Friday, July 24, 2020

Geeky Christians Questions For Atheists

Continuing with my current theme of responding to questions for atheists, I came across this set from Geeky Christian. And it comes around full-circle in that the questions on this site/page came from Norman Geisler, co-author of I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, the book that inspired the title for this blog!

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1. Are you absolutely sure there is no God? If not, then is it not possible that there is a God? And if it is possible that God exists, then can you think of any reason that would keep you from wanting to look at the evidence?

This is three questions in one!

a) I'm not sure there is no God, but I do find both the concept and the evidence that God exists to not withstand rational scrutiny, in much the same way that the evidence for Zeus does not withstand rational scrutiny. And if it the evidence doesn't withstand rational and objective scrutiny, then it doesn't warrant belief.

b) It is possible there is a god/God, but without better data, that possibility will never be anything more than statistically insignificant. 

c) It's not that I refuse to believe in God because I simply don't want to look at the evidence lest my worldview be turned around - ten years ago I was a Fundamentalist Christian, until I became an atheist because I looked at the evidence with an open mind. I found the arguments for God either did not stand up to scientific scrutiny, or were philosophical rather than scientific.

2. Would you agree that intelligently designed things call for an intelligent designer of them? If so, then would you agree that evidence for intelligent design in the universe would be evidence for a designer of the universe?

Another multi-part question.

a) Design is more to do with origin rather than complexity. For example, a plastic shopping bag is not complex, but we know who designed them and where they are manufactured, whereas something complex like a bacteria we know is formed as a result of natural processes - bacteria and other life forms seemingly need no designer nor a manufacturer to exist.

b) It really depends on what you consider evidence of intelligent design, and if that evidence makes better sense in an intelligent design hypothesis or a methodological naturalist hypothesis. So far, all the evidence listed as evidence for design is actually better explained with naturalism, and this highlights the beauty of science against the vague 'God-did-it' scenario - science looks at mechanisms and probable causes, and in the field of the naturalistic sciences, you have to prove your case among numerous people are actively competing to prove you either right or wrong. However, under the Creationist 'God-did-it' scenario, sure, it's complex and it looks pretty, but that's simply the end of the matter.

3. Would you agree that nothing cannot produce something? If so, then if the universe did not exist but then came to exist, wouldn’t this be evidence of a cause beyond the universe?

a) I would agree on this point because we have never seen something come out of nothing and cannot find a reasonable science-based explanation for how something could come from nothing.

b) I do not know if the universe existed before time existed, so I can't answer that part in the affirmative. It is possible there was a cause beyond our universe for the existence of this universe, but we then have no way of determining what that cause is if it lies outside of our universe. But from what I've read, some of the best minds that have looked in to the topic don't seem to find the need to shoehorn an intelligent or sentient cause into the equation.

4. Would you agree with me that just because we cannot see something with our eyes—such as our mind, gravity, magnetism, the wind—that does not mean it doesn’t exist?

I would happily agree with you.

But where we may differ is that in my opinion, even though we don't see that something, what we do see are its effects on our world, and from that we can determine why and how that something operates. And in a lot of instances, we can use that something to our benefit.

For example, magnets are used all the time in electronics, the wind is used in farming, and gravity is great for distributing water.

5. Would you also agree that just because we cannot see God with our eyes does not necessarily mean He doesn’t exist?

Finally, a simple, single-sentence question!

I would agree - just because we can't see God doesn't count as evidence against his existence.

6. In the light of the big bang evidence for the origin of the universe, is it more reasonable to believe that no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing?

This is a misunderstanding of the concept of the big bang hypothesis. It's not that everything suddenly existed ex-nihilo - it is that all the energy and matter in the initial state of the universe was condensed in to a singularity which then expanded. The universe went from a hot and dense state to a sparse and cool state over the course of billions of years.

But it's ironic that some Christians consider the big bang as proof for God, whereas some Christians vehemently reject the big bang as a conspiracy by scientists to push an anti-Christian doctrine in the schools. 

And to me, this is a failing of the Bible - the God that created the universe should be able to clearly tell us how and by what mechanism he did so, and it should be clear enough in order to put either Big Bang-proponents or Steady State-theorists or whoever else in their place.

Otherwise, it becomes a case of humans needing to teach God science so he can tell us how he created the universe.

7. Would you agree that something presently exists? If something presently exists, and something cannot come from nothing, then would you also agree that something must have always existed?

a) Yes. Something presently exists.

b) Something may have always existed, but that something can have existed in various other states, or even existed merely as separate constituent components, before it became the state that we observe it in.

8. If it takes an intelligent being to produce an encyclopedia, then would it not also take an intelligent being to produce the equivalent of 1000 sets of an encyclopedia full of information in the first one-celled animal?

This line of thought doesn't quite resonate for a number of ways:

Firstly, the first one-celled animal is not an animal. An animal is defined as a multicellular organism with an internal digestive tract, so calling the first one-celled animal an animal does not make it an animal.

Secondly, saying that something has the equivalent of 1000 sets of encyclopedias is not saying that someone wrote 1000 sets of encyclopedias then inserted that in to the first one-celled animal. Its's just saying that something is incredibly complex, which I agree - genetics is something that only a handful of people will ever fully comprehend.

Thirdly, just because you call it 'information' does not mean it actually is information as we would use the word in common parlance as if we were reading a technical manual. The letters we use to represent the genetic code, T, G, A and C, are representative of the chemical chains of the constituent proteins. It describes what we see - not prescribes.

If we look at a CD, the pits on a CD track form the prescriptive 1's and 0's which are the encoding that the CD laser reads of the information that becomes the sound you hear. But in a genetic code, the TGAC we see are simply chemical reactions. The TGAC aren't pits in a CD track put there by a designer - they're descriptive of the chemical interactions we observe and we use TGAC as a simplified way to describe those relationships. If there was a designer producing babies with TGACs like record companies produce CDs, then the design analogy stacks up. But it doesn't because we know babies aren't mass-produced in a factory according to a template.

9. If an effect cannot be greater than its cause (since you can’t give what you do not have to give), then does it not make more sense that mind produced matter than that matter produced mind, as atheists say?

This is where I feel the arguments for Christianity retreat to philosophy and word salad, rather than hard data and the scientific method.

Firstly, the only minds we know of are in material brains (and simulated by computers). 

Secondly, minds are made of the same matter that is part of this universe.

So to say that a separate mind created the matter that our own minds are made of is to beg the question two ways:
Either you believe in a magical disembodied mind (which means in something that goes against all rationality), or that the mind that created this matter was itself the result of other matter that itself was created.

10. Is there anything wrong anywhere? If so, how can we know unless there is a moral law?

We don't have moral law. We have morals and we have morality, but what theists would call moral law basically boils down to a mixture of legislation and culture in order to enforce our ideals. So there definitely isn't a moral law so to speak, but more an ideal of how we should govern ourselves to increase cohesion and reduce suffering in our societies.

11. If every law needs a lawgiver, does it not make sense to say a moral law needs a Moral Lawgiver?

No, it does not make sense.

Acts of parliament that we call law needs lawgivers, so the analogy holds up here. But things like the laws of nature that we observe in science, or moral laws that we observe in culture, are more descriptive rather than prescriptive. They are simplifications of already-existing concepts, rather than something created by parliament to be enforced in a courtroom.

Besides, every time period in history has had a different understanding of morality - the Israelites owned and used slaves without any compunction, the Romans sent people and animals to die against gladiators for entertainment, and Catholic Germany persecuted Jews for hundreds of years because they believed it was their duty as a result of deicide. Does this then mean that this hypothetical moral lawgiver changes their mind every couple of hundred years and gives a different moral law in different countries?

12. Would you agree that if it took intelligence to make a model universe in a science lab, then it took super-intelligence to make the real universe?

A model universe, as in a Grade 6 science project, is just a replica of what already exists. It isn't creating anything new.

But let's say someone created a new universe in a science lab - then they're just using natural processes to make something that continues the chain of natural processes.

Or are you then confirming that the hypothetical Grade 6 kid in science class is now a super-intelligence (euphemism for God)?

13. Would you agree that it takes a cause to make a small glass ball found in the woods? And would you agree that making the ball larger does not eliminate the need for a cause? If so, then doesn’t the biggest ball of all (the whole universe) need a cause?

a) Yes, I would agree that if I found a glass ball in a forest, it had a cause. For example, if I found a ball of obsidian, then because we know how obsidian forms, I would say it is the result of natural processes (especially if the forest is in the vicinity of a volcano). If I found a clear crystal ball that looks like a fortune teller's, I would presume someone dropped it after they bought it from a shop.

b) Depends on the glass, and what effect making the ball larger has.

c) The universe has different shapes depending on the density, so calling it simply a ball is somewhat ignorant of the reality. Brian Cox says the universe is actually flat!

d) This ball we call the universe is 99.99999% empty, radiation-filled space. If it was created, it was created incredibly inefficiently.

14. If there is a cause beyond the whole finite (limited) universe, would not this cause have to be beyond the finite, namely, non-finite or infinite?

Not necessarily. The best of our understanding is that the formation of our universe was the result of natural processes that while we aren't certain of the details, not many (if any at all) degree-qualified experts on the subject give any credence to the idea a universe-creating being, and only a few more give any credence to a multiverse theory.

15. In the light of the anthropic principle (that the universe was fine-tuned for the emergence of life from its very inception), wouldn’t it make sense to say there was an intelligent being who preplanned human life?

Looking at the earth, our position in space and the vastness of space, it is a stretch of credulity to say that the universe was designed for life, especially human life.

Firstly, we have to consider that humans themselves are neither the tallest, heaviest, fastest or strongest organisms, nor do we live the longest. We are, however, the most intelligent, so we at least have one thing going for us.

Secondly, for a universe designed for humans, the humans it was designed for are strictly confined strictly to the surface of just one rocky ball adjacent to a minor star in one far-off part of the universe. This is hardly the epitome of anthropic design.

Thirdly, anthropists forget that the humans that the universe was designed for need a specialised suit to survive in anything above the lower parts of earth's atmosphere, and this is before we even consider outer space. Furthermore, even on this one solitary rocky ball, we can only inhabit the surface because the interior gets hotter and more poisonous the further in you get, and even on the surface we can inhabit at most 30% of that surface because the other 70% is covered in water (the humans the universe was designed for can't talk or breathe in the most abundant chemical in the universe). Further still, the 30% that isn't water, some parts are simply inhospitable due to it being either too close to the poles, too low relative to sea level, too high relative to sea level, or some other factor that is inconducive to human life.

Let's just say that if there was an intelligence that pre-planned human life according to divine design, that designer is woefully inefficient.

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There you are - Geeky Christian's Questions For Atheists answered.

I hope these answers give you good reason to pause for thought.

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Until next time, stay safe and rational.

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