Thursday, 3 April 2008

Fundamental Complexity (part 2)

In the canons of atheist apologetics, the response to all of this has often been to say "Ah - you're making a 'God of the gaps' argument!". The thing being said here is this: a "gap" in scientific knowledge has been pointed out; but in future this will be filled in. If we're just saying that God is the explanation for these "gaps", then when the gaps get filled in, our God will disappear.

This point has some validity as far as it goes, but few atheists make it in a valid way. There is little evidence from real history that professing Christians have ever supposed that God just filled in gaps - as if we believed that the explanation for magnetism was that invisible angels were shovelling the bits of metal around, or plucking apples of trees and dropping them on Isaac Newton's head. Maybe there are animists who believe things similar to that, but when the atheist applies such ideas to theists, he's almost always indulging in myth-making.

A great problem for atheists today, though, is that in fact the "gap" between the materialist story and reality has been shown by science over the years not to be being reduced, but dramatically increasing. That is, the idea that as scientific knowledge increases, that the mysteries of reality will decrease, has been shown to be the reverse of the truth. The more we have discovered, the greater - not lesser - the difficulties of explaining the universe as a closed system have become.

Charles Darwin and his contemporaries lived without the benefits of the advanced microscopes we can use today. They imagined that the cell was a simple blob of protoplasm. Lots of these blobs would build up more complex creatures. Simple creatures would eventually evolve into more complicated ones.

We have the knowledge today to be able to say that that picture is completely false. The living cell is in fact one of the most complicated entities known to man, comparable to and beyond any of our most advanced creations. The information encoded within its DNA is greater in volume than in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Its complex, inter-dependent mechanisms defy all explanations as to how it could have arisen by any kind of chance procedure.

More than that, this complexity is not just found in the so-called "higher" organisms. It is equally true throughout all the living world. Bacteria and human beings do not differ through bacterial cells being simple and human cells being complex; both exhibit the same phenomena of fundamental complexity.

To be continued...

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