Before I start this section, I want to make a clarificiation on the title. We can too often think of the teleological argument as really being the method that was used to bring something about. This is why evolution can cause a scare amongst many. Now I don’t believe in evolution (And I am speaking of macroevolution of course), but it is not because I am a creationist. One could believe in design and believe in evolution simply by saying that evolution was the method of design that God used.
Teleology refers to the final cause of something. That is the why for which a thing was made. What is the Telos of a hammer? Is it to drive in nails. What is the telos of my car? It is to get me from place to place? What is the telos of a human being? It is to bring glory to God. Loftus wants us to look at two places so we’ll see what we get from there. They are cosmology and biochemical complexity.
The first one has the anthropic principle to shown design. This can be called the Goldilocks principle. The universe is just right for us. There are so many factors built into our universe that if some of them were off by just an inkling, then we would not be here. As far as I know, everyone who studies the subject concedes this. For a Non-Christian look at just life on Earth, see the book “Rare Earth.” For a Christian perspective, see “The Privileged Planet.”
Loftus says that the atheist reply is that it’s not surprising for if it was otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to observe it. Unfortunately, this is a fallacious way of viewing things. Consider the example in what has been called the Shooter’s Fallacy by such writers as Dinesh D’Souza.
You have been sentenced to execution for a crime and you are tied to a stake. Before you is a row of sharpshooters with high-powered rifles aiming right at you and waiting for the command to shoot. The command comes and you hear all the guns go off. You open your eyes and see several holes behind you and all around you, but you have not been hit once. You shut your eyes again as all the gunmen cock their rifles again and the command is given and the same thing happens again.
The commander unties you for the time being while he figures out what is going on and a friend of yours who has come to attend your execution says “Lucky break eh?” He will think you crazy if you say something like “No it wasn’t! Of course I’m still alive! They all missed me!”
That’s exactly what the lucky break is though. You should not be here to observe what is going on but you are. It is the same with our universe. The odds of our being here are simply astronomical and we haven’t even got to our existence yet. We’re just talking about the possibility of life arising here.
The response comes from Richard Carrier about why we have the God we have. Why not some other one if theism is true? This is the kind of response that just floors me. The God we have is one of absolute perfection who is pure actuality and thus, he cannot be changed in anyway. If he could be more perfect, he would not be God. If he changed, he would not be God.
It is also a fallacy to describe him as an ordered being. God is not ordered as we observed when going through the God Delusion. He is simple in his essence. We also cannot speak of God having a reason. If anything, God is his own reason. He cannot be given a reason by another for that would be giving him a final cause from outside himself and that would mean he is not God.
Carrier also says that we can get order from chaos for you can roll the dice and eventually get the rolled order of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This would simply be 1 in 6 to the sixth. That would be the same as one time out of 46,656 times. Rest assured, those are not the odds you want to bet on next time you play Monopoly.
This is not the same as predicting order though. If we knew the laws of physics and all the variables, we could tell how a roll of dice would come out each time. What Carrier is suggesting though from this end is extremely implausible. It also doesn’t explain how the laws of nature that are capable of producing this order got here in the first place.
Richard Dawkins is also cited as saying that out of billions of planets, one of them will have life on it. Really? How come? If it’s something that’s bound to happen, it’s quite interesting that we haven’t found another one yet. There are some criteria a planet must have before it can be life-sustaining and so far, those criteria have only been met on one planet. It’s the one I’m typing this on.
Of course, maybe we just need more universes which is suggested next. I don’t see how this makes things easier. To avoid having God to explain one universe, we’re going to posit a potentially infinite number of universes? Yep. So if one is hard to explain, it makes it easier to explain if you just increase the number.
Now I’m open to the idea of a multiverse. I just don’t see any evidence of it. I find it fascinating though that in order to avoid the idea of God, we have to posit something else entirely. It seems too often that science has turned into a method to avoid God. When it has reached that point, we are no longer doing science but philosophy.
Loftus also wants us to think about what is beyond our universe. What lies outside of it. He posits calling it the VOID. The VOID is nothing and it is infinite for it has no end. Is there any law in the VOID that prohibits something coming into being without a cause? Do we know the properties of the VOID? Could there be up to an infinite number of universes?
I think this is simple to clear up. The VOID is nothing. What are the properties of nothing? Nothing. How far does nothing reach? Not at all because it’s nothing. How could it even be infinite for it sure isn’t reaching into this universe. Let’s remember what Aristotle said about nothing. “Nothing is that which rocks dream about.”
Now though, we get to biochemical complexity. Loftus is right in speaking about the astronomical odds of life arising by chance with the references from Chandra Wickramasinghe on the odds of forming an enzyme. I actually believe the odds of it contrary to Loftus are 1 in 10 to the 40000th. Either way, it is entirely astronomical as anything beyond 1 in 10 to the 50th is considered an impossibility.
The counter is given that rarity is not proof of anything. The odds of getting a perfect bridge hand are less than 1 in 600 billion. Still, if one got it, they would not conclude that they had not been dealt that hand because it is so improbable. However, 1 in 600 billion is far smaller than the odds of life.
However, what of the rarity of life here? There are many many many factors more involved than simply a deal of the cards. In fact, imagine that you got the perfect hand dealt to you twice in a row. Are you going to think “Ah. That’s odd.” Instead, won’t you be thinking that the dealer is tricking you somehow?
Rare events happen, but the more unlikely they are, the more we should notice. Something astronomical so much so that we have to invent ideas like seedlings from space (The idea that our life was seeded by life from another planet which makes you wonder where that life came from) in order to explain it is not the same as a perfect hand.
Also, this assumes that everything is entirely physical. There is still the problem of consciousness. If you try to explain it somehow arising from matter, you no longer have materialism. instead, you have panpsychism. Unfortunately, the holders of such a view as far as I know have not yet told where these inherent immaterial properties came from.
The example is given that it could be that parts are introduced which are initially advantageous but then develop an essential property. We would need to see such an example first. However, the question still arises at how the basic parts got there, which is what the 1 in 10 to the 40000th equation is about.
The other explanation is to picture a monkey and see how long it’d take it typing at a computer to type out the entire King James Bible. Cesare Emilani says the odds are 1 in 26 to the six millionth power. Don’t wait around. However, he suggests that there could be a control, which he calls the environment, which wipes out any wrong letter. With that, the Bible will be produced in 2.5 years.
The flaw is obvious. Where’d the control come from and how is it controlling? It is making evolution have a goal in mind but naturalistic evolution has no goal in mind. It simply does what it does. This is the same mistake critics have said about the program Richard Dawkins’s uses in the Blind Watchmaker.
Naturally, Richard Dawkins is cited speaking on how improbable a designer would be. We’ve already stated that this is a category fallacy in discussing Carrier and in an earlier review of Dawkins. God is simple in nature and thus is not designed. It is amazing that Dawkins makes these statements without consulting the theologians on what they really believe.
The objection is also made about poor design, but this is fallacious as Cornelius Hunter says in “Darwin’s God.” Hunter tells of how there was an idea of creation around at the time of Darwin and how that included things being perfect when the book of Job speaks of God not giving the ostrich a lick of sense. Job 39:17. The idea that everything has to be perfect is not an idea that I see taught in Scripture for this creation.
John Hick speaks then about the odds of anything happening. The odds of my being formed as an example are great because just the right sperm and egg at just the right time have to come together. However, the odds of someone being formed when a sperm and egg come together are quite good. If you wanted me exactly again, you probably would not get it, but you will get something. Take a pile of gravel sometime. There is nothing odd about having one, but having one the way it is is unlikely to be recreated if someone kicks it down.
The main question is not answered though. How did things get here to begin with?
The chapter then goes on with the argument of Richard Dawkins of the ultimate Boeing 747. This is accused of question-begging. Not at all. Theists say that all that begins to exist has a cause. If the universe could be shown to be eternal, we’d gladly say it doesn’t need a cause. Why do we believe in an eternal something? Because there has to be something eternal and God so far is the best explanation. (We also have other reasons for believing this God has revealed himself. Granted the teleological argument alone won’t get you to the God of Scripture, but it is a start.)
Unfortunately though, the chapter ends with the Problem of Evil and saying that God is implausible for that. However, we must take this argument on its own merit. Does the argument for God’s existence from the teleological stance meet with any difficulties that aren’t answered? I haven’t seen any. It doesn’t mean we can explain everything, but the God hypothesis does have the most explanatory power. When we get to evil, we’ll examine it as well.
That concludes tonight. The next chapter to cover will be the next one in the book on unanswered prayer.