Sunday, March 10, 2013

Argument from human creative capacity

There's an argument sometimes presented by some creationists that appeals to the current capacity of human science and technology of replicating what appears in nature. The most common form currently is some variant of "humans cannot create a living cell even if they had all of its components." Another variant of this argument is the amount of information stored in something, and comparing it to (of course) computers. The argument takes typically the form of "a single DNA molecule contains more information than can be stored in (a completely arbitrary and made-up amount of computers)."

This specific argument seems a very shaky and stupid one given how fast technology advances. Two hundred years ago you could make a similar argument like "man is incapable of producing a machine that can fly, yet birds fly, which clearly shows that birds were created by something much more intelligent than man." (And, as far as I know, some people did present an argument similar to this back in the day.) Yet nowadays not many creationists would use this argument (at least not in this exact form) because, obviously, we can make things fly (even very small things that are bird-sized.)

The argument requires constantly moving the goalposts as technology advances. If one day science is capable of creating a living cell out of its constituent components, the argument will move to either "but man can't create a multicellular organism" or "but man can't produce those constituent components" (or probably both.) And if technology advances enough that those become possible, the goalposts will be moved again (to something like "but man can't create a living being that's intelligent" and so on and so forth.)

Physical laws acting on energy and matter for billions of years producing, via emergent behavior, constructs that are more complicated than what humans can produce thanks to a whopping 200 years or so of technological advance is nothing extraordinary. It's in fact expected. We are still learning how the universe works, and it's not something that can be discovered overnight. At a very fast pace especially in the last century, but still learning. The argument is just silly.

(And by the way, the argument that "thing X in nature contains more information than can be stored in Y computers" is completely irrelevant. Just a simple rock contains more "information" than can be accurately stored in a humongous amount of computers. If you tried to store the precise composition and location of every single molecule and atom in the rock, it would take an enormous amount of storage space. However, that's nothing extraordinary. There's nothing in that particular arrangement of atoms that's somehow special and would tell us that it has been somehow "designed" and couldn't have formed on its own, due to simple physical laws.)

No comments:

Post a Comment