Adamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 4

Adamson’s Cru[de] Arguments for God – Part 4 May 4, 2016

Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored a website called EveryStudent.com, a site that targets college students as its primary audience.  The director of the website is Marilyn Adamson.   Adamson wrote a key article for the website called “Is There a God?” which provides six reasons in support of the claim that God exists.   Adamson completely destroys her own credibility in the opening paragraphs of the article where she presents an obviously bad argument that constitutes the first of the six reasons.

A portion of Adamson’s first argument is presented in the opening paragraphs, and it can be summarized in two sentences:

(SJR) The size of the Earth is just right, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.

(RDS) The Earth is the right distance from the Sun, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.

One serious problem with Adamson’s arguments is that they are very sketchy and thus are unclear. Most of her argument for this first point is left unstated, which means that it is the readers of her article who must do all the heavy lifting.  The most obvious clue to her intentions comes in the following sentence from her presentation of the first argument (emphasis added by me):

Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

Because of this clue, we can infer an important unstated premise of Adamson’s argument, which I will refer to as the Natural Improbability Thesis or NIT:

(NIT) Given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is IMPROBABLE that natural processes would lead to the formation of at least one planet with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life (if there was no God to guide, or intervene in, those natural processes).

This assumption suggests a contrast with the alternative view that there exists a God who could, and who probably would, guide, or intervene in, natural processes in order to bring about the formation of a planet capable of sustaining life.  This second key unstated premise of Adamson’s argument I will call the Divine Guidance Thesis or DGT:

(DGT) If God exists, then given our knowledge of the laws of nature, and of the general configuration of matter and energy in the universe, and of the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets, it is PROBABLE that at least one planet would come to exist with the right size and at the right distance from a sun that would make it capable of sustaining plant, animal and human life, because if natural processes would not cause this to happen on their own, then God would probably guide, or intervene in, those natural processes to bring about the existence of such a planet.

If (NIT) and (DGT) are both true, then (SJR) and (RDS) would provide some evidence for the existence of God.  But if (NIT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.  And if (DGT) is false (or dubious), then Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.

The main problem with (NIT) is that we know that the universe contains a fantastically huge number of stars and planets of various sizes and configurations, so it is a matter of common sense that some of the planets in the universe are bound to be of the right size and the right distance from a sun so that those planets would be suitable for sustaining plant, animal and human life.  Therefore, it is clear that (NIT) is false and that Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I am wrong, and that (NIT) was actually true.  In that case Adamson’s argument would still be defective, because (DGT) is also problematic and dubious.  If (NIT) were true, and if God existed, then that would mean that God designed the universe in such a way that it would be IMPROBABLE for natural processes to bring about the existence of a planet that was the right size and the right distance from a sun to sustain plant, animal and human life.

But God is, by definition, all-knowing and all-powerful, so if God designed and created a universe with natural laws and processes that make it IMPROBABLE for a life-friendly planet to come into existence, then this is evidence that God did NOT want or intend for such a planet to come into existence, which implies that God did NOT want or intend for plants, animals, and humans to come into existence.  It does not make sense to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful God would design and create a universe which contains natural laws and processes that are opposed to his basic intentions or purposes for the universe.

If an all-knowing and all-powerful person wanted to design and create a universe that would contain planets that can sustain plant, animal and human life, then we would reasonably expect that the natural laws, and the configuration of matter and energy in that universe, and the natural processes involved in the development of stars and planets in that universe would be such as to make it PROBABLE that some planets would develop that have the appropriate properties to sustain living creatures.  Thus, if (NIT) were in fact true, this would cast significant doubt on the truth of (DGT).

The problem of evil also casts significant doubt on (DGT).  In reality,  plants, animals, and humans face injury, disease, natural disasters, and death.  This has been the case on planet Earth for millions of years (at least for plants and non-human animals).   Contary to Christian fundamentalism, injury, disease, destruction, and death were realities before human beings arrived on the scene.  So, if there really was an Adam and Eve living in a garden on the Earth,  then injury, disease, disasters, and death were already a part of the history of this planet long before Adam and Eve existed.  Given these well-established facts, it is reasonable to infer that if an all-powerful and all-knowing person designed and created this universe, then it was the creator’s intention that plants, animals and human beings suffer from injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death.

Adamson and other Christian believers would likely insist at this point that we ought not to rush into judgment about the intentions of the creator of the universe.  A person who is all-powerful and all-knowing has an understanding of reality that far exceeds the intelligence and grasp of human beings who have limited and finite minds.  God’s thoughts and ways are above and beyond human understanding, so although it appears that the Earth was designed to result in injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death for plants, animals and humans, we cannot rely on our limited human intelligence to draw firm conclusions about the intentions of an all-powerful and all-knowing creator.

This common approach to the problem of evil, however, is a two-edged sword.  If skeptics cannot confidently conclude that the creator of the universe intended for plants, animals, and humans to suffer injuries, diseases, natural disasters, and death, because the thoughts and ways of God are above and beyond the reckoning of finite human minds, then religious believers also cannot confidently conclude that the creator of the universe intended for there to be some planets that have life-friendly properties, planets that are the right size and the right distance from a sun to sustain plant, animal and human life.  The minds of religious believers are just as finite and limited as the minds of skeptics, so they too cannot presume to understand God’s thoughts and intentions based upon the facts about how things actually are in this universe.

Furthermore, given that God is, by definition, all-powerful and all-knowing, there are more options available to God, if God exists, than just the option of bringing about a planet of the right size and right distance from a sun in order to have a planet filled with plants, animals and humans for an extended period of time.  God could have placed the Earth much closer to the Sun, and created a giant cooling system to remove the excess heat from the Earth.  Or, God could have placed the Earth much farther away from the Sun, and created a giant heating system to ensure that the surface of the Earth did not get too cold for plants, animals and humans to survive.

Or, God could have located the Earth closer to the Sun but designed plants, animals and human beings so that we could tolerate higher temperatures.  Or, God could have located the Earth farther away from the Sun but designed plants, animals and humans so that we could tolerate lower temperatures.

Also, since God is all-powerful, God could locate the Earth far away from the Sun but directly cause the atoms and molecules in the atmosphere and in the water of rivers, lakes, and oceans, to remain at a nice moderate temperature.  Being all-powerful means that God does not require any natural processes or mechanisms at all to accomplish this objective.  God could simply will that the temperature of the air around the Earth remain at 68 degrees fahrenheit, and it would do so, even if there were no giant heater, and no giant air conditioning system, even if there were no stars (suns) in the universe at all.

Another option for an all-powerful and all-knowing creator is that the Earth could have been placed much closer to the Sun, and the surface temperature of the Earth could have been much hotter, say 600 degrees fahrenheit, but God could directly cause the cells of plants, animals and humans to remain at constant moderate temperatures.  Human cells could remain at 99 degrees fahrenheit, for example, even if the air temperature was 600 degrees.  Being all-powerful means that God could simply will that all human cells remain at a temperature of 99 degrees, and that would be what happened.  God, being all-powerful, is not limited by the ordinary laws of nature.  Whatever God wants, God can have, period.

Because an all-powerful and all-knowing person is not limited to, or constrained by, the laws of nature or the natural processes that we observe in this universe, such a person has a wide variety of alternatives for acheiving the objective of having a planet with living creatures on it, where the creatures continue to live and to survive on the planet for an extended period of time.  Because God, if God exists, is such a person, God has many options available to acheive his aims and purposes, so that makes it difficult to predict HOW God will acheive his aims and purposes.

Thus, even if we could somehow KNOW that God wanted or intended the universe to have one or more planets filled with plants, animals and humans for an extended period of time,  we would still not be in a position to know HOW God would be likely to achieve that purpose.  Thus, we would not be able to know or predict that God would arrange for a planet to have the size and location of the planet Earth, even if we did know (which we don’t) that God’s purpose or intention was to bring about the existence of a planet with plants, animals, and humans that would live on the planet for an extended period of time.

Adamson’s unstated premise (DGT) is not as obviously false as (NIT).  However, there are a number of problems with (DGT) that make it a dubious assumption.  First, if (NIT) were true, that would be significant evidence against (DGT).  Second, the problem of evil raises questions about our ability to infer the purposes and intentions of God based on facts about how things actually are in this universe.  Third, since God is by definition all-powerful and all-knowing, God has many options and alternatives for HOW to acheive any given purpose or goal, so this makes it even more difficult to predict HOW God will achieve any particular purpose, including the purpose of bringing about a planet that is filled with plants, animals and humans that live on the planet for an extended period of time.

In conclusion, (NIT) is clearly false, so Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.  Furthermore, Adamson’s other unstated premise (DGT) is dubious, so this is a second reason why Adamson has failed to show that (SJR) and (RDS) constitute evidence for the existence of God.

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