• The ‘New’ Atheism: 10 Arguments That Don’t Hold Water?: A Refutation, Part 10

    Chapter 10: Unpeeling the Cosmic Onion

    A10 ‘…some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwin does for biology, rendering God improbable.

    ‘…any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress.’

    The first half of this chapter discusses the controversial multiverse theory and Poole explains that it is not possible to observe it and if this is so why is it considered “scientific.” (81) I would agree that this proposal has not been proven yet but a multiverse does fit with scientists’ current knowledge of the universe, but there is no need to resort to such a hypothesis in order to refute this claim of fine-tuning. [1] In Victor J. Stenger’s newest book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, he makes his argument by “the application of well-established physics and cosmology” alone. [2]

    Poole cites Stephen Hawking as saying that “a minute increase of about one part in a million million in the density of the universe one second after the Big Bang would have meant a recollapse of the universe after some ten years.” (78-79) Poole is obviously attempting to argue this is an example of fine-tuning but this appears to be false. [3]

    Next, the author argues that “[t]he idea of a necessary choice between a multiverse or God is another example of the fallacy of the excluded middle […]. The arising of our particular domain within a multiverse would no more disprove divine activity than natural selection disproves divine activity in organic adaptation […].” (82-83)

    Once again, I would argue that the multiverse is more scientific than the god hypothesis simply because scientists’ findings seem to predict the occurrence of a multiverse but no observations have even hinted that god exists.

    The second half of this chapter addresses Richard Dawkins’ Boeing 747 argument against god in The God Delusion. Poole argues that Dawkins’ argument against god does not apply to a being that is immaterial since Dawkins’ argument relies upon the concept of natural selection, a physical process. (83-84) As Poole has done throughout his book he has essentially made his god untouchable and unknowable. Of course, as I quoted Victor J. Stenger in a previous chapter, god is said to work within the world and so we should be able to detect his presence in some fashion, so this argument gets Poole nowhere.

    I found the author’s next sentence to be amusing. He wrote,

    [O]ne general way of deciding God’s probability would be to take the ‘pointers’ to God’s existence, outlined in Chapter 4, and evaluate how far they support a cumulative case for God. (84)

    According to his own argument god must be horribly improbable since all of his arguments in chapter 4 were shown to be completely devoid of any factual content.

    Finally, Poole takes issue with Richard Dawkins’ argument of the infinite regress, the same argument Poole quoted above at the beginning of the chapter.

    I am confused by Poole’s argument. Dawkins’ statement was referring to the fact that god should also require a designer, thus god is vulnerable to an infinite regress. God couldn’t have just “popped” into existence, according to this argument; he had to have been created as well.

    First Poole runs the sequences of the big bang backwards, starting with the fact that the carbon in our bodies was made from stars, to the formation of stars, to the big bang itself. Poole then continues with the following,

    All these explanations are, to use William of Ockham’s words, ‘of the same kind’: physical explanations, with no mention of God. There is no obvious indication that the sequence, like the unpeeling of some cosmic onion, is an infinite regress. (85)

    It appears that Poole is attempting to argue that the universe has a definite moment of creation, therefore it cannot be eternal (have an infinite regress), which is false, but Dawkins’ argument was referring to god, not the universe.

    Poole continues after briefly discussing quantum effects,

    Summing up, it is questionable whether there is a physical infinite regress within our universe. But whichever way the answer lies, it has little bearing on the flawed ‘Who made God?’ argument. The idea of ‘being made’ is conceptually excluded in the case of the Judaeo-Christian God […] (85)

    Again, Dawkins’ argument was referring to god, not our universe, but the fact is that modern cosmology and physics tell us that the universe is likely eternal. [4]

    Yes, Poole seems to like arguing that nothing can possibility disprove his god but, as I’ve stated a few times already, if god works within this world as theists argue then evidence should be there that we can examine. The fact that evidence that should be there, but isn’t there, if god were real, is pretty good evidence of his non-existence. In other words, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    In the final section of the book Poole writes,

    On London’s ‘bendy buses’, early in 2009, there appeared the slogan ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.’ […] If God has the same status as tooth fairies and Father Christmas, as Dawkins appears to think, is it necessary to spend so much money trying to persuade people that God doesn’t exist? (89)

    I’d like to answer this question for him. The reason so much money and time is spent looking to convince people there is no god is because of the physical harm that often comes from that belief, as I explained in the first chapter. In addition, numerous groups who have religious agendas seek to push their religion and/or beliefs on us and those that speak out are simply fighting back against these groups. [5]

    1. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2011; 227

    2. Ibid.; 22

    3. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2009; 95

    4. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us, by Victor J. Stenger; 115-147

    5. Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, W.W. Norton &Company; 2007


    This was certainly an interesting book. It was well-written and was an easy read. I just do not agree with most of the author’s conclusions and feel that he is deceiving himself, especially regarding his reliance on his very fallible bible. On the other hand, it was a breath of fresh air to read a book seeking to refute the New Atheists that was not filled with misquote after misquote. Michael Poole successfully interpreted their arguments in most cases and, to my surprise, understood Dawkins’ actual views on the issue of children and religion. I can’t tell you how nice it was to finally find a Christian who did not take Dawkins’ words and twist them in order to accuse him of wishing to pass laws to stop parents from educating their children in their religious faith.

    I also am delighted to know that Poole is not an advocate of Intelligent Design. That was also a breath of fresh air.

    Having said this, I know the book was not intended to be a fully fleshed out argument, hence it’s brevity on most issues, so I can understand Poole not going into as much detail as I believe he needed to on most issues. However, I do wish that he would have at least cited more sources where more fully formed and detailed arguments might be found in order to supplement his brief treatment of these issues.

    Finally, I think I’ve reviewed so many books written by Christian apologists that I can’t really seem to find anyone who has any original arguments. They all pretty much say the same thing. That reminds me of a passage in a book by Robert M. Price. He said,

    Reading these books and debating [Craig Bloomberg] taught me one thing: with only minor modifications, namely the partisan, opportunistic appropriation of some more recent scholarly theories, today’s new generation of apologists are using the same old arguments InterVarsity sophomores are trained to use. Little has changed since the eighteenth century. In fact, every debate I have had with evangelicals has reinforced the same conclusion. What has happened, I think, is that the traditional apologetics have now become as fully a part of the evangelical creed as the doctrines they are meant to defend! The apologetics have themselves become doctrines. The official belief, then, is so-and-so, and the official defense is this-and-that. That is why their books all sound the same and why the new ones sound just like the old ones. [1]

    I can relate to Price’s thoughts on the matter. I’ve begun to feel the same way. About every book I read and refute contain almost the exact same arguments, sometimes even using the same language! One example while reading this book stuck out in my mind. I reviewed another book called The Truth Behind the New Atheism, by David Marshall, and he also argued, like Poole, that faith means “trust.” There were other similarities but I won’t bore the reader with any more.

    To reiterate, the book was a good and easy read but the argumentation and logic was mostly very flawed and numerous facts refuted many of the author’s conclusions outright.

    1. The Case Against The Case for Christ:A New Testament Scholar Refutes the Reverend Lee Strobel, by Robert M. Price, American Atheist Press, 2010; 17

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist