Is The Universe A Design? (First Rebuttal)

I have begun this discussing with my good friend, the atheist lawyer known as Martin. We are discussing the topic Is The Universe A Design? (First Rebuttal) Now it may be noticed that I did not use the word debate. That is because I have grown tired of debates. Debates are heated and hostile, they are two people defending their positions rather than looking at the data and reasoning to a conclusion. Perhaps I am looking too much into terminology, but my point is that I hope this can be more of a discussion, than a debate, as I have so defined it. I hope we can leave our intellectual presuppositions are the door and look to what is being said as we debate the topic, Is The Universe A Design? (First Rebuttal).

My introduction can be found here, and Martin’s introduction is in the comments section. This debate is also being mirrored at

Now, onto business.

Are the cosmos an example of specified complexity?

In my introductory post I argued that the fine-tuning of the cosmos for sentient life are an example of specified complexity. When I say sentient life, I mean any intelligent life in the universe. Many of these anthropic constants prohibit the existence of planets anywhere in the known universe, so I do not think this can be avoided by saying that there could be life aside from carbon based life.

So while the universe would be unfriendly to any life in the absence of these anthropic constants, Martin argues that the much of the universe is unfriendly to life forms, to which I would simply reply: so what? Suppose there was a painting filled with scribbles and paint splatter all over 90% of the paper, but in the center, there was a little drawing of a few people and a smiling sun wearing sunglasses. It would be irrational for us to say that the 90% negates the 10%. The reason that the rest of the universe does not contain specified complexity is that we were never intended to abide in that location.

The idea that there is specified complexity in one location is not negated by the the fact that there is not specified complexity in another.

Marin goes on to raise a further objection about the nature of the anthropic constants by appealing to what is known as a futuristic Theory Of Everything that may explain a way the specified complexity in the universe as a function of natural law. The problem with this is that the anthropic constants are independent of the laws of nature. In fact, string theory predicts that there exist 10×500 different possible universe which are consistent with natures’ laws. The idea that these constants are due to physical necessity is not supported by the science of the day.

It should also be noted that my good friend Martin did not even attempt to appeal to the idea that the anthropic constants just come to be by chance alone. Indeed his attempt to use a futuristic TOE to explain away the idea of the anthropic constants suggest to me that he does believe that it would be irrational to maintain that they just happened by chance, a point that I agree with.

I think in some cases, our childhood awe when we look to the universe is correct. It is my opinion that a design hypothesis cannot be avoided.

Is the DNA molecule an example of specified complexity?

In my introductory post, I argued that if there is a case of specified complexity in the universe, this would be a very strong indicator of a creation model, and as far as I can tell, my good friend Martin does not dispute this notion. So I argued that the DNA molecule is an example of specified complexity in that it contains more information than 1000 encyclopedias (according to Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, not The Blind Watchmaker as I said in my original post).

Martin contests the idea that the DNA molecule is not an example of specified complexity on the basis of the manner in which the specified complexity came to be. He said that DNA evolved from a series of very simple replicators. I do not dispute that. I am not arguing that DNA is necessarily irreducibly complex, nor am I arguing that it was necessarily the product of an ex nihilo special creation act, so I am not attacking a straw man; I am instead talking about the nature of the DNA molecule. I am arguing only that it is an example of specified complexity. The manner in which the designer brought that specified complexity to be is not relevant.

If one is to argue that it is not an example of specified complexity on the basis of the simplicity of the replicators, then one would be guilty of what is known as the Fallacy Of Composition, which is to say that because all of the parts, of a whole, have a particular trait, therefore the whole has a particular trait. For example, if we were to say that all parts of an elephant were light in weight, that therefore the whole of the elephant was light in weight, this would be an example of the fallacy of composition.

In the same way, if we are to argue that all of the parts of the DNA molecule are simple and lack specified complexity, that therefore the whole of the DNA molecule is simple and lacks specified complexity, this would be an example of the fallacy of composition, and I think that is what my debate opponent is guilty of.



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2 Thoughts to “Is The Universe A Design? (First Rebuttal)”

  1. Allocutus

    I would like to thank Richard for his prompt reply. Let me now address his post.

    1. Universe fine-tuning

    Richard started off by saying that the Universe appears to be designed FOR LIFE. I responded by suggesting that, while the combination of constants that make life AS WE KNOW IT possible is perhaps indeed very rare, constants that allow black holes are equally rare. And black holes are extremely common (much more than life, insofar as we know). The Universe is tailored to blow up and then collapse into black holes. It’s a black-hole-making machine. Life seems to be a by-product.

    Richard, in response, proposes a painting with lots and lots of blotches around and a picture of two people in sunglasses in the middle. I like this example and I say it actually ILLUSTRATES MY POINT. You see, looking at this painting, can you claim that the artist’s purpose of the painting was to draw two people? No. The artists clearly intended to draw a lot of blotches AND two small people. If there’s a designer of the Universe, his/her/its intent isn’t just life. Rather, the intent must be EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS IN THE UNIVERSE. Perhaps this Universe with all that exists in it is indeed a rare one. But ANY Universe (with any combination of constants) would be equally rare and equally unique. Imagine a lottery. There are 10 billion possible numbers. Smith happens to pick the right combination. A very, very improbable event. Does it mean that the lottery was intended for Smith to win? No. And the same would apply to ANYONE who won. Just as ANY PARTICULAR UNIVERSE is equally improbable. And this is assuming that these constants are indeed independent of each other (if they are co-dependent then then odds of any particular Universe are much less unlikely). Still, there’s no room to claim that life was the purpose and therefore no room to claim design on that basis. And Richard has not proposed any alternative basis in his argument.

    Note that the argument here isn’t about the fact that the two people in the painting appear to look intended. The argument is about LIFE BEING THE PURPOSE of the Universe, based on the claimed improbability of a Universe existing with the constants that ours has and the fact that it contains life. The complexity of the two people as such is an entirely different story and that is addressed better by the DNA/abiogenesis part of the argument. I’ve already explained that all that is needed is a single (random to be sure) “replicator”; a molecule that will copy itself when in contact with a rich chemical soup. Mutation and natural selection do the rest.
    I agree with Richard that there’s no evidence to show that the universal constants are related to each other. But I DON’T HAVE TO PROVE that they are. It’s for HIM to disprove it. He’s claiming that this set of constants is extremely improbable and the burden is on him to support his claim. If he fails to prove it, his improbability argument can’t even get off the ground. Of course, even if it does get off the ground, I’ve already addressed it in the above paragraphs in any event.

    And just finally, do I agree with Richard that this Universe couldn’t arise by chance? No, I don’t. The phrase “by chance” can only make sense ONCE YOU ESTABLISH THAT THERE WAS AN INTENT IN THE FIRST PLACE (and that would be begging the question). You can’t show that life is an intended outcome merely by the fact that it’s improbable. ANY of the zillions of possible outcomes (assuming a random event ; and I’m not conceding that, Richard needs to prove it) would be EQUALLY “by chance”.

    2. DNA

    Here, Richard charges that I’ve committed the Fallacy of Composition. I disagree. I never claimed that DNA is simple because it consists of simple parts. The DNA is EXTREMELY COMPLEX, despite consisting of simple parts.

    What I DID argue is that Richard’s initial attack was incorrect. Richard, in his opening, claimed the improbability of this complex DNA being suddenly assembled by chance (“library explosion”). I pointed out that nobody is suggesting that this happened. DNA is believed to have evolved via natural selection from a much simpler “replicator molecule”. This explanation does not require a “library to blow up and reassemble itself by chance”. The process is gradual, with each trait surviving only if it helps its own survival. Step by step, over eons of time.

    Richard takes no issue (see above) with DNA evolving from a replicator molecule. Well, that being the case, he can’t have an issue with it coming about as a natural process because that’s what evolution is. The Theory of Evolution explains how complex replicating things can come from simpler replicating things via natural selection.

    Richard says that Dawkins, in the book “The Selfish Gene”, compares the DNA to a thousand encyclopedias. I have the book. I’ve searched it. The word “encyclopedia” doesn’t appear in it (nor is it known to MS Windows 2010 spellchecker, it seems!). But the comparison does sound Dawkins-like and probably did come from one of his books. Ironically, in the Selfish Gene, Dawkins spends 12 pages explaining in very simple terms how DNA, as complex as it is, could evolve via natural means (again, Richard takes no issue with it evolving from a simpler molecule). The explanation starts on page 28. I recommend it to anyone interested.


    I conclude by saying that Richard must prove that life was intended and he hasn’t done so. He would also have to prove that DNA did not evolve from a simple molecule (he can’t; he’s conceded that it did) or that the latter did not happen by chance. He hasn’t done so. Thus, even if we accept all of what he says, he can’t put a creator hypothesis any higher than a natural/random one.


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