Shower Stall Scum and the
By Retired Prof
Anthropic principle—everything about the universe tends
toward man, toward making life possible and sustaining it. (Hugh Ross,
Ph.D. “Design and the Anthropic Principle.” Reasons to Believe,
http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/design.shtml. [30 Nov.
Every so often my wife sprays the shower stall in our
upstairs bathroom with tub and tile cleaner to get rid of a pink film
that forms on the sides and bottom. I think of that film whenever people
maintain that everything in the universe stands as irrefutable evidence
that we owe our existence to a loving god. They point out that, since
the universe has precisely the right qualities to permit us to live in
it, the creator must have built it specifically to house us, his most
By saying, “We fit in the universe. Therefore it was designed for us,”
these people (such as the gentleman who supplied the epigraph above, and
Herbert W. Armstrong’s theological descendents) are making the basic
error in logic called post hoc reasoning. They fall into the trap
because they neglect to look outside the narrow scope of their own
existence. They leave out of account the unimaginable size of the
universe and the amazing variety of inhospitable objects and structures
in it: from the infinitely dense concentrations of mass in black holes
at the centers of galaxies on the one hand to the vast, nearly mass-free
voids between galaxies
and the even vaster and emptier ones that separate galaxy clusters on
the other. Nothing remotely like us can possibly live in any of those
places, nor on almost any of the structures in between. Within the total
volume of space, the kind of hard, rocky bodies that provide a surface
for our kind of life to cling to are vanishingly rare. Furthermore, only
an infinitesimal fraction of that infinitesimal fraction of all the
objects in the universe meet two necessary criteria:
1) possess enough mass to hold an atmosphere
2) revolve around stars within the narrow zones that are neither too
close and hot nor too distant and cold to support life.
Considering, then, that the portion of the total volume
of the universe that is habitable is so minuscule, it strikes me as
downright silly for someone to say that everything in it was designed to
make our existence possible. If god really is some sort of cosmic
engineer whose aim was to design a habitat for humanity, he overbuilt
the place with mind-blowing extravagance, which is to say incredible
inefficiency. If he is the kind of creator who follows good engineering
principles, it makes more sense to think he had something else in mind.
So back to that pink film on our shower stall wall. How would you react
if you heard one of the microbes in it express the opinion,
“Everything about the household tends toward red algae, toward making
life possible and sustaining it”? (Okay, I realize the best answer is,
“Holy shit! A talking microbe!” But cut me a little slack here, will
you? The question is rhetorical.) This algal reasoning implies that my
wife and I bought a tract of land and hired a contractor to build a
geodesic dome on it for the purpose of containing a bathroom with a
fiberglass shower stall in which the faucet dripped, providing the humid
surface required for their form of life, plus a sliding glass door to
hold in the humidity—all of this entirely because we loved each microbe
individually and hoped that each of them would love us in return.
What I am suggesting is that, if our universe did have an actual
designer, what he was actually designing was not us at all, but
something way beyond our grasp—perhaps material for some colossal foam
plastic koozie in which to insulate a cosmic can of cold beer. The fact
that human beings and other life forms exist could very well be a mere
by-product of the manufacturing process, maybe even an undesirable one.
The creator may feel disappointed and fretful that at least one, and
probably more, of his smaller and cooler particles have gotten
contaminated by a thin film of biotic scum.
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