In this post, I would like to show why the deduction in Richard Dawkins’ central argument against the existence of God is false. His logic is based upon the assumption that the designer hypothesis is false because it ‘raises the larger problem of who designed the designer’. We considered the question of who designed the designer in an earlier post (see here), but in this post we will concentrate on the logic of that proposition.
To show this logic is faulty, we simply need to show an answer to a problem that simultaneously raises a larger problem and this turns out to be quite easy to do. Richard, helpfully refers us to Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers, so let’s work with them to provide our example.
Here are the six numbers that Martin Rees proposed represent the fundamental constants which have values apparently ‘fine tuned’ to allow for the existence of the universe:
- The number of physical dimensions within which we live
- The ratio of the strength of gravity to that of electromagnetism
- The ratio of mass lost to energy when hydrogen is fused to form helium
- The amount of dark matter
- The cosmological constant
- The scale at which the universe looks smooth
Now imagine the following simple mathematical question you probably were required to grapple with in high school: a right-angled triangle has sides of unit length 3 and 4. What is the length of the remaining side? The answer is 5 – right? Now try explaining how you know that to your six year old and you will almost certainly be confronted with the amazingly insightful philosophical question: why?
Of course, it is a good question, so perhaps you might be tempted to answer that in any right-angled triangle, the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. ‘But Daddy’, says our young philosopher, ‘why?’ Wow – another great question for you to consider. So after a bit of reflection, you answer that it is a basic relationship that can be empirically observed within the three-dimensional Euclidian space within which we live.
Your pleasure with this answer is short-lived when the youngster asks you to move your thinking on to an even higher plane as you are again asked the question: why? But, you know, it is still an excellent question, so after a quick bit of research you are finally able to answer that it is one of the basic constants of the universe which, if it were not set to that value, would mean that life would not exist.
This example connects a mathematical question with the question of the existence of the universe and thereby shows that it is false reasoning to postulate that correct answers cannot raise larger problems. This is a simple proof that the fact that an answer might raise an even larger question does not invalidate that answer.