Responding to Bart Ehrman (part 3): The Design Argument

February 18th, 2015

Ehrman’s Agnosticism Concerning God
The Design Argument

For a moment, let us assume that Dr. Ehrman’s view of the universe is correct. The universe exists without divine intervention. It just is. So if we just look around at the universe, taking what we see at face value, what is the universe telling us about ourselves and itself?

The Local UniverseThe universe tells us we are a miracle (in a secular sense, of course). The universe does not exist in chaos, you see, but there exists a grand order to it. Galaxies exist along threads; Stars along webs of matter and energy. Planets spin in stable orbits mimicking the pattern set by the smallest of molecules. The physical forces holding this symphony together are delicate. And those same forces work together to ensure the earth is in just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right way, for life to exist.

The Anthropic Principle

The Anthropic principle states that the universe appears to be fine tuned to allow like on earth. One can think of a grand board covered with over a hundred dials. Each of these dials controls a different aspect of the universe. One controls the distance from the sun, another the weak nuclear force, and another the amount of water on earth. Each of these control dials has been set just right. Even a little variation in a single dial and life on earth will cease to exist.

The Anthropic principle is the basis of a popular Design argument that states:

  • Premise #1: Every design has a designer.
  • Premise #2: The Universe shows evidence of design.
  • Conclusion: The Universe has a designer.

Rather than attempt to refute this argument, Dr. Ehrman has publicly stated during numerous debates with apologists like Dr. Craig Evans and Dr. William Lane Craig that he is not an atheist. He is an agnostic. The Anthropic principle is a contributing factor to this belief. Although the God of the Bible does not exist, in his opinion, the universe certainly is not a random occurrence.

So does this mean Dr. Ehrman is a proponent of Intelligent design? He has never stated his position. Can one logically believe in the anthropic principle and reject intelligent design? Probably not.

Intelligent Design

Dr. Hugh RossIn the last 20 or 30 years, great advances have been made in fields of genetics, physics and astronomy. The more we learn, the most designed it all appears to be. This has led to the modern movement called Intelligent Design.

So let’s begin by assuming, once again, that the universe was not created by God. The universe just is and we are examining it as mere observers. Dr. Hugh Ross, a well-known intelligent design proponent and astronomer, offers some food for thought:

  1. Age of the universe:
    1. If the universe were much older, no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would exist in the right part of the galaxy.
    2. If the universe were much younger, no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would have had time to form.
  2. Average distance between galaxies:
    1. If the distance were much larger, insufficient gas would be infused into our galaxy to sustain star formation.
    2. If the distance were much smaller, the sun’s orbit would be too radically disturbed.1

Dr. Ross also gives some of the parameters of the earth itself that makes life possible on earth:

  1. Distance of the earth from the sun:
    1. If the distance were even a little further out, our planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle.
    2. If our planet were a little closer, the planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle.
  2. Earth’s axial tilt:
    1. If it were even a little greater, the surface temperature on earth differences would be too great for life.
    2. If it were a little less, the equator would be too hot for life and the polar regions far too hostile.
  3. The earth’s rotation period:
    1. If it were much longer, diurnal temperature differences would make crow growth nearly impossible.
    2. If it were much shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would make life on land nearly impossible.
  4. Age of the earth:
    1. If the earth were much younger, the planet would rotate too rapidly.
    2. If the earth were much older, the planet would rotate too slowly.2

Dr. Ehrman has written many books. He chooses a topic and designs each of the chapters in the book in order to support the main topic he has chosen to write on. The book is the designed creation and Ehrman is the designer behind the design. The contemporary scientific evidence asks no more of Dr. Ehrman concerning the design of the universe than a reader would ask of Ehrman when he writes a book.

Dr. Ehrman should examine the following quotes by highly esteemed astronomers. Maybe then he would publicly endorse intelligent design and, just maybe, give the God of the Bible a second chance.

A superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology …3
– Astronomer, Dr. Fred Hoyle

… the laws [of physics]… seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design…. There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature¹s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming.4
– Astronomer, Dr. Paul Davies (former atheist)

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency or, rather, Agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
– Astronomer, George Greenstein,  from his book The Symbiotic Universe.

The medieval theologian who gazed at the night sky through the eyes of Aristotle and saw angels moving the spheres in harmony has become the modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature…. When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it¹s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.
– Theoretical physicist, Dr, Tony Rothman


Dr. Ehrman does not mention or refute the contemporary scientific evidence which shows that the universe had a beginning. He does not disagree with the anthropic principle either. So if he does believe that the universe was created, as this suggests, and therefore the universe had a creator, isn’t the God of the Bible the best qualified for this position?

Tugging on the emotional heart strings of his readers, laying out how bad the world is, does not disprove the God of the Bible. It certainly is not the same thing as answering the powerful scientific arguments for a beginning, and the beginner, of the universe. This all leads into the next part of this series which deals with the Moral Argument. The Moral argument can be used to show the existence of God from our moral sense and experience. It also acts as a foundation in answering Dr. Ehrman’s primary reason why he abandoned the Christian faith: the evil and suffering in the world that this calls into question the existence of the God of the Bible.


1 Hugh Ross The Creator And The Creation 154,155

2 Ibid. 154, 155

3 Ibid. 157

4 Ibid. 157

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