Saturday, 2 June 2012

20 questions atheists struggle to answer – Links to attempted answers

Last week I put together a list of twenty questions that, in my experience, atheists either won’t or can’t answer and invited coherent responses.

I was 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.

The post generated 2,300 page views and 49 responses in a week and several people attempted to take up the challenge by answering the questions.

I have posted links to these responses below and will add any others to this post that people alert me too.

Those atheists who responded in general seemed to think that the questions were very easy to answer and accused me either of advocating ‘God of the gaps’ or of posing ‘loaded’ or ‘meaningless’ questions.

I have to say that I am not convinced but see what you think.

I will post my own observations about the questions soon (first six here).

The twenty questions

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?

Answers posted on my own blog

1.John Saucier
2.Kees Engels
3.Bagguley

Answers on other blogs

1.Rosa Rubicondior
2.Richard Carrier
3.Confessions of a doubting Thomas
4.Dude ex machina
5.Lady Atheist
6.Sarah Elizabeth
7.Dead-Logic

Christians’ responses to atheists' answers

1.Responses to Rosa Rubicondior (A Christian Word)
2. Biblical Scholarship

Other references to the 20 questions

1.Wintery Knight
2.God's Advocate
3.JillStriff
4.An alternative list of ten questions for atheists (Bitter Sweet End)

16 comments:

  1. I think you would have to be an uneducated, unkind brute to find these questions difficult to answer.

    I suspect you had trouble understanding the short, simple answers atheists gave you. (All of these questions have simple answers ranging from one word to one brief sentence.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, this is ridiculous. Philosophy (and in some cases psychology, cosmology, etc) does try to answer most of these questions, these days usually from a secular perspective. Some questions are easier in kind (like why we have supernatural beliefs) some are harder in kind (like where the universe came from), but even for the latter category, sticking with the God-did-it answers that religion provides is a worse option than simply accepting, humbly, that some questions don't have brilliant answers at the moment. I'd rather accept in a few cases that the best answers we have are highly speculative, rather than actually assent to a highly speculative - or outright mythological - answer.

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  3. Okay, so you think they are not good answers? But they are answers all the same, right? Considering the responses you have received, I think it churlish to defend the stance that atheists struggle to answer them.

    It is all very well saying that you find this plethora of answers unconvincing, but you do not so much as elucidate one single example why they are not convincing. If you were being intellectually honest about these questions, you would make some passing gesture to confronting the answers you have received, rather than dismissing them unchallenged.

    Perhaps this is a question that you struggle to answer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have to laugh about question #8: 8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?

    They wouldn't have known about what was going on anywhere else but in the small area where they lived when the Bible was first written.

    This question doesn't seem to acknowledge what is written in Genesis. Not surprising, since the Bible is full of inaccuracies and absurdities.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You wrote, "I was 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."

    While perhaps unaware of it, by saying that you have "yet to hear" non-religious answers that seem good to you, you are implicitly admitting to confirmation bias. What I think you mean to (unconsciously) say is, you've yet to hear non-religious answers that do not cause anxiety due to their conflicting with your preexisting beliefs. I expect that no non-religious answer would satisfy you for the simple reason that you do not *want* to be satisfied with a non-theistic answer. Clearly there are many compelling and logical non-theistic answers to most of these questions (when they are posed in non-loaded or non-fallacious way), so I have to assume that the problem here isn't with the answers but with the listener. Nosce te ipsum.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for your patience everybody.

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

    ReplyDelete
  7. 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.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why does Peter keep claiming that we haven't answered these? Especially when most of them are poor questions, borne of blatant ignorance?

    More "Christian Honesty"(TM)?

    ReplyDelete
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  11. I'm not surprised that anyone would struggle to answer these; most are misleading in one way or another. Nonetheless, I'll have a shot:

    "What caused the universe to exist?"
    Unsupported premise; it has not been shown that the universe requires a cause.

    "What explains the fine tuning of the universe?"
    More information needed to answer; it is unclear what is meant by "fine tuning."

    "Why is the universe rational?"
    More information needed to answer; it is unclear in what way the asker believes the universe to be rational.

    "How did DNA and amino acids arise?"
    Humanity currently does not have information to answer definitively. The Wikipedia page on this subject has an excellent summary of the current state of research:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life

    "Where did the genetic code come from?"
    "How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?"
    "How do we account for self-awareness?"
    "How is free will possible in a material universe?"
    "How do we account for conscience?
    These questions all have essentially the same answer: human biological systems are the results of evolution by natural selection. This is true for genetic processes, cognitive processes, consciousness, cognitive decision-making and conscience, among many other systems.

    "How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?"
    False premise. Michael Behe's irreducible complexity hypothesis has been thoroughly refuted.

    "How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?"
    Humanity currently does not have enough information to answer definitively. The Wikipedia page on this subject provides an excellent summary of the current state of research:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language

    "Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?"
    Two false premises:
    1) Two thousand years is not "suddenly."
    2) Egyptian and Mesopotamian cities are older.

    "On what basis can we make moral judgements?"
    Actions can be judged to be moral based on whether they increase happiness or cause suffering.

    "Why does suffering matter?"
    Because no one wants to experience it.

    "Why do human beings matter?"
    "Why care about justice?"
    Both questions have essentially the same answer: because human beings have to live together in societies to survive.

    "How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?"
    It is an evolutionary holdover from ancient times, in which we had too little understanding of the natural world to explain things without invoking the supernatural.

    "How do we know the supernatural does not exist?"
    We don't. However, there is no evidence that it does.

    "How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?"
    One way would be if a post-death consciousness could communicate with us. However, all evidence points to the idea that consciousness ends with death.

    "What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?"
    The first two are related only in the Bible, with no supporting evidence from any other sources. Early churches grew through a number of means, including recruitment, political alliances and the use of force.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "All evidence points to the idea that conciousness ends at death"

      That's actually highly disputed. You sir a liar and the reason why arrogance is a detestable quality. Whether you believe in God or not, I can assure you that your modest intellect does not hold the answer to the universe's mysteries.

      Delete
  12. 1. It always existed.
    2. Laws of thermodynamics, equilibrium, physics and chemistry.
    3. Who said it was rational? It doesn't have to be.
    4. Through chemical processes. DNA and amino acids are just chains of proteins.
    5. See above.
    6. See above.
    7. People culturally evolved separate from others and developed their own way of communication.
    8. Because technology and culture advanced enough to allow for such.
    9. Electrochemical reactions in the brain stimulate thought, feeling, and senses.
    10.See above.
    11. Cutting edge physics actually points to no free will. At the planck level its' all 1s and 0s.
    12. See the above 3.
    13. Morality is subjective. We base it off our own moral compass and bounce that off the cultural consensus.
    14. Because it hurts, both emotionally and physically.
    15. Because we don't want to die. We are wired like any animal to survive and spread our genetic information from one generation to the next.
    16. Because of my answers in 13 & 14 & 15.
    17. It's human nature to seek and need answers to make sense of things. It's comforting. Humans are weak-minded.
    18. We don't. Same reasons why we don't know if it even does exist.
    19. We can't until we die. If there's no conscience after death, then it won't matter either way.
    20. Lies.

    ReplyDelete
  13. See, these are some good questions and I can actually respect the person who asked them and im glad there's actually some people who believe in god that aren't just like LOOK WHAT JESUS DID LOOK WHAT JESUS DID

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, most of these questions are quite intelligent. These are questions Athiests are trying to figure out, instead of making up a solution to solve all our problems and give our life meaning.

    ReplyDelete