The anthropic principle

If you’re swayed by the logic of “We’d have as much money as the Rolling Stones if we sold as many records as they did”, then you’re going to love this section. And if you’re still in doubt that when Lennox thinks he’s talking about a theist god he’s really only, and I do mean only, talking about the Christian God, then check out the Penzias paragraphs on page 76. I’d quote them here but it’s late, I’m tired, and really can’t be bothered with the effort to transport them over. People, this is not a book defending theism. It is a book saying that this particular universe was created in order to one day barf up the pinnacle of creation – us. It’s nice to be special.

Comment if you’ve got ’em.

29 thoughts on “The anthropic principle

  1. Marco

    It was a catholic priest who thought up the Big Bang theory. I think he’s pushing the fact that catholic Christian thought fits quite well with it, and he is even suggesting the bible “predicts new facts”, with that quote. I’ve never been swayed by the anthropic principle either way. Lennox spends most of the chapter attacking the multiverse theory, and how the anthropic principle doesn’t really support atheism.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      The key words in relation to Penzias are “Here is another major counter-example to the commonly held notion that there is no element of predictability (and thus no scientific dimension) in the theistic account of creation. ”

      Any bets on whether that theistic account involves Shesha the creation serpent? Thought not.

      Reply
      1. Nathanael Small

        We get it. You don’t like that Lennox cites a catholic (not necessarily christian) theist.

        I’ve wondered about this absent theism definition of Lennox as its your main beef and you’ve used it repeatedly to judge author’s motivation.

        Perhaps Lennox is using the more specific sense of the definition of theism that Wikipedia refers to which by its nature excludes polytheism?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theism -particularly 2nd half of first paragraph.

        It’s one possible explanation as to why Lennox avoids poly and sticks to mono.

        Shesha doesn’t fit this definition as it’s part of polytheistic Hinduism, so i wouldn’t take your bet.

        And i’m wondering whether a catholic referencing the Pentateuch and Psalms doesn’t exclude judaism, as christians & jews hold the same texts as part of their theism.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          Glad to see your comments.

          The question is why Lennox needs to use the word theist at all when this is obviously a Christian apologetics. If you’re only going to talk about god as the Christian god then talking about theism and ‘people of faith’ obscures the point. Is it wrong? No. But what is the purpose of doing so? And what is the purpose of doing so, so extensively? Why use theist for the general sentences but Christian for the specifics?

          I suspect it’s because his main purpose is arguing against atheism and the New Atheist. As the New Atheists argue against theism, Lennox is drawn into that wider debate as he knows a book attacking atheism through the narrow chink of Christianity mounts next to no case at all. He needs a book that defends theism in total, but sadly for him his theism extends to only a subset of it.

          Reply
      2. Marco

        I enjoy the bits where Lennox exposes the silly things new Atheists say. I’m sure that like with any good evangelist, half the battle is refuting an atheist claim. The thought is that if the reader buys that, then they are likely to lend a sympathetic ear to your specific theology rather than a generalised theist catch all. I have trained my mind to ignore all specific religious claims, including atheist ones. Thus it is irritating to try to justify why they should be in there, when they have no effect on whether I enjoy the book.

        As to why he uses the word theism? I think he is basically using the same definition of God as Dawkins does. That is essentially the same monotheistic god of all the religions that Dawkins lumps into the same category. In essence, by making it about new atheist claims first, he automatically jumps into bed with Muslims, as they believe in the same God that Dawkins defined. If Dawkins believed that it was only the Christian god that didn’t exist, Lennox would have been quite happy not to use the word theism. Not all theologians have the same take on this. Some would balk at defending other religions, even as passively and selectively as Lennox does.

        Reply
      1. Marco

        Dawkins gives his definition of the God he believes is delusional. Yes – an atheist giving a definition of God. Lennox’s definition of God is whatever definition the atheist he’s arguing against is, and he focuses his attention on the overlap of “that” God and the God he believes in.

        Reply
  2. winstoninabox Post author

    Weak
    Really? What kind of definition were you expecting from a person who doesn’t believe god exists? I aim to please so how about:

    A being which doesn’t exist but those who do believe it does prescribe supernatural powers to, most usually the ability to create matter and life from nothing, the ability to ignore the restrictions of time and space. the ability to have perfect knowledge of all things. Sometimes these people also believe that this being takes an active interest in their lives.

    As you can see, I’m just trying to put into words what other people think god is.

    Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        Okay:

        1. I think the anthropic principle is a dodgy argument best not touched with a bargepole. Obviously the universe needs to have the properties for us to exist, because we are here. If it had different properties, someone else would be here, to say the universe needed to have those properties so they could be here; or no-one would be here, so there would be no problem with anybody saying anything. The ‘finely tuned’ universe doesn’t add anything to the basic amazingness of there being something rather than nothing, IMHO.

        2. Like I said before, the anthropic principle can just as well cut the other way, and in a universe where any old sloppy values of fundamental constants would obviously give rise to intelligent life, it is easy to imagine a parallel-Lennox pointing enthusiastically to this as evidence for a benevolent Creator.

        (I was pushing you for a definition of God, BTW, because I didn’t really see where Lennox pushes beyond a defence of theism to arguments that rely on a specifically Christian God. And I still don’t really see how he goes beyond your definition in a significant way, or in a way that would somehow invalidate his arguments.)

        Reply
  3. winstoninabox Post author

    1. I think the anthropic principle is a dodgy argument best not touched with a bargepole. Obviously the universe needs to have the properties for us to exist, because we are here. If it had different properties, someone else would be here, to say the universe needed to have those properties so they could be here; or no-one would be here, so there would be no problem with anybody saying anything. The ‘finely tuned’ universe doesn’t add anything to the basic amazingness of there being something rather than nothing, IMHO.

    Thanks for speaking up on this. This is the kind of comment I wish Nathanael would respond to. A comment from someone who isn’t me, yet also disagrees with this book.

    2. Like I said before, the anthropic principle can just as well cut the other way, and in a universe where any old sloppy values of fundamental constants would obviously give rise to intelligent life, it is easy to imagine a parallel-Lennox pointing enthusiastically to this as evidence for a benevolent Creator.

    As I pointed out recently whatever science finds out Lennox is either going to cherry-pick as proof, or claim that god is above (or behind) it anyway if it’s contradictory, so it’s all god. And as I said in that comment, I wonder how far he extends responsibility to that god for what ensues.

    (I was pushing you for a definition of God, BTW, because I didn’t really see where Lennox pushes beyond a defence of theism to arguments that rely on a specifically Christian God. And I still don’t really see how he goes beyond your definition in a significant way, or in a way that would somehow invalidate his arguments.)

    It doesn’t invalidate his argument, but it does weaken it. If I want to talk about helmet laws for motorcyclists it is silly to keep on referring to them as ‘operators of vehicles’, and so to with Lennox and his coyness about theists who are really only Christians. The only reason you don’t pull him up on it is because he’s presenting it through the one-way medium of a book. If instead we were at his book reading of “God’s Undertaker”, then you’re hand would be first up at question time with, “So as a theist, you’re down with the god of the Quran?”

    Reply
  4. Nathanael Small

    Whether anthropism cuts both ways is or adds nothing is irrelevant.
    The point promotes discussion and is a valid scenario in the multiverse.
    Whether Lennox is down with the Koran is irrelevant.
    He’s not arguing for the implications of a particular form of theism, merely that theism is probable.
    I’m surprised that someone who staunch,y resists the implications of their beliefs being relevant would play this card against an argument in this context.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      Whether anthropism cuts both ways is or adds nothing is irrelevant.
      The point promotes discussion and is a valid scenario in the multiverse.

      Oh come now Nathanael, almost anything seems to promote discussion by your definition. I could write a book about how the universe is really a great big cheesecake carried on the back of a termite, and we could discuss that. But it wouldn’t be a *worthwhile* discussion. Just as the anthropic principle is a dead-end. To show how much of a dead-end it is just look at where this discussion has lead – you say it is a good theory and I say it isn’t. There’s nothing more that can be said about it. I think it’s circular logic that proves nothing, you say it’s valid and viable without even contradicting me with any evidence. In about 3 posts it’s become my opinion versus yours without a shred of science to speak of.

      He’s not arguing for the implications of a particular form of theism, merely that theism is probable.
      And no one but a few radical New Atheists who overreach their logic are going to argue against that. I’ll grant Lennox that point (and have before), but then what next? “merely that theism is probable” is so wishy-washy that agreement is fait accompli. There’s no need to write a book arguing that.

      Do you remember the quote I used from near the beginning of the book where Lennox says (and apologies again for the now even lengthier quote):

      “Christianity will insist that faith and evidence are inseparable. Indeed faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence. The Christian apostle John writes in his biography of Jesus: ‘These things are written that you might believe…” That is, he understands that what he is writing is to be regarded as part of the evidence on which faith is based. The apostle Paul says what many pioneers of modern science believed, namely, that nature itself is part of the evidence for the existence of God: ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.’ It is no part of the biblical view that things should be believed where there is no evidence. (16)

      Apologies for the lengthiness of the above quote, but it needs to be seen in its entirety. There’s a few important contradictions here, so let’s break it down.

      First, this quote demonstrates the flexibility Lennox will continually place on ‘theist’. Up to this quote Dawkins and Lennox have clearly not put any denominational restriction on the faithful; they clearly are both talking about theists in general. But now that he wants to demonstrate that religious faith most certainly does not lack for evidence, he turns to the one and only faith that he believes fulfills this criteria.” (vex cathedra The Last Nail in God’s Coffin 1)

      Here he segues from theism to Christianity and back again without even noticing it. So a non-Christian finds in this book which purports to be about ‘theism’ evidence entirely Christian in origin. There is nothing here for the non-Christian faithful, nor even the agnostic who wants to believe in “god”. Obviously you being a Christian don’t really find any problem with this, and there is nothing wrong with it per se (which again I’ve said). But it weakens the book.

      Reply
      1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        “merely that theism is probable” is so wishy-washy that agreement is fait accompli. There’s no need to write a book arguing that.

        Yes, there is: because the “New Atheists” have made a big splash arguing that theism is infinitely improbable; that God is just a “sky fairy” on a level with your cheesecake carried on the back of a giant termite and that no form of theism is worth considering seriously. If you think it is intuitively obvious that theism is intellectually respectable, than I have totally misinterpreted everything you’ve written here!

        The quote is just a demonstration; you could write an identical one in a Muslim context without any problem at all. I’ll have a go:

        “Islam will insist that faith and evidence are inseparable. Indeed faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the absence of evidence. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says of the Holy Qur’an: ‘Can they not consider the Qur’an? If it was from someone other than Allah they would have found so much discrepancy in it …’ That is, he understands that what he is writing is to be regarded as part of the evidence on which faith is based. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says what many pioneers of modern science believed, namely, that nature itself is part of the evidence for the existence of God: ‘In the creation of the heavens and earth and in the alternation of night and day there are signs for those who have minds.’ It is no part of the Muslim view that things should be believed where there is no evidence.”

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “merely that theism is probable” is so wishy-washy that agreement is fait accompli. There’s no need to write a book arguing that.

          Yes, there is: because the “New Atheists” have made a big splash arguing that theism is infinitely improbable; that God is just a “sky fairy” on a level with your cheesecake carried on the back of a giant termite and that no form of theism is worth considering seriously.

          Would you mind reading my ‘By way of and introduction’ and ‘The last nail in God’s coffin 1’. I think I’ve talked about this there. Maybe. Would you mind?

          If you think it is intuitively obvious that theism is intellectually respectable, than I have totally misinterpreted everything you’ve written here!

          I’ve no problem with someone claiming that there is a god. I greatly respect your own position on this matter and have said so repeatedly (although maybe not to you). My problems come when the person starts to bring in bad science to justify their belief. Hi Lennox!

          The quote is just a demonstration; you could write an identical one in a Muslim context without any problem at all.

          Sure, you could write one (great work BTW), but Lennox isn’t going to substitute your version into his book because he’s a theist only in the loosest sense of the word. Try to validate his theism by any other religion than Christianity and he’s going to be a sad little boy should he hear about it.

          Now if you, Nathanael and Marco have no problem with that, then I’m happy to agree to disagree. I just hope that Lennox will be equally supportive as he is to Christianity with my new god of atheism when I’ve finished deifying Evolution. Bwahahahaha!

          Reply
      2. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

        I did read those, but my mind is like one of those, you know, thingies, with all the little holes in it that stuff falls out of… I will read those bits again!

        Hey, I found this picture of John Lennox getting along famously with a Muslim spokesman.

        And thanks, and thanks again, for your kind words… *blushes*

        Reply
      3. Marco

        I think I am starting to see the grain of truth (it is but a grain) in what you are saying. As a Christian, it is hard to shake the instinct and imperative to evangelise. ie. to actively try to change people’s belief to your own specific one. You will notice it both with Lennox and Nathanael. It is against Winston’s philosophy to do the same, and that is a repeated theme in these blogs. It is virtually taboo.
        Thus there is the deliberate impression in this book that the belief in God is a stepping stone to Christianity specifically, and the quite real feeling that atheism as an organised meme is strongest where Christians have a majority over other monotheist religions. Thus attacking atheism and evangelising Christianity is seen as the way to best increase the flock in countries such as the US and Australia. The only reason it does not bother me at all is because I have been so exposed to it, being a regular churchgoer at some point but not professing my Christianity. It perhaps let me enjoy the book all the more.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          I think I am starting to see the grain of truth (it is but a grain) in what you are saying…

          While I agree with what you’ve said, especially about evangelizing, it’s not my point.

          That Lennox is writing as a theist is without doubt. He identifies as Christian, Christians are theists, so he is a theist.

          Lennox is not arguing for theism. He is arguing for Christianity. Christianity doesn’t equal theism, it is a subset of theism and as such can’t be substituted for it in the sentence. Lennox would not agree that his arguments give support to any other god than the one he follows, so he shouldn’t be allowed to use theism when he means Christian.

          Reply
      4. Marco

        You’ve lost me with that, and I think there is atheist-think behind your reasoning, rather than philosophical logic. Nowhere in the book did I think that because he was using Christian biblical evidence for every one of his points in favour of theism, that he was mischieviously conflating the two. The fact that every religion thinks that every other religion is the “wrong” religion does not mean that evidence from any one religion’s scriptures is invalid in vouching for the theistic aspects of *all* religions. Lennox is vouching for a concept of God in Idea space, not a tiny spot concentrated on the end of a line measuring how christian you are.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          You’ve lost me with that, and I think there is atheist-think behind your reasoning, rather than philosophical logic.

          Then I’ll have to ask you to take a look at this.

          Nowhere in the book did I think that because he was using Christian biblical evidence for every one of his points in favour of theism, that he was mischieviously conflating the two.

          I too wouldn’t say mischievously.

          The fact that every religion thinks that every other religion is the “wrong” religion does not mean that evidence from any one religion’s scriptures is invalid in vouching for the theistic aspects of *all* religions.

          True…

          Lennox is vouching for a concept of God in Idea space, not a tiny spot concentrated on the end of a line measuring how christian you are.

          So you would agree that if Lennox moves from a concept of God in Idea space to real world examples of God’s work then he *must* be advocating a particular god. After all, we both agree that every religion thinks every other religion is “wrong”. So Lennox can’t be advocating that some other god did these things.

          And he does just that. Yes, at the start of the book he is vouching for a concept of God in Idea space. But from chapter 4 he brings in scientific evidence from the real world to prove there is a god. So for the anthropic principle, the fine tuned universe and evolution he is no longer vouching for a God in Idea space. Lennox says that a real god made these things really happen in our real universe.

          According to Lennox that real god is, and can only be, the Christian God.

          I hope you find a distinct lack of atheist-think in the above. I can’t see any.

          Reply
  5. Marco

    So you would agree that if Lennox moves from a concept of God in Idea space to real world examples of God’s work then he *must* be advocating a particular god

    He is not doing any such thing. He is moving from a concept of God in idea space to concrete real world (christian in his case) examples of the same concept of God in idea space. The fact that he thinks it can *only* be a God as described in Christian texts is a subcontext not relevant to anything that he is saying in this book. To be even having a theological debate between Islamic and Christian theologists, they are clear that they are talking about the same God. Only an atheist would not see that the belief in the one God has primacy over the differences that make these monotheistic religions antipathic to one another.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      winston:
      So you would agree that if Lennox moves from a concept of God in Idea space to real world examples of God’s work then he *must* be advocating a particular god

      Marco:
      He is not doing any such thing. He is moving from a concept of God in idea space to concrete real world (christian in his case) examples of the same concept of God in idea space.

      If that’s what you think then I’ve taken this argument as far as it can go with you.

      Only an atheist would not see that the belief in the one God has primacy over the differences that make these monotheistic religions antipathic to one another.

      If only I were able to separate what I state from what I believe like Lennox does. *sigh*

      Reply
  6. Marco

    If that’s what you think then I’ve taken this argument as far as it can go with you.

    Sure, but we can expand on that grain of truth. Thinking back, whenever I read scriptural excerpts in the book I would groan and move on. Not because i disagreed with the use of scripture, but because it has become automatic for me when I see a gratuitous switch to evangelism, from the points that I would think were well structured arguments. Often, I find myself agreeing with everything bar the conclusion. The use of scripture is sometimes even cringeworthy to me.

    Reply

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