If you are meeting someone for the first time, it is a good idea to put your best foot forward, to be polite, kind, positive, and friendly. If you are trying to persuade someone to take the idea that there is a God seriously, it would be a good idea to put your best foot forward, to lay out some of your best and strongest arguments right up front.
But in her article “Is There a God?” Marilyn Adamson puts forward some obviously illogical and defective arguments for the existence of God at the very beginning of her case. No professional philosopher would put forward such crappy arguments as those that make up Adamson’s first “reason” for believing in God, so it is very unlikely that Adamson’s article was looked over by a professional philosopher or that Adamson consluted a professional philosopher for feedback on her article.
The jaw-dropping stupidity and ignorance of those initial arguments made it difficult for me to continue reading the article or to take seriously anything else that Adamson had to say in support of her belief in the existence of God. She completely destroyed her own credibility in the opening paragraphs of the article.
Here is the first of the six reasons Adamson gives for believing that God exists:
1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.
Many examples showing God’s design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:
The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.
Adamson goes on to give a couple more examples, but these first two are sufficient to show the stupidity and ignorance of this first set of reasons or arguments.
Let’s summarize these two arguments. The size of the Earth is just right:
(SJR) The size of the Earth is just right, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
The Earth is the right distance from the Sun:
(RDS) The Earth is the right distance from the Sun, so that the Earth can sustain plant, animal and human life.
These are clearly and obviously bad reasons for believing in God. A little knowledge about philosophy or about astronomy or about the history of cosmology and astronomy would have prevented Adamson from putting forward these stupid and ignorant arguments.
If a philosopher had reviewed her article, or if an astonomer had reviewed her article or if someone with knowledge of the history of philosophy or the history of cosmology or the history of astronomy had provided feedback to Adamson, we would have been spared from having to read this ignorant and illogical crap.
One obvious objection to these arguments (and to other similar arguments) has been available for over 430 years:
Giordano Bruno introduced in his works the idea of multiple worlds instantiating the infinite possibilities of a pristine, indivisible One. Bruno (from the mouth of his character Philotheo) in his De l’infinito universo et mondi (1584) claims that “innumerable celestial bodies, stars, globes, suns and earths may be sensibly perceived therein by us and an infinite number of them may be inferred by our own reason.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_pluralism)
If there are “innumerable” stars and planets and “innumerable” solar systems, then it is to be expected that some of those planets would be the right size and the right distance from a star (i.e. a sun) so that it could sustain plant, animal and human life. If you buy just one lottery ticket, you probably will not win the lottery, but if you buy millions of lottery tickets, then you will have a good chance of winning the lottery. This is a very simple and obvious point related to probability.
The same logic applies to the probability of there being a planet that is the right size and the right distance from a star so that the planet can sustain plant, animal and human life. If the universe contains billions or trillions of solar systems, then it is to be expected that some planets would be the right size and the right distance from a sun so that they could sustain plant, animal and human life. There is no need for the hypothesis of an intelligent designer to explain the existence of a planet with the right size and located at the right distance from a sun to support life. Any professional philosopher or astronomer would understand this point and would immediately reject these two arguments put forward by Adamson.
Bruno’s theory about the universe is called “cosmic pluralism”:
Cosmic pluralism, the plurality of worlds, or simply pluralism, describes the philosophical belief in numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth (possibly an infinite number), which may harbour extraterrestrial life.
Actually, this idea was around long before Bruno was born. In fact, cosmic pluralism was introduced into western thought near the very beginning of western philosophy by Anaxagoras, a pre-socratic philosopher:
If Empedocles acheived a kind of immortality as a precursor of Darwin, his contemporary Anaxagoras is sometimes regarded as an intellectual ancestor of the currently popular cosmology of the big bang. Anaxagoras was born around 500 BC in Clazomenae, near Izmir, and was possibly a pupil of Anaximenes. …
Here is his account of the beginning of the universe: ‘All things were together, infinite in number and infinite in smallness; for the small too was infinite. While all these things were together, nothing was recognizable because of its smallness. Everything lay under air and ether, both infinite’ (KRS 467). This primeval pebble began to rotate, throwing off the surrounding ether and air and forming out of them the stars and the sun and the moon. The rotation caused the separation of dense from rare, of hot from cold, of dry from wet, and bright from dark. But the separation was never complete, and to this day there remains in every single thing a portion of everything else. …
The expansion of the universe, Anaxagoras maintained, has continued in the present and will continue in the future (KRS 476). Perhaps it has already generated worlds other than our own. As a result of the presence of everything in everything, he says,
men have been formed and the other ensouled animals. And the men possess farms and inhabit cities just as we do, and they have a sun and a moon and the rest just like us. The earth produces things of every sort for them to be harvested and stored, as it does for us. I have said all this about the process of separating off, because it would have happened not only here with us, but elsewhere too. (KRS 498)
Anaxagoras thus has a claim to be the originator of the idea, later proposed by Giordano Bruno and popular again today in some quarters, that our cosmos is just one of many which may, like ours, be inhabited by intelligent creatures.
(A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 1: Ancient Philosophy, by Anthony Kenny, p.24-25)
The idea of cosmic pluralism has been around for nearly 2,500 years! This idea was born at about the same time that western philosophy began to exist.
Presumably, Adamson is ignorant of ancient philosophy, and has no knowledge about Anaxagoras and his idea of cosmic pluralism. Presumably, Adamson is ignorant of the history of philosophy in the Renaissance and the history of the Roman Inquisition (Bruno was burned at the stake –by the brilliant intellectual Christians who were leaders of the Roman Inquisition–for his various dangerous and heretical ideas, including cosmic pluralism). But because cosmic pluralism has been a part of Western thought for about 2,500 years, even someone who is completely ignorant about the history of philosophy and the history of astronomy ought to be aware of this view of the universe.
Has Adamson never seen a Star Trek episode or movie? Has Adamson never seen a Star Wars movie? Has Adamson never read a science-fiction book or story? Science-fiction stories and movies commonly assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, so one would have to religiously avoid reading any science-fiction story or watching any science-fiction movie or any science-fiction television program in order to be unfamiliar with the idea that our universe might be filled with solar systems and with planets that are the right size and that are at the right distance from a sun, so that they can support plant, animal and human life. What planet did Adamson come from? Apparently, she came from a planet where there are no science-fiction stories, no science-fiction movies, and no science-fiction television programs. What a sad little world that must be.
One might object, at this point, that cosmic pluralism is a matter of speculation. Anaxagorus was not a scientist, at least not in the modern sense. He did not use a telescope to observe the planets in our solar system or the stars in our galaxy. Bruno was not a scientist; he was a philosopher and theologian. Bruno arrived at his theory of the universe based on abstract philosophical and theological reasoning, not on the basis of empirical science, not on the basis of careful observations and measurements, not on the basis of experiments. Science-fiction stories and movies might well assume the truth of cosmic pluralism, but that doesn’t mean that we ought to believe that cosmic pluralism is true; fiction can be based on false or unproven assumptions.
In the next post in this series, I will address this question about whether cosmic pluralism is reasonable and whether there is scientific evidence to support it.