Sunday, 27 May 2012

Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer

For my answers to the questions below see the following links:
Questions 1-6
Questions 7-11


For others' answers see here

Earlier this week I was involved, on and off, in a wide-ranging 24 hour twitter conversation which has been storified by Dr John Cosgrove under the title ‘Creation, Evolution and Gosse’.

It covered such matters as the origin of man, the evolution of language, the dating of early civilisations and the historicity of the genealogies and the flood narrative in the book of Genesis.

As is usual most of those involved were atheists who follow me on twitter and regularly mock and ridicule my commitment to Christian faith and values.

Again, as is usual in these discussions, it was primarily atheists asking the questions and me giving answers whilst they tweeted my responses with great delight to their followers with accompanying comments such as ‘facepalm extravanganza’.

On Friday night and Saturday morning I asked in return two questions (2 & 7 in the following list) which thus far none of them has attempted to answer despite posting around sixty responses to me in the intervening period whilst I was off-line.

This, in my experience, is the usual response by atheists nowadays in keeping with Richard Dawkins’ recent call to them not to engage in discussion but rather to ‘ridicule and show contempt’ to Christians and their beliefs.

Anyway, I said yesterday that I would post a list of twenty questions that, in my experience, atheists either won’t or can’t answer. So here is an initial list below. There are many more.

I am not, in posting these, saying that atheists have no answers to them, only that as yet in over forty years of discussion with them I am yet to hear any good ones.

Coherent responses are welcome in the comments column below (See my own responses to questions 1 to 6 and 7 to 11).

Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer

1.What caused the universe to exist?

2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

3.Why is the universe rational?

4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

5.Where did the genetic code come from?

6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

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

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

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

10.How do we account for self-awareness?

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

12.How do we account for conscience?

13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

14.Why does suffering matter?

15.Why do human beings matter?

16.Why care about justice?

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

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

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

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

124 comments:

  1. Peter, Peter, are we denying evolution now? And you call yourself a doctor.

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    1. Well, I am a Dr (with distinction, Edinburgh University) with a Science bachelors from Glasgow and a research Masters from St Andrews. I do not believe in evolution. Read that sentence again carefully. What is the verb? A: believe. Evolution is not a scientific theory, for it cannot be disproved. It is what Social Scientists call a 'grand narrative'; a construct around which various ideas are grouped.

      Scientifically there are many, many evolutionary theories, some of which are even mutually compatible. But there is absolutely no scientific proof of its existence. No-one has ever observed a random genetic mutation that has produced a beneficial effect which can be successfully handed on to the next generation. Absolutely no-one ever has seen a new species appear.

      The fact that my non-belief often creates the kind of incredulity and rage that is seen in such as the fundamentalist circles of Iran speaks volume for the evolutionary believers!

      Delete
    2. Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer

      1.What caused the universe to exist?

      Beyond anyone's pay grade. Theories alone. Simple answer: Big bang. (not the TV show).

      2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

      What indicates it is intentionally fine-tuned? It is obeying the laws of physics, not will.

      3.Why is the universe rational?

      Because we live in it, it has to be rational to our minds, or we could never comprehend any of it. Of course, perhaps I'm just a molecule on the fingernail of a giant who holds the universe on his shoulders, and that is not rational.

      4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

      Complex answer. Amino acids form from the "soup" of a world that can support life. I have not taken biochemistry for 30 years, but from what I recall, they form from a combination of the right chemicals, at the right temperature and are by themselves, the building blocks of complex proteins (what we are made of). So, they, like everything else on this planet, evolved from something simpler.

      5.Where did the genetic code come from?

      It is a chemical process that is far too involved to explain here. But it is not *inexplicable* as you are trying to imply. I suggest a book or internet.

      6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

      "Irreducibly complex" - don't you love the language of a creationist or Intelligent Designer! It is complex because we are complex. Comprende?

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

      Lots and lots of people.

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

      They didn't. They were first recorded around this time because Man learned to write. They never just "appeared" - that would be magic.

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

      Demonstrated nicely by your question.

      10.How do we account for self-awareness?

      I think, therefore I am.


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

      Free will is immaterial. It is a choice of a brain that is free.

      12.How do we account for conscience?

      Moral absolutes imbedded within our society for so long that they begin form from the day we are born.

      13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

      Our interpretation of morality and law. Observation.

      14.Why does suffering matter?

      For what??



      15.Why do human beings matter?

      Um, without them, we'd be bacteria?


      16.Why care about justice?

      It is just fair.

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

      Fear, ignorance, religion, church, beliefs in god and vampires, need I go on?

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

      Until someone proves it does, it does not. Logical, aye?

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

      You can't unless you die - for good.

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

      They moved his body and hide it and made up the resurrection story to form a religion. Simple. Smart and sneaky, but simple. That so many people have bought it? Complex....


      Robert Gunn, historian/author.

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    3. "I think, therefore I am." Incorrect. "I think, therefore thinking is." Correct.

      "Until someone proves it does, it does not [exist]. Logical, aye?" Logic and reason are subjective (i.e. According to whose logic, and why is your logic right, and anyone else's wrong?). At one time, no one could prove that atoms existed. Does that mean that atoms didn't exist until they were "discovered"?

      "Complex answer. Amino acids form from the "soup" of a world that can support life..... [t]hey form from a combination of the right chemicals, at the right temperature and are by themselves, the building blocks of complex proteins (what we are made of). "

      Perhaps you might read up on the Miller-Urey experiments. There are two kinds of amino acids - right hand, and left hand. Right hand amino acids are conducive to and support life. Left hand amino acids are detrimental to life, and will not create or sustain it. Every amino acid in the human body is a right hand amino acid. If there were even one left hand amino acid in the body, life could not have come about. In Miller's experiment, he supplied an electrical charge to a chemical compound the same way evolutionists claim it happened in the beginning when there was supposedly this primordial "soup". The result was a chemical compound that did indeed produce amino acids - a mixture of right and left handed amino acids from which it was impossible for life to form because of the left hand amino acids. Miller was never able to produce life, and his experiments proved it impossible to get life from non-living chemical compounds.

      "What indicates it is intentionally fine-tuned? It is obeying the laws of physics, not will."
      Why do some planets rotate backwards? This violates the law of conservation of angular momentum.

      I can go on, if need be?

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    4. Venus is the only planet that rotates backwards (Uranus "rolls on its side"). Venus rotating backwards only violates conservation of momentum if you assume that from its earliest formation it has never been struck by any other substantial object and that it is not subject to any gravitational influences.

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    5. If they presumably Robert means the disciples of Jesus hid the body why would they change from being whimps to openly brave and bold in the face of all opposition from the religious leaders and the Roman authorities? The reason it was reported that Jesus had risen from the dead by women who in those days and in that culture were not respected witnesses is that it happened!

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    6. The entire exercise can be dismissed simply because of the beginning of question number 20... "What accounts for the empty tomb...?" What extra-Biblical evidence is there FOR an empty tomb, or a resurrection for that matter? That is Begging the Question, i.e. basing a conclusion on an assumption that is as much in need of proof or demonstration as the conclusion itself. You can't expect an explanation for something before first proving that it occurred!

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    7. -" 10.How do we account for self-awareness? I think, therefore I am."

      Je pense donc je suis
      René Descarte

      Good one my friend, good one

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  2. Prepare for the (obvious) answers. I will dispense with the ridicule this time.

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  3. I am a doctor and know that descent with modification is an observed biological fact.

    But the notion that all biological complexity arose spontaneously from inanimate molecules in a continuous developmental process purely as a result of blind chance and necessity is highly controversial unproven conjecture.

    I am neither a young earth creationist nor a theistic evolutionist. You know my position on this issue as you follow me closely on twitter.

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    1. "But the notion that all biological complexity arose spontaneously from inanimate molecules..."

      Peter, 'all biological complexity' didn't arise spontaneously from inanimate molecules. Get a clue. Self-replicating molecules arose 'spontaneously' from pre-existing molecules via a mechanism we don't understand as yet but progress is being made. They evolved from there on.

      "in a continuous developmental process purely as a result of blind chance and necessity is highly controversial unproven conjecture."

      What does 'in a continuous developmental process' actually mean here? You're not making sense.

      Evolution is not blind chance.

      What do you mean by 'necessity'?

      You are using mystical-sounding, specious language. Try and be a bit more.....scientific and accurate with your questions.

      Basically you are creating a meaningless strawman which bears only a passing resemblance to reality.

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    2. "Get a clue."

      I always laugh when atheists, who are apparently so self-assured and confident in the rationality of their position, frequently wind up making patronising and agitated comments like this. A little psychological clue?

      "Self-replicating molecules arose 'spontaneously' from pre-existing molecules via a mechanism we don't understand as yet but progress is being made. They evolved from there on."

      Statement of faith / naturalism of the gaps! If irony were wet, there'd be a lot of atheists who'd need to change their t=shirt ;-)

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    3. The meaning of 'necessity' is defined here under 2A.

      See http://www.thefreedictionary.com/necessity

      It's a philosophical term not known to most contemporary scientists as most contemporary scientists don't know anything about philosophy!

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    4. 'bagguley' read what you have just said, "via a mechanism we don't understand as yet but progress is being made" sounds like someone deliberately ridiculing the position of evolutionary believers! Its a quote I will hold onto ...

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  4. 1. Quantum Fluctuations

    2. The appearance of fine tuning is illusory, in a a quantum universe or brane example, you can have an infinite amount of attempts and you would only know about the one you are in because it just happened to be one in which this fine tuning appears to exist.

    3. Nonsense, believing that simplicity implies intelligence couldn't be farther from the truth. The universe is complex and chaotic. If the universe were as rational as you assume, why would there be a need for such things as blackholes, after all if someone just pooped the universe into existence, surely they could have made a universe that didn't seem destined to destroy itself.

    4. mutation

    5 and 6. I will admit, science isn't certain about everything, quite different than religion, which seems absolutely certain about everything.

    7. Well my best guess is that since the entire population of the word didn't start out in the same place, they couldn't very well all speak the same languages.

    8. civilization

    9. consciousness

    10. brain chemistry

    11. it's not possible, free will is illusory, and the appearance to the contrary is nothing more than brain chemistry.

    12. you're making these questions easier, brain chemistry again.

    13. the ventromedial area is responsible for moral reasoning, and can easily be disrupted with environmental changes, something that should not be possible if morals come from God alone.

    14. Whether it matters or not is a matter of perspective, and brain chemistry.

    15. we don't. In the the grand scheme of things we are about as important to this universe as a grain of sand is to a star like VY Canis Majoris.

    16. because civilization without laws isn't likely to progress very far.

    17. indoctrination, a mind free of nonsense does not suddenly think pink elephants made the universe. We are all born atheists, and some of us are indoctrinated into the cult of religion.

    18. oh you got me, we don't. However, lack of evidence does not equal proof of existence.

    19. well that is merely a matter of faith and since you'll be dead before you have the opportunity to find out, you let me know how that goes. If there is, it should be no problem for you to come back and prove it to all of us, much like God proves his existence everyday.

    20. a bible story does not equal fact, so we have to begin by tossing out that nonsense first. once we do that all you have is the growth of church, and that is simple. How do you account for the growth of con artists?

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    1. I love the use of nouns here as answers. Each one requires further definition. Problem is, there is no one fundamental meaning that they can be tied down to. Each one is as slippery as the last one. For example, 'brain chemistry' is not a statement, has no meaning in the context and pretends that the use of the two words is a definitive solution to one of the most difficult problems we face as thinkers.

      Dig deeper and try not to be so self-delusional.

      D (32%)

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    2. Or you could try and actually dispute any of these valid answers you retarded backwards asshat.

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    3. why don't you try to actually find some evidence for your deeeeeep rooted assurance in this topic, because the last time I checked, the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution were exactly what they are named: THEORIES

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  5. 1.What caused the universe to exist? - The Big Bang. A rapid expansion of energy from a singularity. And before you ask: we are still researching what caused it to go 'bang'. Of course, if you may ask about the beginning of the universe, we may ask: what created God? If it always existed, why not the universe? If He was made, by what?

    2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe? - The Laws of Physics. Innate properties of the very material the universe is made of. And just like you can build an entire DNA strand can be made with just four components, and a complete library can be written with just 26 letters, so can an entire universe be made of 12 particles of matter and 4 forces of nature.

    3.Why is the universe rational? - You assume it is, but you measure it by your own ratio. The universe is consistent with the forces of nature, as explained above. Whether or not that's rational depends on your own view.

    4.How did DNA and amino acids arise? - Amino acids can be and have been formed by high speed impacts. Simple and complex hydrocarbons can fuse into amino acids through the heat and pressire of impacts such as a meteorite strike - a common occurrence in Earth's early history.
    As far as DNA goes, we are still researching that. But the fact that we don't YET know doesn't mean we will NEVER know. A common kistake when people fill in a ready-made answer, such as God.

    5.Where did the genetic code come from? - Simple. DNA IS our genetic code. And just like you can combine lego bricks into walls, walls into cubes, cubes into houses and houses into Lego City, so you can combine small sections of rudimentary code to form, over time, a complex chain.

    The first five were surprisingly easy. Moving on :)

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  6. Good to see some attempts to answer these questions that atheists struggle to answer.

    I'll come back and respond later to serious attempts but in the meantime here are the first ten responses to the post from atheists on twitter, which rather amplify what I have said above.

    Apparently the answers to my questions are so easy and obvious that they are not even worth giving. Lol!

    Shane McKee ‏@shanemuk
    Creationists ("progressive" and otherwise), take note! Genesis is mythology. Get over it, @drpetersaunders…http://pic.twitter.com/GoVlzTUq

    1hdavid ramos hernande ‏@peludodavid
    @anarchic_teapot @drpetersaunders http://bit.ly/Ktk4m4 a whole lot of crap in there "doctor"...

    1hJason ‏@Lewishamdreamer
    The Lewisham Dreamer Daily is out! http://bit.ly/biSSDA ▸ Top stories today via @jubileeline @drpetersaunders

    1hRichard Hills ‏@engauger
    @drpetersaunders Really! Even if some #atheists struggle to answer your 20?, science doesn't; Krauss, Dawkins,Hawkin et al@anarchic_teapot

    2hDRodders ‏@D_Rodders
    @drpetersaunders If we dont know an answer, it doesn't mean that we should attribute it to a God

    2hanarchic_teapot ‏@anarchic_teapot
    Nonsense RT @drpetersaunders: Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer http://bit.ly/Ktk4m4 #atheism #apologetics #christianity

    2hDragonblaze ‏@Dragonblaze
    @anarchic_teapot That's putting it mildly. Count the fallacies in that, btw. @drpetersaunders

    2hafricker ‏@africker
    @robineccles @drpetersaunders The slightest research makes these answers very apparent. And they don't involve a GOD.http://bit.ly/Ktk4m4

    2hanarchic_teapot ‏@anarchic_teapot
    Nonsense RT @drpetersaunders: Twenty questions atheists struggle to answer http://bit.ly/Ktk4m4 #atheism #apologetics #christianity

    2hRobin Eccles ‏@robineccles
    RT @drpetersaunders: Twenty questions atheists struggle to answerhttp://bit.ly/Ktk4m4 #atheism >>I got 20/20 what do I win ?

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  7. 6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve? - You incorrectly assume and suggest that the complexity cannot be reduced. As such your question is false. But my answer is still relatively simple: mutation and accretion over time, combined with natural selection.

    7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families? Yet again you falsely assume that not knowing now equals never knowing at all. This, too, is a matter of study; a matter of study currently being studied. It is not scary or wrong to not know everything yet. But progressive knowledge has cleared up many issues in the past.

    8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC? - Suddenly? Villages are known to have existed for many thousands of years before that. Settlements just happened to grow by that time. Why would this be a hard question?

    9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity? - A leading question. Chance and necessity do not rule this world. We are and always have been a social species. In order to thrive in a group, you need to be able to understand other members of that group. This requires independent thought. In other wordt, it fits snugly in the theory of evolution :)

    10.How do we account for self-awareness? See above. To be able to understand another, you need to be able to distinguish between 'you' and 'me'. Evolution provides the basis for that, too.

    Slightly harder, but not controversial in any way. Moving right along :)

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  8. 11.How is free will possible in a material universe? - You assume it is. Who says it is? And yes, that might be a scary thought, but scary =/= false. Of course, society as we know it assumes it for obvious reasons. It is highly impractical to attribute everything to physical processes on a molecular level.

    12.How do we account for conscience? - Easy: society. Concience is a set of values as provided by your natural instincts and your cultural heritage. Instincts such as fight or flight, cultural aspects such as: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. And yet again, subleties came over time.

    13.On what basis can we make moral judgements? - On the basis of aforementioned concience. Your morals differ from those of the Aborigines of those of the ancient Greeks, because your societies differ. Even a Christian from 500 years would condemn you for your liberal views and blasphemous ideas and use of technology.

    14.Why does suffering matter? - Again: does it? Our social attitude is that it does. We can associate the suffering of others with that of our own, and as such we can relate and feel for someone. But this is our collective choice. You falsely assume this is set.

    15.Why do human beings matter? - They don't. If humanity would disappear tomorrow, the rest of nature would be fine. Now bacteria, they matter! Take away those and all of life ceases to exist. We are, for all intents and purposes, a small factor in the grand scheme of things.

    You have made plenty of false assumptions, which is probably why most don't bother to answer. The last five, now.

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  9. I have some more questions atheism doesn't answer:

    21. Who shot Mr. Burns?

    22. Where is Jimmy Hoffa buried?

    23. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

    24-Infinity. Every other question that isn't "Do you believe in god(s)?"

    You are attempting to post questions that SCIENCE can't yet answer. The fact that religion postulates answers without any supporting evidence may be meaningful to you, but isn't to me.

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    1. An African or European swallow?

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  10. Having had many discussions with those Atheists who are civil enough to hold one on equal terms and my conclusion is also simple.
    They are more religious and have more faith than most Christians and are happy to believe their own 'truths' despite lack of proof merely because they support their own world view. No different from Christians really, just different conclusions.

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    1. Where is "faith" to be found in the workings of a brain scanner?

      The quantum physics, the biology, the electronics - all working as predicted and showing an image of a brain from without. Cut the brain open and the technology - founded on centuries of science - is upheld.

      Where is the "faith" in that?

      Where is the religion in dismissing claims that super-naturalists make because these claims don't hold up to scrutiny?

      This "atheists are religious" is a known canard.

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    2. I learned at an early age that 0+0=0. Stephen Hawking said on TV recently. "We now know that everything appeared from nothing". The stubborn fact is that you cannot get anything out of nothing. The universe we live in is made of materials that have a beginning and end. There must have been a miracle some time in the past. God is Spirit, a different dimension to the material universe. We are here because there was something here before nothing "God" We have discovered electricity and radio waves recently. Perhaps you still have to discover that other dimension God the power behind the universe.

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  11. These are of course, merely god of the gaps arguments dressed up to look like science questions. It's a shame Dr Saunders has been unable or unwilling to explain how he has arrived at his 'God Did It!' answer, which must have involved both an examination of all possible natural explanations in order to eliminate them to conclude that a super-natural explanation was the only possible one, then a detailed examination of all possible supernatural explanations in order to arrive at the conclusion that the only possible one MUST be the Christian god.

    It would have been instructive to have been taken through the logical steps in this process and to have done so would have undoubtedly earned Dr Saunders a justifiable world-wide fame as the first person ever to have proved any god.

    I'm surprised he neglected that opportunity especially since he presents his questions with such seeming confidence and especially since, as a man of science, he must be aware of the intellectual dishonesty in presenting a false dichotomy.

    I will, of course, deal with his questions in a blog of my own where I will also challenge Dr Saunders to explain how even a "don't know" answer in anyway established the existence of his favourite god. He will, of course, be given an opportunity to justify his use of the false dichotomy fallacy there.

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    1. My detailed replies may be read and responded to on my blog, Twenty Questions Atheists Have Answered

      Dr Saunders, you are cordially invited to respond. Should you not do so I will assume you find the answers 'good ones' and will henceforth do the honest thing and have the integrity to desist from claiming Atheists struggle to answer them.

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    2. Dr Saunders.

      I notice that your promised response has failed to materialise...

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    3. Dr Saunders.

      I see the response you promised on Twitter for yesterday has still not appeared, on my blog or anywhere else.

      In case you have lost the link, it is Twenty Questions Atheists Have Answered

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    4. Dr Saunders.

      You still appear not to have responded to my blog, other than to wave it aside as 'lots of stuff'. Is there a problem?

      Would it help if I reminded that you claimed to have a list of 20 questions which you have never know Atheists to answer in some 40 years, and that I have either answered every one or pointed you to sources which do just that. I have also supplemented those answers with further simple questions for you which should be easy to answer if you believe what you claim.

      Your task is therefore to either explain why these answers don't answer the questions or why you made a claim which is demonstrably false.

      Or maybe you would prefer to leave people with the impression that you cannot refute the answers but lack the personal integrity to say so.

      Unkind people might conclude that you knew your claim was false when you made it.

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Some interesting questions. I'd like to hear your responses to the serious replies? I am also Christian and discovered your blog recently and I think it's excellent that you continually challenge yourself and the views of others, always representing Christ as you do! May the Lord continue to bless you and support you in your calling and I shall continue to pray for you, that God will strengthen you with the spirit.

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  13. 15.Why do human beings matter? - The don't. If humans were to fall off the face of this planet, life would contunue without hesitation. Now bacteria, they matter! Take thouse out of the equation and all of life on Earth ceases to exist

    16.Why care about justice? - See my previous answers. We are a social species. As such, we have certain social rules in order to make life in a group go smoothly. A direct result of that is that we care when those rules get broken. And to ensure they will be honoured in the future, we tend to enforce the rules.

    17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural? - You falsely assume it's 'almost universal'. In fact, it is not. With some notable exceptions, belief in the supernatural is invertedly proportional to the amount of knowledge and education a society has. Case in point: Europe. The higher the levels of education and prosperity, the lower the faith in any supernatural being. But the more important mistake you make here is the assumption that all supernatural explanations are alike. In fact, most directly contradict each other.

    18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist? - A leading question. We know that the natural exist because we can prove its existence time and again. Also, we can do so without envoking supernatural causes. Since you assume the supernatural DOES exist, the responsibility to prove this lies with you.

    19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death? - Again, leading question. We know that conciousness does not need any supernatural aspects -such as a soul- to exist. As such, the question of life after death becomes irrelevant. But you assume the existence of both. So again it is you who needs to prove its existence.

    20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church? - Your most leading and false question yet. But I promised to answer, so here goes.

    The empty tomb - This morning, my bread box was empty. Did my bread magically rise and walk out? Or did my girlfriend take it out? An empty container does not say anything about the method of emptying.

    Resurrection appearances - All you have for this is anecdotal evidence. Also, other -and older- religions have the same stories. As such, the story has no more historical value than a random Harry Potter story.


    There, answered. An none too difficult. However, judging by your unfair method of questioning I can fully understand the reluctance of others to answer. For that same reason I will not answer such a list again.

    But the most worrying thing about this list is that you're purposely asking for details and leaving the big questions unanswered. Questions about the Bible, for example. Or questions about God. Usually the type of questions which would cause cognitive dissonnance.

    That being said, I welcomed the chance to put your ideas into perspective.


    Kees

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  14. "I am also Christian and discovered your blog recently and I think it's excellent that you continually challenge yourself and the views of others, always representing Christ as you do!"

    - In my humble experience he only picks the minor challenges. As for representing Christ, I might suggest you read a bit more about Him. Some of the good doctor's ideas on how to treat his fellow (gay/atheist/muslim) man very much oppose those of Jesus.

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    1. Such as? See if you can answer this Kees without representing me.

      I have to rush now (talk to prepare and give) but will come back to respond to your points later. Thanks for posting your answers.

      Delete
  15. Well, for one, Jesus loved all men equally. Social outcasts of the time, such as prostitutes and tax collectors were lovingly accepted by him, even defended. And yet you seem to be keen to single out those who do not fit your world view. You have misrepresented the gay community, the atheist world view and the muslim faith on numerous occasions. I have only your twitter feed as a source of information, of course, so I must admit my view is limited.

    But you could just accept my word for it ;)

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    1. I believe you are misrepresenting me here Kees and I am not aware of misrepresenting the gay community, atheist world view or Muslims. If you have a specific charge then make it. Or if not then withdraw it.

      You have made a very serious accusation indeed.

      With respect to love yes of course God loves all people and Christ died for all men and women because we are all equally sinners.

      But he also calls us to repentance (turning from sin) and faith (trusting obedience) and he was equally clear that sex outside marriage was wrong.

      He offers forgiveness to all who truly repent but not all choose to take his offer.

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    2. I think it is very important that you back up your comments. It is erroneous to imply that Jesus loved all men without making any reference to their lifestyles and calling for a change in their lifestyle. So it is entirely Christ Like to love people but disapprove of the choices they have mad in their life.

      However if you have a specific example that you feel backs up your accusation then please state it for discussion.

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    3. It is God's love that gave us His law he tells us it is for a purpose. That we may have better health. That we may prosper. that we may have peace. That it may be a school master that leads us to Christ. These rules are fundamental to civilisation whether they come from the Bible or not. It is clear that to bring up children it is best within a loving relationship between 1 man and 1 woman. This has been pushed one side with disastrous results in the Western World. Disease through casual sex has rocketed. The Christian ethic to control drinking has also been abandoned with the result of no go zones at night time and hospitals full of patients with alcohol related diseases. As churches close new prisons are built because the messages of the Bible are not taught anymore. It is a continue message of " as long as you are enjoying yourself that's great. Make yourself rich. look after no one. Ask me if I care. There is no God it is the survival of the fittest. There's not one of us perfect but we do need to bring God back into our thinking and His love which is to look after you and give you hope as Peter outlines above

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  16. Interesting discussion and have enjoyed reading Kees Engel's replies. I do think from your replies to Q2 and Q5, however, you are not terribly far away from seeing a designer's hand at work. Certainly you'd admit that the creation of libraries full of books has a little more to it than the laws of physics;) And yes, Jesus did love all men equally. We have no idea what the thief on the cross got up to before his crucifixion. He does admit to criminal guilt but not to anything else, and yet, his recognition that Jesus is about to "enter in to" his "kingdom" results in Jesus accepting him straight away, saying: "today you will be with me in paradise". That's grace. How we live "under" grace is another discussion altogether.

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  17. Concience is a set of values as provided by your natural instincts and your cultural heritage. Instincts such as fight or flight, cultural aspects such as: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. And yet again, subleties came over time.
    Kees
    An interesting theory, what troubles me about it though is:
    How come the vast majority of humans have the same conscience values, including many of those who break their conscience. Also your response above fails to address where conscience came from.
    If as many scientists tell us we came into being as a result of some freak accident and we then evolved, presumably from bacteria how come bacteria has no conscience when it causes untold misery to untold members of this planet?
    It is far more logical to believe in a creator and once you accept that there is a creator it is not a big leap of faith to believe that creator would want to continue to be involved in the creation. Again it is not a big leap of faith to believe that that creation was perfect nor is it a big leap to believe that one way or another that creation rebelled anf disobeyed the creator.
    Yet again it is not a big leap of faith to think that the creator would want to repair the creation and ultimately has to accept that some of the creation does not want to be repaired and chooses not to accept what is clear to others who accept the repair.
    Yes I believe we were created in the image of God and that after several failed repairs He sent someone into His creation to provide the ultimate repair and that that someone was His one and only begotten Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah).

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  18. I'll do these five at a time.

    1.What caused the universe to exist?

    That question might not make any sense, like what's north of the north pole or why are unicorns pink? Just because a question can be formed in English doesn't mean it makes sense. But yeah, there might be a 'cause' which isn't like any 'cause' we know or it might be 'uncaused'. This is one of the biggest questions in science, it's not surprising we've not answered it yet what with all the retardation that religion has bestowed upon science and the reluctance of the religious to even accept that we should enquire and investigate this question.

    2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

    The universe is not fine tuned. That's a fallacy. There have been many simulations with vastly differing configurations which produce a universe suitable to life. Having said that, most of this universe (close to 100%) is inhospitable to life.

    3.Why is the universe rational?

    Which meaning of 'rational' do you mean? I can't see any which make the question make sense. E.g. "Why is your television rational". Makes no sense.

    4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

    I've seen that there's a lot of research is going into this (DNA origin) and progress is being made all the time. Amino acids are known to exist in outer space and can form spontaneously due to the laws of physics.

    5.Where did the genetic code come from?

    It evolved.

    This is easy so far. So much for us atheists not being able to answer them.

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  19. 6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

    IC has been proven to be a sham. There are many ways in which allegedly 'irreducibly complex' things evolve but IC is so poorly defined anyway. IC was fatally dealt with in the Kitzmiller trial. Go read a book by Ken Miller for starters.

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

    Certainly not by the imaginary destruction of an imaginary building by an imaginary being who magically confused languages. Many languages have a common ancestor. They arise from isolation of populations.

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

    Are we atheists supposed to be experts on everything? I'm going to have to Google this I'm afraid.

    Oh, it looks like you are wrong.

    City of Çatalhöyük (7500-5700BC)

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

    What? This question doesn't make sense. The world is not ruled by chance and necessity, it's ruled by the laws of physics, which are not random, and which allow independent brains to function.

    Did you actually read these questions before you copied them from an obviously ignorant creationist website?

    10.How do we account for self-awareness?

    Brain function.

    Are these the best questions you can come up with? I can answer most of these questions, so can many others. Your claim that they are 20 questions that atheists struggle to answer is either a lie or born out of sheer ignorance.

    Take your pick.

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    1. Bagguley: "Just because a question can be formed in English doesn't mean it makes sense."

      - just because your answers can be formed in English doesn't mean they make any sense!

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    2. They may not make sense to you, but they are way more cogent than any religious 'argument' I have ever seen.

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  20. Bagguley.. On your comment about the retardation of science by religion.. Please note that many of the most important founding fathers of science where theists.. Eg Keppler, Galileo, Newton, Bacon, Hooke.. even Darwin believed in a creator. The only subject to study at the first universities was initially theology and science grew out of that from men who had faith in the order of the universe (because of their faith in God) and devised methods of enquiry, measurement and experimentation to prove their theories.. Yes there has been bigotry from the church as science has been (and still is) seen as a threat to faith.. But you will find that generally from religious non scientists. In fact science and religion are compatible and complentry with each informing and enriching the other since they answer different questions - both the what and how (science) and those of meaning and purpose (religion). Let's not through the baby out with the bathwater.

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    1. Darwin wasn't much of a Theist. And saying that many men of 'science' from several hundred years ago, when being religious wasn't just the complete norm. but being even the wrong religion could get you killed fast is a bit daft. Times change. Also, this is pure argument by authority - so what if they were 'theists'? If they kept slaves, does that make me morally obliged to do the same? That's not how science works. I respect the discoveries they made - but that doesn't mean I'm obliged to make the same mistakes or follow the same mistaken beliefs that they had.

      A lot of modern science, the bits that creationists especially rail against, were invented by religious people. So what? All it means is that there isn't some grand atheist conspiracy working to somehow put down 'poor innocent religious people'. Science works because it works, and because it has evidence. It's up to you to decide if that is consistent with whatever random faith you have, but it doesn't change reality. Also, pretty much by definition, science precludes the supernatural, meaning that it doesn't actually have much to say on the existence of the supernatural. However, the more we find we can explain with science, the more the 'god of the gaps' idea is seen as unlikely and unnecessary. That's without people making their own decisions about actually disapproving of any or particular religions.

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    2. Jonathan, you confuse the religious beliefs of an individual with the religious organisations to which they may (or may not) belong. It's a fact that religions have, on the whole, retarted scientific advance.

      Darwin, through his discoveries and the death of his children, rejected the idea of a personal god.

      Religion and science are not compatible. Religions make unverifiable, unprovable and often scientifically contradictory claims are only after kicking and screaming are they dragged, by scientific findings, into accepting facts which they long opposed.

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    3. Yes, religions have "retarted" (sic) scientific advance. Oh. Wait...the majority of universities in the world were founded by religious organizations :(

      Not all religions have a problem with the theory of evolution.

      So, there isn't some grand atheist conspiracy but I am to assume that there IS some grand religious conspiracy aimed at science, knowledge and learning. Convenient then that religion has been so involved in learning across the centuries. Even...even to the level of developing concepts of mathematics such as zero and infinity which were necessary and specifically developed in order to advance religious thought. But of course that is all in the past, with some even originating in non-Christian religions so I guess it doesn't count. Atheism on the other hand has brought us...ummm...hmmm...Hitchens!!! Yes! Christopher Hitchens! Because he accomplished so, so much that will last and which moved humanity forward. At least Dawkins is a scientist. Then again, so are Freeman Dyson, Charles Townes, Werner Arber, George Coyne (oddly a Catholic priest and an opponent of Intelligent design, how could that be? Aren't all religious mindless sheep?), Gerhard Ertl, John Gurdon, Brian Kobilka, and on, and on, and on; all believers in fairy tales (or as some would put it, God).
      John Napier utilized the logarithms he invented for analyzing the Book of Revelations to produce dates to correspond with the events described. Newton also spent a great deal of time applying mathematics to the Bible in attempts to work out dates and a deeper meaning of certain passages. Clearly neither of these two were 'religious' in name only. Rather they were religious almost in the extreme; somewhat obsessed with it, as was Pascal. The Big Bang Theory, by the way, was first postulated by the Catholic Monseigneur Georges Lemaître. Einstein also seems to have freely believed in God as well.

      Frankly, God and science are in no way incompatible. Science is the means of gaining knowledge of the physical world and religion or simply belief in God or some other higher power is the means of getting to other answers. The believing scientist generally sees science as a way of understanding the universe that God put here for our unraveling. The idea that there are 20 questions that will prove atheists wrong is as ludicrous as the idea that there are 20 questions that will prove believers wrong. At the bottom of it all there is a mystery. Some choose to believe in one answer to that riddle others choose to believe a different answer. There is no proof of one over the other, except as we accept one unproven idea or another to be valid. I choose to believe in God. Others do not. To me the true losers in this ageless inquiry are those who refuse to entertain the idea that they may be incorrect and either never begin or who cease prematurely the pursuit of a clarification of their position. I have a great many friends who are both atheist and religious. I tend to like the best those who are interested in the deeper questions, whether I agree with their conclusion or not. I like to think that there is a God and that upon anyone's meeting God there will be a generally favorable outlook on those who earnestly sought truth and knowledge regardless of the conclusion they drew.

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  21. Well said, Jonathan.

    And I think Bagguley, when Peter questions why the universe is so fine-tuned, he didn't necessarily mean fine-tuned to be conducive to life as WE know it everywhere?! But clearly there is some very fine tuning in process for us to live, move & have our being on planet earth, and for the stars in the sky not to destroy us but stay in their proper sphere etc. To suggest that there's not fine tuning for such is to have your eyes wide shut. The Bible actually states that 'In Him (Jesus) all things cohere.' You, along with many others, may choose to try and laugh such an idea to scorn, but I humbly warn you that a day will come when the Scriptures (a word of which won't disappear until that moment) will prove it to be true.

    I'm a little taken aback by the harshness of tone expressed in many of the answers here. It seems to me that despite all protests to the contrary, most atheists are simply fearful of ever permitting a 'divine foot in the door'.

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    1. Because many of these arguments are just 'copy-pasta' from sites that really have no idea about science or even rational arguments, parroted here without any thought or justification. Many of them are irrelevant to science or atheism. Peter is supposed to have a scientific training, so people tend possibly tend to hold him to a higher standard than some backwater hick who barely made it out of high school.

      'Fine-tuning' is an iffy topic precisely because if the universe has only a few possible ways of being that would lead to us, then by definition, we could only exist in one of those. If you roll a marble down a conical mountain, it could pick any way down. If however, all routes except one are blocked, then the marble could only reach the bottom on that one route. A passer-by might marvel about 'how well-designed the mountain is' to allow the marble to reach the bottom...

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    2. Barney Barney Barney, did you not read what I wrote?

      Let me spell it out clearly.

      Physicists have calculated other universes which have vastly differing 'constants' which theists claim are 'fine tuned'. They have found that our universe is not specially 'fine tuned' and that many alternatives are possible which would still allow life.

      Heck, I think they've even removed aspects of the physics of our universe and everything still turns out ok. So, the overwhelming evidence is that the universe isn't fine tuned and that many many alternatives are possible.

      Furthermore, we atheists are not fearful of imaginary divine beings, we see no evidence for them, no reason to think they are anything other than human invention and are still waiting for theists to come up with decent evidence and a remotely decent argument to support their assertions.

      All we see, continually, is drivel like Peter Saunders spews out.

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

    It doesn't seem like it's possible in any universe, logically speaking.

    12.How do we account for conscience?

    We evolved as social animals which require things like empathy, cooperation, fairness and so on.

    13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

    By using reason and logic, taking into account the effect the actions have.

    14.Why does suffering matter?

    Because sentient beings don't like it.

    15.Why do human beings matter?

    We don't, on a universal scale, matter one jot. We matter to ourselves and to others, but we don't matter to penguins, killer asteroids or killer viri. It's a matter of perspective.

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  23. 16.Why care about justice?

    It's important for social coherence.

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

    It's not universal. Most animals don't seem to be burdened by it but it's probably mis-firing of our pattern recognition and predator (agency) detection systems.

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

    We can be pretty sure it doesn't, based on the distinct lack of evidence and on the way in which we know the universe actually works and on how we gain (and test) knowledge.

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

    We can't because it doesn't. Consciousness is a property of the brain and therefore dies with it, a bit like how it disappears when the brain sleeps.

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

    What accounts for golden plates, seer stones and the growth of Mormonism?

    Seriously, this is a ridiculous question.

    The empty tomb was probably a myth or a mistaken story turned into a myth by zealous believers, just like zealous believers fall for and create stories they want to be true all the time. Resurrection appearances were also stories, made up, we have no actuall witnesses you know, only vague and anonymous stories which we know have been edited and altered. The growth of the church was largely down to the Romans choosing christianity for politically expedient reasons.

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    1. Good shooting bagguley.
      But re the supernatural – does anyone have to account for what someone else believes? As with religion, the onus is really on the believer to make a watertight case – if he so chooses.The supernatural is a moving target anyway. The unexplained, with its buzzing swarm of naysayers, sarcastics, ridiculers and speculative theorists, will eventually either transition to enlightenment or sink from sight as irrefutable nonsense. A stone (a fragment of stony meteorite) has never plonked sizzling in farmer’s field. It can’t have, because we know there are no stones up in the sky – once went the ostensibly rational argument.

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  24. I know I'm going to regret joining this debate, but here goes.

    I've posted answers to these questions (OK, so ignored three of them) on my blog:

    confessionsofadoubtingthomas.blogspot.co.uk

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  25. Any other takers before I come back at you all? :-)

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  26. Tackle these replies first. There will be plenty more material, depending on your answers ;)

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  27. There are several issues here-- the deepest is the pretense that 'science' (taken as scientific materialism) is a pure form of knowledge that does not depend upon axioms or a philosophy of science prior to it; that it is a self-sufficiently complete system of knowledge and truth; in short, that if you pull hard enough on your suspenders you can lift yourself into the air.

    The idea of "Scientific proof" as the test of true knowledge is not itself capable of scientific proof-- that is, it cannot be measured by weight, volume, colour, material analysis, nor reproduced experimentally, by any of the tools of proper scientific enquiry.

    Equally, scientific materialism as applied to human life is an absurdity, since nobody actually lives, acts, or conducts themselves that way-- or should be committed to a psychiatric hospital if they do. Such materialism does provide a scope for self-importance, selfishness, and keeping God's nose bloody well out of our business, which surely is a motive for believing it-- as Sartre found when playing with matches as a child (look it up).

    Neither the Greek fathers of the sciences nor the long train of thinkers and inventors down the ages who were Christian would think very much of atheistic materialism-- they would rightly warn that power without conscience or only such conscience as allowed by convenience or current fashion is the very power of chaos and leviathan turned loose upon the world, and ultimately, upon humanity itself by those who use our powers of knowing and making to control the world, and other people, and the future.

    The cautionary tale of Frankenstein and his monster are a warning we do not want to hear. The full title is "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus"-- reminding us that modern science, like the fire which the mythical Prometheus stole from the god to give to men, is a dangerous force, and that in the old tale, in addition to fire, humans were filled with blind hopes: power, and blindness. Unintended consequences. We never meant for that to happen.. but it did.

    Most of Dr. Saunders' questions remain unanswered by the attempts above, because mere description does not answer the "Why anything exists at all" question, any more than you can explain away Shakespeare by describing marks upon paper, quills and ink, or the composition of the wood used in The Globe Theatre.

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    1. The idea of "Scientific proof" as the test of true knowledge is not itself capable of scientific proof-- that is, it cannot be measured by weight, volume, colour, material analysis, nor reproduced experimentally, by any of the tools of proper scientific enquiry.

      If you are asserting there is some other way of assessing the truth of the way the world works, you are welcome to go ahead and try it.

      You confuse philosophical materialism and methodological materialism.

      Asking "Why" anything exists pre-supposes a purpose and therefore a creator. It doesn't allow for the possibility of there being no creator or no reason, it is therefore not an open enough question.

      Delete
  28. I also have a Atheist Challenge...http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-atheist-challenge/


    And a Theist (Christian) Challenge... http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/the-christian-theist-challenge/

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  29. Gosh these questions really opened my eyes ! I've been an atheist for over 40 years and it never occurred to me to think about the origins and development of the universe ! I'm so confused now, I don't know what to think ! Save me, Jesus !

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  30. One question theists never answer because they refuse to address it - if God created the universe from whence came God?

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    1. Chris: "One question theists never answer because they refuse to address it - if God created the universe from whence came God?"

      Demonstrably and laughably false.

      Take a look at Who Made God?

      Professor Edgar H. Andrews (BSc, PhD, DSc, FInstP, FIMMM, CEng, CPhys.) is Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and an international expert on the science of large molecules. In 1967 he set up the Department of Materials at Queen Mary College, University of London, and served both as its Head and later as Dean of Engineering. He has published well over 100 scientific research papers and books, together with two Bible Commentaries and various works on science and religion and on theology. His book From Nothing to Nature has been translated into ten languages.

      Edgar Andrews was an international consultant to the Dow Chemical Company (USA) for over thirty years and to the 3M Company (USA) for twenty years. He was a non-executive director of Denbyware PLC throughout the 1970s and for five years a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Neste Oy, the national oil company of Finland. He also acted for many years as an expert scientific witness in a variety of cases in the British High Court and in courts in USA and Canada.

      In September 1972 he was one of four specially invited speakers at the dedication symposium of the Michigan Molecular Institute, two of the others being Nobel Laureates Paul Flory and Melvin Calvin.

      At the Oxford Union ‘Huxley Memorial Debate’ in 1986 he debated with Richard Dawkins on the motion, ‘That the doctrine of creation is more valid than the theory of evolution’. (Recordings of the debate are available on the Internet).

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    2. Are you claiming Chris' question is so obviously and laughably false that although you have the killer response at your idle fingertips, you would rather inveigle us into the anarchic netherworld of the Internet, there seek that same truth from strangers? You indolent, heartless, prankster you!

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  31. I find it very disturbing that a professional doctor like Peter would display such delusional thinking. How desperate he must be to preserve the emotional prop his faith provides! Personally, I wouldn't wish to be treated by someone this irrational - so since the CMF claims to have 4500 members I'd better start checking who I'm dealing with. Is there a public list of members?

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    1. I sincerely hope that Dr Saunders uses the same technique of self-deluding compartmentalised thinking that he uses to segregate his superstition from ordinary life when it comes to treating his patients.

      I certainly hope he doesn't treat them for every ailment in the book on the grounds that lack of any evidence that they suffer from them is not evidence of absence of the condition, or that his belief they are ill means they must be.

      I hope, in medical matter, he relies on science, logic and reason, like normal people do in everyday life.

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    2. I have no problem with a doctor having a religiously held belief of some description. Even a doctor that is treating me. What I would have a problem with is a doctor that dismisses evolution based on that religious belief when the evidence is enormously stacked in evolution's favour. Especially since so much of modern medicine is based on the idea that we have evolved.

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  33. (Sorry for dp)

    Hello Peter,

    I'm late to the party, but I've started answering your questions over on my blog: http://www.thepolemicalmedic.com/2012/06/20-atheist-answers-to-questions-they-supposedly-cant/

    Enjoy life,
    Thrasymachus

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    1. Thanks. Let me know when you have finished it and I will link you on the answers page.

      I've had a look at your initial response. Can I suggest, especially given that you are a medical student, that you are better to avoid any ad hominem attacks and just let the force of your argument speak.

      And don't make assumptions about my background. I studied philosophy at university before doing medicine.

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  34. Thank you for your patience everybody.

    I have now posted my answers to the first six questions at http://bit.ly/KYwwdW

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  35. Hmmm. My responses keep disappearing after several hours. I wonder why that could be? Are you deleting them in the hopes that people will assume I used bad words? All I did was (correctly) point out your status as the single greatest reason for anyone who is reading this to completely disregard the Christian faith, an otherwise perfectly respectable religion.

    Or maybe, just maybe, your carefully constructed wall of denial and self importance is starting to crumble. You cannot stand to acknowledge the fact that you are a joke to some and an embarrassment to 1.5 billion others. You could just ignore what I wrote, like you have ignored literally everything else I and others have written that does not consist of praise for you as the second coming of Jesus, but if you do not have the last word then you just can't live with yourself.

    Or maybe this is all just a computer glitch or something. That must be it, since you have such impeccable integrity.

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  36. http://dead-logic.blogspot.it/2012/05/20-questions-atheists-struggle-to.html

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  37. What is the problem with anyone not having a good, plausible, evidence-supported answer to these questions?

    Why do "atheists" have to answer these questions?

    Surely, scientists and historians should be answering these questions - not the populace of people who merely don't accept the rubbish conjecture of super-naturalists.

    Why not point out that "plumbers have never answered these questions"?

    Theologians certainly don't have any answers to these questions.

    Science - the humility to admit that you don't know answers to questions and the gumption to go and find out.

    Theology - the arrogance in "knowing" that your god is fact without any shred of evidence and that lack of knowledge is no barrier to be able make things up and criticise those who admit they don't know.

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    1. Indeed for several of them a sufficient answer is "We don't know - yet". The implication that theism's answer to them - Goddidit - is the only possible answer is fatuous.

      Delete
    2. No, it isn't. Although it may well be correct, it isn't sufficient because you are implying that you DO know that certain possibilities are ruled out.
      If you stick at 'we don't know-yet', that, by itself, is a statement of faith because there is no evidence given.

      Delete
    3. I'm not sure science and humility go quite together at all times. Surely the commercial applications of science at times leave a lot to be desired with regard to humility as well as side effects. Likewise theology and arrogance are not always yokemates. Theology spends a great deal of time and energy asking why or what or tries to figure out those answers.

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  38. Some of these questions are an embarrassment.

    An embarrassment to anyone who genuinely feels that there are no substantive, evidence-based answers to them within the last forty years.

    And some of them are disingenuous, for example, no. 2. Please justify the position that the universe was finely-tuned.

    Some of them are putting the burden of providing the answer to the question to the wrong side, e.g., no. 18. When will super-naturalists provide evidence for the supernatural?

    Question no. 8. Really? No-one's provided in the last forty years a substantive evidence based answer to the rise of large communities?

    Cities had appeared "all over the world" by three-thousand years ago? Which cities in North America or Britain existed three-thousand years ago?

    Doesn't it worry people that this basic error appears in the question?

    Doesn't it embarrass people who know that there is archaeological evidence for settlements in Britain as long as 10,000 years ago?

    Is it so difficult for people to work out how smaller communities might get better at producing food and managing their resources so that they get larger and larger and form bigger communities?

    Is it really plausible that this evidence hasn't been stripped down, examined and become accepted fact just because it was someone's idea?

    Is it really plausible that no-one has written about it within the last forty years?

    This is just embarrassing.

    Do people really think question no. 8 is something "atheists" can't answer? Even "theists" can answer it without resorting to a holy text!

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    1. I agree. I can't see the relevance of most of these to the question of whether or not there is a God.

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  39. "On Friday night and Saturday morning I asked in return two questions (2 & 7 in the following list) which thus far none of them has attempted "

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

    More embarrassment.

    Why, even now god is working his miracles, creating more languages as we speak.

    Why, even in our own lifetimes, god has introduced street-patois, innit, as a sign of his benevolence and creativity.

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

    One, single, global, non-evolving, static spoken and written language: now that WOULD be an argument in favour of a designed, divinely inspired language.

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  41. 1. What caused the universe to exist?
    This question presumes both creation ex nihilo and extrapolates the logical, unidirectional continuity of causality into unknown contexts. It is not an open-ended question from a standard position of available knowledge. A more proper phrasing of this question might be: Are the boundaries of existence temporally located? Do classical laws of physics operate the same on the scale of and in the context of singularities? Given what is known thus far about quantum physics and entanglement, it is not safe to presume the applicability of classical physics and logic with regards to the furthest limits of the known states of the universe.

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  42. http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/2012/06/20-questions-for-theists.html

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  43. Peter. You're an educated person. I find it bewilderingly strange you'd ask such silly questions. How can you believe the ridiculous nonsense comprising Christianity and its sordid foundation in Jewish mysticism?

    1. See Lawarnce Krauss, "Universe From Nothing."

    2. See Victor Stenger "Fallacy of Fine Tuning."

    3. Rational means making a commitment to using reason, the faculty of integrating the facts of reality into cognition, as the sole way of acquiring knowledge, making judgements, analyzing facts of reality. These things can only be done by a living biological being with a brain that has the faculty of reasoning. The Universe is a fancy name we give to the set of all that exists. Sets are groupings composed of concepts that are derived by abstracting facts via cognitive awareness. Only a being with the faculty of reasoning can form sets. Existence exists, but it can't think. Neither, then, can it be rational. Man, however, can be rational if he wants to be.

    4. Best guess: abiogenesis. See Robert Hazen, "Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins"

    times up gotta go.

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  44. Peter, you're a narcissist. You must really miss Christopher Hitchens.

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  45. 1. The Big Bang.

    2. The Anthropic Principle

    3. Sometimes it ISN'T (research Chaos Theory, quantum mechanics, Heisenberg uncertainty, etc).

    4. DNA from RNA. Amino acids from basic reducing chemicals and light or heat (Tested in lab!)

    5. Evolution (The evolution of the genetic code has actually been tested in the lab!)

    6. By small changes made to functional, reducible, smaller enzyme chains which had a slightly different function. According to Michael Behe's definition of irreducible complexity, there's no reason this couldn't happen.

    7. Lingual evolution (again, observed to happen, and traceable through time by studying writings). Out of curiousity: what on earth is the alternative? Separate creation events for each language family?

    8. There are many cities that date back to much earlier than 4000 BC. The 'city bloom' between 3000BC and 1000BC pales in comparison to the modern city bloom (1700 - 2000AD).

    9. By being an emergent feature (independent emergent features CAN arise from strictly probabilistic and necessary forces, as seen in computers)

    10. Brain size. Get smart enough, make enough neuron connections, and you become self aware. Tested in the lab by studying when babies become self aware. (I've always wondered about the theist response to this: If self awareness is rooted in the soul, but babies aren't self aware for a few months after birth, then does that mean that babies don't have souls?)

    11. Compatibilism. (Again... what on earth would the theist alternative be? How is free will possible in an IMMATERIAL universe?)

    12. Same answer as #10 (and same counter-question for the theist, only substitute 'being asleep' for 'being a baby': if consciousness can only be made by our soul, and not our brain, then where does our soul go when we're unconscious?)

    13. Empathetic libertarianism (my favorite!).

    14. Because it directly affects our lives, and the lives of those we love. (For theists: Imagine a godless universe, where a loved one is suffering. Does this suffering still matter?)

    15. Because human beings can think, feel, love, decide, create, struggle, and reason! (For theists: Imagine a universe ruled by a pantheon of gods. Do they matter? Now reduce it to one.)

    16. Because it can prevent suffering and allow for greater freedom. (For theists: Why does God care about justice?)

    17. Human tendency to anthropomorphize and follow superstition. (For theists: why have most cultures been polytheistic?)

    18. We don't! But I believe I can show the very distinction between 'supernatural' and 'natural' to be vexed. (For theists: Why do you not accept gamma radiation as supernatural?)

    19. I LOVE this question! There are many ways to show this:
    1. Test claims of spirit 'floating' by putting screens of randomized images in locations where ordinary people can't see them.
    2. Randomized trials testing supposed spirit telepathy via normal ESP-symbol cards.
    3. Randomized trials testing accurate 'knowledge of death' scenarios (i.e., people who claim to see souls exactly state when a person has died, despite having no conventional means of knowing).
    4. Randomized soul-password trials (Give living persons randomized passwords. After their deaths, have those passwords checked against the claimed 'soul').
    5... obviously I could go on forever.
    (For theists: You could list dozens of these tests off the top of your head. How is it that you know (and I know) that all of them will fail, consistently, all the time?)


    20. Begging the question: I don't think there WAS a resurrection. Empty tomb itself is questionable, but has several easy possibilities. Growth of the church is not unusual when compared to cults.
    (For Christian theists: How on earth do you explain the missing 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, the angelic visitations to Joseph Smith's friends, and the rapid growth of the Mormon church? Do ANY of these points give validity to the church's teachings?)

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  63. I'll just take a look at number 12.

    Christians and the other major faiths believe that at the heart of the universe there is Love.
    Atheists make an opposite and opposing statement, that love has no supernatural aspect.

    Let's say "Survival of the fittest" is a universal law. Misunderstood by eugenicists and appropriated by totalitarian regimes to mean the human race would best survive and thrive by selfish behaviour.

    In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins consistently finds the opposite is true, 'selfish' genes 'act' on us, their host organism, to behave altruistically. Time and again the book considers different species and finds broadly mutually altruistic behaviour results in the best possible outcome for successful evolution (though there is no Utopia as such because individual selfish outliers always redress the balance).

    But of course we are not consciously aware of our genes action to propagate so what acts on us to behave altruistically? Dawkins didn't say, perhaps because it is so obvious, that it is love.

    Love drives the urge to mate and to protect and nurture the young. The desire to love and be loved, to be thought well of, builds friendship and community. Humans despair without it. Mammals are born helpless, human mammals the most helpless of all. Infants would barely survive a day without constant nurturing, let alone the hours and days and years of parental commitment it takes to successfully bring a human to maturity.

    So. Could the human species have evolved to its current level of consciousness without love? Did Love make us?

    Evolution is not just about random mutation, natural selection is governed by a law dubbed Survival of the Fittest. If Dawkins is correct and Survival of the Fittest actually means Survival of the Altruistic, is "Love made us" also an observable truth as well as a Christian assertion?

    Christian teaching, though undermined by rigid authoritarian dogma, is at its best about urging the propensity for selfishness on to an ideal of universal and constant altruism because it is the best outcome. Dawkins' examination of 'Prisoner's Dilemma' game theory in the closing chapters of The Selfish Gene finds the same strategy to be the most successful.

    Of course while there are degrees of liberal and orthodox Christianity, and degrees of 'militant' and humanist atheism, ultimately the faithful believe the human capacity for love somehow slips its carbon-based moorings, and atheists don't.

    Point is, "God's Law" i.e. if we're not good to each other we fail to thrive... If you're a believer in an authoritarian God then call it a law in the sense of an edict. If you're an atheist then simply consider it a law in the sense of an axiom.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Excellent questions. I have come to realise that atheists are in a state of continual self-contradiction, especially when they start moralising and judging. Keep up the good work Peter. Make sure your prayer life is active. God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  65. Why do we have male and female? If we all "evolved" from an asexual bacteria, why would sexual reproduction be needed. Think of the positives of asexual reproduction ..1) no looking for the right mate 2) quicker turn around time.

    In line with my first question for evolutionists....Which sex came first? Male or female? Did they just happen to show up at the right place and the right time and discover that sex feels good and can create babies?

    ReplyDelete
  66. Having had many discussions with those Atheists who are civil enough to hold one on equal terms and my conclusion is also simple.

    ReplyDelete
  67. I am a doctor too (PhD in math and computer science). I believe in evolution, but not in Darwinian evolution. The only intellectual ground to believe in Darwinian evolution is that without Darwinian evolution, one would have to believe in creation - and therefore believe in God. However, careful study of the performance of Darwinian systems (I work in this field) didn't find any evidence of Darwinian evolution being able to substantially increase the degree of complexity of the field it is applied to. Evolution works inside a particular species. Inter-species evolution and co-evolution theories are totally incompatible with the age of the universe.
    As a human, I am a Christian (and therefore a creationist!); as a scientist, I can't negate the evidence of some form of intelligent design - probably what the philosophers call a "primary creator being".
    By the way, I agree with atheists that God doesn't exist: if God is the creator of the universe, he can't be part of it. God doesn't exist: he IS. And out of the reach of science. We only can describe some of his properties, but science and intelligence and whatever is part of the universe is unable to comprehend him.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Oh, boy. Somebody's been reading Lee Strobel too often. I'll start with this site: www.caseagainstfaith.com

    Now onto the issues:

    1.What caused the universe to exist?

    Don't know. Doesn't mean goddidit.

    2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?

    It's not fine-tuned for life. You're assuming your conclusion without proving it. Your logic is ass-backwards.

    3.Why is the universe rational?

    Another lie. The universe is neither rational or irrational. It simply exists. It is neither caring nor cruel nor indifferent. It is as conscious and rational as a rock.

    4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?

    Abiogenesis. The specifics are unknown, but we do know it's possible. Look up the Miller-Urey experiment.

    5.Where did the genetic code come from?

    See above.

    6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?

    Study evolution. If you believe it to be nonsensical, kindly do us a favour and stop getting vaccinated against the flu every year.

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

    Human migration.

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

    The shift from hunter-gatherer societies to agrarian societies.

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

    More garbage. Chance does not "rule" the universe. You seem to be assuming that the laws of physics, chemistry etc are ruled by chance and necessity.

    10.How do we account for self-awareness?

    Study neuroscience and the evolution of animal brains.

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

    Self-awareness, sentience and education. Free will is impossible if an omnipotent and omniscient god exists. Try harder. Your lack of effort is really showing.

    12.How do we account for conscience?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQUxmJR9a5Y

    Counter-question - how do you account for the lack of conscience in psychopaths if your god supposedly wrote the moral law on our hearts?

    13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?

    On the effects of acts on suffering and happiness, which is what morality is all about (unless you're brainwashed or evil).

    14.Why does suffering matter?

    Because suffering is bad by definition. It obviously matters little to you, being an anti-choice pro-suffering prick.

    15.Why do human beings matter?

    Because we are sentient (self-aware).

    16.Why care about justice?

    Because fairness leads to a happier, healthier society.

    Thank you also for implying that the ONLY reason you have refrained from killing (which does not always include murder) is because god told you to.

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

    Because, as sentient beings, we are curious and tend to implant "explanations" for things we do not fully comprehend.

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

    Because there's no evidence for it. Why do you disbelieve in Vishnu, Krishna and Mithra?

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

    We can't, but all the evidence suggests that our consciousness ceases to exist upon death.

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

    Got any sources outside the Babble? Until you can produce any corroborative evidence, the bible will remain fictitious.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Once again, the mistake is made of confusing the debate between (existence of a god vs non existence of a god) and (existence of the Christian god vs non existence of the Christian god). Arguments for the existence of "a god" make me stop and think and while non-persuasive, do give me food for thought. However, those arguments don't even state anything about the Christian god. In effect all you've done is give some weak arguments for deism and smugly slapped a Christian label on them.

    ReplyDelete
  70. 1.What caused the universe to exist?
    The Big Bang. What caused the Big Bang? I don't know. But let's not make up fairy tales until we know. Cause we will.

    2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?
    There's no reason to think the fundamental physical constants are variables. There are indeed constants. Just remember it's non-sequitur to suggest the Christian God follows from creation/design. Even if there was a designer, it doesn't follow from there that it's still around, that is alive, that is only one, that cares about us, that listens to prayers, that had a son, that has any of the Biblical God's attributes, that cares about what church we go to, or whether we go at all, that cares in what position we have sex or with whom, etc. I always perceive that behind the Intelligent Design arguments there's always a Christian agenda. That's so intellectually dishonest.

    3.Why is the universe rational?
    There's no reason to think it is. It's more like our brains evolved to make sense of it.

    4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment

    5.Where did the genetic code come from?
    It evolved.

    6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
    What a contradictory question: is something is irreducibly complex, how could have evolved? The answer is it couldn't be both. If there are irreducibly complex enzymes they didn't evolve. If those enzymes evolved they are not irreducibly complex.

    7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?
    You should ask linguists, not atheists.

    8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?
    Ask historians and anthropologists, not atheists.

    9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?
    Chance? There's no chance.

    10.How do we account for self-awareness?
    Associative areas in the brain that combine an element of I-ness, an element of now-ness and element of here-ness along with emotions.

    11.How is free will possible in a material universe?
    Free-will is an illusion.

    12.How do we account for conscience?
    Refer to the evolution of the human brain, more precisely the evolution of the social cortex, aka, the pre-frontal cortex.

    13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?
    Moral sentiments and social emotions, sympathy, empathy, culture, law, etc.

    14.Why does suffering matter?
    Cause of the parts of the brain that govern sympathy, empathy and innate revulsion to hurting and killing.

    15.Why do human beings matter?
    Same as 14.

    16.Why care about justice?
    We have no choice. Our sense of justice is a moral sentiment and social emotion genetically contained.

    17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?
    By-product of the misfiring of cognitive mechanisms that are not perfect.

    18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?
    It might as well exist, but whatever comes into contact with our reality at any point, it can be observed and measured and quantified, it stops being supernatural to become natural.

    19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?
    I don't know. I'm not sure we can know that. Maybe one day we might find the way. For now there's no good reason to think our consciousness remains after death. Mind is what the brain does, and when the brain dies the mind dies with it.

    20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?
    Mythology, word of mouth, rumors, human gullibility, political agendas, mythical elaboration, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  71. It is so refreshing to see the level of scientific knowledge displayed by ordinary people that is evidenced on this page. I work with a bunch of engineers and have lots of friends in research and various sciences and I have to say that rarely, at work or social outings, do I get as much scientific knowledge thrown at me as I do on here.
    Now, the next time Yahoo runs an article decrying the lack of science education among the population I shall be able use my comment to point them to this location. Why are you all holding onto the evident genius displayed here??? Please, please publish your research! I suspect that this gathering of great minds could, in three days, wipe out cancer and get us to Mars or the sun and almost as an afterthought figure out a way to overcome our dependance on fossil fuels!

    ...oh, BTW on number one don't use the Big Bang Theory as an answer. It was first postulated by a Catholic Monseigneur, Georges Lemaître. It kind of shoots the all religious people are idiots trope in the foot ;)

    ReplyDelete
  72. Here is what I don't understand...If everything is evolving and changing and adapting..why is the original species still around? If we truly are an evolved ape...why do apes still exist at all?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Americans are related to Europeans, why are there still Europeans ...

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  74. 1) We don’t know exactly yet – quantum fluctuations is most likely
    2) Who says it is “fine tuned” – Stating that the universe is fine tuned is the same as stating that a hole in the ground has been fine tuned to exactly fit the puddle of water that fills it. Classic “Arse about Face argument from ignorance”
    3) Define “rational”
    4) DNA did not arise in the sense that it was created in its current form from base chemicals without any intermediate steps. DNA has itself evolved from earlier self-replicating systems. Amino acids have been formed in processes analogous to conditions on early earth and/or in the solar system.
    5) See 4
    6) Prove that irreducibly complex enzyme chains exist
    7) Any grouping of animals isolated from its siblings generates different language systems. The longer the isolation the greater the changes. If groups became isolated before complex language had evolved then the co-evolution of language would be much more distinct. By tracking the similarities and differences in languages it is possible to identify when and where groupings became isolated. Different languages document the evolution of humanity
    8) Who says they did? The Early Jormon era in ~10000BCE suggests this question is factually wrong.
    9) A meaningless question. The fact that each human experiences a different social, environmental and educational system determines that each responds to stimulus in a very different way.
    10) Self-awareness is a function of increased complexity of the brain due to evolution. The ability to predict the result of an external stimulus based on both personal experience and memories of witnessing events.
    11) Define material universe. The universe is “blind” and “uncontrolled” so cares not for your decisions. In the sense that if you jump off a building you have forfeited the “free will” to stay that high above the ground as gravity trumps your will power.
    12) See 9 and 10
    13) Empathy – Morality is a codification of empathetic responses required to enable social living
    14) Outside the religious leadership, who says it does?
    15) We don’t
    16) See 13
    17) Two reasons a) Humans have evolved brains that are extremely good at pattern seeking we see cause and effect continuously (I rub two sticks together and make fire) When we see an effect (sun rising, tides, thunder, earthquakes, seasons changing, death) we therefore expect a cause. If we can’t *see* a cause, primitive humans attributed the effect to the supernatural (gods or witches). “god” is a useful place holder to stick into those gaps of our understanding. This created “gods”. b) Rulers discovered that “god” is a useful social control mechanism and so adopted, codified and structured god worship in order to help control the population.
    18) The null hypothesis. We invented the supernatural to explain the unexplained. We have yet to find anything that “requires” a supernatural.
    19) This I think is a difficult question for the religious to answer. You’re the ones claiming that there is an existence after death yet have provided zero evidence to demonstrate it.
    20) a) Prove that a tomb (empty or full) ever existed. b) Prove that the resurrection occurred. c) As for the growth of the church see 17)

    ReplyDelete
  75. The author is correct.....I see NO "good" answers to these 20 questions.....at least not here, not among any of these efforts to answer them.....very good questions.....no reasonable answers seen here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You see no reasonable answers because the reasoning portion of your intellectual faculties is in the off position. Turned off by the theology that has rusted your mental circuitry. The premise of these question is wrong. Atheists don't struggle with the answers to them. We have perfectly reasonable, rational answers. It is the theist you struggles to find reasonable answers. You have the same silly, unsubstantiated answer for every one of these questions: God did it. Nevermind that you have not one iota of credible, empirical evidence to warrant supporting the claim that God exists.

      Delete
  76. Perhaps there is no correct answer yet; and perhaps there never will be. But I'm sure there are over 20 questions religious believers would struggle to answer. There is no need to pick people who believe different things out to the other people, as we are all equal, and have the right to believe whatever we want to/don't want to.

    ReplyDelete