Lately, I’ve been re-reading Paul E. Little’s Know Why You Believe and this part really jumped out to me about the origin of life.
No one would think a computer could come into being without an intelligent designer. It is unlikely that a monkey in a print shop could set Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in type. If we found a copy of it, we would conclude than an intelligent mind was the only possible explanation for the printing. How much more incredible is it to believe that the universe, in its infinite complexity, could have happened by chance?
The human body, for instance, is an admittedly astounding and complex organism, a continual marvel of organization, design and efficiency. So impressed was Albert Einstein with this that he concluded: “My religion consists of humble admiration of the illuminate superior Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is reveal in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” To our knowledge, he never progressed to believe in a personal God.
There are basically two choices for Christians and non-Christians alike: Did the universe and the human race being by chance or by purpose and design?
Scientists have long relied on infinite time plus chance to explain the origin of life. The view for them avoids the unacceptable conclusion of divine cause. The process itself requires certain presuppositions and conditions or else no life would generate. For this to have happened there must have been
- an ideally prepared primordial soup
- frequent jolts of electrical charges
- unlimited period of time – eons and eons
Life forms then would evolve. However, the difficulties this theory presents are so enormous that today those same scientists are forthrightly pointing out its weakness.
The distinguished astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle has proposed an analogy to illustrate these difficulties. He asks, “How long would it take a blindfolded person to solve a Rubik’s Cube?” If the person made one move per second, without resting, Hoyle estimates it would take an astonishing 1.35 trillion years! Therefore, he concludes, when you consider the life expectancy of a human being, a blindfolded person could not solve the Rubik’s Cube.”
I want to interject here and point out that yes, there are people who solve the Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. This has really become a thing, and the world record is 23.8 seconds. But they are allowed to examine the Rubik’s Cube so that they can plan how they are going to solve it before the blindfold is put on. (This is all much faster than my own personal record of 108 seconds, and that was without the blindfold.) When you consider Fred Hoyle’s analogy, it helps to understand that in his analogy, they would be blindfolded before given or seeing the Rubik’s Cube.
Hoyle then explains that it would be equally as difficult for the accidental formation of only one of the many chains of amino acids in a living cell in which there are about 200,000 such amino acids. Now if you would compute the time required to get all 200,00 amino acids for one human cell to come together by chance, it would be about 293.5 times the estimated age of the earth (set at the standard 4.6 billion years). The odds against this happening would be far greater than a blindfolded person trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube!
In another analogy Hoyle bolsters his argument. He likens this to a “junkyard mentality” and asks, “What are the chances that a tornado might blow through a junkyard containing all the parts of a 747, accidentally assembling them into a plane, and leave it ready for takeoff?” Hoyle answers, “The possibilities are so small as to be negligible even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole universe!”
In his impressive book The Intelligent Universe, Hoyle concludes, “As biochemists discover more and more about the awesome complexity of life, it is apparent that its chances of originating by accident are so minute that they can be completely ruled out. Life cannot have arisen by chance.”
Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, attempts to answer this by calling God the Ultimate Boeing 747. In essence, he says that if God created something more complex than the universe, then God must be even more complex. I.e. Who designed the designer? Who created God? If the universe could not have risen by chance, then neither can God.
One thing that strikes me funny in this is that in the appeal to design in the 747 explanation by Hoyle, is that Hoyle was an atheist. So Dawkins is really answering an atheist’s assertion.
There were many responses to The God Delusion, and even several atheists came out and said that Dawkins should just stick to biology and not to philosophy. Even one atheist said that a 1st-year philosophy student could easily tear his book apart.
One of my favorite responses is The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, written by David Berlinski, who is himself an atheist. In regards to the Ultimate Boeing 747 Gambit, David writes the following:
The appeal to a Boeing 747 is meant to evoke a lighthearted quip attributed to the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. The spontaneous emergence of life on earth, Hoyle observed, is about as likely as a tornado sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747 out of the debris. Although an atheist, Hoyle was skeptical about Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Dawkins passionate in its defense. Since the junkyard expressed with rare economy precisely the odds favoring the spontaneous appearance of life – they are remarkably prohibitive on virtually every calculation – it has been an irritation to Dawkins ever since it made its appearance. With their consciousness unraised, a great many people have evidently concluded that when it comes to the origins of life, the junkyard is all that Darwin offered.
But, Dawkins affirmed, if a tornado cannot do the job of creating life, then God cannot do the job of creating the universe. The tornado is inadequate because life is improbable, and God is inadequate for the same reason. This counterstroke has persuaded Dawkins that he has initiated an intellectual maneuver judo-like in its purity of effect and devastating in its consequences. The Ultimate 747 Gambit, Dawkins writes, “comes close to proving that God does not exist” (italics added)…
At times, Dawkins asserts that God is an irrelevance because He has been assigned the task of constructing a universe that is improbable. If the universe is improbable, “it is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable.” Why an improbable universe demands an improbable God, Dawkins does not say and I do not know…
The inference that Dawkins proposes to champion has as its premise the claim that God is improbable; its conclusion is that likely God does not exist. The inferential bridge invoked by the 747 gambit, if it does anywhere at all, goes from what God is (He is unlikely) to whether He exists (it would appear not). Inferences of this sort are typically not deductive; they do not impart certainty to their conclusions. A deductive inference carries conviction straight on down. All men are mortal. Premise One. Socrates is a man. Premise Two. And the conclusion. Socrates is mortal. Given the premises, the conclusion is incontestable…The inference Dawkins champions cannot prove anything about God’s existence, and if it cannot prove anything about God’s existence, it cannot come close to proving anything either.
There is next the explosion that results when improbability and existence are foolishly intermingled. In this regard it is curious that having declared God’s existence unlikely in virtue of His improbability, Dawkins never once considers that by parity of reasoning he could have well concluded that the existence of the universe is unlikely in virtue of its improbability. Unlikely is unlikely, as logicians say, never adding, of course, that if the universe is unlikely there is the slightest reason to supposed that it does not exist. Nonetheless, the assumption that the universe is improbable is the gravamen of the 747 gambit. It is indispensible.
The fact is that unlikely events do occur. They simply do not occur often.
Other authors come to the same conclusion that the 747 gambit is self-defeating.
Dr. William Lane Craig, in his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, Also addresses Dawkins claim:
Dawkin’s fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine Designer is just as complex as the universe. That is plainly false. As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity. A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable constants and quantities, a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas – it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus – but the mind itself is a remarkably simple, spiritual entity. Dawkins has evidently confused a mind’s ideas, which may, indeed, be complex, with a mind itself, which is an incredibly simple entity. Therefore, postulating a divine mind behind the universe most definitely does represent an advance in simplicity, for whatever that’s worth.