This is the third post in a series of posts providing counter-arguments to common religious apologetic arguments for God. Click here to see the list of all posts in the series.
In my continuing series of counter-arguments for apologetic arguments for the existence of God I am tackling “The Argument from Design” this week. Also known as the teleological argument, those that argue from design attempt to find order in the natural world that they claim is only possible due to the work of a divine creator. One of the most famous examples of the argument from design is found in William Paley’s Natural Theology in 1802.
“Since watches are the products of intelligent design, and living things are like watches in having complicated mechanisms which serve a purpose (e.g., having eyeballs to enable sight), living things are probably the products of intelligent design as well.”
Since Paley put forth the argument in his book it is often the case that theists use the human eye as “proof” of design (you can find ridiculous examples here). But, despite theist objections, science has shown how the eye evolved. Not only have we discovered the evolutionary path of the eye, but we have found examples of every stage of the eye's development in living creatures. Trying to argue from the design of the eye also ignores the fact that eyes are far from perfect. Images received on our retinas are upside-down and backwards, due to the curvature of the lens. Our brains have to process the images received to turn everything around and right-side up. Our eyes have blind spots and are prone to several malfunctions or disorders. And there are many eyes in the animal kingdom that are much better than a human's.
There is no need for God to explain the existence of the eye, but what about the existence of life in general? If atheists are right about the development and evolution of life then we would expect the world, and the universe, that we live in to appear certain ways. Life essentially started through a chemical accident, and the only way that a highly unlikely chemical accident could occur would be in an extremely old and extremely large universe. If, hypothetically, life only has a one in quintillion chance of occurring, then you need quintillions of opportunities. Billions of galaxies containing trillions of planets existing for billions of years is what would be needed for that number of opportunities. We observe that our universe is about 13.7 billion years old and 94 billion light years across; it is both extremely old and extremely large, exactly what we would expect if atheists are correct about the origin of life.
The atheist prediction of the development of life is confirmed in the evidence. Beginning with self-replicating organic molecules developing into single cells over eons, and then those single-celled organisms developing into multi-cellular organisms over more eons, and then those multi-cellular organisms developing into humans and all the other life we see around us today. This is confirmed in the fossil record and in the analysis of DNA, as well as through other scientific observations.
If we take a step back and look at things on a grander scale, we can ask about the universe itself. If God created the universe, and by extension, Earth, then we could expect to observe certain things about the universe. There are several areas of the planet that are quite inhospitable to most forms of life. The universe itself, however, is almost entirely inhospitable to life! Earth only represents something on the order of 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000003% of the universe. If the universe was the size of the Earth, then the Earth would be smaller in size than a single proton of an atom. Almost the entire universe is very inhospitable to life. Even in our own solar system, Earth is the only planet that can currently harbor advanced life (there may be some simple life hiding in places like the ocean of Europa). Almost 100% of the universe is inhospitable to life.
If all this was created by God then he went to a lot of trouble to create unfathomably large areas of the universe for no one to use. While science may never be able to uncover all the details of how the universe started or what may have come before it, they have learned quite a lot about how the universe came into being. And they learn more all the time. Attributing the creation of the universe to God is a lazy cop-out that cheapens the reality of the universe we observe.
In summary, the theist belief in God creating the universe and life is not supported by history or what we currently observe when examining our universe. Everything that we have learned about the biology and the geology of the Earth, as well as the universe at large, is exactly what we would expect for the atheist prediction for life’s origins. The Big Bang, stellar evolution, planetary formation, and biological evolution come together to explain our world with no need for saying, “God did it”.