Problems with the Argument from Design
Posted by Tod BillingsPresident of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, Astronomy lab instructor at the University of Arkansas (UALR), and owner and maintainer of the popular "Godless Zone" online message boardSeptember 12, 1999.
By Tod Billings
Hello Gerard, welcome to our forum.
I have a test tommorrow, and should be studying, but I just can't resist responding to this.GERARD >First of all, we need to realize that there are only two choices: there >either was at some time God (or similar power, the term "God" will be >used throughout this message) which started the universe or there was not. >If there was not, then the universe is completely random and life has no >purpose.
First of all, I'd like to point out that this whole "there is no purpose" line is merely an emotional appeal, with no bearing on truth or reality. Even if there is no preordained purpose, how does that act as evidence for a God? So there is no purpose, boo-hoo, now what bearing on the origin of the universe does this have?
The only reason I can see that theist offer this nonsense is to essentially say: If there is no God, there is no purpose in life. Doesn't that make you feel bad? To avoid that bad feeling, you'd better believe that there is a God, and you'll feel good because you'll feel like there is purpose to your life.
Secondly, there is purpose to life if you assign it. Actually, there IS a preordained purpose to life, it simply isn't all that appealing in of itself: reproduction. That is your biological purpose in life. Everybody has this purpose. If you'd like something more meaningful, you can always assign your own purpose to life. I've chosen to enter the medical field myself, and my purpose will then be to help others maintain and improve their health. I can live with that purpose.
It may not be eternal, but for the life of me, I can't understand why theist demand that purpose be eternal in order to be satisfying. Its as if working towards improving our lives, society, and our species as a whole while we have them isn't enough. Making a finite existence better just doesn't seem to cut it for the theist. I don't share their (your) strange emotional discomfort, so this first point of yours is no such thing.
As to the random aspect, a non-intelligent cause to the universe need not be random. It could be that specific forces operating under unknown laws in a higher dimension/plane/superspace/whatever are responsible for our universe. I'm not saying that any particular thing did happen, or advocating any known hypothesis, because my personal stance on the origin of the universe is completely agnostic. I accept the Big Bang model as the best explanation for what occurred after the planck time, but I have no opinion on what preceded that, and no confidence in the validity of any hypothesis that attempts to explain this. I don't think anybody has a clue, nor at this time can anybody have such a clue. Beyond the planck time we know absolutely nothing. We don't know what the initial conditions of the universe are. We don't know what is required for the formation of a universe. We don't know what, if anything exist beyond our universe, and if anything, what it or they might be. Any hypothesis is a baseless guess, beyond verification or falsification. I find God among the poorer guesses.
Non-intelligent doesn't equal random. When flowing water forms a ditch, do we say the ditch just randomly appeared? No, it appeared via the operation of specific and non-intelligent forces. It just didn't arbitrarily appear, in a "random" manner.
One might say that these forces just "happening" to exist is in a sense a random phenomena, if there is no plan behind their existence, but if that is the case, the same can be said of God. God just "happens" to exist, and since there is obviously no plan or intelligence behind his/her/its existence, it too would be random in the same sense. It just so happens, without any good reason or cause, that an omnimax super-deity just happens to exist in order to create us.
You nor anybody else has a clue as to how the universe originated, if it originated, or even if discussing such a thing has any meaning outside a temporal context, which the beginning of the universe is outside of, from our point of view. To say that it is either God or a random act is naive.
GERARD >If there was a God, does this God still exist and if so does this >existence affect our lives. > >Because there now is existence (and i do not intend to debate this >point), then something has always existed. Either God always existed >or matter has always existed.
The energy that composes matter may very well be eternal, or there might be an eternal intelligent creator. There might be other things too, that aren't matter/energy as we know it nor intelligent. We simply have no way to know what, if anything, exist beyond our universe. This is another baseless assertion.
GERARD >If there was no God, then matter has always existed.
Or, matter in the form we now have it didn't exist, but the energy that composes it did. Or, there could be something entirely different in attribute or even kind that is eternal, existing under different laws, but not intelligent. Or, it could be that such temporal references as "eternal" have no meaning outside the context of our universe, and this is a problem that we humans simply aren't equipped to understand.
The option you provide isn't the only option.
GERARD >Matter, as much as is scientifically known is composed of atoms which >are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons (no one really knows >what protons, neutrons, or electrons are composed of).
Of course we know what they are composed of, energy. The current model of the form this energy takes is that hadrons, like protons and neutrons, are composed of quarks, and electrons are simply leptons that are elementary point particles in of themselves, like quarks.
GERARD >Electrons "orbit" the nucleus of atoms (the nuclei normally consist of >protons and neutrons) at incredible speeds. They are always orbiting.
This displays an outdated understanding of the atom. Such a Newtonian model known as the Bohr model is completely rejected by modern physicist, and instead the atom is viewed as a nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud, not a little particle orbiting the nucleus like a small solar system.
GERARD >As much as we humans know about about energy, is that without an external >source, everything will eventually run out of energy. Thus it is not >logical that matter has always existed.
First of all, this application of laws of thermodynamics to an analogy such as the old model of the atom is not valid. The orbiting electron was a model by analogy, and the electrons are not really viewed as orbiting the nucleus in that manner, nor exhibiting motion that is governed by entropy.
Secondly, you treat "matter" as existing now in the same form as it is viewed to have taken in the early stages of the universe. Matter in the form of atoms didn't arise until after the first three minutes of the universe, according to the modern cosmological theory.
So this is essentially a strawman, since nobody is even arguing that atoms are eternal. Your assumption that matter = atoms is not valid. Atoms are matter, but not all matter is an atom. Protons are matter, but they aren't atoms, but constituents of atoms. Even elementary particles aren't viewed in modern scientific models as being eternal, but having formed from the energy of the Big Bang, not existing from the very beginning. Again, this is a strawman.GERARD >Also, as much as humans know about motion, it is not possible for something >to start moving without being affected by something else; thus it is not >logical that electrons would be in motion unless something started them to >be in motion.
Even if we entertain this argument based upon a misunderstanding of atomic structure, it is still rather pointless, unless you are constructing a non sequitur.
Okay, fine, let's assume atoms are moving as you describe. Let's further grant your assertion that something started them in motion. That doesn't mean that it was God, only something! To further conclude this something is God is a non sequitur.
GERARD >The fact of radioactivity suggests that matter has not always existed. >Radioactive substances are in a state of constant disintegration, thus if >they would have been disintegrating forever, there would be no radioactive >matter left.
Now I'm positive you haven't got a clue what current theories of cosmology actually say, or how atoms are viewed to have come into existence. All elements save hydrogen, helium, lithium, and trace amounts of a very small handful of other elements, especially those heavier, radioactive elements, were not formed near the beginning of the universe, but later on inside stars, due to fusion. Nobody, atheist or otherwise, asserts these atoms are themselves eternal. It is a moot point any way, since nobody has ever suggested that any elements, even the original ones like hydrogen, are eternal, and the current reigning model of the origin of the universe explicitly states otherwise. In fact, even the elementary particles aren't believed to be eternal, but having arisen from the energy of the Big Bang.
The energy that composes the particles could be eternal, and the fact that some elements are radioactive says nothing for or against that. This is completely irrelevant.
You again treat matter as if it is only atoms, and as if their elementary components aren't composed of something else. If you are going to argue against matter being eternal, you have to argue against energy itself being eternal, not the atoms that elementary particles composed of energy form. That is like arguing against particular stones being ancient by pointing out that the house these stones were arranged to create is only a few years old!
I, as well as all scientists and most atheists, concede to you that atoms aren't eternal. What is your point? That doesn't at all mean that the energy that forms matter can't be eternal or that there must be a God.
GERARD >A science has proved that radioactive matter still exists.
Just "a science" hey, not even going to bother naming it. ; )GERARD >To get around this point, some scientists suggest that the atomic structure >of matter is reconfigured every several billion/trillion years through a >hypothesis known as the occillating universe theory:
While some cosmologists have entertained the oscillating universe model, I've never heard one offer it as an explanation for this non-existent problem you offer! It would seem silly to offer such an explanation, when one could simply show that your argument doesn't at all prove that matter can't be eternal in a simplier way, as I did, by simply pointing out: the energy that forms matter can be eternal without atoms themselves being eternal, and nobody has claimed otherwise!
I know for a fact that no modern cosmologists has offered this little yarn you place in their mouth to explain why atoms are eternal, because no modern cosmologist believes that atoms themselves are eternal!GERARD >it is an interesting idea, but one that there is absolutely no proof for.
God is an interesting idea, but one that there is absolutely no proof for. I agree, there is no proof for the oscillating universe, but it isn't necessary, so what is your point?
GERARD >One on its major tenants is that as energy is exhausted from our expanding >universe (hence they accept the earlier point that motion cannot continue >without an external source), the gravity of the universe finally brings all >matter together for a later reconfiguration (and explosion). This concept >is absurd: it is like saying that after all material in an explosion stops >moving that the attraction of all the material will bring it back together. >I used to use firecrackers as a child and can tell you this does not happen >(I understand about the effects of gravity and friction, but the point is >still valid)..
LOL, okay, if the earlier part of your argument didn't cinch it, this does. You haven't even read the back of a cosmology book before! The Big Bang is not analogous to a fire cracker exploding into preexisting space. That is one of the first misconception a basic introductory guide to astronomy or cosmology will clear up. The Big Bang was an expansion of space itself, an explosion of space itself, not an explosion in preexisting space.
If there is enough matter in the universe, it will indeed collapse on itself, for the same reason that a ball thrown up in the air without sufficient force will fall back to earth. The mutual gravity would collectively pull the universe in on itself, if the density of the universe was great enough. We don't know the density however, so it could just as easily expand forever.
GERARD Another belief is that life somehow sprang up from inanimate matter. A leading law of biology is biogenesis; it states that life can only come from life.
Oh really, what law is this? What is its formal name (for example: the law of gravity, or the second law of thermodynamics, etc.)? Who first stated this law?
GERARD The non-God theory of human-life would have us believe that protein-like substances became alive, somehow figured that it had to eat, somehow knew what to eat, figured out how to eat it, figured out how to digest what was eaten, then figured out how to reproduce so that it would not die out.
I suppose I could simply sum it up by saying: that is a gross strawman. Nobody has put forth a modern theory of abiogenesis that requires that protein "figure out" anything, since that requires a brain which proteins don't have.
Modern theories of evolution, including the application of the same to abiogenesis, speaks of adaptation via natural selection, which would also act on protein configurations as well, if not fueling them in the same way, via mutation, but only trial and error over an immense span of time. It requires no "figuring out" on the part of the specimens, but only variability among them.
GERARD >As someone who has studied molecular biology, I find this hard to accept.
And I find it hard to accept that you have studied molecular biology, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.
GERARD >Single-celled creatures are too complicated to have simply came together >by random chance in order to live.
TODThis is the argument from personal incredulity. Basically: I don't see how it could happen, so it must not be possible.
What if they had specific forces acting upon them? This is another strawman, since nobody is arguing that they randomly appeared as-is, but adapted over time, pressured by natural forces.
GERARD >The idea that this life somehow knew how to evolve and turn into humans >over time is just as absurd.
No more than this strawman.
GERARD >This article will not attempt to deal with all aspects of evolution, >but will state that the fossil records do not support the evolutionary >concept that species gradually evolved into other species: Darwin thought >that over time this would occur, but to this date, it still has not.
Says you. I'm aware of multiple transitional forms that support evolution. I'm aware that the order of the fossil record also supports evolution, or a God that creates redundantly slow in a progressive manner over an absurdly long time mimicing evolution!
Here is an examination of the transitional nature of one specific specimen that, fortunately, I composed earlier and saved to my hard drive:
Archaeopteryx is a fully intermediate representative.
It has a partially fused wristbone. It isn't completely separate like in a therapod, but it isn't completely fused like a birds, having some mobility.
The fingers are another completely transitional feature. It's third and second digits are fused at the bottom, but not at the top. The first digit is completely separate, with no fusion at all. It's first digit is about half of the length of the second (and longest) digit. In modern birds, the first digit has been reduced to almost nothing, and the other two digits have been fused completely. In a therapod, all three digits are free of each other with absolutely no fusion, and the first digit is almost as long as the other two, being a little over three quarters the size of the second (and still longest digit).
So Archaeopteryx is completely in the middle. You have a therapod with three unfused bones, and a first digit three-quarters the size of the second. You have archaeoptryx with three digits, the second and third fused, and a reduction of the first digit to about half the size of the second. You have modern birds, with completely fused second and third digits, with the first haven been shrunk to almost nothing, being less than ten percent of the second digit.
Archaeopteryx is completely in the middle.
It's clavicles are fused (wishbone), like in late therapods and a modern bird, but it is shaped like a deeply curved boomerang (curved at rougly a right angle, about 90 degrees), right in the middle of a therapod and a modern bird. A therapods wishbone has a shallow-curved boomerang shape, with an angle of about 150 degrees. A modern bird's is curved like a horseshoe, with an angle of about 50 or 60 degrees. Early therapods have unfused clavicles, and hence no wishbone.
Once more, Archaeopteryx is completely transitional.
Then you have its fully reptilian characteristics. It has a pelvis exactly like a therapods, with the pubic bone running completely vertically and pertruding significantly from the pelvis. It is completely unlike a modern bird's however, which isn't anywhere near verticle, but rather jutting out at about a 45 degree angle from the verticle axis. A modern bird's is very short compared to it's pelvis however, with the pubic bone pertruding out from the pelvis a short distance, less than 1/6th the length of the pelvis' width. In contrast, Archaeopteryx and a therapod's pubic bone jutted out about four to five times further.
It's has teeth unlike modern birds who have none, teeth that are EXACTLY like those of a therapod's.
It has a long series of tail bones which made up a long tail like other therapods. Bird's have no tail bones, but rather theirs have fused in a manner similar to our "butt-bone", albeit bit longer, and called a "pygostyle".
It's traits found exclusively in birds include both feathers and claws on the feet that curve towards each other.
It is clearly a fully transitional fossil between therapods and modern birds.
GERARD >It has been argued that the fact that there is natural law, design, and >order in the universe, this proves that there was a law giver, designer, >and order maker in the universe.
The design argument has indeed been argued, but it is seriously flawed. It rest upon the unsupported assertion that things that are ordered and complex require a designer. Nobody has ever supported this. Secondly, it applies equally as well, and fatally, to God.
If it is the case that:
- all things ordered and complex require a designer
- the universe is ordered and complex
- therefore, the universe requires a designer
Then it is also the case that:
- all things ordered and complex require a designer
- God is ordered and complex
- Therefore, God requires a designer
If there is an infinite, omnimax God, it is far more complex and ordered than the universe, and if the universes complexity demands a designer, God demands one even more so.
GERARD >This is consistant with what the Bible teaches on this subject: "Because >that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath shown it >unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world >are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his >eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." >(Romans 1:19-20).
No begging the question of biblical authority, please.
Well that concludes the biggest mistake of the day, responding to this post. I should be studying for the test I have tommorrow, but your post begged, summoned, compelled me to respond.
I probably won't be responding back any time soon, but I'm confident my resident companions can take up where I left off, should you choose to offer a rebuttal.
Home Page | Further Reading | Site Map | Send Feedback