Answers to Some Atheist Questions

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Over on the Atheist Experience blog, a viewer asked some questions and although there is a thread over there for answering them, I thought I’d take a shot here.  These questions seem to come from an atheist, although I don’t think he ever self-identifies as one, that’s just the sense I get.  It could also be a sincere liberal theist questioning their own beliefs.  In either case, I never let an opportunity to answer questions go unresponded to, so let’s get started.

1. Someone I know told me that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us, not only because there is a new covenant, but also because God made those laws for a specific purpose, for example, selling off your daughter to her Rapist only applied to the people at the time. What should I say to that?

This is an attempt by some modern Christians to get around all of those horrible, awful things in the Old Testament while still pretending that the parts they like have weight.  They all still pay attention to the Ten Commandments, they just pretend they can ignore the parts about slavery and stoning unruly children and murdering witches.  However, the Bible doesn’t support such an interpretation.  In Matthew 5:18, Jesus says: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”  Since earth has not disappeared (can’t say anything about heaven since we have no reason to think it ever existed), then the whole of the Old Testament must remain in force.

2. He says evolution is discredited by the amount of genetic mutations that are negative instead of positive. I replied with the mutation that allows some people to drink milk is positive because it helped people back when food was scarce and also how most mutations don’t do anything, they’re neutral. Was that a good reply and how is his argument true or false?

These are people who have no clue what evolution actually is or how it operates.  No matter how many times it’s explained to them, they continue to be misinformed because their faith is more important than the facts.  There are many similar point mutations that we can point to, where a small number of people were able to do a certain thing that gave them a survival advantage and thus, they reproduced in greater numbers until the ability is widespread in the human population.  We can als point to this in many animal species.  In fact, that’s why we end up with superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to vaccines and treatments, because a certain percentage have a mutation that is positive (from their “perspective”) in that it allows them to survive and thrive where other bacteria are killed.

3. People claim the bible is scientific but the story of Noah’s ark is in there? What other stories show that the bible is as scientific as Harry Potter.

Any story in the Bible that relies on magic and miracle is, as you say, as scientific as Harry Potter.  That includes the creation story, the aforementioned flood, the Egyptian plagues, the virgin birth, all of the miracles of Jesus and the resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.  In short, all of the things that make Christianity a religion.

4. How do I explain to those who don’t understand about how “information” cannot exceed the speed of light and how DNA isn’t a written set of instruction that the way most would think of it?

It all depends on what you mean by “information”.  Not knowing that, I can’t respond to that part of the question.  As for DNA, while it isn’t the kind of information that a lot of theists think it is, it really is a “programming language” of sorts, if you manipulate the gene sequences in different ways, you get different outputs.  That isn’t what they mean though and it is a wholly naturally-derived “programming language” that had no initial programmer.  Trying to convince theists of that is nigh impossible though because their goal isn’t to get to the truth, it’s to maintain their faith.

5. Why is Theistic Evolution wrong or unreasonable? I may have gotten the name wrong but a friend of mine says theistic evolution is evolution but with divine intervention behind it all.

I don’t know about wrong or unreasonable, it’s just unnecessary.  There is no reason to think that any gods exist. Theistic evolution requires a god to direct it, in the absence of gods, or reasons to think gods are real, then you’re just left with evolution by itself.  We can prove evolution happened and continues to happen.  We cannot prove there are any gods that might have directed it.  Occam’s Razor states that the simplest explanation is most likely the right one.  That would be evolution without the unsupported god part.

6. My friend crashed in a plane recently and he was unscathed. Now all the uber christian kids at my school keep saying Jesus saved him, but for me I ask why he didn’t prevent the crash in the first place. Then they say Jesus doesn’t check planes before they take off. I know this is a subject that hits the emotions, but how do I convince the crash wasn’t divine but instead was a lucky crash?

You probably can’t because, as I said before, these people don’t care about the truth, they care about their emotional comfort. They want to feel good about the things they believe, no matter how unsupported or silly those things are in reality.  These kinds of claims are not at all uncommon yet they are quite absurd.  You get people who say “I was in a crash and I was the only survivor!  Praise Jesus!”  Well apparently Jesus didn’t give a damn about any of the other people who were killed in the crash, did he?  It’s all about you.  When you bring up the obvious problems with these claims, just like your friend, they find some way to rationalize around it.  As I said, they don’t care about reality, they just want to feel good.

7. Would finding how life forms can arise from inanimate organisms not just disprove but destroy any religious claims to creation? Also what would you think the response to new extraterrestrial life being discovered? Hement Mehta believes this would be a huge blow to organized religion.

Well, finding how they actually do arise certainly would. Just proposing a hypothesis, not so much.  Of course, evolution is the best supported scientific theory we have but creationists don’t care because, not to sound like a broken record, they’re not interested in the facts.  There are always going to be a certain number of theists who, no matter what is discovered, they’re going to cling to their irrational faith.  Just look at Ken Ham, who at the Ham/Nye debate, said that there was absolutely nothing that could ever cause him to reject his faith.  No amount of fact, no amount of evidence, nothing at all could ever make him doubt the existence of God.  That’s what we call fanaticism.

8. Many creationists claim that the odds of humanity coming to be is so improbable. I was thinking before I slept the other day about a new idea(which probably was thought of already because it’s simple). I call it the argument from hindsight. Is this a thing(argument from hindsight)? Is easy to say it must be hard to get to where we are now, but that because we’re looking back. How many Martians are saying this? None because there isn’t anyone to look back at what needs to occur for life.

That’s because they’re playing a numbers game, one that has been wholly discredited over the years but they still cling to it. It is blatantly dishonest, but… faith.  I do agree with the argument from hindsight, I like the name, I might have to use it sometime. We can make all kinds of arguments using it.  If we calculate the odds of any individual being here today, each person having to had the exact ancestors breeding with the exact ancestors, having the exact sperm meeting with the exact egg over hundreds or thousands of generations, the chances that any of us could possibly exist today is astronomical, yet here we all are.  Creationists like to pretend that humanity was predestined, like we were always supposed to exist, yet there’s nothing further from the truth. We are the result of the process, not the goal.  If something had happened differently, there might be intelligent slime mold sitting around on a wholly different earth, marvelling at how wonderful it is that their life form was predestined by their gods.  It’s all quite silly.

So there you go, some more answers, aimed this time more at an atheist audience than a religious one.  The whole thing really is bizarre and quite sad that so many people are so unwilling to care about reality because reality is uncomfortable and gets in the way of their religious fantasies.  You can’t reason with a lot of these people, it isn’t even worth it to try, but at least you can be aware that they exist and as G.I. Joe says, knowing is half the battle.

4 thoughts on “Answers to Some Atheist Questions

  1. I like these answers. The DNA answer (as well as all the others) point towards theists taking the easy way out. They cannot understand how DNA could possible have arisen by chance and as such they insert God. This is in my opinion a reflection on education systems, or more importantly the lack of people getting taught critical thinking. Great post.
    My recent post Korean Christians hatred of LGBT gets smashed

  2. Like your response to the DNA question. As a life scientist when asked about the purported improbability of human evolution I usually admit that the entire human genome sequence arising by chance from single nucleotides in one SINGLE event is indeed highly improbable. But this is NOT what evolution is. Small steps over time HAPPENED to create this particular sequence, and it so just happened because evolution has no goal. it is important to stress the point of aimless DNA variations that survive through non-random selection. And no goal, with selective pressure on random mutations, makes probability calculations pointless.

    1. Exactly. They are convinced that humanity was the end goal of evolution, which is absurd but they are so enamored with being human, they think that they're somehow magically special, which could not be further from the truth. We're here because we're here, not because we're supposed to be here.

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