Monday, February 21, 2011

Incompatible: Science and superstition

I was watching "How the Universe Works" on the Science Channel today -- a relatively infrequent occasion when the so-called Science Channel actually aired a program about science! -- and it got me to thinking:

If we go back to the time of ancient Greece, the first glimmerings of science began as "Natural Philosophy" with Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Archimedes, Pythagoras, and Eratosthenes, among others. This was the beginnings of a different approach to understanding the world around us, built on logic and empirical evidence, rather than superstition, mythology, and blind faith. Greek natural philosophers were something very new!

During and after the Renaissance, in fact, the increasingly empirical science being done ran headlong into those entrenched followers of superstition. Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Bruno, and many other scientists in Europe suffered persecution and even death at the hands of the Catholic Church because their findings were seen as heretical -- they were incompatible with biblical scriptures. Of course, many famous scientists of the time were faithful christians, as well, including such luminaries and Newton, Leibniz, and Kepler.

Today, we see the same conflicts wherever science offers an interpretation of the way the world works that contradicts cherished scriptural superstitions (and no conflicts where science fails to intersect with scripture). Fortunately, the power of the church (in nontheocracies) has declined to the point where it can't enforce its teaching with torture, imprisonment, and death! Wherever religion and politics are deeply intertwined, of course, the church continues to show its claws when it comes to doubters and unbelievers!

Evolution, deep geological time, modern cosmology -- they all clash with various religious writings and teachings, so we have the growth of a profoundly anti-science movement that coincides with the growing acceptance of religious beliefs here in the USA. That this religious revival is associated with an anti-science movement is not an accident of history. And, as in the past, we have scientists who somehow manage to embrace both science and religion (although they represent a minority among scientists), which I maintain are so diametrically opposed as to deny any rational acceptance of both. I take it as a given that as the stature of the scientist grows, the fraction accepting deistic religious belief declines. The question becomes -- how to explain those scientists who do embrace belief in a deity!

Many aspects of science seem mysterious to non-scientists -- in particular, some say that science requires the same sort of faith that is embodied in religion. This is nothing less than a profound misunderstanding of science. Science offers hypotheses about the natural world that can be tested against evidence, not unsubstantiated claims. The acceptance of a hypothesis requires that it be consistent with the evidence, but its acceptance is always provisional, never final. New evidence may require a revision of the hypothesis, or it may re-affirm the acceptability of an existing hypothesis. The more tests a scientific idea can pass, the more highly regarded that idea becomes, but never to the point of becoming dogma, to be accepted on faith. And, contrary to the claims of some believers, science is never arrogant in its claims to understanding -- good science always is associated with humility in the face of all that scientists have learned we don't yet understand in the very process of gaining new understanding! We labor long and hard to learn the limits to our understanding, and typically resent those who come by their ignorance the easy way!

Religion (at least the major monotheistic faiths that dominate the western and middle eastern world) demands blind faith. Its highest ideal is absolute, child-like obedience and unquestioning faith. Doubt is not permitted, and considered heretical, to say nothing of pointing out religious contradictions with reality. Religion claims sole possession of truth for itself and its self-appointed leaders. When science and religion happen to clash on a subject, the faithful are required to reject science.

Consider what science has given us:
  1. We now know that stars are suns, powered by thermonuclear fusion
  2. We now know that all the matter of the Universe is the condensed energy from the 14 billion year-old "Big Bang" and that the Universe is not at all static and unchanging
  3. We now know that our solar system, with the Sun at its heart, is about 5 billion years old, and includes a host of objects besides the Earth: planets (that are not stars at all, but other worlds), asteroids, comets. etc.
  4. We now know that life has evolved from its earliest beginnings (as yet unexplained) into complex life forms, including we humans, during the existence of the Earth
  5. We now know that volcanoes and earthquakes result from plate tectonics and the processes driven by the heat within the Earth's interior
  6. We now know that storms are the result of processes associated with unequal heating

Many of the gaps in our scientific understanding have been filled, no longer requiring a role for a deity as an "explanation" for that phenomenon. At points in the past, all these things (and more) were not known, and various myths were proposed to "explain" such things, many of which revolved around some deity (many have been postulated!) whose wrath at our lack of belief was responsible for these natural events. Most human beings over the history of our species have lived out their entire lives with only superstition and mythology to explain what they saw around them. They never knew what stars are, they had no idea how we humans came to be here on Earth, and they had no clue as to why they experienced geological and meteorological hazards. Myths were an early, unscientific way, to try to explain things, but science has no place for the "God Hypothesis" as it offers no explanation at all. Gods are the ultimate deus ex machina.

It seems very strange to me to embrace both science and religion, since they involve such contradictory methods regarding knowledge of the world around us. It's at best a monument to the ability of humans to compartmentalize their thinking. The lifelong habits of successful science should disallow the very notion of accepting someone's ideas on faith, without question or doubt.

27 comments:

rdale said...

"When science and religion happen to clash on a subject, the faithful are required to reject science."

That may be true - but when science and the Bible clash on a subject, the faithful are free to accept science. Anyone in a "religion" that requires they reject the science needs to examine their religion a little more than they are comfortable with.

Genesis 1 is not a science book demanding that everyone believes in a 7day creation or they are going to hell, that "stipulation" was added on by rulers outside of the Bible.

Chuck Doswell said...

Rob,

So you're telling me that faithful followers of a particular religion (I'm assuming you mean a bible-based religion) are completely free to pick and choose what to accept from their scriptures? That doesn't sound like any biblical religion I know about!

If I were to poll christian and jewish religious leaders about the extent to which their followers can "cherry pick" what parts of the bible they can accept on faith and what parts they can reject, I doubt that faithful followers would be allowed much leeway, if any. Either the bible is the word of the deity, or it isn't. If it is the word of the deity, what gives a mere human the right to reject it?

rdale said...

Not at all... I am saying that the Bible is not a science textbook. Its purpose was not to each ancient civilizations how the universe was created. So it can't "clash" with science any more than a Shakespear production can clash with science.

If Genesis 1 said "in exactly 144 hours, 4000 years ago, the world was created" then those religious leaders would have a leg to stand on. But it doesn't, so anything they claim (sort of like Earth as the center of the universe) does not come from the Bible. So the Bible isn't the source of that info.

Chuck Doswell said...

So the bible is simply a work of fiction, like a Shakespeare play? Makes sense to me, of course, but it doesn't seem to work for religions. I trust that religious leaders would not accept such a claim.

Torture and death for apostasy are just a misinterpretation of their scriptures by those religious leaders? Feel free to join us free thinkers in trying to convince the religious not to reject rationality.

I agree that the bible isn't a science textbook, of course. It was written before what we now call science even existed! But it does make some specific statements that are in direct opposition to modern scientific understanding.

I think the key element of biblical scriptures seems to be unquestioning belief in the putative deity, not their "explanations" for the natural world. But when faith and obedience to supposedly divine law based on those same scriptures are the basis for religions, this mode of thinking must somehow be kept distinct from science, where arguments based on any authority are rejected from the outset.

Indeed, I agree that if religion requires you to reject science, then allegiance to that religion is worthy of reexamination!

rdale said...

If you want to believe that the Bible is fiction, go ahead, but do not twist my post into supporting that statement.

Chuck Doswell said...

OK -- so it's not a science text (I agree), and it's not fiction (in your view). Then what is it? Allegory? Parable? That means you can't take any of it literally, and someone -- that is, religious leaders -- has to interpret it for you. If you entrust interpretation to someone else, you pretty much agree to accept their interpretation without question, which might lead you to be required (by them) to reject science.

Of course, you could choose to put your own personal spin on everything in the scriptures. In doing so, then you could stray pretty far from the orthodoxy of your chosen religious denomination. They could brand you a heretic -- a doubting Thomas, if you will -- and excommunicate you, or whatever, if they find out about your view of things.

If the world wasn't created in a day and species weren't all created at once by divine power, then genesis isn't true. What's the functional distinction between fiction and something that isn't true?

For what it's worth, there's a lot of demonstrable untruth in the bible, both old and new testaments. If that isn't fiction, what is it?

rdale said...

"That means you can't take any of it literally, and someone -- that is, religious leaders -- has to interpret it for you."

Sorry, but that just doesn't make sense. Because PARTS of the Bible are poems (read Song of Solomon) therefore all of it holds no value other than as a piece of fiction? Or some is real, but somehow God chose only a few people smart enough to interpret for us?

No.

Look at the apostles - none of them were trained religious leaders, yet they were able to realize who Jesus was and how to keep his plans moving ahead.

What verses in the NT states that a religious leader is needed to "interpret" the Bible? I think you are "interpreting" the Bible using the influence of a religion that adds extra-Biblical items such as Popes & Bishops, or meets annually to vote on how lead their people.

If it's not in the Bible, I'm not going to listen to a human sitting on a throne tell me what to do. He better have a chapter and verse ready to back his claim up...

Chuck Doswell said...

So you've apparently opted to interpret biblical scriptures for yourself and have decided for yourself which parts are true and which parts are not. Good for you! Our only difference seems to be that we may not agree on how much is true ...

There's nothing in my response to the effect that I believe the new testament says you need a biblical interpreter, so that argument is a straw man of your own manufacture.

rdale said...

When you read a poem, such as Genesis 1, it only makes sense to interpret it as it was written. It was not written as a scientific explanation of how the universe was formed, it was written to a society that had been taught the universe was formed by gods that wre bored with their lives.

The straw man I manufactured came from your comment that someone needs to interpt scripture for me. That's not Biblical, that is something you and some religions made up.

Chuck Doswell said...

So you think Genesis is a poem, not to be taken literally. I gather the Song of Solomon is a song. In regards to its content, is a song a poem? What about the rest of the chapters?

If you actually read my responses, you'll see that I offered two possibilities regarding biblical interpretation (assuming the content is, say, allegorical), not one. You've taken the self-interpretation route, so it seems you have a denomination with one member.

rdale said...

Denominations aren't in the Bible either... That might be why non-denominational churches are growing so fast as people start to read the Bible for themselves instead of relying on others to tell them what they think the Bible means.

Chuck Doswell said...

Just how does a non-denominational church work? If folks can interpret the bible for themselves, for what do they need a gathering? Do non-denominational churches have clerics to lead the proceedings? Do they have a liturgy? Are they all the same or are there different flavors of non-denominationality? Is it just a social interaction with the like-minded?

Chuck Doswell said...

Oh, and by the way, how can a bible-based religion be truly non-denominational? My guess is that these are primarily christian churches, right? How can that be truly non-denominational? According to dictionary.com, a denomination is a "religious group" (i.e., a gathering of like-minded people)!

rdale said...

Good questions!

"Just how does a non-denominational church work?"

The main difference (which should answer your next post) comes if you continue on with that definition - "usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect: the Lutheran denomination."

When people refer to denominations, they usually consider something like Catholic or Anglican or Assembly of God and along those lines. Those "denominations" have a central location or individual who sends down the rules through regional / local churches. The church building may be owned by the denomination, and usually the clergy is selected by the denomination. None of that is in the Bible. I'm not saying they're going to hell, it's just not in the Bible so I have no interest in those sorts of arrangements.

Non-denominational churches are fully independent. The leaders (elders) of the church, in hand with the congregation, hire the preacher and decide to build a facility and determine the mission projects they will pursue. There is no overarching body that tells a ND church how to take communion or who to hire or anything else. We all tend to agree on a common theme -- if it's in the Bible (New Testament specifically) then we strive to do it.

"If folks can interpret the bible for themselves, for what do they need a gathering?"

The church is the PEOPLE and not the building or the service.

http://www.victorious.org/whygo.htm

"Do non-denominational churches have clerics to lead the proceedings?"

Preachers (teachers basically) give a message. They are college- and usually seminary-educated, but their daily life looks no different than a "regular" attendee. His work life is different, but we don't put celibacy requirements or anything along those lines on staff. The people leading singing or giving a communion meditation or offering prayer are sometimes staff, sometimes just "normal" members, but in any case they are always chosen by that individual church.

"Do they have a liturgy?"

I'm not sure how that word is used in denominations, I don't know that the particular phrase is in NDs. We do have some basics that are usually in every ND service - singing, teaching, taking of offering, prayer, and usually communion (bread and juice.)

"Are they all the same or are there different flavors of non-denominationality?"

I'm sure there are exceptions, and there are some areas up for interpretation (how often do you take communion, how much of a church's giving should be sent to missionaries, etc.), but in general -- the same.

http://www.suite101.com/content/what-is-a-nondenominational-church-a166300

"Is it just a social interaction with the like-minded?"

I'd love to say "of course not" but I know of plenty of people who come Sunday morning just to say that they come. Some churches may be entirely full of those people. But in general, most ND members do much more with their church brothers and in the world as a group than just show up Sunday morning.

stormtrack_king said...

Chuck decided to take on rdale!!! That is awesome!! rdale is always right though! Just look at all the little retards he spanks on stormtrack everyday! Kind of a sad life but if it makes him feel good then more power to him. I am going to guess he is single and owns at least one cat! hahaha!

Anonymous said...

"It's at best a monument to the ability of humans to compartmentalize their thinking. The lifelong habits of successful science should disallow the very notion of accepting someone's ideas on faith, without question or doubt."
Newton, Leibniz, and Kepler must either have been prototypes of compartmentalized thinking--or they were just highly unsuccessful scientists.

Michael G. said...

Thanks for this blog entry, Chuck. I'm working in astrophysics (although I'm almost an even bigger fan of meteorology) and whenever I encounter colleagues with deeply rooted religious beliefs, it really baffles me.

So far my conclusion is that those roots are the reason for why people can actually retain their beliefs even after years of scientific education. Usually, people encounter religion very early on in their lives. If no one (or nothing) comes along to challenge their religious views early on, and if their experience with their church was positive overall, I can understand that it is very difficult to just let go of such beliefs (and the associated social connections) later in life. As you and I have experienced, this is even true for people that end up being a scientist whose whole education is based on the notion of discarding previous ideas based on evidence.

Therefore, I also think being able to "compartmentalize" the different ways of thinking is the best way to explain how these people can bear the cognitive dissonance.

Cheers,
Michael

Chuck Doswell said...

"Anonymous" -- I think the choice of options is pretty evident.

To "rdale" -- Unless we can return to the topic of my original post, I'm done with our discussion.

rdale said...

...and a good discussion it was! Thanks.

Dan D. said...

I'm sort of late to the party here, but I did want to comment briefly on this idea of "compartmentalized thinking" and "cognitive dissonance" that supposedly plagues us scientists who are also religious.
To be sure, there is some compartmentalization going on, but this is hardly unique to religious scientists. It's a basic human way of organizing thoughts. A scientist who is also an artist "compartmentalizes" her thinking when she performs art; i.e., she doesn't apply the scientific method to her paintings, at least not consciously or rigorously. Similarly there is this sort of benign compartmentalization going on when religious scientists are alternately engaging in religious or scientific activities. I don't use the scientific method when I pray (again, at least not consciously or rigorously), and I don't suppose that God is reaching in and personally tweaking every single measurement in some arbitrary manner when I'm performing science. Related to this, I don't believe in a "God-of-the-gaps", but that's perhaps for a future blog post.
However, if you are arguing that religious scientists somehow have to compartmentalize in a stronger sense, in that we somehow intuitively "know better" that, say, belief in God is fundamentally (logically) incompatible with science, so we are required to "wall off" two parts of our thinking (i.e. have cognitive dissonance), I think you are mistaken. I have talked to many religious scientists, and not a single one of them describes their experience in this manner. My own experience is that I am constantly awed by the ability of science to reveal new things about the natural world, and I think that this experience is *at the very least* logically consistent with the idea of an orderly Creator, and may actually constitute *evidence* for it.
One of the things I've made part of my life's passion, other than a commitment to science, is to reach out to my atheistic colleagues in science and at least convince them that it is possible to hold a logically consistent worldview that affirms both science and the possibility of belief in a transcendent reality. If one chooses not to believe that a transcendent reality exists, I completely understand and respect such a viewpoint, but at least give us religious scientists the benefit of the doubt that we have actually thought deeply about these issues and brought our faculties of reason to bear on this matter. Can we at least start there? Take it is as a plea in good faith for at least the start of a dialogue on these matters.
To round off my comment, I'd like to explain my personal starting point that anchors my thinking about the relationship of religion/faith to science. It is simply this: if a transcendent personal God exists, it seems eminently reasonable to suppose that said God would create a world that would be amenable to investigation through science.

Chuck Doswell said...

I wouldn't describe using my artistic side as "compartmentalizing" because it's not particularly incompatible with my science side. In fact, I see art and science as quite compatible with and connected to my science, and have felt that way for decades. Art and science are very different, of course, but they don't clash at all. Art offers no alternative "explanations" for the natural world, for example. The same just can't be said for organized religion, so this example just isn't very compelling.

I've never asserted that compartmentalization is the only explanation for what I see as a basic incompatibility. Rather, it's only a hypothesis, and one that's purely speculative.

If in your own personal interpretation of religion, you find science and the "god hypothesis" to be consistent, but you assert that this is not made possible by compartmentalization, then your interpretation of religion flies in the very face of the bible itself, which offers some very different "explanations" for events here in the natural world.

Your "orderly Creator" is responsible for some very disorderly things, including sending a flood to kill nearly everyone on the planet. Your "orderly Creator" has set himself in opposition to some very human characteristics (such as sex) that he gave us. That doesn't seem very orderly to me.

Religious scientists have been shown to be a minority among scientists in general. And that fraction of scientists who are religious decreases with scientific stature. I'm part of the majority here, so I'm trying to understand how someone who is a serious scientist can encompass something so profoundly opposed to science. I believe science requires me to be skeptical and challenge ideas that don't make sense to me. Religion has never made sense to me so I challenge it. That's what scientists do.

We're having a calm, rational discourse here, so what more do you want? Does the fact that I challenge your religious beliefs make you uncomfortable? Am I not to be allowed to question what seems nonsensical to me?

Dan D. said...

"I wouldn't describe using my artistic side as "compartmentalizing" because it's not particularly incompatible with my science side. In fact, I see art and science as quite compatible with and connected to my science, and have felt that way for decades. Art and science are very different, of course, but they don't clash at all. Art offers no alternative "explanations" for the natural world, for example. The same just can't be said for organized religion, so this example just isn't very compelling."
Actually, this helps to illuminate my overall point. In much the same way as you see art being quite compatible and connected to your science, I see faith and religion (at least some expressions of it) as being compatible and connected. Of course, art is very different from both religion and science. As you say, art offers no explanations for the natural world, but that's not really the point I was trying to make. I even agree that religious explanations can potentially clash with scientific ones, but I maintain that they don't have to. The more I grow in my understanding of my faith and science, the more I see that the potential clashes become less and less, but it would take a long time to articulate this.

"Your "orderly Creator" is responsible for some very disorderly things, including sending a flood to kill nearly everyone on the planet. Your "orderly Creator" has set himself in opposition to some very human characteristics (such as sex) that he gave us. That doesn't seem very orderly to me."
By "orderly" I meant that the natural world appears to operate under some particularly elegant and reliable physical laws. That's part of the reason science even works, of course. If the Universe were utter chaos, with no well-defined physical laws, or ones that could change willy-nilly, science would be much more difficult, if not impossible. As far as the Creator doing things that seem "disorderly" to us, that's another issue. I believe there may be good reasons for God to do "disorderly" things from time to time (especially when you throw human freedom into the mix). We may be free to question him (and the Bible is full of examples of people who questioned God, and he didn't immediately smite them for it!), but we must keep in mind that if God is any being worth the label, his thoughts and ways are so far above us that it would be rather a surprise if everything he was doing *did* always make sense to us. At the same time it doesn't follow that we can't know *anything* about God or find signposts in the natural world that seem to point that way. My position is that the very enterprise of science *itself* is such a signpost.

Dan D. said...

"Religious scientists have been shown to be a minority among scientists in general. And that fraction of scientists who are religious decreases with scientific stature. I'm part of the majority here, so I'm trying to understand how someone who is a serious scientist can encompass something so profoundly opposed to science. I believe science requires me to be skeptical and challenge ideas that don't make sense to me. Religion has never made sense to me so I challenge it. That's what scientists do. "
Chuck, I'm with you on the skepticism part. I agree a scientist has to be skeptical and question virtually everything (including the philosophical assumptions behind skepticism itself!). Nothing wrong with challenging religion: I do it myself, including my own religious beliefs! As far as the minority vs. majority issue, historically, religious scientists were not in the minority. There are numerous possible reasons why that has changed, many of which are cultural, and stem back from the Enlightenment idea that reason and faith must be incompatible. What I maintain is that this is a *philosophical* position, and not one that is required for one to be a consistent scientist. I mean, if you think about it, women are also underrepresented in the sciences, but I think we can agree that it isn't because of any fundamental incompatibility between womanhood and science, but rather is cultural in nature. My feeling is that the relative lack of religious scientists (at least in a traditional, organized sense) may be explained by similar factors. In any case, I'm undaunted by being in the minority. After all, truth isn't determined by the number of people who believe something, as I'm sure you would agree.

Dan D. said...

"We're having a calm, rational discourse here, so what more do you want? Does the fact that I challenge your religious beliefs make you uncomfortable? Am I not to be allowed to question what seems nonsensical to me?"

No to the first question, yes to the second. I'm not sure where you got this impression. I'm only trying to offer another way of thinking about these things, and that was the context of my "plea" above.

For what it's worth, I'm glad to be able to have such a discussion with you. This is something I'm very passionate about, and it's good to have friends who disagree on these issues, but can still go out and have a beer afterward.

Chuck Doswell said...

Dan,

I suspected your response would be to use my comment about the compatibility between art and science to buttress your argument. The fact that you see clashes between religion and science diminishing simply reinforces my perception that you're somehow ignoring the superstitions and contradictions within the scriptures that underlie your religion. Please take the time to articulate your ideas of this 'compatibility' in your blog, so I can try to understand them!

As for the 'order' of physical laws in the universe, I have no evident need for the 'god hypothesis'! Besides, the order I see in the natural world couldn't possibly flow from the egomaniacal deity I see described in the bible: arbitrary, deceitful, vengeful, vain, arrogant, and willing to inflict unlimited pain for disobedience.

I'm also not surprised that you invoke the 'god works in mysterious, incomprehensible ways' argument. If this postulated deity makes no sense, then why give me the capacity and drive to try to make sense out of things (which is what we scientists are seeking to do)? We humans have to live with this hypothesized creator's notions of how the world is supposed to work, so why can't your deity explain his actions? If we're too stupid to understand, why not make us smarter?

And why have all the obvious miracles ceased? It would help a lot if divine intervention turned water into wine once in a while, or gave eyesight to the the blind, just to help each new generation appreciate who's running things and give us some evidence to support this hypothesis. Let me hear the word from a burning bush or a pillar of fire sometime.

Decent parents try diligently and patiently to explain to their children the reasons why they do things, in language their children can understand. Your deity doesn't even seem like a proper parent! Do as I say and don't ask so many questions, or you'll burn in hellfire for eternity! Take it all on faith!

Oh yes, and don't do as I do! I can kill multitudes on a whim according to rules you can't understand but at the same time I command you not to do what I do. Except -- in the case of unbelievers, adulterers, prostitutes, and homosexuals -- i.e., whenever it suits my egomania.

Chuck Doswell said...

Dan,

The 'culture' of science certainly is responsible for the fact that religious scientists are in the minority. Imagine being a biologist and simultaneously believing in divine, instantaneous creation of species! Imagine being a geologist and simultaneously believing in the notion that the Earth is 6000 years old! If you can find compatibility there, you must be a magician! Our culture leads us to reject myth and superstition and hew to the evidence for developing our ideas.

The fact that not all christians disbelieve in evolution and deep time is one thing, but the basis for their belief system is in mythical 'explanations' for the natural world that are demonstrably false. Those scriptures make it clear that the penalty for doubt is eternal damnation. This is a belief system based on what amounts to a theocracy, in which anyone not with them is against them. How can you 'cherry pick' which parts of the bible to believe in? Because you know the bible is flat out dead wrong with those elements incompatible with modern science! If it's dead wrong about those elements for which we now have vast evidence, why not the rest?

As for 'truth' - only religion claims to be in possession of absolute truth! Yes, being in the minority doesn't preclude being right, but it certainly doesn't guarantee it, either! And in science, claims to overthrow consensus must meet pretty high standards. I see virtually no meaningful evidence to overrule the scientific consensus regarding religion.

Chuck Doswell said...

A reader named Jeff (last name withheld by request) sent me an email comment:

"As I look, at the magnificent, natural world around us (and beyond), and see how it all works so well, I simply cannot believe it happened by accident. In fact, as I learn more about how things, in nature, work around me, (i.e., science) I become increasingly more convinced that God designed and created it. Things work too well for there not to be an intelligent Creator.

Look at how wonderfully our bodies function (bones and organs periodically renewing themselves; how they fight sickness at the cellular level; human reproduction); look at how plants absorb the very thing mammals expel with every breath and how they take in water from the ground through their root systems; look at how flowers turn to face the sun; how that atmosphere acts to redistribute heat at every scale; and the laws of physics - not one of them is out of place."

It's not like this is a new argument. The issue of how well the natural world works is open to question. Clearly, there are some minimum requirements for the system to operate at all, and it's obvious that the natural world meets those - otherwise, we wouldn't be here. But it's not so evident to me that one can use this argument effectively to provide substantial evidence for a supernatural creator. In the natural world, there's no compelling evidence of a manufacturer, as in the old watchmaker argument. Instead, we see that things work in a rather chaotic, nonlinear, fractal way. This is very dissimilar from the architecture of a watch. In the natural world, things go wrong and bad things ensue: the marvelous body functions you attribute to the creator go wrong (cancer, autoimmune diseases, etc.) and injure or kill people. The atmosphere is unstable, producing deadly storms. Volcanoes expel noxious gases. Earthquakes destroy whole cities. Food plants succumb to diseases, resulting in famine. The list can go on and on. The world is not a benign paradise for our benefit, based on what I can see. It's full of lurking dangers that can maim and kill.