Extrange

The Creator Hypothesis

Sun, 4 Jan 2015 | norman

Regarding Eric Metaxas' opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal dated 25 December 2014, and titled "Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God":

I wonder whether the New York Times would have published an opinion piece like that. I also wonder how much Eric Metaxas' publisher paid the Wall Street Journal to plug his new book. That piece is not science; it's troll bait.

Metaxas points out that as we learn more about the requirements of the kind of life that we find on Earth, the probability of finding the same kind of life elsewhere turns out to be smaller than we expected. Of course, the article does not point out that the life we find on Earth might not be the only possible form of life out there.

It discredits SETI, which is looking for specific signatures of technologically-advanced civilizations of organisms like us: electromagnetic transmissions! While it would be amazingly exciting if we found extraterrestrial radio broadcasts, the chances are vanishingly small that we will spot a civilization at a stage that corresponds to our most recent 150 years, considering those 150 years came at the end of 3,000,000,000 years of life on this planet, 100,000 years of modern humans, and roughly 7,000 years of civilization. So a very narrow window of time, of a very rare kind of animal, of a narrowly-conceived type of lifeform!

Metaxas goes on to elaborate on the fine-tuning of the universe. Obviously he hasn't read any Lawrence Krauss, who points out the crappy-tuning of the universe.

(If you've got some time on your hands, you can watch Krauss point this out to William Lane Craig at North Carolina State University in 2011. (Krauss talks about it in his second rebuttal, from 1:13:40.) Craig is kind enough to put the transcript up on his website. Or you can get a copy of Krauss's "The Universe From Nothing", in which he does a far more thorough job.)

Finally, Metaxas parades what must be his last physicist, and his most precious mathematician, in support of the god of their few remaining gaps. (I don't mean to demean the intellects of either Davies or Lennox, both very smart people, even smart enough to rationalise their beliefs to themselves, which is no small feat, and something that 90% of scientists have failed to do.) Davies proposes the argument from design. Lennox reinforces it with his "Creator with a capital C" hypothesis.

So Metaxas ponders what we don't know, and jumps to "therefore God". There are a lot of scientists working on what we don't know right now. They are collecting and analysing evidence as I type. They are thinking of tests to verify or to rule out their multiple competing hypotheses.

What tests have Metaxas and Davies and Lennox thought of? Mmmm. None. Why? Well, for starters, because their proposed deity specifically forbids testing: Deuteronomy 6:16, "Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah." (It refers to the event described in Exodus 17 when the Israelites wanted water, and Moses famously struck the rock, and water came out of it, which makes it sound like testing God worked out. But apparently it's not OK, because Jesus reiterates the ban on testing in Matthew 4:7 and Luke 4:12.)

(Not everyone heeds the testing ban though. There have been several studies on the effectiveness of prayer to cure disease, some with fairly large sample sizes. Feel free to Google them. The results are unsurprising.)

But their inability to test is just the start of their problems. The burden of proof is on them. They are proposing a hypothesis to a scientific problem, so they need to explain how a Consciousness can exist without a physical brain. (There are some really interesting studies on why the idea of a consciousness independent of a brain ("mind-body dualism") comes naturally to us. Google "cognitive science of religion".)

Then Metaxas and Davies and Lennox have to explain how this Consciousness is remotely like the God of the Bible. (Google "minimal counter-intuitiveness effect".)

Do they even attempt this? No, of course not.

But even if they did, they wouldn't be done yet. Next they have to explain how this Consciousness IS the God of the Bible. This is a proposition that has only convinced about 2 billion of the roughly 6 billion people out there who believe in a Creator. And they've only managed to achieve this by indoctrinating the vast majority of those believers as small children.

There is an organisation to help Christian experts who have come to the realisation that it's not true, but are stuck in careers and social situations that they can't just leave, called The Clergy Project. These are people who Christians consider to be authorities on Christianity. And yet, often as a result of what they have learned, they've changed their minds. According to the Clergy Project website, they have over 600 members. That's quite a lot of secretly ex-Christian clergy!

It makes me doubt whether Metaxas and Davies and Lennox, even if they got as far as showing how a Consciousness could exist without a brain, and they managed to put forward a convincing argument that such a Consciousness would be as anthropomorphic as any of the gods conceived by humans, they would have serious difficulty showing that He is Yahweh, when many of those in the know seem to be quietly slipping out the back door. (Some not so quietly. Google "Dan Barker" and "Jerry DeWitt".)

So it seems wisest not to ascribe to God that which we can't (yet?) explain.

For further reading, check out "Why We Believe in God(s)" by J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. At only 144 pages, including notes and glossary, it's a quick read, but gives you plenty of references if you want to look into any points in more detail.

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