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Last time we were together we looked at the Cosmological Argument and demonstrated (correctly) that there is a first cause; and that we believe that cause is the God of the Bible. Tonight’s discussion is on the Teleological Argument, also known as the argument from Design. Before we begin, we will look at the Bible to understand what it says about God’s hand in the design of the cosmos, life, thought, and reason.
In the last post, we used Genesis as our jumping point and listened as Scripture sang in joy, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV) We then used that statement as a roadmap through the Cosmological Argument. But there is more, so much more.
Looking deeper in scripture, we see there is a God who has left us information to show that he is the Creator of the universe. Consider King David’s praise of the wonders of God creating us in Psalm 139: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13–14, ESV)
Agreeing with David, Astronomer Hugh Ross wrote, “Observing Earth’s beauty, abundance, diversity, and grandeur, people of all generations and cultures have been struck by the extravagance of it all. The Creator provided humanity with so much more than a place to merely survive. He presented us with a place to thrive. Every one of our senses—physical, soulish, and spiritual—has been graced with rich rewards. Even with limitations on their knowledge, technology, and experience, Job and his contemporaries perceived that God had invested generously in his creation. The diverse characteristics and capabilities of Earth’s panoply of creatures, including humans, proved to them that God cares. As Eliphaz, Job, and Elihu declared, God’s glory and goodness reverberated all around them.” (Ross, H. (2011). Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today’s Scientific Questions (p. 188). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)
The universe did not have to be that way, yet it is. Everything is perfect for us, for we are not merely animals, God created us in His image. God gave us the power of reason along with a soul so we can ask questions and seek Truth. We all have a need for understanding why we are here, but many look to the world – money, fame, etc. – instead of looking to the God who yearns to be our Father.
The Teleological (or Design) Argument
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)
We looked at that verse in the last posting, but it is appropriate for this one as well as it speaks to God the Creator, or, God the Designer. It is important for us to recognize the Hebrew word for ‘creation’ and its usage in this context. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 1 is ‘bara’ (בָּרָא) and is translated almost exclusively as ‘to create,’ or ‘to be created,’ in English when God is the subject and is forming something from nothing (ex nihilo). It is also used to show that God (again the subject) created our hearts from nothing. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10, ESV) Also, a demonstration that we know that we were created (bara) and praise him; “Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:5, ESV)
WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING?
“The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz posed the question in the seventeenth century, “Why is there something rather than nothing? This seems to capture the essence of the quandary the skeptical position is in. Why are we here? Why is anything here? The responses to this question have ranged from the absurd to the sublime.” (Excerpt From Rice Broocks. “God’s Not Dead.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/U6wjK.l) Honestly, that is a great question! Think about it for a moment, why is there something rather than nothing, why is it the way it is, and from where did it come? All the physics and chemistry had to be perfect. If not, the universe, not to mention us, would not, no could not exist. It is like there was someone with an intricate and complex (at least to us) plan.
Think about it for a moment. If the rate of expansion of the universe were different, say too slow, gravity would have pulled everything back together, leaving not enough time for life to form. If the rate was too fast, gravity would not have been able to pull matter together to form stars, galaxies, etc. No planet earth, no humans.
The Existence-of-God.com hammers the point home: “Had the rate of expansion been even fractionally slower—one part in a million million—then the big bang would have been followed by a big crunch before life could have developed. Had the rate of expansion been even fractionally faster—one part in a million—then stars and planets could not have formed.” (accessed 12/08/2016)
THE UNIVERSE IS DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR US
If we assume that the Big Bang is truly the event that started this whole cosmos thing going, then we know it could have been completely different than it is; but it’s not. The universe is ‘fine-tuned’ specifically for our existence. There are a vast number of variables that had to be ‘adjusted’ for a life-permitting universe. Rice Broocks, in God’s Not Dead, states, “ Astrophysicists tell us that there were dozens of physical constants (such as gravity) and quantities (such as entropy) that had to be carefully adjusted (fine-tuned) in order for there to have been a life-producing universe.” He continues, “These values include the strengths of the fundamental forces of gravity, the strong nuclear force (which holds the nucleus together), the weak nuclear force (which governs radiation), and the electromagnetic force (which governs the attraction of opposite charges to one another).” (Excerpt From Rice Broocks. “God’s Not Dead.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/U6wjK.l) When I think about what it took to get this all started, I imagine a machine the size of the universe with dials for every variable with someone ‘behind the curtain’ making intricate corrections to keep the earth safe for us to exist. (I strongly recommend God’s Not Dead, written for the layperson like me)
Now that we’ve spent a little time reviewing physics; I believe it’s a good time for us to turn to a different type of argument. The arguments we have discussed above are known as ‘a posteriori’ arguments – which means that we have actual evidence for the statement (or premise); we are aware of the physical quantities and chemical compositions and can use this data to further our point.
The argument from fine-tuning is a facts based argument, that is, we use the evidence available as proof. Paley’s Watchmaker or the Watchmaker Argument is an argument from reasoning, or by logical deduction. This type of argument is considered ‘a priori,’ and is knowledge that proceeds from a deduction, in this case, a comparison to something you would already know.
In Natural Theology Paley paints a word picture telling us as he is crossing a heath (uncultivated land) he trips on a stone. He understands this can be there from the beginning, after all, heaths are full of stones. But it is not a rock, it is a watch. Paley goes on to say, “But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be enquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch, as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose.” Paley goes on describing the watch and all its component parts and their function in detail.
He continues, “This mechanism being observed (it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood), the inference, we think, is inevitable; that the watch must have had a maker; that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.” (Excerpts Here and Above From: William Paley, Matthew D. Eddy & David Knight. “Natural Theology.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/rQQOU.l)
After demonstrating that the watch required a watchmaker, Paley expands this to the complex structures of living things; plants and animals. From the grandeur of the cosmos to the minute features of insects, Paley believed and effectively demonstrated that there must be a Watchmaker. He believed that the Watchmaker, God must care so much more for humanity.
In summation, if you see something that looks designed, it is not a stretch to assume that it is. If you think about it, no one, whether a naturalist, atheist or theist, would try to debate that a watch discovered while ‘crossing a heath’ is the product of a creation event. They concede that ‘found’ watch has a first cause; the watchmaker, but God couldn’t create the universe in all its glory – because He does not exist. Even with the Big Bang, something had to start the universe; it is more than just multiple universes, gravity before creation, or any other theory. When all is said and done, the complexity of all that is around us demands a Creator.
When you think about it, if the universe began to exist (the cosmological argument), then it must have a starting point, a date in the finite past. If you wind the Universe all the way back to the beginning, you will see the handiwork of God. You will see Him carefully adjusting all the physics and chemistry, placing every star, planet, asteroid, and comet in exact harmony for our existence. In the background, God blessed us with an innate appreciation for the beauty of the universe, art, music, love, and a desire to know Him in our souls. Unfortunately, in this fallen world, we tune out the real God for one of our design. He still longs for us; He wants to be our Father but loves us so much He lets us decide. Each time someone turns away from a relationship with God, His heart is broken.
Thank you again, and may “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24–26, ESV)