The same old design arguments

Flitting across my feeds, over at what appears to be yet another conservative web site, I was treated to the ill founded ramblings of a certain Phil Harris. He says that he does have a strong interest in science, and for this I commend him. I wish him success in his explorations of scientific understanding. Unfortunately, he seems to have not yet mastered some basic critical thinking. I also recommend he actually learn some biology. His arguments are those which have been endlessly refuted in too many sources to be enumerated here. That people keeping making the same arguments, the basic refutations of which are too easily found with even the most casual investigation, shows an unwillingness to step outside their bubble to examine the evidence and counter arguments.

He writes:

Who am I, and why am I here?

It is a question that Richard Dawkins and other rejectionists can never answer through the scientific method; although, they claim all mysteries of the Universe would surely be unraveled given enough time and study. In a rather perverse twist, it is those who believe that life continues that are assured to know all there is to know, while those who reject life beyond death will simply evaporate, along with the composite chemicals that give the illusion of self, knowledge, and consciousness.

Who he is an incredibly complex carbon based sentient lifeform descended from primate ancestors we share in common with modern day primates. This lineage goes back several billion years to before multicellular organisms arose. Furthermore, I would imagine he fulfills several other societal roles. This is an incredibly rich legacy. I fail to see how invoking any supernatural entity adds any depth. Why is he here? I am not sure why the question is even valid. Purpose is what you make of it. We have the power to create our own purpose. Adding a god to the mix does nothing.

Further, I’m not sure that Dawkins and others would claim that everything that can be learned will be given enough time and study. We keep learning more, to be sure, and fitting more pieces to the puzzle. It is not clear to me when anybody will ever be able to claim that the puzzle is complete. We must also remember that scientific theories are “true” on a provisional basis. Experiments must always be performed to test theory and you never know when some unexpected result may force modifications to a theory, or even overthrow it. Further, his notion that those who reject an afterlife will simply evaporate away is somewhat strange in context. In the highly unlikely case of an afterlife in any objective sense, I fail to see why those of us who see no evidence for one now would simply not be able to take part in it. Even most fundamentalists think we atheists will spend eternity enjoying the pleasure of each others company in hell. Or something like that.

Well, he goes on. For example:

It is amazing to realize that such an incredible chemical accident occurred on a planet that hangs in an orbit so precisely tuned distance-wise to the Sun. How fortunate that this same planet includes physical systems of weather and climate that insure fresh water cycles in such a way to support life of all types.

What would be more incredible is if our planet was more too far away from the sun for our kind of life to exist, and yet, here were are. It would simply be amazing if we were living on the sun without any alterations to our physical composition. I don’t see why it is so hard to understand that the reason the planet seems so finely tuned for our kind of life, is because these are the conditions for which our kind of life evolved. If there were different conditions, it would possibly be a different kind of life. We still, so far, have only a sample size of one in comparing planet biosphere evolution pathways. We haven’t even ruled out life on other bodies in our own solar system yet.

Finally:

This clump of self-aware chemical compounds will continue to believe that there is more to the story of life and the Universe, than an unbridled, unstoppable run of chemical reactions. In fact, until Richard Dawkins can demonstrate the acquired ability to mix up a batch of molecules and produce a single blade of grass that is eager to join the evolutionary process, then I will take by faith that God does exist.

Nobody thinks one can mix a bunch of chemicals and have grass pop out. That sounds suspiciously like how a creationist would think. Grass itself is the result of painstaking years of evolution in the plant world (not that the division between plants and animals is always so clear, so I understand). He is talking about the earliest chemical evolution which was the precursor of life on this planet. In fact, this is an active area of research (a 1999 sample of the sorts of this type of research can be found here, more here (concerning how life may have started between layers of mica), and more discussion at the inevitable wiki. One of the factors that makes this a hard problem is that we don’t really know for certain all the precise variables that were in play when it happened. We can make some good educated guesses and probably get reasonably close. We may even succeed reproducing a scenario with an entirely different set of variables than the ones that actually started things off here.

His main argument is that life is very complex and we don’t understand how it came about, so there must be a god to give us all meaning. This is incredibly faulty reasoning. Again, not understanding how life came to be, and especially not understanding evolution, does in no way constitute positive evidence for a god. It is only evidence that it is a hard problem to solve in the one case, and evidence of not even trying to understand basic biology in the other.

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2 Responses to “The same old design arguments”

  1. shamelesslyatheist Says:

    Ah, the good ol’ “I don’t know therefor it must be god” argument, substituting the certain knowledge that they can’t have for the proper answer. What is so scary about saying “I don’t know”?

  2. liquidthinker Says:

    Indeed. A lack of knowledge about something does not automatically lead to certainty about something entirely different. I suppose certainty in this case is a kind of security blanket. What we’ve learned from modern science is that we don’t always need the security blanket. It is o.k. to not know things with certainty. The important thing is to ask the questions and to know which questions to ask.

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