On the heels of reading Greenes Fabric of the Comos, I decided to turn my attentions to a more theistically-oriented discussion of cosmology. Per my habit, I spent the last weeks worth of lunch hours sitting in Barnes & Noble, reading on a new book (for free, of course!).

For my selection, I decided upon Hugh Ross Creator and the Cosmos. Written many years ago, Ross released a third revised edition in 2001. However, as is typical with scientific literature, even content written within the last 5 years shows its dating with a vengeance.

Yawn…okay, enough with the uninteresting introduction. In a nutshell, Ross seeks to provide an apology for the standard model, big bang cosmology. As an aside, this is thoroughly fascinating, for hints within the same work indicate that he is concomitantly and vehemently opposed to standard views of evolutionary biology. Back to the discussion: Ross purpose in donning the apologists hat for the big bang, interestingly enough, is to prove that the picture of the universes origins provided by big bang cosmology lays out an inescapable conclusion of theism. However, Ross goes even farther, and tries to suggest that big bang cosmology requires the identification of the Creator behind the cosmos with the God of the Bible (his words).

I will not cover all of the fallacies in Ross arguments, for there are many (and perhaps I will get to them in subsequent posts). However, the one I found most intriguing was Rosss attempt to rehabilitate Paleys so-called teleological proof for the existence of a Creator.

For those unacquainted, William Paley (an 18th century thinker) argued for a pre- intelligent-design rationale for the existence, intelligence and personality of a divine Creator. Paley suggested that the magnificent complexity of the physical universe was such that sheer statistics or chance could never arrange the constituent parts of creation into the organizational structures that are observed. As an illustration, he used the now famous example of a pocketwatch: that is, if one were to find a functional pocketwatch on the beach, would one assume that the watch had come into its organization complexity by chance, or naturally? Paley answered that of course one would not assume such a thing, and would rather presume that an individual had somehow left the watch there to be found. With this illustration in place, Paley argued that as the universe appears to be infinitely more complex in organization than a pocketwatch, one can only presume that someone has left the universe this way to be found, this someone, of course, being identified with a divine, transcendent Creator.

After rehearsing these issues, Ross deploys statistics impressively to mount a case for the improbability of the universe. He suggests that many thinkers retreat into the suggestion of an infinite number of universes (and therefore, and infinite range of probabilities) is without merit, as the universe that we know is the only one that we know and, in agreement with Brian Greenes conclusions, CAN be the only one we know.

Prima facie, Ross argument is compelling. After all, when the statistics that reveal how finely tuned the universe are discussed, it is difficult to deny that the probabilities of the universe being the way it is randomly are impossibly small.

I say this is compelling on the face of things, however, because belying the apparent logic is a serious philosophical problem. When Paley originally suggested his watch analogy, he was instantly ridiculed because the measure of design which he was incorporating presumed a prior knowledge of designedness. That is, the only reason one would assume that another person had dropped a pocketwatch on the beach (as opposed to it coming into such an organizational complexity without purposeful design) is precisely because one knows the origins of pocketwatches, their functions, and their common possessors.

It is clear that the same criticism applies to Ross logic. By appealing to the fine-tuning of the universe, Ross is introducing an extra-phenomenal criterion for determining design, that is, the presumption that organizational complexity implies intelligent purpose and design.

Let me get at this another way. Throughout his apologetic, Ross appeals incessantly to the improbability of the universe developing into the current form in light of the infinitely precise details that must have occurred in order for the universe not to abort during the earliest stages of development (and on into maturity, etc.). That is, he argues that if conditions had been any different, if the minute quantum fluctuations had been altered one way or another by the smallest degree, etc., then what we know today would not exist.

But again, the logic fails. The only place in which statistics are significant is if they can be compared and contrast to similar and divergently different realities. That is, the only way the intricate tuning of the universe can be statistically significant is if the probability field can be measured over and against the probability field of another or, preferably, other universes. However, Ross has already asserted that the meaningfulness of, as well as human ability to know about other universes is precisely nill. Therefore, Ross has effectively undermined his entire argument, for the only way the probability of the universe existing can be meaningfully determined is if it can be compared to other realities, realities which Ross denies human epistemology the ability to measure.

What Ross is advocating, therefore, is what I will call the hegemony of design. In short, this hegemony of design, as mentioned before, introduces to the analysis of physical phenomena an extra-phenomenal assumption about the nature and meaning of organizational complexity. Arguing from the basis of false analogies (like that of the pocket watch), this method of reasoning assumes certain conceptions about the origins of the universe (that is, of it being designed) and works to establish that this logic is sound in light of the preponderance of mathematical probabilities. However, as the meaning of these probabilities has been previously subverted by the assumptions of the meaningfulness of structure and organizational complexity within the universe, the statistics are deployed to illegitimate ends, useful only for shock value and misdirection.

Now the antagonist of my critique may ask how I can ignore the statistics. After all, the universe does appear to be of such a fine-tuning that any alteration one way or the other in myriad places would have aborted the universe we know today. In response, I would first agree that the universe does appear to be infinitely fine-tuned, and that theoretical deviations from the current tuning would be abortive. However, to return to my previous arguments, it is philosophically meaningless to consider the statistics. Why, the antagonist asks?

To begin, I agree with Ross that we cannot know of the existence of other universes. The nature of ours is such that all of our potential observations of X is necessarily limited to that in which X attains. As the only knowledge of X that we have comes from the universe in which we live, our epistemological capacity for knowledge of phenomenological reality is therefore restricted to this universe. Therefore, as has already been pointed out, speculations about the probabilities of our universe existing are illegitimate because they cannot be compared and contrasted to the probabilities of other universes existing, which, as we have already pointed out, is zero (or at least our ability of determining such, which yields the same result). This conclusion necessarily takes the probabilities, however slight and minute they were, and infinitizes them.

How, one asks? Well, if the possible capacity of knowing of other universes and their probabilities of existence
s zero; and the probabilistic meaningfulness of the existence of our universe is dependent necessarily upon not only the existence of other universes, but also on our ability to know of them; then one must conclude that the probabilistic meaningfulness of our universe existing is precisely equal to the number of universes which exist and of which we have knowledge. As zero and infinitude are statistically equivalent, it is clear that this method of reasoning is seriously flawed.

But even more importantly, it must be considered that the probabilities of our universe existing are without meaning because, in the final analysis, we have knowledge of our universe existing. Regardless of what statistical improbabilities one may assign to the origin and development of our universe, most would agree that it does, in fact, exist. Therefore, to speculate about the statistics which would mitigate the existence of our universe is without value for our universe exists, and we have no knowledge of it not existing, or existing in any infinite number of forms.

Now those who know me understand that I believe in a divine Creator. Therefore, my criticism of Ross has nothing to do with an antipathy for theism, or even theistic creationism. My beef, rather, proceeds from his attempt (and arrogant claim) to provide philosophical and naturalistic proof for the existence of God. While commended by many within Christian circles, I feel that this approach inadvertently subverts faith. By advocating that proof can be found in nature and philosophy, one necessarily suggests that something of God is objectively discernible in the created order. But if this is true, can one truly speak of God as transcendent? I would argue to the contrary. By classical reasoning, that which is objective is something that can be established apart form the mediation of extra-objectival contexts. However, the very suggestion of Ross and other asserts, perhaps unintentionally, that humans are somehow capable of engaging that which is objective apart from the mediating influences of the contexts in which they exist. If this is case, in what ways are humans different from God? If humans are capable of identifying and discerning objective reality within (and in spite of) the milieu of the subjectivities of the universe which would seem to be inextricably related to human existence, it would appear that we have a property that allows us to transcend the parameters of the universe in which we live so that we might adjudicate the nature and precise identification of objective reality. This, however, sounds like the properties of a deity, not that of the deitys creations.
As I have preached time and again, belief about the divine creation of the universe is the property of faith, not of proof. By Ross own logical framework, the verification of divine existence and creation cannot be properly located within human epistemology, nor within scientific pursuits (although he would, of course, deny this conclusion). In reality, the need to assert proof about the existence of God is hardly religious; rather, it would appear to fall into the same category of Adams primal sin (although dressed in religious clothes), for it seeks to establish the existence of God within the parameters of human epistemology; that is, the existence and reality of God is qualified according to human structures of logic and reasoning (God exists on human epistemologys terms). Do not misunderstand me: I am not saying that Ross is a pantheist, nor that his motivations are diabolical and consciously sinful. Rather, I think his assumptions represent a dangerous tendency that exists in human spirit, to assert the existence of self over-and-against that of the creator. Ironically, such approaches as Ross follow in the same line while consciously trying to accomplish exactly the opposite.