Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adopt an Atheist: Stan Johnson – Round 2

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Continued from Round 1. Same rules and format apply.

Note: Challengers’ arguments may be paraphrased/edited for clarity/formatting reasons.

2ND ARGUMENT(S): Stan Johnson

A1: You feel that my first argument falls into the “It looks designed, therefore, it must be.” What you are missing is that you are making the bigger assumption. Your assumption is that "it looks designed, but I know it isn't so because it is normal to see patterns in nature that are unrelated". My point is not that “It looks designed, therefore, it must be.” My point is that it looks designed so lets add that to the list of possibilities. If my only thought was that the universe looked designed therefore it MUST be there would be no reason to continue to look into science.

A true skeptic would not throw out any options prior to looking at the evidence. All to often, though, self-proclaimed skeptic atheists automatically throw out the idea of creationism because it doesn't fit their world view. This automatically means they are not skeptics, just atheists.

A2: Argument 2 was, admittedly, a very sloppy attempt at trying to point out fine tuning. Your bashing rock idea doesn't explain the process that made the rocks. Fine tuning points out that the constants of physics have been finely tuned to such a degree that we can not recreate it. Listed in the below table are the five more finely tuned numbers:

Fine Tuning of the Physical Constants of the Universe
Parameter Max. Deviation
Ratio of Electrons:Protons 1:1037
Ratio of Electromagnetic Force:Gravity 1:1040
Expansion Rate of Universe 1:1055
Mass Density of Universe1 1:1059
Cosmological Constant 1:10120
These numbers represent the maximum deviation from the accepted values, that would either prevent the universe from existing now, not having matter, or be unsuitable for any form of life.

To put this in perspective we can look at the analogy outlined in the book The Creator and The Cosmos for the the tuning of Ratio of Electrons:Protons (the smallest number on the Max Deviation list):

"One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.). Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037". (p. 115)

I know that the argument from atheists (and more than likely what you will bring up) is "well we can't test this because we don't have any other universe to look at" This may be true, but the idea that even with just one of these, "fine tuning" alone doesn't do the trick. At best case we should have still just been some sort of radiation.

[The following was part of A2, but it comes across as more of a personal comment, which is why I’m attaching it here.]

I realized that while writing this that no matter what I say it will come across as a "common" argument. My only answer is, of course it is. As I mentioned before everything either one of us knows is more than likely a culmination of things taught by people before us. For every argument I have for Creationism there has already been an argument against it (which you undoubtedly will know or find on one of your commonly used "skeptic" websites).

We could keep up the charade of pretending that we each will bring something "new" to the table, but lets face it we won't. I do believe there is a reason true skeptics constantly become, at the very least, deists. The science backs up Christianity, but only if you look at science with a truly open mind.


R1: Just to clarify: when I summarized Stan’s original argument as being equal to, “It looks designed, therefore, it must be,” I was deliberately reducing his own argument to the teleological argument, which I subsequently reduced further into the colloquial summary used above. The overall point was regarding the broad underlying (il)logic in his argument about the “appearance of design” (quote: “The natural world […] doesn’t seem random, and instead appears to have been designed”), which is that order and complexity are not indications of design, intelligent or not.

Stan is also making the same unfounded assumption as last time about how atheistic skeptics allegedly think, claiming that we “automatically throw out the idea of [C]reationism because it doesn’t fit [our] world view”. I have already refuted this claim in last round’s R1, but to reiterate: The reason skeptics (and/or atheists) dismiss Creationism/Intelligent Design as a valid alternative, or “possibility”, is not because of ideology, but because Creationism/ID A) has no testable hypotheses or mechanisms to present, B) has no evidence to support it that cannot be used (much more reliably) to explain the Big Bang, and C) does not make basic scientific sense. Many scientists much smarter than I have debunked it time and time again with astounding thoroughness. Unless or until proponents of Creationism/Intelligent Design have any new evidence or arguments to present, then it is simply a dead issue.

In short: Scientists have tested it (the parts of it that can be tested, anyway). It has repeatedly failed. That’s why it is summarily discounted.

R2: Stan presents more evidence for the complexity and careful balance of the natural world and its constituents, yet this does not bolster his original argument in itself, which is still a form of the argument from design (specifically, that design must have a purpose). But the mere fact that humans are not yet able to recreate something is no indication of either intelligent (much less divine) design, nor that such a thing – in this case, fine tuning – will never be recreated at some point in the future (present failure is never a valid sign of future failure).

Stan is correct in mentioning the argument that a lack of alternate universes (with their own potentially different physical laws and constants) to test our universe against renders the issue fairly moot; after all, we cannot know whether things could truly function differently if we have no actual examples of things functioning differently, obviously enough. We simply cannot know, therefore it is pointless to debate the notion. We might as well argue about whether unicorns could exist there as well.

To address Stan’s comment: I fully accept the fact that we may well have nothing new to present on either side, though I was hoping for more of a discussion in debate form rather than an actual competition to see who’s arguments trump who’s. It is still possible (and, I might add, the goal of this exercise) to expand one’s mind and knowledge base through encountering new arguments, even if no-one’s (de)conversion is expected in the end. It is unclear whether or not Stan intends to further add to the debate at this time, but nonetheless, I leave my counter-arguments in hopes of continuation.