1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.
Here we are: the number one reason that this guy can think of to believe in god. Complexity, the idea that where there is order there must be design.
This is called an argument from ignorance. It works by taking something we haven't explained (order) and saying that we can explain it (god) just because we lack an explanation. It's been used for ages. We used to look at the stars and marvel at their order to such a degree that we were certain god was responsible. Then came Sir Isaac-Newton who figured out that it wasn't god, but gravity ordering the stars. Just a natural force working on inanimate objects. Easy fix: god was responsible for gravity. Then Einstein showed up and established that gravity was not the will of god, but rather the result of space-time bending, and that all that's required to bend space-time is matter. Again, mindless forces and thoughtless objects.
The whole point is that we know that very complex order arises in our universe all the time. The solar system we live in is just the result of a cloud of hydrogen growing so large that gravity begins to compact it into a protoplanetary disk. It requires no appeal to god. Also, remember how god made the Sun, the Moon, all of the stars on the fourth day (amazingly three days after making day and night)? Well, if you can get a hold of a fairly powerful telescope, check out the Orion Nebula where stars are currently being churned out like crazy via the compression of hydrogen clouds (mindless forces acting upon inanimate objects to produce order).
This guy has no reason to believe that any particular order is an act of god, rather than the end result of natural processes.
Anyway, this guy has some specific examples I'll hit up.
1. The Earth: It's a "perfect" size, collection of gasses, yadda yadda yadda. There are three things to say here.
Second, even if the Earth were "perfect" for us (and didn't have crap like cancer or tigers who want to eat us hanging around) why is it perfect? Is it because it was formed to accomodate us or because we evolved within these conditions, slowly optimizing our own species to cohere with this environment? All scientific knowledge points to the latter conclusion.
Third, even if the odds of something like this happening were really, really small, there's a whole lot of stuff out there. The cosmos is so vast that the human mind cannot fathom it without invoking logarythmic functions. We don't even know the nature of terrestrial planets around nearby stars, let alone around the billions of stars in this galaxy and the billions of stars in each of the trillions of other galaxies (the pressence of which seems a bit odd if it was all made for us). A good analogy for assessing these odds is buying a lottery ticket. If one person buys a single ticket at five million to one odds and wins, we should be suspicious of non-random, causal agents. However, if five million people buy lottery tickets, it shouldn't surprise us at all if somebody wins. Well, that's how the cosmos works. Somebody had to win the lottery (and it's likely that more than just Earth won in terms of life).
2. Water: He cites water and goes on to explain how it's essential to life. What he doesn't explain is how that leads to the conclusion that god put it there (hell, couldn't god have made us not be dependent on water and saved himself some effort?). I can point out properties of stuff all day (this tree is made of wood and converts carbon dioxide into oxygen in order to feed itself), but that gets us no closer to god being an explanation for any of it.
3. The Human Brain: Again, he just explains things about the brain, and I guess we're supposed to be cowed into believing that the brain can't exist without god. We have a very solid understanding of how the brain evolved. Did you know that you have what amounts to two brains up inside your noggin'? You have your reptilian brain (brain stem) that is a remnant of our evolution. This takes care of our autnomous processes. Then you have the mammillian brain (the cortex) which first appears as animals evolved from reptiles into mammals. There are several improvements that the mammalian brain brings, with arguably the best being the hippocampus. The hippocampus gives us memory, and with that, intelligence was given the ability to flourish. Suddenly we could remember where we hid nuts, where the best hunting spots were, or which events seemed to precipitate others. Toss in the amygdala for good measure, and suddenly we have conscious feeling about events. This is important, because it gives us fear of the bigger, toothier animals.
This is just a small example, but we can track the evolution of the brain and what prompted the various improvements for a great deal of our cognitive, brain-based faculties.
Also, the size and lack of efficiency of the brain is an argument either against god, or against a very competent god - the type of god you would need to construct a cosmos. There are flaws in our brains that even a freshmen engineering student would not make. These make no sense if we were designed by a something with greater-than-human intelligence, but make perfect sense if our brain came into being through purely natural means. Since I've already used several arguments from Richard Carrier in this piece, I'll let him tell you exactly what else about the brain helps defeat the idea of a competent god.
The Eye: Snore. This has been beaten down at length. Also, see point #6 in this video (with soundtrack by Boston! :D):
Even if we didn't have explanations for all of this, it would not mean that we get to make up an answer like god. Design is not an answer without evidence - it's just a lack of imagination.
2. Does God exist? The universe had a start - what caused it?
This is the problem of infinite regress of cause. For this argument to work, you must be saying that everything that exists requires a cause. And what is the theistic answer to this conundrum? Wait for it...
Why, it's a being (something) that requires no cause: god. Brilliant. A popular retort to this is to say that god always existed, but if it's possible for something to have simply always existed, why not just matter and the laws of physics? We know we have those, and we know they create incredibly complex order over time. This fact alone makes god a superfluous variable in this equation.
While we may not know what caused our universe, that doesn't give us carte blanche to say that we can explain it and it must have been god. We can just be honest and say "I don't know." At one point we did not know what ordered the stars or why people got sick (demons, I tell you!) - but we should have said "I don't know" rather than jumping to the god conclusion via an appeal to ignorance, as this yutz is trying to do with the universe.
We even have explanations that conform to our understanding of reality for how the universe could have come into existence. Did you know that when you smash atoms together in a reactor it produces the same ratio of particles every single time? Did you also know that we have established that the ratio of particles produced by the Big Bang is the same ratio as when we smash atoms? This suggests that a Big Bang type of event is naturally what happens when enough matter is crushed under enough pressure (like, say, in all those black holes we were talking about earlier). Of course, since nothing can escape a black hole, these events would have to occur inward into another pocket of space-time (hence "multiverse"). If this system is true, the universe could very well be infinitely old. This is just one such explanation.
And since everything we have explained has had a natural rather than a supernatural explanation, we should expect to see a natural explanation in this case as well, and we should be more eager to accept the explanations that work using natural means rather than supernatural means. The author of the piece I'm addressing does exactly the opposite. You can see him do it in the last sentence of this section:
"The universe has not always existed. It had a start...what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter."
This universe has not always existed. We know that it came into being about 13.6 billion years ago, but we do not know if we are the only universe. Though we have not explained it yet, we are coming very close to figuring it out. But just because science has not explained this particular question does not mean that religion has explained anything. It hasn't.
3. Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?
Who says there has to be a why? When we look into the universe all we see are mindless forces acting on inanimate objects.
Again, even if there is a "why" to our universe, because human-kind has not explained it does not in any way mean that religion has.
4. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell's behavior.
Yes, yes it does. Oh, but you have another point to make:
Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved.
This has been explained at tremendous length. The fact that this man is either completely ignorant of it or is flat-out lying does not alter that fact.
What's more, the clunky, awkward nature of DNA is better explained through evolutionary means. Did you know that cancer and a whole host of other maladies are the result of a flaw in DNA replication? What intelligent designer, let alone a competent one, would use a system that contains basic flaws perceptible to even a moderately informed mortal? Additionally, why would he saturate the DNA chain with junk DNA or place markers on the DNA chain that help us monitor the evolution of DNA which inevitably leads us to the conclusion that we have evolved?
These things make perfect sense if we evolved, but no sense at all if we were designed. This man is a scientific illiterate, and he is ignorant of the basics of our knowledge surrounding this subject. It is only through his ignorance of what we do know (an ignorance he has likely acquired by credulously adopting the ideal of a book written by people who were ignorant of all modern discoveries) that he is able to reach the conclusions he has.
Alright, if you thought the four pieces of "evidence" I've parried above were lame-as-hell...you aint seen nothin' yet...
5. Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.
What? When? How?
I'm just gonna take this cesspool of stupid line-by-line and try not to vomit.
What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don't believe even exists?!
When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional people...to help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded.
Hope based on a lie or an error is false hope, and it's nothing we should be seeking.
The author then goes on about how he experienced god. The thing is, if Christianity is right then all other religions must be wrong. Not only every believer of ever other current religion must be wrong, but every believer in every other religion ever conceived must be wrong. Obviously, we are far more given to delusion about god than a pull toward the one true faith (tm). But noting that the vast, vast majority of people to have ever believed in god must be wrong in order for you to be right should suggest to you that human beings are given to believing they have felt god and being in error. In fact, it should establish that, even if you're right, that they are far more likely to believe they have felt god and to be wrong. Shouldn't that worry you if your evidence for god's existence is "feeling him?"
Moreover, god has allowed around 243,000 religions to exist on this planet. Does he expect us to familiarize ourselves with all of them when the average human life span is around 22,000 days? Lucky you that you were born in a nation where most people believe in the one true religion and very, very few laymen have read that work of fiction the koran, right? Too bad for all those Muslims who were born in Islamic nations where very, very few laymen have read that book of religious truth (that talks about magic gardens and talking snakes in stark seriousness), the bible, right?
I've read both books, and they're both ridiculous. It's like Da Vinci (no, not this one) said, "I do not believe that the same God that has endowed me with sense, reason, and intellect, has intended me to forego it's use." If god made me a logical creature, yet set up a system by which only the uneducated and ignorant were in an optimal position to reach the deepest truth in the universe, then he's positively wicked: and no good man serves a wicked master.
What I do see are a bunch of followers of different religion using the worst arguments imaginable and employing logic that should embarass a first-grader. And they all circumvent the burden to defend their reasoning (usually after being backed into a corner) with the same admonishment of, "But I feel god." Not good enough. Not for me, and it shouldn't be for you.
Also, if he wants a relationship with me, god remains free to drop by my house any time.
6. Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.
Wow. According the World Christian Encyclopedia there are 34,000 different sects of Christianity on this planet. How clear could it have possibly been if its followers are constantly drawing completely opposite conclusions?
Compare that to the work of mortals. Read an Astronomy textbook and see how many different conclusions you can draw from its pages. I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with "one". There's a reason there's no such thing as Christian Astronomy or Muslim Astronomy, and for why there isn't 34,000 sects of Astronomers holding completely conflicting beliefs after being presented the same information. Science is based on fact, observation, and logic, rather than the non-discerning vehicle that religious people employ in order to ignore science: faith. The bible is a muddled, convoluted book that says horrible things for which its followers must be perpetually concocting excuses. A wise man's words do not need excuses. It follows that the book was not constructed by wise people, and especially not by a wise god.
The book admonishes us to accept talking snakes, magical gardens, that a man lived in the belly of a fish for three days without being digested, that the Sun went backwards in the sky, and a litany of other things that are impossible by any sane standard: and it asks us to accept them on faith rather than reason. That's not a revelation, it's a story from a time when tales of magic proliferated without modernity to temper them.
If god existed and wanted a relationship with you, would he really expect you to employ reasoning that could be used to support any idea from Jesus to pixies (appeal to ignorance)? No.
Would he demand that you either ignore science or remain ignorant of it? No.
Yet that is what this man is advancing to you as "evidence". Isn't faith supposed to make people better? Yes.
Has it helped this man to become smarter or more wise? Not at all. In fact, it seems clear to me that it has sliced his intellectual hamstring and demanded that he be grateful for it. Could anything be more antithetical to the progress of our understanding of the world than the mindset required by religion?
Wow. One thing I always admire about your posts is that you are very thorough. You do explore a lot of the possible dissenting opinions to your points and refute them. I have had a lot of trouble reconciling a lot of religious ideas with my rational thought processes. There are rational people (at least, I think they are rational) who believe, but I still haven't heard an explanation from that makes sense to me.
A point that you made that I really liked was: The thing is, if Christianity is right then all other religions must be wrong. Not only every believer of ever other current religion must be wrong, but every believer in every other religion ever conceived must be wrong. That really puts it into perspective.
@Zerowing21 - Right. I was just trying to differentiate between criticizing a person's methods as irrational and calling them (as a whole) irrational. Each of us probably dips into the "irrationality" every once in awhile, so we really have to look at the whole person rather than just one particular belief. Though, when their whole life is based on something that might be considered "irrational," one has to then wonder about their rationality as a whole.
I had never thought of the argument you posed for number 6. It's very intriguing.
On the other hand, I would argue that a lot of Christian sects aren't based off a different interpretation of Jesus, but on a different interpretation of worship.
With the exception Catholicism and Protestantism (in general), most sects argue over how services should be performed, what laws are REAL laws, etc.
With the exception of Calvinism--which is practically Catholicism anyway--most Protestant religions that I can think of interpret Jesus the same way, but interpret God differently (Distributive vs Redemptive Justice).
Your argument for why science is far more clear that Jesus makes sense, I just struggle with the minutia of the multiple sects=multiple interpretations of Jesus.
Just some thoughts... that really have no relevance whatsoever.
This post was really interesting though--very well thought out for having to trudge through that much nonsense.
@Zerowing21 - How can you claim that your means of deduction in this case were more intelligent than Sir Isaac Newton's? Could it be possible he had discovered something along the way that you haven't yet? Or do you have enough information at this point to conclude that, undeniably, you are absolutely correct on this point, and Newton was wrong?
@The_James_Blog - If Newton conceived of anything with more explanatory power than the current model, he never published it. Moreover, I have never claimed that I am absolutely right about anything, especially since I believe absolute knowledge is impossible. Go here and read "The Nature of Knowledge."
I will say that my position is the most reasonable and I am open to refutation on this.