Sunday, April 14, 2013

Too hard, even for God?

I recently started reading The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson. Close to the beginning of the book I came across this quote:
"By what force of evolutionary dynamics, then, did our lineage thread its way through the evolutionary maze? What in the environment and ancestral circumstance led the species through exactly the right sequence of genetic changes? 
The very religious will of course say, the hand of God. That would have been a highly improbable accomplishment even for a supernatural power. In order to bring the human condition into being, a divine Creator would have had to sprinkle an astronomical number of genetic mutations into the genome while engineering the physical and living environments over millions of years to keep the archaic prehumans on track. He might as well have done the same job with a row of random number generators. Natural selection, not design, was the force that threaded this needle." (pp. 50-51)
I read that and thought, "Wait, so his argument against the existence of God, or at least the creation is: Because it is too hard and involves an incredibly complex number of interactions across several billion years, and because I would consider that too hard for any being that I can conceive of, it is therefore too hard for God. Thus he could not have done it. It must have been random because otherwise it would have been too hard for any being that I can conceive of."

So in other words, whether or not God could have created humans through a long and involved process, is limited by whether or not a single man can conceive of it being possible? That seems rather, um... limiting to me. I glad that the universe, and God doesn't limit themselves to only do what a single scientist, philosopher or even group of scientists and philosophers think possible. If that were the case, then the universe would be an awfully boring place.

This quote was also rather interesting because I had just read an article about how one philosopher's questioning of materialism and of randomness being the determining force behind our existence got him branded a heretic by the scientific and philosophical community. I put that philosopher's book on my "to read" list. I'll get to it after I finish The Social Conquest of Earth.

The rest of the book so far has been pretty interesting. I like it, even if the author occasionally takes unwarranted swipes at religion every so often. I also really get the sense that he is arguing against a conception of God that I also find untenable, and if that is how it really is then I too would agree with him, but it's not so I don't.

PS: Also when he mentioned "an astronomical number of genetic mutations" I was reminded of this quote from Richard Feynman:
"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."


LL said...

It's not what you look at. It's what you see. (Thoreau) or put another way, the world around you is a reflection of your reaction to the world around you.

I'd argue that an understanding of the nature and character of God is THE most important thing that we can acquire in life because it opens the door to understanding everything of importance. The argument follows from that - when or if do you know that you're right. When you say, "God told me", in the parlance of the modern, 'progressive world that we live in', you 'need to be locked up'.

RT and M said...

I like your postscript.