Thursday, November 16, 2006

Flying Spaghetti Monster

A lot of my "extracirricular reading" involves reading the blogs of some of those involved (whether self-consciously or not) in the Emergent Church Movement. I do this, among other reasons, because of all the recent hoopla over the ECM. Instead of relying on predigested summaries of the beliefs of those in the movement, I consider it part of my duty, as a pastor, to do at least a modicum of my own homework. Being, as I am, "bivocational" (a fancy clergyese word meaning, "I have a day job to support my habit"), time is certainly not a commodity I have in any great abundance. My solution has been to monitor ECM blogs, for at least two reasons:

  1. It's instructive to find out what they consider "required reading" and focus my efforts there

  2. Blogs are great summaries & internal critiques of their ongoing conversation, and as such are superb sources of context.

One of the blogs I read had a link to a Wired Magazine article about the "New Atheism" - which, by the way, is just the old atheism without even so much as a facelift.

Dawkins rejected all these claims, but the last one -- that science could never disprove God -- provoked him to sarcasm. "There's an infinite number of things that we can't disprove," he said. "You might say that because science can explain just about everything but not quite, it's wrong to say therefore we don't need God. It is also, I suppose, wrong to say we don't need the Spaghetti Monster, unicorns, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, or fairies at the bottom of the garden. There's an infinite number of things that some people at one time or another have believed in, and an infinite number of things that nobody has believed in. If there's not the slightest reason to believe in any of those things, why bother? The onus is on somebody who says, I want to believe in God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it."cience, after all, is an empirical endeavor that traffics in probabilities. The probability of God, Dawkins says, while not zero, is vanishingly small. He is confident that no Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. Why should the notion of some deity that we inherited from the Bronze Age get more respectful treatment?

This just jumped out at me. It's probably one of the most popular arguments that atheists use against God's existence; it's clever, it's catchy, and it's been used to devastating effect.

It's also quite flawed.

For one, the argument sophomorically lumps God into the same category as the Flying Spaghetti Monster et. al.. This won't work; they're in completely different categories. Same goes with unicorns, Thor, Wotan, the Tooth Fairy, bigfoot, life on Mars, Elvis, or honest politicians. It's roughly akin to lumping "hard science" initiates like Dawkins in with pseudoscience adherents like astrologers. They're in completely different categories, though there might be some superficial similarities.

To be fair, the argument that because science can't disprove the existence of God, therefore He exists, is quite weak. It's a non-argument, which Dawkins easily defeats in his witty riposte. So I find no small irony in noting that he falls for a similarly weak premise. He assumes that because he's batted down a poorly formed theistic argument, that his position must be true. Bow to the applause, pat self on back, rest contentedly on our rhetorical laurels, our job here is done.

...except that all he's done is pointed out the soft underbelly of perhaps one of the weakest arguments for God's existence that there is, and in the process exposed the most glaring weakness of his own atheistic position.

He makes the very bad (for him) mistake of tying the issue to probability and (by extension) proveability.

Science is inextricably tied to empiricism. If something can be empirically demonstrated, it is (generally) presumed to be true. Thus the scientific method. And therein lies the greatest single weakness of that atheism which tries to maintain a patina of scientific rigor: the very empirical reality of God. Hence the "Intelligent Design" movement which in spite of the frantic attacks of open-minded atheists is gaining incredible steam in the scientific community.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster has exactly zero evidence to support its existence. Ditto the unicorn, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, fairies, guileless politicians, or the hope that Proposition 2 will actually be enforced in the Sovereign State of Michigan what with the results of this month's election of the state executive and legislature. But I digress.

God, on the other hand, is in an entirel different category. Consider:

  1. The empirical improbability of life arising spontaneously outside of the agency of an intelligent Designer:


    Creation Model

    Evolution Model 
    Hans created timepieces.  As a young man he made ordinary sundials.  He later built hourglasses and water timers.  And he fashioned all kinds of clocks... magnificent grandfather clocks, pretty little anniversary clock... clocks of every shape and size.  But his most prized creation was a watch. 

    Hans worked on details of his gold watch for many years.  Day after day he labored over design - sizing every gear, calculating every small weight and detailing the exquisite artwork.  Meticulous care went into the manufacture of each piece.  Tiny gears were microscopically measured, formed and polished for precision.  The balance wheel was carefully calibrated ensuring maximum accuracy.  The spring, the casing, the face, the crystal... every detail was crafted to create the most "perfect" timepiece ever.  Finally, when the last gear was delicately placed, the polished crystal gently set and the gold band lovingly attached... Hans marvelled at the beauty and precision of his masterpiece.  He realized, however, that he was still holding just a beautiful ornament.  Then Hans began to wind the watch.  The sound began...  "Tick, tick, tick."  The ornament had become a timepiece.

    Billions of years ago, the earth was far more favorable to "manufacturing" than today.  Surrounding the earth was a sea of "ooze", richly laden with the precise elements to create timepieces.  Bits of gold, bits of silica, even bits of paint. 

    Years and years went by.  Then the inevitable happened.  Bits of metal were joined together by volcanic heat.  Amazingly, metal molecules bonded in the exact way needed to create intricate gears and balance wheels.  As the parts tumbled in the "ooze," delicate polishing occurred:  Precision polishing in the exact way to produce a perfectly calibrated timepiece.  Then, molecules of black paint formed together in exact patterns to create numbers.  And they coincidentally landed on a surface randomly covered with pure white paint.  As the years continued to pass, eventually gears, wheels, a face, a crystal and a beautifully engraved band came together to form an exquisite gold watch... a product of the right mix of materials and billions of years.  It was beautiful.  It was complete and meticulously formed.  It was perfect in every way.  Almost...  It still needed someone to wind it.

    Sound ridiculous? Absurd? Consider that the simplest "simple" organism is orders of magnitude more complex than a precision watch, and then insert "simple cell" and things like "amino acids" and "organelles" and the like into the story above, and you quickly realize that it is statistically absurd to believe that life appeared by accident all on its own through natural, materialistic, uniformitarian processes.

    That is at minimum just as much of a fideistic position to take as to simply accept the statistical reality that it is for all intents and purposes impossible that the universe created itself and life arose on its own, and make the short leap from there to the realization that there is a creative God behind it all.

  2. In the famous debate between Wilberforce and Huxley, the latter asked the theologian/mathematician for three assumptions:  Ten monkeys that never die, ten perfect typewriters that never break or run out of ink, and unlimited amounts of paper.  Having granted Huxley these assumptions, Wilberforce was backed into a mathematical corner:  According to the Probability Formula, as you reach infinity in the amount of time, the probability for anything becomes "1," or "a foregone conclusion.  Therefore, Huxley's monkeys, clanging away at the typewriters, would eventually type out all the works of Shakespeare, and other works -- including Psalm 23.  Shamed, Wilberforce never again spoke in public; the defeat was rabidly pounced upon by Darwinist and liberal theologian alike as a death-knell for rational thought.

    Huxley, however, had a problem that neither he nor any of his contemporaries ever picked up on.  His starting assumptions were grossly faulty.

    Leaving aside for the moment a discussion of amino chirality and reversible processes (which dictate that in a random environment amino acids will never form proteins or even peptides due to the nasty little problem of "critical mass"), we note that the universe is not infinitely old.  Even rabid evolutionists agree that the universe had an origin.  Seeing as how it did, that seriously truncates Huxley's monkeys chances. 

    The most liberal (i.e., "favorable to chance") probability I've been able to find calculates the odds of DNA spontaneously producing itself from a primordial "ooze" at 1 in 1070.  Let's put that into perspective.

    Granting for the moment the ridiculously inflated estimates for the universe's age given by evolutionists, and assuming that present estimates for the universe's actual volume are correct, we find that: 

    • There are only 1018 seconds in the history of the universe

    • There are only 1066 atoms in the universe

    • There are only 1080 particles in the universe

    What this means is that a) there's not been enough time in the universe for DNA to spontaneously generate [if you had one try every second, you're out of luck; even if you had one try every microsecond, that's still only 1024, so you're still out of luck]; b) there's not enough material in the universe to experiment with.

    Now, that's using a very liberal estimate of the chances for DNA to develop randomly. But once you have the molecule, you're still not out of the woods; for DNA to be viable, all the required attendant protein apparatus are necessary for reproduction! It's not as simple as "cooking up the stuff" (the way Stanley Miller tried -- and failed to do back in 1953); the entire molecule must be completely present, absolutely without error, the first time, along with attendant servant proteins, in order to be viable; i.e., to reproduce.

    Why? Superb question! Here's the answer:

    The DNA molecule contains coded information and complex interactions that are so interdependent, that if one of the necessary pieces is out of order or missing, the entire construct becomes unviable. This is made all the more impossible when one considers that in order for DNA to reproduce, there must be a special error-correcting protein that has to travel up the nucleotide chain to check for errors. This protein is in turn produced by the DNA molecule (of necessity, since that's how we get proteins in the first place; from DNA) Which brings up a very irritating (to the evolutionist) twist to the old quandry, "which came first?" The duplication protein, or DNA?

    Both had to be present, in perfect working order,at the same time.

    Add to that the fact that DNA is a truly breathtaking -- and absolutely unparalleled -- example of an information storage system. The information encoded on the DNA molecule is, first of all, digital. It is encoded in 4-bit code [the four bases that make up nucleotides: adenine, thymidine, cytosine, and guanine]. DNA has built-in redundancy to ensure error-free data transfer; that is, many nucleotide sequences occur in multiple places, so that if one sequence is damaged (the special duplication protein knows when it is so!), the backup sequence can take over the production of the necessary proteins! DNA also is error-correcting (the duplication protein travels up the "daugher molecule" checking for errors). In summary, the DNA molecule stores coded information in 4-bit binary, redundant, error-correcting chains. And all this must be in place, perfectly, before any duplication (i.e., "reproduction") can take place.

    Harold Morowitz estimates the probability of all necessary conditions existing simultaneously for a single "simple" cell to be at 1 in 10100,000,000,000, or similar to the odds of winning 10,000 lotteries in a row.

    Sir Frederick Hoyle (an avowed atheist) calculates the odds of only the proteins of an amoebae arising by chance as 1 in 1040,000!

    What are the odds? Well, in order for all of this to occur (and it must in order for evolution to be a viable theory of origins), we compute as follows:

    • 1017 seconds in the history of the universe (average age estimated by evolutionists)

    • 1084 particles in the universe (counting baryons)

    • 1020 events per second (maximum number of conceivable interactions between subatomic particles)

    • 10121 total events (1017 x 1084 x 1020= 10121)

    • 10100,000,000,000 events necessary to produce a single living cell (estimate by molecular biologist Harold Morowitz)

    The equation would be thus:

    Probability of evolutionary start = 10121 / 10100,000,000,000= 1 / 1099,999,999,879 = zero

    One final thing should be noted: Whereas nothing is mathematically "impossible," strictly speaking, statisticians define odds beyond 1 in 1050 as being absurd, or as being so incredibly unlikely that it will never occur. So, not only is there not enough time in the universe (even granting evolutionists their mythological "billions of years"), and not enoughmaterial in the universe for the necessary tries, and not enough chances in the first place in the universe, the best-case scenario for DNA producing itself randomly calculates out to zero, but even the best odds available are definitionally absurd!!!

    Conclusion: Evolution is irrational on pure mathematical grounds.

    ...and if evolution is not a viable explanation for the origin of all things, then that leaves... oh, dear... ahhhh... oh, help me out here... starts with a "G"...

Then, and here's the clincher which places God in an entirely different category than the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or unicorns, or Thor, or a winning Lions season, etc.:

None of them have ever revealed themselves to man in an empirically verifiable way; none have ever entered human history in a redemptive way; none in progress, more to come, eh?...

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