Monday, May 10, 2010
I came across this video on YouTube, my second home, a while ago and I want to now go ahead and answer the questions asked by it. The video asks the Atheist some tough questions that its creator has already came to the conclusion to in his or her mind that its answers prove there is a God. It is a little tough because the guy in the video asks 5 questions for each of the 5 questions he asks and he makes points to back up his questions. So they aren't just simple one line questions and aren't designed for simple one line answers.
1. When it comes to the "God of the gaps" argument that Atheist's accuse Theists of: Aren't Atheists using chance in the exact same way that we accuse Christians of using God, hence "God of the gaps?" Instead of God of the gaps are we guilty of chance of the gaps? Chance can be invoked to explain anything. Is it illegitimate to take an event and then propose a whole bunch of probabilistic resources because otherwise chance would be implausible?
So this question is relating to the gaps in the theory of evolution. Yes, the fossil record isn't 100 % complete, we don't have every transitional fossil found linking every single species that ever lived. So are we Atheists applying pure chance in between every gap even though the chances seem astronomical in between? First off, this is a Christian who doesn't believe in evolution. I am happy to say that most Christians believe in evolution today and this is considerable progress. So we Atheists no longer have to spend hours debating the theory of evolution. Many Theists still argue that God was still guiding the path of evolution to get it around some of the tougher hurdles. Some believe there was unguided evolution from the first single celled organism (that was created by God of course).
The problem some people have with evolution is that they take the end product of a linage of evolution of species, such as a frog, or a horse, or a human, and they ask "what are the chances that this frog, horse or human just came to be like this through random variation and natural selection?" What they often fail to see is that if chance was a little different, or if environmental factors were different it would have evolved into another species and would not be a frog, horse or even a human being. There's nothing in evolution that says the species that exist today have to be the species that exist. There could have been other ones. Atheists don't believe human beings were destined to exist. Small changes in natural events of the past could have doomed our evolution and we wouldn't be here. If it can't adapt it can't survive.
If we were to have attributed God to the early gaps in some of the fossil records of the theorized evolution of certain species, we would have had to discard God, when we found the transitional species. There will always be a gap, because we will never have every single generation, but as you find more and more transitions you end up with more and more gaps between the transitions. If we apply God in between all the new gaps and then find more transitional fossils to fill it in, then you can see filling every gap with God starts to become moronic.
No, I don't think that we are using chance the same way as Theists are using God. If the fossil record indicated that Biblical creation was true and that all species started on the same day instead of them falling in a hierarchical pattern according to the layers of the Earth's surface with simple organism at the bottom and complex ones near the top, your belief would've been validated. To suggest otherwise would suggest that either God is playing tricks on us with the fossil record to test our faith, or that there is a world wide conspiracy among scientists purposely lying to everyone.
2. Why should there be something instead of nothing? The world seems to have been fixed somehow to make life possible. Life bears some kind of a mark of intelligent design. Lastly the world has something called "Moral Order." Why should it?
Well, I am not a scientist, I wish I were, but I can't answer this question detailed enough the way say, Lawrence Krauss can, or Stephen Hawking can. Scientists are currently working on proving how something can come from nothing via the new giant particle collider in Geneva, Switzerland. We know the universe is 13.72 billion years old and that it is expanding, faster and faster everyday. We have to understand the mysteries surrounding dark matter and dark energy, which makes up the majority of the mass in the universe. We are nearing the answers to the deepest mysteries of the origin of our universe.
Here is a video by scientist Lawrence Krauss explaining how we can get a universe from nothing:
In the video Dr. Krauss argues that we live in a flat universe and that the universe's total energy is zero. This is due to the power of gravity canceling out the total matter in the universe. A universe with a total energy of zero can only result in a universe the results from nothing. He says "the laws of physics allow a universe to begin from nothing. You don't need a deity. You have nothing, zero total energy and quantum fluctuations can produce the universe."
The fine tuning argument never bothered me. Of course there should be fine tuning, there is life, there is matter, and heavier elements. If the universe wasn't fine tuned for life, and yet life still existed in defiance of that, I would say that that would make a supernatural deity more plausible.
Finally, life is full of examples of bad design or unintelligent design. We all carry junk DNA that is essentially useless and taking up space. It is a leftover from our evolutionary past. Life appears exactly the way it would if evolution by natural selection were true. The DNA of species falls into a hierarchical pattern from one to the next exactly the way it would if they evolved from one another. People are capable of designing better species than the supposed designer in the sky. Think about all our aches and pains. Of course the Christian believes God purposely made these bad design flaws as punishment for Adam and Eve's sins, even to the animals who didn't take part in the original sin. Christians believe we are essentially being punished for the sins of others. So I guess at the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit, all the design flaws just arranged themselves at once by God's will, including the design flaws in the planets, stars and universe too. You can go ahead and believe that if you want, but you cannot persuade me to.
3. Where do you get your morals from? Atheists say naturalistic forces mold certain behavior that we call moral behavior which simply functions to allow the organism to exist and continue to survive. Actually, not the organism, but the species. Because in some cases it requires sacrificing the individual organisms so that the larger species can survive. You must admit this is a huge problem for the Atheistic world. view. Morality is "prescriptive" not "descriptive." If it is normative, talks about how we ought to behave and the evolutionary description of moral behavior doesn't engage that very fundamental element of morality then it hasn't explained it and it still has to be explained.
I just finished a blog about morality but may not have addressed these specific questions. I get my morals from the family I was raised in, the society that my parents were raised in, the society I was exposed to when I was away from my family, and the cumulative intellectual and moral buildup from humanism, the enlightenment, philosophers and great thinkers, the consequences of wars, evolutionary biology and yes man-made religion. The world's religions today appear exactly the way they would if religion was man-made. Yes, our consciousness is the product of evolutionary biology, however, it allows us to make informed decisions that work against the survival of the fittest mechanism. We can go out of our way to help a stranger even with no expectation of it ever being reciprocated just for the sake of committing a positive act for a stranger. The act alone might make one feel good. One might wish to receive help in the same situation from a stranger. That's all one needs to commit a moral act. To say that one needs a God to help a stranger takes away all that we have evolved morally and the generosity of that individual.
Morality is not a huge problem for the Atheistic world, it only is for the closed-minded. I ask a Christian, is it morally wrong for a nine year old girl to be married to a 40 year old man? They often say yes. Then I ask where in your holy book does it say that a girl that young cannot be married to an older man? No where! It was common during biblical times for young girls to be married to older men, often without the young girl's consent. But if it is wrong now, why wasn't it wrong then? If Christian morals are absolute then if it is wrong now, it should have been wrong when Jesus walked the Earth. Maybe it was right then and still is now, and that we are wrong for forbidding it now? Hmm. Christians, as well as other Theists have a problem here. Atheists don't. In biblical times life expectancy was about 35. Middle aged was 15, which was when many people got married. Today it is about 80, and middle aged is about 40. So it makes sense that people often get married later in life now. Arranged marriage to underage girls in my eyes are still wrong. Christians don't think so. Oh wait, most of them do actually, and that's because of the advances in scientific understanding of biology, and contributions from secular and religious humanists on morality. In other words, morality evolved due to advances in understanding way passed that which we knew in biblical times. If you are going to decide upon and agree with modern morality, that contradicts the fundamental morality of your faith, then please don't ask me where I get my morals from. It's the same place you got the morals that you believe in that contradict what your God says in your holy book that you are ordered to believe is right.
4. How did morals evolve? Here's the problem: There is something in us that is self consciously aware of the process of evolution, that understands that the goal of evolution is - survival of our own species- and instructs us through our conscience to fulfill the optimal conditions for that survival. Consider two cavemen in neighboring villages. One kills the other in cold blood. We're being asked to believe that he feels guilt because he realizes such an act ultimately undermines his own survival status. How? In the animal kingdom killing the opposition seems to secure just the opposite. It just makes no sense what so ever.
Continuing on morality here, let's look at how morals evolved. Look at what is right and wrong in the Bible and then the Qur'an. Look at what was right and wrong in the 1800s, then the 1950s, then look at what is right and wrong today. We are evolving towards a society where everyone, despite their status as a minority, receives a certain level of respect and dignity that they didn't have before. Some parts of the world are years behind this, and this is mostly due to a belief in God not the lack of it. As to the survival of ones own species, in our case, us homosapiens, we have to realize that evolution doesn't always equip every individual, or even every entire species with the attributes necessary for their survival. Nature is very indifferent to the pain and suffering of the creatures it produced through evolution. 99 % of all the species that every lived on Earth have gone extinct. Nature didn't even blink when it all happened, because nature doesn't think. We may very well be equipped with mechanisms that will destroy ourselves, and we already have the capacity to do it. Maybe the reason why the universe seems devoid of intelligent life is that whenever an intelligent species arises, it destroys itself.
Considering the two cavemen scenario. I don't expect the caveman who killed the other one to necessarily feel remorse. Some people are true sociopaths and feel little to no remorse for their actions. Some people are so severely mentally handicapped that they cannot tell a right action from a wrong one. Where does God's design fit in here? These people are designed incapable of making moral decisions and are they therefore, exempt from God's judgment? If they aren't, that would indicate an extremely sadistic God who designs some of his creatures incapable of moral decisions and then judges them on their moral decisions anyway.
Nature and biology have a way of self correcting. Let's take murder for example. A society that allows everyone to kill whenever they wanted, would destroy itself. If no one refrained from their savage impulses, there wouldn't be any moral order. All social species have moral order. Even Lions have a code of conduct that they respect among each other. If those rules are broken, the Lion is often killed or forced to leave the pride. A society of people that disliked warfare would attempt to negotiate ways around disagreements that avoid war with societies it had disputes with. We're still in that process in that we are still evolving towards an ideally humane society, but just look at how far we've come. Look at Europe up until WW2. There were horrible, bloody wars constantly every couple of decades or so. Then, WW2 was so horrific, and left such a death toll, that European nations decided afterward that this cycle has to stop, and since WW2 ended there has been a lot less conflict in Europe because of diplomatic negotiations. This is from our moral evolution towards a non-violent society. We have progress to be made but we're getting there. Killing your enemy often assures that your survival will be more probable, because once you kill your enemy you can take his property (and virgin daughters as the God of the old testament and Qur'an suggests). So I disagree with the question, in stating that the caveman who killed undermines his own survival status. It is our capacity to not kill that is the goal of our moral evolution.
5. Can nature generate complex organisms, in the sense of originating it, when previously there was none? Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic or trademark or signature. Something specific and complex by nature has to be contingent and not necessarily complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance. If I shoot an arrow at the wall, then paint a bull's eye around it, I'm imposing a patten after the fact. On the other hand, if the bull's eye was there first and then I shoot the arrow into it I know it was by design. Nature is blind, and everything else is designed, intelligently. Why? So, time and chance, plus something coming out of nothing, morality evolving, and then suddenly we're hear, observers, apart from everything else in nature.
DNA is often said to be so complex that it couldn't have just popped out of nowhere. Information, creationists say, cannot arise from randomness. The first single celled organism was probably not based on DNA but something much simpler, and DNA must have evolved from more simple forms of it. Scientists think RNA was the messenger of the earliest biological coded information. I wish I were a biologist to be able to explain this more and in detail. This is a question critiquing evolution again for which the science about it is pretty sound and accepted by a great deal of Christians.
I think Christians are the ones shooting the arrow and painting the bull's eye around it. They think theyalready have their answers. They all come from the Bible. Then they look for evidence that supports what they already know to be true instead of looking for evidence and determining what is true from it. Many things can happen from pure chance, even complex things. My existence comes from chance. There's no reason I had to have been born. The chances I was conceived were about one in 100 million, since that's how many sperm cells a man releases in every ejaculation. Only one sperm cell can create me, all the others would have created different unique individuals. My parents had to have been born in order for me to have been born and their chance of being born was about the same as mine, one in 100 million. And so were their parents, and their parent's parents. And on and on and on going back thousands of generations. So if you were to calculate the chance of me existing and writing this blog right now as you're reading it, it is astronomical to say the least. And yet I exist. Wow a miracle! Or is it just chance? Someone was going to be born, it happened to be me. I see the human species the same way, we don't have exist, but in the natural selection process of evolution no matter how crazy the odds are something will end up existing. I think it's foolish to ask what the chances were of that species existing. It's like asking "why did
that person win the lottery. Someone was going to win it and it happened to be that person. Actually someone doesn't always win every time but I think you know what I mean.
Finally, theists have no problem believing in God just "existing" with out a cause. How could something, infinitely more complex than the universe not need any explanation at all for existing, but the universe, which is infinitely less complex, does? It seems to me theist have dug themselves into their own conundrum. Isn't it more probably for the universe to begin existing with out a creator, than for an infinitely more complex being to just always exist, and not require its own God to create him? Ah yes, the infinite regression problem, how do you get around that theists?