the argument from complexity (question from an atheist)

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the argument from complexity (question from an atheist)

I've been reading for a long time, but have finally decided to register after a continuous point has been brought up in my debates. Kirk Cameron said it on the O'Reilly factor (boo!), and it was his "proof" to an existing deity in less than 60 seconds. Basically, this is what he said:


"I'm looking into a camera lens that is so spectacular and extraordinary, that it had to have been designed. The human eye is more of the same, a magnificent thing that has to be credited to a higher power".


Now I'm not asking about the eye analogy, I've seen documentaries on the evolution of the eye, and am very certain of it's credibility. My real question is, what is your response to this point that is often brought up in religious discussions? Ever since my teen years, it was an argument I always heard, "are you saying that your body full of cells and a solar system filled with magnificent unexplainable complexions wasn't created by something?" The short answer, of course not! The detailed answer, you explain.

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Your reply should be 'prove it'


The evolution of the light sensing cells in the eye from simple forms to complex can be followed and proven as you obviously know. The contention that "It's amazing, it must have been

designed" is speculation, can not be proven to be true and is not supported by the evidence we have.

This eye thing is an argument I run into a lot, too. If you were to prove the veracity of the evolution of the eye your protagonist will move on to the brain, to the workings of cells, to the structure

and complexity of DNA, and ultimately to the complexity of the universe and beyond, to the apparent envelope beyond the universe where god allegedly leads a tedious existence counting the number 

of times we think about  sex.

You could fill a book arguing the case for evolution and natural process in the universe but there is no magic bullet. Just a few things that occur to me are that the mitochondria driving our cells are hijacked bacteria, stripped of

RNA and leading a symbiotic existence inside our cells. The chlorophyll inside leaves is algae. It goes on and one. The key point is there must be an argument based on demonstrable fact not a sense of awe.






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"Complexity" as such is not

"Complexity" as such is not an argument for a conscious designer, especially if it is more complex than strictly necessary.

The more imperfections we can identify in the object, the less it is evidence for a 'designer', especially a God-like one.

Our eye has many imperfections, that some other creatures do not suffer from, such as the blood supply on the image side of the retina.

Same for many aspects of our minds and bodies. Our back is not well-designed for our upright posture, as our tendency to back injuries attests.


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I don't know enough about

I don't know enough about evolution to explain it to a theist, but that's because I never really had to bother. Most theists I know have already moved the goalposts : "Evolution is the way God created man", they say, and that's the end of that.

So I'm not really sure why this is considered an argument in the first place. Seems more like an argument from laziness to me. Kirk Cameron can grasp the concept of "to design something", but he can't grasp the concept of evolution, because that would involve cracking open a book that's not the bible and actually reading it.

Fair enough, I guess, but that turns his whole argument into a case of having your cake and eating it too. He wants there to be a "higher power", but at the same time he wants that higher power to be limited by his own ability to understand something. Actually, he wants this higher power to be limited by what he wants to understand.

That's not a "higher power" by any definition. That's just Kirk Cameron. I should hope there's a difference.


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rogersherrer wrote:My

rogersherrer wrote:
My real question is, what is your response to this point that is often brought up in religious discussions?


That Kirk Cameron is a stupid dill weed who is minimally qualified to tie his own shoes and not able to reasonably discuss the matters into which he injects himself?


However, that only deal with one specific case and as AE observes, the people who use such arguments have left themselves plenty of ground upon which they can beat a retreat if they are owned in a debate.


If you can find samples of a specific person's previous debates, you could study the directions they tend to retreat into and have some specifics ready for each of them. One example that I find to be quite annoying is the argument of the “fine tuned universe” which basically states that if you change one basic thing about the universe (say if the speed of light had been 1% faster or the strength of gravity had been 1% weaker) then the way that the universe would have developed would be such that we could not be here.


The problem is that that doesn't actually say anything. On basic observational grounds, we are here. So we have the universe that led to us and so what? That certainly does not mean that a universe that was slightly different would not in some time have produced minds to ask such questions.


Heck but once one allows that there might have been other ways that the universe could have developed, there are now a calculable number of “possible universes. Say that we allow for 10 basic parameters that could have come up to be any one of ten values each. Then there are 10^10 possible universes. Of that fairly large number, how many of those could have produced minds capable of speculating on such questions?


In any case, none of that says anything about a creator god.


Just for fun, let me suggest that there actually is some sense to the notion of special creation. What does any observation thus made lead us to in terms of some coherent notion of the creator? Nothing really. Perhaps god has a workshop where he makes universes. In that workshop he has a machine that does the job and our universe came about because he randomly spun the dials just to see what would come up.


Looked at that way, it becomes apparent that god may not have been doing anything special at all in special creation. Perhaps the “universe-o-matic” works a bit like the one armed bandits you see in casinos. God pulled the handle a couple hundred times and in a dozen cases, the lights flashed, bells run and god got a payout. God had nothing to do with how the machine was set up, what the final state of the machine was after a run or how much he got paid for the effort.


However, that also shows that positing a god does not account for complexity. If I have a project, I can go to my local Home Depot and buy my supplies. Does god go to “Universe Depot” for his supplies? Is there a deity version of the FBI that investigates price fixing in the top quark market? Who runs the factories where top quarks are made? How do you account for the complexity of the place where god lives and does his godlike stuff?

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First of all - WOO, my first

First of all - WOO, my first post here EVAR!



But to address your question, how do you respond to someone making that ridiculous complexity argument?


Well, first, point out to them that they're making a fallacious connection.  "The camera is complex, therefore it is obviously designed."


Well, no.  The camera is obviously designed because it's made out of materials and arranged and shaped in a way that does not appear in nature, and has no natural explanation.


I mean, if a piece of crabgrass is so startlingly more complex than a camera, why is it that we point to the camera and say "This must have been designed," and not the crabgrass?  Because one has an obvious natural origin, and the other does not.


Let's say you come across three rocks arranged in an unnatural manner, ala Stonehenge (you know, "where the demons dwell, and the banshees live, and they do live well" ).  You loudly exclaim, "Who designed this?!?!"  Obviously, the rock arrangement had a designer.  Is it particularly complex?  No, can't really say that it is, but it was obviously "designed" because it does not appear in a form that has a natural explanation.


So, complexity does not = designed.


This is the crux of their argument.  Work on deflating that, and their argument isn't really very defensible to the lay audience standing around gawking.


Here's a better example using the Watchmaker argument:


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