In recent years, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement has cogently presented the argument that the incredible order in the universe must have an adequate cause. Just as any fine-tuned device was designed and manufactured for a purpose, so too does the evidence of fine-tuning in the universe point to a creator God.
But not everyone accepts this argument. Famed prosecutor and author Vincent Bugliosi contends that agnosticism is the only sensible conclusion that rational people can reach. In his recent book, he claims to apply rigorous logic and common sense to his position, but does he adequately defend this view?
“The Divinity of Doubt” aims frequent belittling remarks at believers and on this topic, we get more of the same. Bugliosi comes out swinging, claiming that the way to defeat the notion of God’s existence in this area of intelligent design is to accept for the sake of argument that he is all intelligent and all powerful and then show that he never would have done what theist’s claim he did. (p. 55) He promises that he will show that ID is self-defeating on its face. (p. 83) His proofs? A series of questions for which he can find no answer.
• Why, he asks, would God create this incredibly complex system of 122 constants to allow for life on earth? Here he is referring to the various constants that scientists have measured, ranging from the tilt of the planet, to the electromagnetic forces to the concentration and content of the atmosphere. With each of these variables, scientists have noted that even very tiny changes in their values would have made life impossible. Why couldn’t God create an earth that relied on none of these things? Was that beyond his power?
• The Earth is infinitesimally small compared to the universe, with its trillions of stars. Why would 99.99999 percent of the universe have nothing to do with life on Earth? What conceivable reason would God have for doing this?
These questions lead him to conclude that an intelligent being would not create something that served no purpose. Therefore, it seems to him, there can’t be such a God.
But let’s take a closer look at the logic he employs. How valid are his premises? The syllogism he employs would break down something like this:
– If there is a God, nature would be simple and consist only of necessary things.
– The universe is vast and complex and contains many seemingly unnecessary things.
– Therefore, there is no God.
Stating it this way shows that Bugliosi’s issue is not his logic; it is the utter lack of persuasive force of his first premise. Since he frames most of his “argument” as a series of mocking questions, he never attempts to establish the validity of this premise. If his premise is false – as a moment’s reflection will establish – then his conclusion finds no adequate support. Using the courtroom language of which he is so fond, he is “assuming facts not in evidence.”
There are many reasons why God could have chosen to create in the way He did, any one of which provides a valid alternative to his premise. For one, as limited beings, we have no idea what other use this universe may have. How could Bugliosi have sufficient knowledge to know which things are necessary and which are not? How could he know whether simple things are to be preferred over complex things? To conclude that only purposes that are plain to us can be valid is rather, well, arrogant. How could he possibly know?
Second, another implied premise in Bugliosi’s argument is that God creating that way – with far more stuff and complexity than Bugliosi thinks is necessary – is somehow wasteful, as if God were some kind of lunatic who built an Egyptian pyramid in order to house a closet. But God is infinite in his power and his creative ability. For such a being, creating more is no more difficult than creating less. It would be like marveling at a computer programmer that filled his simulation with thousands of simulated players rather than one or two. It just isn’t that difficult a task.
Finally, has Bugliosi considered that God might have an artistic side to Him? Is it possible that, with infinite power, He chose to paint a canvas through which we can glimpse both His power and His majesty? Scientists tell us that we are located at a time and place in the universe from which we can gaze back to the beginning. This tapestry of the stars, taken in conjunction with the exquisite order that functions so seamlessly and so smoothly throughout the universe, may simply be a work of art that He wishes us to behold, and to enjoy. It may simply stand as a testament to His awesome creative power and glory. And perhaps as warning, that He is not to be trifled with.
The ancient psalmist had more wisdom than today’s skeptics.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? “
Perhaps that is the message writ large on the night sky.
Posted by Al Serrato