XFiles Friday: A taste of things to ensueOctober 12, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, pp. 26-27)
Let’s pick up where we left off last time.
Faith covers a gap in knowledge. And it turns out that atheists have bigger gaps in knowledge because they have far less evidence for their beliefs than Christians have for theirs. In other words, the empirical, forensic, and philosophical evidence strongly supports conclusions consistent with Christianity and inconsistent with atheism. Here are a few examples of that evidence that we’ll unpack in the ensuing chapters:
I can’t wait for the chapters to ensue, can you? Just look at these examples:
1. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that the universe exploded into being out of nothing.
Boy, that’s a whopper of scientific ignorance, isn’t it? That’s like saying the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is the teaching that Jesus had no father or mother. I realize this book was published in 2004, and the Internet has grown a lot since then, but even so, Geisler and Turek ought to have been able to find a reasonably accurate, layman-friendly introduction to Big Bang theory, like this one from NASA:
The Big Bang Model is a broadly accepted theory for the origin and evolution of our universe. It postulates that 12 to 14 billion years ago, the portion of the universe we can see today was only a few millimeters across. It has since expanded from this hot dense state into the vast and much cooler cosmos we currently inhabit. We can see remnants of this hot dense matter as the now very cold cosmic microwave background radiation which still pervades the universe and is visible to microwave detectors as a uniform glow across the entire sky.
I’m not sure how long NASA has had that particular page up, but it’s only summarizing information that scientists have been discussing for decades, so there’s no excuse for Geisler and Turek to pull such a huge scientific boner right off the bat.
2. The simplest life form contains the information-equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Christians believe only an intelligent being can create a life form containing the equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Atheists believe nonintelligent natural forces can do it. Christians have evidence to support their conclusion. Since atheists don’t have any such evidence, their belief requires more faith.
You know, scientists have been after creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and other “information theorists” to tell us what units they’re measuring “information equivalents” in, and it took Geisler and Turek, a Bible scholar and a popular writer, to finally work out the details. “Information equivalents” are measured in encyclopedias. Or in this case, kiloencyclopedias, or kilopedias for short. Perhaps someday we might even get them to let us in on which encyclopedias are the standard unit of measure for information equivalents. Are we talking kilobritannicas here or just kilocomptons?
So Christians believe that only an intelligent being can create life with 1 kilopedia’s worth of information-equivalents, eh? And what makes them so sure an intelligent being can succeed at this task? Have they seen an intelligent being actually create life, or are they just putting their non-evidence-based faith in their own assumed conclusions?
In the real world, we don’t see intelligent beings creating life, but we do see natural forces creating the kind of organized structures that Geisler and Turek refer to as “the information-equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias.” We see a wide range of natural processes, in fact, from the simple biochemical reactions that assemble the smaller components of life to the more complex interactions that create such an amazing array of mechanisms and functions.
What’s more, we can also observe how intelligence works, at least as we understand it. Intelligence works by first of all perceiving the order in the world around us, then by perceiving patterns in this organized and meaningful environment, then by extrapolating from the existing patterns into new possibilities. In other words, intelligence requires the pre-existence of a natural environment, and of an ability to perceive that environment, and to learn from it. A baby raised its entire life in a sensory-deprivation tank, would be completely unable to function as an intelligent being. Intelligence without data is like a computer without software–it serves no function and accomplishes no results.
Scientists who are studying the origin of life are applying their intelligence to the issue by observing what we find in nature, and looking for meaningful and exploitable patterns in what nature has already accomplished. Without this ability to observe an environment in which life already existed, these scientists, these intelligent beings, would not be able to create life, because they wouldn’t have any data to work from. Thus, despite what Geisler and Turek claim, we do have evidence that applies to the origin of life, and it is consistent with a natural origin for the structures and processes of life, and as far as we can observe, not terribly consistent with the assumption that intelligence can successfully create life ex nihilo without a pre-existing body of data to work with. The authors can get around this difficulty by making unsupported assumptions about the Designer’s magical foreknowledge, but remember, this is supposed to be an example of Christians having evidence and atheists having nothing but faith.
Last example: classic apologetics:
3. Hundreds of years beforehand, ancient writings foretold the coming of a man who would actually be God. This man-God, it was foretold, would be born in a particular city from a particular bloodline, suffer in a particular way, die at a particular time, and rise from the dead to atone for the sins of the world. [Etc. etc.] Atheists must have a lot more faith to explain away the predictions, the eyewitness testimony, the willingness of the eyewitnesses to suffer and die, the origin of the Christian church, and the corroborating testimony of the other writers, archeological finds, and other evidence that we’ll investigate later.
Actually, all atheists need in order to deal with classical Christian apologetics is the oft-quoted principle that truth is consistent with itself. Christians make a lot of claims, but it doesn’t take any faith to “explain away” the things they cite as “evidence.” Take the “prophecy” in Isaiah 7:13ff about the supposed “virgin birth” of the Messiah. In context, Isaiah specifically says that he is predicting that “Within sixty-five years [of that point in King Ahaz's reign], Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.”
It’s not about the Messiah, and it’s not predicted for the far future, it’s predicted for a historical period during the reign of a king who lived during the 8th century BC. Mary didn’t even name her son “Immanuel,” as predicted in the prophecy. Christians simply found a passage that referred to a virgin conceiving (and not necessarily even a miraculous conception), and lifted parts of it out of context, and claimed it as an Old Testament prediction that Jesus’s mother would be a virgin. “Fulfilled” prophecy is easy if you’re willing to be sufficiently–shall we say–“flexible” in how you interpret the fulfillment.
Based on the examples above, it looks like we’re going to have quite a bit of fun with the “ensuing” chapters of this book. Stay tuned!