Saturday, July 7, 2012

6 Reasons to Believe in God - Reason 1 - Example 1 - Earth is Perfect

While perusing my regular websites for secular/atheist movements, I occasionally see an advertisement (shown right).

I hate that guy's face! It's dumb!

Anyway, as a counter-apologist myself, I was curious. Just what Earth-shattering evidence does this website have that can finally demonstrate the existence of God?

I'm sure that they have empirical evidence, an astonishing lack of logical fallacies and 100% valid premises, right?

Let's see!
Today, we'll address Reason 1 - Example 1. I'm finding this is taking quite some effort, so I'll take it one part per post.

"1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today."

Yep. that's number 1. They either hit us with their best shot right out the door, or they're saving the best for last. I'm going with the benefit of the doubt, and assuming they're giving their least argument first.

So, the idea is: Complexity! Therefore, God?

They elaborate a bit.

The Earth...its size is perfect. The Earth's size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth's surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life. 
The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth's position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day. 
And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.
Ah, it's the Fine Tuning Argument. Got it.

If we assume for a moment that all their factoids are correct (and I do see some egregious errors), so what? It's an Argument from Ignorance.

Why do they propose God as an explanation? What's the demonstrated link? How do they know it's God and not some other explanation? They don't know, so they're fine with just making something up.

Another Possibility

Our solar system has 8 planets.
The observable universe has an estimated 100,000,000,000 galaxies.

If we assume that each star only has 1 planet, and the galaxies all have the same number of stars (they don't - some are much larger), that would be 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. That's 20 million million billion planets. If each planet had a 1:20000000000000000000000 chance of having the correct roll of the dice to have conditions suitable for life, all that would mean is that we're the lottery winners.

No God required. No tuning required. Sheer statistical probability.

It could be that there's an underlying natural mechanism that dictates this that we aren't aware of yet. It could be that life adapts to the environment, despite the environment, not because of it.

The point is that there's other possibilities, and literally an infinite number of possibilities that we're not even aware. Instead of positively demonstrating their claim, they merely point at something and say "We don't know how else this could have happened, therefore God."

This isn't reason. It's not logic. It's intellectual laziness. Please, give some actual evidence, and spare me the Arguments from Ignorance - the single most common logical fallacy in existence.

Fact Checking

Let's look at their factoids.
The Earth...its size is perfect.
"Perfect" is a loaded term. Perfect for what? A good chunk of the planet is hostile to us - deserts, arctic conditions, insect infested areas that will poison or infect us with Malaria, etc. We have to run air conditioners during the summer and burn fuel to heat our houses during the winter. The humidity is sometimes unbearable. We're regularly slammed by tsunamis and tornadoes and hurricanes and Jehova's Witnesses.

I don't know what's so "perfect" about it. There's a lot of things I'd fix up about this "perfect world".
If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury.
Titan
The Moon Titan - Taken by the
Cassini spacecraft
Incorrect. Mercury has issues because it's so close to the sun. The atmosphere is blasted away, although some does exist on the dark side.

Mars has an atmosphere, and is smaller than the Earth, at about 0.53 Earth radius. It's atmosphere is about 95% carbon dioxide (more on this later).

Titan has an atmosphere too, as one of Saturn's moons. It's even smaller than Mars, at about 0.4 Earth radius. It's atmosphere is actually more dense than Earth's, at about 146kPa, whereas Earth's is about 101kPa, though this is likely due to the heavier elements (Nitrogen, Methane, etc).

In short - absolutely incorrect.
If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter
I'm genuinely curious how they know this. It's difficult to tell, because Earth is the largest of the terrestrial planets. The others are gas giants. It's comparing apples and oranges.

When they say "larger", does the author mean by 5 feet, or 12000 miles?

Gliese 581 c Artist's Conception
Gliese 581 c is an extrasolar "Earth-like" planet that's about 5.6 times the mass of Earth. Check out the list of extrasolar planets that we know so far.

I spent about 20 minutes trying to find an "Earth-like" planet that's larger and that we know the atmosphere. All we need to do is find a larger planet without massive amounts of hyrdogen, and this claim is debunked.

Unfortunately, we apparently don't have that much detail yet. We've yet to do spectrographic analysis of these planets yet, to determine what elements they have. Oh well.

The argument still suffers from a category error between rocky planets and gas giants. The author has a significant gap of data to support the claim (I do too). There's no explanation or anything. It'd be like pointing at the sun and saying, "If we were larger, we'd be a star!". Yes, but how much larger? If Earth's radius increased by 1 mile, would we become a gas giant?

In short - bizarre undemonstrated claim.
Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
Problem - it wasn't. At least, not at first.  Our first atmosphere was mostly hydrogen, actually. When life started, oxygen levels were quite low, and actually poisonous to life.

They've got it backwards again. They're assuming that Earth's atmosphere was designed to support us, whereas indications are that life adapted to Earth, and ended up changing the composition of our atmosphere into having more oxygen (as a waste product), until other forms of life evolved to utilize oxygen instead.

Are these people familiar with the carbon cycle? Earth's atmosphere isn't a static composition set up for us. It's the result of the symbiotic dependence between plants and animals. Evidence indicates that life established the modern day atmosphere, not an external supernatural entity.

In addition, Mars may have at one point been able to sustain life (it may still have life).

Again, where's the positive evidence that a supernatural entity was involved?

In short - ignoring the science.

Phew! I'm not even through the first example yet. This is why Gish Gallops suck - it takes time to refute these claims that take 5 seconds to make.


Moving on....
The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up.
The authors sure do love making vague statements. Are we talking variances of 10 feet or 100000 miles? When you say "fraction", do you mean 1/2 or 1/100000? What do they mean by "freeze" or "burn up"? As far as I am aware, Earth currently has both of those situations at any given moment.

The fact is, we could vary quite a bit. The habitable zone (distance from the sun where liquid water can exist on the surface - key for life)  for our solar system is  reasonably wide - about 0.725 to 3.0 AU - otherwise known as 197,531,261 miles. If we were closer to the sun, the equatorial regions would be less hospitable, and we'd be living more towards the poles. If we were further away, the poles would be too cold and we'd be living towards the equator.

Furthermore, life on this planet has adapted from sub-arctic conditions to living next to 900 degree thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean floor. Life is so robust and resilient, it wouldn't take much effort to make this planet habitable.

In short - bunk.

Earth's Orbit around the Sun
The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph.
Incorrect, we do not remain at a "perfect distance" from the sun. Our orbit is not perfectly circular, but is in fact eccentric. Earth's distance from the sun varies from 0.983 AU to 1.017 AU. That's about a 3160500 mile variance. The long term trends shift as well, causing climate change.

Secondly, yes, we do have a stable orbit. And? This solar system has been loafing around for about 5 billion years. The only major objects left are in stable orbits. It'd be like throwing 100 dice, removing any that weren't 1s, and then pointing at the eight 1s and exclaiming "Look! We rolled eight 1s! What are the chances of that!" It's basically availability bias.
It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day. 
That is indeed true. So are all the other celestial objects. Why did God see it fit to make sure every object in the universe is rotating? It's incredibly difficult to prevent objects from rotating, in fact.

Why did God see it fit to set Earth's rotation to continually slow down? For that matter, why is it okay for the Moon to be in a slow outward spiral orbit? Was he just not thinking long term? If it's perfect now, why not keep it perfect?

In short - naive.
And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.
As I mentioned before, the moon is moving away - at about an inch a year. It used to be a lot closer. The tides are also slowing down Earth's rotation.

We don't need the tides to "keep the oceans from stagnating", assuming that's even a requirement for anything. This statement sounds good, but really? This is begging the question as to whether stagnation of the oceans is bad. The temperature/density driven currents do that just fine, even so. I'm afraid this item just sounds extracted from the depths of someone's ass.

Also, if the tides were severe enough to plow over the continents, we wouldn't be here to marvel over it. When the moon was young (just having been torn off Earth's mantle), that might actually have been a problem, but guess what? Sustainable life on land didn't form until after it had settled down. So again, it's examining the evidence backwards.

Conclusion

I didn't need to tear into each assertion. The core of the argument is an Argument from Ignorance.
Gee wilikers! This just happens to seem to work out for us. Therefore God!
There's no explanation of the logical connection, and certainly no actual demonstrating of that link. It's just another one of these "Hmmm! We don't know! Let's say God did it!" arguments.


If I were to propose a set of 1000 robot minds from a parallel universe that are accomplishing the same effects in our universe, how would these apologists propose we tell who is right - their single god entity or my 1000 robot minds from a parallel universe?


That's the point - different unsubstantiated explanatory claims are indistinguishable from one another - rendering them useless. We have a mystery, and they've decided to "solve" the problem by merely applying another mystery (God). It doesn't get us anywhere. We explain things in terms of knowns, not unknowns.

If I find that my garbage bags outside have been torn open, I'm going to make more progress explaining it in terms of raccoons, as opposed to deranged ghost spiders from an alternate reality. One is precedented, and the other is not.


Due to the logical fallacy, the argument is invalid and void. After that, tearing into the individual assertions is just to cement the idea that the authors of this website have no idea what they're talking about.


I've mentioned before the 1st Law of Apologetics - No argument for the existence of God exists that does not employ at least one logical fallacy.


It's upholding well.

Let's tally the assertions

Assertions made: About 14
True/Errorless assertions: 2


Grade: F--


Sigh, next up - Reason 1 - Example 2 - Water

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