51

A Whale of an Argument

blue whaleHave you heard the argument against the existence of God based on the size of the universe? You might find it strange that an argument against God would be constructed based on the enormity of space — something that elicits awe and wonder.

But it is, and it goes like this: You see how big the universe is. It is over a hundred billion light years across. It contains billions of galaxies with millions of stars.  And here we sit on planet Earth, circling around an insignificant and ordinary star on one spiral arm of an average galaxy. It is ludicrous to think there is something special about us, about our place in the universe, that there is a God who has some kind of purpose for our earth and for us.  Popularly, this video has recently boosted awareness of just how comparatively small our place in the physical universe is.

Yet Christians claim that the entire universe was created just so Earth would exist and so they (and you and all of us) would exist. Limited and parochial in their vision, they even claim that this planet is so special to the Creator of the universe that it has a received a visit from Him.

Let’s talk for a minute about Blue Whales. The Blue Whale is the largest animal on earth, now or ever. It is over 100 feet long and weighs nearly 200 tons. Its tongue alone is nearly 3 tons and its heart weighs over 1300 pounds. Now a human being, which is a much smaller organism, contains 10s of trillions of cells. So just imagine for a moment, how many cells exist in the body of a Blue Whale. Many hundreds of trillions, even quadrillions, of cells. Really.

Now what is the most important cell in the body of the Blue Whale? Well, according to evolutionary biology, this is very simple to answer – it is a germ cell. If your whale is a female, it is one of her eggs; if male, it is one of his sperm cells. You see, according to evolutionary biology, the entire body of the whale, with all of its quadrillions of cells, exists for one purpose, and one purpose only and that is to generate and effectively disperse (if male) its germ cells.

Now imagine for moment that the germ cell of a Blue Whale could talk and it said, “I know I look small. I know that that organ system to which I belong seems peripheral tucked down here in the bottom side of this huge beast. It doesn’t even contribute to the survival of this individual. But I’m telling you, I am what it is all about. All the other quadrillions of cells, all the other organ systems, exist only so that I might exist. They all serve me. I am what really matters here.”

Now your evolutionary biologist would agree. He wouldn’t say to the germ cell, “How self-centered and parochial you are.” Because he knows it is true. He knows that it would be silly to argue on the basis of relative size, because that has nothing to do with it. He knows that what matters here is not size, not position, but the function that the germ cell carries out – the continuation of the species.

Now if this Earth is the place, and this Solar System is the system, and this Galaxy happens to be, where the germ of life exists, then there is nothing parochial about saying that everything else  — yes, even everything else in the universe — is here for the generation of the Children of God.


Mary Kochan, former Senior Editor of CatholicExchange, is Editor-at-Large  of CatholicLane.com.

Raised as a  third-generation Jehovah's Witness, Mary worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996.  Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs. To arrange for Mary to speak at your event, you may contact her at kochanmar@gmail.com.

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  • Sam

    Very nice, Mary. I find it interesting that many who deny the existence of God use such an argument. How can there not be anything special about the existence of intelligent life on earth, when such a thing coming to be in this vast universe is so improbable that it is nearly impossible? I mean, scientists haven’t been able to produce life at all in a lab let alone intelligent life, and they have actually tried, yet supposedly rational individuals keep saying it would have happened at random without a Creator God. These same people, who would typically demand proof of God’s existence, are suddenly asking us to believe that the nearly impossible beginning of life which can’t even be recreated in the lab, was a random and yet inevitable thing without the hand of God putting things in motion. They can’t even create a homunculus with all the conditions for life being met, and yet we are supposed to believe their theory about how life began? It’s more reasonable to believe in a Creator God. At least having a Creator God explains the impossible actually happening. “All things are possible with God.” What stuns me even more than that is that some of them have degrees and are supposedly highly educated. How do people with such muddled thinking obtain their degrees and go on to represent “intelligent” thought?

    • goral

      The “intelligent” mind has not even created a seemingly simple worm that
      plows the earth eating plain dirt. Maybe, too difficult. How about taking that dried worm on the sidewalk, filling it with moisture and rejuvenating it.
      Hasn’t been done.
      Then take a live worm and extend its life well beyond the preordained time span. Sorry, can’t do that either.
      The only thing random with these bogus scientists is their logic.

      • Struble

        Nor can they figure our what gravity is (as distinguished from what it does). It’s a force everywhere in the world, it holds the scientists on the floor of their labs, and yet they have no idea what this force really is.

  • Bill S

    There is no purpose for anything. Our being here and adapting to seemingly an amazingly serendipitous situation is a random event which had almost infinite chances to occur just as it did. If it had not, we wouldn’t be here to observe that it did.

    • Sam

      Prove it. And prove that adaptation is random. I don’t think you can, since adaptation is change for a reason, and is therefore not random.

      • Bill S

        Adaptation occurs when a random mutation make that organism better able to survive and reproduce than organisms that don’t have the mutation. It is Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

        • Mary Kochan

          An assertion is not proof, Bill. Does hunger have a purpose?

          • Bill S

            Why, yes it does. Did I say there is no purpose to anything? That’s a bit extreme. Nature makes animals hungry so they will obtain nutrients necessary for life. But that makes Nature intelligent. Hmmm.

          • Mary Kochan

            Yes, you actually did say that there is no purpose for anything. If “nature” makes animals hungry so they will obtain nutrients, then we can agree that hunger has a purpose, right?

          • Bill S

            Yes. A lot of things have a purpose.

          • Mary Kochan

            So the purpose of hunger is for the organism to take in something that is also provided by nature, right? I mean it would make no sense for nature to give an organism a hunger for something that nature did not provide a way to satisfy, right?

          • Bill S

            Yes. Right.

          • Mary Kochan

            Then we cannot account, by nature alone, for man’s desire for meaning, transcendence, eternity. As CS Lewis said: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find until after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.”

          • Bill S

            If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

            Whoa, whoa, whoa! That’s not the most probable explanation. The most probable explanation is that the brain has evolved to the point that it can grasp language and abstract ideas. That doesn’t mean that someone can come along and tell us we can live forever and we can buy that dream and that the dream has to be fulfilled because we were able to imagine and yearn for it. That might be a possibility, but it is not the most probable.

          • Mary Kochan

            Bill, you started off saying that nothing was purposeful — that is a conclusion that cannot be arrived at by science, but only by a particular philosophy. And you quite rightly quickly abandoned it when you saw it was illogical. Lewis’ reasoning is actually more scientific because he is extrapolating FROM what is observed in the natural order. Philosophically he is taking nature more seriously than you are. Abstraction is a spiritual power of the soul. There is no scientific reason to think that it is an evolved power.

            You only ever encounter accidents and you encounter them through the senses. You do not ever encounter substances, but you abstract their existence. The only need for this mental power is to encounter something beyond nature, beyond the realm of sense. Once again, nature cannot account for knowing the existence of something that cannot ever be encountered in the natural world.

        • Sam

          If the adaptation occurs so that the organism is better able to survive, as you suggest, then by definition it is not random. It occurred for a reason. That’s not random. Some mutations may be random, but they are not necessarily adaptations. Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection involves a gradual process, not a sudden random event.

          • Bill S

            No. A random mutation occurs making the offspring’s chances of survival and procreation better, no different or worse than that of the parent. Even if it is only a slight change, eventually, as it is passed on from generation to generation, it leads to more, less or no difference in the number of offspring with the same mutation. The one with more is the one that has adapted. It’s all a random process except that the more adaptable random mutations lead to more offspring and/or greater chance of survival. There is no intentional adaptation.

          • Sam

            No, Bill. Evolutionary adaptation occurs in response to change. It is progressive. It is a process. It is not random. A process cannot be random because a process is “a series of actions directed toward a specific aim.” (That’s right out of the Bing online dictionary.) Even the second definition in that dictionary, which refers to “natural occurrences” doesn’t help you. We are talking about change which develops an organism, which implies an end goal of completeness or perfection. If these changes were random, one could not say that it was “natural selection,” the very name of which means it’s a process, because there would be no process involved. Yet there is a process involved in natural selection, because the stronger, faster, more clever, etc. make it past the evolutionary hurdle and the ones who either don’t change or undergo a useless change die off because of the new situation. Truly, we would have far more species die out faster if change were truly random, since not only would it not necessarily occur at all in response to change as it does, but it would also produce far fewer useful adaptations for survival. In addition, random change would occur regardless of outside influence, so we would be seeing species dying off for no reason. Even a cursory look at how species are coping with environmental change shows that if any change occurs in the short term it is, again, minute and progressive, rather than drastic and immediate, which we would see far more of if such change were random.
            I would say that evolution, if anything, is the hand of God at work; an intelligent Creator still exerting influence over his creation.
            And you still have not proven either of your first two points; that there is no purpose to anything and that adaptation is random.

          • Bill S

            I would say that evolution, if anything, is the hand of God at work; an intelligent Creator still exerting influence over his creation.

            You are denying Darwin’s understanding of evolution and replacing it with your own. Are you qualified to do that?

          • Mary Kochan

            Bill, do you ever ask yourself whether Darwin was qualified as a philosopher merely because he was a natural scientist?

          • Bill S

            I really don’t see where what Darwin had to say would be considered in itself to be a philosophy.

          • Mary Kochan

            Define “man”, then. If you define man, you have done philosophy. And you have to define man in order to posit man’s origin.

          • Bill S

            So. Does that discredit the work of Darwin and everyone who has followed and expounded on his theory, including Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne?

          • Mary Kochan

            I’m not “discrediting” the work of Darwin or other evolutionists, when they stay within the bounds of their discipline. They discredit themselves when they try to do philosophy or theology beyond their expertise.

          • Sam

            Darwin’s theory falls apart, as even he knew, in the face of an irreducibly complex organism, which man is because he has a soul. Man is not man without a soul, and a soul does not come about through evolution. What falls apart with his theory is when he says something is random. Darwin, even when alive, had no way of proving such an assertion. But in the face of vast logical order and harmony (and “serendipity” as you yourself have called it), modern atheists hang onto what Darwin mistakenly thought was random and declare that because of this apparent randomness God does not exist. The conclusion to which Darwin came was based on the facts as he understood them, but there were things he did not take into consideration. One thing modern atheists want us to fall for is the assertion that science has all the answers. Science can see so far down the road but no farther, so to speak, and can only attest to what it has found. Good science cannot and will not claim that something does not exist because evidence has not been found. What good science will do instead is say something along the lines of, “it cannot be demonstrably proven based on the available evidence,” which means something very different. Science, and the scientific method, came about because people believed that the universe was intelligible and could be understood. The reason they believed that the universe was intelligible was because they believed there is an intelligence behind it. Men of faith were the first scientists. If the universe operated on random principles, then it would not be intelligible, it could not be understood, and there would be no point that anyone could see in trying to understand it. It is absolutely illogical to claim that an intelligible universe even began randomly, and even more absurd to insist that with all the laws and rules upon which the universe operates, that organisms within it which must by nature follow those same laws, change randomly to adapt. There’s simply no logic in such thought. Simply put, it requires stronger and blinder faith to believe that there’s no point, no God, etc., than it does to believe in God. And the reason is because even a cursory examination of the world around us points to God as intelligent Creator of an intelligible universe, and an in depth examination of it fortifies that.

          • Bill S

            Sam,

            Which one is God: 1. The intelligence behind all of the order that we observe in the universe, or 2. the main character described in the Bible that Jesus called our father. I don’t see any connection between them.

          • Mary Kochan

            That’s because you are not qualified as a theologian or a Bible scholar. 🙂

          • Bill S

            Must I be a theologian or a bible scholar to see that the intelligence that programmed the first DNA molecule did not part the Red Sea or lift Mary into heaven? One is real. The other is fictional.

          • Mary Kochan

            An assertion is not proof, remember?

          • Bill S

            My proof that the stories about the parting of the Red Sea or the Assumption are fictional is because, if they were true, they would both violate the Law of Gravity which cannot be violated.

          • Mary Kochan

            So you never pick anything up from the floor?

          • Bill S

            That does not violate the law. Tons of water being held to the sides or a person being lifted into the air without natural mechanisms do.

          • Mary Kochan

            The point is that if you have the power and the means, you can overcome gravity regardless of whether the power and means are natural or supernatural. If the power and means are not natural then they are supernatural and we call it a miracle. The fact that we can’t account for it by natural means is how we know it is a miracle. The fact we can’t account for it by natural means does NOT MEAN it did not happen, since as we already established on this thread, we cannot even account for us having this conversation by natural means.

          • Bill S

            Everything happens by natural means. Even if we have yet to figure out how.

          • Mary Kochan

            Which is an article of faith, you understand. You are of course free to have that faith (meaning, not only that you believe it, but you trust yourself and your future to it) but do not pretend it is other than the faith you have chosen. do not delude yourself that it is “rational” or “scientific”, because it is neither. it is in fact very poverty stricken and sad.

          • Bill S

            Now you’re sounding like my wife who is a devout Catholic and worries about me.

          • Mary Kochan

            Sounds like you have a very smart wife! I hope you keep hanging around here.

          • LOL!

          • Bill S

            Don’t encourage her.

          • Just having some fun.

          • Bill S

            I know. She’s a handful.

          • Sam

            Bill, God is both and more. If you embarked on a study of Church teaching to actually understand it, then you would have so many questions answered. Many things are interconnected on very subtle levels.

          • Bill S

            If it is ever confirmed that there is an intelligent designer, the chances of that being being the “God” of the Bible, which is more fiction than fact, are minuscule.

          • Sam

            Bill, You have made several assertions without providing proof, and now you are giving odds without telling us the numbers or where you got them. That’s not intelligent discourse. If atheists (an I am assuming you are one) wish to be taken seriously when they present an argument against the existence of God, then they must present facts and statistics, rational discourse, instead of opinions and unverifiable bits of information. And they must learn to debate, which means answering a challenge instead of dodging it. And, they must know the other side of the argument well enough to not only make their case, but also to use language which shows they understand what they are trying to refute. I bring this up because when you refer to God as “a being” it is improper terminology. I do not say this because you do not believe in his existence, but rather because God is believed to be uncreated, boundless, eternal, and omnipotent. Referring to him as “a being” means that you are not actually talking about the God you want to refute, but rather your own mistaken impression of what God is. It means that you are hampering your ability to make the case you want to make by not trying to understand exactly who God is before trying to argue that he isn’t. Modern atheists appeal to emotion when they “debate” simply saying that God cannot be, without ever understanding what they are arguing against. And why would someone even try to prove a negative when it cannot be done? I question the wisdom in picking up the argument against God’s existence. I mean, for someone to look at something that is very special whether or not God exists, such as life existing in only this tiny part of such a vast universe, and say that there is nothing special about it, or to say that it proves there is no Creator God is the height of foolishness since these very things obviously lend weight to the argument for God’s existence. The absolute specialness of these kind of things cannot be denied, and when viewed through the Catholic lense, are a cause for wonder, awe, celebration, and thanksgiving.

          • Bill S

            Sam,

            I apparently have not fulfilled your requirements to discuss this issue with you. I need to provide a calculated numerical value instead of saying that the odds of the intelligent designer being the mostly fictional God of the Bible are minuscule and then provide all the backup for that calculation. I’m not interested in doing that. The intelligent designer of the universe is not your father in heaven. It did not appear in a burning bush or part the Red Sea. It did not become human and die because it had to atone for our sins by sacrificing itself to itself, etc. That’s all I’m saying.

          • Sam

            “Mostly fictional?” See, that’s what I’m referring to. You just admitted that God exists. Proper terminology and wording are important to this kind of debate to convey proper meaning. And surely you must know that if you talk about the odds, you will eventually be asked what the numbers are and how you got them. Don’t be offended because someone challenged you to prove that you didn’t just make stuff up. Again, if those arguing against the existence of God want to be taken seriously, they must get their act together. For instance, if you want to make the claims you make in your last comment here, then you will be asked questions like, “if the Intelligent Designer of the universe is not my Father in Heaven, then who is he?” In one short comment here, you have admitted both the existence and personhood of God. That is completely at odds with what you wrote before and immediately after. The line of thought which brings you to your conclusions is flawed. Keep coming to this site to read. It will definitely help with that problem.

          • Mary Kochan

            Sam, I’m not sure Darwin asserted randomness — don’t recall precisely, but I think that was a later development of the theory of natural selection after the mechanism of genes started to be understood. Darwin did think that the females’ selection of traits in the male (choice of mates) drove the development of species though.

          • Sam

            Mary, you’re right. I’ve gone back over some things which Darwin wrote, and the randomness was definitely someone else’s development. But the modern theory of evolution as taught pushes randomness, and so the modern theory falls apart.

          • Christopher Fish

            I’d like to note that one of the great and as to yet unsolved problems of evolutionary theory is the problem of information gain.

            most mutations are deadly,
            many mutations reduces the likelihood of mating.
            the chances of a mutation actually being useful for survival AND increasing an organism chances to reproduce is almost vanishingly small. In fact I do not know of any that have been observed to have occurred in recorded human history.

            the deeper problem is that DNA represents an encoding of protein sequences. aka information.

            natural selection is a mechanism that delete information by removing from the gene pool the ‘less fit’ individuals.

            what it does not provide is a way of explaining the INCREASE in information and random mutation seems to be a incredibly poor candidate and an unproven one at best.

            it is accepted currently as a non-validated part of the macro evolutionary theory that there is some wholly natural way to account for the dna of an single cell gaining sufficient information to create a human being.

            I don’t think even well consider creationist debate the theory of micro evaluation.

            but the theory of maro evaluation which is based currently on many millions of extremely unlikely events managing to happen through sheer randomness seems much more an act of faith.

            In some ways it was constructed specifically for the purpose of denying the possibility of the involvement of a creator.

            however catholic theology doesn’t necessarily reject as untrue macro-evolution in its full and less certain form .

            Catholics simply assert two things that must be adhered too even for those Catholics who conclude that maro-evolution is the primary physical cause of the human body.

            1) God is the all knowing God of randomness, so it is entirely possible for millions of years of random events to generate exactly what the creator intended.
            He is still no less the creator because it was he that set it in motion and intended each apparently random event having foreseen them and controlled those that were necessary so that what came to be matched his will.

            2) there came a time when God choose from creation beings whom he infused with a supernatural soul. Those beings are the primordial parents of modern man. ( exactly where they are on the evolutionary tree is not pronounced by the church).

  • noelfitz

    Mary,
    congratulations on an important, scholarly article. It is clear and strongly argued and makes an important point. But scientists are comfortgable with large numbers.

    For example in a litre of water there are more than 30,000,000,0000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules.

    God loved me and died for me even though billions of other people are on earth and countless billions lived in the past. He even knows how many hairs are on my head. But this is not so difficult as there are few.

    I wonder what reputable scientist could propose the idea you reject?

  • Struble