Tag Archives: Atheism

Evaluating atheistic reponses to scientific arguments for theism

I thought that I would take a serious look at a couple of recent comments from the atheists who have been traipsing through looking for debate summaries. Normally I don’t allow these kinds of comments through to dirty up the blog, but these ones were clean. So, I thought I would post them for all to see how atheism compares to Christianity.

First, let’s take a look at commenter Jason R.

First post by Jason R

First of all, commenter ECM, who is a deist, writes that the scientific arguments “make the painfully obvious case for deism”.

Jason R. writes in response:

“painfully obvious case for deism”

As soon as that case exists then I’m sure Hitch will debate against it. So far the case doesn’t exist. Every argument for deism has been debunked, the supporters of which just need to perform a bit of due diligence and research it.

Here is my reply to his first post

Can you give a list of the arguments for a deistic God that have been debunked?

Here is his reply to my question

Every single one that I am aware of.
http://www.google.com is good starting point.

What we learn about atheism from this exchange

It is a bad idea for atheists to insinuate that they have disproved the case for theism without citing logically valid arguments with premises that are supported by specific evidence. Because people like me are going to ask you: “what is your reason or evidence to support that assertion?” And you need to be ready to answer that before you make your assertions.

If you cannot even list the arguments for theism, then you don’t know that they have been refuted. If your refutation of my scientific arguments is “Google it”, then maybe you should reconsider your assertions. You’re not helping your team when you cannot list arguments on the other side. Let me be clear: I can argue your case better than you can, and that should concern you.

Commenter ECM adds:

Traditionally, in a debate, one will attempt to at least refute the points laid out rather than falling back on “Google it” and then offering the standard boilerplate materialist reply that ‘it was all one big accident’ but not before, of course, taking a gratuitous whack at theists a la Hitchens.

…Furthermore, if you do not wish to do so (and when your response is ‘Google it’ you clearly do not or cannot), then why waste everyone’s time with the same hollow argument that at least Wintery and I have heard a thousand times?


Second, let’s take a look at commenter Arthur S.

Hist first post

Arthur S. writes:

Everyone of the scientific arguments from the Christian posts site (see list below) has been refuted time and time again as you well know (seek and ye shall find vs. ignorance is bliss) but christians persist in claiming them as being valid. The same is true of the philosophical arguments which are really more about word play than useful proofs of anything.

Now ask yourself a question. What has he really said here? Well, nothing. He makes an assertion that my arguments have been refuted time and time again. What we have here is just an assertion without any evidence, followed by an insult, followed by an unabashed confession of ignorance regarding the construction of philosophical arguments.

His “refutations” of my scientific arguments

1) Creation of the universe out of nothing. (Refuted over and over. In addition the “how, who, what, when, where, why was god created?” are questions that can never be satisfactorily answered. How can a christian be satisfied with the shallow answers provided by the bible?)
2) Fine-tuning of physical constants and ratios to support the minimal requirements for life (see response to 4 below).
3) Origin of biological information in the simplest living organism (please read up on evolution before using this tired argument again).
4) Galactic, stellar and planetary fine-tuning to support the minimal requirements for life (Conditions for life exist throughout the universe. Christians fall into these kinds of traps all the time. Once contradictory evidence is demonstrated, they fight it for a few decades and then have to modify their belief system to accommodate the new findings. Kind of like how christians defended slavery in the U.S. in the 1900’s based on the bible until they developed some morals that were in opposition to the bible which contradicts the claim that our morals come from the bible).
5) Sudden origin of all animal phyla in the Cambrian explosion (”Sudden” if you consider 50 to 100 million years sudden and have an incredulous attitude).
6) Natural limits of biological change (again study up on evolution before making these kinds of nonsense arguments)

A critical evaluation of his responses

Let’s take a look at his replies point-by-point.

  1. No evidence is cited.
  2. No evidence is cited. There is a long-winded personal attack against Christians, which is irrelevant to the science.
  3. He says that evolution can explain the origin of the simplest living system. But evolution requires that replication already be in place, it cannot be used as an explanation of the first replicator. So citing evolution here is no defense to the explain the origin of the first replicating organism.
  4. No evidence is cited, but there is a long-winded insult.
  5. No source was provided for his “50-100 million years” number. The correct number according to the University of California at Berkeley is 5 million years. So that could just be an outright lie. And more insults, of course.
  6. No evidence is cited, but we do get yet another insult.

So, there is popular atheism. No evidence, one probable lie, and tons of insults. I am not saying all atheists are like this, but many of them are like this. And I am talking about people with good degrees, good careers and good jobs. They really have never bothered to look into these issues. The creed of atheism is these ignorant, hateful diatribes.

And that’s why they love people like Christopher Hitchens, and why many atheist web sites think he is a great debater. Because he is good at hating and insulting people he disagrees with. And that makes him the best atheist. On the other hand, Christians love people like William Lane Craig, because arguments, evidences and truth matter more to us.

Our bestselling books are Lee Strobel books, in which scholars with one or more PhDs are interviewed about their academic research publications. Their bestseller is “God is not great”, in which an uneducated journalist goes on a hate-spree, without making a single formal argument against the existence of God. These are two different sets of values.

And that is why when we have debates between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, all the militant atheists like Common Sense Atheism and Debunking Christianity have to award the victory to Craig.


My advice for atheists

My recommendation is that you proof-read everything you write and remove all the personal attacks and insults. Then, for every assertion, you need to reference some data from a book published by an academic press, or a peer-reviewed research publication. That way, you will be able to sustain your arguments when you try to debate Christians.

I know it feels good for you to hate and insult those with whom you disagree. And since morality and rationality unjustificable on atheism, since atheism cannot ground objective morality and free will, I am not surprised at your tone. But we were all created in God’s image. At least try to treat your neighbors with respect and tolerance.

You can read see a list of arguments for and against Christianity in my post here.

Reviews of Christopher Hitchens’ book

I saw this book review about Christopher Hitchens’ book “God is Not Great”, written by Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason.

The post is here. Here is an excerpt:

Let me say something that isn’t very pleasing to think about Religion isn’t false just because it’s cruel.  Even if every one of Hitchens’ accusations were accurate, they don’t disprove the truth of religion.  God might be a cruel being who does delight in manipulating man.  In that case, Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything” might be true, but his real claim is that God doesn’t exist.  And that just doesn’t follow from every evil example of religion.

What standard of morality is Hitchens using to judge God and Christians as evil? If it is his personal preference, then who cares what he thinks. If it is the current fashion of the culture he is in in this time and place, who cares? That “standard” will change as time and place changes. It’s convention. But, if it is an objective moral standard that exists independently of what individuals and cultures think, then God exists to make that design for the way the world ought to be.

Next excerpt:

Hitchens says religion is evil, and he does mean evil and sin.  He freely uses moral language to pin the blame right where he believes it belongs, but he never explained how he, as a materialist, can use moral language and mean them as moral terms that all mankind are beholden to….

As I mentioned, Hitchens professes materialism, believes it’s proved.  He freely makes moral accusations against religion and religious people.  He freely admits contempt, and, given what he believes, that would be the proper response.  He accuses religion of sins and evil.  These are real, objective categories for him, not his personal sentiment.  He never explains how, as a materialist who believes in a world of only what science can explain and prove in the physical world, he can lay claim to morality.  He ignores the grounding problem, the explanatory power of a view of reality to account for the features in it.  Morality, the way Hitchens is using it, has no material explanation.  How does he account for the prescriptive, universal nature of morality, not merely descriptive?  His humanism won’t get him there because that can only offer a descriptive, contingent account – whatever is is morality.  On this major flaw alone, it’s justified to ignore anything Hitchens claims because his view of reality can’t lay claim to morality.

Melinda wants to know how Hitchens’ can help himself to the notion of rationality on a materialistic worldview. After all, if materialism is true, humans are pure matter. Everything humans do is causally determine by their genetic programming and sensory inputs. But that behavior is targeted towards survival and reproduction not reasoning about the external world.

She writes:

There’s more to the grounding problem, too.  Is rationality material?  He can’t even ground the rationality he sees as the crown of human progress.  If man is purely material, then he’s a machine programmed by nature, c-fibers firing, acting according to the laws hard-wired by his biology.  He lauds the “chainless mind,” free from religion.  Yet in his view of reality, man is chained by determinism with no escape.  There is no rationality because there is no option to behave, think, believe any way other than we do.  There’s no point in even trying to persuade religious people to believe and behave different since we’re also just acting the way we’re programmed to.  Indeed, even scientific inquiry that Hitchens offers as the hope of mankind is nonsense since only one conclusion is predetermined by our programming.

And it goes on from there. I’m looking forward to the (not yet planned) debate between Melinda Penner and Christopher Hitchens! Because I think she could kick his butt with half her brain tied behind her back.

If you want to get ready for the debate today between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens and some other people. Biola University is live-blogging the debate as well.

UPDATE: I was just chatting with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, and he recommended this review of Hitchens’ book by Douglas Groothuis. This is a 28-minute audio clip.

Video and audio from Christopher Hitchens panel debate

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the Biola debate is here.

Over on Apologetics 315, I’ve found links to video and and audio from the recent debate panel from the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, TX. This is a useful preview for the upcoming debate on April 4, 2009 between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig.

Below is a summary of the initial 4-minute speeches of all of the participants, in order of speaking:

Lee Strobel

1. There are good arguments for the existence of God:

  • creation out of nothing (the big bang)
  • cosmic fine-tuning
  • biological information (DNA, etc.)
  • consciousness (intentionality)
  • free will
  • historicity of the resurrection

2. Christianity makes a positive difference on people’s lives.

Christopher Hitchens

1. Christianity is not needed for personal morality or social cohesion.

2. Christian stories are not unique, they are paralleled in other religious. Therefore, they are not historical, but invented.

3. Christian leaders say and do things that are harmful, but also inconsistent with their stated beliefs.

William Lane Craig

1. There are good arguments for the existence of God:

  • the contingency argument
  • creation out of nothing
  • cosmic fine-tuning
  • the argument from objective moral values
  • the argument from objective moral duties
  • the ontological argument
  • historicity of the resurrection
  • religious experience (in the absence of any defeaters)

James Denison

1. It is not effective to argue against religion in general by citing the specific bad behaviors of certain religious people in a variety of religions.

Doug Wilson

1. Rational thought is not compatible with atheism, because atheism is committed to materialism. If human behavior are totally determined by chemical reactions, then it is not possible for humans to reason about the world.

Further study

To read more about these arguments, please see my index of arguments used in debates. To see an analysis of Hitchens’ case that he used in his recent debate with Frank Turek, click here.

The story of the Wintery Knight blog so far…

Those of you who have been reading the blog know that the blog is split between Christian apologetics and policy analysis. Here’s a little list of the topics that I have touched on related to Christian apologetics, with topics yet to appear later in italics.

Positive apologetics

Scientific arguments for theism:

  • the creation of the universe out of nothing (Warning: SNARKY)
  • the fine-tuning of physical constants and ratios to support the minimal requirements for life (Warning: SNARKY)
  • the origin of biological information in the simplest living organism
  • galactic, stellar and planetary fine-tuning to support the minimal requirements for life
  • the sudden origin of all animal phyla in the Cambrian explosion
  • the natural limits of biological change

Philosophical arguments for theism:

  • the moral argument
  • the argument from evil
  • the origin of non-physical mind, rationality and free will

Historical arguments for Christianity

Negative apologetics

Scientific objections:

Philosophical objections

Emotional objections

Moral issues

Mentoring

Apologetics advocacy

Analyzing Christopher Hitchens’ case against God

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks for the link! New visitors, please take a look around. My blog is 50% news and policy analysis, 50% defending Christianity in practical ways.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Apologetics 315! Thanks for the link Brian!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the linky, Binky!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Truthbomb Apologetics! Thanks for the link, DJ Spidey!

In preparation for the upcoming debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, I thought that I would go over his opening statement from a previous debate to see what we can expect from him. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question to be debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    – Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: There are lots of religions
    – Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    – Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    – Premise: Religious people are fearful
    – Premise: Religious people are servile
    – Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    – Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    – Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    – Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    – Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    – Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    – Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    – Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    – Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    – Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    – Premise: I don’t like original sin
    – Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    – Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

General comments about Hitchens’ case:

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So, in short, Hitchens lost the debate. A talking parakeet who could only say the 3 premises of the Kalam argument over and over, in a squeaky high-pitched voice, would have defeated him. Atheists and agnostics can do a lot better. That is, if the purpose of the debate is to win and not to just hurl insults at people on the other side.

Worst. Debater. Ever.

Here are some posts on defending Christianity: the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the irrationality of morality on atheism, debates on morality, the irrationality of moral judgements against God on atheism, the hiddenness of God, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, the problem of the unevangelized and how to defend the resurrection without assuming that the Bible is generally reliable.

UPDATE: On Hot Air, I noticed that legions of British atheists are signing up to be de-baptized. Probably fans of Hitchens and his “I woudn’t have done it that way” case against God. As well, Hot Air is covering a story that scientologists and atheists are uniting. Because, you know, they are both science-based.