bookmark_borderIntelligent Design: Get ready for another round

President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is very likely a supporter of teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools. Her husband, Dick DeVos, ran for Governor of Michigan in 2006 and explicitly stated his support for ID ( http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/09/21/devos-and-intelligent-design/ ). It is not unlikely, then, that ID proponents will be emboldened to make a fresh push to include it in school science curricula.
A key strategic claim for ID proponents is that ID is not merely a repackaging of creationism.
“The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. “ (http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php)
The unstated details of ID tell another story, however. Here is why:
Consider one of the favorite examples of ID proponents – the bacterial flagellum. Some bacteria have a little whip-like tail that allows them to propel themselves forward like a little motor. Distilled to its essential core, the ID claim is that it is massively improbable that such a structure could have come about by purely natural means. But it is at least less improbable that it should have come about by supernatural means (intelligent agency). The claim is usually made using the term “design.” But this avoids the question of how, exactly, the design is implemented. That is, if the bacterial flagellum begins as a design in the mind of an intelligent designer, how does the designer get the flagella into the world?
Since ID rejects the claim that there is any natural pathway from flagella-less to flagella-ed bacteria, there are only a few apparent options. The designer could simply create flagella-ed bacteria were before there were only flagella-less bacteria. Or, the designer could start with a population of flagella-less bacteria and then create, by supernatural intervention, flagella for them (“let these bacteria become flagella-ed!”) and simultaneously modify their DNA so that their descendants would also be flagella-ed. Or, the designer could start with a population of flagella-less bacteria and only modify their DNA so that their descendants would be flagella-ed. Each these options postulates a miraculous intervention. (I suppose that the second and third options might not fit a narrow enough definition of creationism, but positing miraculous intervention is close enough.)
We could design experimental protocols that would test for each of these options. For the first, we could set up some sterile pertinent dishes devoid of any bacteria and periodically check to see whether any flagella-ed bacteria had appeared in them. Preferably, we would hope for a previously unknown strain. This should not be too unreasonable an expectation on the ID view, since according to ID, history contains many many instances – perhaps millions – of complex structures appearing in the world as a result of intelligent intervention. Why think the designer has permanently rested and no longer implements intelligently designed organisms? True, there is the religious doctrine that God is the designer and rested after the 6th day, where perhaps “resting” could be interpreted as being permanently finished, but this would be scientifically ad hoc, and ID is supposed to be a scientific (not religious) hypothesis that doesn’t invoke religious doctrines.
Or, we could stock some petri dishes with flagella-less bacteria and watch them carefully to see whether they become spontaneously modified to have flagella or suddenly produce offspring with flagella. Oddly enough, this is actually how many people commonly understand (or rather misunderstand) the naturalistic story to go, when in fact the naturalistic story involves much more gradual changes over very long spans of time. But if such a thing were observed, we would have to choose which of several competing hypotheses was the most reasonable: (1) An extremely unlikely natural event happened, or (2) spontaneous mutations resulting in complex structures are far more likely than we had previously thought, or (3) intelligent agency (design) is responsible.
We are also supposed to impose probability estimates in isolation from what would surely be relevant teleological questions in the case of intelligent agency. So, for example, we are supposed to consider the relative probabilities that an intelligent designer is responsible for the complexity of bacterium B without also considering the probability that an intelligent designer (who may or may not be God) would be responsible for the fact that B causes extremely unpleasant death for many of those who end up being infected by it. So if one were to take the view that intelligence and morality are correlated (a position I am not arguing for but which does have a rich historical pedigree), then instances of moral neutral or morally negative complexity would seem to count more strongly in favor of a naturalist explanation than an ID explanation. To those who say, “I don’t know who or what the designer is, but whatever it is must be intelligent” it seems fair to reply “I don’t know who or what the designer is, but whatever it is must be morally disinterested in what this complex bacterium actually does when let loose in the world.”
Of course, the strongest pushback of all against the ID strategy is to provide empirical evidence showing that (and how) the highlighted instances of complexity very plausibly can be built up stepwise by naturalistic evolutionary processes. The more often scientists can respond to the examples trotted out by ID proponents and say, “Sure this could come about naturally. Here’s how…” the weaker the ID case becomes.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 7: Argument #2 of Phase 2

Here is the second argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God:
ARGUMENT #2 of PHASE 2
21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
25. Whatever being “caused the universe” to begin to exist “had great intelligence” (when the universe was being designed).  (WSA, p.26)
Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):   

Argument 2 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
This argument is also clearly a FAILURE.    Let’s begin with an examination of premise (24):
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
Geisler does not explicitly state this premise, but he clearly NEEDS this premise in order to get to the conclusion, which talks about a being that “caused the universe”.   The other premises of this argument appear to be focused on the “designer of the universe”, so those premises are irrelevant to the conclusion apart from the assumption that the being that caused the universe to begin to exist and the designer of the universe are the same being.
But not only does Geisler FAIL to make this assumption explicit,  he also FAILS to provide any reason whatsover to believe that this assumption is true.  It is certainly NOT a necessary truth, because it is conceivable and logically possible that one being designed the universe and another different being caused the universe to begin to exist.  
One way this could happen is if one being were to create the basic matter of the universe, and then a second being came along and organized that matter into planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.  The first being would have caused the universe to begin to exist, but the second being would be the designer of the universe, at least of the major astronomical features of the universe.
Another way this could happen is if one being were to design both the structure of matter of the universe and also the basic astronomical features of the universe, and then a second being came along and brought a universe into existence based on the design that had been developed by the first being.  
Clearly (24) is NOT a logically necessary truth.  It is possible for a cause of the universe and a designer of the universe to be two different beings. Since it is possible that (24) is false, and since there is no obvious reason to believe that (24) is true, Geisler’s argument is unacceptable unless and until he provides a good reason or argument showing that premise (24) is true.  Since Geisler makes no attempt to provide a reason or argument in support of (24), this argument is clearly a FAILURE, as it stands, because it is based on a questionable premise that we have no good reason to believe to be true.
The other key premise in this argument is (23):
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
This is obviously a questionable and controversial claim.  It would be question-begging to simply assume this premise to be true. Accordingly, Geisler provides us with an argument in support of premise (23):

21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).

Is this a sound argument?  The logic is fine (a standard modus ponens inference), so we only need to be concerned about whether the premises are true.  If both premise (21) and (22) are true, then we ought to accept (23).  
Let’s begin by examining premise (21).  Is this premise true?
In order to evaluate whether (21) is true, we must first understand what (21) means. As with most of Geisler’s premises, this statement is UNCLEAR, so we cannot evaluate the truth of this premise as it stands.  The sentence asserted in (21) has a subject and a predicate.  The subject of (21) is unclear, and the predicate of (21) is unclear.  
Let’s start with the subject:
(S21) The design of the universe…  
As it stands, this premise begs an important question.  It ASSUMES that there is such a thing as “the design” of the universe.  But this is hardly an obvious or self-evident truth.  This is a controversial claim which Geisler needs to support with reasons or arguments.  
Furthermore, the use of the definite article “the” implies that there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe.  Thus, even if we assume that the universe has a design (i.e. at least one design), the expression “the design of the universe” might not refer to anything at all, because there might be MANY designs of the universe.  
If there are MANY cars in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house, then the claim that
The car in the parking lot of the Safeway grocery store near my house is a Volkswagen
is NOT a true claim, because the subject “the car in the parking lot…” does not refer to any specific car.  
Because there are many cars in the parking lot, the expression “the car in the parking lot” has no clear referent.  Similarly, if there are MANY designs incorporated into various parts or aspects of the universe, then the expression “the design of the universe” has no clear referent, and thus premise (21) could not, under such circumstances, assert a true claim.  If there are MANY designs of the universe, then premise (21) is literally not talking about anything, because (21) would have no actual subject. Let’s rephrase the subject of (21) to make this point clear:
(S21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe…
One logical possiblity is that the universe incorporates several designs. For example, one being might have designed the electron, while another being designed the proton, and a third being designed neutrons.  Each sub-atomic particle might have been individually designed.  Each planet and each star could have been designed by a different being, or each solar system designed by a different being, or each galaxy designed by a different being.  The laws of gravity might have been designed by one being, while other laws of physics were designed by another being.  If different parts or aspects of the universe were designed by different beings, then although there would be MANY designs incorporated into the universe, it might well be the case that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe, no single overarching plan that was devised for all of the major parts and aspects of the universe.
What this means is that in order to show that (21) is true, Geisler needs to prove not only that there is “a design” incorporated into some aspect of the universe, but that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe as a whole.  It appears to me that Geisler has made no attempt to show this to be the case.  If he has made no attempt to show that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, then he has FAILED to show that premise (21) is true.
Before we move on to clarify the predicate of (21), it is important to note that there is a distinction between “a design IN the universe” and “a design OF the universe”.  Geisler, as usual, is sloppy in his writing and thinking, and he quickly slides over this distinction without any comment or clarification. Note that in his argument from design, Geisler uses the expression “design in the universe” in one of his premises:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
The second premise asserts that there is a great “design in the universe”.  Even if that were true, it does NOT imply that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”. There may be parts or aspects of the universe that have “a design” even if the universe as a whole does not have a design.  For example, my car, my bicycle, and my cell phone are all objects in the universe.  Each of these things is a part of the universe, and each of these things has a design.  So, clearly there are parts or aspects of the universe that have a design, but the fact that my car was designed does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  It is a logical fallacy to infer from the fact that some parts or aspects of the universe have a design that the universe as a whole has a design.  
In the conclusion of his argument from design, Geisler talks about “a Great Designer of the universe”.  If the existence of such a being logically implies that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, then the inference in Geisler’s argument from design is logically invalid, because the premise only talks about there being “design in the universe”, and that could be the case if just one part or aspect of the universe had a design while the universe as a whole lacked a design.  The second premise of this argument from design appears to be too weak to prove the conclusion, because it leaves open the possibility that there is no such thing as “the design” of the universe.  
On the other hand, if the conclusion that there is “a Great Designer of the universe” only implies that there is AT LEAST ONE designer who designed AT LEAST ONE part or aspect of the universe, then this weaker conclusion might logically follow from the second premise, but this weaker conclusion is inadequate for Geisler to build upon in Phase 2.  If the possibility of there being MANY designers and MANY designs in the universe is left open, then Geisler cannot make inferences from the design of one specific part or aspect of the universe to the intelligence of “the designer” of the universe as a whole.  In order for Geisler’s Phase 2 to work, he needs to show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, but he has not provided any reason whatsoever to believe this to be the case.  
So, it seems that the UNCLARITY in Geisler’s writing and thinking in relation to the difference between “design IN the universe” and “design OF the universe” hides a serious problem in his case for the existence of God.  By becoming clearer about the distinction between these two different ideas, we can then see yet another way in which Geisler’s case for God FAILS.  
Now let’s consider the predicate of premise (21):
(P21) …is far beyond anything that man could devise.
As it stands, the wording here is vague.  However, in context it is clear that what Geisler has in mind here is complexity of structure and function, especially in the design of a machine.  It is helpful to consider the full sentence that Geisler wrote:
Even Carl Sagan admits that the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.  (WSA, p.26)
Here Geisler refers back to his presentation of the argument from design and to a quotation that he gave from Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos:
The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among neurons–about a hundred trillion….  If written out in English, say, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries.  The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of every one of us.  The brain is a very big place in a very small space. … The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans.    (WSA, p.21. Geisler is quoting from Cosmos, p.278)
[Note that Sagan was talking about the human brain, not about the universe as a whole.  So, even if it were true that the human brain has a design that was produced by some being who existed prior to the human species, it does not follow that there is such a thing as “the design of the universe,” nor that there is such a thing as “the designer of the universe,” nor that “the designer of the universe” must be as intelligent as the designer of the human brain.  Sagan also does NOT claim that the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain is something that “is far beyond” what humans “could devise”, but rather that it is beyond the complexity of any machine that has been devised by humans (so far). That leaves open the possibility that humans might in the future create a machine that was as complex in structure and function as the human brain.]
The paragraph in which this quote of Sagan is given begins this way:
That’s where the next premise comes in [i.e. “There is a great design in the universe.”]. The design we see in the universe is complex. (WSA, p.21)
What is the relevance of the design in the universe being “complex”?  The relevance is indicated at the end of the paragraph prior to the one just quoted:
…the more complex that design is, the greater the intelligence required to produce it.  (WSA, p.21)
The more complex a design is, the more intelligent the being that produced that design must be.  Given the context of the quote from Sagan and the context of the relevance of the concept of “complexity” of a design, we can clarify the meaning of the predicate of (21):  
(P21a) …is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
We can now re-state premise (21) so that it’s meaning is significantly more clear:
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
A reasonably full-fledged “design of the universe” would presumably include the following: (a) a specification of the laws of physics,  (b) a specification of the sub-atomic structure of atoms, (c) a specification of the amounts of various kinds of matter and energy in the universe at the beginning of the universe, (d) other initial physical conditions of the universe, and (e) a specification of the astronomical structure of the universe (e.g. billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets) that would result from the other design specifications.  
But a desgn of the universe might only be a partial design.  For example, suppose that the laws of physics and the sub-atomic structure of atoms has always existed and is undesigned.  Some intelligent being (or beings) could have taken this already existing material and created our universe according to a plan or design that was aimed at producing billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars and planets.  In this case, it would make sense to speak of “the design of the universe”, but that design would be focused on the astronomical structure of the universe and it would NOT include the sub-atomic structure of atoms, nor would it specify the laws of physics, because those other elements of the universe would already be in existence, and there would be no need to design or create those aspects of the universe.  
At the other extreme, “the design of the universe” could include every little fact about the universe, and every event that would ever occur in the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  Geisler believes in a creator being who is omniscient and omnipotent, and such a being would have the knowledge and power to determine in advance every little fact and event in the history of the universe, including what I would eat for breakfast this morning.  
Given the wide diversity of possible contents of “the design of the universe”–ranging from a specification of only the astronomical structure of the universe, to a full-fledge design that includes laws of physics, sub-atomic structure, various initial conditions, and astronomical structure, to the extreme concept of a design that includes every fact and event in the entire history of the universe–the concept of “a design of the universe” is still a rather broad and vague concept in need of careful examination and treatment.
Finally, as mentioned previously, there could be some things in the universe that were designed, even if the universe as a whole was NOT designed.  Geisler in presenting his argument from design quoted Carl Sagan’s comments about the amazingly complex structure and function of the human brain.  This does not appear to help Geisler’s case though, because even if the human brain was designed, this does NOT imply that the universe as a whole was designed.  Furthermore, even if we granted the assumption that the human brain was designed and that the universe as a whole was designed, this does NOT imply that the designer of the universe is the same being as the designer of the human brain.  So, the intelligence of the being that designed the human brain might well be greatly superior to the intelligence of the being that designed the universe as a whole.  
To be clear about the concept of “a design of the universe”, we should keep in mind some various logical possibilities:
POSSIBILITY 1  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” but there is no particular being that is “the designer of the universe”, because there are MANY designers who produced the design of the universe, not just one.  
POSSIBILITY 2  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe”, but there are no beings who are designers of the universe, because the design of the universe is the product of random or unintelligent forces and is NOT the product of a person or an intelligent being.
POSSIBILITY 3   
There are specific things in the universe or specific aspects of the universe that were designed (e.g. DNA, or the human brain), and thus there is “design IN the universe”, but there is no such thing as “the design OF the universe” because there is no overarching plan or design of the universe as a whole.  
POSSIBILITY 4
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions because those natural phenomena are not the product of an intelligent designer (e.g. the human brain is the product of evolution and random variations and genetic changes and mutations, not the product of an intelligent designer).  
POSSIBILITY 5  
There is such a thing as “the design of the universe” and there is also a being who is “the designer of the universe”, but this being did not design some of the natural phenomena that have complex structures and functions (e.g. the human brain), but some OTHER intelligent being(s) produced the design of the other complex natural phenomena (thus the designer of the human brain might be very intelligent, while the designer of the universe might be much less intelligent, perhaps less intelligent than human beings).  
These scenarios all appear to be logical possibilities, so in order for Geisler’s case to be successful, he needs to show that either these are NOT logically possible, or that there is good reason to believe that these scenarios are highly improbable (or that some of these scenarios are logically impossible and that the others are highly improbable).  
POSSIBILITY 2 appears to be ruled out by the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design.  Here is his argument from design:
All designs imply a designer.
There is a great design in the universe.
Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. (WSA, p.20, emphasis added)  
If it is true that “All designs imply a designer”, then doesn’t that eliminate the possibility that there could be such a thing as “the design of the universe” without there also being at least one “designer of the universe”?  That depends on how we interpret the word “imply” in the first premise.  One straightforward interpretation is that “imply” means “logically entail”:  
All designs LOGICALLY ENTAIL the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).  
However, if we interpret the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design this way, then his argument FAILS for two good reasons:  (1) the first premise would be FALSE, and (2) the second premise would beg the question at issue.
On this interpretation the first premise of Geisler’s argument from design would be FALSE, because it is logically possible for a design to happen by random chance.  Geisler admits this to be a logical possibility, because he argues that it is IMPROBABLE that something like the complex structures and functions found in a living cell would occur as the result of random, unintelligent forces and processes.  Claiming that this is IMPROBABLE, implies that it is logically possible, for if there was a logical contradiction in the idea of a design produced by random, unthinking forces and processes, then Geisler would simply point out that logical contradiction and that would be sufficient to eliminate the possibility of a design existing apart from a designer.   But Geisler does not do this; instead, he argues that the it would be IMPROBABLE that all of the various structures and functions of a cell would just happen to occur as the result of random, unthinking forces and processes.  But even if it is highly improbable that X will happen, that still leaves open that possibility that X will happen.  Even if it is highly improbable that I will win the state lottery tomorrow, that still leaves open the possibility that I will win the state lottery tomorrow.
On this interpretation, the second premise of Geisler’s argument from design would beg the question at issue.  If we assume that the first premise of his argument was true, if we assume that the very concept of “a design” logically entails the existence of “a designer”, then the second premise would presuppose what the argument is trying to establish:  
There is a great design in the universe.
This premise would, on this interpretation, presuppose the existence of a designer.  In order to KNOW that this premise was in fact true, one would have to first KNOW that there exists a designer of the universe.  But that is what the argument is trying to establish!  So, this is not merely the weak sort of question begging where a premise that is controversial is asserted without reasons or evidence; this is the strong form of question begging that we call circular reasoning.  On this interpretation of the first premise, the second premise presupposes the truth of the concusion of the argument, and thus the argument would commit the fallacy of circular reasoning.
In order for Geisler’s argument from design to have any chance of being successful, we must interpret the first premise to be making a weaker claim, a claim that does not assert a logical entailment between “design” and “designers, a claim such as this:
All designs PROVIDE EVIDENCE that increases the PROBABILITY of the existence of at least one designer (who produced the design in question).   
This revised version is probably too weak to provide adequate support for Geisler’s case for God, but however one modifies and clarifies the first premise of his argument from design, that premise wil have to leave open the logical possibility of a design existing without it having been produced by a designer.  
So, let’s return to the key question: Is premise (21a) true or false?
(21a) There is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise.  
Is there exactly one design that is a design of the universe?  Is there an overarching design of the universe as a whole?  I don’t think so.  As far as I can see, Geisler has not even attempted to show this to be the case.  He talks mainly about the complexity of the structure and function of DNA, living cells, living organisms, and the human brain.  But these are just things IN the universe or aspects of the universe.  So, even if these things or aspects were designed, that does not imply that the universe as a whole was designed, nor that there is a design of the universe as a whole.  
Furthermore, if we think about the universe as a whole, the analogy with a machine (like a watch) is not a very good analogy.  A watch has a clear and obvious function (keeping track of the passing of time), and all of the structures and functions of parts and aspects of a watch can be related to the function of the watch as a whole.  But there is no similarly clear and obvious function of the universe as a whole.  
The main function that is often suggested is the production of living creatures or the production of intelligent creatures (like human beings).  But, why is there a need for billions of galaxies each filled with billions of stars and planets?  One little solar system with a few planets orbiting one sun would do the trick.  But the chance of a living simple organism forming out of non-living chemicals on a planet seems highly unlikely, especially in a period of only thousands or millions of years.  So, one might argue that in order to ensure that a simple living organism is produced by random natural processes, the universe had to be terrifically large, with a fantastic number of stars and planets and solar systems, and the universe had to be designed to last for billions of years to allow enough time for random natural processes to produce simple living creatures somewhere in the universe.
But then, if an intelligent being wanted to produce living creatures, why do so using random physical processes that would take billions of billions of solar systems billions of years to produce one living creature? and then another billion years or more for that creature’s offspring to (possibly) produce intelligent creatures (if the planet and solar system continued to exist for that long)?  Why not produce living creatures or even intelligent creatures DIRECTLY, as in the creation myth in the book of Genesis?  
Using slow and random physical processes to produce a living creature, and using the slow and random process of evolution to produce an intelligent creature from a simple single-celled organism, seems like a terrifically stupid and inefficient way of producing living creatures and intelligent creatures. If the purpose of the universe is to produce living creatures, it is a fairly lousy mechanism for accomplishing this purpose.  The universe does not appear to be a carefully designed mechanism for producing living creatures, or anything else.  
Suppose I am wrong, and there is exactly one design that is a design of the universe as a whole, and suppose that the purpose of the universe is to bring about living creatures or intelligent living creatures.  In this case, would the design of the universe be so complex in structure and function that it would be “far beyond” the limited intelligence of human beings to produce that design or the design of a machine in which the complexity of the structure and content of the machine was of a similar degree as the complexity and structure of the design of this universe?  I don’t think so.  Geisler has given us no good reason to believe this to be so.  His discussion of DNA, cells, and the human brain is irrelevant, because he has given us no reason to believe that the design of these things (DNA, cells, and the human brain) was produced by the being who produced the design of the universe as a whole.  
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was exactly one design that was a design of the universe as a whole, this design need not have included the structure and function of DNA, cells, or the human brain.  In fact, it is highly implausible that a design formulated billions of years ago concering the initial conditions of our universe, would have any relevance to the specific structures and functions of human brains, which evolved as the result of the random, unthinking process of evolution.  The initial physical conditions of the universe only, at best, allowed for the coming into existence of solar systems where living organisms might form by random, unthinking physical processes, and thus allow for random, unthinking process of evolution to start up.  But creating the conditions to make it possible for the evolution of life and of intelligent creatures, is not the same thing as determining the specific path that the evolution of intelligent creatures would follow over the course of a billion years or more.  
So, if “the design” of the universe did not include DNA, cells, or the human brain, then what would it have included? Presumably, it would include the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics,  the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe that was intended to result from those other aspects of the design.  Is such a design “far beyond” the complexity of any design that human beings will ever be able to produce?  I don’t think so.  We human beings seem to have a pretty good handle on the sub-atomic structure of matter, the laws of physics, the initial conditions of the universe, and the general astronomical structure of the universe.  So, the content of this alleged design of the universe appears to be something about which human beings, at least smart and well-educated human beings,  have a pretty good understanding.  So, it does not seem at all unlikely that human beings would one day be able to produce a design for a machine that has the same level of complexity of structure and function as the universe.  
There is good reason to doubt that there is exaclty one design that is a design of the universe and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise. There is also good reason to doubt the degree of complexity in the design of the universe is far beyond the intellectual capability of human beings, and Geisler has FAILED to provide a good reason to think otherwise.  So, we ought to reject premise (21a) as being probably false.  This is a second reason for rejecting Argument #2 of Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.
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UPATED on 11/14/16
I have added comments on premise (22).
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There is one more premise to examine in this argument:
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).  
First, before we try to determine whether this premise is true or false, it needs to be revised in keeping with the clarification of premise (21):  
22a. IF there is EXACTLY ONE design that is a design of the universe, and that design is more complex in structure and function than that of any design (of a machine) that human beings could ever (with their limited intelligence) devise, THEN there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe, and that designer had greater intelligence than any human being (when the universe was being designed). 
Is premise (22a) true or false?  The points I have made previously in this discussion of Geisler’s argument from design point to some significant problems with this premise.
Strictly speaking, this premise is FALSE, because no matter how complex a design might be, it is always logically possible for that design to have been produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  However, since we are supposed to assume here that the complexity of the design of the universe is so great that humans could not ever produce a design of that degree of complexity, one could argue that it is highly improbable that random, unthinking forces and processes would produce such a highly complex design.  So, although the conditional statement above is false, interpreting the IF/THEN as one of logical entailment or logical necessity, it could be argued that the connection between the antecedent and the consequent is quite a strong one.  The antecedent, it might be argued, provides a very powerful piece of evidence for the truth of the consequent, even though it falls short of being a necessary logical connection or implication.
Mr. Geisler’s own example of the complexity of the structure and function of the human brain, however, works as a counterexample here.  We have very good reason to believe that the complex structure and function of the human brain was produced by random, unthinking forces and processes.  Thus, if the human brain has a design (as Geisler insists), and if the human brain has a design that is so complex that it would not be possible for human beings to produce a design with that degree of complexity (as Geisler insists), then one of the most complex designs in the universe is a design that was produced by random, unthinking processes, and was NOT produced by an intelligent designer, nor by a group or team of intelligent designers.
Furthermore, as we have previously seen, even assuming that there is EXACTLY ONE design of the universe, that design might have been produced by MANY designers, so the existence of EXACTLY ONE design of the universe does NOT show that there is EXACTLY ONE designer of the universe who produced that design.
Finally, since for all we know it might be the case that the ONE design of the universe was produced by a group or team of designers, we cannot infer the degree of intelligence of individual designers on the basis of the degree of complexity of that design.  The degree of complexity of a design that was produced by a group or team of designers can exceed the level of knowledge and intelligence of any individual designer in the group or team of designers that produced the design.  
So, we cannot legitimately infer from the existence of a complex design that there are any intelligent beings who produced that design, nor that the design was produced by EXACTLY ONE designer, nor can we infer from a highly complex design the existence of a designer of great intelligence, since the design may have been produced by a group or team of designers. For these reasons, we ought to reject premise (22a) as being probably false.
CONCLUSION
We ought to reject Argument #2 of Phase 2, because it rests on a questionable and controversial premise, premise (24) and Geisler provides no reason whatsoever why we ought to believe that premise is true, and because there are good reasons to doubt the other basic premises of this argument, premises (22a) and (21a), and Geisler has FAILED to provide good reasons to believe those premises to be true.

bookmark_borderGeisler’s Five Ways – Part 6: Arguments for the Intelligence of the Creator

Here is my version of Geisler’s first argument in Phase 2 of his case for God:
ARGUMENT #1 OF PHASE 2
10a. Only a being with great power could create the whole universe by itself, and only a being with great power could sustain the existence of the whole universe by itself  (for even just one moment).
11a. There is a being that both (a) created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that (b) sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
THEREFORE:
12a. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past), and that being both (a) had great power (in the distant past) and (b) has great power (right now).

Premise
 (11a) presupposes the following two claims:
13. There is a being that created the whole universe by itself (in the distant past).
14. There is a being that sustains the existence of the whole universe by itself (right now).
Geisler believes that Argument #1 of Phase 1 proves (13) and that Argument #2 of Phase 1 proves (14), but in the previous post we saw that the inferences from the conclusions of the Phase 1 arguments to (13) and to (14) were logically invalid.  
I also noted that Geisler needed to prove that a being that caused the universe to begin to exist (in the distant past) must be the same being as a being that causes the universe to continue to exist (right now), but that Geisler provides no reason or argument supporting this critical assumption.  Thus, Geisler FAILED to provide a good reason or argument for all three assumptions supporting premise (11a).  Since premise (11a) is a controversial and questionable premise, and since we have been given no good reason to believe (11a), Geisler has FAILED to show that (12a) is true.
The conclusion of the second and third arguments in Phase 2 is implied in this sentence:
The argument from design shows us that whatever caused the universe not only had great power, but also great intelligence.  (WSA, p.26)
This sentence may appear to imply that the argument from design shows that whatever caused the universe had great power, but that is not what Geisler means.  He has just finished arguing that his cosmological arguments show that whatever caused the universe had great power, and now he is moving on to use the argument from design to show the additional claim that whatever caused the universe had great intelligence
Here is the second argument in Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God:
ARGUMENT #2 of PHASE 2
21. “…the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise.” (WSA, p.26)
22. IF the design of the universe is far beyond anything that man could devise, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
THUS:
23. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when the universe was being designed).
24. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
25. Whatever being “caused the universe” to begin to exist “had great intelligence” (when the universe was being designed).  (WSA, p.26)
Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):
 Argument 2 of Phase 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Geisler also provides another closely-related argument for the great intelligence of “God”:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2 (Geisler’s wording)
26. God “designed our brains.” (WSA, p.26)
27. IF God designed our brains, THEN “God…knows everything there is to know about the way we think…” (WSA, p.26)
THUS:
28. God knows everything there is to know about the way we think.
29. IF God knows everything there is to know about the way we think, THEN God had great intelligence.
THEREFORE:
30.  God had great intelligence.
If Geisler was using the word “God” in its ordinary sense, then premise (26) would clearly beg the question at issue, which is whether God exists.  So, Geisler is again using the word “God” in a non-standard way, and since he has failed to explain or define what he the hell he means by the word “God” in this argument, it is confusing and misleading to use the word “God” here.
Given that Geisler is attempting to make use of his argument from design, the most likely interpretation of the word “God” in this context is “the designer of the universe”. Furthermore, we need to clarify the time frames in these premises and conclusions, and it is clear that the time Geisler has in mind is the time when our brains were being designed.  
Here is my clarified version of this argument:
ARGUMENT #3 of PHASE 2 – Rev. A
26a. The designer of the universe designed our brains.
27a. IF the designer of the universe designed our brains, THEN the designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think.
THUS:
28a. The designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think.
29a. IF the designer of the universe knew (when our brains were being designed) everything there is to know about the way we think, THEN the designer of the universe had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).
THUS:
30a. The designer of the universe had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).
31. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist is also the designer of the universe.
THEREFORE:
32. Whatever being caused the universe to begin to exist had great intelligence (when our brains were being designed).

Here is a diagram of this argument (with the conclusion at the top, and the premises below it):

Argument 3 of Phase 2


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next post I will begin to evaluate these two arguments from Phase 2 of Geisler’s case for the existence of God.

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:
=================
…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)
=================
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”:
=============
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.
=============
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:
================

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.]
==================
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_borderDoes God Exist? Part 3

I’m still working on development of an analysis of the question “Does God exist?” that would help to organize systematic investigations of the question.
In the Part 1 post in this series I suggested an analysis in terms of logical possibility, logical necessity, certainty, and probability (click on image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
Does God Exist - 1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In that same post I suggested another possible way to analyze the question “Does God exist?” in terms of the traditional roles that God plays (creator of the universe, ruler of the universe, revealer of truth):
Does God Exist - 2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the Part 2 post in this series,  I suggested an analysis of the question that was based on a modified (simplified) version of Richard Swinburne’s analysis of the meaning of the word “God”  (I dropped a few of the divine attributes from his analysis, ones that seemed problematic or less important):
Does God Exist - 3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Since then I have made a second attempt at an analysis of the question based on my simplified version of Swinburne’s analysis of the meaning of the word “God”:
Does God Exist - 4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Today,  I have another analysis to consider, one based on how a scientific skeptic would approach the question “Does God exist?”.   A scientifically oriented skeptic objects to the idea of there being bodiless persons (or minds without brains), and also objects to the idea of there being persons with supernatural powers.  So,  my latest analysis puts an emphasis on these sorts of issues:
1. Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge? (telepathy–mind reading, extra-sensory perception, clairvoyance, prophecy, out-of-body experiences)
2. Are there any animals or persons who can communicate supernaturally? (telepathy–communication)
3. Are there any animals or persons who can perform supernatural healings?  (supernatural healings, resurrections)
4. Are there any animals or persons who can create a physical object out of nothing?
5. Are there any animals or persons who have other supernatural powers (not knowledge, not communication, not healing, not creating things out of nothing)? (telekinesis,  levitation, supernatural flight, , invisibility, nature miracles, curses, hexes, spells, wizardry, witchcraft, black magic, etc.)
6. Are there any animals or persons who are supernatural beings? (bodiless: ghosts, angels, demons, gods)
7. Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge and who communicate supernaturally?
8. Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge, communicate supernaturally, and can perform supernatural healings?
9. Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge, communicate supernaturally, perform supernatural healings, and who can create physical objects out of nothing?
10.  Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge, communicate supernaturally, perform supernatural healings, create physical objects out of nothing, and have other supernatural powers as well?
11.  Are there any animals or persons who have supernatural knowledge, communicate supernaturally, perform supernatural healings, create physical objects out of nothing, have other supernatural powers, and who are bodiless?
12.  Is there a being who is eternally omniscient, eternally omnipotent, eternally bodiless, eternally perfectly morally good, and who created the universe out of nothing?
I’m working on a chart for these questions…

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_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.

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 2

If you are meeting someone for the first time, it is a good idea to put your best foot forward, to be polite, kind, positive, and friendly.  If you are trying to persuade someone to take the idea that there is a God seriously, it would be a good idea to put your best foot forward, to lay out some of your best and strongest arguments right up front.
But in her article “Is There a God?” Marilyn Adamson puts forward some obviously illogical and defective arguments for the existence of God at the very beginning of her case.  No professional philosopher would put forward such crappy arguments as those that make up Adamson’s first “reason” for believing in God, so it is very unlikely that Adamson’s article was looked over by a professional philosopher or that Adamson consluted a professional philosopher for feedback on her article.
The jaw-dropping stupidity and ignorance of those initial arguments made it difficult for me to continue reading the article or to take seriously anything else that Adamson had to say in support of her belief in the existence of God.  She completely destroyed her own credibility in the opening paragraphs of the article.
Here is the first of the six reasons Adamson gives for believing that God exists:
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1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:
The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.
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Adamson goes on to give a couple more examples, but these first two are sufficient to show the stupidity and ignorance of this first set of reasons or arguments.
Let’s summarize these two arguments.  The size of the Earth is just right:
(SJR) The size of the Earth is just right, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
The Earth is the right distance from the Sun:
(RDS) The Earth is the right distance from the Sun, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
These are clearly and obviously bad reasons for believing in God.  A little knowledge about philosophy or about astronomy or about the history of cosmology and astronomy would have prevented Adamson from putting forward these stupid and ignorant arguments.
If a philosopher had reviewed her article, or if an astonomer had reviewed her article or if someone with knowledge of the history of philosophy or the history of cosmology or the history of astronomy had provided feedback to Adamson, we would have been spared from having to read this ignorant and illogical crap.
One obvious objection to these arguments (and to other similar arguments) has been available for over 430 years:
Giordano Bruno introduced in his works the idea of multiple worlds instantiating the infinite possibilities of a pristine, indivisible One. Bruno (from the mouth of his character Philotheo) in his De l’infinito universo et mondi (1584) claims that “innumerable celestial bodies, stars, globes, suns and earths may be sensibly perceived therein by us and an infinite number of them may be inferred by our own reason.”  ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_pluralism)
If there are “innumerable” stars and planets and “innumerable” solar systems, then it is to be expected that some of those planets would be the right size and the right distance from a star (i.e. a sun) so that it could sustain plant, animal and human life.   If you buy just one lottery ticket, you probably will not win the lottery, but if you buy millions of lottery tickets, then you will have a good chance of winning the lottery.  This is a very simple and obvious point related to probability.
The same logic applies to the probability of there being a planet that is the right size and the right distance from a star so that the planet can sustain plant, animal and human life.  If the universe contains billions or trillions of solar systems, then it is to be expected that some planets would be the right size and the right distance from a sun so that they could sustain plant, animal and human life.  There is no need for the hypothesis of an intelligent designer to explain the existence of a planet with the right size and located at the right distance from a sun to support life.  Any professional philosopher or astronomer would understand this point and would immediately reject these two arguments put forward by Adamson.
Bruno’s theory about the universe is called “cosmic pluralism”:
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.  
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_pluralism)
Actually, this idea was around long before Bruno was born.  In fact, cosmic pluralism was introduced into western thought near the very beginning of western philosophy by Anaxagoras, a pre-socratic philosopher:
If Empedocles acheived a kind of immortality as a precursor of Darwin, his contemporary Anaxagoras is sometimes regarded as an intellectual ancestor of the currently popular cosmology of the big bang.  Anaxagoras was born around 500 BC in Clazomenae, near Izmir, and was possibly a pupil of Anaximenes. …
Here is his account of the beginning of the universe: ‘All things were together, infinite in number and infinite in smallness; for the small too was infinite.  While all these things were together, nothing was recognizable because of its smallness.  Everything lay under air and ether, both infinite’ (KRS 467).  This primeval pebble began to rotate, throwing off the surrounding ether and air and forming out of them the stars and the sun and the moon.  The rotation caused the separation of dense from rare, of hot from cold, of dry from wet, and bright from dark.  But the separation was never complete, and to this day there remains in every single thing a portion of everything else. 
The expansion of the universe, Anaxagoras maintained, has continued in the present and will continue in the future (KRS 476).  Perhaps it has already generated worlds other than our own.  As a result of the presence of everything in everything, he says,
men have been formed and the other ensouled animals.  And the men possess farms and inhabit cities just as we do, and they have a sun and a moon and the rest just like us.  The earth produces things of every sort for them to be harvested and stored, as it does for us.   I have said all this about the process of separating off, because it would have happened not only here with us, but elsewhere too. (KRS 498)
Anaxagoras thus has a claim to be the originator of the idea, later proposed by Giordano Bruno and popular again today in some quarters, that our cosmos is just one of many which may, like ours, be inhabited by intelligent creatures.  
(A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 1: Ancient Philosophy, by Anthony Kenny, p.24-25)
The idea of cosmic pluralism has been around for nearly 2,500 years!  This idea was born at about the same time that western philosophy began to exist.
Presumably, Adamson is ignorant of ancient philosophy, and has no knowledge about Anaxagoras and his idea of cosmic pluralism.  Presumably, Adamson is ignorant of the history of philosophy in the Renaissance and the history of the Roman Inquisition (Bruno was burned at the stake –by the brilliant intellectual Christians who were leaders of the Roman Inquisition–for his various dangerous and heretical ideas, including cosmic pluralism).  But because cosmic pluralism has been a part of Western thought for about 2,500 years, even someone who is completely ignorant about the history of philosophy and the history of astronomy ought to be aware of this view of the universe.
Has Adamson never seen a Star Trek episode or movie?  Has Adamson never seen a Star Wars movie?  Has Adamson never read a science-fiction book or story?  Science-fiction stories and movies commonly assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, so one would have to religiously avoid reading any science-fiction story or watching any science-fiction movie or any science-fiction television program in order to be unfamiliar with the idea that our universe might be filled with solar systems and with planets that are the right size and that are at the right distance from a sun, so that they can support plant, animal and human life.  What planet did Adamson come from?  Apparently, she came from a planet where there are no science-fiction stories, no science-fiction movies, and no science-fiction television programs.  What a sad little world that must be.
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.
In the next post in this series, I will address this question about whether cosmic pluralism is reasonable and whether there is scientific evidence to support it.