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"Design" Arguments Unconvincing

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on April 4, 2001 16:52:29 UTC

Brian Sloan,

You wrote:

> Let me ask you this. If, in all of human
> experience, there has never been an instance
> where a complex information system arose
> through an unguided process, on what logical
> basis do we exclude intelligence as a source of
> biological information systems?

I don't understand your question. I don't think the existence of complex information systems requires the existence or guidance of a supernatural God or gods. Do you?

Biology evolved because of the "guidance" (if you want to call it that, but I wouldn't) or constraints of nature, not because of some intelligent being such as God.

Cells divide because as something doubles in size it requires feeding 8 times the mass to be fed through a membrane only 4 times as large. Cells which divided over and over again could begin to fill the available space. Cells which didn't divide didn't prosper(they either remained only one small cell until they died or died as they failed to feed their larger size). Does this "design" mean that God created dividing cells? I don't think so. It's part of the 3-D universe in which we live.

UV, Visible and IR light pass through the Earth's atmosphere. Does the fact that most animals and plants use this radiation for sight, heating, or food-production mean God designed them that way? I don't think so. It's part of the electromagnetically-filled universe in which we live.

The largest animals that ever existed on the planet live in the oceans. Does this mean God designed it that way? I don't think so. It's just buoyancy.

If God designed us why did he do such a poor job? Theists emphasize how perfect we are, but are we? We could be made a lot better if God had started from scratch (like many of them say He did) instead of using the evolutionary path we've come down. When theists are given this argument, I typically hear the reply "Well God didn't want to make us perfect". God made us perfect enough, they decide to think, but not so perfect that intelligent people are forced to conclude that He didn't make us.

It's my opinion that arguments about design are sorry attempts at separating the theist mind of the philosopher (they want to believe in the supernatural) from the rational atheist part of their minds that are working over 99% of the time.

It amazes me that otherwise intelligent people (including myself in the past) accept as true absurd assertions like

-The earth was created in 6 days only a few thousand years ago
-Adam and Eve were our original progenitors. Mankind did not evolve from ape-like animals.
-A universal flood covered the entire Earth,
-Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin around 0 A.D., was the biological son of God, and could perform miracles unmatchable today including resurrection
-Beings from a supernatural realm visit people on Earth teaching them eternal truths
-Prayer is an effective means to cause supernatural powers to do your bidding
-and similar things.

The reason otherwise intelligent people sometimes accept absurdities like these is for a number of reasons:
-it makes them happy to think there's some superpowerful being who loves and takes care of them (if it makes me feel so good, it's got to be good)
-other intelligent people who live today seem to believe these things (they must know something I don't know)
-these beliefs have been accepted for a long time by otherwise intelligent people (if these things haven't been convincingly discounted by the wise by now then there's probably something significant in them)
-other reasons.

When I was a Mormon scientist I had the apparent support of other Mormon scientists that my faith was not in vain. They seemed to believe the same absurdities that I accepted as true. Galileo and Newton had similar problems. They were surrounded by theists.

Atheists have sometimes accepted as true statements without valid support, such as that Jesus Christ lived during the first century. This makes it more difficult for atheism to overcome the widespread theism in our species.

Consider Isaac Asimov, the science fiction/fact writer. Asimov was an atheist, I think, and wrote a matter-of-fact book about the Bible. He wrote about the life of Christ from the perspective of what it would be like to live in Nazareth during the first century. He appears to have assumed that the place actually existed and that Jesus Christ existed, although the miracles needed some rational treatment. If Asimov had known that the archaeological and historical evidence argues otherwise he might have written a totally different book. When other atheists read that Asimov accepted the existence of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, then they aren't motivated to seriously consider the alternative.

If the principles of atheism were much more evident in our human history instead of repressed by politicians/priests then this problem of theist-scientists would not have happened as much. Virtually all good scientists would be atheists. Only the non-scientifically-minded would still believe in superstition.

Unfortunately, atheism historically has not been as nation-building an influence as a common belief in deity. I think atheist cultures didn't survive as well as theist ones. However, we finally live in a age when widespread atheism might be able to survive politically.

With the great successes of science at explaining things that used to be left to religion, intelligent people no longer have an excuse for maintaining belief in the supernatural.

I'm embarrassed that it took me as long as it did to reach this intellectual point.

What's stopping the rest of you? Do we humans have a design flaw?

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