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Complexity used as an argument against God
10-17-2009, 10:11 AM
Post: #1
Complexity used as an argument against God
Paley argued that complexity needs a designer, in the form of the watchmaker argument. The watch is complex, and (seemingly) need a designer. Based on this he says that the universe is complex and so needs a creator, which is God. This, in such basic terms does make sense; however when this is teamed with the popular description of God as an intelligent omnipotent being, things don't seem to add up.

Complexity in the was it is seen seems pointless. "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" If you look into detail at the complexity of the human body, an organ, a cell...it is VERY complex. Surely it would be so much easier to just create something that functions more simply and efficiently, or is this too much to ask from a creator who is all knowing and can do anything?

There is pointless complexity everywhere, not just in the human body. The rest of the universe and its sheer fastness is another good example.

What are your thoughts?

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10-17-2009, 10:45 AM
Post: #2
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
"Complexity" is a very relative term. A human body is more complex than a virus, but it is less complex than, say, the internet.

Ultimately, however, this argument has two very distinct flaws, one minor and one major.

1. The minor flaw is that we are, in fact, flawed. We are not perfect machines. There are a large list of improvements that any actually intelligent designer (especially a perfect one) would certainly have made. This includes, but is not limited to: Junk DNA. The fact that the most light-sensitive parts of our eyes only see in black and white. The inefficiency of our immune system, and its susceptibility to being tricked. The fact that the tube to our lungs and to our stomach is briefly mingled, presenting a serious choking hazard. The fact that our waste removal system is mingled with our reproductive system. And many more.

2. The major flaw is that the watchmaker analogy is a false analogy. A watch is not alive. A watch does not reproduce. It is this reproduction that makes evolution (which is a proven, laboratory-observed process) work. Evolution is not random. In fact, the component of natural selection makes it quite targeted. Any living species will, over the course of many, many generations, inevitably become more perfectly adapted to its environment. If the watch was alive, could mate with other watches, and reproduce, then modern watches would indeed eventually come about on their own without the assistance of a watchmaker, PROVIDED that the environment favored modern watches (i.e., natural selection killed off those less like a modern watch, and promoted those more like a modern watch).

If you don't believe me, the fantastically brilliant cdk007 actually wrote a program that simulated reproducing watches in a natural environment. You can watch his video of the experience here: Evolution IS a Blind Watchmaker. I highly recommend it. I actually highly recommend all of his videos. He does a very good job of breaking down complex scientific principles into understandable steps.

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10-18-2009, 05:29 AM (This post was last modified: 10-18-2009 05:47 AM by Parousia.)
Post: #3
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
(10-17-2009 10:11 AM)Satanicbitch Wrote:  Paley argued that complexity needs a designer, in the form of the watchmaker argument. The watch is complex, and (seemingly) need a designer. Based on this he says that the universe is complex and so needs a creator, which is God. This, in such basic terms does make sense; however when this is teamed with the popular description of God as an intelligent omnipotent being, things don't seem to add up.

Complexity in the was it is seen seems pointless. "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" If you look into detail at the complexity of the human body, an organ, a cell...it is VERY complex. Surely it would be so much easier to just create something that functions more simply and efficiently, or is this too much to ask from a creator who is all knowing and can do anything?

There is pointless complexity everywhere, not just in the human body. The rest of the universe and its sheer fastness is another good example.

What are your thoughts?

Paley's book contains two types of argument. The first reflects his leanings as an amateur naturalist. His watchmaker analogy fails because he was merely seeing the complex results of simple laws. However the second kind of argument derives from his formal training as a mathematician. In this part he uses the existence of Newton's Laws and his gravitational theory as proof of the existence of God.

Viewed in this way, 'pointless' complexity does not argue against the existence of God. Scientists of all theological leanings believe that workings of the universe are fully explainable with a minimum of simple laws. However when one considers the vast quantity and variety of the consequences of those laws - the universe in all its glory - it becomes difficult to justify the idea that the purpose of creation is all about people.

It seems to me to be a sort of Catch-22. Arguments based on nature that are intended to lead to the idea of a creator God inevitably lead away from the idea of a God that gives much of a hoot about us. As I have said here numerous times, potentially valid 'proofs' of the existence of God do nothing to support the idea of religion and usually do just the opposite.
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10-18-2009, 10:42 AM
Post: #4
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
This is mitigated, however, if you consider the fact that the laws themselves aren't all that special. The only reason we have codified them in such simple measures is because that is what we have observed. That does not mean they were designed, it simply means that we are good at observing and spotting patterns. Scientific law was not sent down from on high, and then the universe was shaped around it. Scientific law is derived through observations of the universe. Another universe might have completely different laws. Would that universe then be a refutation of god? Of course not, because the mere existence of patterns does not prove or deny god. It is no evidence at all.

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10-18-2009, 01:03 PM
Post: #5
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
(10-18-2009 10:42 AM)GTseng3 Wrote:  This is mitigated, however, if you consider the fact that the laws themselves aren't all that special. The only reason we have codified them in such simple measures is because that is what we have observed. That does not mean they were designed, it simply means that we are good at observing and spotting patterns. Scientific law was not sent down from on high, and then the universe was shaped around it. Scientific law is derived through observations of the universe. Another universe might have completely different laws. Would that universe then be a refutation of god? Of course not, because the mere existence of patterns does not prove or deny god. It is no evidence at all.

One might seek a reason for lawfulness itself, not merely the laws that obtain in this particular universe. One might go further and seek the reason for existence itself. Why should there be anything and why should it have laws rather than chaos? One might hypothesize a reason for existence and lawfulness and conveniently label it God. But what exactly would it mean to say the reason for existence exists? One must then confront the underlying question of what it means to exist.

To elucidate:

To say that my dog exists is to say that I actually have a living dog with specific characteristics, a dog that I could theoretically exhibit as evidence. If I had a different dog other than the one I described, or if I had no dog at all, then 'my dog' would not exist.

To say that God exists would be to say that something of a particular description exists. We could say that the entire description accessible to us is the reason for existence and lawfulness. We might say that is the entire description, in which case we are back to the problem of what it means for the reason for existence to exist, and the related problem of what it means for lawfulness to have a reason.

Or perhaps there is more to the description of God that we do not know. In this case we must deal with the idea that God has specific attributes for which there are potential alternatives. This immediately leads to the question of why those attributes and not their alternatives.

From these considerations and more formal ones based on mathematical logic (no, not today) it is my opinion that the question of whether God exists is fundamentally not answerable. I am agnostic not through ignorance or apathy but after serious formal consideration of the question. But I still hold that the type of God one finds via these pathways is not connectable with any religion.


PS: There may indeed be a multiverse embracing all possibilities. I find this idea philosophically appealing. But it cannot be considered science since no one has a way of falsifying the idea.
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10-18-2009, 07:10 PM
Post: #6
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
Here the truth

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http://d1.islamhouse.com/data/en/ih_arti...riefly.pdf


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{إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَأَخْبَتُواْ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ أُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الجَنَّةِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ }
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10-18-2009, 10:35 PM
Post: #7
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
In my own personal philosophy, I tend to arrange things in categories, from most solid to least.

1. Facts (i.e., evolution is possible, because we've re-created speciation in the lab).
2. Theories that are so well-tested they can almost certainly be considered facts (i.e., atomic theory).
3. Theories that have a lot of supporting evidence, but not yet enough to be "proven" (i.e., natural abeiogenesis).
4. Theories that fit the facts, but do not have enough supporting evidence to make them better than other, competing theories (i.e., theories about the causes of the pre-Triassic extinction.)
5. Hypotheses that are not falsifiable, but do not contradict facts (i.e., the multiverse theory).
6. Hypotheses that are possible, and do not technically contradict the facts, but require creative interpretation of those facts (i.e., Minos-as-Atlantis).
7. Hypotheses that are technically possible, but require extremely creative interpretations of almost all established facts and observations (i.e., god).

Category 1 should be accepted without question. These are true facts. I generally tend to accept anything up through 3, and I'll entertain ideas up through 5. Categories 6 and 7 fascinate me (I'm the kind of guy who likes theories about Atlantis and conspiracies, after all,) but they are not taken seriously. You will note that ideas that directly contradict the facts, like young-earth creationism, are not included on the list due to their impossibility.

Naturally, this requires a few basic presuppositions.

1. The observable universe is real. This is required. If the observable universe is not real, then all of science flies out the window anyway and our lives and experiences are more or less meaningless, so I don't think that's too difficult of a presupposition to accept.
2. There is not a vast, worldwide conspiracy amongst peer-reviewed scientists, theologians, politicians, or anything else to deliberately mislead us. This is for the same reasons as #1. I am not a scientist. Those who spout theories that contradict all established fact are even less scientists than I am. At some point we have to accept that verified, peer-review claims by people who are experts in their fields are more or less accurate, or else we cannot trust anything and any speculation about the nature of the universe, including god or the lack of god, becomes pointless. Once a fact is verified by more than a handful of truly independent studies, I'm going to accept it.

So... multiverse theory? I'll entertain that thought. It is certainly very elegant, and it falls squarely into category 5.

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10-19-2009, 07:43 AM
Post: #8
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
(10-18-2009 10:35 PM)GTseng3 Wrote:  1. Facts (i.e., evolution is possible, because we've re-created speciation in the lab).
2. Theories that are so well-tested they can almost certainly be considered facts (i.e., atomic theory).
3. Theories that have a lot of supporting evidence, but not yet enough to be "proven" (i.e., natural abeiogenesis).
4. Theories that fit the facts, but do not have enough supporting evidence to make them better than other, competing theories (i.e., theories about the causes of the pre-Triassic extinction.)
5. Hypotheses that are not falsifiable, but do not contradict facts (i.e., the multiverse theory).
6. Hypotheses that are possible, and do not technically contradict the facts, but require creative interpretation of those facts (i.e., Minos-as-Atlantis).
7. Hypotheses that are technically possible, but require extremely creative interpretations of almost all established facts and observations (i.e., god).

So... multiverse theory? I'll entertain that thought. It is certainly very elegant, and it falls squarely into category 5.

Maybe 4.9 or better. I had forgotten the Fermilab experiments that might have pointed to possibly extra-universal dimensions (negative unfortunately Sad ).

The first of the presentations linked below touches on the Fermilab experiments. "Large Extra Dimensions" include possible non-rolled up dimensions of space other than our standard 3, which just lead to other universes. One idea about why gravity has an inherent strength much lower than the other forces is that it can spread into these other dimensions and so is diluted.

http://d0server1.fnal.gov/users/gll/PressConference.pdf
http://nicadd.niu.edu/~hedin/galileotalk.pdf
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/meetings/baylor2...leaver.pdf

The last presentation talks briefly about God. But not to worry. It seems to be the kind of God that I talk about.
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10-19-2009, 09:45 AM
Post: #9
RE: Complexity used as an argument against God
Well, points for using Ron Perlman as an example. If more scientists would base their science around pictures of Ron Perlman, I think science would have more legitimacy on the world stage Smile

This also shows that everyone is using Power Point now, a trend which I foresaw in the 90s and used to win two high school science fairs. Now if only the scientists would discover YouTube... and if they would only discover NEVER to use a fully saturated hubble pic as a background. No matter what color text you use, it's hard to read. Overlay with white first, then use a black text. You guys are scientists, you should understand color theory Smile

But seriously, fascinating stuff. I obviously didn't understand all of it, but what I did grasp was really neat. At the moment these are all thought experiments, but at least they're talking about experiments that could present evidence, which edges it toward the "4" category in my little scale above.

Although my favorite bit is how the "M" theory has the idea of multiple universal "branes" colliding to form the big bang, and notes that the current expansion is simply bumps in our universe, and that other universes may have yet to collide. So, that's right, yes, there's yet ANOTHER WAY that we could all be doomed.

Good old anthropic principle. This universe is just right to get us to this point, but it has no obligation to keep us going after this point Smile

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