Blind, Pitiless, Indifference

Back from the dead folks.  Somehow someone found out who I was, and this prevented me from a job opportunity.  I feel persecuted.  I think I will eventually be open about my beliefs.  Not an easy thing living where I do.  Here is a post that is old news.  I think it is noteworthy because it is the latest attempt by apologists to keep God alive.  It is actually not that bad of an argument.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  Richard Dawkins

I was in discussion with a believer who referred to Stephen Meyer, the intelligent designer.  Meyer believes that Dawkin’s quote actually makes his case for him.  Here is a quote from his new book.  Yes, I own a copy of his book on Kindle.  Why? Because I committed to myself to understanding all arguments.  Arguments are fun to analyze, especially if they are most likely wrong.

They have argued, as Richard Dawkins has done, that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose . . . nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”  But the evidence examined so far suggests the need to reassess such claims. That the universe had a beginning, that it was finely tuned from the beginning, and that our planet has experienced dramatic discontinuous increases in biological form and information since the beginning are not at all what proponents of a naturalistic worldview would most “naturally” expect. [Return of the God Hypothesis by Meyer]

I agree with Meyer that if framed like this, then Dawkin’s quote works for him and not against him.  But that is only if we accept his premises.  I think Dawkins was mainly referring to the problem of suffering anyhow.  Meyer says that if the cosmos had a beginning, then we can’t use physical explanations to describe how something came out of nothing.  In other words, physics can only explain how matter and energy interact but not how they came into existence.  It must, according to Meyer, be something transcendent. Atheists at one point could claim that the cosmos was all eternal—that is, had probably always existed.  But most evidence now suggests that the cosmos had a beginning.  Of course, we do not have a detailed explanation of the origin of the cosmos.

Laws of nature describe how nature operates and how different parts of nature interact with one another; they don’t cause the natural world to come into existence in the first place. This suggests the futility of waiting for the discovery of some new law of nature or a “theory of everything.” No law of nature can close the causal discontinuity between nothing and the origin of nature itself. [Return of the God Hypothesis by Meyer]

Does this mean that Meyer is using the God of the gap fallacy?  He claims he is not since he uses abductive reasoning, like all of science, to form a hypothesis that explains the evidence.  I think he is correct, and I explain why here.  Besides Meyer claiming that science can’t explain how the universe came into existence, he also complains how science cannot figure out where the information in DNA came from nor explain the appearance of design when it comes to fine-tuning.  The biggest challenge I face as an atheist, however, is explaining to others how the universe came from nothing.  I don’t even attempt it because we don’t know.

What I can attempt to explain is that saying that a transcendental (supernatural) force is behind it all is unwarranted.  I mean you can do it.  Meyer did.  But how does Meyer come to the conclusion that the cause of the universe must be transcendental?  He uses a priori reasoning, not evidence [1].  This does not exclude something from being correct, but it is not as convincing as evidence.  If I suspend my bias and look at the problem squarely, I do not understand why we must think something came from nothing.  The barebones parts to form the universe as it is today, whatever they turn out to be, must have always been there in the first place.

If it turns out that the universe did come from nothing, or appears that way, does this mean that there is a transcendental force behind it?  Maybe.  But we could figure out what that above-and-beyond force is.  But the believers would say that the supernatural is unknowable through direct means.  In fact, my son asked his religious leader, “Who created God?”  His retort was God has no beginning or end.  To me, the supernatural is a mental construct that humans created, in addition to counter-arguments to keep Him being viable as a God.  This is exactly what Meyer is doing here.  We will look at his hypothesis in detail next.  


[1] To be fair, Meyer did use some evidence.  Not much though.  He observed that the world has a beginning, that the origin of DNA has yet to be explained empirically, and that the world may be finely tuned.  He then makes an inference to the best explanation based on these observations.  He says that this is not what we would expect to find if we believed in cause and effect and that there was no intelligent designer behind it all.  Meyer asks where did the informational power of DNA come from, and how did the cosmos become finely tuned?  The answer to these questions is probably found in Meyer’s poor formulation of these problems along with his self-serving premises.  Many others have addressed this elsewhere.  This post is not meant to be exhaustive by any means.

[2]. How do I know God is a mental construct used for multiple purposes?  I cannot address this entirely here, but it should be obvious given the imagination of the mind and how prone it is to anthropomorphism.  The problem with God, or whatever name we choose to use, is that this model cannot make predictions.  We have no idea how the supernatural behaves if we give it x, y, or z inputs.  He is whatever we choose Him to be, and does whatever we want him to do—the bible notwithstanding.