Monday, November 30, 2009

Hugh Ross's Creator and the Cosmos, Concluding Remarks

As with most creationist literature, Ross's book consists primarily of a false dilemma. He presents problems with naturalist accounts of S (for any subject S) and concludes that God must be responsible for it. Yet he never supports his theory of divine creation with evidence. And he is quite coy about what his view even is. For example, he asserts that God created everything--anything that involves greater complexity than its not existing, presumably--since without God's creation the universe can only increase in entropy. No greater complexity can arise without God's intervention, and God has ceased to intervene after the first six periods of time indicated in Genesis (as Ross says on p. 103).

Ross, then, gets only one benefit from his supposed embrace of scientific evidence: he doesn't believe in a 6-10,000 year old universe. That's a big benefit since it's blatantly obvious for lots of independent reasons that the universe is much older than that. Still, he's got to deny the evidence for evolution just as irrationally as any other creationist. That means he's still in an evidential hole that he needs to dig himself out of. And he's still got the problem that, for example, the two Biblical creation stories are inconsistent with each other and with the evidence. (For example, the Seven Day Creation story has birds created before land animals--including reptiles--which we know, from the fossil record, did not happen.)

So Ross thinks the universe is approximately 14 billion years old, that the earth has been here for approximately 4.5 billion years and that life has existed on earth for approximately 3.5 billion of those years. And, I think, he believes the fossil record can be taken to indicate a temporal sequence of organisms. I would guess, then that this creation period from 14 billion years ago until approximately 60,000 years ago when the first homo sapiens appeared. All the evidence of a sequence of gradually developing species would then indicate only God's slow experiments with them as he alters them over time. It's not clear why God would need to spend so much time making so many creatures that are so similar to each other but most of which are now extinct. On the other hand, perhaps they could evolve during that time with God's help but they cannot evolve now. If that's the case, then it's fairly cruel of God to stop allowing evolution.

I'm not sure what's supposed to happen in that 14 billion years (less our last 60,000 years). Was there a kind of stasis in which God added his creations to the universe? If so, how could time have passed at all? Or did God add his creations at certain specified points (the various "days") and let the laws of nature govern his creations between those specific times until the next point when he would intervene again? If that were the case, one would expect new life forms to appear in the fossil record only at a few definable times, but they appear constantly throughout the fossil record. Or, most plausibly, did everything happen the way it does now except that God is somehow creating things at the same time? Were the laws of nature that now obtain also in effect and God violated them with lots of individual creations (that were not documented individually, of course)? Perhaps, but then God appears to be a tinkerer whose actions exactly mimic the development of the universe if he hadn't been there at all. So, I have no idea even when this creation is supposed to have occurred and how that could possibly fit the fossil evidence (even leaving aside the biomolecular clock evidence).

So, Ross tries to patch up one obvious problem with Young Earth Creationism, but he leaves lots of other problems in place and creates other problems for himself. However, because creationists are always free from actually providing testable claims that could be confirmed or disconfirmed by evidence, he never bothers to confront any such issues and focuses only on his own oversimplified and distorted views of his opposition's views.

In sum, Ross's book adds only a thin veneer of pseudo-sophistication to the disreputable work of the Young Earth Creationists. Nothing he has said really resolves the problems with their views. The only marginally compelling argument he presents is the cosmological argument, and that he bizarrely takes to indicate exactly the sort of God described in the Bible. He includes a smattering of other arguments, poorly explained and poorly supported, as though throwing as much at the wall in the hope that something will stick. And he considers some alternatives and counterarguments, but he does so so poorly that one could not have any idea what these other views are based solely on his explanation, and then he rejects these strawmen without seriously engaging any reasonable view or position. For variety, sometimes he seizes on totally irrelevant information (such as Hume's lack of an adequate alternative explanation for the appearance of design, or comments from Stephen Hawking's ex-wife) as though that constitutes a refutation of another's argument. Hence, The Creator and the Cosmos is only a slightly more sophisticated version of the same creationist nonsense that is as scientifically misguided as it is theologically simplistic.

At the end of this process of reviewing Ross's book, I must ask myself why I did it. I didn't really learn anything new, and, while I tried to remain open-minded about it, I don't think anything changed my mind. I can only hope that anyone who had questions about Ross, or thought there might be some substance to Ross's view has more reason for his/her own final evaluation, and, it is devoutly to be hoped, rejection, of his views.

Hugh Ross's Creator and the Cosmos, Chapter 16

Ross's chapter 16 is devoted to constructing outlandishly large numbers for the improbability of individual cells or biomolecules occurring by chance. And then he concludes that these events are so improbable that a God must have miraculously intervened to create these things. For example, he claims, following Harold Morowitz who is not a creationist, that the probability of a single cell forming randomly from its constituent parts is 1 in 10 to the 100,000,000,000. Surely a cell forming from basic constituents randomly is highly improbable, so it's a good thing that no one thinks any such thing happened. (Ross cleverly uses the phrase "under ideal natural conditions" [p. 138] as though he is not arguing from the random assembly of parts but from any possible natural assembly of parts.) Instead, those, such as Morowitz, who are interested in this issue think that smaller biomolecules formed from a prebiotic soup by small stages, and, that these molecules then formed increasingly complex molecules until a simple self-replicating molecule formed from them. This self-replicator would then provide the basis necessary for evolution to get going, and real living organisms could then result.

This is standard creationist claptrap, implying that evolution, biogenesis, or whatever could only have occurred randomly over some improbably large item. I could argue, in similar fashion, that Hugh Ross's existence requires the direct intervention of a divine being. Suppose I imagine that all Hugh Ross's constituent atoms were sitting around in a prebiotic soup and suddenly, with a flash of lightning, they spontaneously assembled themselves into Hugh Ross. I'll conservatively estimate the probability of this happening as one in a googol. (See, I can make up probabilities too.) Since this probability is so fantastically low that this could never occur randomly in the course of a billion universes, I think it's safe to say that Ross was created by a divine being in his present form. Now, I suppose Ross might say that he has a "causal history" and "genealogy", that he did not arise by random chance from a set of unrelated constituents, that his genesis resulted from a series of causal stages of earlier beings whose existence we can know from the "traces" they have left behind. Of course, there is a difference between the Spontaneous Ross Generation case and the living-cell case in that we do not as yet have any way to show directly that these causal intermediaries existed on earth before the first fossils formed. But we can make inferences about the nature of that early earth and construct laboratory experiments to test these inferences. That, of course, has been done, for example, in the case of the Stanley Miller and Harold Urey experiments. These experiments are not the end of investigation of this question, but they provide a start to such investigation, and they show conclusively that it is possible for bio-molecules to arise from some form of prebiotic soup by entirely natural means.

What can Ross say about such cases? Apparently, at some step in the process from ammonia to RNA bases, or from RNA bases on up to the cell, one or more step is physically impossible. Perhaps Miller cheated, or God intervened in Miller's (or others') laboratory. And the same thing occurred in every confirming experiment.

The point is that we have seen that complex biomolecules can arise from conditions that plausibly could have obtained on earth, yet Ross's position is that this is effectively impossible because its probability is vanishingly small. Ross's position here is simply falsified by the experimental evidence; there must be an error in his probability calculations (or, more specifically, one of his key assumptions) because in fact something he claimed to be impossible actually occurred. It is clear what the problem is. Ross assumes that large scale assembly must occur purely at random from the smallest constituents (much like our Ross arising spontaneously from his constituent atoms) when it is more likely that life arose by a series of stages each of which, plausibly, could arise from the increasingly complex molecules of the stage before. It is not really surprising, then, that Ross never mentions the Miller-Urey experiments in a chapter devoted to exactly the problem they set out to investigate. Actual evidence would undermine the point he is trying to make.

I am not asserting that there are no problems with the Miller-Urey experiments (such as the existence of both right and left-handed isomers that Ross emphasizes) or later experiments, or that no further investigation is necessary. All I am saying is that increasing complexity of macromolecules is possible given initial conditions that might have obtained on earth, so there is no compelling reason to think we could not have ultimately derived from a prebiotic soup. And Ross's claim that this is impossible is not plausible.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ross's Creator and the Cosmos, Chapters 14 and 15

Chapters 14 and 15 of The Creator and the Cosmos are probability arguments based on the supposed improbability of human life occurring in our universe. Although both chapters argue that some set of facts is incredibly improbable, and this improbability requires divine intervention in order for human life to occur. The first is Fine-Tuning Argument and the second depends on the improbability of all the contingent features Ross claims are necessary for human life. I evaluate these two chapters together, even though they are distinct and involve distinct errors, because taken together they paint a picture of an absurdly impotent God.

The fine-tuning argument is that God has to "tune" the constants and laws of nature of the universe in order for life (or life as we know it) to be possible. If these constants were slightly different, it would not be possible for life (as we know it) to exist. It is then assumed that it is highly improbable that the constants have exactly these values. Hence, Ross concludes, the probability of life occurring is so low that we have to conclude that some being deliberately set up the conditions to allow for it.

The second argument is that it is incredibly unlikely that exactly the contingent conditions, say a planet in the right temperature zone for liquid water etc., for human life would occur in our universe. So we should conclude that God must have set up our planet specifically for our life.

The absurdity in making both these arguments is that they collectively entail a God who is so incompetent or powerless that he/she/it cannot create a universe whose basic laws and constants are such that life would become likely. In other words, Ross thinks that God set up a universe so that it would allow for life, yet God did such a crappy job of creating this universe that it does not in fact allow for life but requires God to intervene and create a world for humans to occupy. Perhaps it's just unbelievably hard for God to create a universe that allows for life to exist and also allows life to arise naturally. But such a response cannot be correct if we think God is an omniscient and omnipotent being. Such a God could create conditions that would allow life to arise naturally. And if God were going to create miraculously a world for human habitation, then he would have no need of careful fine-tuning.

These two arguments are individually unsound in any case. The problem with the fine-tuning argument is that there is no way to establish the probability that the constants and laws of nature might have been different. One could reasonably argue, to take a favored example, that, if you survived a firing squad in which dozens of marksmen all missed, then there must be a conspiracy not to kill you. This argument works because the probability that each individual marksman miss is known (and is very low), and so the conjunction of them all missing can be calculated to be extraordinarily low. Since the odds that they all miss by chance is vanishingly small (let's suppose), then we can conclude that there must be a deliberate agreement not to shoot you. However, in the case of the constants and laws of nature, we have no idea what the probability is that the constants differ from their actual values. Without that probability, there is no way to calculate the improbability that life would exist. So, following our other example, we cannot estimate the probability that there is a conspiracy not to shoot you unless you have some idea how accurate the marksmen are.

For the most part these arguments rely on the mere logical possibility that the values differ, but logical possibility tells us nothing about probability. It's logically possible that I turn into a chicken in the next second (this example I get from Abe Brummett), but that does not mean I should worry about it. The probability that I turn into a chicken is vanishingly small--or zero given the laws of nature. So, one cannot rely on establishing the logical possibility that these values differ in order to prove the improbability of them all lining up perfectly for life as we know it to be possible.

The second argument differs from the fine-tuning argument because it may be possible to give some ballpark estimate of at least some of the characteristics of the earth that may be necessary for life. Any such estimate would be highly unreliable, but at least there is some possibility of making such an estimate. Since the universe is incredibly large, with billions of stars in billions of galaxies, it's quite possible that our earth, of the billions possible, could meet those requirements. The extreme improbability of an event does not mean that it is impossible. Any particular person winning the lottery is very unlikely, but it is quite probable that someone will win. The difficulties are in estimating the number of factors that are, independent of each other, necessary for life (as opposed to life as we know it) and making an accurate assessment of these probabilities. As I said, it is not necessarily impossible to do this, but we should not conclude too quickly that our existence is impossible or likely.

Ross provides estimates of the probability of various factors, but he never explains how he arrives at these probabilities, so there is no way of evaluating his estimates.

Finally, we cannot make estimates only on the probability of life like ours is possible since the exact features of our lives are not relevant to the question of whether life in general is possible. Are we to estimate the probability that life would evolve bipedalism? That would be unlikely, one would suppose, but we cannot know that God would care about bipedalism (unless God is bipedal and wanted to create us in his/her/its own image!). So, Ross's claim that there is a .001 probability of having the right surface gravity (for example) is almost certainly too low a probability since we do not need gravity to be earthlike in order for life to develop. That gravity may not even need to be great enough to maintain an atmosphere since life might develop in liquid that would not escape even with the gravity of, say, a moon. I am not expert enough to substitute my own probabilities for Ross's, but it's unlikely that his low probability estimates are accurate.

I think that Ross is interested not just in the probability of life but the probability of intelligent life, and that is certainly much less likely. So, the probability of intelligent life must be much lower than the probability of life. However, the first problem remains. We have a great deal of uncertainty about exactly what is necessary for intelligent life and how probable those factors are.

But, perhaps more importantly, we need a better reason to think that God would want intelligent life to exist. These probability estimates only make sense if we think God wants some specific, improbable outcome. But why does intelligence matter to God? Does God want intelligent people as worshipers? If God wants worshipers, then God would have to be an imperfect being who wanted worship. Perhaps God wants intelligence because God values the existence of moral beings, and only intelligent beings can have moral worth. It's not clear that only intelligent beings can have moral worth. But, in any case, it's not clear why God would want such beings. Does God want there to be suffering? If death is inevitable, wouldn't it be cruel of God to make sure that beings come into existence who have moral worth only so that they can die. The major unsupported premise is that God would want something like us to exist--otherwise our relative improbability would prove nothing--but we are not capable of predicting what God would want.

In sum, Ross makes two arguments with essentially inconsistent assumptions: the universe is perfectly designed for life yet it is impossible that life could occur in that universe. But each of the two arguments is independently unsound, and, moreover, they both rely on the unsupported claim that God, whose mind we cannot know, would want human-like intelligent beings to exist.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hugh Ross's Creator and the Cosmos, Chapter 13

In chapter 13 Ross covers the rather well-worn ground of William Paley's argument from design. The argument is an argument by analogy.
1. Watches require a designer.
2. The universe is like a watch.
3. Therefore the universe requires a designer.

The first premise we take to be obvious. The second premise is supported by the complexity and functions of organisms. The parts of an organism function to maintain the existence of the organism of which they are part. Paley's favorite example is the eye which has a large number of parts that interact in a complex way in order to allow the organism to acquire information about its environment which it acts on in order to increase its chances of survival. The conclusion follows inductively, and its strength depends on the similarity of the two things and the lack of relevant differences between the two. The main relevant difference between organisms and watches is, of course, that organisms can evolve whereas watches cannot. So how does Ross defend Paley's analogy?

Ross considers three responses, from David Hume, Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould, to Paley's analogy.
Hume: Ross mentions that Hume does not think the analogy is strong, and Ross then mentions Hume's alternative account of the appearance of design: "random shuffling of matter" (p. 100) in an infinitely old universe. Ross then ridicules Hume's alternative without even addressing the many differences Hume pointed out between human artifacts and organisms.

Clearly Hume did not know that the universe was finite in time, and he did not have Darwin's theory of natural selection. But Ross commits a false dilemma fallacy here. One cannot defend a divine origin as an explanation of function and complexity in organisms by rejecting an alternative. Hume's is not the only possible alternative. Rather Ross needs to address the reasons Hume gives for the differences between the two. Ross does not even mention these objections, and it would take too long to review them here. However, one point is that we must derive a conclusion about the whole universe based on the function of a small part. Another point is that we have never seen a universe made, nor seen anything made from similar materials. These differences weaken the argument, and Ross needs a response to them, but he does not even bother.

Another point Hume makes is that if we really take the analogy seriously we should not conclude that the universe had a single, perfect designer. We should not derive a conclusion that exceeds what is necessary to explain the effect, and since the universe is not perfect, there is no reason to conclude that the designer is perfect. Given the way the universe functions it could have been designed by, for example, an immature, unwise god, or a senile, demented god. Similarly, when we look at human artifacts, we never find a single designer who controls all aspects of creation from concept to completion. Instead we find groups of people who work on pre-existing designs, making small improvements over them, and working together to construct artifacts according to those designs. Thus, if we take the design argument seriously, we would be better justified in concluding that there are many, imperfect designers working together to create the universe. Strangely, people rarely draw this conclusion.

Darwin: Ross briefly describes Darwin's view that natural selection can account for these features of organisms. Ross's rejection of Darwin is based on irrelevancies and incomplete consideration of the evidence. He claims that Darwin did not explain the origin of the first living organisms that were capable of evolving, that there is no evidence for large-scale evolutionary change, that it is impossible for species to evolve beyond a "species' norm" (p. 102), and that it is impossible for new species to appear as quickly as species become extinct. Finally, he claims that life is at all times becoming progressively less complex.

Obviously this is absurd. Ross's objection that Darwin does not explain the origin of the first living organisms is irrelevant to claims about Darwinian evolution. His rejection of evidence for large-scale evolutionary change (speciation) is simple denial of mountains of evidence. The impossibility of speciation is based only on our intuitions about breeding dogs to anything smaller than a dog. This totally misunderstands how speciation occurs; no one thinks that different species interbreed in order to produce a new species of offspring. Groups are thought to interbreed and change together to adapt to a changing environment. Finally, the evidence about extinction rates, based on current rates precipitated in part by human effects on animal habitats, are clearly irrelevant to overall extinction rates. And, in any case, he provides no reason at all to think that speciation could not occur as quickly as these long term extinction rates.

His alternative explanation, his way of trying to force the data to fit his own theory, is entertaining as well. He thinks that this purported excess of extinction supports the idea that God created all the existing species at once and time is slowly paring that number down. Why God would do such a crappy job of creating species that they would inevitably die out is never explained. Should we take Ross's theory seriously? Probably not, but let's do it anyway. If we take his low-end estimate of extinctions of one species per year, and the estimate that there are about 1.5 million species of organism currently on earth, we can conclude, given the fact that life has existed on earth for at least 3.5 billion years, that God must have created 3.5 billion species. (We can basically ignore the 1.5 million that currently exist as a roundoff error. My assumption is based on the assumption that the rate is constant, but it would probably be higher when there were more species to go extinct.) Since the earth is 197million square miles in area, we find that now each species has 131 square miles. But when God created all these species, they would have had only .056 square miles each. That's about 35 acres on average for each species. This isn't physically impossible, but it would be a tight fit.

Gould: Ross understands Gould as emphasizing bad designs in nature as evidence for natural selection rather than divine origin. Ross follows Gould's example of the panda's thumb as an limb jury-rigged from existing parts rather than something created from scratch. He gives three responses.

First, organisms are too complex for humans to draw conclusions about "the quality of the Creator's work." Aside from the obvious question-begging nature of this objection, this response is absurd. We can identify when something effectively fulfills a function. Is he seriously saying we cannot judge whether the panda's thumb is more or less effective than a human thumb?

Second, he claims that organisms might degrade over time from God's perfect design. Presumably they had a much more effective thumb and they only devolved to be less effective at eating bamboo. I would make fun of Ross for this, but I think his brain must have devolved from a state of perfection in order for him to think this, and I don't think it's nice to make fun of the devolved. Why would he think that pandas with less effective thumbs would be more likely to survive and reproduce than those whose thumbs were more effective? Perhaps he thinks that the thumb degenerated from a superior thumb by means of random mutation, but that would not explain at all why it would degenerate in a way that fit exactly with the "design" of other bears. Why, for example, would they have five fingers and a thumb rather than four fingers and a thumb as humans have? The only reasonable explanation is that the wrist bone mutated from a shorter wrist bone from related bears.

His third response is that Gould has no new explanation for this imperfect design, only "the already discredited Darwinist explanations" (p. 104). I can only laugh at this response.

Finally, his claim that organisms have become progressively less complex over time flies directly in the face of the evidence. Just to take one example, algae long preceding humans.

In sum, we can say that Ross does not exactly think through his advocacy of the argument from design. He does not make any serious attempt to describe, much less respond to, any real objection to Paley's design argument.

Blaming the Gay

An amusingly Freudian interview with moderately anti-gay Utah State Senator Chris Buttars.
BUTTARS: I meet with the gays here and there; they were at my house two weeks ago. I don't mind gays, but I don't want 'em stuffin' it down my throat all the time, and certainly in my kids' face.

Buttars continued:
I mean, in these places where I meet gays, I give back as good as I get. But if the gay community would keep hold of themselves, get a grip on themselves, pull their members back and keep them from splashing themselves all over the public, then, we may suppress our gag reflex and make no bones about our embrace of them and their private, inner selves. I have tried to reach around the aisle and get my Democratic colleagues off their thrust for public displays of homosexuality, but they continue to push no matter how hard I push back. Their rigid insistence on exposing themselves to a nation not yet open to their intrusion into the private parts of their lives leads through the back-door to hell. Yet at the same time we cannot blow this chance to come together, fill the holes in our relations with our love for our opposition, and thrust aside our disagreements. Also.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Miscellaneous Weak Humor and Nozick Comments

A belated comment on the Bill Belichick decision to go for it on 4th and 2: The problem is that Belichick didn't trust his punter!

Second point. Despite the title, the Discovery channel program Lobstermen is not nearly as interesting as one might think.

And, finally, related only to some work on Robert Nozick: I found this passage showing a problem with John Locke's requirement on resource acquisition that the person must leave "as much and as good" for others. This passage purports to show that a logical problem or something like a paradox follows from this requirement when we try justly to acquire a natural resource.

How might an initial acquisition be legitimate? Nozick appeals to the Lockean Proviso: Natural resources, such as land, come to be rightfully owned by the first person to appropriate it, as long as she left "enough and as good" for others. Suppose we are talking about a parcel of land. A may appropriate as much land as he wants only if he leaves enough and as good for others. Suppose A takes half, then. Now others come along, and each can appropriate only if she leaves enough and as good for others. So B can take half of the half left by A, C half of the half left by B, D half the half left by C, and so on through the alphabet. It is easy to see that evenutally [sic] there will not be enough left for some person, Z. Z can then complain that X did not leave enough and as good, so X's appropriation was illegitimate. But if so, then Y did not leave enough and as good for X, and so on all the way back up the alphabet to A. This seems to show that it will be impossible to meet the Lockean Proviso, since it will be impossible, no matter how little A takes, to leave "enough and as good" for others.

In fact, there is no logical problem here since Locke could require that one leave "as much and as good" for each individual who also might make use of the resource. Thus, one could only take enough that every other person who might rely on the resource could take that much as well from the remainder. So, if I pick a fruit from a tree, I have to make sure that there are at least as many remaining fruit as there are individuals who might want them. This requirement is hopelessly simplistic and impractical in our society with an indefinitely large number of people who might rely on a resource and the general impossibility, at this point, of sharing the original resource with others. However, I don't see anything paradoxical about the rule.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hugh Ross's Creator and the Cosmos, Chapter 12

In chapter 12, Hugh Ross focuses on work by Paul Davies on the idea that the universe might have arisen spontaneously by a process called "quantum tunneling", and then makes some cursory comments on quantum mechanics. I am no expert on quantum mechanics, but I believe that quantum tunneling is the odd event of quantum particles (if you like that term) spontaneously "jump" barriers or go from one side of a barrier to another without passing through the intervening space. This is related to the idea that particles and anti-particles can spontaneously come into existence from the quantum field. Then, in theory, the singularity could pop into existence from the quantum field. This singularity would then expand as a Big Bang, and then the universe would inflate rapidly. I don't pretend to understand this, but even if I do not understand it, and even if it doesn't bring a universe into existence from nothing but only from a quantum field, it's still a step in the right direction.

But of course these tentative steps towards a quantum physical understanding of the origin of the universe can be immediately rejected in favor of the theory that an intelligent, personal being who exists in some mysterious way beyond our standard time dimension who created the universe (and possibly added new creations at various points throughout the history of the universe) and whose "son", who is actually himself, was born and died in order to save us from the punishment that he levied on our ancestors for failing to remain deliberately ignorant about morality. Clearly that conclusion is so obvious that we would never need to develop an alternative that we could understand scientifically.

But, for now, I want to say a bit about Ross's discussion of quantum mechanics.

Ross tries to draw a strong distinction between the science, philosophy and religion of quantum mechanics. Doing this allows him to treat all the consequences of quantum mechanics that Ross believes are problematic as part of the philosophy or "religion" of quantum mechanics. The main problem for Ross is that quantum mechanics gives the observer an essential place in determining reality (making it the case that quantum particles have determinate properties). Ross's strawman here is the view that human observers created the universe by observing it. This would be worth discussing if anyone besides a few weirdos believed that we could cause the universe to come into existence by observing.

In reality the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is how to account for the difficulty that particles do not appear to have determinate properties until an observation is made. Moreover, it appears to be possible to describe the physical instruments that one would use in making an observation in quantum mechanical terms. Hence, the measurement devices appear also to lack determinate properties until someone reads the dial on the device. The Copenhagen interpretation stops this slippery slope with a human observer on the theory that a human cannot be described in purely quantum mechanical terms.

Ross, on the other hand, takes God to be the observer who makes it the case that particles have determinate properties. That's a great idea in many ways since it would certainly explain how there could be determinate properties before there were any living beings to observe anything. That certainly raises a problem of circularity since it should be impossible for observers to evolve without there being determinate properties.

However, the problem with Ross's solution is that it proves too much. If God is the observer for quantum events before the existence of (other) observers, then God ought to observe every quantum event since then. However, if there is an observer for all quantum events, then there should be no mysterious quantum effects in which particles do not have determinate properties until an observation is made. In other words, Ross's solution relies on God observing everything before other observers exist to do so. And if God makes these observations, then there would be no quantum effects to discover; everything would have its determinate properties even without human observations because God would make those observations. So, Ross's solution to the measurement problem would banish the phenomenon that he wishes to explain. If God does observe quantum events, one can appeal to God to solve the problem, but this would contradict the evidence that quantum indeterminacy exists.

The only response I can think that Ross could give is that God observes everything up to the existence of observers and then God stops observing (or stops observing whenever physicists are conducting experiments that exhibit this indeterminacy). Why God would observe for some time and then stop is completely mysterious. I am unsure that it is even coherent to suggest that an omniscient being could fail to observe quantum events.

Ross may simply be out of date, or he may be playing word games. Here is his claim although I've dropped a few so we can just get a flavor of his alternative models.
At last count, ten independent philosophical models have been seriously proposed:
1. A coherent reality exists independent of human thinking.
2. A common fundamental cause lies behind the cause-and-effect phenomena humans observe.
7. The only observer who counts is the conscious human observer.
10. The physical realm is the materialization of pure thought (p. 94).

I only included four of them, and there is no point in trying to refute these theories since the measurement problem remains. But I wanted to illustrate that Ross is not taking his argument seriously when he proposes these as alternatives to the Copenhagen interpretation. If, on the other hand, he is not endorsing any of these but only noting that they have been proposed, then he really hasn't advanced anything that could be considered a solution.

The problem with "model" 1 is that there are determinate properties independent of measurement/observation. If Ross is denying that a measurement is necessary for particles to take on determinate properties, then he is promoting a model that is not consistent with the evidence. Perhaps Ross means to emphasize that the observer need not be human. Perhaps so, but this does not really resolve the measurement problem at all because it would then not provide an answer to the measurement problem.

"Model" 2 is a statement of Einstein's "Hidden Variable" theory. That model has indeed been proposed but, unfortunately, refuted. I included 7 because this "model" is a specific form of the problem that Ross wants to reject as absurd. So why is he proposing it as an alternative to the supposedly problematic theory? This is a bit like rejecting the theory that Bigfoot exists on the grounds that a previously unknown primate could not exist in the US for centuries with no credible observations or remains, and instead proposing as an alternative that what people have been reporting, when they report seeing Bigfoot, is that they have actually been seeing the Yeti. And, of course, I included 10 because I have no idea what it means, and neither does Ross.

Finally, since I have clearly gone on far too long, Ross offers an explanation for these physicists hostility to Christianity. He writes,

It seems the issue for these atheists, agnostics, humanists, and freethinkers [in a random magazine to which he provides no reverence] is not so much the deficiency of evidence for the Christian faith but rather the deficiencies of Christians. They seem to be reacting to their past, holding bitterness over the wrongs or abuses they incurred in their experiences with Christians (p. 96).

Lovely ad hominem there, Ross, especially since you say that these atheists (etc.) incurred the abuses. Even if this were relevant to the truth of these theories, it's nice to see that he assumes that any unpleasant experiences atheists (etc.) have had with Christians is their fault--or at least the unpleasantness simply occurred with no one to blame. "Mistakes were made" and all that.

In sum, Ross's chapter on quantum mechanics is completely unserious. He attacks a strawman, suggests a solution that is inconsistent with the empirical evidence (unless you add ad hoc hypotheses), throws out some alternatives that he cannot take seriously, and closes with an offensive ad hominem.