bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 3

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.
I had planned to address a possible reply to my objection in this post, a reply asserting that cosmic pluralism is a speculative theory which has not been established by scientific observations and evidence.  However, it is more important to clarify Adamson’s initial argument for the existence of God, so I will address this reply to my objection in another post later in this series.
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.
In the previous post in this series, I have already presented a major objection to this argument.  But before I go any further, I think it would be helpful to clarify Adamson’s reasoning.
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.   In order to thoughtfully and critically evaluate her reasoning, one must first read between the lines in order to guess at the missing premises and inferences that were left out of her presentation of this argument.
Although it would be possible to make use of the above two premises in a sophisticated version of a Fine Tuning argument, it is clear that this is NOT what Adamson had in mind.  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.
This sentence implies that the Earth is a rare or unique planet in having properties that make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life.  Such a claim does not fit well with a Fine Tuning type of argument.
If this were a Fine Tuning argument, then Adamson would be arguing that the laws of nature and the configuration of matter and energy that were present in the initial moments of the big bang were such as to make it PROBABLE that natural processes would result in the development of planets (like the Earth) with properties that make them capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life.
But this sentence suggests the very opposite view.  It suggests that the existence of a planet with properties that make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life is IMPROBABLE, given what we know about the laws of nature and about the configuration of matter and energy in the universe and about the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, assuming that there was no God to guide or intervene in the natural processes that led to the formation of stars and planets.
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.
In short, if there is no God, then (given what we know about natural laws and processes in the physical universe) a life-friendly planet like the Earth probably would NOT have developed, but if there is a God, then (given what we know about natural laws and processes in the physical universe and what we know about God’s purposes and inclinations) a life-friendly planet like the Earth probably would have developed.
The conjunction of (NIT) and (DGT) implies that the explicitly stated premises of Adamson’s argument provide evidence for the existence of God.   That is to say, 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.
Both of these important unstated premises of Adamson’s argument are problematic and questionable.  That is the problem with CLARITY.   If you present an argument clearly, which involves explicitly stating your basic assumptions and inferences, then people who read your argument can rationally and critically evaluate your argument, and if your reasoning involves false or questionable assumptions, or illogical inferences, this will make it much easier for others to see that your argument is defective.
By leaving most of her argument unstated, Adamson hides the false or questionable assumptions of her argument, and makes it difficult for others to rationally and critically evaluate her argument.  Thus, even if this first argument was a solid argument (which it assuredly is not), Adamson’s sketchy presentation of this argument makes it difficult for readers of her article to rationally and critically evaluate this argument, and it makes it easier for college students to be taken in by an illogical or defective argument.
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.
There are additional factors required to make a planet capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life besides the size and location of the planet, but Adamson’s argument focuses on these two important factors, and given the focus on these two factors, (NIT) seems clearly to be 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 stars and planets, it is actually PROBABLE 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; there is no need to assume the existence of a God to account for the existence of such a planet.  The laws of nature, general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets are sufficient by themselves to make the existence of a planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun extremely probable, virtually certain.
There are about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe (we cannot observe the entire universe because some parts of the universe are more than 13.7 billion light years away, so there has not been enough time for light from stars that far away to reach the Earth) .  There are about 100 billion stars in a galaxy, on average.  So, the approximate number of stars in the observable universe is:
200,000,000,000 galaxies  x  100,000,000,000 stars/galaxy =
 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars
That is a lot of stars!
What about planets?  How many planets are there?  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
That is a lot of planets!
Clearly, with this huge number of stars and planets of various sizes and distances from each other, it is virtually certain that at least one planet in the universe would be the right size and at the right distance from a sun in order to make the planet suitable for sustaining plant, animal and human life.  According to one estimate, based on recently gathered astronomical data, there are probably 15 to 30 billion planets in the observable universe which would be of the right size and at the right distance from a sun to be suitable for sustaining life.
Therefore (NIT) is clearly false, and Adamson has failed to show that her factual premises (SJR) and (RDS) provide any 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.

bookmark_borderAdamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 1

I was bored one night a few weeks ago and did a Google search on “Does God exist”. One of the top hits that came back was for this webpage:
http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html
This webpage contains an article written by Marilyn Adamson, called “Is There a God?”, which according to the sub-title presents “six straightforward reasons to believe that God is really there.”  
According to the “About” page the EveryStudent.com website is sponsored by “an interdenominational Christian organization: Cru.”.  I did not recognize the name “Cru”, so I poked around a bit, and clicked on a link to a sister website called StartingwithGod.com, which is also sponsored by “Cru”.  The “About” page for this sister site has a link to a statement of faith for “Cru” and that link took me to a website for “Cru”.  The “About” page for the “Cru” website unlocked the mystery of the name of the sponsoring organization:
Cru is the name of Campus Crusade for Christ International in the U.S.
Marilyn Adamson is the director for the EveryStudent.com website, and that website was sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ International.
So, the webpage where Adamson presenst six reasons for the existence of God is not just a personal webpage where Adamson is expressing and justifying her faith, it is a publication sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ.  So, the crudeness and ignorance of Adamson’s arguments are not simply due to the ignorance and foibles of Adamson; they represent the ignorance and foibles of an International Christian organization, an organization that targets it’s messages to college students:
If you are uncertain about your relationship with God, or would like to pursue spiritual questions, we recommend visiting EveryStudent.com. The site helps explain who God is and what it might be like to know God. The site was built for college students (hence the name EveryStudent), but many adults have found it to be extremely helpful. (from the “About” page for StartingwithGod.com, emphasis added)
Since “Cru” wants to communicate with and persuade college students to become Christian believers, or to remain Christian believers, one would expect that a website sponsored by “Cru” and called EveryStudent.com and specifically targeted to college students would use the best available arguments for the existence of God, and would avoid the use of arguments for God that are clearly and obviously illogical or defective, especially if those illogical and defective arguments are generally recognized to be illogical or defective by philosophers of religion.
To use obviously illogical or defective arguments for God that are generally recognized to be illogical or defective by philosophers of religion is bad form no matter who the intended audience might be, but it is especially shameful to use such arguments when your target audience is college students, students who should be encouraged to study philosophy, to think carefully and logically about philosophical issues, and to learn about philosophy from experts in that field.
Some of the arguments presented by Adamson are worthy of consideration (e.g.  the First Cause argument is a classic argument and is still defended by some philosophers, and the Fine Tuning argument is a modern argument that has been widely discussed by philosophers in recent decades), but others are obviously illogical or defective and generally recognized to be so, particularly the first set of arguments presented in Adamson’s article.
Furthermore, the arguments that are worthy of consideration are presented poorly, and in a way that encourages illogical thinking, thinking that philosophers of religion would generally recognize as being illogical.  So, Cru provides college students crappy arguments that are unworthy of serious consideration (other than to show them to be illogical or defective) plus Cru also provides college students with a couple of arguments that are worthy of consideration but that are presented in a crappy way that encourages illogical thinking about the existence of God.
The EveryStudent.com website is promoted as “A Safe Place to Explore Questions About Life and God” but this website is NOT “A Safe Place” in terms of intellectual integrity and the central educational goal of promoting critical thinking.  This website promotes, at least in the key web article written by Adamson, illogical and uncritical thinking as well as ignorance concerning the philosophy of religion.  This website might be “A Safe Place” if someone is fearful of logical and critical thinking, and is afraid that knowledge and scholarship might challenge their Christian beliefs,  but it is NOT “A Safe Place” for college students who want to become educated, well-informed, critical thinkers.
Since Cru, through the prominent publication of the article “Is There a God?” by Marilyn Adamson, has failed to model critical thinking and thinking about God that is well-informed by knowledge and understanding of philosophy (especially philosophy of religion), and thus provided an UNSAFE website for students who desire to become educated, well-informed critical thinkers, I plan to point out the various failings of Adamson’s article in detail in future posts.