05 / 06
birds birds birds

The Existence of God (Design)

June 03, 2007     Time: 00:10:12
The Existence of God (Design)


Conversation with William Lane Craig

KEVIN HARRIS: Can faith and reason work together, or are they somehow mutually exclusive? What role do facts and evidence play when it comes to the Christian faith? This is Reasonable Faith – Conversations with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. On behalf of Dr. Craig, I want to welcome you to this discussion as Dr. Craig examines apologetics, reason, faith, and philosophy. Today we are examining some of the evidence for the existence of God.

Dr. Craig, we have been talking about the existence of God and giving evidence for the existence of God. Many people have roadblocks to faith in Christ, and they really need their questions answered. You have five or six arguments that you use in your various debates on college campuses for proofs of God's existence. We've talked about those. We want to talk today about the design argument – the fine-tuning of the universe for life. A lot of people seem to be convinced by this. People who don't know a lot of science, people who don't know a lot about logic and arguments and apologetics, say, Look out the window, and look at that tree.

DR. CRAIG: Right, although the amazing thing is that a lot of people who know a whole lot about science are convinced by this argument. This argument has come roaring back into prominence during the latter part of the 20th century among astrophysicists and cosmologists themselves because of the unbelievable incredible fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe for intelligent life. At one time scientists believed that whatever the initial conditions of the universe might have been eventually it might evolve complex life forms like ourselves. But now scientists have been stunned to discover that quite the contrary, in order for us to exist and to evolve in this universe there had to be an elaborately set table in advanced – conditions of the Big Bang which are exquisitely fine-tuned for the evolution and existence of intelligent life and which are so improbable that to try to explain this away as simply an accident of chance would seem to be an act of desperation.

KEVIN HARRIS: When you said the evolution of life – the chance and evolution of life – do you mean by that Darwinian evolution?

DR. CRAIG: Yes, I do. In other words, the old design argument that appealed to the complexity of the eye or the intricacy of the human hand or something was attacked by the Darwinian theory of evolution, and one could then engage in debates about this. But what's happened now is that teleologists – those who believe in design – have done a complete end run around the Darwinists because what we've discovered is that even for Darwinian evolution to take place there has to be this elaborately, exquisitely balanced set of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself in order to even permit the evolution of intelligent life. So evolution in a sense becomes a non-issue. It doesn't even arise in terms of how you explain these exquisitely finely tuned initial conditions of the universe.

KEVIN HARRIS: In other words, if you were to say to someone who believes in Darwinian evolution you could say, Given your own belief – given your own system – you would have to have this kind of fine-tuning in the universe for even that to take place.

DR. CRAIG: Exactly.

KEVIN HARRIS: That's amazing. How many such fine-tuning elements are in the universe that we've been able to count?

DR. CRAIG: That's very difficult to calculate. There are primarily two forms of these fine-tuned quantities. One would be various constants of physics. What I mean by that is that when the laws of nature are given mathematical expression as mathematical equations you find certain numbers appearing in them that are constants – that are always the same. For example, the gravitational constant would be such a number. It's a specific value for the force of gravity. A number of these constants need to be exquisitely fine-tuned in order for the universe to be life-permitting. The other type of quantity would just be arbitrary initial conditions that are just put in at the moment of creation as boundary conditions on which the laws of nature operate. An example of this would be the amount of entropy in the universe. That is to say, the amount of usable and unusable energy that is available for work in the universe. The Big Bang is characterized by an unusually low entropy condition right at the very beginning which then grows over time. It's difficult to know exactly how many of these constants and quantities need to be finely tuned in order to permit the existence and evolution of intelligent life. I've seen estimates from as low as six (but very, very firmly established examples) to a couple dozen or more. That's a matter of dispute, but I don't think the exact number is important because the fine-tuning of each of these is so precise – it's so exquisite – that even if they're just a few of these the odds that the initial conditions of the universe should fall by chance alone into this almost infinitesimally narrow life-permitting range is just vanishingly small.

KEVIN HARRIS: The Big Bang is actually, from what you're saying, the ally of the Christian faith.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, the Big Bang is not chaotic. That's what's been discovered. That's the stunning discovery. The Big Bang turns out to be a highly, highly ordered event of exquisite precision, and disorder has actually been increasing since then in line with the second law of thermodynamics.

KEVIN HARRIS: Would we say that the account in Genesis teaches the Big Bang or is just in conjunction with it?

DR. CRAIG: I would say the latter. I think that the creation narrative in the book of Genesis was written for people at that time and reflects the thought forms of Hebrew people living in that ancient time. It would be wrong to try to read modern science in between the lines, just as I think it's incorrect to try to read, say, predictions of modern television or nuclear bombs into certain passages in the book of Revelation. We have to let these passages speak on their own to the audience for which they were written. But what I would say is that the account given in Genesis and throughout the Bible is wholly compatible with the Big Bang and with what modern science teaches.

KEVIN HARRIS: Because many believers are threatened, or at least have been in the past, by the Big Bang thinking that it would somehow negate the need or the evidence for God. Quite the contrary!

DR. CRAIG: Yes, quite the contrary! Because one needs to ask of what caused the Big Bang. I think perhaps the misunderstanding here is that a lot of laypeople think the Big Bang postulates the existence of a sort of super dense pellet which has existed from eternity and then a finite number of years ago sort of blew up. That's not the picture at all. According to the Big Bang, space and time, as you retreat into the past, contract down until they vanish. They reach a point at which space and time themselves came into existence with all the matter and energy in the universe, and there's simply nothing prior to it. So there's no explanation within the Big Bang model of where the universe came from or why the Big Bang occurred. There was no such pellet existing from eternity. The singularity is simply the initial boundary point at which space and time and all matter and energy come into being. It would be like the apex of a cone. If you imagine a cone with the point downward, as you go back in time that's the way space shrinks down until you reach the point of the cone, and that would be the singularity at which space and time come into being or if you're going back in time at which the universe just vanishes.

KEVIN HARRIS: I'm taking notes like I'm hoping many of our listeners are doing at this point. Hubble's telescope actually gave us some insight into the Big Bang.

DR. CRAIG: Now, do you mean Hubble's original telescope or do you mean the thing that's named after Hubble that's orbiting the Earth?

KEVIN HARRIS: Well, I would mean the original one.

DR. CRAIG: Right, right. Edwin Hubble was a great pioneer of American astronomy. What Hubble discovered in 1929 was that the light coming to us from distant galaxies appears to be redder than one might expect. As Hubble turned his telescope upon all directions of the night sky, he found that this redshift in the light from distant galaxies is universal across the sky. Hubble explained this redshift as due to the fact that the galaxies are moving away from us. Because they are moving away, the light rays that they send to us are stretched as the galaxies move away and so they appear to be redder than they would if the galaxies were stationary with respect to us. Incredibly, what Hubble had discovered was the expansion of the universe predicted by the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann and the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître on the basis of Einstein's general theory of relativity. It was a virtual turning point in the history of science.

KEVIN HARRIS: There's something else called the microwave background?

DR. CRAIG: Yes, during the 1930s and 40s, George Gamow, another great American physicist, reckoned that if the Big Bang model were true – if the universe is, in fact, expanding in the way the model says – that there should be a sort of relic radiation throughout the universe, a kind of radiation background that would be a vestige of an earlier, very hot, very dense state of the universe. He estimated that this would be somewhere around 4 or 5 degrees above absolute zero – just absolutely frigid. Unexpectedly, serendipitously, this microwave background radiation was discovered in 1965 by two scientists working for the Bell Telephone Laboratories and constitutes one of the greatest confirmations of the Big Bang model and the expansion of the universe.

KEVIN HARRIS: I’ll remember that the next time I put some popcorn in the microwave![1]


[1]          Total Running Time: 11:14 (Copyright © 2007 William Lane Craig)