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Complexity and God
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Christianity Today has a review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. It's written by philosopher Alvin Plantinga. I'd like to focus on one part of it, since the concepts of complexity and simplicity are especially interesting to me.

Here's one bit:

Here Dawkins doesn't appeal to the usual anti-theistic arguments—the argument from evil, for example, or the claim that it's impossible that there be a being with the attributes believers ascribe to God. So why does he think theism is enormously improbable? The answer: if there were such a person as God, he would have to be enormously complex, and the more complex something is, the less probable it is: "However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747." The basic idea is that anything that knows and can do what God knows and can do would have to be incredibly complex. In particular, anything that can create or design something must be at least as complex as the thing it can design or create. Putting it another way, Dawkins says a designer must contain at least as much information as what it creates or designs, and information is inversely related to probability. Therefore, he thinks, God would have to be monumentally complex, hence astronomically improbable; thus it is almost certain that God does not exist.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. The "Boeing 747" reference refers to the thought experiment asking the probability of a hurricane sweeping through a junkyard and randomly assembling a Boeing 747. Most people would agree that the probability of such an event is extremely low.

Anyway, then Plantinga asks:

But why does Dawkins think God is complex? And why does he think that the more complex something is, the less probable it is?

Um, didn't Dawkins already just explain that?

If you concede that biological organisms are complex, and that god created them, it follows that the creator has to have the information/knowledge about how to create the complex things, and thus he's more complex than the things he's creating. How does this not make sense?

After a digression, he actually gets to the argument:

Now suppose we return to Dawkins' argument for the claim that theism is monumentally improbable. As you recall, the reason Dawkins gives is that God would have to be enormously complex, and hence enormously improbable ("God, or any intelligent, decision-making calculating agent, is complex, which is another way of saying improbable"). What can be said for this argument?

Not much. First, is God complex? According to much classical theology (Thomas Aquinas, for example) God is simple, and simple in a very strong sense, so that in him there is no distinction of thing and property, actuality and potentiality, essence and existence, and the like. Some of the discussions of divine simplicity get pretty complicated, not to say arcane. (It isn't only Catholic theology that declares God simple; according to the Belgic Confession, a splendid expression of Reformed Christianity, God is "a single and simple spiritual being.") So first, according to classical theology, God is simple, not complex.

Oh...well, according to classical theology. I guess that settles it. I know there are some believers out there. Do you consider god more or less complex than yourself?

And I'm sorry, but this bit just seems flat-out wacky:

More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins' own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are "arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone." But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts. A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn't have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.

God doesn't have parts. Presumably like the soul, he's made of stuff that exists, but apparently can't actually be detected or observed in any way. That's convenient. And how does he know this stuff?

I could propose the existence of invisible monsters roaming all over the planet that are made of something that can't be measured or observed. I don't have to say what it is, or how I even know that they exist. You can't prove me wrong, so I'm insulated from all possible criticism. And apparently if I get enough people to believe the same thing, then I can get a tax break from the government.

Anyway, he's ignoring the thrust of the argument and focusing on particulars (poorly, by the way). The essential problem is this:

We're complex. Where did we come from? Something must have created us. That thing is god. Well, where did he come from?

It probably makes more sense that god is complex, but even if we concede that he's simpler than us, the believer is content not trying to explain how god came about.

"He's always existed, and always will," they might say. Well, why does that make any more sense than saying that a universe with no god has always existed and always will?

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