The following conversation is a short debate between a believer in classic theism and an Atheist
THEIST: We know that God exists because of the complexity of the Universe. From the laws of physics to the intricate workings of particular human body parts such as the ear; the ear allows us to hear through a series of stages that the ear has become specifically tailored for – there must be a designer for this. Another example is the ecosystem of our society, if just one stage is missing in the food chain it could have detrimental effects as they all work together – such coherency suggests foresight and planning.
ATHEIST: Darwin’s theory of natural selection shows that we have, as a species, adapted and altered because of our need to survive; our ears may have started out as very primitive compared to what they are now. This explains the complex workings of the body and our structured ecosystem as time has gone by. It is not design but a flow of good functioning and growth.
THEIST: The philosopher, F.R. Tennant, tells us the probability of the Universe possessing all the necessary characteristics to sustain life as it is, is so very improbable, it couldn’t have been an ‘accident’ – it has been specifically tailored to cater for our existence, this is known as the Anthropic principle. How would you explain the cosmological improbability of the Universe’s infinite laws and sequences coming together so perfectly in harmony without a designer? The explosion that caused the Big Bang (not a theological explanation of the universe) had to be precise to 10 to the power of 60 (that’s 10x10x10…60 times!) otherwise we would have no stars. The sun is a star and we rely on it for existence.
ATHEIST: That’s an argument from induction (an argument that is probable can never be 100% certain)! You say it’s highly unlikely, but the fact still remains that it is probable that it was random and can’t be ruled out. There could have been hundreds of Universes that happened before ours that just didn’t have the right specifications over billions of years, until our current Universe.
THEIST: I will use an established teleological argument, by William Paley, to show evidence of a creator. Paley used a cause and effect analogy of a watch, then compared it to the Universe to show there must be a designer: Whilst walking if we stumble upon a rock we wouldn’t think much of it, contrastingly if it was a watch we would think that it has been placed there and doesn’t belong so randomly on the ground. Why? Because the watch is orderly, the mechanism is complex and intricate which presupposes intelligence, it is precise and has a function, a purpose which is to tell time – it is a machine and therefore must have a designer. The same can be said in the case of the Universe – the laws are precise, it is very complex and things work in harmony with each other and everything occurs in a cycle to have order, so just as the watch has those effects and its cause is a designer, Paley says the same of the Universe.
ATHEIST: We can see in the writings of David Hume that the universe is not strictly orderly because of a designer! Nature works mysteriously and randomly showing order where there is no designer – so the argument that observing order hints at a designer is null. We also cannot say that the Universe was designed and built since we have never empirically experienced anything like it before, and yet you automatically assume that the builder and the designer are the same being? It’s not like coming across a bridge which we know would have been designed by an architect, built by a builder and the same for the case of the watch it is not true of the Universe, as we have no empirical experience of one being created. How can we be sure that the ‘designer’ of this Universe was intelligent like classical theism suggests! There are many things wrong with our world such as natural disasters – how do we know that it wasn’t made by a group of designers or as Hume puts it ‘the first rude essay of some infant Deity’ – that is to say a poor attempt at creating a world by a child God (supernatural immortal being). In both instances, the designer/s are nothing like that which is described in classical theism (Omnibenevolent -all good, Omniscient -all knowing, Omnipotent -all powerful)
THEIST: You say that the world isn’t orderly but you are looking at current times. Richard Swinburne provided a response to your argument against order which is if we look at the world at a certain instant in time, it may not seem orderly but this is what is known as Spatial order. If we take into account the billions of years that the Universe has existed, then we can see throughout time the Universes laws and conditions have worked in perfect harmony to create a liveable world, this is called Temporal order. We do not need to have experienced something directly to know it has happened or will occur, through mathematical and scientific knowledge we know the Big Bang occurred yet no-one has directly experienced anything similar to the Big Bang. As an atheist are you denying the Big Bang because you haven’t experienced it?
ATHEIST: No, but you cannot prove the existence of a designer through mathematical or scientific knowledge as you can with the Big Bang.
THEIST: Yes bu *Intermission*
THEIST: Yes, however through all of our experiments and research into the Sciences we are able to explain certain reactions in the atmosphere and why these reactions take place, or how something is formed and what would occur if we were to extract or add to it. Nevertheless we are unable get to the root of the reason for it happening, all that happens is we delve deeper and deeper into Science supposing new scientific laws all the time – the existence of a designer is the best possible explanation for the Universe and I believe that should be enough for us to accept.
ATHEIST: No. You say we cannot explain Science without resorting to God but then what explains God? I won’t believe something unless it is an indubitable and infallible fact that is as clear and logical as 1 + 1 = 2. Also if a traditional theist God were to exist, then wouldn’t he be omnibenevolent (all good) so how would you explain the evil on this Earth?
The last picture on this page is that of Atlas, a second generation titan (race of powerful dieties) in Greek Mythology, who was forced by Zeus to bear the heavens on his shoulders as a punishment for rebelling. He was ergo known as Atlas Telamon ‘Enduring Atlas’
(I leave it at the problem of evil because that’s a whole can of worms which would take its own blog post)