Review: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist – Chapter 4

4: DIVINE DESIGN

I want to restate that I am more agnostic when it comes to Deism. Perhaps because of that, I find it rather off-putting when the author starts equating the unknown designer with the god of the Bible in the middle of the chapter without establishing any argument that they are one and the same except self-evidence.

There has been so much written on this topic that I don’t expect to be adding anything new to the conversation, so I hope to keep it brief. The thing that is pointed out in response to the Teleological Argument time and again is that since it’s entirely impossible for us to experience the universe in any other way but the way it is, it will necessarily seem as if it were designed perfectly for us to live in. It also tends to give humanity a position of privilege, as if the existence of humans is a necessity. Daniel Dennett discusses the flaw in the anthropic principle:

In the “weak form” it is a sound, harmless, and on occasion useful application of elementary logic: if x is a necessary condition for the existence of y, and y exists, then x exists. If consciousness depends on complex physical structures, and complex physical structures depend on large molecules composed of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, then, since we are conscious, the world must contain such elements.

“But notice that there is a loose cannon on the deck in the previous sentence: the wandering “must”. I have followed the common practice in English of couching a claim of necessity in a technically incorrect way. As any student in logic class soon learns, what I really should have written is: It must be the case that: if consciousness depends … then, since we are conscious, the world contains such elements.

The conclusion that can be validly drawn is only that the world does contain such elements, not that it had to contain such elements. It has to contain such elements for us to exist, we may grant, but it might not have contained such elements, and if that had been the case, we wouldn’t be here to be dismayed. It’s as simple as that (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, 165-166).

The author writes that there is no evidence for a multiple universe theory and that it is nothing more than a metaphysical concoction (p 107). Yet nothing more about the posited designer is known either, and outside space-time, either seems equally likely or unlikely. To show that a designer is more likely than a multiverse, the author should be able to identify ways that a designer has affected the universe beyond asserting that the universe appears to have design. If he has no idea about the mechanism by which the designer affects the physical universe, and no experiment can identify which aspects of nature were specifically designed and which were not, then intelligent design falls into the same category as other speculations concerning things outside of space-time, that is, unprovable. Separated from religion, there need be no particular reason to choose one speculation over another or to choose any at all; and again, to involve religion necessitates investigating the claims of the particular religion.

Analogously, his fourth objection that the multiple universe theory is so broad that any event can be explained away by it also applies to his infinite, all-powerful god. There are several laws of reaction and effect, such that any change within a system such as the universe will have ramifications. If a designer is intervening in the physical universe, through changing events in a way that they would not otherwise have occurred, but even more so through miracles, then the rules of the universe are fundamentally different when these things happen. It’s possible to define the designer as having such absolute power over everything in the universe that he can negate the laws of reaction and conversation at the point where he makes a change, but such an assumption would need some backing evidence to be believable.

As I mentioned earlier, the most disturbing thing in the chapter is the way that the author turns to sermonizing near the end. He claims to be building a philosophical and scientific case, but with no prelude, he declares that God is the unlimited limited – the uncreated Creator – of all things and then describes God’s attributes as power knowledge, justice and love (p 109). Ostensibly, I don’t object to a book being written to a Christian audience to confirm what the readers are already inclined to believe, but as a reader investigating an argument, this sort of conclusion is entirely unacceptable. The author proclaims that he has presented impressive evidence for a designer and the atheist who rejects these findings simply does not want to admit to a designer, as well as implying that such an atheist is emotional and unobjective (p 112), and I find it arrogant that he cannot admit that a designer that he cannot observe in any way is not an undeniable fact, but a metaphysical speculation that he considers to have a high probability of likelihood.

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