This week’s question: “How do you explain the overwhelmingly unlikely coincidence of the earth being a perfect fit for life?”
Even if evolution is true, it still points to a designer. Even if the Big Bang is true, it still needs a creator. Why? Because nothing can only create nothing, and something must come from something. I understand your objection, and I think that it’s powerful. It’s good that you are willing to examine what science has to say first and then come to some conclusions about our existence later. I don’t consider myself an expert in science, but these arguments have invariably failed to take me too far on the path to religion, as they only argue for the existence of a creator that has stopped intervening in today’s affairs and cares little about what we do or what we believe.
It’s easy to presume that cause and effect will apply to everything. One might think, “If everything must have a cause, so must the universe. Ergo, God exists!” I would object, “Doesn’t God then need a cause too?”
We could also refine the formula and perhaps reach a different conclusion. For example: every natural phenomenon that has ever been observed has a natural cause. Therefore, every natural phenomenon in the universe has a natural cause. As soon as you speculate about supernatural phenomena or supernatural causes, you cease to talk about things that science can touch. I would go as far as to say that you stop talking about things that are real at all.
David Urzua is a fifth-year philosophy major.
A common logical fallacy levied against evolution is that it is as “equally likely” that a human being could have evolved as that a pile of the necessary pieces to assemble an airplane exploded and produced a working 747.
This is a dramatic representation of the Blind Watchmaker argument that seeks to induce skepticism at the long odds required for evolution or abiogenesis. These arguments exploit the fact that it is counterintuitive that complex systems occur from simple parts without intervention. However, all such arguments are based on misunderstandings of evolution and probability. The origin of the confusion is the assumption that evolution is “random.”
In fact, the driving force behind many types of evolution is random, but the change that results is not. In a star’s core, hydrogen atoms interact under heat and pressure to become helium. We say that the interaction between molecules is a random process (because it behaves probabilistically on a large scale) but we cannot say that the result is random.
When one heats hydrogen to a certain level, one always gets helium because the results are driven by the attributes of the components.
In the same way, the attributes of animals (which we might simplify by calling “fitness”) in a system contribute to the results (“survival”). Darwin was the first to overcome the tendency of man to, as he said, “allow satellites, planets, suns…to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.”
Connor Oakes is a third-year political science major.
The most troublesome thing about this whole argument — which I hear quite frequently — is the assumption that “life” is a goal or an ultimate achievement. It implies that life, or mankind for that matter, is important or significant in any way beyond what we make it for ourselves.
If the world had formed and progressed in a completely different way, we would look like something completely different, suited to that environment. We’d be thinking to ourselves, “How convenient it is that the world is created to be so perfectly suited for me!” The laws of the universe seem to be perfectly fine-tuned to allow for life, but this logic approaches the problem from the wrong perspective. Life just happens to be perfectly fine-tuned for the laws of the universe.
Going even farther, we find that life is not the only thing that evolves. Natural selection is not exclusive to living things or cells. Planets, galaxies and stars evolve constantly. Galaxy or star cluster formations tend toward very regular and recurring shapes, all because of the gravity of the universe and the way the pieces of these systems were set into motion from explosions or the Big Bang.
Things that are more suited to the state of the universe will inevitably emerge. “Life” as we know it just got lucky.
Cameron Moody is a second-year computational biology major.
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