Thursday, September 2, 2010

TGD: Chapter Four - The Probability of the Necessity of the Impossibility of God’s Existence

Today we begin chapter four and, at long last, we finally come to Dawkins' main argument against the existence of God.

He begins by sharing an old argument that may be familiar to some of you. It is the argument that the probability of life originating on earth is no greater than the odds that a hurricane sweeping through a scrapyard would, by sheer luck, put together a working Boeing 747. Dawkins makes the point that, however unlikely it is that life first appeared on earth without divine intervention, it is even more unlikely that such a divine being would exist in order to intervene in the first place. In his words, God is the ultimate Boeing 747.

The problem with the argument is that there is a big difference between God and living creatures. Simple organisms are made up of tiny pieces that can be taken apart and put together. In this sense theories of how the first life form emerged are similar to explanations of how a jet airplane might be put together out of a random collection of parts.

This argument only works as an argument against God's existence if we assume that God is made up of tiny pieces that were, at some point in time, randomly assembled. This is very different from the traditional Christian view that God consists of one substance and has always existed.

Comparing the existence of God to the emergence of life is a poor analogy. It is more appropriate to compare the existence of God to the existence of the universe itself. To that end, let us talk about the existence of the universe.

We don't know how the universe came to exist, but we can safely say that there are three possibilities.

First of all, the universe may have always existed. As I've already mentioned, what we know from science makes this unlikely, if not impossible. According to the big bang theory, the universe has a discrete beginning in time. Also, if the universe were eternally old, then the entropy of the universe would have maxed out a long time ago.

Second, the universe may have created itself. The universe may have simply blinked into existence without any assistance from an outside force. It seems absurd to me that anything should be able to create itself, let alone a universe which has no mental faculties or decision making abilities, but some people consider it a possibility.

Finally, the universe may have been created by something else. Whether that something else is God or a prior universe or some kind of universe factory. Of course, whatever created the universe will need a similar account of it's own existence. It either has always existed, created itself, or was created by something else. (This leads to a potential infinite regress, which also seems absurd.)

Given the possibilities, I think that the most likely one, by far, is the claim that the universe was created by something else. Furthermore I consider it most likely that that something else, unlike the universe, does not suffer from entropy and is therefore able to exist eternally.

I realize that some people, like Dawkins, consider the existence of a creator God absurd, but is it any less absurd than the claim that the universe created itself, or that our universe was created by something that was created by something that was created by something, going back forever?

In any case, probabilistic arguments rooted in science can't weigh in on the issue. Scientific arguments have no place in this debate. Scientifically speaking, each of these ideas is impossible. It is impossible for something to create itself, it is impossible for something to exist forever, and it is impossible that the universe was created by something else, that was created by something else, ad infinitum. Each of these things is impossible, and yet one of them must have occurred.

Dawkins claims that the existence of God is extremely unlikely. Even if that's the case, I would argue that it isn't any less likely than the alternatives. Besides, Dawkins' whole argument that God's existence is extremely unlikely hinges on the assumption that God is similar to an amoeba.

If there is any similarity between God and an amoeba, it is that they both exist. Aside from that, they don't have very much in common.

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