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current events commentary

This letter was submitted to the Collegian, but not published.
(To be fair, however, several letters of a skeptical nature WERE published.)

Dear Collegian:

Stephen Lutz gets off on the wrong foot immediately in his column from Feb. 23's Collegian, when he uses Einstein's often misused statement "God does not play dice with universe;" from there the quality of his reasoning descends even deeper into inanity. This quote is often used to push a religious message, despite the fact that Einstein identified himself as an agnostic in no uncertain terms, and was speaking metaphorically. This misuse can perhaps be forgiven, as the quote has been so widely misinterpreted that it has become folklore. The subsequent arguments that Lutz applies, however, are unforgivable.

That hoary old chestnut which he employs, the argument from design, was no more compelling in the 18th century (when it was demolished by Kant and Hume) than it is in the 20th. I Paraphrase Wolfgang Pauli here: to say that it is wrong would be too kind; it is not even wrong. If Lutz is truly interested in finding an answer to his question, "...how could things that are so well-designed and work so well come from nothing?" I would suggest he read "The Blind Watchmaker," by Richard Dawkins, which answers the question much more completely than I can hope to here. I very much doubt he will, however. Creationists are not known for their interest in obtaining new information which may conflict with their faith.

Lutz then goes on to state that he doesn't know how likely it is that "some gases were arranged so that certain things formed together in such a cohesive way." How then can he even consider speculating about the subject? How can he possibly jump to the conclusion that these things cannot happen in a naturalistic manner with no divine intervention, if he knows *nothing* about the very processes he's rejecting?

Even more objectionable is Lutz's use of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which he clearly does not understand at even a basic level. He states a correct implication of the Second Law, including the "isolated system" caveat- yet he then (incredibly) applies the law to the human body, one of the most transparently open systems of which I can conceive! The obvious inferrence is that Lutz is merely parroting a technical-sounding passage he found in a text without bothering to make any attempt to actually understand the words. (This is a common occurrence in creationist circles, unfortunately.) I should point out that his argument would not apply to the Earth at large, either, which is also an open system (gaining negative entropy from the sun).

Then, once again invoking Einstein, Lutz equates "Reason" with "God," a leap that leaves me baffled. How he can equate the personal, anthropomorphic god of Christian theology with the simple, secular fact that the universe has a logical order is beyond me.

Lutz then states that "It is sheer folly to deny the existence of a Creator God in view of the evidence...when based on that one infinitesimal chance." If he were to scratch the surface of the literature, he would find that the "chance" to which he refers is quite a bit larger than his uninformed estimate. In any event, what evidence? I know of no part of the physical world which cannot be explained, or does not promise to be explainable, without resort to a supernatural deity.

Certainly, Lutz is free to believe in God and creation if he wishes. He is also free to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and more power to him. But to attempt to dress up creationism with a veneer of bad science and appeals to misused statistics does an enormous disservice to the public, and is simply wrong. Lutz makes much of the sense of wonder he experiences when contemplating these "designs." This is nothing compared to the wonder he would feel if he could appreciate the universe on its own terms, without the need to clutch the robes of a (probably imaginary) "Creator God."

Trent Schindler
Vice-President, PSU Skeptics Club