Tag Archives: Atheism-of-the-Gaps

Does intelligent design commit the “God-of-the-gaps” fallacy?

Stephen C. Meyer explains, with reference to his newest book “Darwin’s Doubt”. He is responding to a critical review of the book published in Science.

Here’s the relevant part of the review:

Meyer’s scientific approach is purely negative. He argues that paleontologists are unable to explain the Cambrian explosion, thus opening the door to the possibility of a designer’s intervention. This, despite his protest to the contrary, is a (sophisticated) “god of the gaps” approach, an approach that is problematic in part because future developments often provide solutions to once apparently difficult problems.

And here’s part of Meyer’s response:

[B]y claiming that my approach is a purely negative one based solely upon “gaps” in our knowledge or in the evolutionary account of the Cambrian explosion, Marshall implies that Darwin’s Doubt makes a fallacious kind of argument known to logicians as an “argument from ignorance.” Arguments from ignorance occur when evidence against a proposition X is offered as the sole (and conclusive) grounds for accepting some alternative proposition Y. Arguments from ignorance make an obvious logical error. They omit a necessary kind of premise, a premise providing positive support for the conclusion, not just negative evidence against an alternative conclusion. In an explanatory context, arguments from ignorance have the form:

Premise One: Cause X cannot produce or explain evidence E.

Conclusion: Therefore, cause Y produced or explains E.

Critics of intelligent design often claim that the case for intelligent design commits this fallacy. They claim that design advocates use our present ignorance of any materialistic cause of specified or functional information (for example) as the sole basis for inferring an intelligent cause for the origin of such information in biological systems. For example, Michael Shermer represents the case for intelligent design as follows: “Intelligent design … argues that life is too specifically complex (complex structures like DNA) … to have evolved by natural forces. Therefore, life must have been created by. . . an intelligent designer.” In short, Shermer claims that ID proponents argue as follows:

Premise: Materialistic causes or evolutionary mechanisms cannot produce novel biological information.

Conclusion: Therefore, an intelligent cause produced specified biological information.

Marshall echoes Shermer’s criticism. But the inference to design as developed in Darwin’s Doubt does not commit this fallacy.

Why not? Because it argues that the best explanation of an effect in nature – new information -is an intelligent cause, and that we are familiar with how these intelligent causes operate already.

More:

[T]he book makes a positive case for intelligent design as an inference to the best explanation for the origin of the genetic (and epigenetic) information necessary to produce the first forms of animal life (as well as other features of the Cambrian animals such as the presence of genetic regulatory networks that function as integrated circuits during animal development). It advances intelligent design as the best explanation not only because many lines of evidence now cast doubt on the creative power of unguided evolutionary mechanisms, but also because of our positive, experience-based knowledge of the powers that intelligent agents have to produce as digital and other forms of information as well as integrated circuitry. As I argue in Chapter 18 of Darwin’s Doubt:

Intelligent agents, due to their rationality and consciousness, have demonstrated the power to produce specified or functional information in the form of linear sequence-specific arrangements of characters. Digital and alphabetic forms of information routinely arise from intelligent agents. A computer user who traces the information on a screen back to its source invariably comes to a mind — a software engineer or programmer. The information in a book or inscription ultimately derives from a writer or scribe. Our experience-based knowledge of information flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified or functional information invariably originate from an intelligent source. The generation of functional information is “habitually associated with conscious activity.” Our uniform experience confirms this obvious truth.

Thus, the inadequacy of proposed materialistic evolutionary causes or mechanisms forms only part of the basis of the argument for intelligent design. We also know from broad and repeated experience that intelligent agents can and do produce information-rich systems and integrated circuitry. We have positive experience-based knowledge of a cause sufficient to generate new specified information and integrated circuitry, namely, intelligence. We are not ignorant of how information or circuitry arises. We know from experience that conscious, rational agents can create such information-rich structures and systems. To again quote information theorist Henry Quastler: “creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Indeed, whenever large amounts of specified or functional information are present in an artifact or entity whose causal story is known, invariably creative intelligence — intelligent design — played a role in the origin of that entity. Thus, when we encounter a large discontinuous increase in the functional information content of the biosphere as we do in the Cambrian explosion, we may infer — based on our knowledge of established cause-effect relationships — that a purposive intelligence operated in the history of life to produce the functional information necessary to generate those forms of animal life.

Instead of exemplifying a fallacious form of argument in which design is inferred solely from a negative premise, the argument for intelligent design formulated in Darwin’s Doubt takes the following form:

Premise One: Despite a thorough search and evaluation, no materialistic causes or evolutionary mechanisms have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified or functional information (or integrated circuitry).

Premise Two: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified/functional information (and integrated circuitry).

Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for the specified/functional information (and circuitry) that was necessary to produce the Cambrian animals.

I do think it’s very important for Christians to make their case for God based on the progress of science.

If you are going to argue for God, you want to use arguments like these:

  1. origin of the universe
  2. cosmic fine-tuning
  3. origin of life building blocks
  4. biological information at origin of life
  5. biological information at Cambrian explosion
  6. galactic fine-tuning
  7. stellar fine-tuning
  8. observed limits to mutation-driven change
  9. mental effort studies
  10. corroborated NDEs

And so on.

Each of these arguments is based on what we know about nature. They are not based on gaps in our knowledge at all. The more we do science, the more evidence we get for each argument. For example, at one point we only had redshift for the beginning of the universe (#1), but then we added light element abundance predictions and the cosmic microwave background radiation. For the cosmic fine-tuning (#2), we started with the fine-tuning of gravity, and then added more examples, like the cosmological constant. In each case, the continuous progress of science strengthened the need for a Creator/Designer. The more we know from science about how nature works, the stronger the case for Christian theism gets.

It’s the atheists who are now taking refuge in the gaps and holding out speculations as a way of maintaining their atheism against the science. It’s the atheists who are hoping for aliens, multiverses, undiscovered fossils, and so on. There is no God-of-the-Gaps anymore. There’s only Atheism-of-the-Gaps.

William Lane Craig reviews new Dawkins/Krauss movie “The Unbelievers” in The Blaze

Dr. William Lane Craig
Dr. William Lane Craig

On The Blaze, a major political news site, Dr. William Lane Craig reviews a new atheist movie entitled “The Unbelievers” starring Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins.

Excerpt:

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are two of the most important figures in the New Atheist movement. So one would naturally have high expectations that their new documentary, The Unbelievers, would present a vigorous, powerful attack upon the rationality of religious belief, featuring interviews with impressive scientists laying out the case against God.  Instead, the film turns out to be merely a travelogue of Dawkins and Krauss’ “magical mystery tour” of speaking engagements before their enthusiastic fans. Rather than thought provoking, the film is shallow, boring, and narcissistic.

[…]Featuring sound bites from celebrities and film stars in support of their cause fits Dawkins and Krauss’ purpose more than substantive interviews with qualified but largely unknown academics. The film’s purpose is not to present a case but primarily to rally the troops.

But there is a more fundamental reason for the absence of argument against religious belief. Dawkins and Krauss proceed on the unspoken assumption that science and religion are fundamentally mutually exclusive. Therefore, all one needs to do in order to discredit religion is to extol and celebrate the greatness of science. Science and religion are like two ends of a teeter-totter:  if the one end goes up, the other automatically declines. Thus, Krauss asks Dawkins which he would rather do:  explain science or destroy religion?  It is assumed that these are two ways to the same end. Dawkins, of course, chooses to extol science. “I’m in love with science, and I want to tell the world.” His implicit assumption is that one cannot love both God and science.

There is no argument given for the mutual exclusivity of science and religion; rather it is the unquestioned presupposition of the film. This is ironic because one of the repeated emphases of the film is the necessity of critical thinking. No view is off limits to examination; we must insist on permission to question everything. Yet Dawkins and Krauss are strangely oblivious to their own unexamined assumptions. Why think that science, restricted as it is to the exploration of the physical world, is incompatible with the existence of God?  Alas, we are not told.

[…]Indeed, given their ignorance of the literature, one cannot help but wonder if Dawkins and Krauss are not, in fact, incapable of engaging in substantive conversation on these matters. Hence, their open endorsement of ridicule as “a useful tool for illuminating reality.” Dawkins’ philosophical gaucherie is on display when complains that his dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury was “ruined” by the chairman (Sir Anthony Kenny, himself an agnostic), who “is a philosopher and so thought it his duty to clarify things,” which led, says Dawkins, to “skewing.”  Similarly, Dawkins breezily dismisses “Why?” questions as “silly.”

So what do we make of Dr. Craig holding Dawkins and Krauss accountable? Well. it’s one thing to treat Peter Millican and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong nicely. But Krauss and Dawkins really need to be spanked for their own good, at this point. What else do you do with ignorant children who run around insulting grown-ups?

What I find ironic is that there are 7 areas of science where theism has gained decisive support in the last 50 years:

  1. The Big Bang cosmology
  2. The cosmic fine-tuning
  3. The origin of life
  4. The origin of phyla in the Cambrian explosion
  5. Galactic habitability
  6. Stellar habitability
  7. Irreducible complexity

Each of these poses a threat to naturalism, and a few of them are lethal to naturalism on their own. Atheists have been reduced to holding onto speculations to get around them. You know the sort: nothing creating something, unobservable multiverses explain fine-tuning, unseen aliens seeded the Earth with life, undiscovered pre-Cambrian fossil record, and so on. It’s a bad time to be an atheist. Science has refuted atheism over and over again!

William Lane Craig podcasts about “The Unbelievers”

There are 3 of these podcasts so far in the series:

  1. What was the point of the film?
  2. Is science opposed to religion?
  3. Unscientific assertions in the film

Does the progress of science lead to theism or atheism?

Dr. Walter L. Bradley
Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor.

Here’s a bio from his faculty page at Baylor University:

Walter Bradley (B.S., Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) is Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor. He comes to Baylor from Texas A&M University where he helped develop a nationally recognized program in polymeric composite materials. At Texas A&M, he served as director of the Polymer Technology Center for 10 years and as Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, a department of 67 professors that was ranked as high as 12th nationally during his tenure. Bradley has authored over 150 refereed research publications including book chapters, articles in archival journals such as the Journal of Material Science, Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, Mechanics of Time-Dependent Materials, Journal of Composites Technology and Research, Composite Science and Technology, Journal of Metals, Polymer Engineering and Science, and Journal of Materials Science, and refereed conference proceedings.

Dr. Bradley has secured over $5.0 million in research funding from NSF grants (15 yrs.), AFOSR (10 years), NASA grants (10 years), and DOE (3 years). He has also received research grants or contracts from many Fortune 500 companies, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, DuPont, 3M, Shell, Exxon, Boeing, and Phillips.

He co-authored The Mystery of Life Origin: Reassessing Current Theories and has written 10 book chapters dealing with various faith science issues, a topic on which he speaks widely.

He has received 5 research awards at Texas A&M University and 1 national research award. He has also received two teaching awards. He is an Elected Fellow of the American Society for Materials and the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the largest organization of Christians in Science and Technology in the world. He is President elect of the ASA and will serve his term in 2008.

You can read more about his recent research on how to use coconuts to make car parts in this article from Science Daily.

Below, I analyze a lecture I chose from the hundreds of public lectures he has given all over the world on the integration of Christian faith with other public, testable areas of knowledge. In this lecture, entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?”, Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before.

The MP3 file is here.

Evidence #1: The design of the universe

1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law

  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.

2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet

  • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
  • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
  • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
  • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.

The best current atheist response to this is to speculate that there may be an infinite number of unobservable and untestable universes.

Evidence #2: The origin of the universe

1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.

  • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
  • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
  • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
  • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
  • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
  • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.

The best atheistic response to this is to speculate that there is an unobservable and untestable hyper-universe outside our own.

Evidence #3: The origin of life

1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!

  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.

Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids

  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?

The best current atheistic response to this is to speculate that unobservable and untestable aliens seeded the earth with life.

The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

Conclusion

In all three areas, scientists expected that the data would be consistent with atheism. First, scientists expected that life could exist even if the physical constants and ratios were altered. The progress of science said NO. Second, scientists expected that the universe would be eternal. The progress of science said NO. Third, scientists expected that the origin of life would be simple. The progress of science said NO. I think we all need to try to align our beliefs with the progress of science.

Walter Bradley explains three scientific arguments for God’s existence

Dr. Walter L. Bradley
Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor.

Here’s a bio from his faculty page at Baylor University:

Walter Bradley (B.S., Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) is Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor. He comes to Baylor from Texas A&M University where he helped develop a nationally recognized program in polymeric composite materials. At Texas A&M, he served as director of the Polymer Technology Center for 10 years and as Department Head of Mechanical Engineering, a department of 67 professors that was ranked as high as 12th nationally during his tenure. Bradley has authored over 150 refereed research publications including book chapters, articles in archival journals such as the Journal of Material Science, Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, Mechanics of Time-Dependent Materials, Journal of Composites Technology and Research, Composite Science and Technology, Journal of Metals, Polymer Engineering and Science, and Journal of Materials Science, and refereed conference proceedings.

Dr. Bradley has secured over $5.0 million in research funding from NSF grants (15 yrs.), AFOSR (10 years), NASA grants (10 years), and DOE (3 years). He has also received research grants or contracts from many Fortune 500 companies, including Alcoa, Dow Chemical, DuPont, 3M, Shell, Exxon, Boeing, and Phillips.

He co-authored The Mystery of Life Origin: Reassessing Current Theories and has written 10 book chapters dealing with various faith science issues, a topic on which he speaks widely.

He has received 5 research awards at Texas A&M University and 1 national research award. He has also received two teaching awards. He is an Elected Fellow of the American Society for Materials and the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), the largest organization of Christians in Science and Technology in the world. He is President elect of the ASA and will serve his term in 2008.

You can read more about his recent research on how to use coconuts to make car parts in this article from Science Daily.

Below, I analyze a lecture I chose from the hundreds of public lectures he has given all over the world on the integration of Christian faith with other public, testable areas of knowledge. In this lecture, entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?“, Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before. (It’s a little different from the one I posted earlier in the week, and now I have summarized it so people can discuss it without having to watch the lecture).

Evidence #1: The design of the universe

1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law

  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.

2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet

  • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
  • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
  • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
  • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.

The best current atheist response to this is to speculate that there may be an infinite number of unobservable and untestable universes. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #2: The origin of the universe

1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.

  • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
  • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
  • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
  • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
  • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
  • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.

The best atheistic response to this is to speculate that there is an unobservable and untestable hyper-universe outside our own. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #3: The origin of life

1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!

  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.

Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids

  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?

The best current atheistic response to this is to speculate that unobservable and untestable aliens seeded the earth with life. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

Conclusion

In all three areas, scientists expected that the data would be consistent with atheism. First, scientists expected that life could exist even if the physical constants and ratios were altered. The progress of science said NO. Second, scientists expected that the universe would be eternal. The progress of science said NO. Third, scientists expected that the origin of life would be simple. The progress of science said NO. Why do some people resist the progress of science and cling to the religious dogma of materialism?

Related posts

Angus Menuge on methodological materialism and the search for truth

Dr. Angus Menuge
Dr. Angus Menuge

Methodological materialism is the view that requires scientists to explain everything they observe in nature using material causes and never intelligent causes.

And now, from the Evangelical Philosophical Society blog, an article entitled “Is methodological materialism good for science?”. The article is written by Dr. Angus Menuge, whom I wrote about before.

Intro:

Should science by governed by methodological materialism? That is, should scientists assume that only undirected causes can figure in their theories and explanations? If the answer to these questions is yes, then there can be no such thing as teleological science or intelligent design. But is methodological materialism a defensible approach to science, or might it prevent scientists from discovering important truths about the natural world? In my contribution to The Waning of Materialism (OUP, 2010), edited by Robert Koons and George Bealer, I consider twelve of the most common arguments in favor of methodological materialism and show that none of them is convincing.

Of these arguments, perhaps the most prevalent is the “God of the gaps” charge, according to which invoking something other than a material cause is an argument from ignorance which, like a bad script writer, cites a deus ex machina to save our account from difficulty. Not only materialists, but also many Christian thinkers, like Francis Collins, worry that appeal to intelligent design commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

As I argue, however, not only is an inference to an intelligent cause not the same as an inference to the supernatural, it is a mistake to assume that all gap arguments are bad, or that only theists make them. If a gap argument is based solely on ignorance of what might explain some phenomenon, then indeed it is a bad argument. But there are many good gap arguments which are made both by scientific materialists and proponents of intelligent design.

So how do you make an argument like that?

As Stephen Meyer has argued in his Signature in the Cell, intelligent design argues in just the same way, claiming not merely that the material categories of chance and necessity (singly or in combination) are unable to explain the complex specified information in DNA, but also that in our experience, intelligent agents are the only known causes of such information. The argument is based on what we know about causal powers, not on what we do not know about them.

Since the inference is based on known causal powers, we learn that the cause is intelligent, but only further assumptions or data can tell us whether that intelligence is immanent in nature or supernatural. It is a serious mistake to confuse intelligent design with theistic science, and the argument that since some proponents of design believe that the designer is God, that is what they are claiming can be inferred from the data, is a sophomoric intensional fallacy.

Basically, you identify what material processes have been OBSERVED to be capable of, and then you show that the effect you are trying to explain is beyond the reach of those powers. For example, think of a Scrabble board left alone in a locked room with an open window from morning till evening. It’s summer, so the air conditioner is working hard all day. If you come home and enter the room and find a sentence on the Scrabble game board that says “IF YOU LEAVE YOUR WINDOWS OPEN THEN YOU PAY HIGHER ELECTRICITY BILLS” then does it make more sense to attribute that effect to the wind, or to an intelligent intruder?

If you are a materialist, then you can only appeal to matter, chance and time (and not much time, too). By ruling out intelligence, you are really confining yourself to an obviously wrong answer. But suppose you came home and found that that the tiles were scattered all over the board and on the floor and the only sequences spelled out “AN” and “ZYKDSFGOJD”. I think a better inference there is that the wind blew the bag open made a couple of nonsense sequences. Of course the idea that wind could blow open a bag of Scrabble letters at all is very unlikely, but if you rule out intelligence, that’s all you have left, no matter how strained the inference. You have to believe nonsense.

But what about the design theorist who can rule nonsense out as impossible? Well he hits on the correct explanation of the effect – intelligence.

As the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes says:

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

But if an intelligent design theorist comes along and rules out material causes as an explanation of the effect by showing that the effect is beyond the reach of matter, time and chance, then the explanation of intelligence must be, however improbably, true. The important thing is to rule out materialism by evaluating what material causes can do. We don’t want to rule it out by pre-supposition, because that’s what the naturalists do when they rule out intelligence as an explanation. Ruling things out by pre-supposition is how you get wrong answers to questions. Everything has to be on the table that we have experienced. And every human knows what it is to sequence Scrabble letters into meaningful words and phrases

By the way, the publisher of the book, OUP, is Oxford University Press. Angus Menuge doesn’t mess around.