“God is imaginary”? Really?! Part 46: Contemplate creation

Marshall Brain, at his website “God is imaginary” in proof 47 invites his readers to “contemplate creation”, so let’s do it.

He begins,

Many Christians look at our universe, and especially life on planet Earth, and come to the conclusion that what we see is “irreducible complexity.” In the Christian view, the complexity of our universe and life on earth requires an intelligent creator to bring everything into existence.

Did you notice? He conflates the Christian belief in the necessity of a Creator with the scientific principle of “irreducible complexity“, which states,

Irreducible complexity is a term used to describe a characteristic of certain complex systems whereby they need all of their individual component parts in place in order to function. In other words, it is impossible to reduce the complexity of (or to simplify) an irreducibly complex system by removing any of its component parts and still maintain its functionality.

So he confuses a scientific argument with a theological/philosophical argument to begin with, stumbling right out of the gates.

Most often the example used to demonstrate this is the spring-loaded mousetrap. You can make it as complex as you like, however there is only so much that one can take away before it becomes inoperable. In biological systems the example used is the bacterial flagellum.

Many evolutionary scientists have attempted to explain how such a system could have arisen incrementally, but they seem to overlook other problems that arise. One example is that it adapted either an intake or exhausting system of sorts that gets repurposed, the obvious problem that arises, in my mind at least, how did the bacteria know that it needed to develop that feature and how was it moving around before? But anyway, he continues,

A Christian might say:

      “Look at how amazing and complex life is. Look at how intricate the human eye is, and the human brain. There is no way that the human eye and the human brain arose spontaneously from the mud. In the same way that a watch cannot appear without a watchmaker, there is no way that all this complexity arose without an intelligent creator.”

Yes, I’ve heard that argument, which is a form of Paley’s “watchmaker” argument. But, again, it seems as something of a conflation. Here’s a quote from it:

“For every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature, of being greater and more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.  I mean, that the contrivances of nature surpass the contrivances of art, in the complexity, subtilty, and curiosity of the mechanism; and still more, if possible, do they go beyond them in number and variety: yet, in a multitude of cases, are not less evidently contrivances, not less evidently accommodated to their end, or suited to their office, than are the most perfect products of human ingenuity.”

He continues,

So, we have a question that demands an answer:

Did the complexity of life arise spontaneously, or did it require a creator?

I would argue that the question itself is improperly phrased with a loaded assumption that needs to be explained. Let’s see if he qualifies his question or not.
Christians believe that a creator is essential. Scientists believe that the idea of a “creator” is pure mythology, and that the complexity arose through natural processes like evolution.
As a Christian, I believe that creation logically implies a Creator, like the existence of a painting logically requires a painter. Marshall forgets to mention which scientists he’s referring to and what exactly their arguments and evidences are, and he also acts like “scientists” are the final authority on whether or not God exists when, scientifically, they can’t even prove anyone exists. So he’s simply making an assertion, as well as an apparent equivocation: what does he mean by “evolution”? Does he provide any argument, let’s see, hmmm…

You can actually answer this question yourself with a little logic. Here are the two options:

  1. The complexity of life and the universe did arise completely spontaneously and without any intelligence. Nature created all the complexity we see today.
  2. An intelligent creator created all of the complexity that we see today because complexity requires intelligence to create it.
I’ll be honest, I pretty sure that he hurt himself by presenting those two options. Think about it, which one makes more sense: that all of the order and complexity and stability that exists in this universe just happened by chance, or that it is the product of an incredibly intelligent, immensely powerful, active Creator? Let’s look at his examination.
The advantage of the first option is that it is self-contained. The complexity arose spontaneously. No other explanation is required.
Um, why does he assume that “No other explanation is required“? Further, how can he assume that the universe is “self-contained“? What evidence does he have that complexity “arose spontaneously“? He would never argue that way about his computer or his car, then why does he believe that he can argue that way about the universe? Presuppositions, that’s why.

The problem with the second option is that it immediately creates an impossibility. If complexity cannot arise without intelligence, then we immediately must ask, “Who created the intelligent creator?” The creator could not spring into existence if complexity requires intelligence. Therefore, God is impossible.

Well, since Christians believe in an eternal Creator, the conclusion is simply a non sequitur.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)

For by him (the Son) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV)

The logic of these three passages is that if time, space, and matter had a beginning, then whatever started the universe was timeless (i.e. eternal), spaceless (not extended into a measurable space), and immaterial (not made of matter), with the additional qualities of being extremely intelligent (knowing how things would proceed once started), extremely powerful (able to cause things to exist and persist), and personal (to be able to choose). Philosophically, the only definition this fits is God.

But, if that’s the conclusion he has come to, and he believes that’s a problem: Mr. Brain, since you believe that you are a product of the universe, then who made your creator? It’s a fair question. I know it’s old, but this excerpt from the debate between Dr. Richard Dawkins and Professor John Lennox is definitely worth watching when it comes to this “school-boy argument”.

So, what have we seen about this “proof”? Aside from the fact that he completely undermines his own argument and makes such broad statements that they are potentially fallacious, I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t so much a proof as a result of not considering exactly what it is he’s arguing.

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