Monday, May 28, 2012
What Came First, the Divine Knob-Twiddler or the Egg?
Disclaimer: the following sample of Dawkins’ arguments is littered with cynicism and bias. But rest assured, I’ve done it only to retain the overall style of “The God Delusion.”
So, you’re back for more, huh? Well, last time we met, I introduced Richard Dawkins and his book, “The God Delusion.” I presented a mission statement for my series and a little proof that I don’t completely disregard everything Dawkins says. I left you with that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with politically correct articles that politely present both sides and declare the debate a “tie.” But what’s the fun in that? I have a hunch that “The God Delusion” wouldn’t have sold nearly as well if it had been titled “God May or May Not Exist, But We’re All Still Friends, Right?”
Now that the gloves are off, we can get our hands dirty. And who doesn’t like rolling their sleeves up and digging around in primordial ooze once in a while? So take a deep breath, clear your mind, and get ready to experience why Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in God…
As an evolutionary biologist, Dawkins’ primary weapon against God is Darwinian natural selection. With it, he applies evolution to God, then slices-and-dices through “irreducible complexity” and “intelligent design” without so much as breaking a sweat because, if God created everything, where did God come from? Darwin (thus, Dawkins) says every complex organism came from a “simpler antecedent”, eventually reducing back into nothingness, so things could not have began with a being as complex as God. Here’s an example:
On page 73, Dawkins says, “Science-fiction authors, such as Daniel F. Galouye in Counterfeit World, have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization.” I bet he could disprove it if the “superior civilization” was named God.
But, of course, his point is that:
“…the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution…”
So, even if we are all trapped in a computer program created by unseen aliens known as God, those aliens (God) would have had to evolve like everything else, because life has to start from nothing.
But wait, what happened between the nothingness and the simplest living thing, or better yet, into the first physical thing at all? Unfortunately, Dawkins doesn’t help us much on that subject in “The God Delusion,” but he does spend ample time giving examples of how improbable the initiation of life is. In this way, he disproves God. Yep, that’s actually what he says.
Planetary Anthropic Principle: “We exist here on Earth. Therefore Earth must be the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting us, however unusual, even unique, that kind of planet might be.” (p. 135)
Dawkins uses this Anthropic Principle to emphasize the improbability of our existence by introducing (p. 143) Martin Rees’ 6 finely tuned values required to make the universe suitable for life. The section is very thorough and gives numerous examples of specific factors that have to be just right, but for the sake of time, I’ll refrain from copy/pasting. As I said, the point is to show how improbable it is to have life in the universe, but in the end, Dawkins says, “A God capable of calculating the [perfect, life sustaining] Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself, and that’s very improbable indeed…” Thus, he sees “no alternative but to dismiss [the ‘Divine Knob-Twiddler’ argument].” So, because the existence of an almighty God is as improbable as the existence of our perfectly tuned universe, God has been disproved?
Does that mean we don’t exist, either? Hmm…
So, with such high improbability playing against us, how did everything work out in our favor? Dawkins’ only logical solution is to extrapolate natural selection to physics in a “multiverse” theory. He presents the possibility of multiple, perhaps infinite, different universes and says that only those with potential for life would have life capable of observing its existence. Therefore, the universes without life cannot be observed, or proved. If enough universes exist (even if they can’t be proved), surely at least one of them would be perfect for sustaining life. Yes, even Richard Dawkins uses philosophical arguments without scientific proof when they serve his purpose.
On page 144, he comes to the conclusion that, “When we finally reach the long-hoped-for Theory of Everything, we shall see that the six key numbers depend upon each other, or on something else as yet unknown, in ways that we today cannot imagine.”
So lets recap: Those ways “we today cannot imagine” could possibly be complete dumb luck (of which the odds, and Dawkins, say is utterly impossible), aliens that trapped us in a computer program, or vast universes than cannot be seen or proved.
And this is what we’ve learned:
1) Everything has to start from a simpler antecedent, but the simplest antecedent could only begin in an environment that baffles the scientific community.
2) Therefore, God cannot exist because his complexity is too improbable, but the make-up of our universe is so specific and improbable that “we today cannot imagine” how it could fit together.
These are Dawkins’ arguments for not believing in God. Seriously.
Here’s a quote from biologist J.B.S. Haldane used by Dawkins on page 364: Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose…I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy.”
But remember, even though we may not understand multiverses, computer-loving aliens, and the perfect alignment of probability-defying factors, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. All you need is a little faith.
Next month: The Moral Zeitgeist: Don’t Believe in the Almighty God, His Followers Are Bullies.
Followed by the epic conclusion: From Genesis to Jesus: What History Really Tells Us.