The universe either made itself or it was made. Any argument supporting either alternative automatically opposes the other. This is why neither of these competing cosmogonies can be honestly advanced without at least contemplating its opposite, either philosophically or scientifically.
Dawkins’ determination to render a creator “improbable” does not provide a compelling basis for treating an intellectually respectable issue — whether God exists — as if it were a question firmly settled in the negative. Observations that call into question the self-creative adequacy of the universe abound all across the natural sciences from astronomy to biochemistry to genetics to paleontology to zoology and back, but since arguments against atheistic evolution are automatically arguments for an intelligent designer, they are being censored with increasing fervor as a matter of public policy. Scholars who admit to the slightest suspicion that the universe did not generate and organize itself are often professionally intimidated (sometimes even “expelled”), casting a chill over scientific inquiry as it relates to origins.
Most scientists or laymen who conclude that intelligent design best explains the complexity of the universe do so not because they are, in Dawkins’ language, “lying for Jesus,” but because they have been impressed with the scientific evidences for design and/or have thought through a sequence of reasoning similar to the following:
1) Something is eternal. If there had ever been absolutely nothing, that condition would have persisted.
2) Biological life is evidently not eternal, being represented by organisms that without exception come from similar temporarily living organisms and then die.
3) Matter-energy is evidently not eternal, as it inescapably spends itself with every energy transaction at a net cost to the whole system. This process cannot have gone on eternally, because it would culminate in the eventual “heat death” of the universe in some finite amount of time (barring the oscillating universe mythology that belongs somewhere beyond science fiction).
4) Our consistent experience is that mind manipulates matter, not vice-versa, suggesting that an eternal mind having formed matter is more plausible than matter having created information-rich structures such as the human mind. Here, and with the next point, the “design demands a designer” argument fits.
5) Our consistent experience is that every effect must have an adequate cause. Thus, the universe viewed as a sequence of causes and effects points back to a first cause which is itself uncaused (see point No. 1 above). Just as logically, the universe viewed as a single huge effect also requires a sufficient cause outside itself.
The fact that these arguments are centuries old and have a venerable philosophical pedigree does not diminish their cogency or their relevance to a 21st century debate. Similarly, the existence of vigorous but time-worn rebuttals against these arguments cannot legitimately turn a two-sided issue into a closed question. The doctrinaire teaching of spontaneous macroevolution and the authoritarian stonewalling of intelligent design seeks to do exactly that by penalizing skepticism about the materialist world view and its central article of faith.
Monday, May 05, 2008