Stephen Meyer is an intelligent-design creationist who has spent his career trying to squelch the teaching of evolution in the U.S. and advancing the big mission of his employer, the Discovery Institute (he’s director of the Center for Science and Culture): debunking naturalism and materialism in favor of religion, preferably Christianity.
Meyer has managed to con the right-wingnuts at Newsweek into publishing the article below, which list three scientific discoveries that, says Meyer, point directly to God. They’re apparently the subject of his new book (published by HarperOne, the religious wing of Harper), Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Discoveries that Reveal the MInd Behind the Universe. If you go to its Amazon site, you find it highly lauded by those looking for any reason to believe in God. Since that is most Americans, these books usually get high ratings and sell respectably.
But,in truth, Meyer’s “Discoveries” have been long known, and have been debunked insofar as there are more plausible, naturalistic, and non-Goddy explanations for all of them.
Moreover, before we start accepting the God hypothesis—note that Meyer explicitly calls the Intelligent Designer “God”—he has (as Hitchens used to say) “all his work before him.” For even if the three examples pointed to an intelligence operating in the Universe, that doesn’t mean it’s God, much less the Christian God. As the Discovery Institute used to say before its mask slipped, the Designer could be any form of unknown cosmic intelligence, including space aliens. Before you decide that an observation confirms the God Hypothesis instead of the Science (naturalistic) Hypothesis, you better show us that there’s a God that conforms to traditional belief. Otherwise it could confirm yet another supposition: the Xenu Hypothesis.
I’ll deal below with the features of the Universe, not mentioned by Meyer, that show how the Universe fails to conform to what we’d expect if there were a God.
Click to read.
Meyer begins by bemoaning the well-known decline in belief in God in America, which, as I noted recently, has fallen to 81% from 92% just 11 years ago. Meyer blames this on atheistic scientists:
Perhaps surprisingly, our survey discovered that the perceived message of science has played a leading role in the loss of faith. We found that scientific theories about the unguided evolution of life have, in particular, led more people to reject belief in God than worries about suffering, disease, or death. It also showed that 65 percent of self-described atheists and 43 percent of agnostics believe “the findings of science [generally] make the existence of God less probable.”
It’s easy to see why this perception has proliferated. In recent years, many scientists have emerged as celebrity spokesmen for atheism. Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye, Michael Shermer, the late Stephen Hawking, and others have published popular books arguing that science renders belief in God unnecessary or implausible. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if, at bottom, there is no purpose, no design… nothing but blind, pitiless indifference,” Dawkins famously wrote.
This cannot be allowed to stand, and so Meyer goes back and recycles three old chestnuts that, he argues, points to a designer who just happens to be God. They tell, Meyer says, “a decidedly God-friendly story”. (He’s totally unbiased here!)
I’ll give alternative naturalistic explanations for each of the three “proofs of God”. We don’t know the materialistic answers for sure, but at least the scientific explanations are in principle testable, and there is some evidence behind them.
Meyer’s words are indented.
1.) The Big Bang.
First, scientists have discovered that the physical universe had a beginning. This finding, supported by observational astronomy and theoretical physics, contradicts the expectations of scientific atheists, who long portrayed the universe as eternal and self-existent—and, therefore, in no need of an external creator.
Evidence for what scientists call the Big Bang has instead confirmed the expectations of traditional theists. Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who helped make a key discovery supporting the Big Bang theory, has noted the obvious connection between its affirmation of a cosmic beginning and the concept of divine creation. “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses…[and] the Bible as a whole,” writes Penzias.
Before we get to the alternate explanations, let’s look at what Genesis I says about the creation (King James version):
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
It’s a stretch to harmonize this with what we know of the Big Bang, since there appears to have been water, Earth was created before light, and light was created before the “firmament” (presumably stars like the sun), and, importantly, before the Night and the Day, which are caused by the rotation of the earth. And that water deeply disturbs me. Is it metaphorical water or real water? The only thing that harmonizes with the Big Bang here is light (presumably accompanying the Big Bang) followed by the firmament. (And yet earth was created before the light and the Big Bang!) And later on, we see that the plants are created before the stars and the Sun. It’s a big mess. There are actually several sequences of creation here, and they don’t harmonize.
As for Penzias, he apparently never read the “five books of Moses”, because the creation story is absolutely contradicted by evolution, for which we have tons of evidence. (I wrote a book about that.). That’s why creationists and their subspecies Intelligent Design advocates fight against evolution. If Penzias’s statement is correct, he was a theological ignoramus.
The naturalistic alternatives to the Big Bang for the origin of the Universe involve a number of theories that you can find here, here, here, and in other places. Now there’s little doubt that the Big Bang occurred; the question is whether this is how our present Universe began, and whether there are other universes originating in similar (or other) ways. The alternatives include a pure quantum fluctuation (“nothing is unstable” as Krauss noted), Brane models, and eternal inflation, in which different universes are created at intervals (the “multiverse”). If you ask most cosmologists, they’d sign on to the Big Bang, but whether that completely describes the origin of our universe, or is an incomplete description of our universe (and there could be other universes), is something we don’t know. If the Big Bang did occur, which seems likely since we have tons of evidence for it, then that shows only that the Universe began, not how it began. If you say, “God did it,” that stops all research on how the Universe began, and it’s not an answer, just a fill in for “we don’t know” based on people who want to believe in God. Finally, the Bible is a really lousy description of how the Universe, the Earth, and then life on Earth came to be.
2.) Fine tuning:
Second, discoveries from physics about the structure of the universe reinforce this theistic conclusion. Since the 1960s, physicists have determined that the fundamental physical laws and parameters of our universe are finely tuned, against all odds, to make our universe capable of hosting life. Even slight alterations of many independent factors—such as the strength of gravitational or electromagnetic attraction, or the initial arrangement of matter and energy in the universe—would have rendered life impossible. Scientists have discovered that we live in a kind of “Goldilocks Universe,” or what Australian physicist Luke Barnes calls an extremely “Fortunate Universe.”
Not surprisingly, many physicists have concluded that this improbable fine-tuning points to a cosmic “fine-tuner.” As former Cambridge astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle argued, “A common-sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics” to make life possible.
First, we do not know how “fine-tuned” the Universe is, and whether other parameters might also allow a kind if life to exist. Second, if there is a multiverse, alternative universes may have different physical properties, and we happen to live in one that permits life.
In the 8.5-minute debate video below, Sean Carroll gives five arguments in favor of naturalism and against the theistic argument for God from fine-tuning (the latter he calls a “terrible argument”). In fact, he shows that only naturalism supports the idea that life is permitted by certain physical parameters, for God could have done anything that he wanted regardless of the laws of physics. Finally, Carroll argues that the physical properties of the Universe are not those predicted by an a priori theistic theory, but comport better with the predictions of naturalism. (One of these is that theism predicts that “God should be easy to find.”) That is an important argument against Meyer’s thesis!
3.) Intelligently designed features of organisms. This is just the same old ID argument reprised:
Third, molecular biology has revealed the presence in living cells of an exquisite world of informational nanotechnology. These include digital code in DNA and RNA—tiny, intricately constructed molecular machines which vastly exceed our own digital high technology in their storage and transmission capabilities. And even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like” — implying, it would seem, the activity of a master programmer at work the origin of life. At the very least, the discoveries of modern biology are not what anyone would have expected from blind materialistic processes.
Saying that the “machine code of genes” has features of computer code is not, as Meyer argues, evidence for a designer, and Dawkins would be the last to argue that. In fact, the discoveries of modern biology, in particular the jury-rigged features of life (just taking humans, the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the swelling of the male prostate, and so on), show that the designer was not intelligent. But features like the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which in giraffes is about 15 feet longer than it should be if it were intelligently designed, support the evolutionary origin of these features, for they make sense under the theory of evolution. I cannot think of a single feature of organisms, nor can other non-ID biologists, that could not in any way have evolved by naturalistic processes. Behe and his DI friends have suggested several in the past, like blood-clotting and the bacterial flagellum, but all of these have been shown to have possible origins through naturalistic processes including natural selection. True, we don’t understand the origin of some features, but the most parsimonious explanation for these is that we don’t have the historical evidence (we weren’t there when they evolved), not that we should give up trying to explain them scientifically, go to church, and thank the Lord God for his Intelligent Design.
I reiterate Carroll’s thesis that there are many aspects of the Universe that testify against the existence of a Biblical God, including His absence when we should have been able to detect his presence (Stenger’s argument), the unexplained existence of physical evil—evidence for naturalism and against theism—and the arrogant view that the whole universe was created as a stage for the dramas one of millions of species on one of a gazillion planets in our Universe.
Wail about the secularism of America as he does, Meyer is not going to stop the relentless rise of unbelief in the West. And he doesn’t mention that one reason people are leaving churches and giving up God is simply what I said in the above paragraph: there are many more ways that the God hypothesis doesn’t make sense than that it does make sense. People simply have grown up and stopped believing fairy tales. Science is one reason for this, but there are also others, like the fact that people in the world are generally better off, both morally and materially, than they were in the past, and religion depends on people’s lack of well-being, the sense that no human or human state cares about them.
The unresolved question that I have is why Newsweek purveys this palaver to its audience. It is scientifically irresponsible to mislead readers this way without giving the naturalistic counterarguments.
56 thoughts on “Stephen Meyer in Newsweek: Three scientific discoveries point to God. As usual, his claims are misleading.”
Another shining example of presupposition by the mind-addled god believer camp.
Perhaps he missed Stenger’s great book “God, the failed hypothesis”
The Big Bang doesn’t even establish that the universe “began”. Most cosmologists would say something along the lines that the observable universe came from a quantum-gravity fluctuation around the Planck time, where that fluctuation occurred within a pre-existing state.
Thus “our universe” only had a beginning if one uses the term to refer narrowly to the products of that quantum fluctuation, not to “everything”.
By the way, if one checks what that Penzias quote was actually about (see here), it wasn’t about the universe having an origin, it was about how many “universes” there are. But since the time of that quote, the best data today do favour an “eternal inflation” multiverse, and thus now dis-favour Penzias’s argument.
Lastly, the fine-tuning argument has to start with the axiom that there would be something wrong if the universe did not contain human-like life. The conclusion (that the universe started with human-like life in the form of a god) is thus entirely circular.
Right. I think the consensus among those who live & breathe this stuff is that the big bang was an “expansion”, not a beginning.
Regarding your last paragraph, I’ve always thought the fine tuning argument was terribly conceited. i.e. I think of myself as very, very, important, and I might not be here if things were a bit different, so of course the universe was created in just the right way to let me exist.
I kind of like Douglas Adams’ puddle argument related to this.
Jerry, thank you for writing this excellent and timely review. ID is apparently making a comeback on the bookshelves, so the creationist whacamole game continues just where it left off almost 2 decades ago with the Dover verdict.
Regarding the so-called ‘fine-tuning’ argument, I would also highly recommend the following article by Ikeda and Jefferys:
THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE DOES NOT SUPPORT SUPERNATURALISM
And just as a reminder to ID folks, we are clearly not ‘designed’ to live under water or in outer space. So much for the world being ‘fine-tuning’ for our existence.
I suspect woo like this makes a comeback because people feel stressed by trauma. Trump and the pandemic are enough to turn the trick. I’m looking forward to the day Trump shrivels into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West and COVID becomes the common cold.
Although I think Ikeda and Jefferys make very good arguments, I think that much of it is lost on your average person. They are not formulating it very ‘accessibly’. If my 11 year old gets lost, 9 out of 10 will get lost (he’s pretty clever). So we should simplify (I hope without damaging the arguments). I don’t know if it is apocryphal, but Einstein reputed to have said that if you cannot explain something to a six year old, you do not really understand it (to me it sounds more like Feynman, but it is ascribed to Einstein).
– The problem is like: it is very improbable you’ll ever win the lottery, but by our very existence we have alreadywon the lottery, hence probabilities don’t really matter at all. The anthropic principle.
– There is also their (Ikeda and Jefferys) exceptionally strong argument that a God would not have needed to ‘fine tune’ the Universe, in the mythology He’s never been averse to suspend Natural Laws at a whim. A fine tuned universe is indeed pointing against an Almighty Intelligence.
– A whole universe for -as our host describes poetically: “for one species out of millions on one planet out of gazillions”. Our universe is mostly empty, cold space, not suited for any life as we know it. If the Creator created our universe with the idea of creating intelligent life, it appears He was not very good at it, or at least not exactly economical. All that vast, empty, cold (occasionally hot) real estate…
Putting your last paragraph more briefly: given our universe, intelligent life is an aberration.
As Jeff Lewis says @#2, the fine tuning argument is an argument from vanity.
Brent Meeker has summarized our argument as follows:
[The Jefferys-Ikeda] argument is that if we existed in a universe that did not support life that would be a miracle and evidence for something supernatural. But it cannot be that evidence and its negation both support the same proposition. So the negation of our miraculous existence, i.e. that we live in a universe that supports life naturally, cannot be evidence for the supernatural.
…and I will add, in general would be evidence against the supernatural.
That is an aspect usually overlooked.
Every one of Meyer’s arguments is a Have Your Cake & Eat It Too argument, in that a situation where the exact opposite is true leads to the same conclusion — only more so.
If the Universe had a beginning, that surprising fact suggests it must have been created by God.
If the Universe had no beginning, that surprising fact can be accounted for by God’s immortal, forever-existing nature.
If the Universe is fine-tuned for life, that surprising fact suggests the difficult parameters were set by a Creator.
If the Universe is NOT fine-tuned for life, that surprising fact could only be explained by God keeping us alive by a miracle.
If the Universe is tuned so that life could and would occur easily, that surprising fact is explained by God loving an abundance of life in any possible form.
If the Universe shows organized complexity, that surprising fact suggests a God engineered it.
If the Universe exhibited no complexity, that must show it was formed by and out of a God which is Simple and Whole, without parts.
It’s always, always, cake.
Well put! See also the I & J article I linked to above. Fine-tuning actually constitutes evidence for naturalism over supernaturalism.
Excellent Sastra. You put it so concisely, and kept it so crystal clearly simple.
I’m kinda jealous I could not formulate it so clearly.
If the universe had no beginning, then the “in the beginning” section of Genesis would be thought to refer to the formation of the solar system and the very early phases of Earth.
The classic reaching for “God” to explain supposedly inexplicable things falls under Eliezer Yudkowsky’s term “Privileging the Hypothesis”, as in this good post: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/X2AD2LgtKgkRNPj2a/privileging-the-hypothesis
Thanks much for the reference, Robert! This is indeed a good post, not only because of the lucid writing but also because of the new ways of thinking about hypotheses it’s given me.
But a “firmament” isn’t the sky — it’s a (17th-century English) translation of the Hebrew word raqia’, which means, basically, a big bowl, hammered or stamped out of metal. Which Gawd would pretty much need in order to separate the vast waters above the surface of the (flat, of course) earth from those beneath. This is the level of sophistication of the authors of the Book of Genesis!
My source is the essay The Cosmology of the Bible by Edward Babinski, in The Christian Delusion, edited by John Loftus.
But if you observe nature carefully there’s an awful lot of disease and death and ramshackle ‘design’. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, and there are many conflicting tales of gods and religious texts.
Which I could argue makes the idea of a trickster god having a laugh smashing his toys together a much more plausible explanation. I wonder if the Discovery Institute would consider this ‘explanation’ – or would they reject it out of hand?
Aaaah, that makes sense, a childish tantrum throwing God, epiphany: a Trump-like God.
Now I see why the Trumpists see him as a God. Suddenly it all makes sense.
The fight for reason will go on for a very long time, as new customers for the creationists are born every minute. We need to prevent the innocents of the next generation from becoming suckers. Yes, it takes an incredible expenditure of time and intellectual horsepower. But we ignore them at our peril. For if scientists don’t raise their voices in defense of reason, the creationists will be the only voices out there.
I have taught these issues in philosophy classes for many years. I’m a scientific naturalist, but I never try to push my views on students. It IS one of the options that has existed pretty much since anything like philosophy was done, so I do have to talk about it. But often it is the first time my students have heard that view expressed by someone who believes it (not that they know I believe it), rather than by someone who very much IS trying to make it look silly. Once they hear it, they’re like, really, that’s it? Where’s all the bad stuff we’ve heard about? Sure, very few of them give up long held religious views because of what they learn in my class, but remember, that’s not my intent, and it’s not how deep belief change should work in the first place. I do KNOW, from having students come back to see me some years later, that it did start (some of) them on a process that led to nonbelief, and numerous times I have been thanked for that explicitly.
Lying for Jesus right from the get go. All you need to know to discount religion is the strong correlation between degree of religious fervency and willingness to deceive others to promote one’s beliefs.
I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Creationists have first successfully deceived themselves and are then as sincere and honest as they can be when starting from that shaky foundation. Self-deception is practically the signature virtue of religion.
Yes, I think you are right. I’m sure many are sincere and honest. I think your last sentence is perfect.
But many are perfectly willing to engage in various methods of deceit in support of their beliefs. The Discovery Institute is a good example.
Or, if memory serves, even a Platonic demiurge.
It was obviously leprechauns. Based on the available evidence, they are the source of both God and UFOs we think come from across the galaxy.
They have been here all the time. Everyone knows that. Nothing cosmic and no interstellar travel required. They play pranks all the time, just to confuse people. They think it is funny. They are likely to do both good things and some incredibly cruel things.
The evidence and argument for them is stronger than for God and aliens from another planet.
To those who think “materialism” makes life less miraculous or less precious, there is a powerful quote by William James: “To anyone who has ever looked on the face of a dead child or parent, the mere fact that matter could have taken that precious form, ought to make matter sacred for ever after . . . That beloved incarnation was among matter’s possibilities.” – William James, Pragmatism (1907)
Not so. We don’t have a theory to understand the universe at very high energies, nor do we know if concepts like time are sensible at such scales. The standard model of cosmology is essentially a classical theory which describes an expanding universe from post-Planckian times.
Even Ken Miller, in his book Finding Darwin’s God, writes
This is misleading.
If you take the naive, most likely physics at every step:
– on average flat universe, compatible with *quantum field theory* with corrections
– eternal inflation, compatible with that and with apparent finetuning (c.f. how the last eBOSS cosmology paper put it as a leading possibility), and having predicted the observed vacuum energy density and its apparent constancy.
You end up with no need for Planck times or singularities apart from perhaps inside black holes. And what happens in black holes stay in black holes.
Now that can be argued for or against, last problem I heard on a particle physicist blog was that if they don’t see “natural” particles in LHC, i.e. new particles, but have apparent finetuning that would in the critics eyes mean there would be “high dimensions” in the theory, The argument was cut short so as not a particle physicist I can guess they mean high order loops (corrections) in particle interaction Feynman diagrams, which we don’t see.
But since an anthropic universe would not only finetune but result in observed simple atoms from “tree level ” (simplest order) particle diagrams I – naively, of course – don’t think we would see any difference in that respect. Mostly I found it interesting that now not only cosmologists describe anthropics as “null” fallback hypothesis but also particle physicists have been forced into that corner.
Actually, at the beginning (after inflation), the universe was a plasma formed by high-energy photons knocking electrons loose from atoms and keeping everything ionized. The electrons in turn were scattered and formed a kind of cloud or fog. So there was no useful light until about 380K years after “the beginning”. The cosmic background radiation, discovered by Penzias and Wilson, dates from then.
I think Stephen Meyer’s work, as much as any atheist scientist’s work, is decreasing belief in God. If your belief in God is dependent on having these kinds of explanations, you have a weak belief that is more likely to flip over to not believing. If you accept that it all started with the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, that God had to follow the rules of physics to make life, and that life is the result of an intelligent design process over millions of years with micro evolution, you are getting close to just giving up on the whole idea of a God.
I think it was the author John Varley who made a comment along the lines that the intelligence in Intelligent Design can be questioned with one word – “testicles”. An organ that is so important to the species and yet is also so vulnerable…
It keeps the advertisers happy. Suivez la monnaie!
Corollary : write to the advertising manager of (pick an advertiser from this number of Newsweek) explaining why their company’s support of a publication which peddles dreck like this makes you seriously doubt their safety as a (drug company, vehicle manufacturer, airline ; pick an advertiser that is utterly dependent on science for it’s purported safety) and so makes you afraid to use their products. You’ll be asking your friends, and want some evidence that the company aren’t deranged religious lunatics. Make the Advertising Department work hard to undo the harm caused by buying advertising space in this dreck-sheet.
It’ll take decades, but if you don’t introduce fear uncertainty and doubt into the minds of advertising buyers, they’ll continue supporting authors like this.
It’s more fun than pulling the chromosomes out of fruit flies, and ethically more defensible.
Nice! (FSVO “nice”)
Newsweek used to be an excellent news magazine but ran into financial troubles around 2008. Tina Brown took over in 2010 and it started publishing dreck like this. I let my subscription expire after that.
By this account of ID, this maniac gave us life as we know it Jim and then proceeded to create other categories of life and phenomenon to kill us off at any given opportunity.
Disease, earthquakes, Putin? oops maybe not, he’s just misunderstood I’m sure his mother lived him.
Point is, why did it bother?
Because it’s a miserable c**t! 😁 thanks Ricky.
One side: hard earned data based on observation: the other side? : the musing of primitives. Silly choice really.
Given that there is so much evidence against the god hypothesis, what are the chances people could still go on using arguments laid to rest so long ago? Now *that*s a probability problem worth considering…
I wonder if the ID people can prove that the Designer is, a) supernatural and benevolent, b) supernatural and malignant, c) a benevolent space alien, d) a malignant space alien. I’m curious because it seems to me that religious people can’t tell a god from a demon. How do they know if Yahweh or Allah are demons or gods, or space aliens?
Carefully consider all the evidence for all your questions.
Obviously, leprechauns are the most obvious answer. You can’t name anything anyone has claimed that isn’t typical leprechaun behavior.
I suspect the ID folks at DI have got it backwards.
Person A argues for a simpleton’s conception of ‘God’. Person B critiques Person A’s cartoonish God. It’s a tired conversation. The wonder of the Universe, the mere fact of existence itself, is beyond the grasp of science. We are surrounded by evidence of an unfathomable creative force, greater than all human cognition.
And exactly what is your evidence of an “unfathomable creative force beyond human cognition” since it’s unfamthomable”? Are you simply using the arguments of Meyer? What is tiresome is people like you who claim there is a God but don’t have any evidence for it and don’t know anything about it.
you are just making that up, because it comforts you.
That is a rude comment, you are posting many times on one thread (as a newbie does) without reading the posting rules, and you have been shown the egress.
*I* am surrounded by cosmological evidence since 2018 repeated test that the whole universe, all there is, is beyond reasonable doubt the result of an entirely natural (expansion) process.
Whatever personal conception you have of magic, however you want to hide it in the gaps between our observations, we now know there isn’t any – get over it.
Prof. Coyne: the information you provided here is valuable and much appreciated. I find it hard to believe that the likes of Stephen Meyer are still taken seriously, but it’s important to have an arsenal of facts. Thanks very much.
Either you start with the evidence and move forward, or you start with your desires and move backwards (making all roads lead to Rome). Those who desire to have their desires be the starting point can’t be reasoned with.
So it’s the old tired trio of claims, repackaged as if new and startling. It’s like how Coca Cola has had to figure out for the last century how to continually make the same thing in a bottle seem fresh and new.
One thing that kills me is the whole “Our religion predicted the big bang!” nonsense. That is that the world arose ex nihilo, “out of nothing” which of course somehow means God created it.
So let’s see. Out of two broad propositions about the universe, either it was eternal, or it had a beginning, your religion guessed it had a beginning. You beat coin flip guessing odds of 50/50. It Has To Be Divine Knowledge!
Your religion is so amaaaaazzing !
I missed the best part – let this be a lesson – SUBSCRIBE, don’t just laze in your email!
I doubt Meyer mentions that different scientists define “big bang” differently, and it is the beginning of the hot big bang which is dated, or mention that the Hoyle of finetuning also didn’t accept any of the various “big bang”.
To quote from the video “The Big Bang is Probably Not What You Think It Is” [coauthored by a renowned cosmologist] below:
It’s one thing to argue for some “deistic” explanation for the BIG questions (Origin of Universe…),
it’s a very different move to link this to a theistic God who is especially interested in the fate (Good & Evil) of some random species that appeared about 13,8B years after his works began.
That second move, that comes out of the blue, has rightly been called “Jesus Smuggling”.
Move 1, the deistic explanation doesn’t add any value either as smart/honest men, using “logic” and “cause/effect” never got much futher than charaterising it as “The Unmoved Mover”.
I also find it very dissapointing that God allowed the Bible/Genesis (and all the other religion’s creation stories) to only contain what today sounds as what a person would write about creation a few thousands years ago.
He could have “smuggled” some deep hints (rather than absurdities) in these stories to make them believable in future generations.
Yes, Stephen Meyer is a disingenious hack. And yes, the arguments from Big Bang and biological adaptations are weak. But things look different with respect to fine tuning. Three of Sean Carroll’s five objections are simply dismal.
1. “What is life anyway?”, he asks. But the theist hardly needs to define life, before pointing out that nothing remotely like it would be possible in a universe that lasts only five minutes, has no stars or stable particles, or lacks any elements other than hydrogen and helium. And even if, according to some definitions of life, life would be possible in these universes, the theist can insist that she wants to explain the existence of complex life that is capable of self-reflection etc.
2. The alleged fine-tuning of natural constants might be explained by underlying fundamental laws, Carrol tells us. True enough. But, in comparison, consider this statement by a theist: “God might have reasons to permit genocides and pandemics. I don’t know God’s reasons, but this doesn’t count against my position. So, stop pestering me with this problem of evil stuff.” You wouldn’t accept that recourse to an asylum ignorantiae. And rightly so.
3. According to Carroll, our universe doesn’t look the way, a theist would a priori expect. But that very much depends on the kind of theism you endorse, as Carroll is well aware of. Consequently, he complains that theism isn’t well defined and therefore slippery. But the same is true for naturalism. Theism is the thesis that there is a powerful, supernatural designer of the universe. Naturalism is the thesis that there is no such being (or other supernatural entity). I do not happen to see why the one hypothesis is supposed to be vaguer than the other. Both hypotheses are compatible with a wide range of possible universes. It clearly seems that the theistic hypothesis has greater explanatory power, because it precludes universes that naturalism allows for, but not vice versa.
This leaves us with two objections.
4. “God doesn’t need to fine tune anything”. God could have opted for a physics that inevitably leads to the emergence of life, or He could have performed an abundance of miracles.
5. The Multiverse hypothesis.
These are indeed strong objections to any theistic fine tuning argument. However, they are not the end of the story. There are truckloads of literature on this, and no general consensus. The multiverse hypothesis, e.g., has its own intricate difficulties (in particular: the measure problem).
The rest of Carroll’s litany loses most of its force, when (i) you don’t assume a biblical God, but rather a deistic God, in which Enlightenment thinkers like Reimarus, Paine or Voltaire believed, (ii) you acknowledge that a designer, interested in creaturely freedom, has good reasons to keep his own existence ambiguous.
The ID people (or William Lane Craig in this debate) argue for Christian personal theism, not some kind of unspecified deism. Ditto for the DI. So your arguments don’t address that issue; this takes care of your comment 2 and 3. Also for #3, the hypothesis is that there is no supernatural god who intervenes in the universe. If there is such a being, there should be evidence. In contrast, there is plenty of evidence for the tenets of naturalism: a world that has no supernatural being, and whose objective reality is governed by the laws of physics.There is no argument for a supernatural being.
Sorry, but the argument was about an intervening God, which is what the DI touts (God makes flagella and so on) so your arguments for a watery deism lose all force. You’re arguing against a thesis that Carroll was not arguing against.
Tisk, tisk. I think someone didn’t do their due diligence in their research and in recognizing the genre that the account of creation in Genesis is written in.
Tisk, tisk (by the way, it’s “tsk, tsk”, I am SO glad that God told you that Genesis was just a metaphor–if that’s what you’re talking about. I wonder why all the Church fathers thought that the creation, the flood, and so on, must be taken as literal truth, even if they could be read metaphorically as well.
I wrote a whole book on this stuff, which you apparently didn’t read.