The origin of life, and the man behind the curtain.

Posted on February 10, 2020 By

origin of life

Much as Dorothy’s dog Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal a hidden man creating the illusion of the Wizard of Oz, one can pull back the curtain on the illusion of unintelligent natural mechanisms causing the origin of life. And when the curtain is pulled back on the most often cited evidence for these alleged mechanisms, there is actually a man hidden back there. Yes, the origin of life debate can be every bit as entertaining as the Wizard of Oz, so sit tight!

Abiogenesis is the term which refers to the evolution of living organisms from inorganic or inanimate substances as a result of allegedly unintelligent natural mechanisms. And the Miller-Urey experiments from the early 1950’s are a crucial piece of evidence, almost universally cited by those who tout an unintelligent cause for life. As Wikipedia states:

The Miller–Urey experiment (or Miller experiment) was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought at the time (1952) to be present on the early Earth and tested the chemical origin of life under those conditions. Considered to be the classic experiment investigating abiogenesis, it was conducted in 1952 by Stanley Miller, with assistance from Harold Urey, at the University of Chicago and later the University of California, San Diego, and published the following year.

Since the Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated that simple chemicals can gradually evolve into more complex organic compounds— it is argued—there is no need to cite an intelligent agent as creating life from non-living matter. But when the curtain is pulled back on this argument, we find a man hiding behind the curtain! (identity to be revealed later)

The elephant in the room: What maintains the order produced by random natural processes?

The philosophical conclusion that unintelligent natural processes can create life from non-life can only be reached by ignoring the elephant in the room: What maintains this order once it is produced? 

By taking a look at the world around, to observe how natural processes actually work, one can confidently conclude that natural processes cannot be the source of this preservation of order. Without directed external effort to counteract natural forces, sooner or later, your clean room will get dirty, your car will break down, your clothes will wear out, and complex organic molecules will break down to their more simple constituents. This tendency of natural processes to produce disorder from order (as we all observe on a daily basis) is an aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Dr. W.M. DeJong studied Mathematics and Thermodynamics at the University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands, and is consultant and researcher of innovation and change at INI-Consult. He points out the fatal blind spots of the research of scientists who tout an unintelligent cause for life, such as Ilya Prigogine and Miller-Urey. Unintelligent natural processes can produce order, but only on a very limited and temporary basis. For example, energy flows from wind blowing sand on a beach could produce orderly ridges in the sand. But once the direction or speed of the wind changes, this order would be more quickly destroyed. DeJong writes:

Ilya Prigogine has shown that ridges in the sand can emerge by random energy flows; but he overlooked that these ridges are not maintained by these random energy flows; the next day they disappear again and are replaced by other ridges in another direction. Prigogine has also shown that living nature is constantly transforming molecules, cells and organisms into more complex structures; but he overlooked that this ordering is driven by the DNA program present in any cell, and not by random energy flows.

In the chemical industry simple molecules are transformed into complicated molecules by directed energy flows, not by random natural processes. If random, natural processes would be able to turn chaos into order, complicated molecules would become available for free; all energy problems on earth would be solved and the chemical industry would be out of business.

And the man behind the curtain is…(drumroll please)

As DeJong notes, it was actually an intelligent agent, STANLEY MILLER HIMSELF, who prevented the building blocks of DNA molecules (amino acids) from breaking down again by applying directed external effort to preserve the order temporarily produced by random processes in the Miller-Urey experiments. Simply put, Miller used his knowledge of what constitutes a chemical building block for life to transport these chemicals to distillation flasks, so as to preserve them from being destroyed, and allow them to achieve the necessary concentrations. But unintelligent natural mechanisms possess no such knowledge of which chemicals need to be preserved, nor knowledge of the concentrations of these chemicals necessary for life to emerge, nor any ability to preserve:

Secondly, order that emerges from undirected external forces not only has a temporary character, but does not expand, unless directed external effort is supplied. This law of nature is clearly illustrated by the famous Miller experiment. Random flashes of electricity can turn basic organic substances into the building blocks of DNA. But the next moment, new flashes may destroy these building blocks. The larger the building blocks, the faster they will be destroyed again. Therefore, Miller transported the building blocks formed towards a distillation flask, sheltering them from destruction by new flashes of lightning, resulting in the production of a more and more concentrated organic soup. Miller’s experiment confirms the second law, and shows that the order in a system can only be maintained and increased by directed external effort.

It is often supposed that organic molecules have a natural bias to order themselves into increasingly complex structures. It is thought that if an advantage fluctuation of chaos arises, the molecules will move to a nearby, higher and maintained level of order; after some time, a subsequent advantageous fluctuation of chaos will arise and another a step of increasing order will be set; et cetera. More accurate assessment of this line of thought, which is handed by Miller and Prigogine, shows, however, that (1) the emergence of order in chaotic systems is only temporary; (2) the maintenance and further expansion of the order that may emerge in chaotic systems demands directed external effort; and (3) the chaotic processes in living nature that sometimes are turned into order are strongly influenced by the DNA programs of the organisms involved.

It turns out that an intelligent agent named Stanley Miller was the source of the directed external effort  which preserved the complex amino acids of the Miller-Urey experiment, and NOT unintelligent natural processes. But Miller’s role is hidden behind the curtain of atheist philosophy, much like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. When it comes to the origin of life from more simple non-living matter, atheist philosophy must insist that we, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” 

Dean Overman also comments on this fatal blind spot of atheist philosophy. He does so in the context of responding to atheist biologist Richard Dawkins’ assertion that, since monkeys typing on typewriters could eventually produce a meaningful sentence, similar random processes could eventually produce a useful set of genetic instructions. As Overman points out, Dawkins startlingly  fails to notice that a useful piece of genetic code must be preserved  for it to be useful. But what preserves useful genetic code, thereby preventing it from being wiped away by the same natural forces which generated it in the first place? Only an intelligence with knowledge of what constitutes a useful sequence of genetic code has such a capability. Overman writes:

…For the monkey to preserve the correct letters in the sequence requires an assumed intelligence apart from and greater than the intelligence of the monkey. This intelligence must have knowledge of the letters which construct a meaningful sentence. Without such an intelligence, no principle exists for deciding which letters should be preserved. Natural selection does not qualify as such an intelligence, because it is a process, not something like an intelligent mind which knows the alphabet and the structure of a meaningful sentence. Dawkins cannot have it both ways. He cannot logically assert that a process without the characteristics of a mind has the characteristics of a mind and the knowledge required to ‘know’ which letters to preserve. Such an assertion fails because it assumes a self-contradiction. Cadit quaestio. [Latin for: “Case closed.”]

Your intuition is correct: Knowledge of what needs to be preserved requires a KNOWER

In short, our human intuition is correct when we sense that an intelligent agent (or a knower) is necessary to know which complex chemical compounds need to be preserved in order for life to emerge. Even atheist biologists such as Richard Dawkins cannot escape this powerful intuition. In his book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins writes:

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

Douglas Axe, Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola University, eloquently explains how our intuition regarding the necessity of a knower (an intelligent agent possessing knowledge) is CORRECT when it comes to the origin of life, in his book Undeniable:

In our experience, skill always requires discernment—the ability to distinguish the right things from the wrong things and the right way from the wrong way—and discernment in turn requires knowledge. The moment we recognize this—that a project that requires knowledge has been completed—we immediately infer that one or more knowers must have been behind the work. This follows naturally from our design intuition.

Axe continues by citing the example of a robot designed to clean the floor of a swimming pool:

When we watch a pool robot do its work, we see that all its little actions add up to a completed whole project: the cleaning of a pool. We know that tackling such projects requires knowledge, and our design intuition tells us there’s no substitute for knowledge. But we don’t for a moment think the busy whole that did the work—the pool robot—knows anything. Instead, we recognize that the robot is the successful outcome of a much more impressive whole project, namely the design and manufacture of a working pool robot. The scores of busy wholes who contributed to that project were human beings: inventors, engineers, designers, machinists, assembly-line workers, project managers, and so on.

It is just that intense ideology requires atheist scientists such as Dawkins to ignore their intuition. Regarding this point, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek comment in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist:

Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA and another ardent Darwinist, agrees with Dawkins about the appearance of design. In fact, the appearance of design is so clear he warns that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” Crick’s little memo to biologists led Phillip Johnson, author and a leader in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, to observe, “Darwinian biologists must keep repeating that reminder to themselves because otherwise they might become conscious of the reality that is staring them in the face and trying to get their attention.”

Seventeenth century British naturalist John Ray, considered to be the founder of modern biology, was really onto something when he wrote the following nearly 300 years ago:

“A wonder then it must be that there should be any man found so stupid and forsaken of reason as to persuade himself, that this most beautiful and adorned world was or could be produced by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.”

Our culture declares the stance that life emerged from unintelligent mechanisms to be “scientific,” whereas the stance that life emerged as the result of an intelligent agent is “religious.” But neither stance is either scientific or religious. Rather, both stances are meta-scientific (“meta” is the Greek word for after or beyond) or ontological (ontology is the branch of philosophy which discusses the nature of being), as I discuss in my post about the straw-man fallacy. As an excerpt from my post titled The Cultural Smokescreen Which Obscures God notes:

Like fish who do not realize they are swimming in water, we can easily fail to perceive the extent to which culture shapes, and often distorts, our perception of the world. In our culture, male babies wear blue, and female babies wear pink. And typically, only women wear skirts. But is there something intrinsically  feminine about skirts, or the color pink? No, there isn’t. In traditional Scottish culture, for example, men commonly wore skirts known as kilts. The idea that skirts and the color pink are feminine is something which our culture invented, but which has no intrinsic reason for being true. Conversely, giving birth is  intrinsically feminine.

cultural construct  is something which is arbitrarily determined by culture, but which doesn’t have any intrinsic or logical reason for being true. And the common view that belief in God is “religious,” whereas atheism and agnosticism are “non-religious” and “scientific” is a groundless cultural construct…every bit as much as the stance that pink is a feminine color. Despite being not culturally inclined towards theism, the Nobel-Prize winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald endorsed the meta-scientific stance that life is the result of an intelligent mind (read: God) when he wrote the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

When it comes to the origin of life debate, we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.


  1. Chase says:

    Stop doing drugs, they’re not good for you and seem to have damaged your mind. Fake magic is real and real magic is fake. Because you can’t comprehend something is not a reason to leap into magic for the explanation. Your fake science (lack of understanding) does not appear to be anymore valid than your philosophy about it….and that’s all it is.

    • Ad Hominem fallacy
      Chase, this is yet another Ad Hominem (Latin for “to the person”) fallacy. A personal attack against the person making an argument (in lieu of a logically constructed rebuttal to his argument) demonstrates a withdrawal from rational discourse, and therefore a tacit acknowledgement that your stance cannot withstand logical scrutiny.

      Your logical fallacy is Ad Hominem

      A copy and paste from the above post:

      ad hominem

      You attacked your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.

      Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone’s case without actually having to engage with it.

      Example: After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn’t married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.

      Next, comparing belief in God to belief in magic commits the Argument from Incredulity fallacy. Argument from Incredulity

      A copy and paste from the above post about the logical fallacy of Argument from Incredulity:

      The popular fallacy of doubting or rejecting a novel claim or argument out of hand simply because it appears superficially “incredible,” “insane” or “crazy,” or because it goes against one’s own personal beliefs, prior experience or ideology. This cynical fallacy falsely elevates the saying popularized by Carl Sagan, that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” to an absolute law of logic. The common, popular-level form of this fallacy is dismissing surprising, extraordinary or unfamiliar arguments and evidence with a wave of the hand, a shake of the head, and a mutter of “that’s crazy!”

      The important point is that, just because something lies outside or your belief system, doesn’t mean that it is “magic” or “superstition.” As an illustration, consider the story of the King of Siam, as reflected upon by Craig Keener in his book Miracles.

      Because the king lived in a tropical region, before the advent of mass communication and rapid transit, his perceptual framework did not allow for the possibility of frozen rivers. Hearing from Dutch visitors about riding horses on top of rivers that became so cold that they became hard like stone, this ruler “knew that the men were liars.” The king’s inference was a logical one based on the reality with which he was familiar. But one must not confuse reality itself with the reality with which one is familiar.

      The king responded with incredulity when the Dutch visitors told him about rivers that became hard enough for horses to walk on them. Because the king used his own perceptual framework (which was limited by his narrow experiences) to be the determinant of truth, he committed the logical fallacy of Argument from Incredulity.

      Similarly, when you use your own limited perceptual framework to be the determinant of truth, and thereby judge belief in God to “superstition” or “magic,” you commit this logical fallacy.

      Here is a simple fact: The natural universe (which includes the properties of space, time, matter, and energy) came into being at the cosmological event known as the Big Bang. Because it is a logical absurdity to suggest that something can cause itself, the cause of the universe must necessarily be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and energy-less. Indeed, it would every bit as absurd to suggest that a person could give birth to himself as it would be to suggest that something within the natural universe could be the cause of the natural universe.

      Scientific confirmation of the universe’s beginning has caused much sorrow among scientists ideologically committed to atheism because, for centuries, most atheists have hung their hat on belief in an eternally existing universe in order to do away with God…no beginning, therefore no Beginner. Robert Jastrow is an astronomer, physicist, and the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. As a self-described agnostic, Jastrow found the theistic implications of the Big Bang distasteful, yet inescapable. He therefore describes his realization of these theistic implications as “like a bad dream” in his book God and the Astronomers:

      “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

      And it is actually more than just theologians who have postulated God as the spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and energy-less cause for the universe. Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros provide an excellent nutshell explanation of why a mind (read: God) is the cause for the natural universe in their book The New Story of Science:

      “In the New Story of science the whole universe–including matter, energy, space, and time–is a one-time event and had a definite beginning. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed because matter had a beginning. It is 12 to 20 billion years old. This means that whatever has always existed is non-material. The only non-material reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was. This points to an intelligent, eternal being who created all things. Such a being is what we mean by the term God.”

      Some readers may be inclined to think that a mind which exists independent of time, space, matter, and energy is just an ad hoc explanation, arbitrarily cooked up in the heads of religious folks. But such readers would be greatly mistaken. An immaterial conscious mind is required to explain the famous observer effect in physics. The observer effect refers to the conclusion of modern physics that, prior to observation by a conscious observer, particles exist only in an immaterial form known as a possibility wave (or probability wave). It is only after an observation is made by a conscious observer that these possibilities “collapse into actuality,” thereby taking on material form. Readers who find this bizarre or difficult to understand are in good company. Even the world’s most elite physicists are amazed and puzzled by the observer effect. But it has been repeatedly scientifically verified. (Please read Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry’s article The Mental Universe, and University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp’s book Mindful Universe for a more thorough exploration of this subject). Physicist Richard Conn Henry explains how people with atheistic leanings recoil at the clear theistic implications of modern physics:

      “Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.” [“Solipsism” is defined as “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.”]

      Indeed, the founder of quantum physics himself, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck, was referring to a mind which exists independent of (and serves as the cause for) space, time, matter, and energy, when he wrote:

      “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

      Planck also wrote:

      “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

      An atheist is free to cook up alternative explanations for a “mind [which] is the matrix of all matter,” in the above words of the founder of quantum physics. But, unless such an atheist can produce evidence, and a logical argument to support such an alternative, he has not produced a coherent counter explanation.

  2. You’re right–abiogenesis has no complete theory. But the problem with an argument like this is that when science does answer this question with sufficient confidence that the result can be called a scientific theory, you’ll just run off and point to a new unanswered question. You’ve made your position undefeatable, because there will always be unanswered scientific questions.

    But then, of course, your argument will simply be, “Science has unanswered questions; therefore, God,” which isn’t much of an argument.

    • Bob,

      I think you and I have been here before (several times). One of the fundamental deceits of atheist philosophy is that science “explains things.” Science only deals with the material level of causation. A complete description of material causes for life does not amount to an explanation for the origin of life. As an illustration, suppose we were able to describe in exacting detail every single aspect of how a Chevrolet Corvette is manufactured. Would this rule out the need for human agents (designers, engineers, plant workers) in the manufacturing of the Corvette? No, it wouldn’t, and to suggest as such would be a complete non-sequitur (does not follow). The two following statements commit the same category mistake because they confuse material causes with a complete explanation:

      “Life was not caused by God, but rather, by natural processes.”

      “Automobiles are not caused by people, but rather, by manufacturing processes.”

      The notion that greater understanding of the mechanisms behind the origin of life in the future will rule out the need for God is therefore fallacious. Indeed, the question of whether life was caused by unintelligent natural mechanisms or an intelligent agent is not a scientific question. Rather, it is a meta-scientific question which one can only answer by applying one’s reason to the facts at hand. Indeed, a person who receives an explanation from bare science should be just as concerned for his mental health as a person who receives an explanation from the walls of his house. DO NOT BE DECEIVED!…science cannot provide explanations, only people can. Questions such as whether or not life was created by an intelligence lie beyond or after science, and are therefore meta-scientific (meta is the Greek word for beyond or after), or ontological (ontology is the branch of philosophy which concerns the nature of being). Roy A. Varghese elaborates on this crucial point in The Wonder of the World:

      If we ask what are the laws that govern the universe, we are asking a scientific question. If we ask why does a structure of laws exist, we are asking an ontological question. The data of science can, of course, serve as the starting point for ontological study but that study will require ontological and not scientific tools.

      Now certain scientists might respond that they’re only interested in cold hard facts, not so-called meta-scientific or ontological ones. But it’s easy to show that even the most hard-headed experimentalist can’t get away from the ontological realm even for an instant. I ask:

      How do you determine that something is a “cold hard fact?” You make a mental estimate by weighing the evidence for and against, and you try to find out if the premises warrant the conclusion or if known facts support the hypothesis.

      All of these mental acts are ontological judgements. You can’t arrive at a judgement by pouring the facts into a test-tube or peering at them through an electron microscope. So even to do “hard” science, to generate, evaluate and categorize data, you need to go beyond hard facts and concrete reality.

      Just think about it…how would one support a claim such as, “We can only accept as true that which scientific experimentation and observation can tell us,” using nothing but scientific experimentation and observation? With a chemistry experiment involving a Bunsen burner and test tubes? With a biology experiment involving a microscope and a petri dish, perhaps? The very premise that “science alone can reach conclusions” is a conclusion that science alone cannot reach, and is therefore self-refuting. Belief that science alone can provide ultimate explanations is religious in nature, and is referred to by philosophers as scientism, as I elaborate upon in I Believe in Science! Why Do I Need Religion?.

      But science has provided us with air travel, amazing medicines, computers, and a whole list of other advances! Considering such facts, shouldn’t we just listen to what science has to tell us? In reply, Freeman Dyson, who holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein, comments in his 2011 essay How We Know, that the usefulness of scientific theories should not be confused with their truth:

      Among my friends and acquaintances, everybody distrusts Wikipedia and everybody uses it. Distrust and productive use are not incompatible. Wikipedia is the ultimate open source repository of information. Everyone is free to read it and everyone is free to write it. It contains articles in 262 languages written by several million authors. The information that it contains is totally unreliable and surprisingly accurate. It is often unreliable because many of the authors are ignorant or careless. It is often accurate because the articles are edited and corrected by readers who are better informed than the authors.

      …The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.

      …Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

      Confusion of science and ontology absolutely permeates atheist thought. All logical arguments presented in favor of either theism or atheism are meta-scientific or ontological arguments which must be constructed upon what we currently know, not upon what scientific observation and experimentation may reveal some bright and shining day in the future. In point of fact, merely assuming atheism to be a default position, and suggesting that scientific observation may someday produce an argument for atheism, commits the logical fallacy of Argument from Ignorance. As the Wikipedia post for Argument from Ignorance notes, “Appeals to ignorance are often used to suggest the other side needs to do the proving. Rules of logic place the burden (responsibility) of proving something on the person making the claim.” And a statement such as, “God is not needed for the origin of life because unintelligent processes can perform this task” is a positive claim, not a mere lack of belief in God.

      Following are a few introductory pieces of evidence which lead to the meta-scientific conclusion that life was created by an intelligent agent (read: God):

      1) The genetic code (the language of life) uses symbolic representation in the most literal (not figurative or metaphorical) sense, as I describe in The Case for God is Not a Case of the God of the Gaps. Information science (not to mention everyday common sense) tells us that symbolic representation is BY NECESSITY the product of an intelligent agent, because what a symbol serves to represent is entirely arbitrary. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no chemical or physical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a MENTAL relationship.

      2) Physicists and mathematicians are able to actually mathematically quantify the information content which natural laws are capable of producing, and it falls FAR FAR FAR short of the information content contained in the genetic code of even the simplest living thing. I delve into this topic in Darwinist Detective Work.

      Ok, Bob, now the ball is in your court. What pieces of evidence based on what we currently know from science can you use to reach the meta-scientific conclusion that life is the result of unintelligent natural mechanisms? Please note that, as I have explained above, an Appeal to Ignorance such as “we don’t know, but someday science will figure it out” does not work because science alone cannot figure out or explain anything.

  3. Chase200mph says:

    Formal reasoning is used to evaluate the form of an argument, and to examine the logical relationships between conclusions and their supporting assertions. Arguments are determined to be either valid or invalid based solely on whether their conclusions necessarily follow from their explicitly stated premises or assertions. That is, if the supporting assertions are true, must the conclusion also be true? If so, then the argument is considered valid and the truth of the conclusion can be directly determined by establishing the truth of the supporting assertions. If not, then the argument is considered invalid, and the truth of the assertions is insufficient (or even irrelevant) for establishing the truth of the conclusion. Now where does anything you post cover any of this??

    • It sounds like you would like my argument in the format of a syllogism:

      Premise 1) Life was either caused by an intelligent agent or by unintelligent natural mechanisms.

      Premise 2) Whatever caused life needs the ability to preserve the complex chemical compounds necessary for the origin of life, and also needs to be able to produce the information content codified in the genetic code.

      Premise 3) Unintelligent natural mechanisms do not have the ability to know what complex chemical compounds need to be preserved, nor the ability to perform any preservation.

      Premise 4) Unintelligent natural mechanisms are not capable of producing the information content necessary for producing the set of genetic instructions codified in the genetic code (as I discuss in Darwinist Detective Work).

      Premise 5) Therefore, unintelligent natural mechanisms are not capable of producing life from non-life.

      Conclusion) Life was caused by an intelligent agent.

      Chase, I would love to address any objections you have to the above argument, presented syllogistically.

      Scott

  4. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    I hope you have been well. Agnostic thinker Nathan Ormond ‘rebutted’ the Christian view of the resurrection by positing that just because the early Christians wrote a document about Jesus’ resurrection does not mean that the resurrection actually happened. He suggests that Christians replace the resurrection of Jesus with a flying man and then all the eyewitnesses of the resurrection to the witnesses of a flying man. Does that mean there actually was a flying man?

    I think that such an argument is normally used to along the lines of the Christians reject the miracles of Islam e.g. Muhammad flying to heaven on a winged horse or any other miracles of other religions. Could you offer your thoughts on this?

    • Jeff,

      Glad to hear from you again. Sorry for the delay.

      In his book Miracles, Craig Keener notes that, “None of the ancient sources respond to Jesus’ miracles by trying to deny them.” Even ancient sources hostile towards Christianity, such as the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus and the ancient Roman historian Celsus, do not attempt to deny Jesus’ miracles. Celsus, for example, rather than denying Jesus’ miracles, accused him of sorcery. As this essay notes, Celsus wrote:

      “It was by means of sorcery that He [Jesus] was able to accomplish the wonders which He performed… Let us believe that these cures, or the resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves… These are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers… It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of power…”

      In rebuttal to Ormond’s argument, I recommend that you read my essay titled The Ancient Fable Behind Disbelief in Christ’s Resurrection Ormond appears to be 100% ignorant of how strongly New Testament scholarship (including that of atheist and agnostic New Testament scholars) supports the resurrection.

      Please read the entire essay, but here is an excerpt:

      Most disbelievers in Christ’s resurrection are likely blissfully unaware of just how far New Testament scholarship has swayed in favor of Jesus’ resurrection in the last 40 years. Readers are strongly encouraged to view a You Tube video titled The Historical Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection That Even Skeptics Believe:

      In this video, New Testament scholar Gary Habermas explains that, among New Testament scholars, if you talked about the empty tomb in the 1970’s “there would be a lot of snickering, and nobody but evangelicals who published in that area would accept it.”

      If you mentioned post-resurrection appearances in the 1970’s, “Everybody would have laughed.” However, Habermas reveals that, “Today, the majority of New Testament scholars, theologians, historians, and philosophers who publish in the area [including atheist and agnostic academics…not just Christians] believe in the empty tomb.”

      “In the 70’s, if you talked about bodily [post-resurrection] appearances of Jesus, they’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s nice. Go back to your church and talk about it, but don’t do it on a university campus.’”

      Today, however, belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the predominant view within New Testament scholarship.

      As Habermas puts it, “Today, bodily resurrection is the predominant view in the academy.” Habermas also notes that, “Raymond Brown (probably the most prominent New Testament scholar in America), shortly before his death, said that the majority of contemporary theologians are conservative today.”

      Habermas titles his argument for the resurrection of Jesus the “minimal facts argument” since it is based only upon the data that is granted, in his words, “by virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones” (such as atheist and agnostic scholars). These five “minimal facts” are as follows (as detailed in his book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus):

      1) Jesus died by crucifixion
      2) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
      3) The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
      4) The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
      5) The tomb was empty.

      Habermas explains that the following phrase will receive virtually no dispute among contemporary New Testament scholars (whether Christian, agnostic, or atheist):

      “Jesus earliest followers had experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus.” (Scroll forward to 52 minutes into the video to view Habermas make this statement).

      So how do atheist and agnostic scholars who accept the truth of the above statement make sense of it in light of their disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection? This article provides a good example of an atheist New Testament scholar who struggles to explain the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection through the lens of his belief system:

      “…Atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann maintains a priori rejection of the supernatural and yet he says, ‘It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.’ Although he accepts the historical evidence he concludes that the best explanation for it is that everybody who thought they saw the resurrected Jesus actually hallucinated. Peter hallucinated because he was overcome by grief for denying Jesus, Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus, James the skeptical brother of Jesus hallucinated, and all the five hundred who saw Jesus at one time hallucinated.”

      It does not take a mathematician to conclude that the probability of several individuals having the SAME hallucination is infinitesimally small. Habermas comments on the absurdity of this proposition in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus:

      “Although the hallucination theory enjoyed some popularity over a hundred years ago and still has a few adherents, it suffers from a number of problems.”

      “First, today we know that hallucinations are private occurrences, which occur in the mind of the individual. They are not collective experiences.”

      “…Imagine that it is the middle of the night. You wake up your wife and say, ‘Honey, I just had a dream that we were in Hawaii. Come back to sleep and join me in the dream and we’ll enjoy a free vacation together.’ It would be impossible for her to do so, since a dream exists only in the mind of the individual. It cannot be shared with another person. Likewise, a hallucination cannot be shared.”

      Similarly, Michael Lacona notes in his essay Were the Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Hallucinations?:

      “Gary A. Sibcy is a licensed clinical psychologist, with a PhD in clinical psychology, who has an interest in the possibility of group hallucinations. He comments:

      ‘I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.’”

      If it is not the historical facts which cause skeptical New Testament scholars such as Lüdemann to reject the possibility of Jesus resurrection (if favor of absurdly improbable explanations, such as group hallucinations) what is the source of their skepticism?

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        I have read the essay and it is a great essay. I did enjoy Dr. Habermas’ argument. I came to know of his work thanks to Dr. Mike Licona

        I think Mr. Ormond’s argument point was to point to the idea that miracles cannot exist. That is why he used the analogy of the flying man. Now from your essay the ancient Fable, you mention Dr. Ludemann who has presumption commitment to naturalism. This is why he rejects the supernatural claim of the Ressurection of Jesus of Nazareth.

        Mr. Ormond’s claim that a flying man and a resurrected Jesus Christ have been written on a paper does not mean the event OCCURRED. Perhaps it would be good to offer good evidence to say that a FLYING MAN EXISTED as the same goes to Jesus of Nazareth. The evidence does suggest that Jesus Christ resurrected. Dr. Mike Licona offered a good historical defense in his book the Ressurection of Jesus.

        On another point Scott, if we accept the resurrection of Christ. Does this mean we reject other miracle claims of other religions?

        • Jeff,

          Regarding Ormond’s argument that Miracles cannot exist, I recommend my post titled The Reality of Miracles. In this essay, I cite Craig Keener from his book Miracles, which is one of the best books I have ever read. You simply must read it!

          As Keener points out, philosophical arguments that miracles cannot exist commit the logical fallacy of circular reasoning (Latin: circulus in probando). The creator of what is still the primary philosophical argument against miracles was the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. An excerpt from the above mentioned essay:

          The 18th century Scottish atheist philosopher David Hume first formulated the main contemporary arguments against miracles. Hume’s primary argument is that miracles cannot occur because they constitute violations of natural law. In his book Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, Craig Keener comments how Hume’s logic is notably Heller-esque:

          “…Thus, on the usual reading of Hume, he manages to define away any possibility of a miracle occurring, by defining ‘miracle’ as a violation of natural law, yet defining ‘natural law’ as principles that cannot be violated. As one philosopher complains, once a miracle could be proved to occur, natural law would be redefined to accommodate this occurrence, which would thus no longer be accepted as miraculous. ‘The miracle seems for ever frustrated in its attempts to violate; for as soon as it imagines that it has succeeded, it finds that there was nothing there after all to violate!’ That is, Hume’s definitions assume what he claims to prove, a standard fallacy recognized in logic.”

          Do Christians need to reject miracle claims of other religions? Which miracle claims are you referring to? I am not aware of miracle claims made by Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, etc..

          • Jeff Mwangi says:

            Dear Scott,

            I understand that David Hume’s arguments were rebutted. Atheist philosopher once said “Starting with the early Enlightenment figures, finding acute and more fully developed critiques in Hume and Kant, and carried through by their contemporary rational reconstructers (e.g., Mackie, and Martin), the various arguments for the existence of God have been so thoroughly refuted that few would try to defend them today and even those few who do, do so in increasingly attenuated forms.”

            In response, philosophers James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis have this to say: Natural theology is alive and well in contemporary philosophy; the supposed Humean refutation of the enterprise is a myth whose exposure is long overdue.

            I have no doubt that various arguments have been made in responding to David Hume. Myself, I don’t doubt that miracles can occur as that will require a presupposition commitment to naturalism.

            I think the common atheist argument is that we shall deny miracles of other religions but accept the miracles of Christianity. For example, Islam claims that Muhammad split the moon which will deny but how does that make us any better when he accept the sun standing still in the book of Joshua.That’s the point I’m going for Scott.

            • Jeff,

              I think a fundamental point that needs to be made is that each miracle claims needs to be evaluated individually. Regarding the miracles of Jesus, recall the evidence for Jesus’ miracles which we discussed from my essay The Ancient Fable Behind Disbelief in Christ’s Resurrection and from Gary Habermas, as presented in my essay (with a link to a YouTube video).

              So let’s examine the claim that Mohammad split the moon as an individual miracle claim:

              Considering that Mohammad did not claim to be divine, it seems highly unlikely that he actually claimed to split the moon. More likely, this is urban legend or hearsay.

              Just think about it: Why would someone who does not even claim to be divine claim to have performed a divine act? It just doesn’t add up. If you or I were to claim to be able to control the weather, it would also be necessary for us to claim to have have super-human abilities. But since we do not claim to have super-human abilities, why would we claim to be able to control the weather?

              As an individual miracle claim, the claim that Mohammad split the moon is revealed to be most likely urban legend or hearsay.

              Next, it is very important to emphasize that atheists pretend not to make miracle claims, but they actually DO. For example, as I discuss in The Origin of Life and the Man Behind the Curtain, atheist claims that life emerged from non-living matter as a result of unintelligent mechanisms violate the second law of thermodynamics (SLOT). Atheists will scream and complain that their claims do not violate SLOT, but they very clearly do. To get a complete understanding of why this is the case, please read that essay as well as the essays by Dr. WM DeJong (who holds a PhD in this subject matter), which I link to in the essay.

              As I discuss in this essay, unintelligent natural processes are able to produce order, but only on a very limited and temporary basis which falls far, far short of what is necessary to create life from non-life. For example, the unintelligent natural process of wind blowing sand on a beach may produce orderly ripples in the sand. But once the direction or strength of the wind changes, the same unintelligent natural processes will more quickly destroy the order which they produced.

              Further, atheist claims that life emerged from non-life as a result of unintelligent processes violate the information bearing limitations of natural laws, as I elaborate upon in Darwinist Detective Work.

              Atheists such as David Hume tend to define miracles as violations of natural law. And since atheist claims regarding the origin of life violate natural laws, these atheists are making miracle claims, no matter how adamantly they may try to deny it.

              • Jeff Mwangi says:

                Dear Scott,

                I don’t think I would agree with your point regarding Muhammad because he claimed to be a prophet of God who could do miracles similar to the way Moses was able to part the red sea which is described as a miraculous event. The burden of proof is still on us to point why we would reject Muhammad’s miracle claims and not say Moses or Jesus.

                Excellent point regarding atheists making miracle claims. I think when atheists berate Christians regarding miracles or berating Christians regarding how thy view miracles of other religions, they sit in the middle thinking thinking they are a neutral point which is a smokescreen to cover their scientism, materialism and naturalistic point of view. Internet atheists specialize in this of concepts. With this in mind, it is good to be careful of atheists who talk of miracles as going against reason, science and logic. I started questioning my atheism after noticing this points regarding the above worldviews. Sadly, with strong rhetoric. It becomes more blur.

                • Jeff,

                  I am not familiar with any miracle claims made by Mohammad. Yes, he did claim to be prophet of God. But a prophet is merely the bearer of a message, and does not imply or require divinity. Please recall that John the Baptist from the Bible claimed to be a prophet (bearing a message from God), but emphasized that he was not divine.

                  Did Mohammad perform miracles?

                  As the above article states:

                  This kind of confirmation never happened on Muhammad’s behalf. In fact, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, actually believed Jesus was a prophet who performed miracles, including raising the dead. Muslims also believe Moses and Elijah performed miracles. However, in the Koran when unbelievers challenged Muhammad to perform a miracle, he refused. He merely said they should read a chapter in the Koran. (See Sura 2:118; 3:181–84; 4:153; 6:8,9,37 in the Koran.) And yet Muhammad himself said, “God hath certainly power to send down a sign” (Sura 6:37). He even said, “They [will] say: ‘Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?’” (Sura 6:37). Unlike Jesus, miracles were not a sign of Muhammad’s ministry. It wasn’t until 150 or 200 years after Muhammad’s death that his followers invented miracles and ascribed them to him.

                  Can you find an excerpt from the Koran in which Mohammad claims to be divine and have miraculous powers? I cannot. I searched the Wikipedia post for Muhammad in Islam and did not find any reference to him making any miracle claims. Can you provide me with any literature which suggests that Mohammad himself made miracle claims, as opposed to his followers? If so, I would be glad to examine them.

                  • Jeff Mwangi says:

                    I just want to say thank you for taking your time to respond Scott. I hope you and your family are safe during this covid-19 crisis.

                    Granted, Muhammad never performed any miracle when asked. Nevertheless, some Muslim historian seem to think that he DID perform some miracles. For example, on the Wikipedia section of miracles , a miracle was performed on the battle of Trench which Muslim historians seem to firm.

                    With that in mind, does that seem that we should reject these miracles of other religions? Kindly share your thoughts.

                    • It’s my pleasure, Jeff. I hope you are staying safe too. Answering comments gives me something to do (other than reading and watching Netflix) while my wife and I hunker down due to Covid-19. I hope you and your family are safe as well.

                      I don’t think that there is anything intrinsic to Christianity or the Bible which would suggest that God only reveals himself to Christians. In my essay Which God is Real?, I cite the book Finding God in Ancient China: How the Ancient Chinese Worshiped the God of the Bible, in which Chinese Christian Chan Kei Thong (the author) notes how the same God described in the Christian and Hebrew bible revealed himself to the ancient Chinese:

                      “When we look at what the ancient Chinese knew of Shang Di and at the kind of relationship they had with Him and He with them, we can say with confidence that Shang Di parallels the Creator God of the Hebrews and Christians. The picture that emerges dovetails so neatly and corresponds so closely with the One described in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures that we can recognize Him as one and the same.”

                      I also cite the phenomenon of the one true God revealing himself to all peoples as noted by Christian missionary Don Richardson in his book Eternity In Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World.

                      If miracles are a defined as suspension of natural law by the giver of natural law (God), it seems likely that God would suspend natural law to speak to non-Christian peoples as well. So, to answer your question directly: No, I do not think that Christians should reflexively dismiss all miracle claims from members of a different faiths. Christians can and should be open to the reality that God speaks to members of all cultures and time periods.

                      Another crucial point is that the concepts of God presented by various religions are not mutually exclusive. As a Christian, I believe that Jews, Muslims, and Hindus (etc.) get an awful lot RIGHT about God. Of course we have points of disagreement, but all of the above mentioned faiths agree that God is:

                      1: The Creator of the Universe.
                      2: The lawgiver or natural laws.
                      3: The source and author of moral duties and moral values.
                      4: The ultimate judge.
                      etc…

                      Jews and Muslims do not accept that God came to Earth in human form and sacrificed himself as a remission for human sin. But, as I reveal in my above mentioned essay, Hindu scripture DOES state that this happened. Please read the excerpts from Hindu scripture which I cite in that essay (as presented in The Christ Connection: How the World Religions Prepared the Way for the Phenomenon of Jesus by Roy Abraham Varghese). Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the Hindu scriptures (known as the Vedas and Upanishads) which seem eerily like they are referencing God’s sacrifice on the cross through Jesus Christ:

                      “If you want to be delivered from the sin, which you commit through eyes, mouth, ears and mind, bloodshed is necessary. Without shedding the blood, there is no remission for sin. That must be the blood of the Holy one. God is our creator. He is our King. When we were perishing, He came to save us by offering even his own body on our behalf.” (Tandya Mahabrahmana 4.15).

                      “The redemption is through shedding of blood only and that blood has to be through the sacrifice of God himself.” (Taittiriya Aranyaka, verse 3).

                      “This [sacrifice] is the only way for the redemption and liberation of mankind. Those who meditate and attain this man, believe in heart and chant with the lips, get liberated in this world itself and there is no other way for salvation too.” (Yajur-Veda 31:18)

                      “The Purusha was above sin, and only in knowing him does one attain immortality.” (Chandogyopanishad 1:6:6-7)

                      “After giving Himself as the supreme sacrifice, this Purush resurrected himself.” (Brihadaranyakaopanishad 3.9.28.4-5; Kathopanishad 3: 15).

                      “The purpose of this sacrifice is to provide the only way to Heaven and the only way to escape from Hell.” (Rig-Veda 9:113:7-11; 4:5:5; 7:104:3).

                      “His hands and legs are to be bound to a yoopa [a wooden pole] causing blood shed.” (Brihadaranyakaopanishad 3.9.28; Aitareya Brahmana 2:6).

                      “The sacrificial victim is to be crowned with a crown made of thorny vines.” (Rig-Veda 10:90:7, Brihadaranyakaopanishad 3:9:28).

                      Atheists often fail to recognize the difference between God as he actually exists, on one hand, and human concepts of God, on the other hand. As an illustration, imagine if we were discussing the JFK assassination, rather than God. Most of us would accept the occurrence of this event to be reality, despite the fact that our concepts of what happened on that day in November of 1963 may differ greatly.

                      For example, some people may insist that the CIA was involved, whereas others may insist that the Russians and/or Cubans were the real perpetrators. Some people may insist that there was another shooter hidden near the grassy knoll, whereas others think that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter.

                      The fact that various people have differing concepts of what happened that day does not mean that there is not an underlying reality which connects these diverse concepts. And, in regards to an infinite God, NO human concept can be completely adequate.

                      That being said, I want to again reemphasize that the evidence for Jesus’ miracles is prodigious, whereas the testimony of one Muslim historian is of questionable value.

                      To conclude, let me give you a SPECIFIC example of a miracle in which God revealed himself to non-Christians:

                      Chinese Christian Chan Kei Thong details how God revealed himself to the ancient Chinese in Finding God In Ancient China: How the Ancient Chinese Worshiped the God of the Bible:

                      “The Bible recounts a dramatic astronomic phenomenon occurring at the cruxifiction:

                      It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23: 44-46)

                      Note that this solar eclipse lasted for three hours — from the sixth to the ninth hour, which is roughly noon to 3pm in modern timekeeping–before Jesus breathed His last. At that moment, the veil of the Jewish temple was supernaturally torn in two: a dramatic symbolization that the barrier between God and man was removed once and for all.”

                      “Once again, this event is corroborated in the Chinese historical documents, which record a highly significant solar eclipse occurring around the time indicated in the biblical account:

                      In the day of Gui Hai, the last day of the month, there was a solar eclipse, [The emperor] avoided the Throne Room, suspended all military activities, and did not handle official business for five days. And he proclaimed, ‘My poor character has caused this calamity, that the sun and the moon were veiled, I am fearful and trembling. What can I say?… Anyone who presents a memorial is not allowed to mention the word ‘holy’”.

                      “Another entry made a short time later, referring to the same eclipse, said:

                      Summer, fourth month [of the year], on the day of Ren Wu, the imperial edict reads, ‘Yin and Yang have mistakenly switched, and the sun and the moon were eclipsed. The sins of all the people are now on one man. [The emperor] proclaims pardon to all under heaven.’

                      This solar eclipse was recorded in the Record of the Latter Han Dynasty, Gui Han was the last day of the third month in the spring, during the 7th year of Han Emperor Guang Wu (reigned A.D. 25 – 57). That corresponds to A.D. 31, which means that this major eclipse happened 34 years after the astral events involving the magi! “[At the time of Christ’s birth]

                      “Even more incredibly, a commentary in the Record of the Latter Han Dynasty, said simply,

                      ‘Eclipse on the day of Gui Hai, Man from heaven died.’

                      The man from heaven died! Could there be a more apt description or a more accurate understanding of the Cruxifiction?

                      God’s love extends to all the nations of the world, and in some unique and unknown way, He gave special insight to Chinese astronomers to understand what He was doing. We are all sinners, even the emperor, but God laid all our sins on His only Son, Jesus Christ.”

                      Thong then goes on to describe how the Record of the Han Dynasty records that a rainbow encircled the sun three days after the eclipse, which corresponds with the day of Christ’s resurrection.

  5. I think it would be good if you theists explain why you believe in such a brutal book. Kindly explain Deuteronomy 25 11-12. Christian scholars try to explain biblical violence that keep being debunked. Read this article that debunks Paul Copan’s article on the stated verse. Here is the debunked article by Dr. Hector Avalos: debunking-christianity.com/2011/07/underhanded-biblical-interpretation.html

    NOTE that the Hebrew word for cutting in deuteroromy 25: 11 is used in texts talking about circumcision.

    I’ve seen the way you us those Paul Copan’s arguments in his book is God a moral monster? Don’t worry. That book has been debunked by liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark.

    • Atheist thinker,

      The main question I have for you is this: If there is no God, then who is the final judge of what constitutes “brutal”? You? Dr. Hector Avalos?

      Atheism leaves us with a huge moral paradox: If humans are the only agents available to make moral judgements, then WHICH humans are the final judges or right and wrong?

      Why you and/or Hector Avalos rather than Adolph Hitler or the leaders of the Klu Klux Klan? Because you and Dr. Avalos are morally superior to Hitler and the KKK? Says who? You and Hector Avalos?

      Without a higher moral authority to be the final judge of right and wrong, neither you nor Dr. Avalos are in a position to make a statement such as “that command is brutal and therefore morally wrong.” In the absence of a final moral judge (God), moral judgements such as “genocide is wrong” and “genocide is right” are merely subjective stances akin to “chocolate tastes better than vanilla” or “vanilla tastes better than chocolate.”

      In other words, without a final moral authority, what constitutes right and wrong is just a matter of personal taste. Philosopher William Lane Craig explains why naturalism cannot account for morality:

      “…if there isn’t any God to issue commandments to us, then why think that we have any moral duties? On the atheistic view, human being don’t seem to have any moral obligations to one another. For example, in the animal kingdom, if lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra but it doesn’t murder the zebra. If a great white shark copulates forcibly with a female, it forcibly copulates with the female, but it doesn’t rape the female, for there is no moral dimension to these actions. None of these things is prohibited or commanded; they are neither forbidden nor obligatory. So if God doesn’t exist, why think that we have any moral obligations? Who or what imposes such prohibitions or obligations upon us? Where do they come from? It is hard to see why moral duties would be anything more than the illusory by-products of social and parental conditioning.”

      “So, admittedly, certain actions like incest and rape have become taboo in the course of human evolution, but on atheism that does absolutely nothing to show that such actions are really wrong. Activity that looks like rape and incest goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. So the rapist who chooses to flout the herd morality is really on atheism doing nothing more than acting unfashionably; he is like the man who violates the social conventions by belching loudly at the dinner table. If there isn’t any moral law giver then there isn’t any moral law that imposes itself upon us.”

      Since God does not issue moral commands to Himself, he does not have any moral duties to fulfill. This is the divine command ethical theory, as William Lane Craig explains below, in the context of His command to destroy the Canaanites:

      I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements. According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God. Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.

      For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.” Human authorities arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God. God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second. If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

      What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

      So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

      On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

      All right; but isn’t such a command contrary to God’s nature? Well, let’s look at the case more closely. It is perhaps significant that the story of Yahweh’s destruction of Sodom–along with his solemn assurances to Abraham that were there as many as ten righteous persons in Sodom, the city would not have been destroyed–forms part of the background to the conquest of Canaan and Yahweh’s command to destroy the cities there. The implication is that the Canaanites are not righteous people but have come under God’s judgement.

      In fact, prior to Israel’s bondage in Egypt, God tells Abraham,

      “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [one of the Canaanite clans] is not yet complete” (Gen. 15. 13, 16).

      Think of it! God stays His judgement of the Canaanite clans 400 years because their wickedness had not reached the point of intolerability! This is the long-suffering God we know in the Hebrew Scriptures. He even allows his own chosen people to languish in slavery for four centuries before determining that the Canaanite peoples are ripe for judgement and calling His people forth from Egypt.

      By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.

      • Scott, I think what constitutes morality is the best of possible worlds. That’s what secular humanism is about. We aim to create the best aim for all human beings.

        I’ve studied your arguments Scott. You think your just going to evade that question. The strike is on ONE when you avoid my question. Didn’t God order a woman’s hands to be cut? YES OR NO Scott.

        Also answer this question, why is it some Christians can say Slavery is wrong yet the Bible doesn’t say no to slavery? It can say no to lying, stealing but no to slavery. Answer that Scott. Why did some Christians say slavery is alright but other abolitionists came to different conclusions? You Christians playing mental exegesis gymnastics.

        Morality comes from creating the best possible world for every human being. That’s my answer to your question as to who answers morality. Now the ball is on your court.

        • “The best of possible worlds” constitutes morality? But then who is the ultimate judge of what constitutes “the best of possible worlds”? You have merely dodged the question of WHICH HUMANS are the ultimate judges of good and evil. The Nazis thought they were creating the best of possible worlds by exterminating racial, ethnic, and religious groups who they considered to be harmful to descent “Aryan” people. A world free of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs (etc) was perceived by the Nazis to be part of the solution for creating the “best of possible worlds.” Indeed, they labeled their genocide campaign “the final solution.” And the Nazis were very secular, anti-Christian people.

          If human beings are the only moral agents available to make moral judgements, WHICH humans are the final authorities of what constitutes “the best of possible worlds”? Why you or Hector Avalos, rather than the Nazis and KKK? Because you and Hector Avalos are morally superior to the Nazis and KKK? Says who? You and Hector Avalos?

          No, I did not evade your question, Atheist Thinker. In order to label having someone’s hands cut off “brutal and unjust,” there must be some final judge of what constitutes brutal and unjust. Otherwise, what constitutes brutal and unjust is just a subjective opinion akin to “chocolate tastes better than vanilla” or “vanilla tastes better than chocolate.” The Nazis, for example, considered actions which we consider brutal and unjust to be righteous and just because they were necessary to establish their “thousand year reich” which would be free of “bad” ethnic groups such as Jews.

          Your questions about a woman’s hands being cut off and slavery fit into the same rubric:

          God is trying to gradually transform us into adapting his perfect morality by teaching us spiritual lessons. If he just snapped his fingers and made us morally perfect without learning the lessons ourselves, we would be his puppets. We must learn the hard lessons of horrible things like slavery and brutality the hard way. William Dembski explains in The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God In An Evil World:

          “Humanity, in becoming captive to evil, gave its consent. Humans are complicit in the evil from which God is striving to deliver us. For redemption effectively to deliver humanity from evil therefore requires us to be clear as to precisely what we have consented to in rebelling against God and embracing evil. To achieve this clarity, humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God.”

          “This does not mean that the creation has to become as corrupt as it could possibly be. But it does mean that the creation must not conceal or soft-sell the gravity of sin. …In answer, then, to why a benevolent God would allow natural evil to afflict an otherwise innocent nature in response to human moral evil, we can say that it is to manifest the full consequences of human sin so that when Christ redeems us, we may clearly understand what we have been redeemed from. Without this clarity about the evil we have set in motion, we will always be in danger of reverting back to it because we do not see its gravity.”

          By allowing evils such as slavery (as well a natural evils such as genetic diseases), God is thus responding somewhat like the parents of a 12 year-old who, upon catching the child smoking a cigarette, force him to go into the closet and finish the entire pack so that he can grasp the consequences of his choice.

          Paul Copan comments on how our sinful nature is reflected in our culture, and how this prevents us from seeing God’s pure moral standard in Is God A Moral Monster? Copan comments in the context of slavery in the USA, prior to the American Civil War:

          “Despite the North’s victory, the Emancipation Proclamation that preceded it (January 1, 1863), and the attempt at Reconstruction in the South, many whites did not change their mind-set in regard to blacks. As a nation, we’ve found that proclamations and civil rights legislations may be law, but such legalities don’t eradicate racial prejudice from human minds. A good deal of time was required to make significant headway in the pursuit of racial justice.”

          “Let’s switch gears. Imagine a Western nation or representatives from the West who think it best to export democracy to, say, Saudi Arabia. Think of the obstacles to overcome! A radical change of mind-set would be required, and simply changing laws wouldn’t alter the thinking in Saudi Arabia. In fact, you could probably imagine large-scale cultural opposition to such changes. When we journey back over the millennia into the ancient Near East, we enter a world that is foreign to us in many ways. Life in the ancient Near East wouldn’t just be alien to us—with all of its strange ways and assumptions. We would also see a culture whose social structures were badly damaged by the fall. Within this context, God raised up a covenant nation and gave the people laws to live by; he helped to create a culture for them. In doing so, he adapted his ideals to a people whose attitudes and actions were influenced by deeply flawed structures.”

          “As we’ll see with regard to servitude, punishments, and other structures, a range of regulations and statutes in Israel reveals a God who accommodates. Yet contrary to the common Neo-atheists’ caricatures, these laws weren’t the permanent, divine ideal for all persons everywhere. God informed his people that a new, enduring covenant would be necessary (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). By the Old Testament’s own admission, the Mosaic law was inferior and future looking. Does that mean that God’s ideals turn up only in the New Testament? No, the ideals are established at the very beginning (Gen. 1–2). The Old Testament makes clear that all humans are God’s image-bearers; they have dignity, worth, and moral responsibility. …Certain prohibitions in the law of Moses against theft, adultery, murder, and idolatry have enduring relevance. Yet when we look at God’s dealings with fallen humans in the ancient Near East, these ideals were ignored and even deeply distorted.”

          As the biblical scholar N. T. Wright affirms, “The Torah [law of Moses at Sinai] is given for a specific period of time, and is then set aside—not because it was a bad thing now happily abolished, but because it was a good thing whose purpose had now been accomplished.”3 This is the message of the New Testament book of Hebrews: the old Mosaic law and other Old Testament institutions and figures like Moses and Joshua were prefiguring “shadows” that would give way to “substance” and completion. Or as Paul put it in Galatians 3:24, the law was a “tutor” for Israel to prepare the way for Christ…incremental Steps toward the Ideal. How then did God address the patriarchal structures, primogeniture (rights of the firstborn), polygamy, warfare, servitude/slavery, and a number of other fallen social arrangements that were permitted because of the hardness of human hearts? He met Israel partway.

          • Scott,

            You may have to try again. We atheists do not have an Ontologolical foundation for morality but morality exists as a cold hard fact. Otherwise, we’d have chaos all around the world.

            I still can’t believe that you are referencing Paul Copan despite being debunked by Hector Avalos and Thom Stark who are biblical scholars. Copans points are just a cop out to defend violence.

            • Atheist Thinker,

              You have provided us with a perfect example of what the Christian apologist Nancy Pearcey refers to as the “just-so storytelling” of atheism. Morality exists because it just does (“a cold hard fact”). Please note how devoid of explanatory force a “cold hard fact” is. In other words, the just-so storytelling of atheism does not constitute explanation. Rather, it constitutes fatal explanatory failures.

              Next, Atheist Thinker, you need to pay attention to the crucial distinction between two entirely different things:

              1) A logically coherent argument.

              2) An assertion.

              Baldly asserting that Paul Copan has been “debunked,” without any logical argumentation to support that assertion, does not constitute a logical argument. Imagine if I were to baldly assert that “Charles Darwin’s theory has been debunked by Michael Behe,” without any accompanying logical argumentation. Would you accept that? I suspect not.

              Bald assertions have no place in productive rational discourse.

              More on morality:

              A necessary implication of atheism is nihilism, which is defined as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.” With no God to determine moral values, we are left with a meaningless and valueless natural world, in which humans are the only agents available to make moral judgements. But, if humans are the judges of right and wrong, we are left with the question of which humans get to be the judges. If the Nazis had conquered the world, then the Nazis would be the judges of right and wrong. Bo Jinn comments in Illogical Atheism:

              “Truthfully, on the logic which follows necessarily from the nihilistic paradox of atheism, if the Nazis had conquered the world, then everything we recognize historically as humanity’s greatest shame would be at once transformed into our greatest triumph. There would be no disputing the marvelous splendor of the Holocaust or the great glory of the many prodigious massacres carried out on behalf of the Aryan descendants to Mother Earth. These immortal goods would be true for all, and therefore true in fact. As [the famous atheist biologist Richard] Dawkins himself said; there is no good and there is no evil, ‘DNA just is and we dance to its music.’ The same holds for the universe at large.”

              Without an objective moral standard by which to judge the Nazis, we could only say that the Nazis went against our subjective moral standards in committing the Holocaust. By atheist logic, the Holocaust would merely be out of tune with the cultural preferences of non-Nazi cultures, as opposed to objectively morally wrong. This would be roughly comparable to a person who fails to adapt to local culture when visiting a foreign country. C.S. Lewis explains the need for a higher moral standard (and therefore, higher moral authority) by which one could judge humans such as the Nazis as objectively wrong, rather than merely wrong according to the subjective preferences of certain groups of people:

              “Now what do we mean when we call one of them the Good Power and the other the Bad Power? ….If ‘being good’ meant simply joining the side you happened to fancy, for no real reason, then good would not deserve to be called good. So we must mean that one of the two powers is actually wrong and the other actually right.”

              “But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers: some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to. But since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God.”

              Without God, there would be no third power by which to judge the Nazis as wrong, and the allied powers right for opposing the Nazis. The defeat of the Nazis would merely be the triumph of one subjective human opinion over another, a case of might-makes-right.

              • There’s no such thing as objective morality. What I mean is treat morality like an economic model where it increases the greatest number of human hapiness and human suffering. Morality is subjective. Simple as that.

                I gave you an article where biblical scholar Hector Avalos utterly debunks biblical violence. An example deuteronomy 25: 11 where it states that a woman’s hand is to be cut after seizing her husband’s attacker’s private parts. I used Avalos’ point that the Henrew word for cut is also used in other areas such as circumcision as was also noted by Avalos. Kindly respond to that

  6. Scott, in continuing our debate. You know what is needed for morality. Simply called sympathy and empathy. This is all that is needed to produce morals. Besides, loving thy neighbor is a teaching that has existed way before Christianity. We do not need ideas from a God to know that murder is wrong. Besides, the Christian God has relative morals. He seems to think that slavery is wrong and then think that slavery is not wrong or at least tolerated in the NT. That is not morals I would want to follow.

    The old testament slavery is madness and evil and should not be tolerated. It is what you expect from Superstitious idiocy and if deserves the same moral condemnation as the antebellum slavery in Europe and the US. How can you keep foreign slaves as permanent and pass them on to your children like property. That’s why you have sharia like laws like Deuteronomy 25: 11 where a woman’s hand is to be cut off if she seizes a man’s private parts.

    • Atheist Thinker,

      You write, “We do not need ideas from a God to know that murder is wrong.”

      But the important question is not how we can know that murder is wrong. Rather, the important question is:

      What is the source of moral values such as “murder is wrong”?

      You can know objective moral values such as “murder is wrong” without necessarily knowing where these values come from. Sympathy and empathy are displays of morality. But a display of morality does not explain where moral values come from, any more than a display of electricity explains where electricity comes from.

      Atheism is grounded in the worldview known as materialism or naturalism, which says that nothing exists except for the physical/natural world. According to naturalism, then, immaterial conscious entities such as God and human souls are deemed non-existent because they are not material in nature.

      But if materialism/naturalism is true, there can be no objective moral values, because the natural world is valueless. There is no such thing as a good or bad rock, or a good or bad bird, for example.

      William Lane Craig elaborates on this point:

      “…Actions such as incest and rape may not be biologically and socially advantageous and so in the course of human development have become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to show that rape or incest is really wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. The rapist who goes against the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably, like the man who belches loudly at the dinner table. If there is no moral lawgiver, then there is no objective moral law that we must obey.”

      “On the atheistic view, human beings are just animals, and animals have no moral obligations to one another. …When a great white shark forcibly copulates with a female, it forcibly copulates with her but it does not rape her—for there is no moral dimension to these actions. They are neither prohibited nor obligatory.”

      Atheist Thinker, I would like for you to reply to my previous comments about slavery, which I posted the last time you commented on slavery in the Old Testament:

      God is trying to gradually transform us into adapting his perfect morality by teaching us spiritual lessons. If he just snapped his fingers and made us morally perfect without learning the lessons ourselves, we would be his puppets. We must learn the hard lessons of horrible things like slavery and brutality the hard way. William Dembski explains in The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God In An Evil World:

      “Humanity, in becoming captive to evil, gave its consent. Humans are complicit in the evil from which God is striving to deliver us. For redemption effectively to deliver humanity from evil therefore requires us to be clear as to precisely what we have consented to in rebelling against God and embracing evil. To achieve this clarity, humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God.”

      “This does not mean that the creation has to become as corrupt as it could possibly be. But it does mean that the creation must not conceal or soft-sell the gravity of sin. …In answer, then, to why a benevolent God would allow natural evil to afflict an otherwise innocent nature in response to human moral evil, we can say that it is to manifest the full consequences of human sin so that when Christ redeems us, we may clearly understand what we have been redeemed from. Without this clarity about the evil we have set in motion, we will always be in danger of reverting back to it because we do not see its gravity.”

      By allowing evils such as slavery (as well a natural evils such as genetic diseases), God is thus responding somewhat like the parents of a 12 year-old who, upon catching the child smoking a cigarette, force him to go into the closet and finish the entire pack so that he can grasp the consequences of his choice.

      Paul Copan comments on how our sinful nature is reflected in our culture, and how this prevents us from seeing God’s pure moral standard in Is God A Moral Monster? Copan comments in the context of slavery in the USA, prior to the American Civil War:

      “Despite the North’s victory, the Emancipation Proclamation that preceded it (January 1, 1863), and the attempt at Reconstruction in the South, many whites did not change their mind-set in regard to blacks. As a nation, we’ve found that proclamations and civil rights legislations may be law, but such legalities don’t eradicate racial prejudice from human minds. A good deal of time was required to make significant headway in the pursuit of racial justice.”

      “Let’s switch gears. Imagine a Western nation or representatives from the West who think it best to export democracy to, say, Saudi Arabia. Think of the obstacles to overcome! A radical change of mind-set would be required, and simply changing laws wouldn’t alter the thinking in Saudi Arabia. In fact, you could probably imagine large-scale cultural opposition to such changes. When we journey back over the millennia into the ancient Near East, we enter a world that is foreign to us in many ways. Life in the ancient Near East wouldn’t just be alien to us—with all of its strange ways and assumptions. We would also see a culture whose social structures were badly damaged by the fall. Within this context, God raised up a covenant nation and gave the people laws to live by; he helped to create a culture for them. In doing so, he adapted his ideals to a people whose attitudes and actions were influenced by deeply flawed structures.”

      “As we’ll see with regard to servitude, punishments, and other structures, a range of regulations and statutes in Israel reveals a God who accommodates. Yet contrary to the common Neo-atheists’ caricatures, these laws weren’t the permanent, divine ideal for all persons everywhere. God informed his people that a new, enduring covenant would be necessary (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). By the Old Testament’s own admission, the Mosaic law was inferior and future looking. Does that mean that God’s ideals turn up only in the New Testament? No, the ideals are established at the very beginning (Gen. 1–2). The Old Testament makes clear that all humans are God’s image-bearers; they have dignity, worth, and moral responsibility. …Certain prohibitions in the law of Moses against theft, adultery, murder, and idolatry have enduring relevance. Yet when we look at God’s dealings with fallen humans in the ancient Near East, these ideals were ignored and even deeply distorted.”

      As the biblical scholar N. T. Wright affirms, “The Torah [law of Moses at Sinai] is given for a specific period of time, and is then set aside—not because it was a bad thing now happily abolished, but because it was a good thing whose purpose had now been accomplished.”3 This is the message of the New Testament book of Hebrews: the old Mosaic law and other Old Testament institutions and figures like Moses and Joshua were prefiguring “shadows” that would give way to “substance” and completion. Or as Paul put it in Galatians 3:24, the law was a “tutor” for Israel to prepare the way for Christ…incremental Steps toward the Ideal. How then did God address the patriarchal structures, primogeniture (rights of the firstborn), polygamy, warfare, servitude/slavery, and a number of other fallen social arrangements that were permitted because of the hardness of human hearts? He met Israel partway.

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