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Who Designed The Designer?

Have you ever tried to debate or discuss with an atheist on the existence of God? Have you ever tried to present the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God and immediately encountered this classic Dawkinsian objection: “Who designed the designer?”  I am willing to wager that you must have. It is one of the major conversational retorts of the converts to this so-called New Atheism. I must confess that I find the logic behind this atheist argument to be unconvincing. According to Richard Dawkins you cannot infer a designer of the universe based on the complexity of the universe because this raises a further question namely “Who designed the designer?” But like Dr. William Lane Craig aptly demonstrates in the video above, contrary to Dawkins’ postulations, you do not need to have an explanation for your explanation to realize that the explanation you’ve got is the best explanation.

This is where it gets really interesting. In a debate with a theist, an atheist is likely to accuse a theist of using the “god of the gaps” argument—a charge which has the unfortunate effect of paralyzing the resolve of many a theist debater. The atheist charges that if the theist is going to claim that God created the universe, then the theist has to also answer “Who created God?”, and if that were to be ever answered, the next question would ensue “Who created that thing you said that created God?” The aim of this series of questions is to invite an infinite regress which would seem to show that the theist argument is unsound. Unfortunately, the problem with this atheist assumption is the ignorance of what the theist conception of God really is. Have you ever noticed how exasperated and dismissive an atheist usually gets when you properly demonstrate the atheist misunderstanding of the God concept?

Here is a short discussion between a theist and an atheist on this philosophically rich issue.

The theist:

The problem I have with atheistic opposition to the simple theistic inference that the cause of the universe is not and could not be physical is that using Dawkins’ own criteria, at best what we can reasonably deduce is a naturalistic explanation to some aspect or substructure of the universe. There cannot be any naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe, which when defined properly is the entirety of the physical, natural realm. Any explanation that seeks to validate that claim (the claim that one can adduce a proper and meaningful naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe) will invariably turn out to be mind-shatteringly complex, highly implausible and I might even add non-testable. The ongoing research into multiverses readily comes to mind.

If Dawkins wants to make the argument that all explanations must be simple (I suppose the term “simple” invites a bit of subjectivity) or else we should disregard them as explanations, then he should be getting slapped down by theoretical physicists. This is not biological evolution and I wonder why he appeals too strongly to an evolutionary model. Just think, the field of quantum physics is already driving the most intelligent insane how much more when we begin to talk about 11 dimensional hysperspace and all the academic jargon of brane cosmology.

In the end, even if we never settle the issue of whether a god created the universe out of nothing at the cosmological singularity, one needs to realize that this is an issue that will never be satisfactorily resolved or explained with our current understanding of physics. The best we can do is deal with physical reality AFTER a universe has mysteriously appeared. If this realization proves to be intellectual dissatisfying for the atheist, he simply has to hope that sometime in the future, some theory of cosmological beginnings can be shown to be infinite in the past. It is a position he has to hang his faith on if he doesn’t want to face the seeming unreasonableness of his atheistic commitments.

After the theist’s opening comments, the atheist starts deconstructing the opening salvo.


The Atheist:

There cannot be any naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe…will invariably turn out to be mind-shatteringly complex, highly implausible and I might even add non-testable.

I’m sorry, but the above is simply nonsense.

1) We live in a complex universe, so not too surprisingly science describing it is also complex. But complex does not mean wrong, or impossible. Its beyond our computing capacity to model the gravitation interactions of the planets in our solar system; and yet, strangely enough, they somehow get by.

2) Implausible, by whose definition? Once something has been shown to occur it is no longer implausible – its fact. Atoms were once considered to be impossible – good thing we didn’t listen to those nay-sayers.

3) Current origin (cosmological) models make very specific and testable predictions about our own universe, meaning that they are to some extent testable. I posted a link to a video earlier in this thread that deals with this very issue. The classic example is the curvature of space-time – most cosmological models demand certain curvatures. We have measured the curvature of space, and thus have already been able to invalidate some models, and support other. Likewise, various cosmological models make other testable predictions – in regards to nature of vacuum energy, the interaction between gravity and the other fundamental forces, quantum entanglement, and so forth. As we become able to test those aspects of our universe we can further develop our cosmological models.

4) Not testable now does not equal not testable in the future. Until about two decade ago we had never directly imaged atoms; now, that tech is available in most unis. Until nine years ago it wasn’t possible to image below the diffraction limit of light – today myself and dozens of other scientists do it daily. Today, there are thousands of untestable questions. Tomorrow there will be a few less…

Theist:

We live in a complex universe, so not too surprisingly science describing it is also complex. But complex does not mean wrong, or impossible. Its beyond our computing capacity to model the gravitation interactions of the planets in our solar system; and yet, strangely enough, they somehow get by.

Unfortunately, your refutations seem to be missing the point. Of course, the science describing an existing complex universe is/can be very complex indeed. The point however, if you’ve noticed, is that scientifically describing an existing universe is quite different from scientifically describing the origin of the universe. To contextualize therefore: if Dawkins’ reason for rejecting the God hypothesis for the origin of the universe is erected on the grounds that in doing so, one is positing something very complex, it would appear that he imagines that acceptable explanations must be simple. Nevertheless, as you have noted, simplicity need not be the main/the only/ or the most important criterion for accepting or refusing explanations. Therefore, objecting to God as the reason or cause for the universe, on the basis of complexity or simplicity seems neither here nor there. In any case, the scientific explanations for many things in the universe are quite complex (not simple or intuitively apparent. I am not sure why many atheists seem satisfied with this pretension to simplicity. It is rather the case that as we progress in science, we would settle for explanations that are increasingly more complex than what we currently have. The difference would be that they’d have greater explanatory scope and power.

Implausible, by whose definition? Once something has been shown to occur it is no longer implausible – its fact. Atoms were once considered to be impossible – good thing we didn’t listen to those nay-sayers.

You are treating the word “implausible” as if it means “impossible”. They have different meanings and so I am not exactly sure what your objection is here. Explanations can be implausible and yet very possible; or plausible and unfortunately impossible. Once again, any attempt to give a naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe would run afoul of Dawkins’ rigid devotion to simplicity. In attempting to provide such an explanation for the origin of the universe, one would invariably have to tender explanations that are not only non-observable, but non-testable and highly implausible as well.

Current origin (cosmological) models make very specific and testable predictions about our own universe, meaning that they are to some extent testable. I posted a link to a video earlier in this thread that deals with this very issue. The classic example is the curvature of space-time – most cosmological models demand certain curvatures. We have measured the curvature of space, and thus have already been able to invalidate some models, and support other. Likewise, various cosmological models make other testable predictions – in regards to nature of vacuum energy, the interaction between gravity and the other fundamental forces, quantum entanglement, and so forth. As we become able to test those aspects of our universe we can further develop our cosmological models.

This is beside the point. Like I noted earlier, we can have reliable, reasonable and verifiable naturalistic explanations for some aspects of the universe. No one has posited that we can’t make specific and testable predictions about some phenomena in the universe. The problem lies in having a naturalistic explanation for the universe as a whole. Here, I am not saying that we are incapable of offering explanations for anything including the universe, but to assume there’s a naturalistic explanation for nature (the universe as a whole in its grandest scale) is to assume what you are trying to explain; it is assuming the prior existence of something that you are trying to show its origins. To think there is some naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe is not to have understood what the universe properly means. All the talk about quantum entanglement, vacuum energy, gravity, space-time curvature and fundamental forces amply illustrates my point—we are merely investigating aspects of an already existing universe. When you happen on a genuine observable, testable and predictive naturalistic explanation for the very origin of the universe as a whole, I’ll be more than eager to hear it. Just don’t serve up another one of these many discredited theories out there.

Not testable now does not equal not testable in the future. Until about two decade ago we had never directly imaged atoms; now, that tech is available in most unis. Until nine years ago it wasn’t possible to image below the diffraction limit of light – today myself and dozens of other scientists do it daily. Today, there are thousands of untestable questions. Tomorrow there will be a few less…

It would appear that you have failed to understand my position. I am not in the least bit interested in examples showing that human beings have improved their knowledge with time; Or that things once thought impossible or difficult to answer or understand have been successfully resolved. To me, that is quite obvious as not to merit some sort of argument or debate. Nevertheless, in all of these, we have concerned ourselves with learning more about the intricacies of phenomena in the universe. In the already existing universe, it is very plausible that with time, we’ll discover and experimentally verify (test) many things we have a poor understanding of today. It leaves untouched though the very question of the origin of the whole shebang known as the universe. How can any naturalistic hypothesis to that end be testable? It is one thing to test an explanation of some aspect or phenomena inherent in this or any kind of possible universes, but it is another thing altogether to test an explanation purporting to show the origins of this or any other universes. It is not a surprise therefore that astrophysics and cosmology is an observational science not an experimental one. I can be charitable for example, and grant that the current research in brane cosmology/multiverses may yet yield some interesting fruit and produce some deeper and relevant understanding of our own universe. If it wants to pretend an answer to the origins of the universe, testable or non-testable sub-universal phenomena will not suffice. We will need to test and experimentally verify that any such explanations lead to the actual birth of an entire universe—I suppose, with its own variegated and stunning physical laws and constants. This is a challenge that cannot be realistically met.

Be that as it may, you are free to hang your faith on some highly implausible, non-testable and non-actualizable future state of affairs—if it helps your world-view.

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Posted on January 22, 2011, in Religion/Spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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