If There Is No God, How Did Our Complex And Orderly Universe Form?

From Atheist Republic, a piece refuting Intelligent Design.

When discussing life origins, many theists will say that complexity implies a creator. They will ask how something so complex could happen by accident and use the diversity, variety and complexity of the natural world as a proof for intelligent design.

It seems that humans have pretty much always marveled at nature, at the complexities and diversity of life. The universe is spectacular; from the planets to bacteria, we seek to understand while simultaneously feeling as if we may never fully be able to. Our awe is often coupled with fear, fear of the unknown and fear of the realization that there is so little we can control. This awe and fear has led to the invention of creation myths - stories that attempt to explain how everything got here in the first place and how it continues to be sustained. We have developed many pathways toward understanding; we have learned, and continue to learn, so much.

Theists aren't wrong when they say we still don't have all the answers and that there is so much complexity that science still can't explain. But where they are wrong, is in stating that this complexity necessitates a designer.

Creationists seem to be saying that an even more amazing being must be responsible for the amazing things around us. But if amazing, complex things need a creator, then who created the amazing, complex God? And if God is the exception, then theists are relying on certain "laws" (complex things need a more complex creator) to support their belief, but breaking the laws for those things that don't fit.

It's important to recognize that design and complexity are not the same thing. Looking at something complex and saying it requires design is begging the question and explaining a mystery with a mystery is really no explanation at all.

The theist will also often say:

The human eye is so complex, it clearly serves a distinct purpose; it was designed for something, and so there must be a designer. There's no way that could happen by random chance.

And to a degree, they're correct. Random one-time chance certainly did not form the human eye, but random chance and natural selection aren't the same thing. Their argument betrays a broad misunderstanding of science, and evolution in particular.

Everything that has formed in the natural world, has done so as a result of natural processes following natural laws, repeated over billions of years. This is certainly not "chance," and while it is awe-inspiring, it in no way points to an intelligent designer.

You can find more details on common arguments made by theists and responses to them here.


  1. Theist apologists also tend to move the goalposts when trying to avoid the truth. Their "God of the Gaps" and "First Cause" strawman arguments really get up my nose!

  2. Steve R,

    it doesn't add up.

    Intelligent Design became a laughing stock when its pseudo claims to being a science were harshly exposed as a result of the Dover court hearing in 2005.

  3. My favourite description on arguing with the religiously inclined...

    "Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory."-by Scott D. Weitzenhoffer regarding Eugenie Scott's book Evolution vs. Creationism: An introduction:

  4. Steve,
    Liked that quote...great description.

    I don't really fully understand why there is a debate at all. There is as much logic in debating the existence of Hansel and Gretel!!!

  5. AM,

    What I find truly astonishing is that the "great infidel" David Hume exposed the shoddiness of the design argument a century before Darwin's theory of evolution provided a rigorous scientific explanation for how complex life can develop without any sort of design, intelligent or otherwise. An excellent summary of Hume's critique is given by A J Ayer in Hume: A Very Short Introduction (pp.115-116):

    [O]n the assumption that like effects have like causes, we have no warrant for concluding that the universe was planned by an infinite, eternal, incorporeal Being. We have no experience of anything of this sort. Machines are constructed by mortal human beings who have bodies, belong to one or other sex, work in cooperation, proceed by trial and error, make blunders and correct them, improve on their designs. By what right therefore can we deprive the universal planner of body and sex? Why should we not conclude that the world is due to the combined efforts of many gods? Why should it not be ‘the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterwards abandoned it’ or ‘the production of old age and dotage in some superannuated Deity’ whose death left it to its own devices?
    The world does contain many human artefacts, and many natural objects which resemble these artefacts at least to the extent that they or their parts serve some function, to which they are more or less well adapted. It does not follow, however, that the universe as a whole is a machine or anything like one; or that there is any purpose which it serves. It is no more like a machine than it is like an animal or vegetable organism. It would be no ‘less intelligent, or less conformable to experience to say, that the world arose from vegetation from a seed shed by another world, than to say that it arose from a divine reason or contrivance’.