In my last post, I mentioned in passing that Creation.com has a list of arguments they believe creationists should not use. However, there is one argument that I have frequently heard creationists use that I believe should be added to that list. Curiously, groups like Creation.com and Answers in Genesis use this argument themselves so I doubt I'll see it added to the list very soon.
The other argument which I believe is somewhat weak is the “designed for life” argument. The idea is that our planet, indeed even the entire universe including physical laws, seems perfectly “fine tuned” to support life. If things were even a little different on earth, life would not be possible. Such a delicate balance suggests purpose in the creation and, thus, is evidence for design. This has sometimes been called the “anthropic principle.” Proponents of the anthropic principle cite examples like the abundance and properties of liquid water, the earth's distance from the sun, the unique mixture of gases in our atmosphere, and many, many others. When I said there were “many, many other” examples, I'm not exaggerating. Whole books have been written about the subject and many of these books have been adapted to videos. It's obviously a favorite tool for many creationists.
Let me expound on one example of the anthropic principle just to be sure everyone understands exactly what we're talking about. The human body requires oxygen to survive. If there were not enough oxygen in the atmosphere, we would quickly suffocate. However, if there were too much oxygen, a flash of lightning would ignite the entire planet's atmosphere. So the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is just right – not too much nor too little. It's “fine tuned” to support life.
Before I get into my problems with such an argument, let me clarify a couple of points. First, “design” is evidence for a Designer. Things that are complex, ordered, and have purpose suggest design. However, “design” in general isn't what I'm talking about here. What I'm questioning is the argument that the earth is uniquely designed to support human life. Here's an analogy to show the difference:
Consider paint on a floor. Because I can recognize design, I can immediately recognize the difference between paint spilled on the floor and a pattern painted on the floor. It doesn't matter that I didn't see the floor being painted; I can still tell it was intentionally painted. That's the design argument. However, suppose the design included a floral pattern and, by happy coincidence, I like flowers (this is an analogy – I'm truly indifferent to flowers). If I liked flowers, I might be tempted to say the painter specifically painted the pattern for my benefit. That's the anthropic principle.
The fact of the matter is that my hypothetical painter chose the pattern that pleased him. Likewise, God designed the universe in the way that pleased Him. It also follows that God also designed us in the way that pleased Him and so put everything together according to His plan. If God had wanted an earth with 100% oxygen, He could have made it that way. If God had intended us to live inside the sun, He could have made it that way. If God had intended for us to live without water, He could have made it that way. If God had intended us to live on a barren rock where there was no water, no night, and the temperature was a constant 500º, we would still be talking about how the planet was remarkably designed to support life and if things were just a little bit different, we couldn't exist.
Considering the infinite number of ways that the universe could have been designed, there's nothing especially remarkable about this design except that this is what was pleasing to God. The Bible tells us that God made the world for us (Genesis 1:28-29). It's no wonder then that the earth should be well suited for us. No matter how narrow the requirements necessary for life (food, water, oxygen, warmth, etc), God would have still made the earth well suited for us.
According to evolution, life adapts to its environment. On a planet like earth, where temperatures range between (approximately) -60ºF and 125ºF, the only life you would ever expect to find is life that can survive between -60ºF and 125ºF. If life existed on another planet where the temperatures ranged between 500ºF and 700ºF, the only life that could exist on that planet would be adapted to survive temperature ranges between 500ºF and 700ºF. You see, it's not that the planet is adapted to the life as much as the life is adapted to the planet. If life exists in any environment, then that environment will seem suited for that life.
An often used analogy that demonstrates this is a puddle. A puddle might believe that whatever hole it finds itself in is remarkably well suited for the puddle. Every convex or concave surface of the hole seems “fine tuned” to match the exact shape of the water inside it! That sounds silly, doesn't it? That's because it is silly. It's obviously the water that adapts to the shape of the hole.
The problem with this argument is that the creationist's explanation for the “fine tuning” is no more compelling than the evolutionist's explanation. When creationists talk about fine tuning, they sound to me like the puddle marveling about its hole. I'm sure that's how the argument sounds to many evolutionists as well.