ULTIMATE DESIGN VERSUS AIMLESSNESS
EV = Evolutionism, Naturalism, Atheism
CR = Creationism, Intelligent Design, Theism
A raging controversy between EV and CR has been going on for generations now, with name-calling, barbs and taunts all thrown in for good measure. Because neither side wants to relent, some attempt to marry the two concepts. When it comes to certain scientific observations, there could be a remote possibility, but on the level of their fundamental claims, they are worlds apart. William Provine of Cornell University–a prominent figure in a prestigious think-tank called CSICP [Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal]–described the attempt as “intellectually dishonest”.
Susan Haack, also of the CSICP, stated, “I agree with Provine that the hope of reconciliation is ill-founded.” (Skeptical Inquirer, Mar/Apr, 2004). I tend to agree with them. Each side piles up a mountain of evidence for itself and then points to the deficiencies of the other, claiming that the issue has been settled. Each side ends its arguments with a flourish and a finality saying, “What’s left to argue about?” Consider here two statements from the opposing camps, each very confident about its own claims.
“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” (Richard Dawkins, Oxford Biologist in Science, 277, 1997, emphasis mine]
“All the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constants in physics have one strange thing in common – these are precisely the values you need if you want to have a universe capable of producing life.” (Patrick Glynn in God: The Evidence, emphasis mine]
How can “precise” scientific information lead to such mutually exclusive positions? The answer is really quite simple at this early stage in our discussion. Both EV and CR are not primarily based on observable/scientific facts, but on diametrically opposing world views and philosophies regarding cosmic origins and human existence. True, both have appealed to scientific facts but they have interpreted them by their own undergirding principles.
So, no matter what the staggering discoveries in science, CR will explain them with, “God made it that way.” And no matter how “mysterious” or “miraculous” the event or phenomenon, EV will retort with, “Just wait– it will be explained ultimately in naturalistic terms.” Both can stand whatever argument is brought to them. Both cannot be shown to be false, even if they are. This can happen only in a make-believe world of fiction. But since they are mutually exclusive, reason demands that we accept only one and in doing so we will have discarded the other. Let’s try to clarify the bases.
EV – Every phenomenon is natural. There is nothing super-natural.
CR – God preexists everything and created everything – all phenomena.
EV – Unexplained events should be called “para-normal”, because when all the information is in and science has conquered its last frontier, they will all be explained by natural laws alone.
CR – God is without beginning, endless, eternal and infinite. He miraculously created the universe and all life. He holds all laws in His hands and so can produce supernatural phenomena.
EV – The only question is one of time. Wait – all the answers will come eventually – and only in naturalistic terms.
CR – The only question is one of recognition. God is at work in a million places – just acknowledge the truth of the matter.
The debate continues, century after century, because one can start with either proposition and build a fair case. The other reason is, it is impossible to directly evaluate and thus prove or disprove either claim. EV appeals to the future, which is clearly outside our grasp. CR appeals to the realm of God, which also we are unable to attain. The only way to decisively settle the controversy is to get to that ultimate state, and from that vantage point, make a pronouncement. But that is plainly impossible.
We are left with only the experience and knowledge, within our present sphere of existence. The piles of evidence are not yet sufficient; the questions still linger. Therefore, I think that, for today, the debate should include an abstract grappling of the philosophies themselves, on the level of reason and common sense. Yes, extrapolating from our present knowledge in an attempt to explain the unknown is fraught with uncertainties, yet we have no option but to try because (a) The options are mutually exclusive and we cannot but live under one or the other, and (b) the choice is not between “black and white” or “right and wrong” but between “the most reasonable and the less reasonable”.[It is worth reminding ourselves that a “good” option could turn out “bad” if we chose the second best while the best was available. Conversely, an apparently “bad” option [because of the questions that remain] could turn out “good” if the alternative was worse – absurd and untenable.]
The issue that we are going to consider is:
If EV is correct, our existence and that of the universe, originated by random chance and, is ultimately purposeless, aimless and useless.
If CR is correct, our existence was conceived in the mind of God and designed with an ultimate purpose and destiny.
After reflecting on these for many hours and over many months, I wrote out the points of discussion which follow.
- Scientists acknowledge that the farthest back one can go theoretically is to one ten million trillion, trillion, trillionth of a second – but not to “zero” time. Alan Rex Sandage, at one-time known as the greatest observational cosmologist in the world, said that science had taken us to the First Event, but cannot take us farther back to the First Cause (Strobel, The Case For a Creator, p70). Therefore, even Singularity and the Big Bang are post facto. Scientific explanations should not pretend to reach back to “zero” time. Let’s look at one attempted explanation.
“Singularity has no ‘around’ around it. There is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be … There is no past for it to emerge from. And so, from nothing, our universe begins.” (Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, p10).
Does this sound like a scientific explanation? Not to me. It appears nothing more than simple guesswork, a mental groping in the dark, and should be permitted to be dismissed by anyone, without a second thought.
There exists “…the tendency to rescue scientific appearances by evading the mythological point of our science.” (Matt Cartmill, Duke University anthropologist, quoted in Jonathan Wells, Icons Of Evolutionp.222).
EV cannot claim to have an answer. Nothingness is not an answer. It is absence of information, whose equivalent is, “I don’t know.” Therefore, the theory cannot make a statement regarding either purpose or non-purpose because it lacks a basis.
CR claims to have an answer. God, a mind, an Intelligence, is the First Cause. This theory is in a position to postulate that there is ultimate purpose and design. However wrong it might turn out to be, CR has something to offer as an ultimate theory.
- If the ultimate state is an aimless one, the EV theory is proposing three phases/levels:
- Origin – Random, aimless
- Our existence – Abounding in aims and purposes
- Ultimate state – Random, aimless
- If the ultimate state is an aimless one, the EV theory is proposing three phases/levels:
The focus is on the second phase – our existence. From the cry of a baby for milk to the painstakingly precise work in a space-lab, our activities are shot through with purpose. We perform thousands of purposeful acts. We perform thousands of purposeful acts. Our whole lives revolve around the notion that only purposeful lives can be a blessing to society. Even an insane individual believes his thoughts and actions to be reasonable. Why would anyone think of proposing any other type of existence?
For the theory to have some credibility, there should be an explanation for its proposal. We live immensely purposeful lives (b). Nothing in observational information points in any other direction. No basis whatsoever seems to exist for suggesting (a) or (c).
The next question would be regarding the mechanics involved. How did the change occur, from the aimless existence of inanimate matter, to the purpose seen in human life? Further, what factors will change our “little” aims in life to make them, at the final count, utterly futile? The answers will have to be arbitrary. It fails as a viable theory, because no explanation can be given for the change from an aimless origin to solid, present purpose, and then back to ultimate aimlessness.
The CR theory is consistent. There was purposeto begin with; there is purpose today; therefore the ultimate state should be a purposeful one. The extrapolation from our present circumstance to possible origins and onto the ultimate reality, is a reasonable one.
- EV claims that, given time and a series of discoveries, we will reach a point of being able to explain everything in terms of natural laws alone.Every fresh bit of information generates its own set of questions that then require more discoveries in order to provide answers. In other words, we did not even know the questions we needed to ask, prior to the new discovery.
“…it seems the more that is known, the more acute the puzzles get.” (Nicholas Wade in The New York Times, June 2000).
“Paradoxically, the deeper our understanding, the stranger everything becomes. Scientific breakthroughs. . . invariably trigger off a flood of questions that were previously inconceivable. Science doesn’t explain anything away, it simply opens up new mysteries.” Eric Harrison, NOVA East, March 2010, Vol. 17, 1, p. 14
“Western science has proceeded by filling gaps, but in filling them, it has created gaps all over again. The process is inexhaustible. . . anomalies have grown great because understanding has improved.” David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion (New York: Basic Books, 2007) PP 183, 184
“The universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine.” J B S Haldane, quoted in Who Made God? By Edgar Andrews (PA: EP Books, USA, 2009) p. 38
The dictum: the more the facts, the more the questions. Or, the more the known, the more the unknown. Therefore, the mysteries and miracles that need explanations are only going to only increase in number and magnitude. We are not gaining ground. With each new fact, the hope of explaining everything is receding farther and farther away. It is a paradox but it is real. If that is the direction we are headed, the EV claim is only wishful thinking. It is not based on reality.
But just suppose we will come to that point – let’s imagine the process. The more we know, the more we know we don’t. This will continue to the critical point where we reach the state of the maximum unknown—the maximum number of unanswered questions. Then, to reach the point of maximum knowledge the threshold will have to be crossed at the point of maximum ignorance. Suddenly, presto! What we know will equal all that can possibly be known. No questions will remain. But what factor will have caused this crossing over? It cannot be added information, because that would bring in added questions. It cannot be a deletion of information, because that would deplete the reservoir of knowledge. In reality, there is no such factor. The crossing over is an impossibility. If that state were ever to be reached, we would have gained the status of “omniscience”—all-knowledge, the state of God—the very state that is being denied. The theory cannot sustain itself on reason or logic—it is a fantasy.
Some scientists are willing to confess to it. Steven Weinberg (Nobel Laureate) appropriately entitled his book, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature. Weinberg is said to have referred to Karl Popper (whom he called the dean of modern philosophies of science), who suggested that there may not be an ultimate theory for physics. A rival possibility is that such knowledge may simply be beyond us (Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything, p. 168).
EV will have to concede that mysteries will remain; and as long as they do, naturalism will be under question. It could remain as a fanciful possibility, but there would be no basis for converting it into a scientific claim.
Consider what the brilliant (late) Stephen Hawking conceded: “If we discover a complete theory. . .it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God.” A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988) p 175
- Randomness, aimlessness, purposelessness, disorder, and chaos do not need an explanation. Indeed, the reason they are described as such is because there is no explanation. If a reason or aim could be ascribed, that event/phenomenon would no longer be random, chaotic, or aimless.EV claims that ultimately, there will be an explanation for everything. This should include our existence. It also claims that ultimately, everything is purposeless and aimless, including our existence. But there cannot be an explanation—which should include aim, reason, or purpose—for that which is aimless and purposeless. So either the ultimate state has an explanation with an aim and purpose, OR, it is random and aimless, with no explanation possible and none needed. It cannot be both.
If the first, it is a pointer to an Intelligent Mind—God.
If the second, it overthrows naturalism, which claimed to provide all the explanations. The only alternative to that is CR—God, with ultimate purpose?
- CR uses the logic that random chance alone will not account for the existence of life. Sir Fred Hoyle, an eminent British astronomer, likened the chances to that of a Boeing 747 coming together by itself. EV turned the argument around and, pointing to the “Ultimate Bowing 747”, meaning God, asked what the chances were of God coming together spontaneously. This is the main argument that Dawkins keeps repeating in his book, The God delusion. The question simply put is: Who made God?
- The question is based on EV’s idea that God was created/formed at some point. But that is exactly the bone of contention. CR would never call this created entity God. The argument is like shooting arrows and then painting the targets around the hits—a bull’s eye at every attempt!
- The question presupposes that there is universal agreement on this point. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is like demanding to be acknowledged the winner, as a prerequisite for the debate.
- Actually, nobody knows, whether believer or skeptic. However some believe in the existence of God despite this ignorance. Therefore not knowing the answer to this question cannot be the single, critical factor.
- Not knowing the identity of the producer /manufacturer does not de facto rule out the existence of the producer or product. I don’t know who made the universe. Does that mean the universe is non-existent? Of course not! Similarly, I do not know who made God. Does that mean God is non-existent? Certainly not!
- The question itself is a confession that God exists; otherwise, asking for the identity of the maker is quite nonsensical. Nobody makes non-existent things! Therefore to ask who made God is to acknowledge the existence of God.
- Who made Singularity? The obvious answer would be “Nobody”, or “Nobody knows”. If Singularity sprang up spontaneously and thus was uncaused and uncreated, God should also be given the same liberties to be uncaused and uncreated. Fairness and equity is the name of the game.
- If we assumed that God was a created entity, then God would have to take His place as one in a series of entities. However an entity within a series cannot be the originator of the series, and without an originator, the series cannot even begin. If it cannot begin, it cannot be in existence. Therefore if a series is in existence, the originator must be outside the series. If the series consists of created entities, the originator must be uncreated.
- In similar vein, if God was created, then the question would shift one step higher to the maker of the maker of God, and on and on to infinity. It could be called an infinite regress of finite causes. Such a series cannot be the cause of the existence of the series, because each entity has its cause going back in an endless manner. The only entity that can break the cycle of endless finite causes is a primordial, uncaused entity that can start the series and thus bring it into existence. A proposition of an originator that is uncaused, eternal and powerful could very well be a rational one. It appears the only way to end the otherwise endless series of finite causes which could never have brought the universe into existence.
- To go over the fence and change the claims to suit yourself, and then shoot down the touched-up, tailored proposition of the opponent, is both unfair and pitiful. CR is clear and unequivocal that God is without beginning and without end, that He dwells in infinity, is omniscient, and can hear and respond to millions of people simultaneously. It would amount to creating a “straw man” if any of these attributes were changed. The correct, fair approach is to show the claim wrong, not to change the claim itself. One way would be to show that there is no such thing as omniscience. But naturalism has to completely rely on omniscience.
“When we finally reach the long-hoped-for Theory of Everything, we shall see…” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Press, 2006), p. 144, emphasis supplied.
This appeal is to the state of all- knowledge. The information at that point could explain how to listen to and respond to millions of people simultaneously. But the impossibility of that was used to deny the existence of God. The objection removed, back to God we go! The claim regarding the “Ultimate Boeing 747” is that it did not need to come together–that is always was. This claim has been tampered with, because, it appears, it cannot and has not been overthrown.
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries” (Robert Jastrow, astronomer, God and the Astronomers (New York: Norton, 1978), p. 116.
- To think of a state in which thought was non-existent, is impossible. The moment you think of it, thought has entered. Similarly, you cannot imagine a scene where no imagination exists. For the moment you have imaged it, imagination has arrived. If you remove thought and imagination from the scene, you cannot imagine or think of it.Those who describe the origins of the universe in natural terms imagine the whole story before writing it down. In that history, life and thought would have to appear at some point. But the writer was there in thought and imagination, even before these came to be. That would be a contradiction. One way to reconcile this would be to acknowledge that life and thought always existed, even before singularity.
“Where are these laws written into that void? What ‘tells’ the void that it is pregnant with a possible universe. It would seem that even the void is subject to law, a logic that exists prior to space and time.”Heinz Pagel, Perfect Symmetry: The Search for the Beginning of Time (New York: Simon & Schuster), p. 243.
Logic requires an active, intelligent mind. A potential is necessary, prior to the actual. For example, the potential for movement should exist before running can take place. What is the potential, the a priori, for life and thought? Nothing appears as possibilities except life and thought themselves. Since we live and think today, it is reasonable to assume that life and thought have always existed, even at or before singularity.
- EV states that once life got going, natural selection sprang into place and took over the process which has resulted in the complex life we observe on earth. The only “miracle” required was that of life. After that, the laws of nature supervened, and evolution became a “cumulative one-way street to improvement” (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 141).A “one–way street” is not a description of aimlessness but rather, denotes direction and therefore purpose and aim. If these were the hallmarks of life right from the word go, why should anyone attempt to delete them from a description of the ultimate state and leave it totally aimless and purposeless? The idea is jarring, because it is so arbitrary. It also is unsatisfying, because there is no explanation that can account for such a suggestion. Science has always respected the “data-to-inference” type of thinking. Where and what are the data for this hypothesis? It would be more in line with science to infer that the final, core state of the universe and our existence has purpose and reason, because these permeated the universe from its birth till today.
- Millions of dollars have been gone into SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), because it is just possible that we are not alone in the universe.What will distinguish an intelligible signal from the crackle and buzz of plain old static? A design would need to be detectable in the signal. Static has no discernible pattern to it. Whereas, if there was maybe a code that could be interpreted by laws and rules, the inference would be unmistakable. If that code, received from outer space at different locations around the world, was decoded and found to contain the equivalent of a whole set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, it would amount to incontrovertible evidence of life and intelligence out there. Language and communication, as a given, require life, intelligence, and volition.
What if that language and communication were found in “inner space”, such as in the DNA of the 75 trillion cells in one human body alone? DNA is an intricately coiled ribbon, about six feet in length, packed into a space a thousand times smaller than the dot at the end of this sentence. It contains enough precisely coded information to fill a whole set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica more than once over, and is not just passive information scribbled on a page. Rather, it’s a set of complex, non-negotiable, active commands, which, if disobeyed, have dire, if not lethal, consequences. These orders are received, processed, and sent out at lightning speed beyond the nuclear boundaries, via specific messengers, and affect every part of the body. The process includes coding, decoding, editing, proofreading, adding, deleting, qualifying, and quantifying messages. The product is a precision molecule that is manufactured, packaged, addressed, and transported for a specific function, to a specific location, where it is unpacked, prepared, and fitted into the mechanism there. No human can produce and insert such a mind-boggling apparatus into the nuclei of cells. We must concede the inherent presence of language and commands; of submission and obedience to these commands; and therefore, of purposes and aims. If this is found in the nuclei of trillion of cells; if those same features are found in the community-lives of hundreds of millions of us Homo sapiens; if we are now ardently hoping to find it among the clusters of gigantic galaxies spread over billions of light years of space; then we have effectively encompassed the universe as our horizon. We have acknowledged that there is ultimate purpose everywhere. What will we gain by denying it?
- EV claims that the data referred to describe design can be interpreted differently. According to Richard Dawkins, if we “raised our consciousness,” we would be able to see that the design being claimed is only imaginary, only “apparent” and is an “illusion.” In reality, there is no design.What is the difference between “apparent” and “real” design? It cannot be in the pattern itself; otherwise, there would be universal agreement on the point. To just say “Raise your consciousness” is more like a chant or mantra, which could be an illusion itself. The only way to label them as “apparent” and not real is to prove the designer nonexistent. There is just no other way. And those claiming “real” design must face a similar consideration. The moment “design” is challenged by the claim of “apparent design,” it should not be touted as fact till the ultimate is shown to be real.
So, are both the same? They might appear to be deadlocked. But they are not. EV’s statement can stand alone only on reaching the level, and proving the nonexistence, of the designer. It is not a deduction based on observation or reason. CR’s statement is based on real observations of design, from which a reasonable deduction was made. How can anyone inspect the motherboard of a computer and the inside of a space shuttle and claim that there was only “apparent” design?
On the other hand, when there is apparent chaos, there could be design hidden in there. When passing a cornfield, it may appear as if the plants are scattered at random, till a particular point is reached where the design and order in the rows and rows of neatly planted corn become clear. All the other angles showed chaos, although order was always present.
Similarly, once even a single design or pattern is established, the possibility of ultimate design in the face of apparent disorder should be entertained. The terms have to be reversed. It is disorder and randomness that are “apparent” and therefore an “illusion”.
- If the ultimate state is purposeless and aimless, no purpose or aim at any other level or circumstance should matter. Even trying to prove everything aimless is in itself an aimless endeavor. Whether anyone accepts or rejects aimlessness, or accepts or rejects purpose, should make no difference, finally. Can there be true purpose in proving or even claiming that everything is ultimately purposeless. If so, then everything is not purposeless. If not, why do it? Even if it were done just to kill boredom, it would still demonstrate purpose. The proposition is self-defeating.The fact is, those who advocate it exhibit great purpose and aim in trying to explain its validity. They want to be known for their excellence in reasoning it out—and in that very effort, they establish the over-riding place of that which they are so keen to deny. I sense that they do not really believe it but prefer to state it that way, for an ulterior motive, aim, or purpose!
- Ultimate aimlessness means that there was no purpose regarding anything at the origin of the universe and of life. What then is the explanation for the first organism “choosing” to live and not die? At least the next generation should have ceased to exist. Dying would not have needed a choice at that primeval stage; living would have required it. The sheer number of living organisms that not only exist but adapt and thrive today should convince us that choice was integral to the survival of life. Choice indicates, first, a grasp of some degree of knowledge, however rudimentary, and second, the ability to weigh it out before making a decision. Aimlessness cannot discern the essential difference between existing and not existing, so cannot form the basis of a choice. In fact, to choose is to stop being aimless. Aimlessness cannot account for the trillions of organisms that abound and flourish on earth. The most reasonable theory should involve life, thought, and volition, even prior to the origins of matter and life.
12. The principle governing EV theories is: “Given infinite time or infinite opportunities, anything is possible.” Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York, Norton & Company, Inc. 1996), p. 139. The statement is scientifically flawed, because time is finite. But that aside, I wonder if they really believed it; for if they did, the “anything” should have included “God” and “Creation”. But these are strictly excluded, without bothering to address the inconsistency.
The statement is too simplistic and elementary to actually portray anything. With it, neither side wins, although they are opposing and mutually exclusive claims. We are left in the position of the proverbial ass that died of starvation when faced with two equidistant and equally desirable bales of hay, because it could not give a single reason for preferring one bale over the other, so went to neither!
Here’s my story of “Anything is Possible”:
“The elephant is gone!” rang out the shout in the camp. We all went running to where the elephants were kept. The large enclosure, where the bull elephant used to be chained, was empty. The bamboo fence facing the jungle was broken, and tall grass and little plants looked stamped upon, and there was the semblance of large footprints leading off into the jungle.
A buzz was hard, as everyone prepared for the search. But I, being the chief in the camp, stopped them. “It’s no use. Let’s give up.
“We can get him, if we go right away.”
“Where will you go looking for him?”
“We’ll follow the footprints—they are but a few minutes old.”
“He didn’t go off into the jungle. We’ll never find him.”
“Because a baby ant swallowed him up.”
“Baby ant? Don’t be silly!”
“I’m not being silly. I did notice a baby ant yesterday, scouting around on that bamboo fence with both its antennae pointing straight at the elephant—and with a very hungry look in its eyes.”
“Come off it! That’s ridiculous. It’s impossible!”
“No, it’s not. Here’s my explanation. Matter is made up of atoms and molecules which are mostly space. If the electrons would stop their endless spinning and settle down together with the protons and neutrons, all that excess space could be eliminated. The difference would be enormous.
“The matter making up that ponderous creature could easily get into the stomach of a baby ant. In fact, a dozen or more could fit in.
“There now, I’ve produced as scientific an explanation as any. None of you can disprove my theory. None of you can give a more ‘scientific’ explanation. The question is settled. No more talk. Expedition disbanded!”
A rousing round of applause broke out, at the exceptional wisdom and leadership I had displayed. Everyone turned to go back to their workstations. But one little girl had a puzzled look on her face. She was the same one who had earlier stood in the crowds lining the streets, waiting to see the emperor’s new clothes, and who had exclaimed, “But Dad, the emperor has no clothes!” End of story.
Of course, anything is possible. With a broken fence and visible footprints staring us in the face, we are still allowed the freedom to cling to a scientific “baby ant” explanation. But it will sound like an “old-fashioned folk tale” being told as a “bedtime story” by an “outright crackpot”!
At the level of simple reason and common sense, I think the gavel should be brought down on the side of Ultimate Design and therefore, Ultimate Purpose.