About a month ago I came across Rosa Rubicondor’s post: “Ungodly Complexity“. There is no way I could compete with the volume of information published there, but I did want to comment on this article as I’ve pondered it for the past month or so and the incredible insight it provides. I don’t intend to provide a formal rebuttal, but rather point out a quick flaw in the argument, then expand on that as the argument itself is something that I think we can ponder.
Quick note: I have no idea if the author is male or female. Because the persona of the blog is “Rosa”, I will refer to the author in the feminine.
The basic argument of the article is that simplicity in design is a signal of intelligent design, that unnecessary complexity shows a lack of intelligence, not a greater intelligence. The example used is a spear tip or a dibber.
This argument is then extended to the natural world which, as anyone would admit, is extraordinarily complex. I can’t help but be reminded of this clip from Family Guy (couldn’t find an original video)
Starting with the foundation that simplicity in design = intelligent design, and unnecessarily complexity is a sign of a lack of intelligence, the post goes on to identify what the purpose of humans are. After stumbling through some passages in the bible, the post settles on Ecclesiastes 12:13, which reads “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”
The argument is thus fully setup: if the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments, why the complexity? The argument can be summed up in this quote:
You see, the problem is, the vastly unnecessary complexity for such a nebulous purpose is not evidence of design, especially of intelligent design; it is evidence of unintelligent, undirected and purposeless design
Why I Don’t Entirely Buy the Premise
I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise that simplicity in design is a signal of intelligence. But it does ignore scope and scale.
Let me explain by way of a challenge. Since Rosa used a dibber as an example, let’s get 200 acres of land, 100 acres for me, 100 acres for Rosa. We are both to plant a crop of corn on our respective 100 acres. Whoever finishes first, wins.
Since Rosa is in favor of the simplicity of a hand dibber, she can use one. I’ll use this:
We can do the same thing with her example of a spear tip. We both go hunting for deer, she can use a spear tip, I’ll bring a rifle.
Obviously the human race hasn’t stopped innovating on the early designs she put forward as examples of intelligent design. But why? Are these early designs flawed? Of course not, but sometimes adding complexity, when done intelligently, allows a greater purpose, scope, and scale. The tractor pulling a seeder is more precise, faster, and far more efficient than a single dibber powered by a human hand. The rifle allows for far more efficiency in hunting than the simple spear tip. We see this addition of complexity added to instruments of every kind through history as we seek to do more in a more efficient way (which is why Rosa is using a blog, on a computer, over the Internet, to communicate rather than simply yelling).
Simplicity may be intelligent, but complexity allows for greater purpose.
What this Argument Allows…
I absolutely love the argument she put forward. In searching for the purpose of humanity she filtered down centuries of writing, thought, scriptures, and tradition down to a single verse in the bible (who knew it was that easy?). Unfortunately that verse is talking about the duty of man, not necessarily purpose.
As a Catholic, however, this argument itself is fantastic. Forget for a moment about whether the argument is legitimate or not, whether she has ‘disproved’ God or not. View this, if you will, from the standpoint of a Christian. Her question looks at creation and begs the question to be asked: why? Why would God create such complexity? From the standpoint of a Christian who does believe God is the creator of every particle in the universe, this is a fascinating question.
We are able to put estimates on the size of the universe and attach numbers to this size, but are we really able to conceptualize its size? We are able to put numbers on just how small atoms, quarks, hadrons, etc are, but do we really have a full concept in our heads as to how the world works at this sub-atomic level? Can we imagine a solitary pebble on a planet in some distant solar system in a galaxy cluster beyond our possible reach?
The universe is an amazing, incredible place that we can ponder, explore, learn, unravel, and play in seemingly infinitely. Why, though, would God create such vastness, such smallness?
Atheists commonly misread the Bible, but this is one of the key messages in Genesis 2: the entire universe, and everything in it, was made for humans. We are created rational, reasonable beings with intelligence and curiosity. God wants us to explore, to learn, to discover. He wants us to play, and creation is our playground.
I have young children. Just like any parent, I’ll often create something for my kids to play with and explore. Their exploration and play teaches them basic skills and lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom and which form a foundation for more formal education.
Creation, in all of its wondrous complexity, is a giant playground that God gave us to gaze at, to be inspired by, to be confounded by, to explore, discover, ponder, and enjoy. Creation exists so that we may know God more and encounter Him in ways that simple books and words cannot hope to accomplish. We encounter God in science, in creation, our relationships, both good and bad, in love, in death, in birth, in happiness, in sadness, and so on. God, like any parent, wants us to use our reason and intellect, our curiosity and desire for discovery, and as we marvel in awe at His incredible creation we gain glimpses of this God that cannot be explained in simple words, inspired though they might be.
Our Real Purpose
So what is our purpose? If I were asked to pull it down to one verse like Rosa tried, I wouldn’t choose Ecclesiastes, I’d go with Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And to love God in this way is to come to know him, both in religion, but also in the created universe – the playground He gave His children.