How is it that we got here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
We’re continuing our look again into Carrier’s book (Henceforth abbreviated SGWG), but I’m almost done with another book I’m reading so expect that there could be a review of that next week and then surely some sort of post on Christmas Eve. This review will overall be completed. There are a lot of arguments I want to get to.
Now this chapter we’re going to be talking largely about evolution. I’ll be upfront and state my opinion on evolution.
I don’t care.
Really. That’s it. I’m not a scientist so the question doesn’t make much difference to me. It doesn’t affect my interpretation of Genesis since I go with a John Walton view. I know there are arguments that are put forward by scientists and they are highly persuasive. On the other hand, I know there are still hard questions for the theory in particular circumstances.
That last part does not mean the theory is false. Every view that is true has hard questions with it. That does not surprise me. What I wish to stress however is that I am not a scientist so I cannot answer the question either way. If I said “The evidence supports evolution”, I could not name you that evidence. I could not defend it either. If I said “The evidence does not support evolution”, I could not name you that evidence and I could not defend it. I’m fine with that.
If I woke up tomorrow and saw the headlines “Even the SBC now has admitted that Macroevolution is a fact” I would simply go about my day. It really wouldn’t matter. On the other hand, if I saw “Scientists admit macroevolutionary theory false”, I would have the same reaction.
So when we get to the science as science, I will not be saying anything. I have long said that people like Richard Dawkins and others who do not understand biblical studies should not be commenting on them as if they are authorities. I plan to follow my own advice.
So right at the start, Carrier tells us that “The universe is so vast, it was inevitable that something like us would be one of its byproducts somewhere.”
Why should I think this? Really?
On the one hand, Carrier has argued about what a waste this universe is and all the empty space and even how dangerous it is, and then on this side, he’s telling us that surely we would show up somewhere. If this universe is the way he says it is elsewhere, I would think we wouldn’t show up somewhere. We’d have no chance. Is the universe friendly to life or is it not? I can’t tell you which it is, but I can tell you it’s not both.
Besides, this kind of approach would mean you could justify anything ultimately. “Well guys, I know I got a perfect hand in that game of Bridge, but you know, in a universe so vast, it was inevitable. Guess I just got to be the lucky one.”
In fact, Carrier tells us that if conscious beings can exist once in a million galaxies, there would be thousands of such civilizations in the universe.
Now there could be life out there of course, but we have no evidence of it. It’s hard to start talking about probabilities in that case. Saying if they could doesn’t even mean that they do and again, what kind of universe do we live in?
So as we go on, we find in the final paragraph on page 165, the reasoning found here. I will be paraphrasing.
Simple life stands a good a chance of being all over a galaxy like ours.
Galaxies have billions of stars.
This means millions of star systems.
Even life arising in one in one million such systems means thousands of planets in our galaxy alone have life.
Sentient life is rare and improbable, but the universe is that amazingly old and big.
Amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time.
Therefore, we are a natural product.
The end conclusion does not follow. Neither does the next one.
A divine engineer would have no reason to make a trillion useless galaxies just for us.
Let’s look at the first case. It’s simply speculation built on speculation. Thousands of planets in our galaxy have life? We don’t know of a single one that does other than our own. Why should we build a foundation on a speculation that we have no evidence for and plenty of evidence against?
Furthermore, if amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time, then it would seem we also have a case for a miracle. Why not believe someone was suddenly healed of a disease like cancer or blindness or even raised from the dead? Amazingly improbable things happen ALL THE TIME!
How also does it follow we are a natural product? I can’t help but notice how Lewis said the atheist stacks the deck with cosmological questions like this. If there is life everywhere in the universe, well see, life isn’t so special. You don’t need a creator for that. If there is life only one place in the universe, well see, the creator would not make a waste like that!
So if life is everywhere, there is no God.
If life is only in one place, there is no God.
Heads they win. Tails we lose.
The problem is this is built on knowledge we do not have access to. Carrier tells us a divine engineer would have no reason. Really? How does he know this? Can he demonstrate. The most he can say is “I can think of no such reason.” Well perhaps you can’t. Perhaps I can’t. So what? That means there is no such reason?
As we move on, Carrier tells us that we should suspect metaphysical naturalism. Why? First off, natural explanations have turned out to be true for everything so far without exception.
Except for those questions that have not been answered and those questions that don’t fit into the worldview. So and so was suddenly healed of blindness? Well there has to be a natural explanation because we know miracles can’t happen. Therefore, the natural explanation is true. Jesus rose from the dead? There can’t be a miraculous explanation, therefore there has to be a natural one. The existence of existence? Existence must somehow be a natural phenomenon.
It doesn’t surprise me that there are many so-called natural explanations for what we see out there. Nor should it surprise any Christian. Yet if you say “Natural explanations are the only explanations that count”, don’t be surprised if everything becomes explained with such explanations and everything that doesn’t fit is “explained away.” I only would like to see the natural explanations for events like the life and resurrection of Jesus and the existence of existence itself.
Carrier on page 167 starts a paragraph talking about chemicals coming together to form proteins and it is more than reasonable to conclude that these all came together on a spot like Earth and certainly at least one will produce a protein that can reproduce itself. Most important is how he begins this paragraph. “Consequently, though we lack access to the facts we need in order to know just what happened on Earth four billion years ago….”
Let us not let a little thing like not knowing the facts keep us from making claims on a grand scale.
I only look at the paragraph and think “Why is this reasonable? Because this fits in with naturalism and naturalism alone is reasonable?” I am given no reason to think such and I certainly do not think it reasonable to make a conclusion when we do not have access to the facts.
But friends, the best is yet to come.
Years ago, I heard Richard Dawkins speak at Queens university in Charlotte and he was asked what the worst theistic argument he had ever come across was. He replied that it was the banana argument of Ray Comfort.
I have to agree.
And as I shared this upcoming argument with a friend of mine, he told me “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”
Yes. This is Carrier’s argument starting on page 171. I am quoting it in full so that you can look it up and see that, yes, he does make this argument.
“For example, nipples on men serve no function whatever, but are the inevitable byproduct of a procedure for developing men differently from women that is imperfectly carried out. Evolution explains why, in contrast, female breasts do not need to be large, or prominent at all—as instruments for nursing, small breasts are just as effective, while large breasts create increased strain on a woman’s back and increased risk of injury and lethal malfunctions like cancer.
The only physiological reason for large breasts is the same as for other insufficient methods of sexual competition, from the peacock’s feathers to the baboon’s inflamed butt: their size serves to compete with other women in attracting men. Otherwise, they are a liability, and a needless waste of energy–although, in the rude way nature works, that is their point; to advertise to men “Hey, this woman is so healthy she can waste energy on these risky things, aren’t they pretty?” What possible use such an insufficient tactic would have in the hands of an intelligent engineer is hard to fathom–especially an engineer whose only purported purpose for sex was procreation, not lust or entertainment. Wouldn’t making men attracted to, say, intelligence, or beautiful eyes, have been enough—even better—without all the danger and headache?” (p. 171-172 Italics his.)
Yes people. It really is in there. If you don’t think so, go and look yourself.
Let’s start with something in there. The only purported purpose of sex is procreation?
There’s this book in my Bible called Song of Songs. I don’t see them talking about making babies in that one. I see them talking about raw passion for one another. Christians do see making babies as A purpose of sex, but not the only purpose. Even the staunchest Catholic who is the most opposed to any contraception would not say making babies is the only purpose of sex.
Now of course, we do say there are misuses of sex, but one great purpose is to unite the husband and wife in a bond of love. It’s not an accident that lovemaking carries with it great emotional passion and great expressions of love come out at that time. Sex as intended drives a husband and wife together. It drives the man to love the wife as Christ loved the church and it drives the woman to learn to open herself up to the man and to trust him.
I wonder where on Earth the idea came to Carrier that God intended it only for procreation. I don’t see that at all in Scripture. (Of course, some church fathers held to such a view, but you will not find it today. Perhaps Carrier should read some books on sexuality written by Christian counselors.)
But now, let’s look at the claim itself.
First, I would really like to see Carrier walk into a place like a bar and start sharing this kind of view.
“Well gentlemen, I want to talk to you about why you should be atheists and think that there is no God. For instance, look at that woman over there with really big breasts. Do you think a loving God would allow her to waste her energy on those? No. He would make them only fit the job they’re meant to do and make you more attracted to other aspects of her.”
I strongly suspect most men in the audience are looking at the woman and thinking instead they see a darn good reason to believe God does exist.
It is incredible to fathom that someone could write those pages in a book and think that that is making an argument in favor of atheism.
Of course, there is no doubt many men find such attractive. Yet how is this supposed to show a problem with the way God made women? Could not God have made women that way to attract a mate? Contrary also to Carrier, men are attracted to other aspects as well such as eyes and intelligence.
I strongly suspect we’re seeing more a kind of fundamentalism Carrier encountered that he has imbibed himself rather than any real biblical position he’s interacting with.
And the scary thing is this isn’t even the worst argument in the book. That’s to come later.
When we return to this book again, we’ll be discussing the nature of reason.