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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Teleological Argument for the Existence of God

One of the most convincing arguments I have ever heard about the reality of the existence of God, came when I heard a Christian scientist rattle off a heap of mathematical probablities regarding the 'fine-tuning' of the universe. The question was put, 'Based on these statistices, how could we possibly have life on earth without the intelligent involvement of a Deity?'

Well, let me explain the teleological argument for the existence of God.

Firstly, when we look around at the complexity of our human existence, we are caused or confounded at times, to ask how it all came about. Some scientists would claim the veracity of Charles Darwin's theory on evolution. Though in recent years, the idea that cells evolved into the life forms we have today has become increasingly debated. William Lane Craig writes, 'The explanatory adequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection with respect to observed biological complexity has been sharply challenged, as advances in microbiology have served to disclose the breathtaking complexity of the micro-machinery of a single cell, not to speak of higher level organisms (Reasonable Faith, p. 157).

While many scientists work hard at attempting to explain natural selection, some theists work hard at providing evidence and rational arguments for the involvement of a God in the created order. One of those arguments is called the teleological argument for the existence of God. It relates to a concept called 'fine-tuning'. The thesis is simply that the world in which we live is so complex, that it is irrational to consider that the world was formed without the presense of God.

Physicist Freeman Dyson says, 'The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew I was coming.' Or as Antony Flew writes, 'the laws of nature seem to have been crafted so as to move the universe toward the emergence and sustenance of life' (There is a God, p. 114).

Professor Owen Gingerich says a similar thing, 'To me, belief in a final cause, a Creator-God, gives a coherent understanding of why the universe seems so congenially designed for the existence of intelligent, self-reflective life' (God's Universe, p. 12). He goes on, 'It would take only small changes in numerous physical constants to render the universe uninhabitable'.

Lets look then briefly at why leading physicists and cosmoslogists would argue for the 'fine tuning' of the universe. The speed of light (2.99792458 x 10^8 metres/second), a constant that remains at that speed within the universe, if slightly different to that speed would not have permitted life on earth. If the mass of a carbon atom (or any atom for that matter) was slightly different, then a non life permitting earth would have occurred. Our universe is finely tuned. Finely tuned by the omnipotence of a creator.

Now one of the counter-arguments to the teleological argument for the existence of God is the concept of multiverses. What is a multiverse? A multiverse is the scientific way of explaining away the need to embrace the idea of intelligent creator. A multiverse is an unknown number of universes that exist; existing somehow outside of each other. The scientific rationale is that there are millions of other universes that exist, and we merely live in one where the right balance of biological and physical processes have occurred in order to sustain life. A non-theist needs to travel down this path of attempting to explain the idea of multiverses, otherwise, they are left with a load of evidence that suggests the probability of life being sustained on earth within this one universe, by random chance, is impossible.

If we dig deeper into the fine-tuning argument, we come across a plethora of fundamental physical and biological laws that are intrigingly complex and seemingly 'well designed'. Glance your eyes upon quantum physics, or biological processes, or even the sustaining of the animal kingdom, and you are caused to question 'how' could this have possibly originated by chance.

To narrow down the fine-tuning argument, let me outline how William Lane Craig puts it:
  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design. (Reasonable Faith, p. 161).
The first point is relatively not controversial, but point number two is where the debate arises. I will not delve any deeper here, though, I am absolutely convinced there is enough rational, scientific evidence to strongly suggest that this universe was not the accidental outcome of the emergence of bacteria, but was created by a God who fine-tuned the universe's existence into being. That's the teleological argument for the existence of God.

_______________________________

See the following texts:
  • Craig, William Lane. (2008). Reasonable Faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway.
  • Flew, Antony. (2007). There is a God; How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.
  • Gingerich, Owen. (2006). God's Universe. Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Pete,
    This is one of those times when, of all the examples you could pick, you pick the wrong one. Recent experimental physics has made the discovery that the speed of light is not a constant. It has, in all probability, been slowing down since the creation of the universe and that the rate of deceleration is probably on an hyperbole. This actually fits with the laws of thermodynamics, that everything is in decay. The trouble for cosmologists is that the age of the universe is calculated based on a fixed speed of light. What this means is, the universe must be much younger than what is currently claimed. Guess what? If this is true, the universe is almost certainly younger than the earth, just like it says in Genesis!

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