn Adamson.   Adamson wrote a key article for the website called “Is There a God?” which provides six reasons in support of the claim that God exists.   Adamson completely destroys her own credibility in the opening paragraphs of the article where she presents an obviously bad argument that constitutes the first of the six reasons.
A portion of Adamson’s first argument is presented in the opening paragraphs, and it can be summarized in two sentences:
(SJR) The size of the Earth is just right, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
(RDS) The Earth is the right distance from the Sun, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
One serious problem with Adamson’s arguments is that they are very sketchy and thus are unclear. Most of her argument for this first point is left unstated, which means that it is the readers of her article who must do all the heavy lifting.  The most obvious clue to her intentions comes in the following sentence from her presentation of the first argument (emphasis added by me):
Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
Because of this clue, we can infer an important unstated premise of Adamson’s argument, which I will refer to as the Natural Improbability Thesis or NIT:
(NIT) Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is IMPROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of at least one planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life (if there was no God to guide, or intervene in, those natural processes).
This assumption suggests a contrast with the alternative view that there exists a God who could, and who probably would, guide, or intervene in, natural processes in order to bring about the formation of a planet capable of sustaining life.  This second key unstated premise of Adamson’s argument I will call the Divine Guidance Thesis or DGT:
(DGT) If God exists, then given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is PROBABLE that at least one planet would come to exist with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life, because if natural processes would not cause this to happen on their own, then God would probably guide, or intervene in, those natural processes to bring about the existence of such a planet.
If (NIT) and (DGT) are both true, then (SJR) and (RDS) would provide some evidence for the existence of God.  But if (NIT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.  And if (DGT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.
The main problem with (NIT) is that we know that the universe contains a fantastically huge number of stars and planets of various sizes and configurations, so it is a matter of common sense that some of the planets in the universe are bound to be of the right size and the right distance from a sun so that those planets would be suitable for sustaining plant, animal and human life.  Therefore, it is clear that (NIT) is false and that Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I am wrong, and that (NIT) was actually true.  In that case Adamson’s argument would still be defective, because (DGT) is also problematic and dubious.  If (NIT) were true, and if God existed, then that would mean that God designed the universe in such a way that it would be IMPROBABLE for natural processes to bring about the existence of a planet that was the right size and the right distance from a sun to sustain plant, animal and human life.
But God is, by definition, all-knowing and all-powerful, so if God designed and created a universe with natural laws and processes that make it IMPROBABLE for a life-friendly planet to come into existence, then this is evidence that God did NOT want or intend for such a planet to come into existence, which implies that God did NOT want or intend for plants, animals, and humans to come into existence.  It does not make sense to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful God would design and create a universe which contains natural laws and processes that are opposed to his basic intentions or purposes for the universe.
If an all-knowing and all-powerful person wanted to design and create a universe that would contain planets that can sustain plant, animal and human life, then we would reasonably expect that the natural laws, and the configuration of matter and energy in that universe, and the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets in that universe would be such as to make it PROBABLE that some planets would develop that have the appropriate properties to sustain living creatures.  Thus, if (NIT) were in fact true, this would cast significant doubt on the truth of (DGT).
The problem of evil also casts significant doubt on (DGT).  In reality,  plants, animals, and humans face injury, disease, natural disasters, and death.  This has been the case on planet Earth for millions of years (at least for plants and non-human animals).   Contary to Christian fundamentalism, injury, disease, destruction, and death were realities before human beings arrived on the scene.  So, if there really was an Adam and Eve living in a garden on the Earth,  then injury, disease, disasters, and death were already a part of the history of this planet long before Adam and Eve existed.  Given these well-established facts, it is reasonable to infer that if an all-powerful and all-knowing person designed and created this universe, then it was the creator’s intention that plants, animals and human beings suffer from injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death.
Adamson and other Christian believers would likely insist at this point that we ought not to rush into judgment about the intentions of the creator of the universe.  A person who is all-powerful and all-knowing has an understanding of reality that far exceeds the intelligence and grasp of human beings who have limited and finite minds.  God’s thoughts and ways are above and beyond human understanding, so although it appears that the Earth was designed to result in injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death for plants, animals and humans, we cannot rely on our limited human intelligence to draw firm conclusions about the intentions of an all-powerful and all-knowing creator.
This common approach to the problem of evil, however, is a two-edged sword.  If skeptics cannot confidently conclude that the creator of the universe intended for plants, animals, and humans to suffer injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death, because the thoughts and ways of God are above and beyond the reckoning of finite human minds, then religious believers also cannot confidently conclude that the creator of the universe intended for there to be some planets that have life-friendly properties, planets that are the right size and the right distance from a sun to sustain plant, animal and human life.  The minds of religious believers are just as finite and limited as the minds of skeptics, so they too cannot presume to understand God’s thoughts and intentions based upon the facts about how things actually are in this universe.
Furthermore, given that God is, by definition, all-powerful and all-knowing, there are more options available to God, if God exists, than just the option of bringing about a planet of the right size and right distance from a sun in order to have a planet filled with plants, animals and humans for an extended period of time.  God could have placed the Earth much closer to the Sun, and created a giant cooling system to remove the excess heat from the Earth.  Or, God could have placed the Earth much farther away from the Sun, and created a giant heating system to ensure that the surface of the Earth did not get too cold for plants, animals and humans to survive.
Or, God could have located the Earth closer to the Sun but designed plants, animals and human beings so that we could tolerate higher temperatures.  Or, God could have located the Earth farther away from the Sun but designed plants, animals and humans so that we could tolerate lower temperatures.
Also, since God is all-powerful, God could locate the Earth far away from the Sun but directly cause the atoms and molecules in the atmosphere and in the water of rivers, lakes, and oceans, to remain at a nice moderate temperature.  Being all-powerful means that God does not require any natural processes or mechanisms at all to accomplish this objective.  God could simply will that the temperature of the air around the Earth remain at 68 degrees fahrenheit, and it would do so, even if there were no giant heater, and no giant air conditioning system, even if there were no stars (suns) in the universe at all.
Another option for an all-powerful and all-knowing creator is that the Earth could have been placed much closer to the Sun, and the surface temperature of the Earth could have been much hotter, say 600 degrees fahrenheit, but God could directly cause the cells of plants, animals and humans to remain at constant moderate temperatures.  Human cells could remain at 99 degrees fahrenheit, for example, even if the air temperature was 600 degrees.  Being all-powerful means that God could simply will that all human cells remain at a temperature of 99 degrees, and that would be what happened.  God, being all-powerful, is not limited by the ordinary laws of nature.  Whatever God wants, God can have, period.
Because an all-powerful and all-knowing person is not limited to, or constrained by, the laws of nature or the natural processes that we observe in this universe, such a person has a wide variety of alternatives for acheiving the objective of having a planet with living creatures on it, where the creatures continue to live and to survive on the planet for an extended period of time.  Because God, if God exists, is such a person, God has many options available to acheive his aims and purposes, so that makes it difficult to predict HOW God will acheive his aims and purposes.
Thus, even if we could somehow KNOW that God wanted or intended the universe to have one or more planets filled with plants, animals and humans for an extended period of time,  we would still not be in a position to know HOW God would be likely to achieve that purpose.  Thus, we would not be able to know or predict that God would arrange for a planet to have the size and location of the planet Earth, even if we did know (which we don’t) that God’s purpose or intention was to bring about the existence of a planet with plants, animals, and humans that would live on the planet for an extended period of time.
Adamson’s unstated premise (DGT) is not as obviously false as (NIT).  However, there are a number of problems with (DGT) that make it a dubious assumption.  First, if (NIT) were true, that would be significant evidence against (DGT).  Second, the problem of evil raises questions about our ability to infer the purposes and intentions of God based on facts about how things actually are in this universe.  Third, since God is by definition all-powerful and all-knowing, God has many options and alternatives for HOW to acheive any given purpose or goal, so this makes it even more difficult to predict HOW God will achieve any particular purpose, including the purpose of bringing about a planet that is filled with plants, animals and humans that live on the planet for an extended period of time.
In conclusion, (NIT) is clearly false, so Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.  Furthermore, Adamson’s other unstated premise (DGT) is dubious, so this is a second reason why Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.