In part 1 of my response to Zac Sechler’s 36 Questions for Atheists, we looked at the very basic, most fundamental question of why there is something rather than nothing and how that relates to whether the universe is eternal or if a creator deity is responsible for its existence.
I had no problem admitting the limits of my knowledge at certain points, and it should certainly be pointed out that ignorance is not an excuse or reason for the existence of a god but is rather a reason for further study, further exploration, further hammering away at what we know about the universe until answers might be revealed.
With this next set of questions, we begin to look more at life itself, specifically its origins. So without further ado:
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Why is the universe so fine-tuned?
Gravity. The cosmological constant. The strength of the weak-force. The location of the earth in the solar system to allow for the existence of life. Everything we know about the universe seems fine-tuned — or “designed,” the apologist would want us to believe — to be support life. And not just life, but our life. Here. Now. Earth’s vast forests, living oceans, and everywhere else, all exist proving that the universe must have been tuned specifically for them because the odds that those conditions would arise on their own is, well, astronomical, right?
Well, not really. This question is a little disingenuous because it presupposes that life is a necessary end-goal for the universe. Instead, life is simply the result of the way that the universe is. When the Big Bang occurred and all matter and energy rapidly expanded and began to rapidly cool, everything occurred because of the laws of nature. These aren’t laws in the sense that someone wrote them down, got them approved by a legislative body, and what-have-you; rather, these are laws which simply describe what occurs in nature. Objects are attracted to each other in predictable and measurable ways; we describe that with the law of gravity. Objects move in predictable and measurable ways when forces are applied to them; we describe that with the laws of motion.
And the way the universe is allowed life to develop, potentially over and over again on countless extrasolar worlds, but at least once that we are sure of: here, on Earth.
To put it another way, if you were to dump out a bucket of Lego bricks, you might find that the resulting pile of bricks seems pretty chaotic, though you might also find that some of the bricks are attached together. Now, you could ask yourself, “Why was the bucket of bricks fine-tuned to create this structure?” or you could admit that the nature of the bucket of bricks was simply conducive of such structures forming.
The universe seems fine-tuned for life on Earth because the way the universe is is conducive to life like what we see here.
If your answer is the multiverse, why is there no evidence for that theory?
My answer wasn’t the multiverse, and while I love to speculate about the multiverse — often through misunderstandings like “every time we make a decision, a new branch in the multiverse sprouts” — I am not for sure what evidence there is for it. The multiverse, like related matters quantum theory, string theory, et al., is beyond my level of scientific understanding.
Is it possible that there is no natural explanation for the origin of life?
Is it possible? Sure, assuming something supernatural exists. However, that would mean that that which is supernatural must be able to interact and exist with nature, which makes even its interfering to originate life a natural action.
We may never know with perfect certainty what the origin of all life on Earth was; quite simply, we weren’t there. Rather, we can theorize about how it might have occurred and test those conditions in the lab, as has been done, with successful creation of some of the basic proteins needed for life to exist.
If a supernatural being, like a god, created the first life on Earth, that is not something I would be prepared to accept without some sort of evidence, starting with evidence of the supernatural being. Without that, faith or not, it’s all assumption. I can’t place my intellectual assent in assuming something that big without a real reason to; instead, I’ll stick with the scientific understanding of life as being a millions-of-years long reproductive chain of creatures, plants, fungi, and more changing bit by bit until we have the wondrous ecosystems of today.
So What Then?
If one allows for the existence of the supernatural, whether it be deities or leprechauns, wizards or poltergeists, we must admit a universe where literally anything could occur. Objects can be made to defy gravity with a wave of a wand, a woman can be formed from the rib of a man, and so much else. While science can explore endless depths of reality, explaining as much of it as it can within the terms of concrete scientific theory, if supernatural magic of any kind were possible, then would it really matter if science says that objects accelerate toward each other due to gravity? Science can’t explain supernatural occurrences. However, until such a time as supernatural occurrences are shown to be occurring (or are shown to have occurred), scientific explanation will do just fine for most of us.
That said, I boldly accept that as an unbeliever, according to the Christian Scriptures, I am incapable of seeing spiritual truths. My worldview is that of one who is spiritually “dead,” of one who is bound to natural explanations because I have rejected the Truth, as well as the explanations offered by every religion of which I am familiar.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s possible for two things to be true, from a certain perspective. Assuming the Bible is true, then Christians rightly believe in God and all that goes along with that belief; but also, assuming still that the Bible is true, the great many unbelievers in the world, myself included, are incapable of seeing that truth; instead, we see a world where God is not real and where the world operates according to natural processes (or some other religious beliefs, in the case of non-atheists).
Assuming still that the Bible is true, it’s impossible to reason a person into or out of the faith. However, I’m fairly certain that the Bible isn’t true simply by virtue of there being nobody around that seems to believe what it actually says, particularly in regard to how Jesus wanted people to live. Although maybe what the Bible seems to actually say is altogether different to one who is “spiritually alive.”
The point is, before I talk myself in circles ad nauseum, we should be less concerned with trying to prove or disprove Christianity and more concerned, perhaps, with being better Christians for those who claim to be and more peaceful secularists, for those who claim to be.
Maybe the universe is neither Christian nor atheist; maybe it and the life it contains is simply absurd. We are chunks of water and carbon arguing about minutia, and that’s something I think we can be endlessly amused by.