Why Douglas Adams’ Puddle Analogy FAILS

In his “rebuttal” to Christian apologist Frank Turek’s refutation of Douglas Adams’ silly puddle analogy, the Genetically Modified Skeptic said that Frank Turek “can’t contend” with the puddle analogy.  He acknowledged that the puddle analogy indicates  the universe appears to be designed. Yet to him that means “nothing until we can demonstrate that there is intelligence behind the universe.” You can find his video on this on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhHwPoSp7AU&t=323s

Mr. Skeptic, you’ll be pleased to know there is intelligence behind the universe. First, we have a logical, rational argument:

  1. If the universe is rational, orderly, logical, and we have objective truth, a transcendent source for these must exist.
  2. The universe is rational, orderly, logical, and we have objective truth.
  3. A transcendent source for these must exist: God.

Next, we have the cosmological argument, which further offers support. For most of human history, many people believed the universe was eternal and unchanging and life was an infinite regress. In other words, life begets life, which begets life, and so on. Many in some eastern religions still believe the universe is in an eternal cycle of growth and regeneration.

Yet in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble cast doubt on such theories. Hubble observed that galaxies outside of the Milky Way existed and their light appeared to be stretched, which is a sign they were rushing away from the earth. A Catholic Belgian physicist studied Hubble’s observations and interpreted findings as evidence of an expanding universe, which was a possibility within Albert Einstein’s field equations of general relativity. According to what was dubbed the “Big Bang” theory, the universe inflated, expanded and cooled, starting from a very small, very hot singularity that emerged into what we know of the universe today.

The Big Bang suggests a start date for time, space and matter of around 14 billion years ago, so whatever existed prior to the Big Bang and caused its sudden inflation must necessarily lack those qualities. The cause of the Big Bang must be an uncaused first mover that is transcendent in time and immaterial, intentional, and powerful. These are the characteristics of a Supreme Being and Creator who started the expansion of the universe from nothing.

Prior to the discovery of the Big Bang, Albert Einstein struggled with the theological implications of a universe in a mode of expansion, so he created a cosmological constant, also known as a fudge factor. Einstein considered himself an agnostic. He didn’t believe in a personal God or an eternal life, noting that this life was enough for him. His cosmological constant served as a repulsive force, which kept the universe from collapsing under its own weight. It also enabled Einstein to favor a static universe over one with a start date. A Boston University physicist and Einstein scholar named Michel Janssen noted that “Einstein needed the constant not because of his philosophical predilections but because of his prejudice that the universe is static” (Overbye, 1998). Einstein stubbornly held to his cosmological constant until 1931, when after a trip to visit Edwin Hubble and view a telescope at Cal Tech that he abandoned it and never mentioned it again, calling it “theoretically unsatisfactory anyway” (Overbye, 1998). Since then, the Big Bang theory has come to be well-accepted by NASA and the vast majority of scientists all over the globe.

In addition to our Creator’s role in the Big Bang and cosmology (the study of the universe), an omnipotent and intelligent designer best explains how the earth overcame statistically miraculous odds for its existence. A transcendent moral lawgiver best explains our universal and objective moral duties to do what’s right. A transcendent source of beauty best explains our aesthetic apprehension of art, music, and beauty. A loving uncaused cause best explains our origins, meaning, morality, and purpose. This simple logic leads us to God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out to all the earth; their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6.

Astrophysicist Hugh Ross (2018, p. 28) has indicated that all Big Bang theories share “(1) a transcendent cosmic beginning that occurred a finite time ago; (2) a continuous, universal cosmic expansion; and (3) a cosmic cooling from an extremely hot initial state.”

Interestingly, we have Biblical support for each of these points. In other words, centuries before 1925 when the Big Bang was promoted by Abbe George Lemaitre, Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, John, Zechariah, Paul and other Biblical authors noted the creation and expansion of the universe.

Thirdly, the argument from design offers support for a Creator. Cosmologists have discovered that the earth is within ten habitable zones, which is unique. The only other planet they have identified is only within two habitable zones that make life possible. All of these habitable zones need to overlap perfectly to offer the existence of life other than the most primitive unicellular forms. According to Stanford and MIT physicists Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind, the appearance of life in the universe requires “statistically miraculous (but not impossible) events.” Of the 3,618 planets that have been discovered to date by astronomers, only one meets all ten habitable zone conditions: earth (Ross, 2018).

Our galaxy is also unique. Only 6% of non-Dwarf galaxies are spirals like the Milky Way, while the other 94% are either ellipticals or irregulars (Ross, 2018). Neither of the latter can sustain life. Star formation ceases in elliptical galaxies before the interstellar medium becomes enriched enough for heavy chemicals, while large irregular galaxies have active nuclei that spew out life-destroying radiation and small irregular galaxies have insufficient quantities of the heavy elements required to sustain life (Ross, 2018).

“One reason why life can exist in the Milky Way Galaxy is that the galaxy’s spiral arms are very stable, well separated, highly symmetrical, free of significant warps or bends, and relatively free of spurs and feathers. In part, these spiral arm conditions are possible because the MWG is dominated by yellow stars complemented by significant populations of blue stars. Our galaxy’s mass and size is fine-tuned for life. A smaller galaxy will have its spiral structure more seriously disrupted by encounters with other galaxies. A larger galaxy will possess a much larger supermassive black hole in its nucleus” (Ross, 2018, pp. 203).

“The MWG galaxy is like no other. The known galaxy that comes the closest is NGC 4945…However, x-ray observations reveal that the nucleus of NGC 4945 emits copious amounts of deadly radiation,  probably powered by a super-massive black hole very much larger than the MWG” (Ross, 2018, pp.  205).

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.

I return now to the Genetically Modified Skeptic’s supposed refutation of Frank Turek. He said that Turek didn’t quite get the puddle argument. The puddle argument by Douglas Adams is as follows:

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

William Lane Craig offers an interesting parallel we can use to refute this silly argument. Imagine yourself in a situation abroad in which you’ve been arrested and falsely accused of drug smuggling. You find yourself dragged in front of firing squad of 100 professional marksmen who have their rifles aimed at your heart. Your punishment for smuggling drugs is death. You hear someone shout, “ready, aim, fire” and you hear the roar of their guns. To your surprise, not a single bullet makes its mark. 100 marksmen missed! What would you conclude? “Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. If they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised.”

Perish the musings. This conclusion is irrational. The rational conclusion is the marksmen purposely missed you. Someone guided them in that direction. Using this logic, it follows that the universe has an intentional source: God.

Thank you for your time.


Dyson, L., Kleban, M. & Susskind, L. (2002). Disturbing implications of a cosmological constant. JHEP -0210: 011. Accessed November 19, 2018 at https://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0208013.pdf

Overbye, D. (1998). A famous Einstein “fudge” returns to haunt cosmology. The New York Times. May 26.

Ross, H. (2016). Improbable Planet. How Earth Became Humanity’s Home. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Ross,  H. (2018). The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God. Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe.


8 Replies to “Why Douglas Adams’ Puddle Analogy FAILS”

  1. I am a christian who also loves science not to discredit the existed of the Almighty, but to point out people to Christ. I really appreciate your time and effort in contending for the faith that was entrusted to us. May the Lord our God continue to nourish you with His wisdom and protection to you and your lovedones! Grace and Peace, beloved!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure how William Lane Craig missed this but the amusing remark (Adams 2002, 131) would fail by committing the false analogy fallacy (RationalWiki, s.v. “False analogy“). As I understand the fine-tuning argument, if you changed certain physical constants or parameters by just a tiny little bit, the universe would no longer be conducive to advanced intelligent life—or matter in some cases, or elemental diversity in others, etc. (according to Wikipedia’s explanation, s.v. “Fine-tuned Universe“). However, you may alter the shape of the puddle as little or as much as you like and it will still be a puddle. So it’s an amusing retort but ultimately irrelevant because it is not analogous.

    Adams, D. The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time. New York: Harmony Books, 2002.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That…is…the entire point of the analogy. The “puddle analogy” exists to suggest that, rather than an environment being designed to meet the needs of life, life evolves to exist within the environment around it. Yes, life AS IT IS IN THIS UNIVERSE would not exist if an aspect of this universe was changed, but that’s because it adapted to live in this universe. If the universe had begun with the differences you describe, a whole new life would have adapted from that.


    2. William Lane Craig offers an interesting parallel we can use to refute this silly argument. Imagine yourself in a situation abroad in which you’ve been arrested and falsely accused of drug smuggling. You find yourself dragged in front of firing squad of 100 professional marksmen who have their rifles aimed at your heart. Your punishment for smuggling drugs is death. You hear someone shout, “ready, aim, fire” and you hear the roar of their guns. To your surprise, not a single bullet makes its mark. 100 marksmen missed! What would you conclude? “Well, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. If they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised.”

      I am struggling to see how this point refutes the puzzle analogy?

      Insofar as it relates to the analogy I can imagine that if the puddle were no longer to be a puddle (because it died) then it shouldn’t matter at all what the puddle thinks. Which I can grant and makes perfect sense. But how does that refute the premise that the puddle analogy itself puts forth.

      That being:

      The conditions for the puddle (life) existing require very specific sets of variables to take very specific values.

      If and only if those specific conditions are met, then the puddle will exist.

      The puddle exists.

      The conditions were designed for the puzzle to exist.

      The last claim is the one that does not follow from the previous claims, and that is the crux of the puddle analogy.

      At least to my understanding.


  3. Is…Is this a joke? You say that we have objective truth, and I would like to know where, exactly, you have found it. It is an unsupported claim that you use to “support” an argument. It is also a circular argument: you cannot prove that any truth is objective without FIRST proving that it transcends human reason, thus making it “objective,” rather than “subjective.” Yet, you have presupposed that objective reality exists, and posited the existence of a source of transcendence must come from it, rather than the reverse, more logical argument.

    Second, on the subject of the universe being rational and logical, there is another flaw. The concepts of what is logical and rational are human constructs. You say that the universe is designed to fit human concepts of logic, whereas the “puddle analogy” suggests that, in a world where life adapts to fit the environment around it, ideas like “logic” and “reason” would be designed by the human mind to fit the condition of the universe.

    Your argument doesn’t really hold water, it barely even addresses the issue at hand. You claim that your argument holds a logical claim, but all it really does is restate your point, with little elaboration.


  4. Religion:

    1) Come up with a belief
    2) Assert that belief is true
    3) Remain satisfied that you are correct, and run and hide when that viewpoint is challenged by evidence or reason

    This formula works the world over for every religion imaginable.
    Some day I hope humanity’s children will wake up and rid themselves of these fairytales.


    1. “Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.”

      Ditto for cosmology.

      Thanks to Scott D. Weitzenhoffer for the analogy.


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