Sunday, 3 June 2012

Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer: How theism does better on the first six


Last week I put together a list of twenty questions that, in my experience, atheists either ‘won’t or can’t answer’ and invited coherent responses. I was not, in posting these, saying that atheists have no answers to them, only that as yet in over forty years of discussion with them I am yet to hear any good ones. 

The post generated 2,400 page views and 52 comments in a week and ten people attempted to take up the challenge by answering the questions. 

Three of these (John Saucier, Kees Engels and Bagguley) posted responses on my own blog whilst seven others (Rosa Rubicondior, Richard Carrier, DoubtingThomas, Dude ex machina, Lady Atheist, Sarah Elizabeth and Dead-Logic) posted on their own blogs.

Of these Richard Carrier and Rosa Rubicondior were the most comprehensive and the former also included extensive cross-references to other material by both himself and other authors. Some opted to answer all twenty questions and others were more selective but all seemed to think they had done a good job. I am grateful to them for their time and effort.

Several Christians also posted the twenty questions on their own blogs but as far as I know only one, ‘A Christian Word’, posted some answers in his Responses to Rosa Rubicondior .

I promised to post my own observations about the questions soon and start doing so now with the first six. 

However, let me first make some preliminary comments.

First, atheism and theism are mutually exclusive world views which both deserve careful consideration. They cannot both be correct and yet each world view is held by a large number of leading academics and scientists and large proportions of the world’s population (there are 3.9 billion theists and 1.1 billion atheists). This alone should lead us to approach the question of which, if either, is correct with a degree of humility and respect for those who hold a contrary view.

Atheists are materialists, believing that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of physical phenomena. They accordingly believe that God and the supernatural do not exist and that there is therefore no judgement and no afterlife. Both physical and biological complexity (including both the universe and human beings themselves) are simply the product of chance (random processes) and necessity (the working of physical laws) over time.

By contrast theists (including Christians, Muslims and Jews) believe that the universe was created by an all-powerful, all knowing, rational, omnipresent, benevolent, and personal God who is both transcendent (separate from it) and immanent (intimately involved with it). They believe that human beings were made for relationship with God, that death leads on to judgement by God and that there are two destinations for human beings, either enjoying God’s company in paradise/heaven or separated from him forever in Hell. So, theists believe that, in addition to chance and necessity, the universe was also the result of intelligent design.

Second, many atheists and theists hold their beliefs with considerable tenacity. Just as there are theists who reject out of hand observations, theories and worldviews which challenge their theistic convictions, so many atheists have an a priori commitment to atheism which leads them to seek exclusively materialistic explanations (and reject wholesale supernatural explanations) for all phenomena from religious experience to the origin of the universe and biological complexity.

As Richard Lewontin, a world famous geneticist at Harvard, has said: 

‘ We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs… because we have a prior commitment...to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.'

In other words many atheists assume the truth of the atheistic world view as a non-negotiable starting point and are accordingly strongly resistant to questioning it.

My question, however, is whether the atheistic world view has the explanatory power of the theistic one for the available evidence. I don’t believe that it does and have posed these twenty questions to make that case.

Third, I challenge atheists (and agnostics) reading this blog not to adopt the view, as a matter of faith, that the atheistic world view is some sort of neutral default position and that the burden of proof lies solely with theists to prove their case. Let’s not have any of the usual allegations of ‘meaningless questions’, ‘God of the gaps’, ‘appeals to authority’ or the mockery, ridicule and ‘face-palming’ that often accompanies any attempt by theists to advance their case. 

Start instead with the admission that theism is a plausible, internally consistent world view held by intelligent people that might indeed be true, and ask yourselves which of atheism and theism is the best fit for the phenomena raised by the twenty questions. I am not claiming that any of these answers constitutes a knock-down proof of theism or rebuttal of atheism, just that theism explains these phenomena better than atheism does. So let’s hear respectful sound argument (devoid of patronising putdowns and ad hominem attacks) as to why you think that is not actually the case.

Fourth, I am aware that each of these twenty questions has occupied minds far finer than mine over many centuries and that different people have come to different conclusions. I am aware that books have been written about each one, but also that few of us has the time to examine in detail all the arguments advanced by each side in the debate. I myself am a generalist not a specialist. I am neither a philosopher nor a research scientist but simply a doctor. Therefore, in the interests of dialogue and in making these arguments more accessible I have tried to keep my replies brief and to keep cross-referencing to a minimum. 

My aim is that this will encourage good debate and discussion and I remain very open to expanding individual answers in subsequent blogs as and when responses call for a more detailed case to be made on any particular question. Can I suggest in turn that readers keep responses brief and if necessary link to more detailed material elsewhere. But even better make the case yourself.

Fifth and finally, whilst it is absorbing, even fun, to discuss questions of this kind, let’s bear in mind that the position we take on them may have far-reaching consequences. If God does indeed exist, and if there is a judgement and a heaven and hell, then to reject a theistic view and to persuade others to follow is a very serious matter indeed. On the other hand, if atheism is true, then well over half the world’s population has been, at least seriously, and perhaps, even dangerously, misled. Just as many atheists are committed to defending their convictions because they believe that theism is a damaging deception, so my own commitment to defending Christian theism is motivated by a desire that many who do not currently hold to it will change their minds and come to share my belief in Jesus Christ as God incarnate, the creator and sustainer of the universe, visiting our planet in human form with all that that involves.

Many of my replies however are advanced in defence of theism generally, rather than in Christian theism specifically. And I have taken care not to assume belief in the Bible, or any other religious text, as infallible, whilst still drawing on it to help answer one or two question as a historical record.

And so to the twenty questions: Why is it that I believe they point more to theism than atheism as the correct world view?  Here are my answers to the first six.

1. What caused the universe to exist?

Astronomers currently estimate the age of the universe to be 13.7 ± 0.13 billion years. This is based both on observation of the oldest stars and by measuring its rate of expansion and extrapolating back to the Big Bang. Whilst this consensus may be challenged in the future virtually all scientists now accept that the universe did have a beginning.

Given that all known things which began to exist have a cause it seems reasonable to assume that the universe itself had a cause. But unless we are to believe that the universe somehow pulled itself up by its own bootstraps, this cause must have been extrinsic to the universe (space-time continuum) itself.

Anything extrinsic to the universe must be both immaterial, beyond space and time and must have unfathomable power and intelligence. Moreover, it must be personal, as it made the decision to bring the universe into existence, and decisions only come from minds.

It is therefore not unreasonable to believe in the existence of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent, personal Creator of the universe. 

2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

For the universe to exist as it does and allow intelligent life to exist, it requires an astonishing series of ‘coincidences’ to have occurred. Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, has formulated the fine-tuning of the universe in terms of six dimensionless constants (N, Epsilon, Omega, Lambda, Q & D) including the ratio of the strength of electromagnetism to that of gravity, the strength of the force binding nucleons into nuclei and the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass.

According to Rees, these numbers govern the shape, size and texture of the universe and would have been defined during the Big Bang. His conclusion, based on the scientific evidence available, is that these six numbers appear to be unerringly tuned for the emergence of life. That is to say, if any one of them were much different, we simply could not exist.

In the closing chapters of his book, ‘Just Six Numbers’, Rees concedes that science cannot explain this fine-tuning. The reasons for it lie beyond anything within our universe and therefore beyond anything we can ever measure.

There are three possible explanations for it, namely, chance, physical necessity and design. Chance is overwhelmingly improbable. Physical necessity also seems to be ruled out on the basis that contemporary physics has indicated that these constants exist independently of each other and the laws of nature. It seems therefore not impossible that intelligent design might account for them.

Alternative theories, such as Stephen Hawking’s multiverse theory, are not provable and with a complexity that runs wildly contrary to Occam’s razor’s demand for succinctness and simplicity.

3. Why is the universe rational?

I don’t mean by this that the universe thinks but that it is rationally intelligible. The universe operates according to physical laws such as Boyle’s law, Newton’s laws of motion and the law of the conservation of energy. But these are not merely regularities in nature. These regularities are also mathematically precise, universal and ‘tied together’.

Einstein spoke of them as ‘reason incarnate’. He said, ‘I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist… We see the universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws…’. He clearly believed in a transcendent source of the rationality of the world that he variously called ‘superior mind’, illimitable superior spirit’, ‘superior reasoning force’ and ‘mysterious force that moves the constellations’.

He said, ‘Everyone who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble’.

Does the intrinsic rationality of the universe prove the existence of God? No. But it is fully consistent with theism and rather difficult for atheism with its limited twin forces of chance and necessity to explain.

4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?

Cell metabolism and reproduction rely on cooperation between nucleic acids and proteins. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules are long chains made up from a set of four different nucleotides (A, G, C, T) linked linearly which provide an information store instructing cells how to build their own characteristic sets of proteins. Proteins (also enzymes) are large molecules made up of many amino acids, chosen from a basic set of 20 and also linked together in linear fashion. For proteins to function they need to fold into specific 3-dimensional shapes, which are determined by the order in which the amino acids are linked.

The interdependence of DNA and proteins is remarkable. The coded information in the genomic DNA sequence is useless without the protein-based translation machinery to transform it into cell components. And yet the instructions for production of this translation machinery are themselves coded on the genomic DNA. This presents a chicken and egg paradox. Which came first? The DNA information is needed to build the protein machinery but only the specific protein machinery can read the instructions. Thus far the mechanism by which this might have happened has proved insoluble, but it shouts ‘design’.

Far more fundamental is the problem of the origin of amino acids. Elaborate solutions including ‘meteorite deliveries’ and ‘prebiotic soups’ are highly speculative when the most sophisticated laboratories are unable to produce human life’s 20 amino acids let alone the smallest functional enzymes. In a prebiotic soup environment the total probability of a functional 150 unit protein forming would be 1 in 10 to the 164th – an impossibly small chance given that the chance of finding one particular atom in the whole observable universe would be only 1 in 10 to the 80th.

5. Where did the genetic code come from?

The genetic code enables three letter words made up from the four nucleotide letters in DNA (A, G, C, T) to be matched to one or more of the 20 different amino acids used as building blocks of proteins. If these letters are assembled in the wrong order, then like random arrangements of the letters of the alphabet, they do not form meaningful sentences.

But both human language and secret codes involve intricate mapping of one set of symbols onto another that can only be achieved with the involvement of the human mind. Language involves the mapping of words to sounds and secret codes the mapping of one set of letters to another.

How then did the sophisticated genetic code arise? Again we have only three possibilities: chance, necessity or design. The genetic code, like language, gives the appearance of being the product of an intelligent mind.

Richard Dawkins has tried to explain how proteins might be assembled using the genetic code by using the analogy of a multitude of monkeys banging away on computer keyboards and eventually ending up writing a Shakespearean sonnet.

The former atheist Antony Flew recounts hearing Israeli scientist Gerald Schroeder referring to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts in which a computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After a month of hammering they produced 50 typed pages – but not a single English word. This is because the probability of getting even a one letter word (I or A with a space on either side) is one in 27,000.

The chance of getting a Shakespearean sonnet (‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ has 488 letters) is one in 10 to the 690th. Similarly the chance of randomly assembling nucleotides coding for amino acid sequences forming functional proteins is vanishingly small.

6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

Metabolic processes require complex chains of linked enzymes in order to work properly. The enzyme chains that convert light into electrical signals in the retina and those that synthesise blood clotting factors are two such examples. But these chains have been likened to mousetraps, which only work if all of their components (eg. base, spring, bait holder, trap etc) are all present and properly assembled. They are ‘irreducibly complex’ in that if we remove any one component the device will not work. How then can such systems evolve in a stepwise fashion if enzyme chains lacking any one component will not actually work and therefore confer no survival advantage on which natural selection can operate?

This is a very difficult question for atheists.

Let’s consider the simplest self-replicating organisms as another example.  The operation of neo-Darwinian natural selection depends on the prior existence of entities capable of self-replication. Before the arrival of organisms capable of reproduction this process could not operate.

Viruses and the smallest living bacteria are not in themselves capable of reproducing by themselves but require enzymes only found in more complex organisms to do so.

The smallest known free-living organism, Mycoplasma genitalium, has a genome of 582,970 base pairs corresponding to about 480 proteins. But its complex membranes enclose a system of organelles including ribosomes, carboxysomes and plasmids along with this information loaded DNA. The organised complexity of these most simple of organisms throws into relief the immensity of the task facing naturalistic explanations of how life originated.

Summary – the first six questions

These initial six questions about the origin and complexity of the universe and life itself pose huge problems for atheists who have only chance and necessity in their explanatory armamentarium.

On the other hand once we allow for the possibility of cosmic intelligent design, explaining them is a different matter altogether.

Atheists, unable to allow a divine footprint, will hurl accusations that I am using God to fill gaps in our knowledge that will be filled in time with naturalistic scientific explanations. But in fact there are gaps which scientific knowledge closes and others that it leaves wide open unable to explain.

These first six questions reveal six such yawning gaps and make theism as an explanation more plausible than atheism.

I’ll move on to the next 14 questions in subsequent blogs.

112 comments:

  1. "First, atheism and theism are mutually exclusive world views...This alone should lead us to approach the question of which, if either, is correct with a degree of humility and respect for those who hold a contrary view."

    Right observation, wrong conclusion. The primary question is which position is more likely to be veridical. The question of respect for others is independent of the correctness of it, and "humility" is irrelevant unless we are talking about epistemic humility (i.e. the willingness to be wrong if so shown).

    "Atheists are materialists [...] theists (including Christians, Muslims and Jews) believe that the universe was created by an all-powerful, all knowing, rational, omnipresent, benevolent, and personal God who is both transcendent (separate from it) and immanent (intimately involved with it)."

    The only thing you can say about all atheists is that they don't believe in any gods, and the only thing you can say about theists is that they believe in god(s). Not all atheists are materialists and not all theists believe in the kind of god you outlined...for example, Hindus are theists but have a very different conception of deity.

    The point of these comments is to show the underlying bias with which you seem to approach these questions. When you take away fallacious reasoning and broaden the questions to take in the total set, it is much harder for theists to answer these questions. In other words, you stack the deck to make it easier for you and harder for non-theists. Not good sport, I would say.

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    1. Both atheism and theism (I am using the latter term in its popular sense to mean monotheism) are plausible and internally consistent world views held by many intelligent scientists and non-scientists.

      Each therefore deserves careful consideration.

      It is my contention above that atheism struggles more than theism to answer a number of key questions. That is, it has less explanatory power as a world view to account for what we observe in nature.

      It is not I who have stacked the deck in favour of theism. It is nature itself.

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    2. Theism isn't internally consistent, not in the slightest. It's full to the brim of contradictions such as the problem of free-will and omniscience.

      Atheism doesn't answer how DNA formed or how the universe began because atheism only references a single issue, namely if god exists. Your whole argument is one big, massive, fat category error.

      Besides, who cares if monotheism can create explanations for things in the universe, it doesn't make it true. Anyone can use their imagination and come up with a fictional story (which is what religion is) to answer the questions. It proves nothing except for the blazingly obvious fact that your theology and faith is so weak that you have to resort to such appallingly bad 'arguments' in vain attempts to support it.

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    3. one could just as easily exchange the term atheism for theism in this answer. Science could not exist without theology. Just as atheism cannot exist without faith.

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  2. "Whilst this consensus may be challenged in the future virtually all scientists now accept that the universe did have a beginning."


    Careful. Most scientists accept the world has a past finite boundary, but that ain't the same as a beginning if they are B theorists (and most physicists are B theorists). As Craig and Sinclair note in the Blackwell Companion on natural theology.

    "... On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction. If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived."

    If you don't know what B-theory is, you should look it up, because it is pretty vital to discussing cosmological arguments. I get the impression you don't know much about how these discussions go on in philosophy of religion which would be fine except here you are effectively concluding all these issues in favour of Theism from a position of ignorance.

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    1. Thanks. As I understand it the A vs B theory of time debate is a revival of the old debate between ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Parmenides which we studied in philosophy 101.

      Either the universe began to exist or it did not. If it did not then it is without beginning, ie. eternal.

      This is of course a possibility which many scientists did previously support and some still do.

      But if, as most believe, the universe began to exist then we are into a discussion of whether or not it had a cause and what the nature of that cause was. This is my question one above.

      As I say above it is not a knock-down argument. It depends for its strength on whether or not its premises are true.

      That is what people need to consider.

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    2. Respectfully, I think your understanding is mistaken.

      B-theory (or tenseless theory of time), nothing ever begins (or ceases) to exist. Rather, the totality of all things just is the 4d (or N+1D block), and what currently exists as far as we're concerned is just whatever things are in our particular slice of that block. So if John 'pops into existence' at t1 and is annihilated again at t2, a B-theorist would say that John exists (tenselessly), but this existence is bounded between t1 and t2.

      Mutandis mutandis the universe. So a B theorist would say that the universe has a finite past boundary (or has finite extension in the 'earlier than' direction), but that the universe never 'began to exist'. See again the quote by Craig and Sinclair: "On a B-Theory of time, the universe does not in fact come into being or become actual at the Big Bang; it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block that is finitely extended in the earlier than direction".

      So if B theory is true there is not going to be a cause of Universe's beginning because there is no universe's beginning in the first place. There might be an *explanation* of why there is this N+1D universe block in the first place, but that is a whole other ballgame. Craig and Sinclair again: "If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, _the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived._" (emphasis mine)

      (The Craig in question is William Lane Craig, who used to be president of the philosophers of time society, has written on cosmological arguments for 30ish years and - although this should be irrelevant - is an evangelical Christian. I'm pretty certain further googling around Cosmological arguments, theories of time, KCA etc. etc. will back me up too.)

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    3. Thanks for this. Interesting. I know William Lane Craig but have not read his material on B-theory and will see if I can look it up.

      The argument I have used in 1 above is essentially the Kalam form of the cosmological argument which he uses a lot.

      But he would say himself that it is not a knock-down argument and depends on the truth of its two premises, one of which is that the universe had a beginning.

      Many thanks.

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    4. Peter Saunders, how about admitting that the basis for your remarks does not exist and that you are not in a position of any scientific or philosophical authority to be writing what you did, instead of just thanking people for trashing what you wrote without actually recognising that your arguments have been indeed trashed?

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  3. You really think you scored points? Let's take the easiest, the one even you could have seen got smacked down in full flight.

    "3. Why is the universe rational?
    ....
    Does the intrinsic rationality of the universe prove the existence of God? No. But it is fully consistent with theism"

    Not a proof of anything. EVERYTHING is explained as fully consistent with theism, as the base explanation is "It were God what dunnit".

    "... and rather difficult for atheism with its limited twin forces of chance and necessity to explain."
    Nope. You were given the perfectly valid scientific explanation that the universe appears rational because we eveolved to be extremely good at spotting patterns and inventing stories to explain them. One of these stories is "God did it". Unfortunately, science tends to explain things rather better and can be used to predict future events.

    After all, Peter, when you dress to go out in the morning, do you pray to God for guidance or do you listen to the weather forecast when deciding if you should take your coat or umbrella?

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    1. You were given the perfectly valid scientific explanation that the universe appears rational because we eveolved to be extremely good at spotting patterns and inventing stories to explain them.

      That's circular: the universe appears rational because we evolved to recognise rationality, therefore, we've explained why the universe is rational.
      Not a very good explanation I'm afraid.
      Is the universe rationally intelligible? Yes. Where does rational intelligibility come from but rational intelligence? It doesn't come from chaos.

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    2. "That's circular: the universe appears rational because we evolved to recognise rationality, therefore, we've explained why the universe is rational. "
      No, _therefore that is why the universe appears rational to us_. It does not even imply that the Universe *is* rational, merely that we find it so.

      The original question was badly phrased, possibly out of ignorance.

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    3. There are plenty of things that have happened that break our "laws" used to rationalize the world that we cannot explain with modern science.

      They mean one of three things. We either don't have a full understanding yet of the universe and our laws and theories are inaccurate, there actually is a "higher" power or the universe is actually not as rational as we think it is.

      I'm going with the theory we don't have it completely accurate. We once thought the world was flat, we once weren't able to fly, weren't able to harness electricity, clone DNA, etc. Just because we are not currently able to explain things now doesn't mean we never will nor does it make theism the more logical solution.

      Theism as an answer to the unexplainable is simply a lack of effort to explain these events.

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    4. I agree with your analysis Nighthawk but not your conclusion.

      As I say below, complexity in the universe is either the product of chance and necessity, or the product of chance, necessity and design.

      Atheism asserts the former and theism the latter. My contention is that there are too many gaps revealed by science which atheism as a worldview cannot yet adequately explain.

      Whether it ever will in the future is a matter of vigorous debate but it has not yet come anywhere near to doing so.

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    5. "As I say below, complexity in the universe is either the product of chance and necessity, or the product of chance, necessity and design."

      False dichotomy. The universe could be an emergent property.

      Besides, only the macro-universe is 'rationa'. The quantum universe is bizarre and irrational. How does theism explain that?

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  4. Theists claim a god exists. Let's hear the VERY BEST piece of evidence that leads to this claim.

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    1. It is generally accepted, even by atheists like Chris Hitchens, that the best argument for theism (as opposed to specifically Christian theism for which the best argument is the person of Christ) is the teleological argument, the argument from design.

      Complexity in the universe is either the product of chance and necessity, or the product of chance, necessity and design.

      Atheism asserts the former and theism the latter. My contention is that there are too many things atheism cannot adequately explain.

      Most of the six arguments in my piece above are variations on the teleological argument.

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    2. "Atheism asserts the former ..."

      No it doesn't.

      Atheism just denies theological claims.

      Because they put no evidence forward and don't provide any reasons why anything other than evidence is good enough to accept their claims.

      Sceptics with access to, training in and understanding of various scientific disciplines CONCLUDE (not assert) that the best answer to the picture of the universe is that it doesn't involve any intelligence.

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    3. The teleological argument was never more than a god of the gaps circular fallacy and argument from personal incredulity.

      It was was refuted in 1859 by Darwin and Wallace. Do try to keep up.

      I like the way you appealed to the authority of a renowned Atheist, BTW.

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  5. Thank you.

    A shame you lacked the integrity to post your answers on my blog where people could compare your answers to my questions and judge for themselves if you had address them.

    The issue was, as you know, having been repeatedly reminded of it, your claim that Atheists struggle to answer these questions.

    I have shown that they can do and have done.

    The question was not whether you agreed with or liked the answers or whether they supported/refuted your 'God did it!' hypothesis to your satisfaction, or not, or even whether the questions have been settled by science. It was specifically whether Atheists had answered your questions.

    Demonstrably, they have done so.

    You have yet to address that issue and to explain why you made a demonstrably false claim.

    BTW, I have now produced a list of supplementary questions designed to give you an opportunity to explain why you believe the basic premises behind your questions, why you believe they are a problem for Atheism and how failure to answer them fully supports the hypothesis that intervention by the Christian god is the only valid explanation. After all, that would appear to be the only rationale for your list in the first place.

    I await your response with interest. The list of questions can be read at Questions Christians Struggle (Or Refuse) To Answer.

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    1. Yes you did post a list of 'answers' but I thought they were very well rebutted at the time by Richard (A Christian Word) linked above.

      All you have posted most recently on your blog is a list of questions which I saw earlier today.

      There were ten people who responded to my original twenty questions and I did not consider that your own answers were making points that were not made by others.

      My own responses to the first six are above.

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  6. "Given that all known things which began to exist have a cause it seems reasonable to assume that the universe itself had a cause."

    How is this different from claiming that god itself must have had a cause? If you have a hard time understanding how the universe might spring into being, isn't it even harder to understand how a god, which created the universe (and therefore must be even more complex/advanced), could exist without a yet still more advanced creator?

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    1. I am astonished people still use the 'what created God?' argument. Even Dawkins has used it!

      Things either begin to exist or exist eternally. The universe began to exist so it needs something to induce its existence. God exists eternally so doesn't. It's not a complex notion.

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    2. I am astonished that people still use the valid and, frankly, obvious argument when someone else makes outlandish claims. Even (everybody who is not pre-inclined to agree with me) has used it!

      Things either begin to exist or exist eternally (>citation needed). The universe began to exist so it needs something to induce its existence. My god exists eternally so doesn't, and you know this because I told you and my god told me. My religious views' innate superiority to yours is not a complex notion.

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    3. Lakester91 is simply using the law of the excluded middle, one of the three basic laws of thought.

      It states that for any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is.

      If a thing exists then either it once began to exist or it did not, in which case it must have always existed - ie. be eternal.

      No citation is needed. It is self-evidently true.

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    4. Are you kidding me? Are you trying to look like a fool? Lakester91 makes two claims: that there is, in fact, a god, and that this god is the one and only exception to the "everything needs a creator" argument. Neither he, nor you, have provided any evidence of either of these claims. Insisting that your god is "eternal", when no object that can be described as such has ever been observed, is no more reasonable than expecting people to ignore the virtually infinite alternatives to your religion simply because you hold your own beliefs in high esteem. Hell, you should just stick with demands of blind faith, at least then you won't look like your dodging the question.

      I honestly think that I am wasting my time with you, but just in case you're not a troll and, in fact, simply incapable of honest debate, here:

      http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/burden-of-proof

      I started you off at Burden Of Proof because it is relevant to this post, but make sure you look at all of them, especially Special Pleading, Strawman, and Ad Hominum. If you are genuinely interested in getting people to take you seriously and stop treating you like a joke, then this is your first step.

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    5. You are making the assumption that atheism is some kind of neutral default position and that the burden of proof does not therefore rest on atheists to advance evidence for their worldview. This is pure arrogance and nonsense.

      You also make the claim that there are a multiplicity of worldviews when in fact there are only five main ones observed that account for the overwhelming majority of the world's population: atheism, theism, polytheism, animism and pantheism.

      My contention in this series of articles is that atheism lacks explanatory power. It does and you have done nothing to establish the contrary viewpoint.

      You can't start by assuming that atheism is correct and calling on everybody else to shoulder the burden of proof of establishing their alternative worldview.

      This is to put atheism on a pedestal it has not yet earned.

      I am laying out arguments for theism.

      Let's hear your arguments for atheism because most of the world's population do not find them at all convincing.

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    6. How many times do I have to fucking tell you that I am not an Atheist? Are you so desperate for someone to hate, for an opposing church upon which you can declare holy war, that you will simply invent a non-believer to attack?

      The phrase "overwhelming majority of the worlds population" is meaningless. http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon. Whether you like it or not, there are more than a few choices in how a person lives.

      The only person here who is shirking off the burden of proof is you. Nobody here is making claims about atheism. Nobody is "putting atheism on a pedestal", they are merely failing to make assumptions about the existence of any god or gods without so much as a shred of evidence.

      Your "arguments" for theism consist of nothing more than a "god of the gaps" argument. Yes, I know that you said you don't want to hear that, because even before you wrote this article you knew it was coming. Your aversion to that phrase does not change the fact that it perfectly sums up your entire article. You have still failed to address any form of atheism. I honestly cannot understand how a medical doctor can fail to understand, even after having such a simple concept explained to him again and again, that Atheism and science are two completely different and utterly unrelated things! If you take issue with the scientific community, then fine! But at least be man enough to address them, and not make false claims about an unrelated group! And, no, the fact that several people identifying themselves as atheists have spoken up for the scientific community and utterly destroyed your sorry attempt at an argument does not imply a correlation between the two groups.

      You're not going to hear "arguments for atheism" from me, because I continue to not be an Atheist. Sorry if my refusal to conform to one of your approved worldviews causes you discomfort, you're just going to have to find someone else to debate. My problem is, and always has, nothing to do with your beliefs or mine, but with your insistence on embarrassing every man, woman, and child who calls themselves Christian with your childish and cowardly behavior. I hate to say this. I really cannot stand the way a perfectly valid and respectable community such as Christianity suffers endless shame from it's most ignorant and narrow-minded members. But when anybody refers to Christianity, or organized religion in general, in a negative way, they are really talking about bigoted, self important, cowardly little hypocrites like you. Not that I expect you to acknowledge anything I actually wrote.

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    7. If you are not an atheist then I am struggling to understand why my post makes you so angry. If my arguments are so self-evidently foolish then please go ahead and demonstrate why.

      I am not taking issue with the scientific community. I am part of it. I am taking issue with the atheist world view and its corollary, materialism (the belief that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of physical phenomena).

      The arguments I have advanced are very standard arguments for theism that many others use. They are not foolish arguments but are worthy of serious consideration. If you have counterarguments then you are welcome to post them.

      As for 'God of the gaps' this is the constant refrain of atheists but there are gaps in our knowledge which advancing science closes and other gaps which despite the advance of science still remain open.

      Some of those gaps I maintain are difficult to close through explanations based on chance and necessity alone. This is why atheism (based on materialism) struggles so much with them.

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    8. So - what proves God? Scientists say "we don't know" to the beginning of the universe, mostly, and while some do put forth ideas, they haven't been proven theoretically or experimentally. What is the proof for God that is above what can be proven for the Big Bang or other ideas for how the universe exists? How do you prove or show that God exists eternally without using a bible?

      Delete
    9. "If a thing exists then either it once began to exist or it did not, in which case it must have always existed - ie. be eternal."

      This makes a massive assumption, based only on our highly limited, macro experience of a minute fraction of 'time' in this universe. We don't know what it means to exist out of time or if even makes sense to consider that anything can exist 'before' our universe.

      But besides all this, this doesn't prove god, it could just as well have been an eternally existing force from which universes naturally arise. It makes more sense that a simple eternal force was at work instead of an infinitely complex deity for which there is zero evidence.

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  7. Why do you pick fights like this when you lack the ability to defend your position? I mean, where do I start?

    You attempt to address "atheists" but demand that your arguments not be viewed from an Atheist point of view. In other words, you shirk off the burden of proof, and in doing so completely invalidate your position. You are making claims here, genius, the burden of proof is on you. You even specifically use the term "God of the gaps", which is a logical fallacy that you do, in fact, make here.

    You make the classic Pascals Wager argument, which is perfectly valid... if there are only two possible belief systems in the world. What you are doing now is not going to reflect well upon you when the jackal headed god of death, Anubis, weighs your heart against a feather, shipmate.

    You keep using the word "atheist", but you seem intent on addressing the scientific communities current understanding of the universe. You know that science is not a religion, right? That includes a lack of religious beliefs. There are people who consider themselves Atheist Wiccans or Atheist Buddhists, just as there are good and devout Christians who work in various fields of science and, in fact, take no issues with the theories and laws that others have made based upon the evidence available.

    Of course, even if you could tell the difference between belief and scientific understanding, you have little of value to say. I see nothing here except the same tired arguments that the scientifically illiterate have been repeating for the last 50 years, and that have been refuted time and time again. If your arguments didn't convert the unbelievers the first dozen or so times then it's time to come up with something new.

    Worst of all, has been said by others, you fail to address the topic at hand. You claim that "atheists" have trouble answering your questions. You were wrong. Even if your arguments were as compelling as you apparently think they are, you have claimed hesitancy in addressing your claims within the Atheist community, and there obviously is none. If you were any kind of man you would admit this fact and move on, instead of insisting that people are wrong, as if that would make you right.

    This is only a few of your more glaring inadequacies, I posses neither the free time nor the patience to refute you point-by-point as others, such as Ms. Rubicondior, have done and continue to do. But before you disregard what I have said as a personal attack, as I'm sure you are inclined to do, please just read this: there is a reason I comment here. You civilians have trouble with the concept that you represent something greater than yourself. The idea that someone could look at you and see, not a person, but a uniform is unfamiliar to most of you. So, as a veteran, I feel inclined to ask you if you realize the implications of your actions. When you make an overt attack against a rival religious view, and then fail to justify your claims, you do not merely make yourself look bad. Any non-Christian who read this, if they had no previous perception of the Christian faith, would be inclined to believe that all Christians are opinionated, self important cave men. Whether you like it or not other people judge those of your faith by what you do. In fact, I am willing to bet that the vast majority of those who are raised Christian and subsequently convert to any other belief system, while they may not realize it themselves, do so because they are ashamed to associate with the worst that Christianity has offer. I am neither Christian nor Atheist, and as a outsider looking in I can honestly say that you do not look good right now.

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    1. I never said above that atheism and theism are the only possible world views, only that they are mutually exclusive world views which both deserve careful consideration. There are of course other plausible worldviews which I have not considered - animism, polytheism, pantheism etc.

      Neither atheism nor theism is a default position and the burden of proof is on exponents of each to advance arguments for their favoured one. This is what I have done above, concluding that theism has more explanatory power than atheism.

      None of these arguments are arguments for Christian theism specifically, but for theism generally as a world view. They could equally be used by Muslims or Jews.

      Ms Rubicondior has not answered my points and only raises questions and indulges in ad hominem attacks rather than addressing the actual arguments. I consider also that she was ably refuted by the blog 'A Christian Word' which is linked in my piece above.

      I'd be interested in hearing any counterarguments you have to my six arguments above.

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    2. Damn. I posted a lengthy reply but it seems to have disappeared into the aether. Well, this is a waste of time anyway, so I'll just give you the bullet version.

      -You have failed, once again, to address what I actually said.
      -You still do not understand that Atheism is not science and science is not Atheism.
      -Ms. Rubicondior, while rightly showing you no respect, has done none of the things that you claim.
      -Claiming that you are interested in my counterarguments, when you have been so thoroughly debunked I half expect you to be featured on snopes.com, is nothing but a bald faced lie. Demanding answers to questions until people are sick of dealing with you and then declaring yourself the winner is childish and cowardly.
      -You are still an embarrassment to the Christian faith and show no sign of stopping.
      -I'm an idiot for posting here because you're not going to address what I actually say.

      In conclusion, I already posted this link but I'll do it again:

      http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

      I post this on the off chance that you genuinely believe that you are correct and wish to be taken seriously. Or you could just keep yelling at the "atheists" who exist solely in you own imagination. Your choice.

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    3. Science is a tool that people of any worldview can use and atheists and theists both make good scientists.

      Atheism, like theism, is a worldview: a set of presuppositions about the nature of reality that may, or may not be true.

      My contention is that atheism struggles to answer a number of questions which is why I have posted this and other articles.

      You are very welcome to take issue with my position and advance your counterarguments so that everyone can assess their merit and come to their own conclusions.

      If you wish to insult me in the process then that is up to you. But don't expect to be taken seriously unless you actually advance some arguments.

      Ms Rubicondior (I presume this is a pseudonym), like any other contributor, is also most welcome to make comments on this blog but I am not going to spend hours that I do not have giving her special treatment by posting replies on her website. I do not write for her sole benefit.

      As I have said above I felt that the other blogger (A Christian Word) has already posted some good rebuttals to her position which in my view she has dismissed without sound argument.

      Readers are welcome to see if they share my assessment or not by following the link in the main text above.

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    4. Do you really think that you are the first internet troll to pretend to be the "bigger man"? Nobody is falling for such a transparent attempt, shipmate.

      You have not addressed any "atheist" claims. Saying that you have is nothing but a lie, and ignoring the dozens of people who have explained to you the difference between Atheism and science is really just pathetic.

      You keep insisting that you feel that someone else has made a valid point. Do you really think that your opinion on someone else's work matters? I have taken issue with what YOU have written, with the claims that YOU have made, and you continue to fail to even acknowledge that. You claimed that "atheists" are hesitant to answer certain questions. Your own comment section shows that you were obviously wrong. Making piss poor arguments that the scientific community has failed to give you answers to all life's questions does not mean that you were right.

      http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/special-pleading

      You know what? Forget it. You refuse to read and acknowledge what people actually write. You're nothing but an extremely effective troll. I'm going to go do something productive with my life. Don't bother responding (just kidding, you weren't going to respond to what I wrote anyway), just keep telling yourself that you're the winner. You sure showed me!

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    5. According to wikipedia a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

      Trolls usually also use pseudonyms to disguise their true identity.

      I am not a troll. This is is my website and I use my own name and I am doing my level best to put forward my arguments clearly and defend them.

      People are always very welcome to take issue with what I say and to disagree with it.

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    6. The topic of your original article, and the responses, were your claims of hesitancy in the Atheist community to answer certain questions. You REFUSE to even acknowledge that. You have attacked other peoples religious views with the obvious intent of sparking debate and have subsequently REFUSED to engage in any kind of honest discourse. Worse, you had the audacity to make bone-headed assumption about my beliefs when I said multiple times that I am not Atheist, and then you sit there and act like it's a mystery why I have a problem with you!

      >Any non-Christian who read this, if they had no previous perception of the Christian faith, would be inclined to believe that all Christians are opinionated, self important cave men.

      >My problem is, and always has had, nothing to do with your beliefs or mine, but with your insistence on embarrassing every man, woman, and child who calls themselves Christian with your childish and cowardly behavior.

      Those look familiar? Either they don't because you never bothered to read them, or they do because you just pretended not to.

      You refuse to acknowledge what people actually write, you make blatantly false claims about other peoples beliefs, literally everything I have seen you write is inflammatory, extraneous, off-topic, or some combination thereof! The only thing I can say about your claim (of not being a troll) is that you do not hide behind anonymity, but instead hide behind a wall of ignorance, denial and damn near the worst case of conformation bias I have ever seen. The fact that you are trolling on your own site changes nothing, nor does the fact that you lack the perspective to recognize yourself as a troll (assuming that your claim was not merely further trolling, which at this point is one hell of an assumption).

      But, hey, good news. You've managed to elicit a response from me and waste more of my time. Whatever else you may be, at least you are successful in your trolling. Now go ahead and claim that any of this is not true, you pathetic, sniveling coward. I fucking dare you.

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    7. You are fully entitled to express your personal beliefs which you have done at great length and with considerable passion.

      My point in raising these 20 questions is that I believe atheists struggle to answer them convincingly.

      Some won't answer. Others do attempt to answer at great length and believe they have done so. This group are not hesitant in coming forward or singing their own praises and defend their views with great energy.

      But in my view they still struggle to answer the questions convincingly. I've outlined my case above.

      If you wish to advance any counter-arguments then you are free to do so. But you will do far better if you attempt it with a cool head and with less ad hominem overlay.

      All you are currently doing is demonstrating your inability to engage respectfully in reasoned argument.

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    8. By all means make your points but please try to cut down the number of obscenities you use in so doing. Many thanks.

      Delete
    9. Hmmm. My responses keep disappearing after several hours. I wonder why that could be? Are you deleting them in the hopes that people will assume I used bad words? All I did was (correctly) point out your status as the single greatest reason for anyone who is reading this to completely disregard the Christian faith, an otherwise perfectly respectable religion.

      Or maybe, just maybe, your carefully constructed wall of denial and self importance is starting to crumble. You cannot stand to acknowledge the fact that you are a joke to some and an embarrassment to 1.5 billion others. You could just ignore what I wrote, like you have ignored literally everything else I and others have written that does not consist of praise for you as the second coming of Jesus, but if you do not have the last word then you just can't live with yourself.

      Or maybe this is all just a computer glitch or something. That must be it, since you have such impeccable integrity.

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    10. wow ZeroKaiser, I've read all of your posts so far, 20 mins of your time, thinking you must have some amazing arguments to counter what Peter Saunders has said. But you keep on throwing insults. It is embarrassing, please at least try and answer these questions as the more you do not, the more it becomes obvious that you have no answers and that perhaps it is the fact you don't that is upsetting you so much.

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    11. If you had bothered to read what I wrote, as you claim to, then you wouldn't be making a fool of yourself here.

      As I made clear in my first post, I am not here to argue with some self-important messiah, my beef with Mr Saunders is the effect he has had on the perception of the Christian faith by non-Christians, an effect that is undeniable considering the responses to his plagiarized arguments, both here and on various other sites.

      I'm sure I am wasting my time here. I had to tell Saunders that I'm not an Atheist three times before he stopped demanding "atheist counterarguments" from me, and judging from your comment you are no more inclined to read and acknowledge anything you don't like than he is. I notice that you have failed to address the glaring deficiencies in his argument that I did point out in my original post (but then again, neither did Saunders).

      You say I'm embarrassing myself. OK, maybe I am. Maybe you're not just egging me on to respond to you, so you can either vindicate your claims by telling yourself that you are convincing enough to warrant my attention or reassure yourself that I'm afraid to address you directly, the way Saunders has done in almost every response to every criticism here (seriously, it's just the same thing over and over). Maybe I am embarrassing myself, but I do not claim any faith or non-faith, which means I'm embarrassing no fewer than 1.5 billion people less than Saunders is.

      Of course, none of this matters. I'm neither a spokesperson for the scientific community, nor am I am Atheist, so I am not the person who Saunders is addressing, and no answers from me will mean anything, since his claim involves hesitance in the Atheist community to address his assertions (though you will not hear him admit that). But you already knew all this, because you bothered to read my posts, right?

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    12. Thanks for the reply. My comments were because I'm interested in why your reaction is so strong when you're not being addressed and you don't hold any belief and you say it doesn't matter to you. If you hold no belief then surely people like Dr Saunders can get on with their debates with the people they are writing to? If I were you I'd just say that you don't care and go and chill out and watch the football or soemthing. But something tells me that underneath you do, really, care, although I know you will likely insist in the strongest terms that I am wrong

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    13. Wow, did you dictate this? Did someone else write your comment for you? Because otherwise it's impressive how much you've managed to write when you're clearly illiterate.

      Yes, obviously I care about what this clown is doing, as I have made painfully clear. As a veteran I understand better than perhaps any civilian what it means to represent something greater than myself. If I had acted like Mr. Saunders during my time in India or France, the people of those countries, if they had not been exposed to decent Americans, would think that the US was composed of little more than self-important, ignorant, bigoted hypocrites. So, too, does any non-Christian lose respect for an otherwise perfectly respectable faith when they come here. If you don't believe me, look at almost every comment made here. Do you see respect? I didn't think so.

      I would ask if you understand now, but I haven't really said anything here that I haven't repeatedly said elsewhere, so I expect the answer's no.

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  8. atheism and theism are mutually exclusive world views which both deserve careful consideration

    Theism provides no proof an relies entirely on stories made up by our ancestors and passed down through generations. Atheism is rooted in science and observation and therefore should be given a greater weight in the argument.

    1 ...It is therefore not unreasonable to believe in the existence of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent, personal Creator of the universe.

    As Richard Dawkins pointed out in The God Delusion and many others have pointed out elsewhere, your view of a complex/intelligent creator raises the larger question of where did the creator come from, who created him and then who created his creator. You cannot have an intelligent creator without having this infinite regression.

    Even if you suggest that your powerful creator evolved through Darwinism it is still more likely that we evolved in the same way than for some supernatural being to have made this world/ universe look like it was billions of years old and that this planet was made just for us.

    2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe? ...There are three possible explanations for it, namely, chance, physical necessity and design. Chance is overwhelmingly improbable...

    Chance is not improbable in this argument. We are (currently) in the position of not knowing or being able to prove if there are other universes, but we do know that the universe we inhabit exhibits the characteristics you outline. So it is entirely plausible to say that the reason our universe exhibits these characteristics is because it is the one we are in.

    Additionally, the fact that science doesn't yet have the answer does not mean we should go for the god of the gaps argument, that is just lazy.

    3. Why is the universe rational?... Einstein spoke of them as ‘reason incarnate’. He said, ‘I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist… We see the universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws…’. He clearly believed in a transcendent source of the rationality of the world that he variously called ‘superior mind’, illimitable superior spirit’, ‘superior reasoning force’ and ‘mysterious force that moves the constellations’.

    Misquoting Einstein or cherry picking quotes from him does not make him religious. Einstein clearly stated that he believed in a Spinozan god, not a personal one. In a letter dated 24 March 1954 Einstein replied to a letter he had received which asked why it was being reported that he was religious, his reply is as follows:
    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

    Very few scientists are religious, if in doubt please Google 'Project Steve'.

    In reply to your answers to 4, 5 and 6:
    4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?
    5. Where did the genetic code come from?
    6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

    Just because science cannot fully answer these questions right now does not mean that we should fall into the 'god of the gaps' trap. We all know what incredible advances science makes on a regular basis.

    DNA, for example, was discovered within the lifetime of many people who are alive right now - the fact we cannot fully explain it does not mean that it is not possible to do so, not should we just point at it and call it magic.

    Your questions are interesting in that they attempt to use science to back your god theory, however I do wonder how many of these questions are likely to still be usable by theists in 10, 20 or 50 years time.

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    1. Atheism is not rooted in science and observation. It is rather just one of many alternative worldviews, a set of unproven presuppositions that some people build their lives upon. Scientists come from a whole host of different worldview perspectives and many are theists.

      The God of theism is outside time and space and by definition is uncaused. To asked for what caused an uncaused cause is to ask a meaningless question. Only things that had a beginning have a cause.

      Einstein was not a Christian theist but he was also not an atheist. He did not believe that atheism could account for the laws of nature. I think he was right in this.

      Wrt 'God of the gaps' it is certainly possible that some of the present gaps in our scientific knowledge might be closed by science in time. But if the presupposition of materialism, that only chance and necessity account for all physical and biological complexity, is actually false there will always be gaps.

      Atheists currently struggle to fill these gaps and yet, without evidence, believe purely on the basis of their a priori commitment to atheism that they will some day be filled. That is actually a faith position.

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    2. Atheism is rooted in a scientific view of the world. To say otherwise means you just don't understand.

      You say of scientists that 'many are theists' but the truth is that a very small percentage of scientists are theists and of those that are a very much smaller percentage are Christians.

      I refer you again to Project Steve.

      Even though you claim that your god is outside of time and space it does not explain how and where it came from - saying it is 'uncaused' is an attempt to subvert a sensible and critical discussion. As Hitchens said "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof".

      wrt Einstein, he was agnostic - ie someone that does not believe in a theistic god but admits that you cannot disprove a negative or disprove that which has no evidence.

      Atheists currently struggle to fill these gaps and yet, without evidence, believe purely on the basis of their a priori commitment to atheism that they will some day be filled. That is actually a faith position.

      I have faith in science, yes. But my 'faith' in it is based entirely upon its provable record, I would use the term expectation over faith as I do not believe in something which has no supportable track record nor that which was written centuries ago by people who had just stopped living in caves. It is not faith in the way you suggest - to you faith is a belief in the unbelievable or supranatural. My expectation (and that of other atheists) is that science will continue as it has previously and explain exactly how our universe works without the need for magic in the unknown gaps.

      The very fact that you attempt to suggest that the position of atheists is a 'faith' one shows you up as a troll on your own blog.

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    3. I couldn't find the data about the % of scientists who are believers on the Project Steve pages - can you help please @newsengland?

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  9. Is that it? On June 3 I ask for your BEST evidence of the existence of a god and all you have is the 'teleological argument'.

    Because you observe complexity In an object does not prove the existence of some eternal creator.

    The teleological argument fails because it does not answer 'who created the creator?'

    And if you claim the teleological argument applies to everything EXCEPT your favourite god, then you are simply making up rules as you go along to defend your original, unsupported assertion 'that a god exists'.

    The burden of proof is not on atheists to prove a god does not exist.
    Theists have consistently failed to provide any evidence at all.
    And if, as most do, theists want their particular god to be all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful .. Etc etc .. Then a cursory look at the state of humanity ... Means your particular god has been experiencing a massive fail for quite some time.

    BTW You forgot the 2nd law of Thermodynamics

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    1. And why should atheists waste their time disproving something that hasn't even been proven in the first place.... But hey, thanks for the laughs ...

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    2. The best argument for Christian theism is the person of Jesus Christ.

      But the teleological argument is also a powerful one. There is sufficient evidence for those whose minds are open to it. But in my experience those who call most for evidence are the least interested in examining it.

      As for who created the creator, it is a meaningless question. Uncaused causes do not have a cause. Just like unmarried bachelors do not have wives.

      Romans 1:20 asserts that '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'.

      You will find the fuller context in Romans 1:18-32.

      On the day of judgement God himself will be have the final say as to whether the evidence for his existence was sufficient or not.

      And you will not be laughing then.

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    3. Wow, with brilliant arguments like this it's no wonder that those heathens are so a'scared of you!

      Lets see, you've got the passive aggressive stab at the poster, implying that he's just not clever and brave enough to see how wonderful you are. This coming from the walking embodiment of conformation bias, a man who will sit there and demand answers, then literally pretend that people refuse to refute him. I had to tell this guy three times that I'm not an Atheist before he stopped demanding "atheist counterarguments" from me!

      You've got dodging the "creator's creator" question, utterly invalidating any claim he can make that the universe requires a creator. No surprise there.

      You've got that classic blunder, quoting the bible without a single word as to why it matters to anybody. Not that I'm implying that Mr. Saunders has ever actually read the bible and/or holds it in high esteem. As eager as he is to embarrass his entire faith, I'm starting to wonder if this isn't an insidious attack by some militant anti-theist.

      Oh, and the best for last, the empty threat. Judgement day has literally come and gone more than a hundred times in our lifetime alone. Preparing for the latest "day of judgement" has ruined peoples lives(see most people involved in the 21MAY11 fiasco)! But one of these days, oh you just wait! Says almost every religion in the world, and all with equal certainty.

      Though, I suppose, I really shouldn't talk. If the almighty creator of everything shows up and he really does hold the lowest form of life who associates with any one belief system over the good and honorable majority of every other belief system, then I suppose I will have very good reason to be in poor spirits, now wont I?

      And now the brave and noble crusader will respond, either flat out denying what he said "while it hovers inches above his reply", or brainlessly muttering the same response that he gives everyone. Here, I'll save you the trouble: "I don't think that "atheists" have successfully explained literally every aspect of the universe to me, even though this is the job of science and has nothing to do with Atheism. Now please debate me, it's the only way I can feel vindicated!"

      He's going to respond, because, while blatant denial of the world around him may protect his fragile sense of self-worth, he lacks the fortitude of character to allow someone else to speak last. Getting the last jab in is the only thing he has, after all.

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    4. "The best argument for Christian theism is the person of Jesus Christ."

      And where exactly is the proof of his existence?

      But this is what I really came back for. I was reading this on my phone last night and was shocked that someone of your qualifications could be so disgustingly vile.

      "On the day of judgement God himself will be have the final say as to whether the evidence for his existence was sufficient or not.

      And you will not be laughing then."

      You are the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members and when you don't get somebody to agree with you, you resort to bully-like techniques. This statement is so disgusting and filled with hate that I find it hard not to despise you for the vile and cowardly human being you truly are. Your kind reminds me exactly why I DON'T want to be and am glad I am not a believer in Christianity and its "believe in me or else" philosophy. If anyone deserves to burn in hell, it is someone like you so quick to hope for someone else's eternal pain and suffering. I cannot type enough words to illustrate how transparently hypocritical you are as you pretend to preach the Word whilst truly showing how hateful condescending and stupid you are.

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  10. Though speaking from a Christian perspective, I would point out that your preliminary comments 2 and 3 are mutually exclusive. The atheist who believes that empiricism best reveals the whole of reality is incapable of starting "with the admission that theism is a plausible, internally consistent world view," because that is not how empiricism works. The "tenacity" of his presupposition demands that he start from a "neutral" position, and that he deduce the reality of God from empirical evidence. Since this is impossible, he will therefore never be able to consider theism as a plausible worldview.

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    1. "tenacity of his pre-supposition"?

      What on earth are you talking about? Is the position that you hold not pre-supposed in any way?

      Please provide any reason, any you like, that there are any good reasons other than referring to my five senses to know anything about the universe.

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  11. "Atheists are materialists, believing that physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of physical phenomena."
    Sorry, this is patently false. Your a priori bias is already showing.

    This is also wrong: "They accordingly believe that God and the supernatural do not exist"
    No, they accordingly do not believe God exists, and that is all. That is the definition of atheism. Many of them are temporal and secular, but in any event, your claims are false.

    Now, your next contention, "Second, many atheists and theists hold their beliefs with considerable tenacity. Just as there are theists who reject out of hand observations, theories and worldviews which challenge their theistic convictions, so many atheists have an a priori commitment to atheism which leads them to seek exclusively materialistic explanations (and reject wholesale supernatural explanations) for all phenomena from religious experience to the origin of the universe and biological complexity."
    is also exceedingly irrelevant. You are using a false statement to create a red herring and poison the well.

    It does not matter if a person is biased, or 'clings tenaciously' to their beliefs. First, you don't know if any specific person is in this position unless they tell you, or they do not respond rationally to arguments. Second, the only measure of what a person says is the integrity of their arguments. It does not matter who says what, only that that what is rationally sound.

    Your questions do not merit response because your premise is false(Last week I put together a list of twenty questions that, in my experience, atheists either ‘won’t or can’t answer’), first of all, and secondly, you have shown your inability to consider counter arguments objectively by your established propensity to issue false statements and bad logic.

    I am sorry, but there is no question that myself, or any other atheist with objectivity, is afraid of.

    Not one.

    We love questions, unlike most theists I have ever met or read. I am not the slightest bit afraid or intimidated by any theological approach, and I only have a high school education.

    Any time you want to go through this, you can e-mail me, and I will only be too happy to address any issue one paragraph at a time, if that's what it takes. No multifaceted arguments in order to pile insult onto fallacy.

    You can start by address what I have said here, if you'd like.

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  12. 1. "Whilst this consensus may be challenged in the future virtually all scientists now accept that the universe did have a beginning."

    This is a mistake. An understandable one, because many scientists indeed talk about the "beginning" of the universe. But it's still a mistake.

    Current physical theory is thought to be reliable up to energies of a couple of TeV - what we're now exploring at LHC. The more fundamental aspects of physics may well hold all the way up to the Planck energy: a much higher energy. But physicists expect our current theories to break down beyond the Planck scale - or even well below it. So we don't expect the Big Bang model to be an accurate description of the universe for times earlier than the Planck time.

    In short, the only scientific answer to the question "Did the universe have a beginning?" is "We don't know."

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  13. 2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

    Fine tuning actually supports naturalism over theism.

    On the naturalistic hypothesis, we expect values of fundamental physical constants that allow life to exist: life exists, and only such universes can support life.

    On the theistic hypothesis, we have no reason to expect physical constants to be fine tuned for life. GOD CAN DO ANYTHING, including causing life to exist in a universe that is not tuned for life.

    So fine tuning supports naturalism.

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  14. "Given that all known things which began to exist have a cause "

    Sorry.

    But you are not "given" this at all.

    Please define what you mean by "began to exist".

    Are you talking about ex nihilo creation of matter/energy or the re-arrangement of existing matter?

    Did a pot from a potter's wheel "begin to exist" in your definition?

    Please provide the "spontaneous" cause of the ejection of an alpha particle from an atomic nucleus (and then go and collect your Nobel prize).

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  15. "Whilst this consensus may be challenged in the future virtually all scientists now accept that the universe did have a beginning"

    Really?

    ALL scientists?

    What has a biologist got to say about the origins of the universe? Or a chemist?

    Put accurately: "of an extremely limited number of scientists in a position to make any comments as to the origins of the observable universe, there are various models for which experimental data is still being gathered. Some models propose a "beginning" to the universe (and the word beginning is open to much debate and definition); some don't."

    My addition to this: "but that doesn't stop theists writing that ALL scientists accept that the universe began sometime (whatever "began" might mean) and it doesn't stop theologians making stuff up because one cosmologist or another used the word "beginning" in his cosmological model.

    When you write things like "virtually all scientists now accept that the universe did have a beginning" you really don't help your case.

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  16. "These initial six questions about the origin and complexity of the universe and life itself pose huge problems for atheists who have only chance and necessity in their explanatory armamentarium".

    These questions pose problems for scientists.

    They pose problems for anyone because we don't know enough to answer them.

    Back in 1858 we could have said that the "lack of answer to the question "why is there such diversity of biological life" - is a problem for atheists"!

    But then, a year later, someone provided the beginning to the answer. 150 years later, we have an answer that beats any supernatural nonsense by a country mile.

    Just making stuff up and saying "these questions are answered by proposing a supernatural entity" has not solved the questions that are supposedly difficult for those people who don't accept the uncritical assertions of those who say they do have answers.

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  17. "On the other hand once we allow for the possibility of cosmic intelligent design, explaining them is a different matter altogether."

    You ask for respectable, reasonable argument to the things you write.

    The above statement really doesn't deserve much more than derision.

    Your whole position is "we don't have answers to some questions; let's fill that answer in through incredulity and ignorance by just making up something".

    Why not ask some tough questions that were asked one hundred years ago and admitting that science has answered them?

    Why not admit that not knowing something is not necessarily a permanent state and that answers to these difficult questions doesn't permit us to make things up?

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  18. "Anything extrinsic to the universe must be both immaterial, beyond space and time and must have unfathomable power and intelligence. Moreover, it must be personal, as it made the decision to bring the universe into existence, and decisions only come from minds.

    Oh look.

    More "making things up".

    Please define "extrinsic to the universe" and please refer to the scientific consensus which allows for this to be coherent.

    Please define what "immaterial" is and refer to any basis that immaterial is nothing other than philosophers using words.

    Please explain how "beyond space and time" is at all coherent.

    Please explain how you know that something made a decision and that decisions come only from minds.

    You're just making stuff up (actually, you are repeating the garbage that philosophical theologians who do not have the whereabouts to provide evidence for their "arguments").

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  19. Here's another question that plumbers and carpenters can't answer:

    "why do people get diseases"?

    I have never heard a satisfactory answer to that!

    That is, until a theologian explained to me that disease was a result of man's fall.

    We need to allow for a supernatural creator who meddles in human affairs though!

    Once we do this, we have an answer that plumbers and carpenters can't provide.

    But once we allow for a god, theologians can answer it though!

    You see, disease is explained by a creator god who is so magnificent and magnanimous that he decided to give us terrible diseases when we did something wrong that he knew we would do in the first place.

    We should add this question to the list!

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  20. "On the day of judgement God himself will be have the final say as to whether the evidence for his existence was sufficient or not.

    And you will not be laughing then."

    What a disgusting person you are.

    It never ceases to surprise me how the religious will resort to veiled threats about damnation.

    Usually not long after they have demanded that others treat their beliefs with respect.



    "Th

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  21. "... referring to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts in which a computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys. After a month of hammering they produced 50 typed pages – but not a single English word. This is because the probability of getting even a one letter word (I or A with a space on either side) is one in 27,000

    What has this got to do with natural selection?

    NOTHING!

    Peter Saunders refers to Richard Dawkins' regarding monkeys hammering away at a typewriter just prior to the above quote:

    "Richard Dawkins has tried to explain how proteins might be assembled using the genetic code by using the analogy of a multitude of monkeys banging away on computer keyboards and eventually ending up writing a Shakespearean sonnet."

    Peter Saunders - you are a disingenuous LIAR!

    Dawkins explains just how natural selection would lead to the efforts of the monkeys actually producing Shakespeare's line "Methinks it is a weasel" IN THE VERY BOOK (The Blind Watchmaker) to which Saunders indirectly refers.

    You are a quote-miner for Jesus.

    Please read the Wikipedia page on the "Weasel Program" where it is explained how natural selection overcomes the issue of probability in the non-random increase of complexity and information content.

    Your arguments about complexity have long been answered by science.
    Who would have thought it!

    Christians lying for Jesus!

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  22. The mining of Richard Lewontin's "quote" is debunked at
    http://evolutionwiki.org/wiki/Lewontin_on_materialism

    Seriously, shouldn't christians with their much-vaunted "objective morality" try to hold down, in their apologetics, the percentage of statements that are known to be outright lies?

    Methodological naturalism is essential to science (I presume everyone reading this knows the Sydney Harris cartoon at http://star.psy.ohio-state.edu/coglab/Miracle.html); without it, one can claim that God/Allah/Maki-maki/the Flying Spaghetti Monster did whatever it is that you want done. Being unfalsifiable, it thereby becomes not-science.

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  23. Peter, can I simply congratulate you for being gracious & true to your convictions regardless of the astounding levels of hostility & ridicule you seem to be undergoing. As a Bible believing follower of Christ, I'm increasingly stunned by the sheer spite & scorn atheists seem to have for Christians. The fact that you've remained courteous & gracious in your responses is to be commended, as no-one seems willing to return the favour.

    I would also echo some of your opening comments. If what you say (and I would wholeheartedly stand with you in asserting) IS true, then every atheist is on a collision course with God whether they are willing to accept it or not. I'm no scholar, philosopher or scientist, so I'm not going to venture into any form of debate in quite the same way as you have. All the same, regardless of the condascending pity I'm likely to receive for these comments, I'd urge those who are convinced there is no God to weigh up the potential risks of hurtling through life into eternity with such views. The Bible says that every knee WILL bow, and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I have not an ounce of doubt that these words will find their fulfilment in days to come. Those who've poured ridicule & scorn upon those of us who fear God and love to follow Him will one day stand before the Creator of us all and drop to their knees, acknowledging that He has made their wisdom foolishness.

    I hope I don't sound condemning - I'm hoping to sound the opposite. In Christ all things cohere, and in Christ truth & life are to be found. He will one day have the pre-eminence, and all things will be summed up in Him. Sound fantastical? Sound like a sorry delusion? I believe it's truth, and I won't apologise for stating it. In fact, I'll humbly but boldly declare it regardless of the response. I also pray everyone here will discover it to be so before it's too late.

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    1. How can you congratulate someone who continually quote-mines others (who have worked hard to be able to write and say with authority, that which know-nothings can dismiss in the blink of an eye) to prop up their worldview when the actual scientific authorities are providing evidence leading to conclusion contrary to what Saunders is claiming?

      Why is it not surprising when others descend to the use of derision and riducule when a man who makes the word intransigence sound like open-minded and who continually fails to address and learn from what is being pointed out to him?

      As regards to being on a collision course with god: of course, you mean your god. The one for which you don't have a shred of evidence.

      It worries me that people like you don't have "an ounce of doubt." Don't you see what that kind of dangerous intransigence and arrogance can mean to others? That you don't have an ounce of doubt with the amount of evidence you have to support your worldview is staggering.

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  24. I think you're being very selective about those 'scientific authorities' you refer to, Galactor?! There's a myriad of scientists, philosophers & sages who've reached very different conclusions to those in our day & age who are atheistic in their perspective.

    I'd also suggest there's an element of faith in what I've said that cannot be explained from a purely scientific standpoint. God is Spirit, and as such He defies every naturalist explanation. The question boils down to what 'CAUSED' this world to be? From all I can understand, you say NOTHING caused us to be (for that is the inevitable conclusion if you trace things back far enough). We say GOD caused all things to be. From where I'm standing, it takes more faith to embrace the former than the latter.

    I'm a little bewildered as to why my faith should be considered dangerous intransigence and arrogance. I guess it boils down to whether or not there's such a thing as absolute truth. I believe there is, and I believe it begins in God. To put my whole trust & life in Him makes perfect sense to me. Why that angers you so much, I'm not sure, especially when those like Peter & I aren't a threat to anyone, except in so far as our view stands in opposition to that which denies God (plus we'd contend that there are consequences to denying God, which I guess won't win popularity contests).

    I guess, if you don't believe in absolute truth (or at least only believe that everything has a natural cause, not a supernatural one), then such faith may appear as arrogance. As I heard someone say, 'I'm not out of my mind, I'm out of yours!'

    Incidentally, I wasn't merely congratulating Peter on his comments (valid though they all are), I was more commending Him for his gentle & courteous approach when all those contending with him seem to want to tear him limb from limb, and accuse him of the most outrageous things. From the little I've seen, he's a Christian doctor who's daring to contend for various elements of what he sees as truth that are being buried in this day & age. He's also daring to stand for Christian moral principles, which is another taboo it seems in our day & age. I for one stand squarely with Him.

    I don't know if you've spent any time reading the Bible yourself (it IS a big book!), but would humbly suggest that a careful reading of the first 11 chapters of Genesis is a good place to start if you want a thorough appreciation of where we'd come from. Can I dare to also suggest that in so doing you ask God, if He's real, to show you so?

    God bless.

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    1. You know, you might want to contact your local institution of higher learning about taking an intro to logic course. If you want to be taken seriously, that is, and I assume you do, considering the way write to Galactor. Here, I'll start you out:

      http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

      I would seriously read this if I were you. You make at least a half-dozen of these, and nobody, and I mean nobody, who is not inclined to agree with you already, is going to take you seriously unless you can avoid these pitfalls. At the very least, you'll understand why so very few people here are showing Mr. Saunders and his blatantly plagiarized article any respect. Demanding "atheist counterarguments" from me after I plainly stated that I am not Atheist is not "gentle & courteous".

      Please don't take this as some kind of veiled insult. If you look at some of my other comments you will see (underneath the undiluted hate and rage that your hero inspires in me) a genuine concern for how people perceive the Christian faith. And while you are nowhere near the embarrassment that Saunders has made himself out to be you're not exactly earning any points here.

      Also, you might want to watch that shift key. Most people only capitalize words like "he" and "him" when referring to a god or higher being, so when you do that in reference to Mr. Saunders, it looks as if you're trying to deify him.

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    2. More Christian intransigence, ignorance and arrogance.

      “I think you're being very selective about those 'scientific authorities'”

      I’m selecting the ones whose work is supported by the scientific consensus. You know, that body of ideas which is supported by evidence and actually produces things that work, e.g., brain scanners & life saving medication and which is reproducible and predictive and falsifiable. The sort of scientific authorities that spend their careers trying to add value to the human condition instead of doctrinal warriors for myth only for know-nothings to dismiss their work in favour their own arrogant and ignorant “facts”.

      And forget this “atheistic perspective” hubris. Science is interested in evidence not in beliefs or opinions.

      Which ones are you selecting?

      And what does a sage have anything to say about the real world?

      “I'd also suggest there's an element of faith in what I've said that cannot be explained from a purely scientific standpoint. “

      An element of faith? That’s all you have. Blind acceptance of un-evidenced postulations in light of real world observations that flat-out contradict your myths.

      “God is Spirit, and as such He defies every naturalist explanation.”

      Deluded waffle just made up and attempts to conveniently remove itself from scrutiny. “I KNOW my god is real but he is beyond your investigation”! The arrogance.

      “The question boils down to what 'CAUSED' this world to be? From all I can understand, you say NOTHING caused us to be …“

      I say that you have absolutely no idea nor education nor understanding of the physical origins of the universe. You are not in a position to argue for anything. And rather than accept that you don’t know the answers, you arrogantly conclude that the Christian god is responsible.

      You don’t know what “nothing” means to a cosmologist or quantum physicist and you are probably not aware of the current science that actually explains how a universe can be born “out of nothing”. No faith required. Just evidence that is observable and predictable and testable and falsifiable. Which is a country mile away from just positing a god which itself requires an explanation that is complex in itself.

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    3. “We say GOD caused all things to be … it takes more faith to embrace the former than the latter.”

      Including himself? What a feat. Just how did god create himself out of “nothing”? Don’t you hear the Christian doublespeak in your voice when you say that after castigating sceptics who are critical enough to dismiss the god hypothesis as tosh?

      “I'm a little bewildered as to why my faith should be considered dangerous intransigence and arrogance. “

      Tell that to the victims of the attack on the twin towers in New York.

      “I guess it boils down to whether or not there's such a thing as absolute truth. I believe there is, and I believe it begins in God. To put my whole trust & life in Him makes perfect sense to me. “

      It might make sense to you but it is un-evidenced claptrap to me. There is no evidence that he exists, plenty of evidence that tends to support it doesn’t exist and plenty of evidence to suggest why people can be deluded into believing it exists.


      “especially when those like Peter & I aren't a threat to anyone, except in so far as our view stands in opposition to that which denies God (plus we'd contend that there are consequences to denying God, which I guess won't win popularity contests). “

      Ooh what a surprise! Christians issuing veiled threats about “consequences” in denying god.

      “Why that angers you so much, I'm not sure, “

      It angers me that people can be so deluded that they lose their own humanity and will resort to threats that their sky-daddy is going to beat me black and blue, however ridiculous it is.

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  25. Hi ZeroKaiser - oops, I do seem to have deified Peter?! Not intended of course :-)

    I do like that website - a fascinating summary of how arguments can go awry. If you're happy to isolate those arguments I made and which pitfall I fell into, I'd be happy to hear. I confess I didn't make a huge amount of effort for every statement made to be watertight against any objection. However, your feedback would be interesting.

    I'd also love to hear about your genuine concern about how people perceive the Christian faith.

    Cheers.

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    1. Hey. I just wanted to tell you, and I do hate to sound rude here, not to expect me to elaborate any further. Next week is finals for me, and I am buried up to my EYEBALLS in school work. Frankly, I feel bad taking the time to write this.

      Good luck in the future, and all that.

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  26. Hi Galactor - I'm not sure how else to define nothing, but as simply nothing. I don't see that I need to be a rocket scientist to query where the first matter to appear came from?! You accuse me of being unscientific for believing that God created it, I'm accusing you of being unscientific for saying that anything else could cause something out of nothing. Inherent with our humanity is an understanding that things must have a beginning and an end (however long that may be), which is why we ask such questions in the first place. I say our Creator, God, who built that faculty within us, is outside such time-space boundaries, and has always been. Yes, that takes faith, but a whole lot less than any other conclusion I've heard to date.

    You also mention that the body of evidence comes from those who've produced things that work. Surely that's absurd?! Many things that work are invented & produced by those who have a very definite faith?! That body of science you refer to doesn't necessarily all subscribe to the same naturalistic convictions regarding how things all began.

    I think it's perhaps a little unfair to compare me, a Christian, to an extremist Muslim(s) who then flies into the twin towers to achieve a martyrs death & Allah's rewards. If you study the history of the true church of Christ (i.e. since Pentecost which would have been around 30AD), you'll find that most Christians will die gruesome deaths without lifting a finger to defend themselves. (Please don't bring up the Crusades, as I would absolutely refute that such action was Christian by any New Testament Scripture definition). The fact is our nation, and most of the nations of the world, have been stained with the blood of Christian martyrs who wouldn't take up arms to defend their lives. I too would stand with such (while perhaps I'd not stretch to being a pacifist per se).

    To then accuse me of losing my humanity is quite bizarre?! You've never even met me, and no-one during my whole (albeit brief!) 36 years has ever said anything close to that. Neither am I resorting to threats, I'm simply alluding to what I consider absolute truth from the Scriptures. The threat within the Scriptures doesn't come from me, but from a holy God who actually loves humanity so much that He restores it (read the Gospels to find out more about that), and gave His own life to redeem it from sin & its consequences. The Gospel is actually GOOD NEWS, not bad, though for those who persist in denying God, as I said at the outset, they're careering towards an encounter with Him. Now either that's going to be true or it's not. I have full conviction that it will, which is why, out of concern I say so. If I'm convinced of the reality of heaven & hell, surely it would be inhuman of me NOT to make any effort to alert people?

    Anyhow, I'm going to bow out of this discussion now. I pray God's blessings on you (not His judgment!).

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  27. Amongst the many laughable errors and fallacies Dr. Saunders commits in this execrable article, he completely ignores the many vexing questions that arise from theism (Christian theism in particular), yet which are easily dismissed if atheism is assumed. For example:

    If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then why does evil exist?

    How can human beings have free will if God is omnipotent and omniscient? OTOH, if humans do not have free will, then how can a just God condemn some of them to eternal torture for actions they committed, but were powerless to avoid?

    If nothing can exist eternally nor come into existence uncaused, then what explains God's existence?

    No doubt theists will attempt to concoct some half-baked apologetics in a desparate attempt to convince themselves (if no one else) that these questions can be answered. But the main point is that, for an atheist, none of these questions even need to be considered, since they all depend on the assumption of God's existence.

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    1. lutesuite, speaking of fallacious reasoning, how about the Red Herring?

      In regards to the "who created God" foolishness, put down the Dawkins and pick up a Introductory to Philosophy book for crying out loud. Stop beating this dead horse. Stop getting your philosophy from scientists. Would you get an electrician to do your architecture? God's explanation can be found in His necessity, or that He is an eternal being. Take. your. pick. Or, if you like, you don't need an explanation of the explanation to consider an explanation as the best explanation, this is a basic principle of science. Guys, let it go, this objection just shows your complete ignorance to philosophy of religion. Ever wonder why serious atheistic philosophers never bring up this objection? Because it has been answered.

      Here is a little taste of God's existence found in His necessity: Why does anything at all exist? Because something has to. Something cannot come from nothing (when I say nothing I mean no thing, not the quantum vacuum, nothing). That means there has to be a necessary being (a being can be anything, a chair, a rock, et al). If the universe had a beginning, which means that the universe is not a necessary being, than what is the necessary being? We (theists) say it's God; there is His explanation.

      Let me ask you this: Why would you say that nothing can exist eternally? You're really just begging the question (there's that fallacious logic again). You give no explanation as to why you believe this and just assume it. Not to mention the atheist has claimed this about the universe for millennia (that it is eternal).

      When you say that none of these questions need to be considered because they all assume God's existence, that is just asinine. I wonder what atheistic scientists who have devoted their lives to some of these questions would respnd to a statement like that. "Hey Jerry, we can stop doing cosmology now because this person on Blogger says that our work is useless because it assumes God." or "Hey Craig, looks like we have to put away our study of how DNA came into existence on the evolutionary model because it assumes God's existence!" Wrap your head around this: if these questions assume God's existence, then you are admitting God's existence because these are things (such as the rise of DNA) that have happened or exist. Half-baked apologetics are not needed when it comes to uncooked atheism.

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    2. Phil, unfortunately you have failed to understand the point of my post. This is likely my fault for aiming for concision at the expense of clarity.

      I am attempting to address the main point of Saunders' article, which is that theism is able to provide easy answers to questions that are difficult to answer if one assumes atheism. He can only hold this position by ignoring the many difficult questions that arise from theism that simply do not exist in atheism.

      I'm not saying that theologians have not attempted to answer the question of how to explain God's existence. Just that the atheistic answer is much simpler: We don't need to explain how God can exist, because he doesn't. I'm not saying this is a good argument against the existence God. Rather, it shows by analogy how Saunders' argument FOR God is a poor one. What he is doing is taking an admittedly daunting scientific question, eg. "How did DNA first arise?" then concocting an answer from his own imagination that is not supported by any evidence whatsoever: "There is a powerful supernatural being that is capable of creating DNA." He then uses the existence of DNA as an argument for the existence of this imaginary supernatural being. Surely you can see how that logic if fallacious and circular.

      If that is a valid means of argument, then it is equally valid to say that atheism is better able to answer all the difficult theological questions regarding the nature of God, since these questions are all easily dismissed by simply saying "Doesn't matter. There is no God." And my point is that both arguments are equally invalid. Yet Saunders is presenting the argument as if it is valid.

      IOW, Saunders is making a category error in comparing scientific answers to theological ones, and by conflating scientific answers with atheistic ones.

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    3. "Let me ask you this: Why would you say that nothing can exist eternally?"

      I am NOT saying that, though I can see why you might think I did. Rather, I am alluding to one of the common arguments theists make for the existence of God. It's just another example of an intractable problem that arises in theism, but which atheists can easily ignore.

      I'm glad that you accept that something can exist eternally, since that defeats at a single stroke several of the common theistic arguments.

      I think you inadvertently refute Saunders' article when you say, "If the universe had a beginning, which means that the universe is not a necessary being, than what is the necessary being? We (theists) say it's God; there is His explanation." Because can atheist just as easily say "The quantum zero-energy field is the necessary being." With one major difference: There is no doubt that the quantum field exists, and that it can bring other entities into existence. This again points out the categorical difference between scientific answers and theological "explanations" (which never actually explain anything, but merely substitute one mystery for another.)

      "When you say that none of these questions need to be considered because they all assume God's existence, that is just asinine. I wonder what atheistic scientists who have devoted their lives to some of these questions would respnd to a statement like that. "Hey Jerry, we can stop doing cosmology now because this person on Blogger says that our work is useless because it assumes God." or "Hey Craig, looks like we have to put away our study of how DNA came into existence on the evolutionary model because it assumes God's existence!"

      Again, you completely misunderstand my point. I am not saying those questions are not worthy of consideration, nor that they depend on God. I am only specifically referring to questions about the nature God, examples of which I included in my post, and which, again, are much more parsimoniously dismissed by simply stating that there is no God. Once again, my attempt to refute Saunders' lamentable argument by turning it against itself.

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  28. "We (theists) say it's God" - yes, and we, atheists, just point out that you have an imaginary friend. This is quite adorable for awhile, until you start claiming that your imaginary friend created this Universe, which is when we begin to get somewhat uneasy in your presence - I mean, what next? Voices in your head telling to go get a chainsaw? You grow agitated, saying you have proof of your imaginary friend's creating the universe. We politely ask what the proof is. You say your proof is that the Universe is very complex and finely tuned. Yeah, we say, but it doesn't prove that it was your imaginary friend who designed it, does it? Can you prove that it was he who did it, and not just point out the complexity of the Universe?

    And you grow red in the face and start screaming something about your imaginary friend being lord thy god and all, and we run off, promising ourselves never again to sit next to adults who have imaginary friends.

    Science in this case honestly answers - "we don't know yet", and this is what atheists generally restrict themselves to, as well.

    This is the only difference between atheists and theists. We don't have imaginary friends that theists require.

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  29. So... liking simple things, lets answer the easy one:

    Why your god? of the several 1000's which are mostly described as eternal magical sorts fulfilling the role you have detailed above.

    Why not 'A God'?


    The answers when viewed evenly are acceptable, they are just not the one's you want. Unfortunately where there will always be disagreement is as simple as this:

    Question " ... "
    Atheist: "We don't know... YET!"
    Theist: "God did it"

    Which makes perfect sense psychologically as the personality traits of the Atheist is that they are relaxed in admitting that there are questions left to be answered. Whereas a Theist trait is needing an answer and religion gives them these answers which allows them to create a worldview they can be comfortable with.

    The problem with all religious texts is that they reflect the times they were written, reflecting the historical laws of that time. This does not speak of the word of an eternal being.

    I was raised Christian and the worst thing that our vicar said was to read the bible, not the parts preached to me on sundays or the pictorial stories I grew up with... but the actual text itself. So I did, in fact I have read the bible several times, it is a historical text, researching the history of it was fascinating with its roots deeply imbedded in pre-christianity Pagan religions as well as many others.

    So I return to the real question for the Theist "Why your god?"

    That's if you agree with all of Peter's perspectives, if you don't I recommend reading about the bible instead of just rereading it, if you love your bible then you will find it a fascinating experience.

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    1. Question " ... "
      Atheist: "We don't know... YET!"
      Theist: "God did it"

      The fallacy in this, in the use of the word YET, is the assumption the atheist will know someday the answer to the big question faced by atheists but that they never really answer "Does God exist?", or to allow for Simon D a variation of this "Do gods exist?"

      Matthew, Sydney, Australia

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  30. A rather odd claim comes from the fine doctor that in the past 40 years he hasn’t heard any good answers to certain questions that he has asked of Atheists. This is an odd claim because atheism is to have no belief in god and it does not mean that you are an expert in biology, planetary formation, linguistics, cosmology or whatever other discipline that Dr Saunders thinks up questions for in his desperation to justify his faith. That 40 years is a long time: we did not have any proof of exoplanets, did not know the sequences of the human genome, did not have much idea on the anisotropy of the cosmic background microwave radiation so either Dr Saunders asks the wrong people or doesn’t bother to listen to the right answers.

    But here are my answers to these questions that supposedly “Atheists struggle to answer”. They obviously are hard questions because they cover a wide variety of disciplines and in the end it is not the “Atheist” in me that is answering these, as that is simply to not have a belief in any god, but my general interest in science. If I fail to answer these then it is because science either does not know or I don’t know – it is not because I have no belief in Dr Saunders' specific god but because I am ignorant of the answer and I will then correct that.

    I had to really think about the languages question as we know that haploid and mitochondria studies support the Out-Of-Africa theory but I haven’t found a clear correlation between known human migration and language families and this seems to be a wasp nest for politics. Whilst I accept this gap in knowledge I do not fill it with the nonsense that God decided to be a jerk and confuse humans due to an overly ambitious building project in downtown Babel.

    The Bible (and the Koran) just record what was observed with the technology at that time rather than explaining what was observed. What they could not see therefore is not recorded. Bacteria, Aluminium and exoplanets are good examples of this in that bacteria are the world’s largest biomass, Aluminium is the worlds most abundant metal, exoplanets are everywhere and yet none are mentioned though it would be trivial for god to mention these and that would provide evidence that the Bible or the Koran for that matter is not just a human book.

    These questions are hard and most people would struggle to answer them in any great detail. I forgot about helium fusion and Class II supernovae. This information is not needed on a day by day basis but it is the origin of most of our oxygen in the universe as far as I can see. You don’t usually have to care about the creationist trolling forums, but you do need to understand people like Dr Saunders because as CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship he and his community bring unscientific voodoo thinking into the secular world of medicine. Whilst his heart may be in the right place the evidence is firmly against the foundation of what he believes in and in some cases we know from experience that kind of thinking kills people.

    Of course if the answer to all these twenty questions is that Allah or God or some other deity did it then whilst that is easy to say it does not answer the question of how that is useful to humanity. Religion is learning the wrong answers and when these wrong answers are the foundation of a culture then that culture is fatally flawed.

    Twenty questions most people (including atheists) would struggle to answer

    follows....

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  31. 1.What caused the universe to exist?

    The universe we see around us did not just happen but has evolved over the past 13.75 Billion years. There was no oxygen or carbon at the point of the Big Bang but at the first few moments after the Big Bang the most primitive forms of matter were unbalanced and enough persisted. Cosmologists are trying to understand how this imbalance happened.

    What followed after that imbalance is much more reasonably known – the primordial elements of mainly hydrogen and helium collapsed under self-gravity to form stars, which then fused these primordial elements into the heavier elements. Some stars exploded scattering vast amounts of new elements into space. The Earth is a product of many such star nova. Personally I think that is rather awesome – the elements that made us have been fused by nature at incredibly high temperatures in stars which in time exploded.

    Before a single drop of water was even possible it took the formation of a massive star to fuse helium fuel into oxygen using a triple-alpha process and after a period of stellar evolution this star would have exploded in a Type II supernovae flinging the newly fused elements into space. If the Big Bang is the “creation” alluded to by Theists then it was not over at the Big Bang but this event was but the start of the creation and no creation myth of any religion gets anywhere close to a coherent explanation for the formation of the elements in stellar nuclear-synthesis. Science finds the right answers if given the chance.

    At the exact point of the Big Bang then there was probably no need for a cause any more than we need a cause for radioactive decay or quantum effects. The macroscopic models of causation in physics break down as the scales get suitably small (in much the same way that Newtonian physics is found wanting when relative velocities approach the speed of light) so it is reasonable that nothing is necessary to cause the universe to begin to exist in the first place. Victor Stenger and others presents this idea of nothing being unstable. Obviously Theists posit a “uncaused” cause in the form of a God. That is the fallacy of special pleading.

    2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

    Because it evolved that way. A subtle difference in constants would create a subtly different universe around us and if we were thinking organisms in that universe then we could be asking the very same question only it would be using different constants. If we were not then there would be nothing to know this to ask the question.

    3.Why is the universe rational?

    Reason and rational are methods of thinking and that is in brains. Quantum uncertainties at small scales are quantized at larger scales and the averages are predictable. We will never know when a single atom of an element will decay to its decay products but we can sum a large number of random decay events and create predictable clocks.

    To us as observers the absolute foundation of our universe is not rational but utterly chaotic. The universe beyond the atomic scale becomes rational to us as the matter averages atomic scale random events.

    Humans are very poor at random but we are very good at identifying causal chains. So good we see agency everywhere.

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  32. 4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

    This is an odd question because both DNA and amino acids are formed from chemical reactions but amino acids are particularly simple because they can be formed through simple experiments in a lab that pretty well anyone with enough glassware can do. This was done in a famous experiment called the Miller-Urey experiment in 1952 and published in 1953 and it produced more than the 20 amino acid that life such as us humans uses (and actually far more when analyzed using modern equipment).

    Using water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen in an environment similar to what is suspected the pre-life Earth was, the experiment in a few week converted 2% of the carbon in the sealed system into amino acids. The Doctor Saunders knows this as it is basic biochemistry so an odd question.

    More importantly this spontaneous formation of organic compounds needed for life happens in space – the Murchison meteorite that crashed in Australia in 1969 contains over 70 amino acids and around 14,000 compounds (the numbers vary according to how good your fancy machines are).

    Certainly the amino acids are not proteins or nucleic acid (RNA/DNA) but this experiment and evidence shows that the essential building blocks take a fraction of time to form and are ubiquitous in nature.

    The word people are looking for here is “Abiogenesis” i.e. from elements to life and whilst Atheists cannot easily answer this yet the problem isn’t lack of clues but a vast number of competing theories that build on each other.

    Compare to amino acids which are trivially created, DNA is more complicated but it is decomposable into component parts so there is no irreducible complexity. RNA is essential to the formation of DNA and some simpler versions of replicase RNA can be synthesised in laboratories.

    So in time we should be able to work out abiogenesis and the one thing you can guarantee is that no religious book will ever help in discovering this knowledge. It will be the result of hard work by many people over decades doing science and so helping humanity.

    5.Where did the genetic code come from?

    Again a process of “evolution” because with the amino acids there are many more than just those that life around us uses but the molecules that have been used are selected for because they are simple enough for the role. In laboratories humans can now create synthetic genetic sequences so this is not that hard a job – it certainly doesn’t need to be the skills of god just a very good lab.

    The question though is a bit of a cheat though because it is saying “code” as if this was some information system. The real questions where do genetic sequences come from because there is no code but just sequences. Whilst some sequences are highly selected for others are much less so e.g. some amoeba have vast genetic codes that are much larger than our puny human genetic code.

    Is that the sign of an intelligent designer or just expediency of nature ? The C-value paradox is a question that Theists will have problems answering. Some theists more or less base their whole faith on what they allude to as an “intelligent designer” of the genome but the foundation is their ignorance of genomics; a good example of this unfortunate ignorance is Jennifer Fulwiler who felt that the “ intricate, detailed, complex information contained in DNA comes out of nowhere and nothing.“. Now I’m reasonably confident she did not look at the amoeba genome nor the human chromosome 2 but just flipped through some Intelligent Designer tract and said to themselves: do I think this out or just believe ? I suspect she went the easy way and took creationism on faith.

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  33. 6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

    There has been no irreducibly complex enzyme chains found. When one is posited e.g. when Michael Behe presented blood clotting as evidence for a God, then the evolutionary pathway to that is usually found as well. The usual party trick here is to present these so-called irreducibly complex enzyme chains as a long list of steps so that to befuddle the listener or reader. Unless you are a biologist then you are going to be stumped for an answer off the top of your head. But so far after all these decades whenever a creationist presents what they think is an irreducibly complex enzyme chain then you can guarantee that someone somewhere will have worked out a reasonable answer that shows the evolution of this.

    7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

    Well the Biblical account is rather unlikely and also it sounds a bit petty of Dr Saunders’ god to deliberately confuse people who are trying to co-operate on a building project. I really don’t understand why people see this entity as something to worship given its anti-humanity. Though Christians have created a new entity to worship in the form of Christ , the foundation of Christianity is a god that routinely wipes out humanity. Nice ?.

    The molecular clocks in the human genome indicate how we have migrated around the world but comparing language, genetic changes, race and human migration is a task that is made difficult by identity politics. The criticisms of Cavalli Sforza and the Human Genome Diversity Project have confused the science here. Cavalli Sforza, amongst others, has looked at human genome differences and from that looked at cultural and language families and in that will probably be the very clear answer as to why.

    This question though is the elephant in the room: the genetic variation in the human genome, the molecular clocks and study of disease that varies by genetic makeup means that people like Doctor Saunders, if they have a supernatural view of the origins of humanity, will not want to dig too deeply into a topic that questions their faith. The importance of genetic variation and disease is now compelling and those doctors that do not take this new idea on board, then as Ignaz Semmelweiz found with washing hands, this blinkered point of view from faith will kill.

    8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?

    Two thousand years is not “sudden”. Sure it is sudden in terms of geology but not in terms of human technology. That said, humans probably migrated Out of Africa and so are at the same evolution. The question though is nonsensical and you would have to look at agriculture, weapons, building and stonework, boat and transport technology.

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  34. 9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

    Is the universe ruled by chance ? Sure chance exists but the laws of nature also exist e.g. the laws on Gravity. The motion of planets is not random. At small scales then the uncertainty becomes a dominant part of a system but as the scale becomes larger (beyond molecules) then this uncertainty is averaged out.

    Evolution has selected for chemical reactions that are able to survive in this universe because the random nature of the universe eliminates the molecules that are unable to persist. In time these molecules become what we call life. If it was not for the chance or the randomness in the universe there would be no life but it does not rule the universe.

    The word “necessity” when mixed with the word “chance” is probably because the most likely use is related to causation. But at the small scale of quantum mechanics then chance is very much essential to that scale. The macroscopic ideas of causation breakdown and so the philosophical ideas of necessity also break down (or rather are found wanting).

    10.How do we account for self-awareness?

    Evolution of brains. Not just in humans but some other animals too. Quite possibly all animals that are not hive animals though not in the same way that humans view self.

    11.How is free will possible in a material universe?

    This is sort of a open-ended question. Depends upon what you mean by free will and what you understand a material universe to be. The universe is probably non-deterministic and if free-will is just the ability to make a decision based on an understanding of the outcomes of the different possible actions then I do not see why free-will would ever be impossible.

    12.How do we account for conscience?

    Conscience is moral behaviour that has evolved. It is no different from fear, hate or love in that it has a neurochemical background. If people have sections of the brain damaged then this can adversely affect their conscience.

    13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

    We are social animals and so our morality has evolved with that in mind. Moral judgements are the outcome of games and payoffs.

    The failure of Christianity, as with all religions and morality, is that there is very little substance to their claims to be moral arbiters. We find that humans have a highly evolved sense of morality that can be abused or confused or subverted.

    By understanding the evolved origins of morality we can prevent this abuse. By presuming it comes from “God” then all sorts of misunderstandings are possible because then priests end up being the shining lights of what is right and they seem to be somewhat lacking in trustworthiness.

    14.Why does suffering matter?

    Not a very clear question: Humans have evolved empathy with other people in that if we see another human suffering then we also feel the same suffering. This seems to happen with other animals too.

    We also show this empathy with actions like yawning and again other animals will do this.

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  35. 15.Why do human beings matter?

    Because we evolved as social beings. In the big scheme of things nature doesn’t actually care about us so we have to care about us.

    The idea that a God would care is nonsensical.That thinking removes responsibility from humanity and places it in the hands of something that has no evidence it exists. We can’t solve problems by prayer – it has been shown to just not work.

    16.Why care about justice?

    Because we evolved as social beings. Even other suitable higher-order animals have a form of justice in their behaviours.

    If we did not care about justice then it would not be selected for in our evolution.

    17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

    Today it is only if this is taught. Religions abuse children’s education and inculcate them with supernatural beliefs. Even in the UK there is a mandatory daily act of worship of a Christian theme at schools. It is an indoctrination and works well with small children.

    Equally if there was a celebration of nature and humanity then there would be a almost universal belief in the natural.

    So that is the dichotomy: on one side a faith whose god slaughtered just about every human on earth but now it is sold as being “nice” verse a humanist stance that places the utmost importance in humanity.

    18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

    We don’t. So far we have had no evidence for the supernatural and that is after hundreds if not thousands of years of study. When we do find evidence then it will probably exist but until that time, it probably doesn't exist. I don’t really see how this is hard to answer. The theist version would be “How do we know the supernatural does exist?” and the answer is the same !.

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    1. "16. Why care about justice?" Christians have the Decalogue, and even if many fail to live up to it, it is still a basis on which to determine what is just. What do atheists have apart from something associated with evolved social beings – but Lincoln Phipps never shows exactly what this justice is nor shows that atheist ideas on justice can be either (1) universal or (2) unchanging.
      The atheist, "evolved" as they are, are ultimately nothing more than very complex and evolved chemical equations reacting to complex stimuli – at a specific time. For each atheist, every thought they have at a particular moment is inevitable, so is their thoughts about what is just or unjust, and so are the actions that follow on from these thoughts
      If an atheist sees a lynching and is revolted by what they see – how given their specific chemistry and stimuli could they do otherwise? And if many atheists see a lynching and they are revolted by what they see – how could they do otherwise? The chemical and stimuli history of each person – including the stimuli of shared thoughts through communication about what is just and unjust, makes their response inevitable (even if each thinks they made a choice, the thinking about thinking is itself only a chemical equation). This might seem to support what Lincoln Phipps states.
      However, if some other atheists see a lynching and are elated by what they see – how could they do otherwise? KKK members in the old South might be viewed by other “evolved social beings” in their society as just people and the odd atheist (or Christian) in their society who disagrees with them could be considered as either not as evolved or are unsociable. Justice is in this example not universal but based on where you live.
      Part of atheists being “evolved social beings” is that they never know if what is just now with be unjust in a few decades, and what is unjust now with be just in a few decades – for atheist justice is not unchanging.
      For example, once lynching was of limited acceptance, now it is generally condemned. Once exposure of infants was of limited acceptance, now it is generally condemned. Conversely, once abortion of babies was generally condemned, now it is of limited acceptance. How many atheists knew a few decades before WWII that it would be seen as just in one group of “evolved social beings” to kill Jews? Likewise, does Lincoln Phipps know if whatever justice values he has now will be shared by atheist “evolved social beings” in a few decades from now?


      Matthew, Sydney, Australia

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    2. Matthew, the question was "16.Why care about justice?" and I gave an answer that it was because were a social animal. That is why we care. It says nothing about what is considered acceptable in a society because that wasn't the question.

      For commandments to be effective they must be taught and understood. The commandments on their own do not magically make their contents diffuse through society.

      The Bible contains many instructions but Christians don't follow those: Christians cherry-pick only a subset of the Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:4-21. As for implementing these last few commandments then Christian societies in the past 2000 years have not managed to do that at all. It was only until the rise of secular humanism that the death penalty has been abolished for instance.

      Sure society could go back to its more Christian root and the death penalty brought back but I would hope society has learn the failures of so many centuries of bloody and brutal Christian rule that we can do better than some old book.

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    3. Additionally, Matthew, you conveniently ignore that the same question exists for theists: How do you know that in a few decades, or even in the next moment, God will not change his mind and decide that all he declares as moral now suddenly becomes immoral?

      The Euthyphro dilemma: 2500 years later, theists still have no answer.

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  36. 19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

    We don’t. So far we have reduced consciousness to chemical reactions in the brain so when these stop in the brain then there will be no consciousness. Our evidence is general anaesthetics and Functional MRI.

    Even if you look at an information theoretic model of death, without the information in the brain stored securely so it does not decay, the loss of the brain is the loss of conscious existence and fact remains that brain rots just like any other organ after death.

    An obligatory plug for a new project, Credodia if you are interested in eliminating information theoretic death.

    20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

    Much like asking Doctor Saunders what accounts for the Black Monolith on the Moon in the movie the 2001 a Space Odyssey. Perhaps it is fiction ?

    The stories were written down many years after the events. Without any contemporaneous records then it would be unreasonable to view this as evidence for God and thus a defeater for “atheism”. It is not that difficult a requirement – the Lord, if it existed, could have suggested to a suitably literate person to record this event that is supposed to be the most significant event in the history of humanity.

    The growth of the church is happen-stance but the most politically expedient move was to be at the Fall of Rome. By becoming a political force the church has grown in Europe by leaps and bounds and has killed anything in its way that could be killed and has negotiated with what could not be killed.

    As an atheist a few hundred years ago I, and many other secular humanists, would have been killed by the likes of the Christians which Doctor Saunders identifies with. We would have been put into prison, tortured, fined and killed depending upon what we said and where we were.

    Today the Christian churches can’t kill us secular humanists because human rights have trumped their moral values. In absolutely no way can we ever teach children that Christian moral values are above humanism because we have been there and done that and we’re still wiping the blood off the walls. No, I’ve not jumped from an is to an ought – those two are.

    Through taxes and tithes and compulsory membership the churches throughout Europe have accumulated vast wealth. The modern era has seen the loss of power but the modern European churches still retain some of this with billions of Euros in taxes paying for the churches in Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Finland.

    Without these taxes the churches would collapse.

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  37. Where Dr Saunders was coming from with all these questions was the question of origin, which Lincoln Phipps - much like all the others before him - has been careful not to answer, but instead tried to "drown the fish" with scientific explanations, which frankly both a "theist" and an "atheist" could arrive at. This kind of proves the point Dr Saunders was making.

    Answering the question of origin with evolution, simply does not answer the question because evolution is always ... from something.

    "16.Why care about justice? Because we evolved as social beings."

    Then the next questions are: What did we evolve from and what caused that previous state to be? How does being "a social being" necessarily require to care about justice? What is in the "being" that require to care for justice?

    "Even other suitable higher-order animals have a form of justice in their behaviours." Which animals are you talking about and do they really give each their due, which is effectively what justice is, or is it something else that you interpreted as being a beginning of justice?

    As for the crimes committed under the Inquisition - which is what Lincoln Phipps was referring to - the accused person was at least given the chance to make a list of their known enemies before the court to defend themselves. The dozens of millions who died under the atheist regimes of the 20th Century - Nazism and most importantly Communism - had no such chance. So, following the same principle, you should be sick of atheism as well.

    Nowhere do atheists mention the historic fact that much of the structures of society - the school system, the universities, social services, the hospitals - written music, architecture, the calendar we use, etc. are in fact a legacy of Christianity.
    What is the legacy of atheism, apart from gulags and concentration camps, in the bloodiest century in the History of mankind?

    In brief, all atheists have done on this blog is 1) to repeat that "science" does not yet have the answers for these questions, which is completely off-topic given the question was about atheism's answers rather than science's answers, 2) indirectly proved the point. They tried to justify their lack of answer with the broad and false assumption that atheism and science go hand in hand, ignoring in the process that science did actually take off in a believing world and involve believing people.

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  38. In brief, all atheists have done on this blog is 1) to repeat that "science" does not yet have the answers for these questions, which is completely off-topic given the question was about atheism's answers rather than science's answers.

    If that's the case, then all Saunders has done here is commit a massive strawman argument. No one suggests atheism is able, or even suited, to answer these questions. Science is. Saunders, however, suggests that theism is not only able to answer the question, but that it has answered them. Which is based on the absurd assumption that mythological tales of magical beings constitute "answers" to scientific questions.

    2) indirectly proved the point. They tried to justify their lack of answer with the broad and false assumption that atheism and science go hand in hand, ignoring in the process that science did actually take off in a believing world and involve believing people.

    Again, the false assumption here is on Saunders' part. And the fact that many of the early scientists were also Christian is an irrelevancy. They may have also worn powdered wigs, but that doesn't mean powdered wigs were the cause of scientific thought. And if that argument applied to the past, then the fact that the vast majority of elite scientists today are atheist means that atheism is now responsible for scientific thought. Which, of course, it doesn't. But that is the conclusion to be drawn from you fallacious argument.

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  39. These scientific questions were very much about the origin of the material world, and the reason of its being organized the way it is. All scientists do is to uncover the mechanisms that govern it.

    You seem ready to accept that atheism might be unable to answer deep human questions and whether or not you are convinced by Christianity's answers to these human questions, does not mean that Christianity has not answered them.

    Assuming it were true that "the vast majority of so-called scientists today are atheists" - which I'm quite happy to believe - this could very well be explained by the shift in demographics. Either way, my argument was that one can both be a believer and a scientist, as has been evidenced in the past, which brings me back to my point that the assumption that atheism and science go hand in hand is simply false. I never suggested that Christianity was responsible for scientific thought in the past. What is fallacious is simply your failure to understand the argument.

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    1. These scientific questions were very much about the origin of the material world, and the reason of its being organized the way it is. All scientists do is to uncover the mechanisms that govern it.

      The problem that arises is from Saunders' assumption that science is unable to answer the above questions, as well as the fact that he fails to understand the science behind most of the issues he discusses. This is already detailed in the commnets above. So he uses his own ignorance to declare questions unanswerable, and tries to cram his god into the gap he creates. That's just sloppy thinking.

      You seem ready to accept that atheism might be unable to answer deep human questions and whether or not you are convinced by Christianity's answers to these human questions, does not mean that Christianity has not answered them.

      You seem to have a very idiosyncratic definition if tge word "answer." Stuff someone just made up is not an "answer." It's just made up stuff.

      Assuming it were true that "the vast majority of so-called scientists today are atheists" - which I'm quite happy to believe - this could very well be explained by the shift in demographics.

      That's exactly the point I was making.

      Either way, my argument was that one can both be a believer and a scientist, as has been evidenced in the past, which brings me back to my point that the assumption that atheism and science go hand in hand is simply false. I never suggested that Christianity was responsible for scientific thought in the past. What is fallacious is simply your failure to understand the argument.

      Then your complaint should be against Saunders. He is the one who is claiming (erroneously) that sciene has failed to answer certain questions, and then presents this as a failure of atheism. So any conflation of the two is on his part. I challenge you to point out anywhere here where and atheist has equated the two.

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  40. The Catholic Church says that the unity, order and beauty seen in the material world testify of the intervention of a Creator with a superior intelligence , Who created everything out of nothing through Wisdom and Reason.

    1) How does this not answer the question of our origin?
    2) What would you suggest that would make more sense?

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    1. Again, you have a very strange concept of what constitutes and "answer". People have always created mythologies to explain how things in the natural world arose. For instance, people used to tell the story of how the Grand Canyon was created by Paul Bunyan dragging his axe along the ground. According to your standards, that would be an answer to the question "How was the Grand Canyon created?"

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  41. Throughout this discussion, it has amazed me how atheists have avoided the topic at every single occasion to focus on other things instead.

    Your distraction about the Grand Canyon will certainly not save you from explaining, if you can - which I have now come to doubt -
    1) How my previous statement does not answer the question of our origin,
    2) What better explanation you've got for it.

    Or could it be that it is rather you who have a strange concept of what constitute an "answer"? In that case then, little wonder that you can't agree with the Church.

    To answer your question, according to my standards, I can see that the world is organised, that there is unity, order and beauty, an observation even people outside the Judeo-Christian tradition such as Plato have made. All of this suggests that there has been some thinking behind it, which means there was a thinker, hence the necessity for a Creator. There is nothing mythological about this. Therefore, based on this standard, there is absolutely no reason for me to believe that your fabricated myth can account for the creation of the Grand Canyon.

    Once again, you've failed to understand that my argument had much more to do with the observation of the universe than it had with the fact that the Church said it.

    I've answered your question. Are you able to answer mine?

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    1. Not only have you not answered my question, you have not even understood it.

      I can see that the Grand Canyon is a very, very big and very, very deep ditch. This is evident even to people who are not atheists. All of this suggests that there must be a Very Big Ditch Digger, hence the necessity for Paul Bunyan to have created the Grand Canyon.

      There is absolutely no difference between this argument and yourse, except for the fact that I realize how ridiculous this argument is, and you believe yours.

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  42. Lutesuite, with all due respect, your question was "According to your standards, that would be an answer to the question 'How was the Grand Canyon created?'"

    From the way this question is phrased, there can only be two possible answers: "yes" or "no".

    My answer was "there is absolutely no reason for me to believe that your fabricated myth can account for the creation of the Grand Canyon. "

    In other words: "no". Therefore, I have answered your question. Could it be that you also have a strange concept of what constitute "a question"?

    Coming back to your statement, assuming the Grand Canyon was effectively dug by someone, it could only be true if and only if, all things considered, there was nobody else but Paul Bunyan who could possibly have done it at the time the Grand Canyon was "created". Otherwise, the observation of the Grand Canyon would not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is Paul Bunyan who did it. Nor does it lead necessarily to the conclusion that the digger had to be big, by the way (Did he do it throwing himself to the ground?). This is pure logic.

    However stupid you may find it, I'm putting before you, once again, the statement that the observation of the order and beauty in the Universe leads necessarily to the conclusion that there is some thinking behind it, which means there is a thinker, hence a Creator. What I keep asking you is to tell me what element in that statement you disagree with (and I am asking you to quote here), to explain why you think it is wrong and finally to provide a better explanation for it. Your repeated failure to do so - and that does not make you look any brighter, especially when you think my argument to be ridiculous - and your going round in circles could well be an implicit acknowledgement that you find some truth in what I've said.

    If you saw a beautiful garden, very well organised according to defined patterns, would you ever think that it all just happened to be there, that it required no external intervention and that it was a random product of evolution?

    However, for some reason (which obviously you cannot give), what would be absurd thinking here is no longer absurd when applied to the much wider and incredibly more complex universe.

    If atheists can't see anything wrong with that, are they then in a position to question the rationality of other people's beliefs?

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    1. The element of your statement that is wrong is so obvious, I surprised I have to point it out to you, but I guess I do.

      The observation of the order and beauty in the Universe leads necessarily to the conclusion that there is some thinking behind it, which means there is a thinker, hence a Creator.

      First of all, while I agree there is "order" to the universe (otherwise, science would be a futile pursuit), I do not accept that "beauty" is an objectively integral part of the universe. That is only a subjective response of some of the sentient beings that exist in the universe.

      More importantly, your conclusion that this means there must be some "thinking" behind the order of the universe is simply an assertion. You do not support it in any way. It's as simple as that. There is no argument for me to refute, because you have not offered any argument.

      I could just as easily say that every ditch must have a Digger behind it, and that Digger must be Paul Bunyan. There is as much logic to back that up as there is to support your assertion. (BTW, do you really think Paul Bunyan is my own creation? Google him if that's the case.)

      I am not obliged to provide a "better" explanation for the order of the universe, because you have not provided an actual explanation. You have just invented a being called "God" and ascribed the order to him. You don't provide any explanation of how this "God" actually produced order, not where this God itself came from. If this God posseses order itself, then there must be some thinking behind it as well, right?

      So my alternative explanation would be simply that there is an as yet undiscovered naturalistic explanation for the order of the universe, and in so doing I have already provided a better explanation than yours, since mine does not depend on magic or the supernatural, elements for whose existence there is no evidence.

      Your example of the garden actually argues against your point. It is, of course, possible to distinguish a carefully planned garden from a naturally occurring forest. However, the problem is that it is the forest you are trying to explain. So by saying we can recognize the "thinking" behind a garden, you only demonstrate that the same kind of "thinking" is not behind a forest, otherwise they would be indistinguishable.

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  43. At last an answer! As you would expect, I will come back on the points you have made.

    First of all, your dismissal of beauty as a valid criterion is purely arbitrary as is your restricting yourself solely to objective standards. The subjective character of beauty does not make it irrelevant for this discussion, as you are just as capable as I am of recognizing it in nature, although our tastes may differ. Beauty can indeed be observed.

    Why am I saying that there is "some thinking" behind the order found in nature? Well, if there is no thinking there, then everything that contributes to this order just happened to be there, by coincidence. That would mean, it is pure coincidence that there is a planet Earth, that it stands at the exact point in the solar system where the conditions are met not only to make life possible but also to contribute to its developing the way it has - since it has been proven that were the Earth slightly closer or slightly further away from the Sun life (as we know it anyway) could not have developed. It would also be pure coincidence that life did indeed appear - that the conditions were gathered does not necessarily mean that it would, just that it could happen. Pure coincidence also that this life has the potential for reproducing itself, that the sex cells are the only cells in the organism to possess half of the chromosomes, and this in both male and female, which is why the newly-formed embryo does not possess more than the amount of genes which make up for the genetic code of its species.

    In other words, we've been lucky all the way...
    ... Unless all of this is the result of careful thinking.

    As for what God is like, we can only know through what we call "Revelation". However, this discussion is not about what God is like, but whether He exists in the first place.

    Your alternative explanation is also arbitrary. On which ground can you affirm that "there is" (an as yet undiscovered naturalistic explanation for the order of the universe)? For this reason, your explanation cannot possibly be better than mine. I do notice though that you do not provide any "evidence" either.

    Finally, the "naturally occurring forest" is indeed part of the universe and what I have said about the universe still applies here. However I do recognize here this same trick of yours which allows you to dismiss out of hand embarrassing questions. And as I think it does happen to you occasionally, if you went past such a garden, would you really believe it just happened to be there? Would you not rather believe that someone actually put it there (and indeed, that there was some thinking behind it)? Also, if it would be absurd to think the same garden to be there by coincidence, then why is it no longer absurd to think that the much more complex universe is there by coincidence?

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  44. Hahaha....I LOVE this SUPREME question, is GOD=SPIRIT=SOUL just as real as matter=earth-fire-water-air-118 periodic (not idiotic)sub-atomic-elements=to CREATING a universe! Well, is it matter&SPIRIT indivisably conjoined or only FASINATINGLY complex matter that exists? Hmmmm,I THINK, since even a IGNorANT blind man is CAPABLE of REALIZING matter exisits WE no longer NEED to PROVE how CLEVER WE are in OUR UNDERSTANDING the MINDboggling NATURES exibited in matter and FOCUS on the real question...is SPIRIT real too? I WILL type the words that HINT at and point out OUR SPIRITUAL (dna-teehee)exists as well as this matter/universe in capital letters if YOU don't MIND/brain since WE are only water/meat forms otherWIZE. One of the many beautiful aspect of SPIRIT is that the most powerful nuclear micro-scope is incappable of showing the "things" and elements of SPIRIT that our un-educated blind man is ABLE to easily REALIZE exist within his CONCIOUSNESS.
    GOD=SPIRIT=YOU-ME-CONCIOUSNESS-LOVE-KINDNESS-LOYALTY-CURIOSITY-SOUL-WISDOM-THOUGHT-PATIENCE-GRACIOUSNESS-GOALS-LOGIC-GENTLENESS-RESPECT-HOPE-GENEROUSITY-FACINATION-CONSCIENCE-MERCY-AWE-INSPIRATION-TRUTH-CREATIVITY-RATIONALITY-HUMOR-PASSION-COMPASSION-INTEREST-GENUINESS-FAITH-US-THEM-INTELLIGENCE-CHARITY-BELIEFS-DOUBTS-CONCEPTIONS etc,etc....these words and the depth of their MEANING is the evidence I PROPOSE exists to SUGGEST SPIRIT is as complicatedly real as matter is.
    Bonny Zimmerman.....Toronto/Canada

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  46. I see you're still claiming these questions haven't been answered even though they have been, as readers can see here: Twenty Questions Atheists Have Answered.

    Isn't this called, 'bearing false witness', which I understand is a Christian sin?

    I also note you haven't yet managed to answer any of the counter questions I put to you over a year ago here: Questions Christian Struggle (Or Refuse) To Answer.

    Isn't expecting others to do what you won't do yourself called 'hypocrisy', also a Christian sin?

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  47. Richard Wilson, a servant of Jesus Christ, in love to those who read this.
    I’m compelled to share in this forum, without malice or judgment, hoping simply to share my personal conviction and perhaps to bring you hope in the name of Jesus.
    There is missing from this discussion thread a major component. The premise of Dr Peter Saunders questions “20 Questions Atheists Struggle to Answer” certainly incites debate, although it may not prove either position.
    If there are scientific and/or theoretical questions that atheists can or can’t answer, it’s irrelevant in that this does not prove there is a God or gods. Neither does answering every question scientifically or theoretically prove God doesn’t exist.
    To simplify, you either don’t believe in God or you do.
    The reason I personally believe God exists is that it answers the big question, “Why”. My belief is that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-when, everywhere: eternal. Out of His amazing love and desire to be in relationship with us as sentient beings, we were created. Created with free-will because love without a choice isn’t really love. Upon choosing to believe in Christ Jesus as the Son of God, repenting of our sins and receiving his salvation from sin and death, we are in fellowship with Him today and for eternity. (This is my belief and is not intended to diminish each individual’s freedom.)
    If I didn’t believe this, I may hold the belief that life as we know it is a matter of chance. If life is a matter of chance alone, then what is the “Why”? If life and the known universe exist without God’s divine authority and purpose, is all I have this life and then “I” disappear?
    Faced with the individual choice, I choose the amazing love of God and His plan for salvation.
    So why write this? Why subject myself to the probability of ridicule? Because, God loves you.

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  48. All these questions are to do with scientific concerns, and so in my view miss the point. The central issue which atheists cannot answer on their own materialist terms is the existence of good and evil.
    In the Old Testament, we are introduced to the brilliant story of the fall of man, without an understanding of which it must be nigh impossible to make sense of the world. As human beings, we are challenged on a daily basis to make decisions of right or wrong. The old lady is struggling upstairs slowly with bags she can hardly carry: do I stop, risk being late for my vital appointment, to give her a hand, and wait for her until she hobbles to the top of the stairs? I owe money to a friend: do I "forget" or pay? As Christians, seeking to follow Christ, we have to do what is right, as the prohpets taught, and as Christ taught.
    People have asked the terrible question: where was God in Auschwitz, when He was most needed? The answer is that he was present in the hearts of a few saints, while the tormentors hearts were filled with evil.
    Good and evil exist. We cannot escape the choice.

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  49. It is for good reason that we cannot experience God in our ordinary existance for those of us who have been permitted the experience, you would simply not want to continue living this earthly existence. His Presence is just soooooo loving that it can be felt as a very powerful positive force that you would not hesitate to want to leave this existence and be with Him. That is not what He wants, He wants you to continue to live and experience life to the full, which cannot be done in the experience of His Presence. So He remains distant from us, but that in my experience is just an illusion. God's apparent absence from His created universe is arguably the greatest illusion ever as He is literally everywhere except for one place: human comprehension.

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  50. Peter, re question 1. Your question is often asked, but does anyone agree on what we mean by "the universe"? Do we mean all of the matter + antimatter + whatever that was apparently released at the Big Bang, or do we mean all of the stuff that contains that, if there is such a thing? We can only consider the origins of this universe because that's all we can observe, but why can't eternity consist, for example, of an infinite sequence whereby the universe collapses into a singularity, re-Big Bangs, collapses again, etc, over billions of years?

    Also you say "Anything extrinsic to the universe must be both immaterial, beyond space and time and must have unfathomable power and intelligence. Moreover, it must be personal, as it made the decision to bring the universe into existence, and decisions only come from minds. "

    Can you explain the logic to these statements? Why must anything extrinsic to the universe have unfathomable power and intelligence? And why must it be personal? That assumes that the creation of the universe was a decision. Couldn't the cause of creation be random? I'm aware that in subsequent questions and answers you explain that you don't believe it could be random, but I think that, in the context of this question alone, there's no basis for assuming that creation was the result of a decision.

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