Atheism – Christian God, or Lack Thereof

Prof. William Lane Craig is way more than a deist; he is certainly a theist. In fact, he is more than that; he believes that God is as described in the scriptures of his flavor of Christianity. I am not an expert in that field, so I don’t know exactly what that flavor is. But the arguments he gave do not go much farther than the deism. He gave five arguments to prove that God exists, and he invited Hitchens to refute them. Hitchens did not; at least, not in an enumerated and sequential fashion I plan to do here.

1. Cosmological Argument: The Big Bang theory states that everything started at some singular point in space and time, from nothing. There was no time or space before the singularity that became our universe. To Craig, nothing can come out of nothing, and therefore something (God) must have created the universe with the Big Bang.

I have my own reservations about Big Bang Cosmology, but putting them aside for now, to say that God created everything is the same as saying that we don’t know what happened before the Big Bang. God is merely a placeholder for our ignorance. The cosmologist would say that the question what happened “before” the Big Bang is not a pertinent question because there was no time before. “Before” did not exist. To say that “before” was, in fact, God, is to say that God didn’t exist either, or to take liberties with the theory that its proponents wouldn’t approve of. And, to me, if the God that they believe in is a God that exists in a space that doesn’t, and at a time that doesn’t, it is not a God that meets the requirements of existence. It is, at best, a placeholder for our inability to understand what the cosmologist means when he says space and time don’t exist.

The thing to understand about the logical, rational inquiry that is science is that the scientists are comfortable with ignorance. A true scientist is the one who readily acknowledges the limits of our collective knowledge. In fact, he might even go one step further, like Newton who said, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” But faith, almost by definition, needs to “explain” everything even though the explanation itself is little more than a veiled admission of ignorance. So, who orchestrated the Big Bang and created the universe? God did. Why and how? Well, who are we to presume to fathom God’s intentions?

2. Teleological Argument: The physical constants of our universe are so finely tuned that any slight variation would have precluded intelligent life. This implies deliberate fine-tuning and an intelligent designer, who has be be God.

This argument, to me, shows a deliberate perversion of the anthropic principle, or a profound misunderstanding of it. It is the result of a confusion (probably a wilful one) between the cause and effect. It is true that if some of those constants were slightly off, there wouldn’t be life or matter as we know it. But it is also possible that there would have been other kinds of matter and building material for potentially other kinds of life. Then those life forms could have sat around wondering how their universe so was finely tuned for their existence, and how that implied intelligent design. In other words, it is not that the design or the fine-tuning is intelligent. Intelligence happened. Then it figured out that the conditions were right for it to have happened and started wondering they were so right for it to have happened for those conditions were so precise and hence so unlikely to have occurred by accident.

Let me illustrate the fallacy of this argument with an example. Suppose you roll a die a thousand times, and get a sequence, let’s say, 3,6,1,5,7,…. a sequence of 1000 numbers between one and six. The probability of getting that particular sequence is one in ten to the power of 778, which is a pretty small number. Now, does it make sense to say that it was divine intervention or intelligent design that made that particular sequence materialize, given that it did materialize and it was so improbable? Certainly not, and in this case, it is easy to see why. Life and the fine-tuning is exactly the same. The reason why the physical constants seem so fine-tuned is not because they are, but because the highly improbable emergence of life did take place, and it was intelligent enough to figure out the constants. Intelligent life is the reason for the constants to seem fine-tuned, not the other way round, which is what the anthropic principle says.

green snake
Would a theist argue, teleologically, that leaves are green because the green snake is green? Leaves didn’t adapt to snakes; some snakes adapted to the leaf color. Similarly, the universe wasn’t designed for any particular life; life adapted to the universe.

This curious and apparent inversion of causality is evident is several things associated with evolution. Why does a tropical beach a favorite tourist destination and look like paradise on earth to many people? Not because of its inherent beauty, but because it is in that ideal spot where our species can thrive. Almost nothing in biology makes any sense unless viewed in the light of evolution, wherein lies the answer to his next argument based on the notion of objective morality, which we will get to in the next post.