Design of the Universe: John Lennox

John Lennox interview from the small group evangelism resource ‘Glad You Asked’.

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6 Responses to Design of the Universe: John Lennox

  1. tildeb says:

    Yes, 1 times 10 raised to the power of 40 is a very large number. Yes, one divided by this very large number is a very small number. In the language of probabilities, expressed as no probability whatsoever to be at zero and absolute certainty to be at one, we almost always have a probability calculation that appears as P= some decimal between the value of zero and one. Lennox uses probabilities to express a very common misperception that underlies the fine tuning argument: just how unlikely it appears that the universal constants are what they are. The assumption is that the universal constants didn’t have to be this way, that they could be tildeb: different than what they actually are. But this is an abuse of probabilities because it fails to recall the change in results. Can there really be some other values for the universal constants we have? This question is key to understanding why the argument for fine-tuning simply offers us nothing in favour of design.

    I want to take a moment to explain why the difficulty so many people seem to have regarding what probabilities mean. This is fundamentally a before-and-after issue for our calculations that directly relates to the notion of the ‘fine-tuning of the universe’ argument we come across again and again in theological arguments for design.

    To get away from the emotional attachment of there being a god for a moment to better grasp the problem of why the probabilities of universal constants do not inform the design argument, consider the ‘evidence for design’ in something unrelated… say, a lottery.

    At the ‘before’ end of figuring out the probability of winning let’s say a 6/49 lottery, we can calculate the odds (the figures aren’t important but we multiply 49x48x47…x1 and then because we must have 6 correct numbers we divide this very large number by 6x5x…1. The ‘chances’ of ending up with exactly those numbers needed to win the lottery are almost zero. It is one chance in about 14 million!) This probability is expressed as P=0.00000007151. That’s a very small number from which can conclude that winning the jackpot, as most people know, is almost impossible. At the very least, the chances are so small that it could be argued that surely some other agency must intervene on behalf of guiding or designing a winning ticket. But is that true?

    At the ‘after’ end of figuring out the probability of winning this lottery we have only two results: the tickets that did not win no longer have any chance at all (P=0). The ticket that did win won (P=1). It is what it is, one highly unlikely winner out of millions of probable losers. The point to remember here – and the one conveniently forgotten in the fine-tuning argument – is that the number of probable losers does not in any way take away from having a winner.

    We come to know nothing more about this winning lottery ticket (P=1) when we consider just how extraordinarily unlikely it was that such a thing could happen. Nor do we inform the knowledge about winning a lottery any further by examining in minute detail how this specific winning ticket came to be purchased, by whom, under what circumstances, and so on. We have no merit to assert that because the probability that winning the lottery was so unlikely before the draw happened by looking at the probability of any random ticket that therefore the specific ticket that won after the draw must therefore be evidence of some exterior intervening agency that ‘designed’ it to be so. Let us grant that this specific ticket that won is not evidence that it didn’t have to be this way; all this winning ticket shows us is that that the numbers drawn were the same as the ones on this ticket. That’s why this ticket won and no other agency other than the slimmest of probabilities was responsible. Remember, ALL of the tickets might have had the winning number; because one was going to be a winner, we can do these calculations. Once a ticket or the universal constants is the winner, ALL the others no longer matter in our calculations.

    The same principle holds true with universal constants (P=1). That’s the way it is, which is not evidence that just because it could have hypothetically been any different before the universe came into being (P=?, whatever that may mean) in no way informs us of agency other than anything more than the unlikeliest of probabilities after the universe became what it is. Pining about what might have been if these constants were somehow different is a futile exercise of wishful thinking that does not further our knowledge of what is. But asserting that what is requires some agency other than the lowest of probabilities is no argument because we know with our lottery example that that is simply not true. We do NOT require outside agency for a probability to increase to fact, to go from P=0.00000007151 to P=1. As far as an explanation for why these constants are the way they are, randomness suffices in the same way that a lottery ticket goes from being a probable loser to an improbable winner.

    Defend the Word: There are only few “minor” problems with your analogy. First your understanding of statistics and reality of our existence don’t match. Likewise your confidence does not improve your chance of winning the argument simply because of your wishful thinking.

    Secondly your accusation that the professor of mathematics could not grasp this, and this is one that has gained a recognition by the Britons best university (Professor of Mathematics at Oxford) is astonishing. Secondly your argument is valid if we have multitude of options with millions of missing components remember that you still have only 6 numbers to guess and only 40 or so to choose from.

    What we are talking here is if someone is to win lottery over 100 times and all one after another if this was to happen you would very quickly get police knocking on your door with the warrant for your arrest. I’m afraid it is your understanding of the complexity of the universe that is letting you down and your confidence only increases the obviousness why atheists get this so badly wrong.

    The only reason I continue to engage with you is to show you and the rest of the world how average atheist simply lacks understanding and willingness to consider these issues seriously.

  2. There are only few “minor” problems with your analogy. First your understanding of statistics and reality of our existence don’t match. Likewise your confidence does not improve your chance of winning the argument simply because of your wishful thinking.

    Secondly your accusation that the professor of mathematics could not grasp this, and this is one that has gained a recognition by the Britons best university (Professor of Mathematics at Oxford) is astonishing. Secondly your argument is valid if we have multitude of options with millions of missing components remember that you still have only 6 numbers to guess and only 40 or so to choose from.

    What we are talking here is if someone is to win lottery over 100 times and all one after another if this was to happen you would very quickly get police knocking on your door with the warrant for your arrest. I’m afraid it is your understanding of the complexity of the universe that is letting you down and your confidence only increases the obviousness why atheists get this so badly wrong.

    The only reason I continue to engage with you is to show you and the rest of the world how average atheist simply lacks understanding and willingness to consider these issues seriously.

  3. tildeb says:

    Tildeb: No, DTW, you miss the point… again: the universe is. The only probability of fine-tuning we need to concern ourselves with is what is, unless and until you can provide evidence that counters it. That goes for Lennox, too, but of course he can’t. He doesn’t have it. The universe is exactly how it should be if no interventionist agency were present, and I can say this with a great deal of confidence because you and other creationists like Lennox have nothing – nada, zip, zilch – to show otherwise. Unbtil then, stop pretending that science and math lend any credence whatsoever to creationism. They don’t. Instead, you rely on the empty assertions of metaphysics and bad arguments like fine-tuning that have been discredited many times over. That you stick by them in spite of informed explanations and good reasons in their stead is a comment on the blinding power of your faith to adversely affect your willingness to consider these issues seriously.

    Defend the Word: All you have given me is your assertion which is very nice and hones of you. But what I really want is for you to consider the material information included and not talk confidently without actually addressing the issue.

    As usual I hear from many atheists there is much talking and boldly accusing Christians to be “creationists” and by that they often mean people with blind faith when in fact opposite is the truth.

    Atheists who have no supporting evidence make bold claims, and when that “evidence” is closely examined one could hardly believe the boldness and cheek as they attempt to pass it as scientific and verifiable data. This is precisely why so many people today have lost their faith in scientists. Note that I’m saying scientists not science. What is actually great about “creationists” is that their work is published and can be reviewed, there is no hidden agenda, it can be judged etc, etc. So I would suggest you get on with the work of sifting through that multitude of data.

    Whilst I agree that we all have bias towards our world views. Honest enquirer will put his/her opinions suspended whilst examining new data that may contradict their world view.

    Simply put I have no reason to change my opinion that atheism is as much religion as religion is. It is based on articles of faith that, there is no God, that we have become to exist and have evolved from out of nothing, that we must have multi-verses, that chance time and nothing will create something and the list goes on.

    None of this is based on any evidence, you could not deduce this information that we have available this atheistic opinion is simply extracted from the opposition to the data that clearly points in the opposite direction. So much so that even Richard Dawkins will admit that universe looks designed etc.

    Fact is that modern “creationists” use established science to show that it supports the idea of God the creator. To counter this argument atheists must heavily depend on theoretical ideas that are not grounded on real science. So tell me then who is being deluded and who is using current research to demonstrate likelihood of Gods existence. I think that any honest person would have to conclude that science whilst not spelling it out strongly supports the need for external influence upon the existence of life on this earth. So much so that Dr Dawkins thinks it may have been the work of aliens.

    This however raises the need for God further as these alien beings must be God like otherwise we are only moving the question of their origin one step backwards.

  4. Harry says:

    Harry: AS tidleb says, you are not taking into account the losers
    Even if there was no evidence for other universes you are making an assumption which is not proven. Ie we are the ONLY universe Unless you can prove that your argument means nothing. The onous of proof is on you.

    Defend the Word: In other words its OK when you do it make assumption but me deducing it from the available data is not OK. I recon that using scientific information is better than theoretical guess work that atheist often engage in.

    Harry: Yes if we were THE ONLY universe in existence then it might be considered amazing we are here. But there may be other universes. Not only that, but what if something was different? We would never have existed. But something else might have and their backward philosophers would be sitting there saying
    ‘if this wasnt this, we wouldnt exist’

    Defend the Word: So what you are saying is that Christians base their ideas on testable information AND atheist can speculate and speculation should win over established science. Tell me which one of these is based on faith?

    Harry: The view of the universe you are relying on is so selfish, so human centred. It is almost like that of the aincents who believed the earth was at the centre of the univers. The universe does not revolve around us, there is no evidence to say it does.

    Defend the Word: Actually the position of the earth in our galaxy is precisely placed so that we could observe the universe without losing the big picture. It’s almost as if someone knew you would be asking this question (Anyway most humans do that includes me) and you can find the answer. Now are you not grateful for that?
    On the other point you should be careful not to nullify the importance of humanity that is just as much based on the world view that is driven by its philosophy not science.

    Harry: I also find it interesting that I have used the rolling the dice analogy countless times in regards to planets habouring life and you have thrown it out the window. Even though it pretty much says exactly what tidleb said. However because he dressed it up a bit with P numbers etc you answered him.
    Ofcourse that is what all good creationists do, they try and make themselves look scientific by using big words and getting into debates with people who use big words.
    No offence tidleb, what you said is perfectly valid and legit. I am merely pointing at how Defend likes to play his game. As he bypasses me when i make the same point in more laymens terms.

    Defend the Word: Actually I am rather cautious with you as we have had our disagreements and I don’t like offending people. I also don’t enjoy telling people that they are wrong. However I will do this as I think there is something greater at stake here, bigger than personal pride. I appreciate that you are willing participant but by answering tidlebs objections I often answer your objection, except his may be more detailed and therefore I can use his argumentation and build on it. It is very difficult to do that with someone who simply says I disagree with you but provides no real argument behind his / her reasoning.

    I have gone into this in some details in the past and number of videos have been posted explaining the improbability of what you are proposing. Just think of this all the sand on the beach simply stays there, it may degrade in quality but it will not increase in complexity and if I suggested that you would be right to call me an idiot.

    Volume does not mean increase in possibility you need all the necessary ingredients before you can build your house.

    Lastly I will continue to thank you for your contribution and your effort, but if you are going to engage someone in conversation you should expect them to disagree with you on some points. I appreciate that you are thoroughly decent person but likewise you should respect the difference I hold in my world view. So whilst we may be different in our outlook on religion and creationism.

    I bet that there are many other areas where we may agree on. Like need to talk to others in a civilised way, desire to assess things scientifically, philosophical implications on our positions on issues of faith etc. etc. And this is why you will be welcomed here, but if you are making comments and asking me to defend my views then expect to get them. After all it would be rude for me not to address your questions if they were not addressed previously elsewhere. Note that in the engagement tab I have specifically included rule about not saying things again and again i.e. we will just have to agree to disagree on some issues.

    Kind regards

    Defend the Word

  5. tildeb says:

    Tildeb: None taken, Harry.

    Defend the Word: and there you go Harry even atheists excuse and endorse each other even when contradicting or unintentionally offending each other. Camaraderie is simply part of who we are and ganging up is a habit that is hard to brake. Sober thinking and time to settle your emotions is always good advice.

    Tildeb: you have made two points here I would like to address. The first is about the positioning of the earth, where you write

    Defend the Word previously: the position of the earth in our galaxy is precisely placed so that we could observe the universe without losing the big picture.

    Tildeb: This a new one to me. Can you explain this a bit more?

    Defend the Word: Because we are not positioned closer to the centre of the milky way galaxy we are able to observe universe far better now that we are attached to one of the spirals further out of the centre. This is why we can also see that there are many other galaxies and can therefore appreciate greatness of God.
    Psalms 147:4-5 say, “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.

    Tildeb: The second point is about sand and it inability to become more complex. Are you sure about that? As inert matter iself, the quartz crystal simply is: it neither gains complexity in this sense nor loses it so I’m not sure of your point here. If you mean matter of any kind cannot gain complexity, then just look to your wife who has had a baby and your baby that continues to grow and gain complexity. Obviously matter that is part of biological life (and evolution is only about biological matter) can and does gain complexity so your point seems to be pretty weak in either case. Remember, evolution is.

    Defend the Word: Actually you are catastrophically wrong on this point we know that DNA is unravelling and code is losing out on its original complexity this is precisely why we age. Therefore showing precisely Gods model that was corrupted by sin. Higher complexity when exposed to physical laws lead to degradation so yet again I have you to thank for reaffirming God’s creation.

    You are making great deal of assumptions, when you make such claim, if you think that we will go on like this indefinitely, when in fact all that you said is again unscientific. We have discovered this by cloning those animals that are cloned seam to age quicker and much talk has been around about the point in history where humans will not be able to reproduce eventually. This is assumed that our current life style stays on the current course of self-destruction with many bad choices we make due to bad diets, too much alcohol and drug taking both for medicinal purposes and recreational.
    So yet again the “evolution” points to destruction and need for external intervention to support life.

  6. misunderstoodranter says:

    “This is assumed that our current life style stays on the current course of self-destruction with many bad choices we make due to bad diets, too much alcohol and drug taking both for medicinal purposes and recreational.”

    And yet as a population our lives seem to be extended compared to our ancestors….

    Defennd the Word: That is not true, there are regional differences. And Bible itself tells us during the time of Moses this is 4,000 years ago that people lived up to the age of 80 and guess what we have about the same average life span. During the industrial revolution and due to disparity between reach and poor we did see significant drop but as we get better understanding that we should go back to the natural foods and exercise as before we use to do more manual work we find that our life span is increasing. But today mostly due to medical advances and not evolution we see we live longer even though not necessarily with better quality of life.

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