Sunday, May 11, 2014

20 Questions Atheists Struggle To Answer (Extremely Short Answers)

These questions were floated around to atheists over the years and I'd thought I'd take a quick crack at them. These are my (extremely short) answers to them.

1. What caused the universe to exist?

The universe may not need a cause, especially if the B-theory of time is true. All causes in the universe are (a) temporal and (b) material, showing that our notion of causality doesn't necessarily apply to the origin of the universe, if it is the beginning of space and time.

2. What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

Chance. The same way that our planet is just the right distance from our sun to allow life to exist, so is our universe.

3.Why is the universe rational?

Because logical impossibilities are in fact, impossible.

4. How did DNA and amino acids arise?

Well we know amino acids can spontaneously arise naturally as the Miller-Urey experiments showed us, and as the building blocks of DNA, amino acids probably evolved from simpler molecules as in the RNA hypothesis. If "God did it" is your explanation, then you would be saying that scientists should stop doing all their research in molecular biology and close all their institutions, thus proving that faith is opposed to science.

5. Where did the genetic code come from?

It most likely evolved through many years and attempts from simple molecules to more complex ones.

6. How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
There are no real irreducibly complex parts of biological systems, there is simply our current ignorance to how some of them formed, and there is a whole lot more ignorance by creationists who use things like the bacterial flagellum as an example of IC when it has been clearly refuted.

7. How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?

Languages evolved over tens of thousands of years all over the world. There is zero evidence that the biblical story of the Tower of Babel explains the origin of language, and most Christians today it seems even reject such an absurd story.

8. Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000 BC?

It was due to the invention or agriculture around 10,000 BC that lead to the first towns and cities being developed. When humans stopped hunting and gathering and began farming and domesticating animals, they had a reason to stay in one place permanently.

9. How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?

I'm not sure what independent thought means here, but if it is implying free will, there is no evidence of free will.

10. How do we account for self-awareness?


11. How is free will possible in a material universe?

Given the laws of physics that we have which are deterministic, there is no free will.

12. How do we account for conscience?

Through extremely complex interactions between neurons and chemicals the exact mechanism by which we don't yet understand. We do know that mind is a product of the brain and there is zero evidence that the mind controls physical brain states.

13. On what basis can we make moral judgements?

We usually assess whether our actions will benefit us and others and whether they will increase harm. We certainly don't use the Bible to make moral judgements, or else we'd actually increase harm and likely end up in jail.

14. Why does suffering matter?

Suffering matters because we recognize that it is a state we don't want ourselves and others to be in.

15. Why do human beings matter?

Because we have the most highly evolved cognitive faculties that allows us to make rational decisions as well as suffer to the highest extent of all other species.

16. Why care about justice?

Because we naturally care about fairness, and justice requires fairness.

17. How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?

Because it was evolutionarily beneficial for our ancestors to believe in false positives (believing in things that weren't there) and this lead to the belief in angels, demons, spirits and gods.

18. How do we know the supernatural does not exist?

For several reasons. (1) because of the reason I gave for number 17 which shows that evolution would have lead to our belief in the supernatural even if it didn't exist; (2) because we have no evidence for it, even though the supernatural is in principle verifiable since it is said to interact with the physical world; (3) assuming that the supernatural exists makes no sense when critically examined. For these reasons we can be reasonably confident the supernatural doesn't exist.

19. How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?

We can and already do know that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain and so when the brain goes, consciousness goes. There are also too many unexplained questions about consciousness and the soul for which no dualist has any satisfactory answers.

20. What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?

It is not an established fact that there was an empty tomb and resurrection appearances. They may have all been made up by the writers of Mark and Matthew, who wrote 40-50 years after the supposed events and were not eyewitnesses. Paul never mentions an empty tomb. See Four facts that aren't really facts.

As you can see, many of these questions probe the "God of the gaps" territory, and some, like the question about languages, are so bad even most Christians wouldn't recognize them as tough questions for the atheist.

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