Is God Simple or Complex: Contra Dawkins

arabic god symbol



I can't find the original, it's attributed to Richard Dawkins and appears quoted by a poster on CARM named "Swordsman."

 CARM: Swordsman (4/22/10)

Richard Dawkins wrote, “A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.” (4) Another skeptic said that the problem comes in the end, in the assumption that there must be a first cause (God). Dawkins said, “They (believers – DL) make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress.” (5) Thus, atheists say that making God an exception is special pleading,

The problem stems from the basic tendency of Dawkins to try and turn God into a biological organism and make him subject to physical law. I think he does this because the kind of naturalistic that Dawkins is can't think creatively. Be that as it may, I have a word about design before I get into the issue of complexity and God. The using of organized complexity as an argument for the existence of God must be done very sparingly and very carefully. This is because the design argument is not a good argument. I have found some specialized uses for aspect of the design argument, and I say must be done carefully,but by and large I don't use the design argument because it's based upon a fallacy. It first of all treats God like a big man, a big city planner in the sky. The problem with "planning' is it's a human thing. It's also a problem because you can't base belief upon the appearance of the word, since we do  not have a designed world (or one that we know is either way) to compare it to. So we don't know what a  designed world would look like or an undersigned one. We have no control planet to compare.

This is also a big problem for atheists they just need to be made aware of it. Atheists are always trying to extrapolate form the look of the world to the nature of God--there's evil in the world, there can't be a loving God. The world is a big mess, there can't be  a God who cares ect ect. They are doing the same thing the design argument does, reasoning from the nature of the world to the existence or non existence of a creator.

This part 2 of the previous post. I was considering an argument that Dawkins makes to the effect that evolution doesn't leave God anything to do. The idea that evolution is a counter to God belief is so sophomoric it's hardly worth arguing against, but the fact that Dawkins is willing to argue it seroiusly is very telling. The "new atheists" or "Dawkies" as I call them (Dawkamentalits) take the same tact mocking and ridiculing real, serious, advanced and sophisticated liberal theology. But he augments the simplistic contradiction between God and evolution by trying to turn it into a basis for probabilistic analysis ruling out the probability of God.

Wouldn't we be tempted to fall on our knees and worship them, as a medieval peasant might if suddenly confronted with such miracles as a Boeing 747, a mobile telephone or Google Earth? But, however god-like the aliens might seem, they would not be gods, and for one very important reason. They did not create the universe; it created them, just as it created us. Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings: from a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics.
So he uses this notion to create an opposition then leverages out the God concept on the basis that it's primitive and superstitious. The lever is the probability analysis. Evolution is the competing er zots creator. He then asserts the astounding concept that a mind can't create evolution. This is supposedly the case because as  a statistically complex thing a mind would be improbable since it has to be the product of evolution and develop. That would god is the product of evolution. That would make evolution and the who understands it best (Dawkins?) would be God's "Keeper." Aside from that aspect, Dawkins thinking here is extremely silly. But let's take it in stages.  First I'll deal with the original allegation that God has nothing to do in an evolving universe, secondly I'll deal with the inane probability argument.

The basic assumption he makes is that God is a big man in the sky. The reason I think he assumes this is because he treats God as though God were a big man; men need "tings to do." Of cousre if God created evolution one would have to think that he understood this would leave him with time on his hands. Rather than postulate the existence of a huge heavenly golf course with angelic caddies, perhaps we might just suspect that God doesn't need to "do things" in the same way that we do. Tilehard de Chardin theorized that God is the strong force. The strong force holds together atomic structures. In that case God would have a lot to do, assuming he "needed something to do." But not being a big man beyond our understanding we might just assert that God doesn't get board, doesn't have to challenge himself with meaningless activities and if he is trying to draw people to Christ he has his hands full anyway trying to convict people like Dawkins of their arrogance, and also teaching logic to atheists. That ought to keep him busy for an eternity or two.

Notice that Dawkin's arguments don't stem from the idea that God would not be capable of making a universe, but that he needs an activity, what he really mean is that in our understanding of argument for the existence of god there's nothing for him to do (that assumes the best implication because he does not say this). He may really mean there's nothing we can see that would give us an idea of the difference between God and no God. Stephan Hawking's argument is not based upon the probability scam but upon a question prompted by his own theory which removes the singularity in favor of a no boundary condition of the universe; in other words the universe did not begin in time.
So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose that it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (quoted byCTNS)
This is different from Dawkin's argument, but the answers overlapp. Keith Ward Takes issue in God, Chance and Necessity (quoted on CTNS site, Ibid.)

"On the quantum fluctuation hypothesis, the universe will only come into being if there exists an exactly balanced array of fundamental forces, an exactly specified probability of particular fluctuations occurring in this array, and existent space-time in which fluctuations can occur. This is a very complex and finely tuned ‘nothing’... So this universe looks highly contingent after all, and a creator God might well choose to create a partly probabilistic universe by choosing just such an origin for it."

Drees points out that in fact the Hawking-Hartle proposal accords well with a theology which emphasises that every space is equally created by God, ‘“sustaining” the world in all its “times.”’ R.J.Russell has shown, moreover, that at the core of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is the principle of ontological dependence - that all matter, all energy, and the laws that govern the universe all depend for their existence on a God whose existence is not dependent on anything. The discovery of an actual temporal beginning to this material universe would not prove this doctrine (since the doctrine rests on metaphysical convictions about God and existence) but only provide an additional gloss to it

Russell, Ph.D. Physics Santa Cruz,
prof Theology and Scinece
Founder and director CTNS
This means there are still things for God to do, just in case he needs them. Form the standpoint of apologetic there are still "earmarks" of God's work. But with Dawkins argument the rationale is quite different. His probability mess does not lend itself well to the God argument proof issue. He's not just looking for a hint of God's handiwork to compare to regular nature, but is actually trying to subject God to the needs and habits of a big man. He's creating his own Staw God concept and trying to wedge that in to the Christian argument. Dawkn's strwa God is a big biological organism subject to the same needs for challenge and stimulation that humans possess. He has a human mind that can be compared to our own reasoning processes so that a probability can be fixed to it's existence. Of course it would have to be the product of evolution because in Dawkin's world straw God is the product of higher forces, not the ground of being or the primordial aspect of reality upon which all other things depend, but the Dawkamentalist er zots God of science, evolution, has to create the straw God. In so doing Dawkins has tipped his hand, it is apparent he doesn't understand the Christian concept of God nor is he working within it's philosophical boundaries. He's not only created a straw God but he's placed it under jurisdiction of his own er zots god.

Of course weather one is a Tillichian, a Lutheran or a Thomism, even a protestant evangelical God is not a product of anything. No Christian group anywhere would accept this. That aspect alone marks Dawkin's straw God as a straw man argument. Of course as the last post parted out (part 1) it makes so much more sense to understand God as the progenitor of physical law, and perhaps directing to toward evolution, rather than the product of it, because otherwise you have these disembodied laws that most modern scientists don't even see as perspective anymore, no way to explain what they do or where they are located prior to the universe. That also means that the universe itself lacks explanation. Thanks to this maneuver Dawkin's idea actually highlights the real need to understand God as the basis of reality rather than to posit a big man with nothing to do. For this reason his argument is circular as the premise (God is a big man with nothing to do) rests upon the conclusion (viewing  God in which way disproves the existence of God).

That God is subject to evolution Dawkins predicates upon the human understanding of the universe about the nature of complexity. Complexity serves a key function in the argument because with it probability might favor God. But in using it he opens the door to another means of destroying his argument. He wants to say that God would have to be complex because as far as we know only complexity can produce more complexity. Thus a complex universe would have to be the process of a more complex God:

To midwife such emergence is the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. There may be worlds on which superhuman life thrives, superhuman to a level that our imaginations cannot grasp. But superhuman does not mean supernatural. Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences. Once it has done so, of course, those intelligences can create other complex things: works of art and music, advanced technology, computers, the Internet and who knows what in the future? Darwinian evolution may not be the only such generative process in the universe. There may be other "cranes" (Daniel Dennett's term, which he opposes to "skyhooks") that we have not yet discovered or imagined. But, however wonderful and however different from Darwinian evolution those putative cranes may be, they cannot be magic. They will share with Darwinian evolution the facility to raise up complexity, as an emergent property, out of simplicity, while never violating natural law.
He just asserts that natural law is all there is and thus God must be a product of natural law. This astounding conclusion is arrived at how? By using human understanding based upon, his own words, "Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences." And how much of the universe have seen? Up close we know some stuff form one planet, how much? We don't know, we are still amazed by our own planet. Off planet we've made remarkable progress through telescopes and other long range means, but what do we really know?

John Polikinghorne Q and A (question about cosmological argument)
John Polikinghorne's Websiet
the answer of his assistant
However since it is known that only 4% of the matter and energy in the Universe is made of what we understand as matter, and most of the universe seems, on current understandings, to be “dark matter” and “dark energy” about which we know nearly nothing, and no-one knows how to reconcile Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity (the much-hyped String Theory looks increasingly like a dead-end) it is unwise to assume that current understandings of cosmology represent the last word.
  I’ll see what John has to add. John said he had nothing to add to this reply

We can take this to mean we know only about 4% of the universe. Actually it might be a lot less but this s a good illustration of one aspect of which we know almost nothing, and that aspect is major. So Dawkins standard for fixing human knowledge is pretty feeble. But the fact he's willing to do it is interesting because when we use the same kind of standard in God arguemnts, it means nothing to an atheist. We say "not one single example anywhere in all of reality shows a non contingent aspect of the natural world" but they dont' care. As far as they are concerned that tells us nothing about the universe being contingent. they are willy to shout "fallacy of composition" on that one but totally ignore what the limited data base does to their assumption about complexity and human knowledge.

(1) tries to force God under the jurisdiction of the physical by just asserting the universal necessity of physical law, he abhorrence of Magic, of course making out that supernatural is "only magic" which can't exist because it's opposed to the ideology of physcialism and lack of a God forbid that anything should contradict that! We know that's the only real truth how do we know it? by the same circular reasoning that allows us to hide proof of miracles under the same dictum and to assume through circular reasoning that there is no God.

(2) Of course attaching a probability to something like God woud be totally impossible since there's nothing to compare to. the very concept of the probability of the foundation of reality is impossible understand.

In addition to this there are also a couple of problems with the "complexity" and applying it to God.

(1) No basis for comparison.

How could one say if the basis of reality is complex or simple? This would especially be perplexing if creation has a moment in time. If God existed "before" creation (if creation is done in time then there can be a "before") as opposed to placing it in a spacial coordinate such as "beyond event horizon." In either case to what do we compare God? Let's say we have car in an eternal void of nothing. This is true absolute nothing, no vacuum flux, no germs no nothing. Just pure darkness and this care. Now how fast is it moving? Is it moving at all? Say it's 0 mph. But wait, no landmarks to measure miles, no time to measure hours, hwo can we even say it's moving at all, must less how fast? This is the same problem we have in consider God's complexity. What is complex compared to God? Does the term have a meaning. What is simple compared to the only thing that is? On the other hand suppose there's nothing but a singularity, a mathematical dot. The dot would be complex compered to nothing, but compared to us it would be simple.

(2) God is simple

Thomas Aquinas  believed that God was simple, the "primary act of existence," extremely simple.

(3) Their premise contradicts evolution which has complexity coming from simplicity

Dawkins says as quoted above that evolution would mean God has to be complex and to have developed by physical laws. On the other hand evolute posits origin from extreme simplicity and the simplicity evolves into complexity. We begin the universe with a singularity and life with a single cell organism. It looks like the principle of complex from the simple is not a contradiction to evolution. Since God is not a biological organism and can't the product of a process that would suggest that God is simple and the complexity of the universe evolved. Moreover, God does not have a physical brain and thus what is it exactly that would need to be complex?

Come to that Dawkins is willing to use human data base, limited though it is, to argue absolute analogy for things beyond our observation, so why isn't he wiling to accept the notion of a contingent universe?

(4) If God was complex it would have no consequances because God is not vulnerable to the probelms of complexity

a. wont wear out no entropy

b. doesn't have to be the result of a process

Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God's redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.
Of course I've already demonstrated quotations above that show God would still have a lot to do as the strong force, setting target levels for fine tuning. But of course there's no reason to believe God needs to do anything. This requires the notion  of a God of liberal theology. When confronted with this reality Dawkins shows his true dishonestly. Dawkins seeks to head off a liberal God concept but he just can't quite bring himself to face a real one:

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."
That's a straw theologian argument because no one says that. There are some who hinted at it in the 60s God is dead movement, but there are plenty of modern theologians still working and none of them really say this. Tillich certainly didn't say it. Tillich says God is a concrete reality not just a wishful thought in our minds. No theologian I know of says that. But plenty of them say that is not a big man in the sky. But Dawkins is not brave enough to take on those guys.

Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. 
 Yea but that does not mean that it's subject to the laws of physics, which He created, nor does it mean he's a big man in the sky either.

If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

 Most of those churches don't believe God is subject physical law or the product of evolution either. Dawkin's arguemnts are convoluted, circular and dishonest he really should be selling securities and making loans for mortgage company.