Teleological Argument Refutations

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I got to take an Apologetics course this week, but of things I’ve learned before. I’ve decided to take an opposite stance on the subject of Christianity, and try to refute the arguments for the existence of God. This is the part that comes tomorrow. The rest of the arguments are cake to refute, but there’s one that certainly is not. I know this may not be advisable, but I’m getting fed up with learning the same things over and over, so, well…

Anyway, I need your help on refuting the Teleological argument. This basically states that, because Planet Earth is so precisely in the exact same spot, and if gravity shifted 1^37 degrees we’d all die (etc.) then there must be a Designer. There are hundreds of different factors that play into this, so it apparently proves the existence of God.

I once heard a comparison that goes along the lines of “You see a puddle filled with water, but you don’t assume the hole was made precisely for the water”. Here, I’m looking for numbers. Statistics. Something more than “Well.. it only needed to happen once…”

Thanks :)

 
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Hm… I’m not sure. I know planets would have formed regardless, but…

 
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This one is fairly easy.

“You see a puddle filled with water, but you don’t assume the hole was made precisely for the water”.

That’s close. I always heard “Is it not convenient for the puddle to observe that its bottom is the same shape as the depression in which it rests?”

There are no numbers on this, really. However, we can show that the temperature of earth is not what it is now, and that the atmosphere has changed quite a bit (wikipedia has all this information on it). Life was able to arise then, and exist now, thereby showing that conditions under which life is possible are by no means unilateral.

You can therefore conclude that life is incredibly resilient. Perhaps the argument “It only needed to happen once” doesn’t fly for your teacher, but there is no reason that it shouldn’t. Sure, it was unlikely that a self-replicating molecule would form. But from that, it was practically a certainty that cells would arise. And then evolution kicks in, and viola! Down the road, life as we know it.

 
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This basically states that, because Planet Earth is so precisely in the exact same spot, and if gravity shifted 1^37 degrees we’d all die (etc.) then there must be a Designer.

This argument is complete bunk.

If our orbit was just that little bit closer to the sun, we would have evolved to thrive in those conditions. The same for every single other factor mentioned. The puddle analogy is very apt – the depression isn’t shaped specifically for the puddle, the puddle naturally shapes itself to fit the depression.

http://www.kongregate.com/forums/9/topics/33822?page=9#posts-734364

 
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Originally posted by Jabor:

This basically states that, because Planet Earth is so precisely in the exact same spot, and if gravity shifted 1^37 degrees we’d all die (etc.) then there must be a Designer.

This argument is complete bunk.

If our orbit was just that little bit closer to the sun, we would have evolved to thrive in those conditions. The same for every single other factor mentioned. The puddle analogy is very apt – the depression isn’t shaped specifically for the puddle, the puddle naturally shapes itself to fit the depression.

http://www.kongregate.com/forums/9/topics/33822…

What exactly is the definition of complete bunk? I also would like to point out that “we would have evolved to thrive” is a theory and not a fact

 
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“we would have evolved to thrive” is a theory and not a fact

Animals changing in order to thrive is a definite fact within evolutionary theory. It’s practically the definition of the word.

But I don’t want to get bogged down in evolutionary theory again. The refutation is what Jabor and Fuzzy said. We have evolved to fit the current conditions of the Earth, which is why it’s well suited for us.

If the Earth were not suitable for human life, then it would be different life and there might be 10-foot tall blue shrimp talking on the telekinesis interlink about how lucky they are to have strong gravity and an atmosphere of life-giving sulphur dioxide(or whatever).

If there was no life at all, we would not be here having this conversation.

 
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You can therefore conclude that life is incredibly resilient. Perhaps the argument “It only needed to happen once” doesn’t fly for your teacher, but there is no reason that it shouldn’t. Sure, it was unlikely that a self-replicating molecule would form. But from that, it was practically a certainty that cells would arise. And then evolution kicks in, and viola! Down the road, life as we know it.

Well, my teacher is teaching us evidence for the existence of God. I’m just refuting them, for the fun of it. And I want a more convincing argument than that.

but there is no reason that it shouldn’t. Sure, it was unlikely that a self-replicating molecule would form

Unlikely or impossible?

Originally posted by unproductive:

“we would have evolved to thrive” is a theory and not a fact

Animals changing in order to thrive is a definite fact within evolutionary theory. It’s practially the definition of the word.

Indeed. But if you have a single cell in extreme conditions, what are the chances that it will live?

 
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Originally posted by unproductive:

“we would have evolved to thrive” is a theory and not a fact

Animals changing in order to thrive is a definite fact within evolutionary theory. It’s practially the definition of the word.

well i should have asked jabor to explain what “just that little bit closer to the sun” means.

 
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The standard answer: The inability to comprehend a concept doesn’t imply its nature. http://skepticwiki.org/index.php/Argument_from_Incredulity

However, the most brilliant answer is this: “If the universe were slightly different, no one would be around to ask the question.” – Stephen Hawking
Translation: If this is the only way the universe works, then there wouldn’t be existence in any of the others. There is existence, so obviously we’re in the universe that works.

Oh, this one’s usually the easiest to understand (I can’t find any of the probability for this argument). Take a number of decks of cards, I think it’s 3. Shuffle them, and then deal them out all in a row on the table. You could reshuffle the deck and replace them for the rest of your natural born life, and it’s nearly statistically certain that you will never see the same order ever again, yet you got it that first time. Is the order you got somehow special? This probability is higher than the probability of the universe. It’s more likely to get our universe than it is to redraw the same cards in the same order.

Last one: By that definition of creation, what way could the universe be that wouldn’t be created? That is, if the universe were any way, teleological arguments would still apply.

 
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Indeed. But if you have a single cell in extreme conditions, what are the chances that it will live?

Extreme conditions by whose standards? The cell must be able to survive in whatever conditions it’s developed in, otherwise it wouldn’t have developed there. As the conditions change, the generations that are best adapted to the changes will survive and reproduce, passing on the adaptations to their offspring. Evolution, in other words.

 
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Let’s go with an obvious, easy one. If there was no oxygen. Or if there was no gravity.

 
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well i should have asked jabor to explain what “just that little bit closer to the sun” means.

When I see that argument, something that’s usually in it is how Earth is “the perfect distance from the Sun”, and how we wouldn’t be able to survive if it was a little bit closer.

Which is sort of true – if Earth’s orbit suddenly changed to a closer, faster one, Earth would likely heat up so much that humankind couldn’t survive. But that has nothing to do with the original evolution of life – we are well-adapted for these conditions because these are the conditions we evolved under. If we evolved under different conditions, we’d be well adapted for those conditions and might not even be able to survive under what the conditions we have now.

EDIT:

Let’s go with an obvious, easy one. If there was no oxygen. Or if there was no gravity.

Are you seriously asking for arguments as to how life would have evolved if the laws of physics were completely different?

 
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There are lots of bacteria in your gut that can live perfectly happily without oxygen, and if there was no gravity then, well, the Earth and stars wouldn’t have formed in the first place. The laws of physics would be completely different and it wouldn’t really be the same universe.

 
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Originally posted by Jabor:

well i should have asked jabor to explain what “just that little bit closer to the sun” means.

When I see that argument, something that’s usually in it is how Earth is “the perfect distance from the Sun”, and how we wouldn’t be able to survive if it was a little bit closer.

Which is sort of true – if Earth’s orbit suddenly changed to a closer, faster one, Earth would likely heat up so much that humankind couldn’t survive. But that has nothing to do with the original evolution of life – we are well-adapted for these conditions because these are the conditions we evolved under. If we evolved under different conditions, we’d be well adapted for those conditions and might not even be able to survive under what the conditions we have now.

I would assume that even you would agree that there are limits to that statement right? for example, 1 degree hotter vs 200 degrees hotter?

 
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This is essentially the anthropic argument. It takes two popular forms: The Strong Anthropic Argument, and the Weak Anthropic Argument.

What you have in the class is the strong version, which is usually used in support of a creator. It essentially states that the requirements for our life are so fine-tuned, that a creator must be involved.

The weak version states that, had the requirements not been close and precise and accurate enough, we would not be here to ask any questions. Thus, if we are here to ask questions, clearly it will always appear that there was a creator.

Note I am not taking any side on this matter: I’m frankly not in the mood for a stagnant debate. I’m just showing you the argument and the counter-argument.

Plus, if you want to cite some references on the weak principle (as it seems you would like to), I would recommend checking the following books out of the library:

The Constants of Nature by John Barrow and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Pay special attention to the 10th or so page of Chapter 8 of Hawking’s book (or starting page 124 if you manage to get the one published in paperback in 1990)

 
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I would assume that even you would agree that there are limits to that statement right? for example, 1 degree hotter vs 200 degrees hotter?

There are worms living next to deep-sea vents where their tails are at 400 degrees centigrade and their heads are almost freezing. Life can survive in the most unexpected places.

 
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Well, I need this by tomorrow. But I’ll check out (literally xD) the book by Hawking and email my teacher about it. Thankies.

Also, we’re looking for a refutation of the strong version of the anthropic argument.

Life can survive in the most unexpected places.

But they have evolved to this stage, right?

 
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Indeed. But if you have a single cell in extreme conditions, what are the chances that it will live?

Pretty damn good.

 
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Odd, for some reason my post got saved way above when I posted.

 
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I was hoping you would post- and thanks for that link.

Out of curiosity, can a cell in such extreme conditions evolve?

Oh, this one’s usually the easiest to understand (I can’t find any of the probability for this argument). Take a number of decks of cards, I think it’s 3. Shuffle them, and then deal them out all in a row on the table. You could reshuffle the deck and replace them for the rest of your natural born life, and it’s nearly statistically certain that you will never see the same order ever again, yet you got it that first time. Is the order you got somehow special? This probability is higher than the probability of the universe. It’s more likely to get our universe than it is to redraw the same cards in the same order.

That confused me the first time I read it, because I thought you said “three cards”… but now I get it. And thanks :)

 
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The problem is that it focuses on our life. Yes, the requirements for us to survive are very specific, but that’s because we’ve evolved to these specific conditions. In the past conditions were different and so animals were different.

Originally posted by Pink_Fuzzy_Bunny:


Life can survive in the most unexpected places.

But they have evolved to this stage, right?

Well yes, or they wouldn’t be here.

Originally posted by Pink_Fuzzy_Bunny:

I was hoping you would post- and thanks for that link.

Out of curiosity, can a cell in such extreme conditions evolve?

No reason why it shouldn’t. If any genetic mutations passed onto offspring confer an advantage in those extreme conditions, then those offspring will be more likely to survive and pass on the mutations to their offspring. And so on and yadda yadda yadda.

I feel I should say that it’s not the cell itself that evolves, it’s the ‘species’ of cell that will gradually get better adapted to whatever changes occur in the environment.

 
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can a cell in such extreme conditions evolve?

Yes. They are just a different branch from their main families, having evolved to adapt their extreme surroundings. If their environment changes then they will change, just as any other organism would.

 
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The problem is that it focuses on our life. Yes, the requirements for us to survive are very specific, but that’s because we’ve evolved to these specific conditions. In the past conditions were different and so animals were different.

Good point.

I feel I should say that it’s not the cell itself that evolves, it’s the ‘species’ of cell that will gradually get better adapted to whatever changes occur in the environment.

Well, yeah…

 
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Good point.

Well, it’s really just the point that’s being made by the puddle/hole analogy above. The requirements for the puddle to exist in the form it does are very specific, but that’s because the water has changed shape to fit the hole. If the hole was a different shape then the water would form a different shape.

 
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That is an awesome way to explain it and I’ve never heard it before.