The “New Atheist” movement claim they have the high ground of science and reason. But it turns out that as a group, they seem to be less reasonable than most. Ooh, big statement I know, but check this out…
This from Perry Marshall – apologist in one of the biggest online convo’s about the existence of God. Here he lists the history of that convo, and what he has learned about such convo’s.
A few months after I posted my talk, a gentleman named Rob sent me an email that said, “I see right through your sophistry and pseudoscience…” and an intense discussion began. After a couple of weeks he got flustered, so he went to the largest atheist discussion board in the world, Infidels. He posted a link to my talk and basically said, ‘be nice to this guy while you rip him to shreds.’
I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous. I was nervous. One of me, and dozens of them. One slip of the foot and they’d eviscerate my sorry carcass like a pack of wolverines. If you spend any time on Infidels, you’ll see – it’s not like those guys are real big on manners. The anger and hostility is
so thick you can cut it with a knife. The Infidels website is 6,000 pages of rage and vitriol.
I figured: It’s do-or-die time. If there’s a hole in this theory, sooner or later these guys will find it. And I really did think that at some point someone would pin me down on some technicality. Or at the very least, that I would screw up or say something I didn’t mean and there would be some disaster I’d have to recover from.
But that’s not what happened. What happened was actually a little surprising. Let’s just say… they used to intimidate me. They don’t anymore. I called their bluff. I couldn’t imagine that a bunch of reasonably educated people would actually try to tell me that DNA isn’t really a code. But that’s exactly what they did.
They tried to tell me DNA was not a code – then tried to tell me a snowflake is a code – at the very same time! They mocked me for taking science books and dictionaries literally. They called me every name in the book. But after years of trying, they have not punched a single hole in my argument.
The argument goes like this:
1. The pattern in DNA is a code (by definition)
2. All codes we know the origin of are designed (by observation)
Therefore we can explore five possible conclusions:
a) Humans designed DNA
b) Aliens designed DNA
c) DNA occurred randomly and spontaneously
d) There must be some undiscovered law of physics that creates information
e) DNA was Designed by a Superintelligence, i.e. God.
> (a) requires time travel or infinite generations of humans. (b) could well be true but only pushes the question back in time. (c) may be a remote possibility, but it’s not a scientific explanation in that it doesn’t refer to a systematic, repeatable process. It’s nothing more than an appeal to luck. (d) could be true but no one can form a testable hypothesis until someone observes a naturally occurring code. So the only systematic explanation that remains is (e) a theological one. Therefore:
3. To the extent that scientific reasoning can prove anything,
DNA is proof of a designer.
That’s it. That’s the argument. It’s that simple. Turns out, it’s so elegant, it’s irrefutable. It’s airtight. There is nowhere for the atheist to go, except to say “I don’t know.” Which is the truth. We don’t know, we can only infer. All these guys understand that once they admit they don’t know, I’ll say, “Congratulations. Welcome to the world of agnosticism. Honest inquiry is now possible.”
Die-hard members of Infidels are deeply committed to their atheist beliefs. They are just as devout as members of any religious sect. They won’t go there. So they just endlessly argue that DNA really isn’t a code…. or it’s only a code in our imaginations…. or that rocks and snowflakes and cosmic rays are codes. Or that it’s not permissible for rational people to draw these sorts of silly conclusions.
I spent a full year answering every single question and addressing every objection. I posted an exhaustive Q&A at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/iidb.htm. You can click to six different pages that address all the major arguments. I noticed that one by one, the smart ones dropped out. The moderator refuses to answer any of my questions, even though I’ve answered all of his. One guy threatened to scratch my eyes
out if I quoted Hubert Yockey one more time.
One guy, screen name “Robert Webb” finally showed up. He’s an atheist and he’s also a computer programmer and he called them on it. He said, “Perry’s definitions are correct, points #1 and #2 are right and you’re never going to prove him wrong.” They lashed out at him for saying that, and said he was secretly arguing my side.
So far as I can tell, most of the ones who are still hanging in there haven’t actually read or listened to my presentation. They just go around in circles and call me names. I stop by every few months and answer questions. Meanwhile this has become the most viewed, longest-running thread in the history of Infidels.
I have proven God exists, and… the place where this has been most thoroughly defended is the largest atheist website in the world. I love it! God has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?
I’ve learned a lot from this. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve observed:
1. When people are backed into a corner and do not want to change their beliefs, they go into denial. No amount of logic, evidence or proof can change their minds. I guess somehow I thought that if you put enough non-controversial textbooks, definitions and examples in front of them they would admit that I could be right. Nope… not the case. If someone doesn’t want to believe something, there is NOTHING you can do to change their minds.
2. Most people do not know that science is based on inference. The idea that there is a law of gravity is inferred from 100% consistent observations. You can’t literally prove it. Belief in all scientific laws rests on faith in something you cannot prove: Namely, that the universe operates according to fixed discoverable laws.
3. Most people also do not know that the core belief of science – that the universe operates according to fixed discoverable laws – was originally a religious idea. To the best of my knowledge, this idea was first introduced 3000 years ago by Solomon, who wrote “Thou hast ordered all things in weight and number and measure.” (Wisdom of Solomon 11:21)
4. People who are well informed about things like the inner workings of computer systems – hardware and software engineers, for example – almost never challenge me on Information Theory. The ones who argue loudest are science hobbyists, not professionals. People who think that watching the Discovery Channel or the latest Evolution program on PBS makes their opinions scientific. I have almost never encountered a credentialed biologist who attempted to tell me that DNA really isn’t a code. (A notable exception is “RBH”, the moderator of the Infidels discussion board. From what I understand he teaches biology at a small college in Ohio.)
5. When people feel threatened they abandon facts and start calling you names. They accuse you of practicing “pseudoscience” and they say that you’re an “idiot” and a “creationist”. They launch into emotional tirades. They quote passages from the latest Richard Dawkins bestseller as though it were a holy book.
6. The real reason people believe that life was caused by random accident is they have a very, very hard time fathoming that an all-knowing God would allow the world to be so messed up. This is a moral judgment, not a scientific position. “Accidents happen, therefore it’s all an accident.” This at least appears to relieve them of having to explain why there is evil in the world. (Perhaps that’s true. But the problem is, it leaves them with no objective definition of what is good.)
7. Theologians gave birth to science in the middle ages. People who believed the world operated according to fixed, discoverable laws, began to search for those laws. People like Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Boyle and Maxwell saw science as a way of studying the mind of God. Science itself got started in ancient Rome, Greece, China and in Islam – but it never went anywhere in those cultures. Why? None of those cultures had a theology that described a systematic universe. Christianity did teach that the universe was systematic and discoverable and that’s why science succeeded in the West after failing everywhere else.
8. [Atheists are the most strident arguers.] Because of my websites http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com and www.coffeehousetheology.com, I have had literally thousands upon thousands of email conversations with people about science, religion, morality, and all of kinds of deep questions. People from every country in the world, every religion, every race and belief system you can imagine. And I can assure you – NOBODY argues more stridently than the atheists. A common stereotype of Muslims, for example, is that they are dogmatic and belligerent. But almost none of the Muslims I have ever encountered are actually like that. Atheists overwhelmingly are. They’re combative and not only do they fail to show respect, often they display outright contempt and derision for religious people. Atheists are more dogmatic about what they believe than ANYONE else I’ve ever encountered. Again, that’s my own experience from answering thousands of emails and debating in the Infidels forum.
9. Many people see science and religion as being in a war with each other. That’s a false war that has been entirely invented and perpetrated by angry people. These people have perpetrated a lot of myths, too – for example they’ll usually tell you that people believed the earth was flat until 500 years ago. Wrong. People have known the earth was round for 2500 years.
10. Atheists are very good at going on the attack. But they are not very good at defending what they believe (i.e. that life was a random accident; that the big bang happened for no particular reason at all; that there’s an infinite number of other universes somewhere.) I’ve found that when I press them for answers, they usually at some point suddenly disappear.
I realize that I am not being terribly kind to atheism here (though I am not being unkind to anyone either). Atheism needs to be challenged by people of all beliefs, to account for itself. Tossing around words like “rational inquiry” and “science” and “non-sequitur” is not a substitute for sound reasoning, the practice of science, and the use of logic.
If atheism is going to wear the robe of science and reason, it’s time for us to expect it to answer science questions, not evade them. We need to demand reasons, not non-reasons. And… if the atheist doesn’t know, let’s allow him to admit he doesn’t know, and be kind to him when he makes that admission. And once he is open to following the evidence wherever it leads, let us welcome him into the world of honest and rational inquiry.
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