“I have an intellectually stimulating theory. It’s my theory of where the soda-can may have come from. Billions of years ago, there was a big bang in space. Nobody knows what caused the big bang, it just happened. And from this bang issued this huge rock, on top of the rock was found a sweet, brown bubbly substance. And over millions of years, aluminum crept up the side, formed itself with a can and a lid and then a tab. And then millions of years later, red paint, blue paint, white paint fell from the sky and formed itself into the words ‘12 fluid ounces - Do not litter’.”
Ray Comfort seems like a nice enough fellow, and even his accent is quite charming (thanks to Flight Of The Concords). Above is a common argument on his part for the evidence of Intelligent Design in the natural world. He has formed this concept by pointing an audience to objects that they’re quite familiar with in every day life, and then he simply states, “we can’t see the designer of the [inanimate object], but we know it has been designed, so we know the [inanimate object] had to have a designer.” I’ve heard him state this about everything from the architecture of a room, a combustion engine, and yes even a soda can. Though I get what Ray is trying to do here in opening up a connection between man made objects having a designer and therefore “designed” object in the Universe and natural processes must also, but I think for the sake of his own argument he is ignoring one really heavy aspect of debate that I will attempt to bring to light.
Lets start with the coke can… and I’ll debate the parts within his statement.
“I have an intellectually stimulating theory. It’s my theory of where the soda-can may have come from.”
The first glaring issue is that if you are attempting to speak (even to mock) from the scientific viewpoint on the hypothetical evolution of the coke can, it would be better that he use the word Hypothesis rather than theory. I say this because he uses the words, “may have come from” in the second sentence. This for a scientist would be a hypothesis, not a theory. Now because he is not a scientist and he is speaking to an everyday audience of non-scientists, he is using the word theory in the context of everyday use. Theory in science implies an collection of evidence that points heavily to conclusion and is not likely to ever be overturned by any new evidence. Scientific theories can predict future findings and do quite well all the time. A hypothesis is a yet untested idea that can be proved or disproved once tested multiple times. I’ll forgive Ray, because even if he gets the terminology wrong, I do basically understand his meaning. For those he is speaking to who don’t know the context of theory in science, that is where I begin to worry about how they respond to his ideas. I’ve written on this subject before, so check it out if you want a clearer understanding.
“Billions of years ago, there was a big bang in space. Nobody knows what caused the big bang, it just happened.”
Yep. That’s about as layman as you can get with the explanation of the Big Bang Theory. No arguments here. We know from powerful telescopes, measuring light speed, and the readings of temperature variations in the radiation left over from the Big Bang, that the evidence points heavily to the entire universe expanding fast from a single, super condensed singularity. We certainly have no idea what caused the singularity to expand into the Universe we have today, though M Theory and currently un-testable hypothesis relating to black holes may eventually shed better light on the subject. We simply don’t have the technology to test them yet, so that’s up in the air for now.
“And from this bang issued this huge rock, on top of the rock was found a sweet, brown bubbly substance.”
Energy from the blast of the Big Bang expanded. Gravity caused swirling masses of gas to cool and collect to form burning stars, which then began the process of fusion which creates all of the elements and matter we know to exist today. The sweet brown bubbly substance forming on the rock is the beginning of the end of Ray’s argument.
“And over millions of years, aluminum crept up the side, formed itself with a can and a lid and then a tab.”
Again I get what Ray is trying to do with this, but there is an issue that I will explain at the after we go through each set of sentences. Millions of years are certainly correct, but Aluminum is a compound (composed of two or more separate elements) found in nature and is never found in its pure form. We extract it from other minerals. Most of the world’s aluminum is extracted from a mineral called bauxite, which is made up of aluminum, oxygen and many other compounds. We process this mineral into alumina and then by using electrolysis (using electrical current to create a chemical reaction) we process it into aluminum. However these are all man made processes of inanimate objects. Keep that in mind. Aluminum can’t creep. It certainly can’t form itself into an everyday functional object without interaction from man. Again, I know he’s not being literal, but a little background on aluminum will not hurt anyone.
“And then millions of years later, red paint, blue paint, white paint fell from the sky and formed itself into the words ‘12 fluid ounces - Do not litter’.”
Once again paint is the combination of man made processes, which take a pigment as well as a liquid or paste “host” such as oil or water that carry it and attach it to a surface. Pigments are found naturally all over the Earth and from many different sources. But again these are processes that do not occur without man’s interaction with them. That English text on the can was formed from Latin base languages and developed over the years to where some like me (for a career) in modern times can use Adobe Creative Suite to help design and typeset that text accurately on the can’s surface with help from large industrial printers. Not literal, Ray… I know.
But all of this is what boggles my mind before I even start to think more about the point he wants to raise. I’ve heard many argue Ray well within the context of his statement though Ray himself admits it is a ridiculously hypothetical explanation to express his point. It is quite a ridiculous statement, though I’d venture that it’s ridiculous more because he is asserting that we know a designer designed everything natural in our Universe, while using a made man inanimate object as a reference.
Well Ray, we do know the coke can is designed, but we also can research and know how it was designed. We know all of the man-made processes; metals, techniques, factory locations, blueprints, ingredients, employees, founders, and creators that got that coke can into our hands. Some of them I touched briefly on above. It’s in our history, and it’s not hidden (except for that pesky Coca-Cola formula! Thanks a lot John Pemberton for not sharing). Not only can we know all of these things with enough research, we could even create an identical coke can ourselves if we use all of the same materials and processes. The same can be said for any building, combustion engine or man-made inanimate object that is designed from many inanimate parts.
And this is my point. If you are going to argue that the entire Universe around us has a designer, then you may want to start using actual life forms to construct your examples, because in the end wouldn’t that better suit your point. Plus, any actual scientific evidence would greatly help cement your assertion. Ill give you credit for trying to use organic matter as an example with that whole banana fiasco even though you had to reverse your statements based on the actual documented domestication by man of the banana. You’re going to have to try harder my friend to convince those undecided.
I know how I got the coke can. A dude (John Pemberton) with time and money created a tasty brown liquid from the many elements and processes easily found and that are repeatable on Earth. I love that liquid, and I buy it to satisfy my caffeine addiction. The can that encapsulates that tasty liquid is created by mining ore and using manufacturing processes to extract and refine the aluminum that is shaped into the form of a can to make it easier to drink. Problem solved. I know the creator of it and I know how he created it as well as the combustion engine or any building I ever stand in. Even if I don’t know and I’m just curious, I can do my homework and learn how. Science and those that innovate have kept pristine records. And those records show that yes, even the modern domesticated banana was actually intelligently designed…but contrary to your original idea it was merely by man. I’m glad you owned up to that mistake, but had you researched you would have never made it in the first place.
I get the deeper question you’re trying to pose for debate and its admirable, but you have to at least start with something that is not so easily solved or is at the very least alive. I don’t need the creator of Coca-Cola in the room to know that someone designed the coke can. It’s common sense, and that’s supposed to be the crux of your argument that you hope will persuade others to assume the same concept in relation to Intelligent Design, but it’s also completely known who created the coke can and how. All anyone has to do is leave after your lecture and look it up. You’re going to better serve your idea by showing an example that isn’t an inanimate object and that can be proven using the scientific method. Feeling that it’s created because it seems complex to you is not enough to prove your feeling. Relating your feelings to the design of a coke can does nothing for your bigger argument. Knowing a coke can has/had a designer doesn’t relate or carry over to the idea that everything has a designer. It’s a large leap on your part. Because it’s true of A, it must be true of B? Without evidence that others can reproduce you’re only dealing with straw man arguments or arguments with a stated premise that fail to support your proposed conclusion. These types of arguments always show your misunderstanding of the opposition’s ideas.
To feel that something is designed or just know it is designed and isn’t just a process of a greater natural selection via evolution (which is evident in our DNA and the fossil record) you would need to show something other than just your assumption that it was intelligently designed, just because you can’t explain (or haven’t bothered to investigate) how it might not be. That or clearly show evidence that the opposition’s scientific findings are not accurate. That’s also a tough uphill climb, but any scientist would gladly welcomes the chance to be proven wrong. That’s what science is all about.
Lets relate that to a magician and his tricks. Some magic tricks are insanely well done. I may never know how they are completely pulled off, but I know that the magician is using unknown (to me) techniques of illusion and trickery to fool me into assuming it’s real. Also in magic, the selling of the events unfolding before me relies heavily on viewing it from one location or being obstructed from seeing every angle. From the front of the trick, as we mostly see them, it looks unbelievable, but if we were allowed to see it from every angle we might very easily see that the methods used to pull off the illusion are nothing special at all (in most cases they’re quite easy and functional). There is an art to hiding that one angle from view that would ruin the whole effect and that is the magic behind what magicians do.
So based on the information around me I make my best guess, not based in the idea of his magic being real, because I know that physically it’s impossible to for any man or woman to breathe under water for 18 minutes at a time, disappear into thin air at will, or catch a bullet with his/her teeth (which is an awesome trick by the way). Using what I know of the natural observable world, I create a hypothesis to how he/she may perform the illusion and unless they tell or show me, I may never really know.
Point being, we could feel that the trick is real and have no understanding of how it is done, though that’s not enough evidence to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt that the magician has special powers that are not possible for me to replicate. We suspend disbelief only for a moment to enjoy the show. Just because we can’t explain it, doesn’t make it believable that they have magic powers. We operate this way in most of our daily life. Watch the show Ghost Hunters if you want a great education in the absence of evidence while trying to believe that ghosts really exist. It’s certainly fun to think so, but even with six seasons under their belt, I’ve seen no evidence to support it. I certainly can’t explain some of the things they find, but that doesn’t make ghosts real.
So Ray, I would say do some more digging, read some more books, and at the very least spend some time with the evidence that supports your opposition’s side. Straw man arguments only make you less credible. Especially when the goal of your examples is to persuade others to know that the Universe and everything inside it was formed by Intelligent Design (or as the original first draft of, “Of Pandas And People” called it… Creationism).
You’ve written many books, one of which I actually have on my Kindle, so I know I won’t be able to persuade you probably ever from your asserted validity of these inanimate object intelligent design comparison examples, but I just wanted to offer you some friendly advice on constructing a solid argument for your future debates. Pick an object that actually correlates and corroborates the connection to the Universe and all inside it. That would be a good start.
I’m completely open to hearing the ideas you want to get across, but the coke can, the banana, the combustion engine, and human architecture all have the same issue for your argument. They don’t support the idea of Intelligent Design. They simply show that they all have human designers and that people aren’t stupid enough to assume otherwise. As far as the Universe, there’s a lot of work to be done on your part of you aim to convince those that deal with rationality. The world is waiting. So far you haven’t really connected anything one way or the other.