I’ll admit, I had little expectations when I put myself up for Christian adoption two weeks back in response to Bill Donohue’s “adopt an atheist” initiative. But lo and behold, I’ve received a challenge!
Taker: Stan Johnson (Protestant Christian)
- The format is a free exchange (no jury or “winners”/“losers”).
- Each round starts with Stan’s argument(s) (A = Argument)) and concludes with my counter-argument(s) (R = Rebuttal).
- Subject matter is limited to arguments of logic and evidence to support the existence of God(s) and/or the validity of Christianity.
- Any other topics or tangents may be ignored.
- Any and all rhetoric, tactics and content is acceptable, so long as all participants adhere to the blog rules.
- Arguments can be as many and lengthy as desired (though conciseness is appreciated).
- Participants may choose to ignore any argument(s) that they feel have been sufficiently addressed (as to avoid beating a dead horse).
- Rounds will continue indefinitely until any participant(s) choose(s) to end the debate for any reason.
Note: Challengers’ arguments may be paraphrased/edited for clarity/formatting reasons.
ARGUMENT(S): Stan Johnson
A1: The natural world (specifically the biology of organisms) doesn’t seem random, and instead appears to have been designed. This is a thought even shared by some very well known atheists. Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker even said "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Yet, non like Christians, who follow the implications of what they study (in this case that it is designed), atheists throw out the notion because it doesn't follow their worldview. Francis Crick was once cited as saying "Biologists must constantly keep in mind what they see was not designed, rather evolved."
A2: The Earth has to have been designed because it doesn't make sense for the earth to be able to exist unless there was a plan going into making it. The earth would have destroyed itself as soon as one minute thing was off. Also, a lot of things would happen at the same time because there are instances where one thing could not happen before or after other events for it to have come into being.
My thought about the World had to have a design is because things had to happen too quickly to allow evolution to take place. Also the general relativity equation that Einstein discovered shows that the universe is expanding, but to have expanded to where it is it had to have a beginning. The idea of a "big bang" theory supports a creator that Einstein then tried to disprove and was unable to. (I will note that Einstein was not a Christian because of his findings but it did point him in the direction of there being a creator.) If Einstein found that the evidence of science pointed to there being a creator, then it seems to me it is atheist who abandon science because it doesn't fall in line with what they want to believe. I know, I know atheists don't have beliefs but I would like it explained why, if science supports there being a Creator, do atheists throw out the findings because they don't like the results (as illustrated with Francis Crick).
[The following was included as an apparent addition to A2, but is distinct enough to merit being its own argument.]
A3: Charles Darwin said "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down". Now David Raup, director at the Field museum of natural history said "We are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time." So why after millions of years and over 120 years after the first theory are we still discussing macro evolution as a plausible cause for everything? It is because it doesn't support what atheists want to believe.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT(S): Joé McKen
R1: Stan’s entire first argument is essentially reducible to the (all-too-common) teleological argument (aka the argument from design): “It looks designed, therefore, it must be.” However, this is illogical; for one thing, humans are programmed to identify patterns and structure in our surroundings, which inherently gives rise to the suspicion of design. But the existence of patterns does not necessarily indicate that they were actually designed, much less by any intelligent entity. It just means we humans are naturally inclined to believe they were designed. This is merely a cognitive trick our brains play on us that requires practice and awareness to avoid.
In addition, even if certain elements were designed (in the strictest sense of the word), there still doesn’t need to be any intelligent force to do so. Natural processes such as evolution (and the laws of nature in general), which are absolutely mindless and unguided by any intelligent force, have been conclusively shown to produce complex and non-random elements in nature.
Secondly, Stan’s selection of quotes from renown atheists who recognize the appearance of design in the natural world does not indicate that these atheists “throw out the notion” that the world actually was intelligently designed “because it doesn’t follow their worldview”. This is an unfounded assumption, as Stan cannot know what these people truly believe. It is far more likely, given their stated beliefs and previous works, that Drs. Dawkins and Crick are simply admitting to what I mentioned above: that the human brain is hardwired to recognize patterns and that it’s all too easy to be misled into thinking that these patterns must have been designed by some creator. The human mind is replete with various irrational biases (which simply indicates that we aren’t coldly logical computers), and recognizing this fact does not signal a rejection of logic, but merely an acceptance of our own flaws.
R2: Stan’s second argument also appears to be a variant of the teleological argument (in the form that elements that appear to have been designed must therefore have been designed for a purpose), and therefore much of what I wrote above applies here in refutation. I will note, however, that Stan is mistaken in claiming that “[t]he earth[sic] would have destroyed itself as soon as one minute thing was off”. The planet was essentially formed by giant space rocks slamming into each other at random for millions of years, which makes it hard to believe that any single little detail of difference could have instantly nullified the entire massive, violent, chaotic process.
My thought about the World had to have a design is because things had to happen too quickly to allow evolution to take place.
There is no scientific reason to believe that 4.6 billion years isn’t long enough for evolution to take hold. For one thing, evolution often works quite quickly (as said by Stephen Jay Gould: “The history of life tends to move in quick and quirky episodes, rather than by gradual improvement.”). For example, it barely took a couple million years – barely a blink of the geological eye – for the ape-like Australopithecus to develop into modern humans.
Also the general relativity equation that Einstein discovered shows that the universe is expanding, but to have expanded to where it is it had to have a beginning. The idea of a "big bang" theory supports a creator that Einstein then tried to disprove and was unable to.
I am not very well informed regarding Einstein and physics in general, but I do know that regardless of what Einstein himself might have believed or tested, the modern Big Bang theory has no need for any sort of a creator to explain how it arose. For one thing, it only explains the expansion of the universe, not how such an expansion was first triggered (just as Evolutionary Theory only explains the spread and descent of life on Earth, not how it first appeared). The laws of nature are perfectly sufficient to explain how the universe came to be; in the words of Dr. Stephen Hawking: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. […] It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
The rest of Stan’s A2 is a reiteration of his assumptions about what atheistic scientists actually believe, which I have previously addressed, above.
R3: Firstly, I’d like to complete that Darwin quote [my emphasis]: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.” Thus, Darwin himself, even with the (comparatively) limited evidence at his disposal, plainly stated that these supposed “missing links” were not an obstacle to his theory.
Secondly, that quote from David Raup is out-of-context. In the quote’s original context, it becomes clear that Raup was writing about “Darwin's mechanism of natural selection and whether this mechanism is reflected in pattern of the fossil record, not whether there is a lack of evidence for common descent”. In other words, this quote is dishonestly used to support the erroneous claim that fossils have unexplainable gaps when they simply do not (beyond that which can be explained by not having yet dug up every single fossil the Earth has to offer).
So, yes, macroevolution is still a perfectly valid scientific explanation as part of the Theory of Evolution.