Where Christians Get it Right
Is God behind it all, in the end?
The discussion at hand is whether or not science has given us compelling grounds to believe in an Intelligent Designer, in other words, some Intelligent force that has purposefully designed the Universe.
Evolution is as true as gravity. It is no longer just a theory, such as the Big Bang. The problem is that the Big Bang is associated with chance. Chance is no longer something that we should be happy to associate the beginning of the universe with. At least not in an age that is obsessed with science.
Chance Does Not Work
Robert Lanza in his book Biocentrism argues that the problem with associating chance with the beginning of the universe is that it is both lazy and therefore potentially “applicable to everything else we see, too” (92). That includes both life and consciousness — difficult topics that need discussing.
Evolution Does Work
The beginning of the Universe is somewhat questionable. But that doesn’t mean that natural selection is. Natural selection works on the basis of random mutation giving an advantage to animals to procreate and survive.
The Christian tends to argue for the complexity of the eye. Lanza similarly argues that eyes, even the earliest eyeballs, required some sort “modality to carry such sensations to a brain or brain precursor,” not just a collection of mutations (93). Not only that, but sight requires some sort of “perceiving cell structure” that is able to form an image, even if it’s just some sensing of brightness.
“It’s quite an elaborate architecture that today’s animals enjoy” (93).
Is Mutation not Enough?
Lanza elaborates that one single mutation does not accomplish anything. The mutation would need some sort of architectural structure or “designer,” so to speak, to perceive this information.
“In short, evolution beautifully explains the improvements in species along with adaptive strategies and configuration changes, but it doesn’t explain many of the original biological facets like the initial arising of life, or even some vital organs” (93).
The Monkeys-and-Typewriters Thought Experiment
Could a million monkeys typing for a million years create a Hamlet? If one of these monkeys on their attempt to write Hamlet would create a Moby-Dick word for word on her “ninety-seven-billionth” attempt, would it count as something proving the point that chance/randomness can create complex information (95)?
Lanza says that this problem is solvable. For the sake of proving a point he limits it to the first 15 letters of Moby-Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” How many tries would we need for the monkeys to stumble across those words?
There are 58 possible keys, so it would be 58 x 58 x 58 x 58 . . . (15 times), which adds up to almost 283 trillion. If there were one million monkeys typing away, guessing that they type forty-five words a minute and that the phrase used would only take four seconds and that the monkeys never ate or slept — it would take them about 36 trillion years, “or roughly 2,600 times the age of the universe” (96).
Moral: Forget the monkeys-and-typewriters things. It’s bogus.
Lanza argues that randomness has little ground for effectiveness. Similarly Christian theologians have argued that mere “chance” does not create anything. Saying that “chance” created the universe is a misunderstanding of the term.
“Random business is given far more potency than it deserves, both in the popular imagination and among scientists, we’d be more likely to progress by candidly saying, ‘This is a mystery’ — and then researchers might begin to tackle it from scratch with a clean slate” (96).
As is clear from above, Lanza, a secular scientist, believes that the random atom collisions alone cannot account for the creation of our complicated brains. Randomness is not a tenable hypothesis.
Responses to the Fine-tuning of the Universe
There are a handful of arguments that illustrate the fine-tuning of the Universe. The most popular is the string-based multiverse theory that has in recent years been mostly popularized by Richard Dawkins. It has however been pointed out that this theory is not accepted by most physicists.
If we are to apply Occam’s razor — the theory that usually the simplest explanation is the right one — Lanza argues that biocentrism explains why the Universe is so fine-tuned.
“[The Universe] is life-friendly because it’s a life-created reality” (105). Does this mean that we need to accept an Intelligent Creator in order to make sense of this reality?
No. Mainly because the Bible has us believe inexplicable conclusions? I write about these quite a lot so I don’t want to elaborate on that here. But consider this problem with Noah’s ark:
“Now, many if not most fundamentalists and intelligent-design, Bible-based groups deserve their reputation for being obstinately antiscience. They defend the Bible at all costs, even when it claims that a person named Noah saved two members of every species, of which there are eight million, to survive a worldwide flood for which no evidence exists. (Indeed, aside from the fact that two animals wouldn’t provide enough biodiversity for a species to survive, a global flood deep enough to submerge the Himalayas is problematical, since only a one-inch-sea-level rise would ensue if every molecule of Earth’s vapor precipitated out as rain.) Their defense of Scripture, no matter how far-fetched the particular passage, handcuffs them to untenable positions. But give them this: When they complain that the creation of the eye’s architecture cannot be explained by natural selection and some scientists respond by summarily dismissing them, it is the latter who are guilty of sloppy reasoning” (92–3).
There are countless other problems with Christianity. It is not compatible with reason. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It just means that it is not reasonable. Maybe God designed the Universe to be misleading, as Bertrand Russell has suggested. If so, we are all doomed.
To end on a happy not, I write about Religion, Philosophy, Happiness, Effective Altruism, & Productivity. Here are some of my favorite ‘stories’ that I’ve written:
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“People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police” (H. L. Mencken).
Until next time,