Albert Einstein. Best. Scientist. Hairdo. EVER.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands … I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. — David in Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 139:13
Most people look at the entire question of Origins the wrong way. They think that if there’s no need for a Creator to explain our existence, there’s no point in believing in God at all.
(It’s a new show called, “Revenge Of The God Of The Gaps.” The ratings aren’t in yet.)
That’s sad, because God wants you to enjoy and understand His creation … and He also wants to know you personally. Every one of us is born with a hole in our heart that only God can fill.
I’m going to show you that there is strong evidence for design in this Cosmos, but first, let’s see where we’re at now and how we got here.
Aristotle, who could think harder than rock.
Apparently, he thought so hard he turned into rock.
Complexity != Design
This is my first chance to be pedantic; I shall jump on it. (You have been warned.) There seems to be some confusion about what a “design” argument is. Many skeptics think that we Believers are victims of (to use Richard Dawkin’s phrase) “Personal Incredulity:” we see complexity and order all around us and surrender to the idea of a Designer.
Poor widdle small-minded peoples, we just can’t help ourselves!
But actually, a true design argument has little to do with complexity. Crystals, for example, can be quite complex, but contain very little information. They’re essentially just a simple molecular sequence that repeats, over and over.
(Perhaps they’re the Cosmos’ way of ordering a misbehaving mineral to write “I will not be a shapeless blob” on the chalkboard a zillion times).
Nature is filled with examples of complex, chaotic systems that show little intelligence: the weather, Congress and stellar nebulae, just to name a few.
The Pillars From The Eagle Nebula look
like some old guys staring at nothing.
(Old guys do that a lot, even in space.)
Reach into your pocket and pull out a coin. Here in America, I’ll choose a good ol’ penny — a one cent piece.
Examine that fellow for a nice long moment. Flip it over. Look at both sides.
That’s not a complicated structure by any means. It’s just a slug of metal that has been stamped with the image of a dead US President. Coins have been around for thousands of years. Ours are prettier than the Romans’ or Babylonians’ because we have better machines and quality control now, but the basic idea has been the same for as long as there have been coins.
Now: you wouldn’t look at that and think that a natural process forged it, would you? As simple as it is, it shows obvious evidence of design. Someone, or something, created that coin from base ingredients.
A gold mancus from the reign of AEthelred the Unready, King of England c. 1000AD.
He must have had these minted early in his reign. His latter years were mostly spent
screaming and running from (the superbly-named) Sweyn Forkbeard, King of Denmark.
The first response to a design argument has been called an Appeal To Present Ignorance. “Come on, people used to think that an eclipse was a giant dragon eating the sun. Give us time to study this and we’ll come up with a rational answer.”
That’s a valid objection. But may I point out that you are demonstrating faith in that future knowledge? You don’t have it in your hands at this moment. Now, you can certainly argue that your faith is justified: science has done a great job thus far, and so on. But it’s still faith.
That’s a philosophical argument that could keep us amused for days; I’d rather move on to the second response, which has been called an Appeal To Many Chances. If this universe is extremely old and large (the majority viewpoint prior to Big Bang cosmology), or if this universe is just one out of zillions, each with its own set of physical laws, then it’s a moot point. It appears to be designed, but of course it would, or we wouldn’t be here to wonder about it, would we?
We’re just a happy puddle, marveling at how well we fit in our little ‘ole (to borrow from Doug Adams)!
But more on this later.
David Hume, who is often given credit for first stating the “Many
Chances” argument in neat philosophical terms. Another nice hat.
An Infinite Cosmos
The question for us, then, is whether a design argument can be applied to our cosmos (and more specifically, to the life in same). Is our universe just a random round-shaped piece of copper that perhaps splashed out of a fire, or is it a designed thing like our one cent piece?
Ah, that’s the question isn’t it? And until recently, things were very much against those who saw design in nature.
Sir Isaac Newton was a believer, so it’s a little ironic that his work should produce the opposite conclusion amongst philosophers. (Ironic, but not surprising; they’re philosophers, after all, and are contrary by nature.)
The best example was Immanuel Kant, who was so impressed with Newton’s Principia Mathematica that he once declared that man would eventually find a purely-natural explanation for everything … thereby eliminating any need for the supernatural.
Philosopher One: “Immanuel Kant!”
Philosopher Two: “Why Kant He?”
Philosopher Three: “BECAUSE!”
(High fives all around.)
God Is Dead (And I Don’t Feel So Hot Myself …)
The early money was on Kant, too. By the end of the 19th century, Darwin had provided a framework that would account for the diversity of life on this planet; design was no longer required to explain the colorful birds or the giraffe or the multitude of insect life.
The origin of life itself was still open to question, but an Appeal To Many Chances was provided by astronomy. Scientists knew that the Earth wasn’t infinitely old, but also knew that Earth wasn’t the only planet. Astronomers had charted a good bit of the cosmos and no matter where they looked or how powerful the instruments, all they saw were stars and more stars.
Hey, the cosmos was huge. It wasn’t hard to believe that at least one planet would “get it right” and produce life.
Once it was believed — quite reasonably, at the time — that the Earth was just one of a thunderin’ bozillion planets and that the universe was very old (and probably infinite in size, to boot!), anything was possible. Problem solved, let’s do lunch!
Plato, the King of Philosophers. He thought so hard,
he not only turned into solid rock,
his head blew clean off his shoulders.
But Change, It Is A-Comin’
Whilst the Glitterati and Digerati insist that religious beliefs are, at best, a quaint superstition from man’s prehistory, there’s a growing consensus, especially in Cosmology, that it’s wrong to assign an a priori label of “irrational” to anyone who believes in God.
In 1992, Science historian Fred Burnham noted in the May 2, 1992 issue of the Los Angeles Times that “the scientific community is prepared to consider the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis today than at any time in the last 100 years.”
How can this be? Let’s look at what science has really learned in the past few decades.
If I may borrow Sam Clemens’ famous remark, I think you’ll find that the rumors of God’s death have been a bit exaggerated …
What Digerati might look like.
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