Wednesday, July 11, 2012

6 Reasons to Believe in God - Reason 1 - Example 2 - Water

Reid State Park
Water - Reid State Park, Maine
In my last post, I started dissecting some website stating six reasons for believing in God. I was apparently hallucinating that I could do it all in one post, but I sobered up and decided to take it in chunks.

You can read that here: Reason 1 - Example 1 - Earth is fine-tuned

The second example in reason 1, which is basically all about complexity and fine tuning, is Water!



Water...colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You'll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:
It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees. 
Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.
Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.
Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees. 
Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter. 
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.
I read this, and my first thought is - ... and?

Argument from Ignorance

The argument appears to be:

  1. Water is chemically neutral
  2. ????
  3. GOD!
This is the core of the problem of the "fine tuning" arguments. God is posited as an explanation for why things are they way they are - without any kind of evidence supporting the assertion at all.

They are assuming a false dilemma, or a false dichotomy. If scientists don't know why something is the case, then it's safe to fill in the gaps of knowledge with God (ie "God of the Gaps").

I could ask these apologists why they believe God is the correct answer, and I'd either get:
  1. Because we don't know how else it would happen (Argument from Ignorance)
  2. Because it couldn't happen by chance (Why not? Also, an Argument from Ignorance)
#1 is just a straight up logical fallacy.  #2 is an assertion that's not supported by any evidence, then wrapped up around an Argument from Ignorance too.

In my prior post, I mentioned the number of potential planets flying around the universe (20 million million billion) - and how statistically speaking, we might be the "lottery winner".

There's also a version of that for the universe itself.

If the multiverse theory is correct, we may have a lot of parallel universes to pick from. Let's say the laws of those unvierses form randomly. If there's a 1:1000000000000000000000000000000000000 chance that any particular universe just happens to have the right combination of rules for life to exist, it could just mean that we're Universe #1000000000000000000000000000000000000. Sentient beings would only appear in the universes that allow for intelligence, and thus, only the "lottery winners" would be aware that they are lottery winners. If this were the case, those sentient beings could then look at the statistical lottery-winner universe, unaware of any other universes, and exclaim, "This is just too unlikely to have happened!" - and be wrong.

The point is that we don't know. We're engaging in erroneous extrapolation. The pursuit of knowledge has always found this to be true - that the truth is stranger than fiction - the answers to questions we have investigated have turned out to be things that were not common sense. If these answers were common sense, we would have known them already.

When one makes an argument from ignorance, one is using the fact that we don't know something as a basis for asserting that we do know something else. It's absurd. The construction of an Argument from Ignorance is literally:
We don't know, therefore, we know.
That's the precise construction of the first two examples for fine tuning (and fine tuning arguments themselves) , even though the authors of this website don't explicit state it, because they never get that far. It's the single most common logical fallacy in existence, and these people should feel embarrassed for having posted anything like it for anyone to see.

If one is going to assert that God is the answer to the question of why the Earth appears to be "perfect" for life, for instance, one must then demonstrate that this explanation is actually the correct one.

Let's Look at those Facts about Water

Reid State Park, Maine
Reid State Park, Maine
Outside of the fact that the entire argument is one big whopping Argument from Ignorance, let's look at the supporting statements, just for the sake of being pedantic.
You'll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:
It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point.
I'm not sure what they mean by "unusually high". I can only think they mean that the difference between the freezing point and boiling point is wide.

If the two temperature points were 100 degrees lower, life would simply exist in that span 100 degrees lower - or vice versa.

I'm not sure how this is a point in their favor.
Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees. 
Actually, our metabolism allows us to exist in fluctuating temperature changes (unless you're not warm blooded). We can exist in sub-freezing areas, in fact.

The water doesn't keep our bodies at 98.6 degrees. Sure, we can cool off with sweat, but most of the time our metabolism is what keeps us warm, and our biology controls that.
Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.
 "Universal" might not be the right word - it would imply that anything will dissolve into water, but that's a quibble.

Any liquid with a polar nature (like NH3) can be a solvent. Water is used frequently in chemistry because of it's (mostly) neutrality. Just the fact it's a liquid is a big aspect of its use.
Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.
First, it's not neutral to everything. Sodium, for example, reacts with water violently.

Secondly, it does in fact modify the substance. It depends, though, whether we're talking about a heterogeneous mixture (like a Smoothie), or whether the substance has actually dissolved (sugar or salt, for example). Ionic compounds are actually modified - the ions split up, and then re-combine when dehydrated. It's just, anything that our body takes in that's an ionic compound is already going to have it dissolved, one way or another.

The heterogeneous mixtures don't actually dissolve, by the way. The water acts more like a suspension than a solvent. In this regard, any liquid can technically do the task - we just generally don't want to drink weird things.
Seaweed, Reid State Park, Maine
Seaweed!
Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees. 
Water isn't the only fluid with surface tension. Mercury, in fact, has considerably more. It's not unique.

It is true that capillary action is useful as a passive transport of water up tall plants. So? If we didn't have that, that would only mean that plant life wouldn't be tall - most would probably be suspended in water (like seaweed), or have an active pump (like a heart).
Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter. 
And? If this wasn't the case, we simply wouldn't have fish in non-frozen areas. We have plenty of big ocean stretches (as well as freshwater areas) were the water never freezes. What would the fish ever do?!

I can imagine that, in a parallel universe, where water freezes into tall columns so that fish can swim around and survive in hollow ice tubes that the people of that universe might say, "... and without this mechanism of water, our fish couldn't swim around in tall ice tubes so they have access to eating flying creatures!" - woah, it's a good thing their universe is built that way!
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. 
I love that they loaded it with "there is a system designed". How do you know it's designed? Please stop assuming the answer.

We keep coming back to this trend of looking at it backwards - like with the trees and fish.  If evaporation (which is what they're about the name) didn't happen, the life would merely exist in the oceans, or nearby the oceans, or the world would be salt-water based all over. And?

Have these people never heard of fish? Or seaweed? Guys, there's a whole ecosystem down there! It's vast an amazing! Go take a dive, sometime!

It's not "removing the salt". The water evaporates, and the salt is left behind. It's just to be expected. What part of this requires a god again?
Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.
Again - looking at it backwards. It wasn't "set up" that way. That's the way it happened to work, and life evolved to take advantage of it.

For being "purified" it's still chalked full of crap like lead, mercury, microbes, etc. The system could have been improved.

And again, that would benefit life on land, but the ocean life wouldn't care. If we didn't have evaporation, for instance, if the surface of the planet's oceans was frozen over (potentially like Europa), we might simply be an aquatic intelligent species.

Recap

Even if all their points about water were true, and dead on - so what? The existence of God doesn't follow.

They've merely asserted that God is the explanation. When other possibilities exist, whether we know of them yet or not, to conclude that God did it is an leap.

They've proposed God as the answer. Now they have to prove it.

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