How I respond to atheists who speculate about unobservable entities

I noticed a new comment to my article explaining how to argue for God from the fine-tuning of the universe.

The commenter wrote this:

Hey, atheist here. Just astounded by your characterisation of the atheist’s response. I’ve never heard any atheist use the argument that humans caused the fine tuning. It doesn’t make sense because humans would still have to exist in some now corrupted timeline where the universe wasn’t fine-tuned.

I have a whole post on my blog dedicated to this topic but I’ll summarise my main arguments.

[SNIP! See below for his 8 points]

Maybe you can integrate these arguments into your post and address them, instead of a straw man?

Mike

This is a pretty good comment, with only a little acceptable snark at the end. I hate it went people write loads and loads of stuff without citing any evidence.

And I wrote this back:

Thanks for your comment. You’ll note that in my piece I cited numerous scientific facts and produced an argument that was logically valid. Now let’s take a look at what you wrote.

And here’s how I replied to his 8 points.

“1. Possibility of a multiverse.”

1) This is a speculation with no scientific evidence. Notice how I appeal to an experimental particle physicist for my conclusion.

“2. Possibility of an oscillating universe”

2) This has been disproved theoretically and observationally. Notice how I cite research papers that do not merely speculate, but are based on observations.

“3. The Vast (to use Dennett’s terminology) majority of the universe does not contain life, so to claim that life is its purpose is merely superimposing your own subjective judgement onto it.

3) This is speculation about God’s motives. You are not in a position to dictate to God how he would have accomplished his goals. If you would like to listen to William Lane Craig speak on these scientific arguments, and listen to Dennett’s LAME response, click here.

“4. Related to 3. Clearly the universe is fine-tuned to make hydrogen, since that is the most abundant substance in the universe. Life seems to be fairly far down in the priorities of the universe. Of course I’m (half) joking, but there is no reason why one natural phenomenon needs a fine tuner any more than any other.”

4) This is speculation about God’s motives. You can feel free to joke about the evidence for and against God. I don’t joke about these issues – I prefer to cite evidence.

“5. The argument flauts its own premises by posing the existence of a creator which doesn’t need a fine-tuned universe. So either the premise is wrong, or we have an infinite regress of fine-tuners.”

5) Fine-tuning is an example of intelligent design such that a selection from a field of possibilities corresponds to an independently specified pattern. I.e. – the subset of functional proteins compared to the set of possible sequences of amino acids. God is not composed of parts so is not fine-tuned.

“6. We have no idea if these constants are even capable of changing. To state that they have been fine tuned without this information is nothing more than speculation.”

6) This is more speculation. Don’t make arguments based on what “we” don’t know. I make arguments based on what we do know. You do the same.

“7. It could be that the state of the universe is unlikely, but not as unlikely as the existence of a fine-tuner. In this case it would just be a big coincidence.”

7) “It could be…” It could be that monkeys will fly out of my butt. Stop speculating about things we cannot know. Let’s see your argument, and the peer-reviewed data to back it up. This is not a game.

“8. Even if the fine-tuning argument were valid, it says nothing about the type of creator that exists, so to go from this deist creator to the Christian God is a huge leap.”

8) The argument is not meant to prove the Christian God. The argument, taken together with a bunch of other scientific arguments, is meant to prove a Creator and Designer of the universe. To prove Christian theism, you make a case for the resurrection and then debate it in public in the university. And then you respond to philosophical objections, such as evil, suffering and the hiddenness of God.

I thought it was a useful example of how to ask people for arguments and evidence, and not take a speculation for an argument.

I find that atheists speculate a lot about unobservable entities in order to escape from good scientific arguments. They speculate about hyper-universes to explain the big bang. They speculate about a multiverse to explain the fine-tuning. They speculate about aliens seeding Earth with life to explain the origin of life. They speculate about as-yet-undiscovered precursor fossils to explain the Cambrian explosion. They speculate about as-yet-undiscovered developmental pathways that use co-option to get around irreducible complexity. And on, and on, and on.

And that suggests to me a question. What sense does it make to build an entire worldview on speculations about things you cannot observe? Or is atheism not about truth, then, but instead about thinking that you are better than other people and throwing off the demands of morality? If the truth is that God exists and that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, then why try to dance around it using speculations? What possible benefit could there be, ultimately, to having blind faith in a religion just to pursue pleasure?

My entire series on how moral values and moral duties cannot be grounded rationally on atheism is here.

2 thoughts on “How I respond to atheists who speculate about unobservable entities”

  1. Wintery,

    I’ve kept this awesome post on file – a virtuoso performance! I’ve even sent it to my brother, who is a professor of biological anthropology and a confirmed atheist. He will find it most interesting, I’m sure.

    Thanks!
    Stephen

    Like

  2. Atheists deride our Imaginary (unseen) Friend™. How about the imaginary (unseen) multiverses? The imaginary prebiotic soup? The intermediary entities that preceded the first functional cell? Evidence? What evidence? Believed by faith.

    Like

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