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SOME ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS--ANSWERED

Written by: Jackson, Wayne    Posted on: 04/29/2003

Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics

Source: CCN

                       SOME ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS--ANSWERED                                        by                                  Wayne Jackson

        In establishing the case for the existence of God, we attempt to     present clear reasoning, buttressed by factual data, that will lead to     a rational conclusion, namely, that the universe, mankind, etc., are     not self-explanatory. Rather, logical minds must conclude that a     Supreme Being exists. Our approach is positive; we are affirming a     proposition for which adequate evidence exists.  Atheism, on the other     hand, is a totally negative system. It denies much and affirms nothing.     It robs one of hope and offers emptiness in exchange. It asserts that     there is no transcendent Cause for the universe; man is a mere freak of     nature---a fortuitous combination of molecules. Morality does not     exist, or if it does, man, as his own "god," determines its nature.     Atheism is a philosophical system of contradiction and confusion.

        Atheists do, however, attempt to argue their case---pitiful as the     attempt may be. In this article we will analyze two of the popular     arguments employed in defense of atheism.

                            NON-DESIGN NEGATES GOD?

        In contending for the existence of God, theists utilize the     "design" argument, which postulates the premise that where there is     purposeful design, there must be a designer. That this type of     reasoning is valid, admits of no doubt, especially for those who     respect the authority of the Scriptures (which an atheist obviously     would not), since it is employed by an inspired writer. Paul, in his     powerful epistle to the Roman saints, declared: "For the invisible     things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being     perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power     and divinity; that they may be without excuse" (1:20). We may thus     logically argue:

        1. If the universe evidences purposeful design, there must be a            designer.         2. But, the universe does evidence purposeful design.         3. Thus, the universe must have had a designer.

        The basic point of contention, from the atheistic vantage point,     would be the minor premise. The infidel denies that the universe     reveals purposeful design. He therefore feels that he can reverse the     argument and make his point against the existence of God. He would     reason (incorrectly) as follows:

        1. If the universe evidences the traits of non-design (i.e.,            chaos), there is no designer.         2. But, the universe does evidence non-design.         3. Thus, the universe had no designer.

        The argument is totally invalid for several reasons. First of all,     in arguing our case for design, we are not obligated to show obvious     design in every single feature of the universe. We need only a     reasonable number of sufficient evidences to establish design, hence, a     Designer. Here are two vital principles that absolutely must be kept in     view:(1) It is possible that an object possesses purposeful design but     that its design is not recognized by the observer, and;(2) It is also     possible that an object once clearly reflected purposeful design, but     through the process of degeneration, its obvious design has been     erased. Let us consider these two points as applied to some atheistic     presuppositions.

                              DESIGN UNRECOGNIZED

        Suppose that a primitive native, strolling through the jungle,     should come across a watch. Curiously examining it, he cannot in the     least perceive its function. Does the fact that he sees no practical     purpose in the instrument prove that it has no design? Only a fool     would so affirm. Keep this important concept in mind, for frequently,     "primitive" atheists, unable to perceive design in various objects,     argue, upon the basis of their own ignorance, against the existence of     a Designer, i.e., God.

    The Vast Universe--An Example of Non-Design?

        We live in a tremendously large universe. Its limits have not been     measured, but it is estimated to be at least 20 billion light years in     diameter (i.e., the distance it would take light to travel across it at     the rate of 186,000+ miles per second).

        There are billions of galaxies in our universe. We live in a tiny     area called the Milky Way galaxy, but even this is vast. If we drew a     map of our galaxy, and represented the Earth and Sun as two dots one     inch apart (thus a scale of one inch equals 93 million miles), we would     need a map at least four miles wide to locate our next nearest star,     and one 25,000 miles wide to reach the center of our galaxy! This is a     rather impressive universe, wouldn't you say?

        The atheist contends, however, that the enormity of the universe,     compared with our tiny planet, suggests wastefulness of space, hence,     non-design. We deny the premise. First of all, our vast universe     reveals a theological purpose; it demonstrates the power of the     Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament     showeth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). When Job questioned the wisdom of     Jehovah's operations in this world, the Lord humbled him with a series     of questions about the measurements of the Earth, the purpose of which     was to reveal how very little the patriarch knew about this planet,     hence, how unqualified he was to judge his Maker (Job 38:2ff). If such     is the case with reference to this tiny speck of dust upon which we     live, how much more would it be true of the entire Cosmos? Is it not a     fact that that which we are able to thoroughly explore and minutely     examine eventually becomes quite commonplace to us? As a child, a trip     from one town to another nearby was an awesome experience. Later,     however, as one travels from coast to coast, those earlier experiences     seem so mundane. Even the size of our own country becomes unimpressive     once one has traveled around the world. We will never, though, cease to     be awed by God's great universe for we will never be able to explore     its limits.  His creative power will forever hold us breathless.

        Second, the multiplied millions of stars and planets shining in the     heavens above is an aesthetic delight beyond description. And there is     certainly value in aesthetics. Atheist Paul Ricci has written: "Even     objects of art have some purpose; to provide us with aesthetic     enjoyment" (1986, p 188; emp. added).

        Third, the scope of our amazing universe has a psychological value.     When David reflected upon the jeweled canopy above, he was constrained     to contemplate his own purpose: "When I consider thy heavens, the work     of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What     is man, that thou art mindful of him..." (Psalm 8:3,4). Our gigantic     universe simply is not an example of chaos.

    The Earth As An Example Of Non-Design?

        Next, the atheist turns his attention to mother Earth and suggests     that her features are a woeful mess, hence, evidence of non-design.     Consider, for example, the fact the Earth is about four-fifths water     and one-fifth land. The atheist argues: "What builder would construct a     house with five rooms, only one of which could be inhabited? Such     argues for very poor design." He fails to recognize, though, that there     may indeed be purpose in just such an arrangement. Consider the     following:(a) The oceans provide a huge reservoir of moisture which is     constantly evaporating and condensing, thus falling upon the land as     refreshing rain.(b) It is a well-known fact that water heats and cools     at a much slower rate than does the solid land mass. This explains why     desert regions can be so blistering hot in the daytime and freezing     cold at night. Water holds its temperature longer, however, and     provides a sort of natural heating/air-conditioning system for the land     areas of the Earth. Our temperature extremes would be much more erratic     than they are, were it not for this factor.(c) Humans and animals     inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.  On the other hand, plants     take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.  We depend upon the world     of botany for some of our oxygen supply. What many fail to realize,     however, is that approximately 90% of our oxygen comes from microscopic     plants in the seas (Asimov, 1975, 2:116). If our oceans were     appreciably smaller, we would soon be out of breath! There is design in     the land/water ratio!

                                DESIGN DISTORTED

        "But," argues the infidel, "consider the land masses of our Earth.     Much of this area is occupied by burning deserts, rugged mountains, and     frozen wastelands. Surely an intelligent God would not have designed a     planet for man with so much uninhabitable territory!" In the first     place, we are not sure exactly how the Earth should be designed for     optimum human facilitation. We thus cannot argue out of ignorance.     Furthermore, the objection is weak for it fails to take into     consideration the principle which we mentioned earlier---that of     degeneration. Again, perhaps it would be helpful if we reasoned from     analogy. Suppose a gardener, digging in a pile of rubbish, discovers an     ancient book. Its cover is weathered, its pages are mostly stuck     together, the type has faded, etc. It is completely illegible. Does the     current condition of the book mean that it never had a message---that     it never evidenced design? Of course not. Though the message has faded     with time, there is no denying that once it was quite communicative.

        Similarly, when the principle of "evil" was introduced upon this     planet, a state of degeneration commenced. Scientifically speaking, we     say the Second Law of Thermodynamics became operative (which states     that matter is growing old, wearing out, degenerating, i.e., losing     much of its "apparent" design). The Earth became subject to the     "bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:20,21), and corruption effaces     design. Too, one must consider the effects that the universal Flood of     Noah's day had upon this planet. Doubtless many of Earth's ideal     features were drastically altered so that we do not now see this globe     as it once was. Alfred Wallace, who has been called the "co-founder of     modern evolutionary theory," described the early Earth as follows: "The     re is but one climate known to the ancient fossil world as revealed by     the plants and animals entombed in the rocks, and the climate was a     mantle of springlike loveliness which seems to have prevailed     continuously over the whole globe. Just how the world could have thus     been warmed all over may be a matter of conjecture; that it was so     warmed effectively and continuously is a matter of fact" (1876, 1:277).     For a discussion of this matter, see Jackson (1988, p 49).

        A former minister, now turned agnostic, frames the problem in this     fashion: "Why is it that examples of order in design arguments are     always those things that appear beneficial? Genetic diseases like     hemophilia and cystic fibrosis result from very orderly procedures, and     the way that a brain tumor begins and grows until it kills the host     organism is likewise orderly" (Till, 1988, p 2).  There are several     observations that may be made regarding this quibble.  First, the     genetic order conceded in the examples cited, regardless of whether we     like the outcome or not, points to an "orderer." Someone designed the     initial replicating mechanism; all of our experience forces us to the     conclusion that where there is design there must be a designer (as     indeed Ricci acknowledges on p 190). Second, the fact that the product     of an orderly mechanism is flawed does not necessarily reflect upon the     initial design or the designer. For example, if a machine which     manufactures tin cans begins to turn out irregular cans, does this     prove the machine had no designer? Must one postulate that the     machine's inventor intended for mutilated cans to be produced, or that     the machine was imperfectly designed? Surely we can conceive that the     failure could be on the part of those who failed to follow the correct     procedures for maintaining the machine, or who abused it in some     fashion. When man rebelled against his Maker, the Lord allowed, as a     consequence of that disobedience, degenerative processes to begin,     which eventually result in death (Romans 5:12). But the fact that we     have eye problems, heart failure, diseases, etc., does not negate the     impact as a whole that the human body is "fearfully and wonderfully     made" (Psalm 139:14). We will not assume, therefore, that because our     critic's reasoning ability is flawed, this proves his brain was not     designed. The "design" argument remains unscathed!

                                 THE CHALLENGE

        A less sophisticated tactic of atheism is the "I dare you"     dramatic.  The infidel arrogantly challenges God to strike him down;     when no immediate response is received, the unbeliever confidently     asserts that "this proves there is no God."

        Some years ago, an atheist was lecturing in a small town in New     Mexico.  He concluded his presentation, as he customarily did, with a     challenge: "If there is a God, I dare Him to strike me dead this     instant." When nothing happened, he triumphantly folded his arms and     announced that God did not exist. The following morning, an article,     simply titled, "The Parable of the Ants," appeared in the local     newspaper. It went somewhat like this.

        Two ants were crossing the desert when they came across two giant     ribbons of steel spanning the countryside. Said one to the other, "What     is this?" His friend replied, "This is a railroad track, and upon it     runs a huge machine called a train. The train is dispatched by an     operator in a distant city, who regulates its activity." "Incredible!,"     protested the little unbelieving ant, as he crawled upon one of the     rails. "If there is such an operator, I challenge him to send a train     down here right now and run me over!"

        Thus ended the short but powerful story. No one needed the parable     interpreted. What railroad president, in his right mind, would dispatch     a train all the way to the New Mexico desert to answer the challenge of     a mere ant? What sort of intelligence would that reflect?

        But let us consider the "challenge argument" from another angle.     Suppose, upon issuing his challenge, "If there is a God, let him strike     me dead," the atheist should suddenly collapse and die. How many     converts to theism do you suppose that would make? Likely, very few.     In the first place, other atheists would probably write if off as pure     coincidence---a quirk of nature which no God had orchestrated. Or else,     the complaint assuredly would be, "If that is the kind of being God is,     I want no part of Him." It would be virtually a no-win situation. The     fact is, however, God has ultimately imposed the sentence of death upon     rebellious man (Romans 5:12). Let the atheist who thinks He has not,     try to reverse the process of death!

        The problem with the person who makes the I-dare-you-to-kill-me     argument is that he underestimates the Creator. He expects God to     respond as he dictates the terms of punishment for disobedience. He     views the Lord as One who, if he is God, should be constantly and     immediately beating man into submission. That simply is not Jehovah's     way. He has given ample evidence of His existence for any honest person     to see. He has shown, by means of objective revelation (i.e., the     Bible) that we have disobeyed His will. He has offered pardon through     the redemptive mission of His Son, Jesus Christ. And He has warned that     there is a final price to pay if humanity continues its rebellious     course. In other words, He is working His plan and He is not under     obligation to respond to man's ignorant and ill-conceived whims.

        The infidelic arguments considered above are without merit.     Evidence for Jehovah's existence is absolutely overwhelming and only     the fool rejects it (Psalm 14:1).

                                   REFERENCES

    Asimov, Isaac (1975), `Guide to Science' (London: Pelican).     Jackson, Wayne (1988), "The Earth---A Planet Plagued With `Evil',"         `Reason & Revelation', 8[12]:49-52.     Ricci, Paul (1986), `Fundamentals of Critical Thinking' (Lexington, MA:         Ginn Press).     Till, Farrell (1988), `personal correspondence', 11/19/88.     Wallace, Alfred (1876), `The Geographical Distribution of Animals' (New         York: Harper & Brothers).

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