Saturday, May 7, 2011

Infinite God or Infinite Regress: Dawkins' Main (or Only) Argument

As I mentioned last time, Richard Dawkins’ main argument in The God Delusion against the “probability of the existence of God” comes in chapter four of his book, which mostly has to do with his rejection of the argument from Intelligent Design. Dawkins bases his rejection on just one argument, which is this: If the complexity of this universe demands an intelligent designer, such a designer would have to be even more complex than the universe he designed, and so would likewise require a designer. To put it simply, “Who created God?” Dawkins asserts that Intelligent Design or theism does not answer the question of what or who caused order, but simply removes it to another place, time, or realm:

“Seen clearly, intelligent design will turn out to be a redoubling of the problem. Once again, this is because the designer himself (/herself/itself) immediately raises the bigger problem of his own origin. Any entity capable of intelligently designing something as highly improbable as a Dutchman’s Pipe (or a universe) would have to be even more improbable than a Dutchman’s Pipe. Far from terminating the vicious regress, God aggravates it with a vengeance.” (120)
“Indeed, design is not a real alternative at all because it raises an even bigger problem than it solves: who designed the designer?” (121)
This is called the “infinite regression argument,” which refers to the need to regress backward to an infinite number of designers of the designer. In other words, if something as complex as the human brain points to an intelligent Designer, than the Designer must be even more complex, which points to another Designer, ad infinitum. As silly and as unsophisticated as this argument may seem, it is Dawkins’ main, and really only, argument against the existence of God, “indeed the premise of the whole discussion we are having” (143).

Ironically, however, it is Dawkins’ atheism that results in the infinite regression, while theism is the only way out. For example, unable to explain the origin of the universe, Dawkins resorts to multiple universes (“multiverses”). Since he fully admits that there are no laws or principles known in our universe that could account for the origin of order out of disorder or everything out of nothing, he is forced to speculate that our universe sort of inherited the order and design from other universes that came before ours. The problem is, however, that this “oscillating universe” theory has not only been largely abandoned by cosmologists, but any prior universe would have the same problem—where did that original ordering principle (and that universe) come from? You either have to finally stop and say this series of universes had a beginning point, or you are stuck with the infinite regress. 

The very concept of an infinite number of oscillating universes however, is impossible, because the actual existence of an infinite series of anything is impossible. It would be like trying to count to infinity. Similarly, it is impossible to pass through an eternity of time, for “if an infinite number of days existed before today, today would never come because one can never traverse the infinite” (William Lane Craig). Therefore, there cannot be a beginningless series of events. This is precisely why the universe had to have a beginning. But that gets us to the question of what caused it. Where did it come from?

In the end, Dawkins just gives it all over to “luck.” He states that the anthropic principle (“We are here, so we must have got here somehow”) “entitles us to postulate more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.” In other words, “We don’t know how the universe began and cannot even postulate it, but we are here, so maybe it was just luck even though we don’t believe in luck.” Now there’s a scientific statement for you!  Yet he “hopes” that a solution will be found. Sounds an awful lot like faith. But, unlike Biblical faith, his is a faith and hope in the impossible, and with neither evidence nor even a plausible theory.
The Intelligent Design argument, on the other hand, does not rely on an infinite regression. On the contrary, it is the only way out of it. All scientists now agree that the universe is not eternal, but had a beginning. And anything that has a beginning has a cause. So the universe must have had a cause. A “first cause” is necessary, for how could absolute nothingness have created everything? That first cause must transcend the material/physical realm, it must have the ability to create complex order out of disorder and everything out of nothing, and it must be eternal.  Whatever caused time/space/matter/energy cannot be another inanimate, impersonal, materialistic entity, as that would force us back into an infinite regress and thus an impossibility. The only possible explanation for a “First cause” is an eternal, intelligent, transcendent, personal Creator—which is exactly what the Bible teaches: “In the beginning, God….”  And this God is not an infinite regress, he is simply infinite.