Creationist Wisdom #175: I think, therefore …

We present to you, dear reader, a letter-to-the-editor titled Atheist vs. theist, which appears in the Tampa Tribune of Tampa, Florida. We’ll give you a few choice excerpts from this letter, and we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Here we go, with a bit of bold font added for emphasis:

I realize I will be attacked from all angles on this one. However, the contradictions in atheistic “beliefs” necessitates an investigation of their merits, or lack thereof.

We’re not interested in defending atheism, but as you will swiftly see, the letter-writer is equating atheism with science (especially evolution), and he uses arguments that are commonly deployed by creationists to criticize evolution. We’ll consider what he has to say in that context. Let’s read on:

Even the most radical of atheists will agree that the universe displays order, regularity, complexity, and intelligibility. The anthropic principal, the view that nature’s laws are fine-tuned to ensure the emergence of human life, has certainly heightened the intuition that the universe is the product of intelligent design. The intricacy, harmony and the sheer organization of the cosmos in allowing for human life is evident in the fine-tuning of fundamental constants in physics and chemistry to the “just so” nature of the universe. The information-laden blocks called DNA and the crowing achievement, the brain-mind relationship all calls for a cosmic designer.

See there? He’s laid out the entire case for intelligent design. In a nutshell, the letter-writer asserts that because he can’t fathom it all, the explanation must be Oogity Boogity! Do you find that persuasive? We continue:

The person who rejects the intuition that a designer stands behind the universe and its functions must of necessity believe the universe and all that is in it happened by chance and coincidence. Yet this naturalistic, atheistic option is so improbable as to be inconceivable. The statistical probability of the universe coming into existence with all the properties to sustain life is 10 to the 47th power, statistically impossible. But some say, “I cannot see God.”

That’s a slight variation, but it amounts to the same argument. He doesn’t comprehend how it all came to be, and he quotes some big number he copied from somewhere to claim that the universe is improbable, therefore Oogity Boogity! But ignorance isn’t evidence of anything, except the need to get to work trying to figure it out.

We’ve rebutted that kind of “odds” argument before, but we’ll repeat that rebuttal here. There are 52 playing cards in a deck. The odds against the sequence resulting from a good shuffle are — as the mathematicians say — 52 factorial. You need to multiply 52 x 51 x 50, etc., and keep going until you get to the last card. That’s what factorial means. Fifty-two factorial is a big number. It works out to be 8.06581752 × 1067. That’s 8 (and a tad more) times 10 to the 67th power, a far larger number than the letter-writer’s measly 10 to the 47th power (computed somehow) which he claims are the odds against our universe. But there are decks of cards all over the place — each of them arranged in an allegedly impossible sequence. Further, as we explained three years ago, the algorithm of evolution can easily defeat those odds. See The Inevitability of Evolution (Part III).

The letter goes on at length, claiming that loads of other abstract things are also evidence — perhaps proof — of Oogity Boogity! The letter-writer has rounded up all the usual suspects: numbers, logic, morality, truth, the mind, etc. It all amounts to: “I think, therefore Oogity Boogity!” Then he says:

The atheist view is the universe is meaningless; but if the universe is meaningless, then human life is meaningless. This concept creates a great paradox in thought. Namely, how could people living in a meaningless world come to the amazingly meaningful recognition that the world has no meaning?

Hey, if Noah’s Ark gives meaning to the letter-writer’s otherwise meaningless life, then he should certainly embrace it. We want him to be happy.

The letter winds down with a discussion of scripture, sin, and what he says is mankind’s “inherent and intuitive sense of the Divine.” All in all, it’s a fairly comprehensive catalog of philosophical arguments against science, specifically evolution. So click over to the Tampa Tribune and read it all. Then you’ll understand why creationism will never die.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #175: I think, therefore …

  1. Leilani Hagberg

    It sounds a lot like a regurgitated song

  2. What school is headed by the anthropic principal?

  3. It’s always interesting that, rather than actually explain anything, they credit it to another entity that they can’t possibly explain. And I’m not complaining about someone believing in God, but about someone supposing God to be a credible explanation for what we see sans any sort of mechanism or observable godly capacities.

    Isn’t it wonderful that the letter writer simply dug the whole deeper by bringing in a “cause” that neither explains nor is explained?

  4. However, the contradictions in atheistic “beliefs” necessitates an investigation of their merits, or lack thereof.

    I love it when a sentence has an elementary mistake in grammar (plural subject “contradictions” and singular verb “necessitates”) and pompous language (“thereof”).

  5. Weird that I wrote “hole” with “whole.” Unintentionally, however, it does make the “whole” all the deeper in, well, whatever one might imagine, to happily explain the known by the unknown.

  6. As a Theist, I found it interesting that he quotes Augustine of Hippo, since Augustine thought that God created, but that God did it all at once. He rejected a literal interpretation of the six day Creation. He also said we should be open to changing our minds when we receive new information….paraphrasing, of course. Perhaps the writer agrees with that, but among creationists, that would be unusual.

    The rest of it is the same old stuff, isn’t it?

  7. The entire essay could be boiled down to “if you don’t believe in God, then life has no meaning”. So…atheists don’t love their parents, their partners, their children, their friends? Atheists don’t look out for their neighbors, help in their schools, support their communities? Atheists don’t create art, play music, write poetry or fiction, make films or theater? Atheists don’t put their lives on the line defending their country in foreign wars, or serving at home in police and fire departments? Atheists don’t create new medicines, work in hospitals and clinics, or nursing homes? …. what does he think atheists do with their lives? Apparently he has never met one.

    I’m sorry, it really irritates me when people use this argument. The “meaning” in the writer’s life is apparently to do what people tell him an invisible entity wants him to do, so that he can avoid punishment when he’s dead. That’s pathetic. Maybe it would help him to watch a few episodes of “Mr. Deity”.

  8. comradebillyboy

    My 2 cents
    the letter states “The anthropic principal, the view that nature’s laws are fine-tuned to ensure the emergence of human life, has certainly heightened the intuition that the universe is the product of intelligent design. ”

    The author seems to offer intuition in place of evidence. My own limited understanding of ID “theory” lead me to think it is almost entirely comprised of subjective intuition in place of objective evidence along with hand waving in place of logic.

    Truly, it appears like the people of US are turning their collective back on the enlightenment. How sad.

  9. @comrdebillyboy,

    IMO, the most heartening part of the piece was the reaction in the comments section. The author didn’t get a lot of love for his arguments, which I at least was surprised by. May have underestimated the population in Tampa a bit (or at least the ones who bother to read the news…)

  10. “@comradebillyboy”, sorry… (Not caffeinated enough to be posting.)

  11. If I may paraphrase Hannibal Lector, garden variety creationist–tedious, very tedious.

  12. @SC: Your excellent demonstration using cards to show that those impossible odds are not so impossible is well worth repeating (and if the rest of you haven’t read it, you should!). I will briefly stand on my statistical soapbox and add the following:

    1) To calculate this sort of probability in the first place requires an assumption: A null hypothesis, or if you prefer Bayesian statistics, a prior estimate. This assumption must either be “God”, or “Not God”, and it must be rigorously defined so that it has a mathematical equivalent. I have yet to see anyone making these probability based arguments state a meaningful hypothesis of any sort, much less supply a workable definition of God. Without this, all such calculations are just so much numerology; you will never get a probability.

    2) For arguments sake, assume for a moment that you have a valid hypothesis and do the calculations. Every example of this (including SC’s) makes an implicit assumption that the outcome we observe – that we have evolved the way we have – is the ONLY possible outcome. Statistically, this is conditioning on the observed outcome, and I claim that this is not the correct answer. This is perhaps a bit philosophical, but I would claim that any possible outcome of evolution that allows humans to ask this question is equally valid, and should be counted. For instance, if humans had evolved to have 6 fingers instead of 5, we could still be asking this question (but we would type faster). Literally ANY way we might have evolved to the point of having this discussion needs to be calculated and the probabilities summed to find the probability that we evolved.

    Of course, such a calculation is ridiculous. That’s why real scientists try to test such sweeping hypotheses, because you simply can’t do it – it is wrong. No one with a basic understanding of hypothesis testing would attempt such a calculation and try to call it science.

  13. Addendum: I have seen one valid statement of a Bayesian hypothesis for this, from one of the fine folk from Pandas Thumb that understands such things even better than I. It also demonstrated the ridiculousness of such a hypothesis, but the wording was rather different. Maybe I can turn it up?