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Objection to Intelligent Design — Universe Is Too Big, with Too Much “Wasted Space”


Thoughtful reader Eric points me to a fine article over that The Stream by Tom Gilson, addressing an objection to ID:

We don’t know whether anyone is enjoying the view from some other planet. For all we know, we might be the only observers. Whether we are or not, the vastness of it all has led some skeptics to ask, why would God waste so much space on so few living creatures? Is this really a mark of intelligent design? It might surprise you to hear that I like that question, but I do: I enjoy answering it.

One of the better-articulated versions of that question goes like this:

Doesn’t the way that 99.99999999% of the universe is absolutely inhospitable to any kind of life show you that it wasn’t made for anybody? It is easy to imagine how a universe could have been more intelligently designed, with less wasted space and energy and more hospitality for life.

This objection is formulated by John R. Shook, of the Center for Inquiry, who also teaches philosophy at the University of Buffalo (“The Disappearing God“). Gilson goes on:

First, the “scientific” viewpoint of all this emptiness, when taken in full perspective, makes no strong statement against design. Quite the contrary, actually. I could mention the universe’s fine-tuning for life, for one thing. For another, we know now that a large universe is necessary for life, at least according to physics as we understand it.

On that, Gilson cites “the principle of the galactic habitable zone.”

[Its] implications include the principle that a certain amount of empty space, but not too much, is essential for life to thrive. (That’s admittedly an oversimplification which I make for the sake of space here on the blog, but not, I take it, a distortion.) So it is premature at best to suppose that large amounts of space “inhospitable to any kind of life” really mean that “it wasn’t made for anybody.”

Second, that idea is not just premature; it’s also incredibly short-sighted with respect to who Christians understand God to be. Is God concerned about the waste of energy and space?

Eric adds:

I think there is at least one other point that could be made. How does one recognize when something is rare? We see the extremely unusual state of this privileged planet precisely because it is in stark contrast to a vast inhospitable universe.

And we can see that contrast because we are also unusually suited for observation and scientific discoveries. Our state is both fine-tuned and knowable as fine-tuned.

Contrary to what Dr. Shook imagines, a vast universe is a key component in at least one line of argument for intelligent design. Articulated by Michael Denton and others, this argument points to the unique fitness of the universe and of our planet for upright bipeds like ourselves. The whole thing appears set up for us, and only for us. The vaster the cosmos, the more dramatically that point is underlined.

Denton’s current focus is on the fitness of the universe for fire-using creatures like us. See the short documentary Fire-Maker.

What exactly is the size of the universe, as we observe it? Wikipedia says:

The proper distance — the distance as would be measured at a specific time, including the present — between Earth and the edge of the observable universe is 46 billion light-years (14 billion parsecs), making the diameter of the observable universe about 91 billion light-years (28×109 pc).

As Evolution News observed yesterday in a biological context, ID critics often end up playing the role of naïve theologian: What they “seem to want is a metric with The Human Body as God Would (or Should) Have Made It at one end of the measuring stick. As Dilley and Nelson have pointed out, contemporary Darwinian evolutionary thinking borrows heavily from theology for its justification.” In this case it should be The Universe as God Would (or Should) Have Made It.

I’d want to ask John Shook, is it like going to the mall and looking for a pair of pants with the right waist and inseam measurements? 91 billion light-years is too big to be intelligently designed. Is there a size that would be too small? Just right?

Merely to ask such questions is to see how absurd the contention is that the universe has too much “wasted space.”

Image source: Pixabay.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.