The Universe is Intelligently Designed

October 28, 2011

Recently we looked at the Teleological Argument in biology in DNA.  As we continue the discussion on the Teleological Argument, I wanted to look at design in the universe.  No matter if you are looking at the solar system or the entire universe you can see design and intelligence.

When you are looking for signs of intelligent design there are 3 key factors that you will need: Contingency, Complexity, and Specification.   If something were designed we would expect to see evidence of contingency.  (Meaning it did not result from a meaningless unintelligent process.)  If something were designed , we would expect to see evidence of complexity. (With many working parts) And if something were designed, we would expect to see evidence of specificity. (A detailed, precise pattern commonly associated with intelligent causes.)  Just as we can see those 3 factors in DNA, we can also see them within the universe.

There are two levels at which you can look at intelligent design in the universe.  First it seems that earth is fine-tuned  for life within the realm of our  solar system.  There are many razor-thin factors that make life on earth possible.   Here are a few examples of what I am referring to.

1. Temperature – The earth is the perfect distance from sun.  If the earth was any closer or further away to the sun, life on earth would be out of the temperature range and not contingent for life.

2. Size – The earth size, rotational speed, atmosphere, and tilt are just right for life to exist on the earth.  If it were slightly different we would not be able to sustain life on earth.

3.  The moon – Without a moon that causes tides aerating oceans and oxygen for fish & plankton sea life would not be able to exist.  The tides also clean the oceans of trash and contaminates.  During the months following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico scientists watched carefully the raw crude oil that was in the water.  After about a year had gone by the ocean had self cleaned itself and life was returning back to normal.   The moon also acts as a shield protecting the earth from various space debris that come close to the earth in the solar system.

4. Water – Without water life would not exist.  When NASA sends spacecraft to other places within our solar system they look for the presence of water or ice.  Water covers about 70% of the surface of the earth.   In connection with the temperature and atmosphere the water cycle would not be possible and would not make plant and animal life possible on the land.

5. Oxygen – Oxygen is the most plentiful element on the earth.  It makes up about 90% of the earths total weight.   (In water and the atmosphere)  Oxygen is not only needed for animal life to breathe but in the upper atmosphere paired with a 3rd Oxygen molecule we have Ozone.  The Ozone layer helps protect the earth from harmful radiation from the sun.  You are probably familiar with oxygen and carbon-dioxide cycle, where plant life breathes in CO2 and give off O2.  Animal life breathes in O2 and breathes out CO2.  The earth had to be perfectly balanced between plant and animal life in order for both to survive.  This principle is called the Anthropic Principal.

6. Gravity – Gravity is the unexplained force in nature.  It is present all over the universe.  It controls the rotation of the planets around the sun and the rotation of the moons around the planets.  On a larger scale, it controls the movement of all the galaxies in the universe.  If Gravity was slightly different the sun would burn to fast and we not have a sun to heat the earth.

7. Lighting – Lightning happens on average about 100,000 times a day around the planet.  All plants need nitrogen as food to grow and when lightning strikes the earth it takes nitrogen from the air and deposits it in the soil.

8. Jupiter – Jupiter is the earth’s shield.  Because it is the largest planet in our solar system it acts similar to the moon as a shield protecting us from  comets, space debris, asteroids that may come in a path with the earth.  The large gravity of  Jupiter acts like a magnet and pulls these things towards Jupiter.

9. Galaxies – In order for life to be possible we must be in the right type of galaxy with the appropriate types of stars and heavenly bodies.  No only the right type of galaxy, but also the right place within the galaxy.

What happens when you try to assign a probability to all these factors.  Roger Penrose, professor at Oxford, says it is an impossibility because the number of digits would be greater than the total number of elementary particles in the know universe.  The level of precision dwarfs our human comprehension.

One objection to the idea that the solar system is fine-tuned and intelligently designed is that it only appears to be at the surface, but that evolution can explain for the illusion of design.  In other words, it only looks intelligently design, but in reality it is only how things have come to be.  Darwinian evolutionist say that just because we exist in the universe doesn’t mean that we are special and valued.They contend that if the tape of evolution were rewound through time that it is possible that something else may have evolved differently and they two would question there existence.  Too bad we don’t have access to that evolutionary tape.

Think about this example from apologist, Sean McDowell.  Imagine you purchase tickets to a football game.  Upon arrival at the stadium you find your seat and sit down to watch the game.  After talking for a while with your neighbors you slowly discover that everyone in your seat section is sitting in alphabetic order, and greater still after more investigation you learn that everyone in the whole stadium is seated alphabetically.  The uniqueness of this grand scheme demands an explanation.  Who did this?  Someone was playing with the computer perhaps?  Philosopher John Leslie uses a firing squad illustration.  Imagine you were standing before a firing squad of 50 gunmen.  The order is given to fire, but for some reason you are still alive and not shot.  Your survival demands an explanation and so does fine-tuning.

Another objection by atheist, Richard Dawkins who admits that there is no present natural explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, but claims that hardly accounts for God.  Dawkins argues that accepting the design argument leads to “Who designed the designer?”  The problem with this argument is this, can science only accept things if they can explain them?  Or if they have explanations?  Science must come to a point that they accept what evidence they do have and deny the request for further proof.   For example; an archaeologist who finds a ancient object that looks like a arrow head or a tool for digging.  Even if she/he cannot explain the origin or the identity of the designer.  If the evidence for design is compelling she could not dismiss the design hypothesis.

Critics also argue that if the laws of physics were different then some other non-carbon based life form could have existed.  Besides being entirely speculative, many of the fine-tuning instances and arguments are not based or rely on being carbon-based.

This brings us to the second level at which you can look at intelligent design in the universe.  Why are the laws of physics defined as what they are?  Why is the expansion rate of the universe (the cosmological constant) what it is?  What about the 4 fundamental forces of nature?  (Gravity, Electromagnetic force, The strong and weak nuclear force)   Just as we see in DNA in life that there had to be a programmer to put in the code for life, where did the code for the laws of physics come from?

Darwinian evolutionists are trying to answer the intelligent design argument with the idea of the Multiverse or the Grand Design, which has been popularized by Stephen Hawking in his latest book entitled The Grand Design.  Using the standard model in physics and other theories, like string theory, they are attempting to take our universes laws of physics and show that it is basically nothing special in a realm where multiple universes exist.  Is your head hurting yet?  I will spend more time explaining this in a upcoming post.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

Starting at the Beginning

October 12, 2011

It’s time to start looking at the evidence and reasons for having a Christian worldview.  Before you can look at the Bible and Evidence that supports Christianity, we need to step back and look at the evidence  and reasons that point to the existence of a God or gods first.  After we show support for the existence of a God, then we will move toward the evidence for Christianity.    A good place to start would be at the beginning.

As Christians we know the universe and the world had a beginning.  The first verse in the Bible says “In [the] Beginning God created [the] heavens and [the] earth” – Genesis 1:1.  (I put accents around the word “the”  because in the Hebrew language,  in which it was written in there was not a definite article.  It is added to make it easier to read.)  So we believe according to the Bible that the universe had a beginning.  According to the law of non-contradiction, the universe either had a beginning or it did not, both cannot be correct.  So, is there any evidence or reasons that we can point to that support the claim in the Bible?  There are!

The first argument we will look at is called the Cosmological Argument or also know as the Argument for a Creator or The First Cause.  It is also called the Kalām Cosmological Argument, because it is related to Islamic theologians of the Kalām tradition in Medieval times.  The origins of the Cosmological argument go all the way back to Aristotle in which he called it The Prime Mover. I’m sure he wasn’t the first to think about the beginning though, just the earliest we can trace back in writings.  Thomas Aquinas who lived in the 3rd century wrote extensively about it in Summa Theologica, perhaps his greatest work.

The Cosmological Argument is a philosophical argument that is based on the Principal of Causality and states the following 4 premises and conclusions:

  1. Premise: Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  2. Premise: The universe had  a beginning.
  3. Conclusion: The universe had a cause.
  4. Conclusion: The cause of the universe is a personal, uncaused, non-physical being, we call God.

Think about cause and effect that you learned about in school.  Every Effect that happens had a cause that made it come to be.  If you imagine a row of domino’s that are lined up one in front of the other.  You push the first domino down and it falls into the next domino in the row, which in turn causes the second domino to fall on the 3rd domino in the row, and so on and so on.   If you were to look at the reverse order of the domino’s you can trace back each effect to a cause before it.  For example, What caused the 10th domino to fall, it was pushed by the 9th Domino.   What caused the 9th Domino to fall?  It was pushed by the 8th Domino.  You can trace them all the way back to the first domino.  What caused the first domino to fall?  We can see it wasn’t another domino.  What or Who caused the first domino to fall?  In the example, the person did.  Whenever you are tracing back a line of cause and effect relationships and an effect cannot be explained by a “what” it must be a “who” that caused it.

Now if we look at our two premises from above and examine them we will see how solid the Cosmological argument is.  Premise 1: Everything that has a beginning has a cause.  We have never observed something that began that did not have a cause in the history of modern man.  Anyone would be crazy not to accept that premise.  The second premise is a little harder, but we do have scientific evidence for premise 2: The universe had a beginning.  Here are the details.

1. The universe is winding down.  The cosmological constant (the expansion rate of the universe) shows us that the universe is gradually getting bigger and spreading out further and further from itself.  It is slowing down to a point of entropy.  (where all energy will equalize and come to rest, think of coffee cooling off in a mug slowly over time or a coin that is tossed and eventually comes to rest.)  If you follow the motion of the stars and galaxies backward they lead to a point where they all come together at a starting point.  Common sense would tell you that in order for the universe to wind down, it must have been first wound up by something or someone.

2. Philosophically, if there were no beginning of the universe, then we would not be here in the present.  Imagine a number line and trying to count to 0 from a negative infinity.  You can’t do it.

3. The natural sciences have a problem when it comes to matter.  Where did matter come from?  No matter how you back up the tape of time and divide and section the physical material world, you always have the same problem as you did before, where did that matter come from, what caused the matter to ‘be’?  You can look at atomic and sub-atomic particles and still ask where they came from.

Even the Big Bang Singularity states that there was a beginning of the universe.  Darwinian evolutionists know this and they are frantically looking for a way around the scientific evidence that they have now.  Steven Hawking, in his latest book, The Grand Design, has come up with a theory where the universe has no beginning.  Unfortunately, it is all done on mathematical models and imaginary numbers, and doesn’t pan out in the real world.  It even involves alternate universes and mini-universes!    It really goes to show you that they would rather accept a theory of the absurd, one like Hawking’s, rather than to accepted the Divine “foot in the door” evidence of a creator.   They so desperately want the universe to not have a cause, because they know the evidence of a cause will shut the door on their atheistic view of the universe.  I will come back to Hawking’s theory and others in a future post.

The Cosmological Argument gives us 5 specific traits of the first cause of the universe.  Since the universe is physical, finite in space, has a beginning, and slowly running out of energy we can then say the cause had to be outside the physical, (i.e. non-physical) infinite, timeless, changeless, and powerful.  Sounds a little like the God the Bible describes.

My next post will discuss some objections about the Cosmological Argument.  In the next weeks we will look at other arguments that point to a theistic worldview.  As always, questions, comments, discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Law of Non-Contradiction

October 5, 2011

Law of Non-Contradiction
2 statements are made that contradict each other.  One must be true and the other must be false.  For example: “There is only one God.” and “There are multiple Gods.”  These statements contradict one another and therefore one must be false.

Ravi Zacharias often uses this example:
A husband and wife are going for a walk down the street for a walk together. They meet another couple on their walk and stop to talk to each other.  One of the other people make a statement “”I hear that both of you are pregnant.”   Immediately  together the wife says “yes” and husband says “no.”  The other couple is confused and waiting for an explanation.  Perhaps she is pregnant, and he doesn’t know yet, or perhaps there is a problem in the marriage.  Whatever the reason a woman cannot be both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time.

This law will keep a person honest when it comes to several things in apologetics.  It will also help someone who is hesitant to make a judgment about a position to decide where they stand on it.  For example in future posts we will discuss evidence that the universe had a beginning.  According to the law of non-contradiction  the universe either had a beginning or it did not.  Atheists have motives for not wanting the universe to have a beginning, because ever effect has a cause.  Christians gladly point to God as the first cause.  Even the Big Bang Singularity points to a beginning, even though it is not accepted by many Christians.    That’s why physicists like Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose are continuing to work on other alternative theories about the origin of the universe.