Chances are, if you've surfed around enough Internet environs hitting sites with religion-related keywords within, you've seen a certain heavily-distributed bright blue banner broadcasting a promised answer to that great question "Does God exist?" The breathtaking breadth of advertising behind this assurance shows that someone is putting serious bank behind selling the promised "six straight-forward reasons to believe that God is really there," credited to one Marilyn Adamson -- so it is ultimately sad to see how utterly it is that this essay fails to fulfill this promise, despite its best efforts (no, I'm not going to link it here; it's easy enough to find, and once I'm through here, you won't need to read it to know what it's all about).

Adamson swears to deliver "an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists." She first cautions, fairly enough, that "if a person opposes even the possibility of there being a God, then any evidence can be rationalized or explained away," comparing such a sentiment to a conviction that, no matter the evidence put forward, man has never actually walked on the moon. Naturally, however, this sentimentation carries the opposite baggage as well -- one who is attached to any one among the littany of equally disparate theistic gods can not have their particular conviction disturbed by any dose of logic, even their own!! So here is the world into which we now launch in critiquing this essay.

Fortuitous design

The first reason that Adamson puts forward is an argument from design, and in particular that "the complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today." This is indeed perhaps the most profound argument favoring the existence of a designer, but the problem is, the specific set of characteristics that Adamson initially chooses to highlight are easily dismissed as merely anthropomorphic. The Earth is "perfect" in size, Adamson vainly pleads, since its "size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth's surface." Adamson insists that on a 'smaller' Earth, "an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury," and as for a 'larger' Earth, "its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter," leaving Adamson to find that Earth to be the Goldilocks of the possibilities, "the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life."

But this is demonstrably wrong, and for three reasons. Firstly, there's a lot of ground to cover between Mercury and Jupiter, and it is known to be possible for a rocky planet of, say, three quarters Earth's volume, or three-and-half times its volume, to hold a "life-giving" sort of atmosphere. It is thought, still, that our smaller neighbor Mars may once have hosted life. Secondly, theorists have actually modeled the sort of life that might evolve and thrive within the clouds of Jupiter -- "life" requires only the opportunity for molecules to come together and self-replicate. Okay, so giraffes might not survive on Jupiter or a similarly gas-borne world, but something with a drastically different morphology could thrive there. Third, to say Earth is the only known X is to explicitly plead ignorance. To her credit, Adamson's essay was first put up before our astronomers began to unbundle their slow but steady stream of extrasolar rocky-planet discoveries -- bodies for which, if there is a God, there can be but one explanation!! But the claim is likenable to the man with a purple rug in his apartment who, having never ventured outside that building, announces that his is the only purple rug to exist. (And the following week, explorers begin to report various shades of newfound rugs from midnight to magenta.

Adamson also counts as fortunate Earth's temperate orbit, that "even a fractional variance in the Earth's position to the Sun would make life on Earth impossible" -- a claim that already seems to disregard that Earth already undergoes more than a fractional variance within its own orbit, and eschews mathematical evidence delineating the boundaries of possibility. Not to say that the Earth is not well suited to accommodate the conditions of life, but that there are sure to be countless suitably sized rocky worlds in this vast Universe which inhabit such zones, some of which we are now discovering. Adamson appears ignorant, also, of the simple fact that the Earth is (and constantly has been, and forever will be) increasing in size as it accretes new material drawn in from space, a fact testified to by every meteor shower ever seen.

A few other anthropic observations are tossed out by Adamson -- such as the beneficial effect of our orbiting Moon, begged to be "the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull" and which "creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents." The stagnation claim is unsupported, and so is the proposition that the Moon's size and distance are "perfect" (again ignorant of the simple fact that the Moon's orbital distance is slowly but constantly increasing -- when life began on Earth, it was a much closer satellite. And the last part is uproarious, since the Moon does nothing to prevent the oceans from defying gravity and crawling over higher land. Adamson also points to various fortuitous chemical properties of liquid water, and the evaporation cycle that it occupies -- but does nothing to prove that these differ elsewhere in our Universe where the substance can be found.

And lastly (for this point at least) Adamson points to the complexity and power of the brain and the eye, resolving that "evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain -- the start of living organisms from nonliving matter." Well let's be honest here, evolution does not even purport to explain abiogenesis. But it has exhaustively been explained how, once even the simplest life comes into existence, every sensory or processing organ conceivable can and will arise from that humble origin through natural selection -- and any Creator powerful enough to set forth our Universe out to be powerful enough to set forth one wherein our eyes and brains do indeed blossom from that interventionless process.

And so, up to this point in the essay, Adamson fails to appoint the characteristics of the Universe which require a God of any particular ilk.

First cause

Adamson's second argument is straight-up first cause: "The universe had a start - what caused it?" She affirms the conviction of modern science that "our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself." Actually, the conviction of the most cutting edge of modern science is that photons (ie "light") did not come exist in any form that would be perceptible as "light" for at least a few thousand years after the Big Bang, but why nitpick the details?

Adamson quotes "self-described agnostic" astrophysicist Robert Jastrow: "The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion.... The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen." This is an interesting point, since the full measure of this account contradicts typical religious accounts of Creation of our Universe, and so Adamson's embrace of this approach strikes a solid blow against creation-myth based theism -- but there are versions that it accords with perfectly, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, as specific faiths, and pandeism as a general model. So we may venture forward to find whether Adamson follows this trail to its logical, perhaps pandeistic, conclusion.

Fortuitous design, again

Adamson's next argument proves the lie of her earlier promise, for it is not an "additional" reason; but instead, it simply turns back to the fortuity of the Universe in asking why it is that our Universe operates by uniform laws of nature.

Noting the constancy of gravity, entropic transfer of atomic energy, and the unchanging speed of light in a vacuum (something which not all theists are able to square their brains with), Adamson asks, "how is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?" (One note here, Adamson also points with star-crossed ignorance to the constancy of the 24 hour day, when in fact the Earth has constantly been slowing in its speed of revolution about its axis, losing a fraction of a second to its day-length each year -- shortly after Earth's formation, we had full day-night cycles of only six of our modern hours; when life began, that period was perhaps twelve hours; and we will in the far future have days of thirty or fifty or more hours). From apologist Dinesh D'Souza, quotes Adamson, "The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn't have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence." And from Nobel physicist Richard Feynman, Adamson quotes, "why nature is mathematical is a mystery.... the fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle."

Although this is just another set of values bespeaking fortuity, it is a much better selection, and should have led the entire essay. Such a capacity of the Universe is, to be sure, not at all necessary for a theistic Universe in which a "contingent god" could be said to sustain principles of behavior, even for long periods on a basis of ad hocery. Indeed, the opposite is true -- if a theistic God were involved there would be no reason that there should be constants outside our local sphere, and we should observe the same chemical interactions having perhaps randomly varied effects in different star systems. But, such a capacity is indeed necessary in a pandeistic Universe, and so it is predicted by pandeism as well.

Just more "Fortuitous design"

The next promise of a further reason again rings false, in that it is merely a repitition of fortuitous design arguments already made twice -- this time with the complexity of DNA, for which Adamson diminishes theism itself when she incorrectly states "Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it."

This is a flat backward argument, not only because science has almost completely mapped out the mechanism by which the simplest DNA eventually becomes the most complex through copying errors (what we call "mutations"); and not only because every strand of DNA is filled with useless junk DNA, redundant parts, and in many cases, genetic defects, which would speak ill of any "designer"; but most of all because intentionally pre-programmed DNA would actually disprove the theistic gods. How is this? Well, because theistic gods are typically begged off as omnipotent, and so must have the power to create a system in which life is in fact self-originating, and self-advancing through a mutating molecular map such as DNA.

And so, if DNA is written wholesale rather then evolved, it would speak of a weaker Creator, one incapable of rolling out the self-advancing kind. The stronger model of the Creator, incidentally reflected in the deistic (and so also by import in the pandeistic model), is the one so powerful that it need only create our Universe, a Universe in which life arises and advances upon nothing more than the physics set forth in the moment of Creation.

Oh, great vanity of vanities!!

Adamson's next assumption appears to be one soothing to her own desire for self-importance, that "we know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him." Quoting socialist philosopher Malcolm Muggeridge's "notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued," she reveals the true vanity of vanities, the desire to be so intrinsically wonderful, so inherently individually important, that a being capable of creating the entire Universe must yearn for our attentions. A sharp example is Adamson's ego declaring "the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue." It seems odd in this light that "god" seems to pursue some through the purported revelation of the Qur'an, others through the Vedas, and others still through the Book of Mormon.

An observation often left lying on the cutting room floor is that "pursuit" and "god" are not necessarily coordinates. It could be that we are indeed pursued by a spiritual power, but that in itself is insufficient to prove that it is that particular power which has also initiated the creation of our Universe.

Fortunately, a more logical option is again available in the proposal that the only "God" which could account for all of these variations can be found by unearthing the paradigm beneath the pattern: an underlying unconscious force that unintentionally suffuses and binds all things together, leaving those able to brush up even slightly against the immensity of its capacity with the vague sense of its power -- a sense which vanity and bias and greed for adoration transforms into an earnest belief that one is indeed being pursued, that one's spiritual inclinations are justified, and which can, in the sufficiently talented, be manifested even in the form of things appearing to be answered prayers or physical miracles.

Adamson claims to have once been an atheist, but to have been brought to her religious convictions by the pursuit of the deity which happens to conform to the majority view of the particular society in which she lives. She similarly observes the memorialization of C.S. Lewis that "night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England." Were either of them an Iranian or a Pakistani, the same experience would have brought them to just as resolutely taken up Islam; living in Utah, they would have become devout apologists insisting after the Book of Mormon; living in an Amazonian tribe, each would be assured of the validity of their tribal gods. And so it is that the only formula that charts all of these possibilities is that all are incorrect, and the true spiritual basis of our Universe is one which eliminates the flawed contradictory elements of each formulation positing an active and intervening deity.

Cult member special pleading

This leads to Adamson's final vanity, the springing of the trap, the errant claim that "unlike any other revelation of God, {insert cult here} is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us." This formulation of phrase strangely requires some recognition of truth in the revelations of religions, including those that flatly contradict the one that happened to be most popular to Adamson's home ground. As all other revelations are indeed acknowledged to be revelations "of God" but the rest are somehow unclear. And, as the pandeistic model already fully accounts for all experiences masquerading as revelations and miracles, it is unnecessary to examine the relative strengths of individual manifestations of this pandeistic phenomena. But one must wonder what exposure Adamson has had to other revelations, as she provides no qualification for her Bible surpassing the Qur'an (which at least deals with the problem of the unevangelised, and so has one neutral basis for being deemed clearer and more specific).

The remainder of Adamson's effort is spent trying to reassure herself that the Bible in fact has Jesus claiming to be God. But such an effort requires a prior disproof of any system that accounts for the existence of the Bible without requiring that the Bible be true, and lacking that argument, this one is simply premature. This scattershot approach is par for the course; make a general point, pretend that the point you've made is actually specific, then plunge into the details of the specifics. Whether an intentional ploy or masking ignorance, the apparent necessity of this tactic seems more a blow to theism than the arguments thus adduced are any prop to it.

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