In yesterday’s post, I claimed to have refuted Richard Dawkins’s claim that everything complex must have emerged from something simple by citing the natural numbers, which are provably highly complex (in a very precise sense) yet did not emerge from something simple. Numerous commenters suggested that I’d been unfair to Dawkins, because he’d surely meant his claim to apply only to biological processes.
Here is a quote from Dawkins’s book “The God Delusion”:
Time and again, my theologian friends returned to the point that there had to be a reason why there is something rather than nothing. There must have been a first cause of everything, and we might as well give it the name God. Yes, I siaid, but it must have been simple and therefore, whatever else we call it, God is not an appropriate name….The first cause that we seek must have been the simple basis for a self-bootstrapping crane which eventually raised the world as we know it into its present existence.
I could provide additional quotes, but this one should suffice. Dawkins believes, unless I have misunderstood him completely, that he has a quite general argument, not tied in any way to biology (because the above quote, for example, has nothing to do with biology) to establish that complex structures must have simple causes. That argument, whatever it might be, cannot be correct because the natural numbers stand as a counterexample.
If Dawkins, or any of his defenders, wants to respond that his argument is not intended to apply to the natural numbers, it becomes incumbent on them to point to a hypothesis which is actually used in the argument which would rule out such an application. Absent such a hypothesis, the argument must be erroneous.
I claim to have explained in The Big Questions exactly how the first cause of our Universe could be a mathematical structure that is far more complex than the Universe itself; of course others, like Max Tegmark, have demonstrated this possibility in far more detail than I have. Whether or not Tegmark and I are correct in our beliefs, I claim we’ve at least demonstrated that (as far as we can tell) those beliefs could be true, which, once again, refutes Dawkins’s position.
An argument that leads to flat-out wrong conclusions cannot be a correct argument, even if some of its implications turn out to be true. So I stand by what I said both yesterday and in The Big Questions : Dawkins’s position fails for exactly the same reason that Michael Behe’s does — we have an explicit example that shows that complexity requires neither a simpler antecedent nor a designer.