The God Hypothesis Part III

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By Wayne Allensworth

Read Part II here.

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness.

Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth—Psalm 96:10

Materialists have attempted to counter arguments on the improbability of the appearance of ourselves and our world through the actions of blind natural forces with the notion of the “multiverse.”   Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and outgoing head of the National Institutes of Health, described the multiverse hypothesis in his book The Language of God: There may be, according to the hypothesis, an infinite number of universes with different physical constants and even different physical laws.  These other universes are inaccessible to us, but we exist in the one that is structured in a way to support life and consciousness.  Given an infinite number of possibilities, it is not miraculous that one of them is like ours.  

The multiverse hypothesis has been dismissed by Thomas Nagel as a “cop out,” one that “dispenses with the attempt to explain anything.”  As Nagel has written, without the hypothesis that all possible universes exist, the observation that “if life hadn’t come into existence we wouldn’t be here has no significance.”  Nagel concluded that “one doesn’t show that something doesn’t require explanation by pointing out that it is a condition of one’s existence.”  Nagel further noted that should he ask for an explanation of the air pressure in a transcontinental jet being close to that of sea level, “it is no answer to point out that if it weren’t, I’d be dead.”

John Polkinghorne was no less dismissive, stating that there is no “pure scientific reason” to believe in the existence of an ensemble of universes that are unknowable to us.  Polkinghorne added that a quite respectable alternative, one of “greater economy and elegance,” was that the universe we inhabit is the work of a Creator.  John Lennox has shrugged off the multiverse hypothesis by declaring that if God could create this universe, perhaps he has created others.  In God and Stephen Hawking, Lennox has also noted that it makes more sense to accept the God hypothesis, as it is more rational than believing that every possible universe that could exist does—including one in which “Richard Dawkins is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Christopher Hitchens is the Pope, and Billy Graham has just been voted atheist of the year.”

The multiverse hypothesis has company in what has become a shopworn hobby horse of the atheists, what Antony Flew called “the monkey theorem.”  The theorem is an oft-heard defense of life arising by chance using the analogy of a horde of monkeys banging away on computer keyboards (an older version used typewriters as the instrument of creation) and eventually, over a span of time, coming up with the complete works of Shakespeare, though more modest versions have the hypothetical horde producing a mere sonnet, or perhaps a single play.  

Flew relates Israeli physicist Gerry Schroeder’s refutation of the monkey theorem in There is a God. Schroeder referred to an actual experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts in which six monkeys were left in a cage with a computer.  The simian typists hammered away at the keyboard, and in one month produced fifty typed pages, but not a single word, not even “a” and “I,” which are words only if spaces are left on either side of them. Schroeder calculated that the chances of a word being produced in such a manner was one in 27,000.  

So, what were the chances for producing a Shakespearian sonnet?  All of the sonnets are fourteen lines long. Schroeder picked one that he was familiar with and counted the number of letters. There were 488. What was the likelihood of blindly pounding away on a keyboard and coming up with 488 letters in the exact sequence of “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”  “What you end up with,” stated Schroeder, “is 26 multiplied by itself 488 times—or 26 to the 488th power. Or, in other words, in base 10, 10 to the 690th.”  Schroeder went on to compare that to the number of particles (protons, electrons, neutrons) in the universe, calculated by physicists as 10 to the 80th power. “Ten to the 690th is 1 with 690 zeroes after it…You will never get a sonnet by chance.”  Antony Flew noted that Schroeder’s calculations had convinced him that the “monkey theorem” was “a load of rubbish.”  If the theorem wouldn’t work for a sonnet—much less the complete works of Shakespeare—Flew concluded that “it’s simply absurd” to suggest that “the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance.”  

If multiverses and typing monkeys won’t work, some materialists have tried the aliens-created-us hypothesis.  The late Francis Crick, who together with James Watson discovered the double helix structure of DNA,  advanced his own origin story—life must have reached earth from outer space, according to Crick, perhaps as small particles floating in space and drawn in by earth’s gravity, or brought here, intentionally or accidently, by an ancient astronaut.   As Francis Collins has noted, this might solve the problem of life on earth, but it does nothing to solve the question of the origins of life, since it simply kicks the proverbial can (backwards) down the space-time road. 

It’s become evident that the materialist/atheist camp will go to whatever length is deemed necessary to refute, mock, ridicule, or dodge the God hypothesis.  Theists are strongly defensive about their views, as John Lennox and Francis Collins have explained, because the other side poses an either or proposition: science or God.  Yet there is not necessarily any conflict between science and religion.  Atheism is not a requirement to be a scientist or to accept the validity of science.  What we are witnessing is a clash of metaphysical views that are the bases of conflicting belief systems, both of them based on faith, on trusting what study, experience, and the evidence say to people on either side.  The hostility, contempt, and even rage exhibited by militant atheists who will not tender even respectful consideration of a theistic or even a deistic view displays an unspoken inner rage.  Why are they so angry?   

Part IV to follow.

Wayne Allensworth is a Corresponding Editor of Chronicles magazine. He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood

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