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 unites 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.

      • Scott

        I will grant that there’s no ontological foundation for morals. Morals exist because we human heings have sympathy and empathy to guide us to a better future. This prevents us from eliminating ourselves. I don’t see what it is so difficult. Yes your right. We don’t have a moral foundation or moral ontology but empathy and sympathy is all we need to build better societies.

        In response to your comments about slavery. It seems that you uave a God who is does not love thy neighbor. For example, Hebrew slaves were to be freed after 6 years. Non-Hebrew spaves were TO BE KEPT FOR LIFE AND EVEN PASSED DOWN TO THEIR FAMILIES GENERATIONS LIKE SOME TYPE OF PROPERTY (Leviticus 25: 40-46). You may try the apologist way by trying to suggest they were treated nicely as if being owned wasn’t bad enough. Also, trained assyriogist Dr. Josh Bowen of the YT Digital hammurabi have given evidence that the Israelites WERE NOT the only ones to treat slaves well. One has to ask why God could nkt have just said DO NOT OWN FELLOW HUMAN BEING AS PROPERTY. If he failed to achieve this because of “cultural context” then he has failed at his role as God because differentiating themselves from the nearby nations was his goal.

        • Atheist Thinker,

          We agree that there is no ontological foundation for morals, IF there is no God. That is the big “if.” As an atheist, you believe that there is no God, and therefore no ontological foundation for morals. Conversely, as a Christian, I believe that there is an ontological foundation for morals: God.

          You write, “Morals exist because we human beings have sympathy and empathy to guide us to a better future. This prevents us from eliminating ourselves.”

          But, here, you fail to notice that a concept such as “better future” or “better society” is meaningless without an ontological foundation. The Nazis perceived “better future” and “better society” as meaning a world in which Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and members of other such “bad ethnic groups” had been completely exterminated in death camps. Without an ontological foundation, concepts such as “better future” and “better society” are meaningless and entirely subjective.

          If there is no ontological foundation for morality, then why is your definition of morality better than that of the Nazis? Because you are morally superior to the Nazis? Says who? You?

          Again, we need a higher moral authority which exists above and beyond subjective human concepts of right and wrong for concepts such as “right and wrong” to have any meaning. Otherwise, saying “empathy is good” is just a subjective human stance akin to “chocolate tastes better than vanilla” or “vanilla tastes better than chocolate.”

          And, if providing for the survival of the species is the goal, then why not just kill off all of the elderly and mentally handicapped people (etc.)? These people are a hinderance to the survival of the species since they consume resources, and do not provide for the passing down of healthy genes.

          Secondly, preventing “eliminating ourselves” (the survival of the species) is a goal or purpose. But, if we view the world through the ontological lens of materialism (in which atheism is grounded), there can be no goals or purposes. No inanimate material object has ever tried to do anything, such as adapt to an environment in order to survive and pass on genes. Physicist Amit Goswami writes:

          “The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.”

          “See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival! A paradox is a sure-fire sign that the basic assumptions of the paradigm are incomplete or inconsistent; they need a reexamination.”

          Regarding slavery, you keep ignoring my citation of Paul Copan from Is God a Moral Monster? You need to respond to these specific points, rather than ignoring them.

          • Scott,

            Morals just exist because they do Scott. Our morals develop because they we are lucky to have developed more better morals than other morals.

            Before I respond to Paul Copan’s points, what does he mean that the mosaic law was inferior? I don’t understand that point because NT Wright also writes that the Mosaic Law wasn’t something that was “happily abolished”, it was a “good thing” that was fulfilled. I would suggest that even if the old testament is for the ANE, God still CONDONED SLAVERY.

            • Atheist Thinker,

              I want to again reemphasize that “morals just exist because they do” is a fatal explanatory failure of atheism. Imagine if the police were accusing you of murder and you responded, “My finger prints are on the murder weapon, and the victim’s blood is on my shirt because they just are. I didn’t commit this murder.”

              The police and the prosecutor would consider these damning explanatory failures for very good reason. Similarly, the existence of objective moral values such as “genocide is wrong” and “rape is wrong” are damning evidence against atheism. Atheism says that the natural world is all that exists, but the natural world is valueless. There is no such thing as a good or bad rock, or a good or bad tree. As Albert Einstein said,

              “You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.”

              I would respectfully request that you consider that our materialistic culture has reality backwards. Prime reality (or the something-from-which-everything-else-comes) is not matter. Rather, it is mind (read: God’s mind). Objective morals are a reflection of God’s character.

              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.”

              Regarding Copan’s point that the mosaic law was inferior: Copan is arguing that God is trying to get us on a path of moral progress, in which we gradually move towards his perfect morality. If God just snapped his fingers and made us morally perfect like him, we would be nothing but his puppets. But God doesn’t want to be in intimate relationships with puppets.

              The mosaic law is a relic from an earlier stage in our moral evolution…sort of like kindergarten for students of God’s morality. In the ancient near east, concepts such as animal rights were considered utterly ridiculous. But now, as human morality evolves towards God’s perfect morality, we realize that there is such a thing as the rights of animals.

              Notably, without an objective standard of morality towards which to progress (God’s morality), the concept of moral progress is meaningless. Indeed, if there is no Moral Law which transcends subjective human opinions about morality, then changes in morality would be nothing more than changes in moral fashions. A return to institutionalized slavery would be akin to a “retro chic” trend in clothing…such as when early 1960’s era suits worn on the hit TV show Mad Men became popular again.

              Atheists are fond of arguing that our morals evolved as a result of amoral natural processes. But this stance is wrought with problems. Evolution implies progress, which again brings up the question of how changing moral fashions could be deemed progress rather than merely change.

              • Scott,

                This is the thing, my good sir. It was atheists that liberated slaves because they believed that their humanity could not be owned by other humans. With sympathy and empathy, slavery is wrong. Other cultures can practice slavery but when they come to this part of the world then slavery is wrong. Either they listen or get out. Simple as that. We both recognize that there is no ontological foundation of morality. Therefore, to prevent chaos we cooperate and makeup rules that will benefit the whole tribe. In fact, enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu and Rousseau spoke against slavery yet Christians used the Bible to justify slavery.

                To suggest that God had to prepare the ancient Israelites for a better new covenant is not helpful. Slavery is still allowed in the new testament and if Christians think slavery is wrong, it took you nearly 1800 years to recognize is wrong. If God could not recognize that slavery is wrong but, Abraham Lincoln could recognize that slavery is wrong, then he’s not worthy of worship.

                We may not have an objective standard of morality but our thinking is still better than the Bible itself.

                • Atheist Thinker,

                  No, we do not both recognize that there is no ontological foundation for morality. We both recognize that there is no ontological foundation for morality if atheism is true. But, since I think that atheism is false, I believe that the ontological foundation for morality is God.

                  Your account of history is completely inaccurate. It has been said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

                  I challenge you to provide a single citation from a historian from an accredited university who will claim that anti-slavery movements were led by atheists. Can you name a single atheist who played a crucial role in the anti-slavery (abolitionist) or civil rights movements? I’ll bet you can’t, because there likely aren’t any.

                  Yes, slavery was still practiced during New Testament times. But it still does not follow from this that God approved of slavery. There is a crucial difference between how things were, and how God wanted them to be.

                  The New Testament provides historical account of humankind’s gradual moral progress towards God’s perfect morality. For example, in the New Testament, Jesus and his followers gave respect to women which was FAR ahead their time. The New Testament accepted the testimony of women as evidence that Jesus’ tomb was empty after his resurrection. This is despite the fact that ancient near eastern society was so extremely sexist that the testimony of women was considered worthless.

                  As another example, the New Testament records God trying to make himself known to ALL peoples. Judaism was (and remains, for the most part) a religion only for those of a specific ethnic background. God wanted the testimony of the Jewish people to reach out to everyone.

                  It is a historical fact that the founder of the movement to abolish slavery (abolitionism) was a Christian named William Wilberforce. Other crucial abolitionists were Christians such as the English preacher Charles Spurgeon, Methodist founder John Wesley, Presbyterians Charles Finney and Theodore Weld, Harriet Beecher Stowe (daughter of abolitionist Lyman Beecher), Sojourner Truth. The Christian movement known as the Quakers, in particular, were early leaders in abolitionism, as noted in the Wikipedia post below.

                  Please also note that the more modern civil rights movement was also led by Christians such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, Pearl S. Buck, etc., etc.

                  As the Wikipedia post for Christian abolitionism states:

                  Although many Enlightenment philosophers opposed slavery, it was Christian activists, attracted by strong religious elements, who initiated and organized an abolitionist movement. [1] Throughout Europe and the United States, Christians, usually from “un-institutional” Christian faith movements, not directly connected with traditional state churches, or “non-conformist” believers within established churches, were to be found at the forefront of the abolitionist movements.[1][2]

                  In particular, the effects of the Second Great Awakening resulted in many evangelicals working to see the theoretical Christian view, that all people are essentially equal, made more of a practical reality. Freedom of expression within the Western world also helped in enabling opportunity to express their position. Prominent among these abolitionists was Parliamentarian William Wilberforce in England, who wrote in his diary when he was 28 that, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and Reformation of Morals.”[3] With others he labored, despite determined opposition, to finally abolish the British slave trade. English preacher Charles Spurgeon had some of his sermons burned in America due to his censure of slavery, calling it “the foulest blot” and which “may have to be washed out in blood”.[4] Methodist founder John Wesley denounced human bondage as “the sum of all villainies”, and detailed its abuses.[5] In Georgia, primitive Methodists united with brethren elsewhere in condemning slavery. Many evangelical leaders in the United States such as Presbyterian Charles Finney and Theodore Weld, and women such as Harriet Beecher Stowe (daughter of abolitionist Lyman Beecher) and Sojourner Truth motivated hearers to support abolition.

  7. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    I would love to continue the discussion here since the reply button to your response was absent. I appreciate the idea of Chan Kei Thong’s points. I will admit I am confused. If the Chinese emperor had concluded, “my poor character had caused this calamity”, would it not have been good that he talked about Jesus of Nazareth in his thinking and perhaps Christianity would have begun there. I do not think a description of this day would be enough to lead them to Jesus Christ. I agree that Islam and Hinduism do have the creation of the universe in their texts but how they come to the afterlife is vastly different. This does not mean that sin cannot impair our thinking or as Alvin Plantinga hints that demons can also be responsible for natural evil as God had created a good world. My point is there should have been clearer evidence like saying the name of Jesus Christ in these different regions of the world to know that God could have worked been working in their hearts. I hope I am not misunderstanding you which means that I committed the strawman fallacy.

    NB: Is there somewhere I can read philosophy and understand philosophical terms such as the rules of logic. I would love a degree in philosophy, Old Testament and New Testament but I do not have time either the resources to pursue these degrees. Is there a way that a non-professional like myself can be able to understand philosophy and some work in Old and New Testament work without having to go to the strenuous process of formal education in these fields? You seem to have a thorough understanding of history and philosophy of science, philosophy of religion and OT and NT reading despite not being qualified in those fields. Maybe you are but I don’t know :)

  8. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    I hope you’ve been well and staying safe during this pandemic. I wanted to ask you another question. There is a YT debate called the modern-day debate where it regularly hosts debates theists and non-theists. A recent debate involved a non-theist mentioning that if God loves humanity, he should have wiped off satan from the beginning before he tempted the first couple. He used this analogy: Suppose I hire a babysitter to take care of my children then I found out that the baby sitter is a murderer, would I still hire that particular baby sitter. The answer is no. The homicidal baby sitter represents the devil and the children represent Adam and Eve. In short, if God loved Adam and Eve and by extension humanity then he should have eliminated Satan from the picture.

    The Christian in the debate answered that God wanted his creation to know the consequences of sin by using Satan as an example. Kindly, share your thoughts here.

    On a side note, kindly redirect me to any website philosophy and biblical studies. I have appreciated your work on this website in refuting naturalism. Is there somewhere where I can learn old and new testament studies and philosophy.

    • Jeff,

      I’m doing well and wish the same for you. The homicidal babysitter analogy for Satan is nonsense because God doesn’t allow Satan to kill us. Only God decides when a person dies…except for people who commit suicide. But even in cases of suicide, Satan has not been permitted by God to kill freely. And even if God permitted Satan to kill a person, it was God who ultimately made the life-or-death decision, not Satan.

      I agree with the Christian in that YT debate. An excerpt from my post titled If God is real, why is there suffering? is applicable here:

      How does one, for example, rectify the existence of a good and just God with the occurrence of the holocaust? The most tempting (and facile) way to answer this question is to simply state that God is not good and just…or, perhaps more commonly, that he does not exist. But this perspective is rooted in incorrect assumptions about God and the nature of his interaction with the world. Gregory Boyd explores this topic in his book Is God to Blame? Boyd labels the pervasive viewpoint that God is responsible for everything that happens in this world “the blueprint worldview” and calls attention to the philosophical and theological flaws this viewpoint contains:

      “Scripture confirms human and angelic freedom and that this is how God’s creation became the war zone that it presently is…Of course he (God) could have created a world where we have to do his will, but it would be a creation devoid of love.”

      In other words, if the world were such that we had to do God’s will, it would be nothing more than a puppet show God was putting on for himself. And how could God love a puppet? God created us to be independent free agents that he can love and be in relationship with. Relationships can only occur between free agents, not between a free agent on one hand and a puppet on the other. And in order for us to be free agents, we must be able to choose between good and evil. Sadly, we all too often choose evil. Former Cambridge University Professor of Mathematical Physics John Polkinghorne makes a similar point in his book Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity:

      “Does a world with cancer and concentration camps really look like the creation of a powerful and loving God? I think this is the difficulty that, more than any other, holds people back from belief in God…How, though, can one have a world in which humans are free to choose without some of these choices being for ill rather than for good? We are moral beings, with all the possibilities for immorality that this implies, not perfectly programmed automata…Philosophers call this insight ‘the free will defense,’ meaning that the possibility of moral evil is the price that must be paid for the greater good of human freedom.”

      He continues:

      “’But wait a minute,’ I hear you say, ‘there may be some moral worth in allowing human beings freedom, but what’s the point in doing the same for tectonic plates [thus allowing earthquakes]’?…I do not believe that God directly wills either the act of a murderer or the incidence of cancer. I believe God allows both to happen in a creation that has been given the gift of being itself…[these] are the inescapable cost of a creation allowed to be other than God, released from tight divine control and permitted to be itself.”

      Perhaps an apt metaphor for a creation not permitted to be itself would be a child playing with dolls. The dolls can think or do nothing outside of what the child wills, and therefore do not have any reality outside of the child’s mind…except as inanimate objects.

      It stands to reason that a creation not “permitted to be itself” isn’t really a creation. Perhaps an apt metaphor for a creation not permitted to be itself would be a child playing with dolls. The dolls can think or do nothing outside of what the child wills, and therefore do not have any reality outside of the child’s mind…except as inanimate objects. Further, God has a very good reason in allowing “natural evil” (such as earthquakes and tsunamis, etc.). 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.”

      All of this is not to say that God plays no role in guiding worldly events or that he never intervenes in earthly affairs. Rather, it is to say that much of the time he must step back and allow us to experience the consequences of our decision to embrace evil so that we can understand what we need to be redeemed from. By allowing natural evil, 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. And if one will stop to think, people often don’t give God a fair shake. We humans are very adept at taking credit for all that is good in the world and blaming God for much of what is bad: How could God allow the holocaust? Isn’t it wonderful that we found a cure for polio? Why did God allow those children to starve? Isn’t it great that we successfully (and very narrowly) avoided total nuclear annihilation several times during the Cold War?

      Jeff, I highly recommend William Lane Craig’s website reasonablefaith.org and Ravi Zacharias’ website rzim.org as great starting places. Also, Biola University offers an online degree in apologetics. And my favorite book (by far) for debunking naturalism is aptly titled Naturalism by Steward Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. This is a MUST READ.

      Thanks much for the compliment. If you would like more recommendations, please let me know.

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Dear Scott,

        Thanks for the recommendations. They are in my plan especially the book in the journey of apologetics.

        I read your article on materialism regarding Carl Sagan and Francis Crick definition of a person and also the valid argument of consciousness. There’s one issue I think needs to be addressed and that’s problem of multiple personality disorder (MPD). Does this mean that a soul will have different personalities or the soul will be “split” as expressed in theid consciousness?

        Personally, I think this doesn’t side to naturalism. My thought since naturalism reasons that consciousness comes from the physical brain? This means chemical processes are occurring when I make a choice. Whether I choose to steal from a shop or not is not really “me” but just chemical reactions. That’s my line of thought. Would you share your thoughts regarding MPD?

        I would also like more recommendations from books to websires. I rely on Dr. Craig’s website in refuting atheistic thinking from renowned atheist philosophers like Graham Oppy.

        • Jeff Mwangi says:

          Dear Scott,

          I hope you would kindly do a reply to my above statements regarding the mind.

          I wanted to share with you a story regarding a Yale University professor David Gerlernter. Dr. David is a computer scientist and he gave a statement regarding macro evolution. I would suggest you take a look. The article by Christian apologist John Clayton concludes that Dr. David was attacked by atheistic scientists for he’s attacking their religion. The link is below.

          Also, looking at your response to atheist thinker, regarding slavery, you used Wikipedia. Personally, I distrust Wikipedia especially when it comes to people who are not the consensus of evolution. They called Dr. Jonathan Wells (a critic of Darwinism) a pseudo scientist. They tend to try to be “neutral” but even you know that everyone operates from a worldview and I would argue that Wikipedia assumes a worldview of metaphysical naturalism.

          https://doesgodexist.today/we-are-not-a-product-of-chance-according-to-yale-professor/

          • Jeff,

            In reply to your questions regarding mind and multiple personality disorder, I will refer you to my essay titled Why Death is Not the End. If you watch the first few minutes of the video embedded in this essay (the BBC documentary titled The Day I Died), Dutch consciousness researcher Dr. Pim Van Lommel argues that the brain is a best described as a receiver of consciousness, rather than a producer of consciousness. Much as a TV set receives TV shows, but does not actually produce them, the brain serves as a receiver of consciousness.

            The TV set model of the brain is consistent with the philosophical stance known as idealism (in which theism is rooted) which says that consciousness comes first and produces matter. As I note in God is Real, Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, the idealist model is strongly supported by modern physics.

            Conversely, the materialist philosophical stance (in which atheism is almost always rooted) says that matter comes first and consciousness eventually emerges from matter. Materialists usually compare the brain to a computer, since they regard the brain as the producer of consciousness.

            In regards to MPD, please note that whether the brain is best compared to a TV set (a receiver of consciousness) or a computer (a producer of consciousness), we should expect a damaged or defective brain to produce a distorted output (such as MPD). In other words, both damaged/defective TV sets and damaged/defective computers produce distorted outputs. Therefore, the existence of MPD does not provide any support for materialism, and any suggestion that it does is a complete non-sequitur.

            Indeed, if we apply the TV set model for the human brain, a brain with MPD could be compared to a TV set which is malfunctioning in a manner such that the channel keeps changing on its own (maybe because the channel change button is stuck). I actually had a malfunctioning TV set like this once, in a hotel room.

            I am aware of Dr. Gerlernter’s brave statements. And Dr. Gerlernter is hardly the first brave academic to speak out against the deeply embedded support for materialism within much of academia. Another book recommendation for you is Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False by Thomas Nagel, a NYU professor of philosophy. Although Nagel is an avowed atheist, he admits that his atheism is ideologically and emotionally based, rather than rationally based. Nagel’s emotional commitment to atheism makes his book particularly startling, since he shows how materialism is almost certainly false (as the title implies).

            I also consider the famous theoretical physicist and string theory pioneer Michio Kaku to be brave in speaking out against materialism from within academia. Kaku writes:

            “I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

            Regarding Wikipedia, I try to use it as little as possible, since it is horribly biased in favor of materialism, as you mention. However, it proves to be convenient when dealing with issues which do not relate to the atheist materialist vs. theist debate.

            Scott

  9. Great argument Scott and I will admit that the way you have explained this information seems to point to an intelligent designer yet most 62% of philosophers are atheists as argued by Dr. Kyle Johnson in a paper published by psychology today. If the majority of philosophers think that your arguments are good then the consunsus would change. Check out his paper: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/logical-take/201402/why-62-philosophers-are-atheists-part-i

    • Consensus does not work as a signpost for truth. As author Michael Crichton deftly noted:

      “I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way.”

      More doctors recommend Camel cigarettes

      Expert opinion is frequently cited in logical arguments (including my own), and rightly so. But, unaccompanied by sound logical argumentation, the consensus opinion of authorities such as scientists or philosophers should be taken no more seriously than the cigarette preferences of 1940’s doctors. And any such logical argumentation must be scrutinized every bit as thoroughly as advertising claims.

      Famed astrophysicist (and atheist) Carl Sagan commented on arguments from authority:

      “One of the great commandments of science is, ‘Mistrust arguments from authority.’ … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.”

      Most scientific theories which were accepted by the scientific communities of the past are now perceived as pseudo-science or myth, as physicist Thomas Kuhn points out in his pivotal work on the philosophy and history of science titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn cites the examples of Aristotelian dynamics (which was superseded by Newtonian physics), phlogistic chemistry (which said that a fire-like element called phlogiston is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion), and caloric thermodynamics (which said that heat is really a self-repellent fluid called caloric that flows from hotter bodies to colder bodies). (Click here for several dozen more examples). If these theories were regarded as science in their day, but as error and superstition today, then why, Kuhn asks, should we not assume that the scientific theories of today will become the error and superstition of tomorrow?

  10. Seems like your arguing for fine tuning. Here is why I think it’s wrong.

    1. You cannot intelligently design plans for anything. Since God is omniscient and always has been. This means that those plans were eternal and could not have began to exist. It is logically incoherent to have an eternally all knowing God to design anything of any kind.

    2. The fine tuning argument says that there is only one way to get life. Therefore, God must have designed the fine tuning of the universe. This is impossible if he has always known what the fine tuning would be and what it had to be whether he liked it or not. There’s no free will if there’s omniscience and if there’s free will then there’s no omniscience.

    Therefore, Occam’s razor is invoked to cut out God in the picture and trust in the orderly laws of the physics to account for the orderly laws of the universe.

    • No, this essay has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with fine tuning arguments. I don’t know why you are responding to a fine tuning argument when none was made here.

      If you would like to respond to the arguments which I made in this essay, I would be more than happy to respond.

      Scott

  11. Scott, in continuing our conversation about slavery. You challenged me to cite evidence of freethinkers who challenged slavery. Here is an article which cites a freethinker named Abner Kneeland who was a free thinker and told his fellow black people that they deserve freedom like he did. Also, anti-slavery reforms didn’t start with just Christians. Chinese emperor Wang Mang abolished slavery during land reform in the first century even for a short time. Here is a link to that article which also debunks the idea that the bible is anti-slavery: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2009/11/did-christianity-abolish-slavery/.

    • Atheist thinker,

      I challenged you to cite even a single example of an atheist who played a key role in the abolition of slavery, not a “freethinker” (whatever that term means). Please do not try to speak of atheism and “freethinking” in equivocal terms, as if they were the same thing, or even remotely similar.

      Again, I am challenging you to provide even a single example of an atheist who played a key role in the fight to end slavery or the fight for civil rights. You can use all of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.), but I suspect that hours of searching will not produce a single result.

      Christians who played crucial roles in these movements are almost too many to number:

      It is a historical fact that the founder of the movement to abolish slavery (abolitionism) was a Christian named William Wilberforce. Other crucial abolitionists were Christians such as the English preacher Charles Spurgeon, Methodist founder John Wesley, Presbyterians Charles Finney and Theodore Weld, Harriet Beecher Stowe (daughter of abolitionist Lyman Beecher), and Sojourner Truth. The Christian movement known as the Quakers, in particular, were early leaders in abolitionism.

      Please also note that the more modern civil rights movement was also led by Christians such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, Desmond Tutu, Pearl S. Buck, etc., etc.

      Atheism is a worldview which declares human beings to be nothing but complex bundles of matter with no transcendent value. Under atheism, humans cannot have transcendent value, because atheism does not allow for the existence of the transcendent. Rather, atheism only allows for the existence of various arrangements of ultimately valueless matter. Outspoken atheist biologist Richard Dawkins stated the atheist view of the value of human life best:

      “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”

      How can a “survival machine” have any transcendent value such that we should protect it from death or mistreatment (as in the case of slavery)? If we adopt the atheist concept of human dignity and value, which declares that humans have NO transcendent value, then what would be the problem with herding people into death camps?

      Answer: There is no moral dilemma involved in herding “survival machines” into death camps. And history provides no better example of what happens when we adopt a concept of human dignity rooted in atheism. Communism is a political system that officially embraces the atheist worldview. It is telling that the number of people who have been killed by atheistic communism is estimated to run as high as 110 million (sources: Death by Government by political science professor R.J. Rummel and The Black Book of Communism). Many of these 110 million killed by atheistic Communists died in “gulags” or concentration camps.

      In 1920, Vladimir Lenin (the primary founder of the Soviet Union) stated:

      “We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”

      Lenin also said,

      “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.”

      One such “morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas” which the atheist Communists repudiated is the Judeo-Christian concept of the sanctity of human life. Their severely degraded concept of the value of human life (grounded in atheism) is what allowed the Communists to kill historically unprecedented numbers of people, with so little restraint.

      Please note that I am NOT suggesting that all atheists are killers. Rather, I am suggesting that atheism does not provide any philosophical basis for valuing human life, and therefore allows us to consider human life to be worthless. An atheist can freely choose to either value human life (for arbitrary reasons) or to not value human life, as with the Communists. The reason that most atheists in our culture are NOT killers is that they have adopted Christian concepts of the dignity and sanctity of human life while simultaneously rejecting Christianity itself. But the fact remains that the concept of humans having transcendent value requires the existence of the transcendent, and atheism does not allow for the transcendent…only the material realm.

      Being a member of a Christian society in no way guarantees that someone will become a moral person. Just as going to the hospital does not guarantee that someone will recover from an illness, being a member of a Christian culture does not guarantee that a person will become peaceful and loving. As a commenter who goes by the handle Falcon D. Stormvoice put it in the comment section of that Patheos essay to which you linked:

      “The biggest fallacy at play here is the idea that being a Christian-by-default and being a devout Christian are the same thing. One is something people were born into, the other is a choice.”

      What Stormvoice is getting at is that being a member of a culturally Christian society is not the same thing as being a person committed to the concepts of human dignity promoted by Jesus Christ. Your speaking of members of a Christian society (on one hand) and devout Christians (on the other hand) as if these were the same thing is another equivocation fallacy.

      To summarize: An atheist and a freethinker are NOT the same. A devout Christian (who is committed to the concept of transcendent human value espoused by Jesus Christ), and a nominal Christian, are NOT the same. These are two equivocation fallacies.

      People who call themselves Christians, but do not actually display the value for human life espoused by Jesus Christ (such as nominally Christian slaveholders of the 1800’s) are no doubt plentiful. But every belief system ultimately needs to be judged by the concepts espoused by its founder, and not the success or failure of its nominal adherents to adhere to those concepts.

  12. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for all your replies. You’ve been helpful to me. I wanted to ask you if there’s a difference between naturalism and materialism. They seems to differ a bit.

    Materialism is the view that the only thing that exists is matter if anything else such as mental events exists then it is reducible to matter. Naturalism is the system of thought that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. They seem to overlap. For example, in your essay take atheism for a test drive. You called Dr. Francis Crick a materialist with his famous quote of your joys being no more than neurons etc. In his paper what it means to be human, theologian Dr. Paul Coulter mentions Dr. Crick but calls him a naturalist.

    The two views seems to overlap or are they the same. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    • Jeff,

      As far as I can tell, these two terms are basically synonymous. I have not looked into your question with much rigor, but my understanding is that any difference in the meanings of these two terms would be very slight and insignificant. Our culture considers the natural world and material world to be the same. Whether or not our culture is correct with this assessment is a different question, and may involve semantic issues.

      Stephen C. Meyer holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. In his book Signature in the Cell, Meyer speaks of materialism and naturalism as if they are the same thing, and he provides historical background to these terms:

      “Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.”

      “The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”

      P.S: I have a favor to ask:

      I am seriously considering expanding my GodEvidence.com YouTube channel (which I started several years ago, but didn’t really follow through with). This is important because more and more people prefer video format to written essays.

      Do you have any recommendations for me with regards to what type of video format is most preferred? What subject matters should receive the most focus? Any general recommendations? Can you provide examples of YouTube channels which have been helpful to improving your understanding (even if the subject matter of that channel is totally different)? Any and all recommendations and advice will be greatly appreciated.

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Dear Scot

        I hope your continuing to staying safe during this covid-19 crisis.

        I did not want to equivocate materialism with naturalism and treat them as if they mean the same thing but I think Dr. Meyer clears things up. Materialism and naturalism may have subtle differences but I think the fact that they both hold to the idea that the universe can be explained by natural causes shows they have a uniting factor. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        Regarding your favor. I would suggest you stick to writing. In my opinion, your articles are way more interesting than YT. I’ve come to understand naturalism, evolution better thanks to your articles. No YT channel could explain it better. Plus I find your articles better for reference. Nevertheless, if you feel like you can crack YT then go for it. I just hope you won’t stop your essays.

        Perhaps you can have the best of both worlds. Maverick Christian is a good example. He’s a student of philosophy who writes his essays on his website and also uploads videos. He doesn’t do it often but when he does, I find his work thoughtful and challenging. Here is the link to his website: https://www.maverick-christian.org/?m=0

        At the end of the day, generation z (gen z) prefer YT when seeking answers to their questions as not many are readers so this may work to your advantage of doing videos. I hope I was helpful with my insights.

  13. I’m going to do an internal critique. God’s purpose for humanity was to be in a relationship with him and not sin. However, humanity sinned and thus turn their back away from God. This is what the apparent stories are from Genesis to Revelation. However, I think it is God’s fault for humanity to choose sin. Here’s why: the Canaanites were a problematic culture which would lead Israel to sin and thus God had to drive them away from the lands.

    Why didn’t God also drive away Satan when he entered the garden if Eden? Apparantly, God can tell drive out the Canaanites who will INFLUENCE them to SIN but God could not DRIVE away SATAN WHO WOULD LEAD THE FIRST COUPLE TO SIN? Why is that? I look forward to your response.

    • Why does God allow for sin and evil? In short, it all boils down to free will. Without free will to choose between obeying him (good) and rejecting his will (evil), we would be nothing more than his puppets.

      Why would God want to seek to be in relationship with puppets?

      Yancey makes this point clear by quoting a parable written by the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:

      “Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist—no one dared resist him. But would she love him?”

      “She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage…that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal…For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.”

      And to be in loving relationships with people, it turns out, is exactly what God seeks. If one takes the time to review the Bible, one will quickly see that many of the stories told share this underlying theme. From God’s pursuit of the Jewish people in the Old Testament to Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom” in the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament, the Bible conveys that God is seeking people who will seek him.

  14. Scott,

    Christians claim to us that Jesus is a sinless man. Nevertheless, Mark 7.24-29 and Matthew 15:22 – 28 illustrates a different story. Jesus actually calls a woman a dog. This is shocking. I thought Jesus loved everyone. He loves us yet we are his dogs or at least calls us dogs. HAHAHA. It seems Jesus wasn’t a sinless man after all.

  15. Dear Sir,

    I have beem going through your website Mr. Youngren and I am a huge fan of your work. You have spoken about theism in a manner that I am yet to see anyone do. I don’t think any doctorate level apologist makes this website as awesome as you do. What’s your secret? How did you understand philosophy and theology in such a manner with no apparent degree?

    While you tell me about your secret. I do have another question? After Jesus returns, it’s been said that the new earth will not have its former functions. This baffles me because I can ask why didn’t God create this new earth in the first place. Capturing Christianity headed by Cameron Bertuzzi answered that soul building is one of the reasons that God permitted the Ramifications of sin. I don’t think this answer is okay because it makes God seem sadistic as it’s only pain that can teach us that sin is evil. The question remains that God should have created humanity like him. Not neccesarily give humanity omniscience or anything like that. Rather, he should have given humanity free will but the capacity to do no evil just like God.

    I look forward to your answers.

    Yours sincerely,
    Rational theist

    • Thanks so much for the compliments! I wouldn’t say that there is a secret, but I will tell you this: In about 2009, I became absolutely obsessed with the subject of God’s existence, and I read almost everything I could get my hands on related to the topic. The more I read, the more I became convinced that God does indeed exist, and the more passionate I became. To say that I “nerded out” on the subject would be a big understatement…I took nerding out to a whole new level.

      I believe that a person can only master a topic when such person has an intense passion for, and derives his/her entertainment from that topic. Nobody, no matter how intelligent or well educated, is going to master a topic for which he/she does not have an intense passion. So the important question is not, “Do you have a PhD in this subject area?” Rather, the important question is, “Do you have an intense passion for this subject area.”

      Related to this point, I once watched a PBS documentary about the cracking of the Maya code. For hundreds of years, linguists were unable to decipher the ancient Mayan language. But a crucial contribution made by a 15 year-old kid named David Stuart enabled the breakthrough which allowed the Maya language to finally be deciphered. Scroll down to the year 1981 in the chronology of this article to read about Stuart’s contribution. Obviously, David Stuart did not have a PhD in linguistics, since he was only 15 years old. What he did have was an intense passion for his chosen subject matter. Never underestimate what you can achieve if you have sufficient passion.

      In regards to your second question, I do not think it is possible to have free will, but not the capacity to choose evil. I delve into this topic in my essay titled If God is Real, Why is There Suffering?. An excerpt:

      …if the world were such that we had to do God’s will, it would be nothing more than a puppet show God was putting on for himself. And how could God love a puppet? God created us to be independent free agents that he can love and be in relationship with. Relationships can only occur between free agents, not between a free agent on one hand and a puppet on the other. And in order for us to be free agents, we must be able to choose between good and evil. Sadly, we all too often choose evil. Former Cambridge University Professor of Mathematical Physics John Polkinghorne makes a similar point in his book Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity:

      “Does a world with cancer and concentration camps really look like the creation of a powerful and loving God? I think this is the difficulty that, more than any other, holds people back from belief in God…How, though, can one have a world in which humans are free to choose without some of these choices being for ill rather than for good? We are moral beings, with all the possibilities for immorality that this implies, not perfectly programmed automata…Philosophers call this insight ‘the free will defense,’ meaning that the possibility of moral evil is the price that must be paid for the greater good of human freedom.”

      Polkinghorne continues:

      “’But wait a minute,’ I hear you say, ‘there may be some moral worth in allowing human beings freedom, but what’s the point in doing the same for tectonic plates [thus allowing earthquakes]’?…I do not believe that God directly wills either the act of a murderer or the incidence of cancer. I believe God allows both to happen in a creation that has been given the gift of being itself…[these] are the inescapable cost of a creation allowed to be other than God, released from tight divine control and permitted to be itself.”

      It stands to reason that a creation not “permitted to be itself” isn’t really a creation. Perhaps an apt metaphor for a creation not permitted to be itself would be a child playing with dolls. The dolls can think or do nothing outside of what the child wills, and therefore do not have any reality outside of the child’s mind…except as inanimate objects. Further, God has a very good reason in allowing “natural evil” (such as earthquakes and tsunamis, etc.). 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.”

      All of this is not to say that God plays no role in guiding worldly events or that he never intervenes in earthly affairs. Rather, it is to say that much of the time he must step back and allow us to experience the consequences of our decision to embrace evil so that we can understand what we need to be redeemed from. By allowing natural evil, 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. And if one will stop to think, people often don’t give God a fair shake. We humans are very adept at taking credit for all that is good in the world and blaming God for much of what is bad: How could God allow the holocaust? Isn’t it wonderful that we found a cure for polio? Why did God allow those children to starve? Isn’t it great that we successfully (and very narrowly) avoided total nuclear annihilation several times during the Cold War?

  16. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Sir,

    I hope you and your family have been well. I wanted to ask a question regarding the Kalam. One method used to refute the Kalam is to suggest that this universe could have been created by another universe (cyclic universe hypothesis). Atheist youtuber PineCreek grants this but here is his suggestion. He believes that it is possible that the universe could have a MATERIAL CAUSE. Then the next question remains how do we know that all of existence (material) did begin. The atheist says WE DON’T KNOW but a deity doesn’t explain existence.

    NB: Kindly delete my question regarding Isaac and Rebecca. I would appreciate that.

    • Jeff,

      As you note, the suggestion that our universe was produced by another universe does nothing but kick the can down the road: How did material existence begin? This is the important question, and not whether or not the beginning of our universe was the ultimate beginning of material reality.

      In 2003, physicists Borde, Vilenkin and Guth corroborated to formulate a proof that demonstrates that an eternal universe is not possible. It is known as the BVG theorem. Alexander Vilenkin is very blunt in regard to the implications of this proof:

      “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).

      Because we don’t yet have a quantum theory of gravity, we are not able to provide a physical description of the first split second of the physical universe. BUT, the BVG theorem is independent of any such description of that early moment of the universe. Their theorem implies that the quantum vacuum state of the very early universe (which some popularizers have misleadingly and incorrectly characterized as nothing) cannot be eternal in the past, but must have had an absolute beginning. For example, even if our universe is just a tiny part of a so-called multiverse, composed of many universes, the BVG theorem requires that this multiverse itself must have a beginning.

      So, with a speculative model such as a multiverse or cyclic universe model, our universe’s beginning was not necessarily the ultimate beginning, but the multiverse of which our universe is a part DID have an ultimate beginning. All that speculative models (multiverse, loop quantum gravity models, string models, and closed time-like models, etc.) achieve is push the beginning back a step! What makes the BVG proof so powerful is that it holds regardless of the physical description of the very early universe.

      Borde, Villenkin, and Guth were able to mathematically prove that any universe which is on average in a state of cosmic expansion throughout its history (Hubble parameter H has a positive value) cannot be infinite in the past, and must have a past space-time boundary. And we know that our universe is in a state of cosmic expansion as a result of observations such as redshift, and other galaxies moving away from us.

      With regards the suggestion that “WE DON’T KNOW but a deity doesn’t explain existence” (from the atheist you are conversing with), this flies in the face of the facts. This atheist must ignore a lot of scientific insight. The observer effect of modern physics (click here) demonstrates the primacy of consciousness. In other words, mind (read: God) comes first, and matter is the product of mind. This is an alien concept to the modern western mind, but it has been demonstrated by modern physics. Please note that a mind which exists independent of (and serves as the cause for time, space, matter, and energy) is not an ad hoc explanation, arbitrarily pulled out of a hat. 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 Amit Goswami explains how the famous double-slit experiment conclusively demonstrates that matter (including the matter which constitutes the human brain) cannot exist without a conscious observer:

      “First let’s discuss how the idea that consciousness is the ground of being is forced upon us by quantum physics. Take the idea that conscious choice affects the quantum possibility wave of an object by collapsing it into an actual event of our experience, into a “particle,” so to speak. This idea seems dualistic at first. Why? Because consciousness has to be nonmaterial to effect collapse. To see this, suppose, as materialist biologists believe, that consciousness is a brain epiphenomenon. But undoubtedly the brain is a conglomerate of elementary particles, quantum possibilities, so it must itself also consist of quantum possibilities. Ditto for any epiphenomenon associated with it.”

      “Now do you see why consciousness, to effect collapse, must be nonmaterial? A material consciousness arising in the brain is only a possibility wave. A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave just makes a bigger possibility wave. No actuality ever comes out of such an interaction (von Neumann 1955).”

      “You may not have noticed, but we can see paradox in the observer effect in another way. The observer chooses, out of the quantum possibilities presented by the object, the actual event of experience. But before the collapse of the possibilities, the observer himself (or herself) consists of possibilities and is not manifest. So we can posit the paradox as a circularity: An observer is needed for collapsing the quantum possibility wave of an object; but collapse is needed for manifesting the observer. More succinctly, no collapse without an observer; but no observer without a collapse. If we stay in the material level, the paradox is unsolvable. The consciousness solution works only because we posit that consciousness collapses the possibility waves of both the observer (that is, his or her brain) and the object simultaneously from the transcendent reality of the ground of being that consciousness represents.”

      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.”

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Dear Sir,

        Wow. Just wow. Rational theist was damn right. You do have a talent for philosophy and apologetics. Where do you get these information from? I myself study this thing but I am nowhere as close to your understanding. Which methods of study do you use to absorb this information?

        Scott the video states that the observer collapsed the wave function simply by observing. This is a strange concept that I did not understand. Like how did this happen? Forgive me if I sound ignorant in asking this question.

        Thank you for deleting my comment.

        • Thanks for the compliments Jeff. I don’t really know how to answer that, except to say that God seems to have a very specific purpose for my life. If you want to explore the profound theistic implications of quantum physics (including the double-slit experiment) I highly recommend you check you a YouTube video titled The End of Materialism. There is a lot of rapid-fire information in this video, so you may have to watch it many times to absorb the information. There are also many citations relevant to this subject in my essay titled God is Real: Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism.

          Boiled down to the basics, the debate between theism and atheism basically comes down to the question of which came first: mind or matter? Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. In this book, he reveals the following:

          “Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.”

          “The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”

          A few citations relevant to this question from prominent physicists:

          Nobel Prize winning physicist Eugene Wigner:

          “When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena, through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again; it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”

          “The content of consciousness is an ultimate reality.”

          The great physicist Sir Arthur Eddington:

          “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” [“Logos” is defined as “the word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order.”]

          Knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans from his book The Mysterious Universe:

          “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”

          University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp puts it in his book Mindful Universe:

          “…According to contemporary orthodox basic physical theory, but contrary to many claims made in the philosophy of mind, the physical domain is not causally closed. A causally open physical description of the mind-brain obviously cannot completely account for the mind-brain as a whole.”

          “In short, already the orthodox version of quantum mechanics, unlike classical mechanics, is not about a physical world detached from experiences; detached from minds.”

          Freeman Dyson, who currently holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein:

          “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”

          Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros provide an excellent nutshell explanation of why the naturalist/materialist worldview is no longer scientifically or philosophically supportable in their book The New Story of Science, that further elucidates the above points:

          “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.”

          Physicist Richard Conn Henry explains why people (such as atheist biologists) cling to materialism/naturalism despite the fact that it has been completely discredited by 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.”]

        • Jeff,

          Sorry for the delay. I missed the question at the end of your comments since I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The collapse of the wave function requires an immaterial conscious entity. Our culture commonly teaches that consciousness is a phenomenon of brain activity, and this is a a very deeply embedded cultural stance. As I may have mentioned before, the debate between theism and atheism basically boils down to the question of which came first: mind or matter? Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. In this book, Meyer details the historical background of this debate:

          “Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.”

          “The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”

          For a little more historical context relevant to this debate, in the Philebus of Plato (429–347 B.C.E.), Socrates considered this all-important question and laid out the two primary possibilities:

          “Whether we are to affirm that all existing things, and this fair scene which we call the Universe, are governed by the influence of the irrational, the random, and the mere chance; or, on the contrary, as our predecessors affirmed, are kept in their course by the control of mind and a certain wonderful regulating intelligence.”

          The insights of modern physics make it very difficult to avoid adopting the latter stance mentioned above by Plato (consciousness comes first, and matter is a construct of consciousness). Again, this is due to the primacy of consciousness of modern physics. Physicist Amit Goswami explains how the famous double-slit experiment conclusively demonstrates that matter (including the matter which constitutes the human brain) cannot exist without an immaterial conscious observer:

          “First let’s discuss how the idea that consciousness is the ground of being is forced upon us by quantum physics. Take the idea that conscious choice affects the quantum possibility wave of an object by collapsing it into an actual event of our experience, into a “particle,” so to speak. This idea seems dualistic at first. Why? Because consciousness has to be nonmaterial to effect collapse. To see this, suppose, as materialist biologists believe, that consciousness is a brain epiphenomenon. But undoubtedly the brain is a conglomerate of elementary particles, quantum possibilities, so it must itself also consist of quantum possibilities. Ditto for any epiphenomenon associated with it.”

          “Now do you see why consciousness, to effect collapse, must be nonmaterial? A material consciousness arising in the brain is only a possibility wave. A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave just makes a bigger possibility wave. No actuality ever comes out of such an interaction (von Neumann 1955).”

          “You may not have noticed, but we can see paradox in the observer effect in another way. The observer chooses, out of the quantum possibilities presented by the object, the actual event of experience. But before the collapse of the possibilities, the observer himself (or herself) consists of possibilities and is not manifest. So we can posit the paradox as a circularity: An observer is needed for collapsing the quantum possibility wave of an object; but collapse is needed for manifesting the observer. More succinctly, no collapse without an observer; but no observer without a collapse. If we stay in the material level, the paradox is unsolvable. The consciousness solution works only because we posit that consciousness collapses the possibility waves of both the observer (that is, his or her brain) and the object simultaneously from the transcendent reality of the ground of being that consciousness represents.”

          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.”]

          Additional citations relevant to this subject matter appear below:

          “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.”

          –Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, as quoted in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe. Wald is a noted exception to the widespread tendency of biologists to embrace materialism for ideological reasons (despite the fact that materialism has been completely discredited by modern physics).
          —————————-
          “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe–a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

          —Albert Einstein
          ————————
          “When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena, through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again; it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”

          “The content of consciousness is an ultimate reality.”

          —Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner.
          ————————
          “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” [“Logos” is defined as “the word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order.”]

          —The great physicist Sir Arthur Eddington.
          ————————
          “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

          —Knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans, as cited in his book The Mysterious Universe.

          “Science is a game – but a game with reality, a game with sharpened knives. If a man cuts a picture carefully into 1000 pieces, you solve the puzzle when you reassemble the pieces into a picture; in the success or failure, both your intelligences compete. In the presentation of a scientific problem, the other player is the good Lord. He has not only set the problem but also has devised the rules of the game – but they are not completely known, half of them are left for you to discover or to deduce. The uncertainty is how many of the rules God himself has permanently ordained, and how many apparently are caused by your own mental inertia, while the solution generally becomes possible only through freedom from its limitations. This is perhaps the most exciting thing in the game.”

          “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”

          –Erwin Schroedinger, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.”
          ————–

          “Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”

          —Sir Isaac Newton, who is widely regarded to have been the greatest scientist of all time, as cited in Principia, which is widely regarded to be the most important scientific work of all time.
          ————————-
          “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”

          —Freeman Dyson, who currently holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein.
          ——————-
          “I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

          –Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and string theory pioneer.

  17. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Hey Scott,

    I wanted to ask you regarding your essays on free will. At what point does a human being develop free will that separates him from animals?

    Yours truly
    Jeff

    • Jeff,

      To answer that question, I will refer you to Gerald Schroeder, who holds the unique qualifications of being both a biblical scholar and a physicist (a former Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Click here to watch a video of Schroeder providing a detailed answer to your question.

      As Schroeder explains in this article from his website, Adam was not the first physical human being, as there were animals with human form prior to Adam. Rather, Adam was the first spiritual human, in that he had such traits as free will.

      If you want an even more elaborate explanation, I recommend reading Schroeder’s books, such as The Hidden Face of God, God According to God, and The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom. I don’t remember which of these books addresses your question best because I read them several years ago, but you can find out by looking at them on Amazon.

      Kind regards,

      Scott

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Dear Sir,

        Thank you for your answers. How would you answer these objections? The rules of logic and numbers are not forces but thoughts. They can be recorded or codified using objectively verifiable evidence. God is a force that exists but there is no objective verifiable evidence to even suggests ge exists.

        I think the atheist begs the question by saying numbers exist because we use them therefore they exist or are thoughts. God can’t be objectively verified.

        Any thoughts to offer.

        Yours sincerely,
        Jeff

        • Jeff,

          The rules of logic and numbers are themselves powerful objectively verifiable evidence for God. If naturalism (in which atheism is grounded) is true, then we have no reason to trust the ability of our logical faculties to lead us to truth. None other than Charles Darwin himself noticed this problem. Darwin wrote:

          “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

          I elaborate upon this fatal flaw of naturalism in my post titled Why Atheism is Self-Defeating. Naturalism, simply put, leaves us no reason whatsoever to think that any of our convictions are reliable…..SUCH AS A CONVICTION THAT NATURALISM IS TRUE!!

          I found an excellent article by Albrecht Moritz titled Naturalism is True: A Self-Contradictory Statement that lays down the self-defeating nature of naturalism, and makes basically the same points as my above mentioned essay. An excerpt of the first few paragraphs:

          Naturalism is the view that nothing exists beyond the natural world and that only physical laws operate in our world, i.e. that also humans are purely physical beings. Let us suppose the naturalist wants to defend the position that naturalism is true.

          Yet under naturalism every thought, just like everything else, is physically determined. Some propose that freedom of thought might be a result of ’emerging complexity’, but this is based on a misunderstanding of the concept. While emergence results in phenomena that could not be predicted from the basic components of the system on their own, it never violates the physical laws by which these basic components operate. Such a violation would have to occur if free thought could be the result of purely physical processes, which are either deterministic or, at the quantum level, random on a probabilistic basis (yet significant quantum level influence on thought is not feasible under naturalism, since it would just produce random thoughts).

          The physical determination of thought under naturalism of course includes the thought “Naturalism is true”. Therefore, when making the claim, the naturalist has no free choice but is at the mercy of the circuits in his/her brain to judge on the question.

          These circuits were shaped by evolution – yet evolution is of no help to reliably arrive at the claim that naturalism is true. Already Darwin recognized the problem that natural selection may not suffice to explain the human mind’s capacity for recognition of truth and objective thought – evolution selects only for physical adaptation and behavior, not for correctness of beliefs *). When evolutionary scientists claim that religion was selected for its behavioral survival advantage, they in fact concede, if they adhere to a naturalistic worldview, that evolution can indirectly select for an allegedly false belief. So there is no use in saying that, in terms of frameworks of beliefs, evolution probably has endowed us with a reliable ability to see that naturalism – an abstract concept far beyond everyday sensory experiences – is true, and therefore we ‘ought’ to see the truth of naturalism even under determinism.

          Certainly the naturalist might still claim that evolution has endowed the human brain with basic and universal logical circuitry, shaped by its survival value, that reliably can decide “if we just give the issues some thought”. However, even if evolution could accomplish the creation of reliable logical circuitry (which is debatable), an informed decision for or against naturalism is not solely a matter of simple and straightforward logic based on premises that should be self-evident to everyone, independent of the angle from which they are looked at. Rather, when the issues are thoroughly studied and well thought through, it is a matter of careful weighing of (giving weight to) and interpreting abstract and rather complex evidence and arguments pro and con, and this goes far beyond basic circuitry that might have been induced by evolution for its survival value. So there cannot be an evolutionary ‘ought’ on this issue after all.

          Thus, given all the above, it cannot rationally be claimed that evolution has shaped our brain circuits in such a way that they are bound to reliably settle the particular question at hand, “when engaged properly”. This, however, would be the only way to guarantee the right outcome under naturalistic determinism. (For theists there is no problem here; they usually view the brain as an integral part of the mind, on which the mind fully depends for its functioning, but they do not view it as identical to the mind – evolution then does not fulfill as ultimate a role in shaping the functioning of the mind as it does for the naturalist.)

          How then can the naturalist nonetheless assert that naturalism is true and its acceptance rational? S/he considered the evidence, s/he will reply. Yet under naturalism the brain determines how to interpret the evidence – you have no say in that. So the naturalist’s brain determined that naturalism is true, and mine determined, considering the evidence as well, that naturalism is not true. Now, which brain is right? If the naturalist’s acceptance of naturalism is solely dependent on the firing of his/her neurons over which s/he has no control (under determinism), then it is not possible for him/her to know that his/her brain is right and that naturalism is true. Thus under naturalism the claim that naturalism is true becomes incoherent and self-contradictory. Naturalism defeats itself.

          Further, why is the universe ordered and comprehensible such that we have reliable rules of logic and mathematics? This is a question which can NEVER be answered from the framework of the atheist worldview. Albert Einstein wrote:

          “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

          So, with reference to Einstein’s above quotation, the following riddle for atheists emerges: If the world as we know it is simply the result of random interaction of mindless matter, how did the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” come to pass such that conscious minds (that are able to comprehend) emerged? What is the source of this ordering? Was it the laws of physics? The laws of chemistry? How can an inanimate thing be made to follow a law (such as the laws of physics, chemistry, or thermodynamics)? How can such a structure of laws (or “regularities” if you prefer) that govern the universe exist in a truly random world? Please note that this is a question that science can never answer because it is not a scientific question. Rather, it is a meta-scientific or ontological question.

          With the theistic ontological model, it is immediately obvious why matter follows natural laws: The same mind that creates matter (God’s mind) also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it:

          “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.”

          Or, as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it:

          “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”

          Or, as the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans put it in his book The Mysterious Universe:

          “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

          Or, as Sir Isaac Newton put it in what is widely regarded to be the most important scientific work of all time, The Principia:

          “Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”

          Similarly physicist Paul Davies, winner of the 2001 Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics and the winner of the 2002 Faraday Prize issued by the Royal Society (amongst other awards), writes:

          “People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature–the laws of physics–are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.”

          (Physics and the Mind of God, Paul Davies’ Templeton Prize address, August 1995)

          What answer does the atheistic model provide to the question of how an inanimate thing can be compelled to follow a law? Only various versions of “matter follows laws because it just does.” But “it just does” is not an explanation. Rather, it is a fatal explanatory failure. Christian apologist Nancy Pearcey refers to this as the just-so storytelling of atheism.

          • Jeff Mwangi says:

            Dear Scott,

            Thank you for all the replies. You have never so quickly so thank you for the quick reply.

            I hope I am strawmanning you. What I am saying is that logic and numbers do not exist WITHOUT A MATERIAL MIND. Logic and math are by nature absolutely flexible and ephemeral. They don’t exist without a MATERIAL MIND.

            Yours sincerely,
            Jeff

            • Jeff,

              If logic and math are by nature flexible and ephemeral, then the logical stance that logic and math are by nature flexible and ephemeral is a flexible and ephemeral logical stance. This is self-refuting in the purest sense of the term. In other words, it is internally inconsistent. For a logical stance to have any relevance, it must be fixed and immutable, which is the very opposite of flexible and ephemeral. Is “one plus one equals two” a fleeting and ephemeral mathematical concept, or a fixed and immutable one?

              Be on guard for self-refuting or internally inconsistent stances such as this when you are having discussions with atheists, since they are quite common. The crudest example of a self-refuting or internally inconsistent statement would be, “Nothing I say is true.” If nothing I say is true, then the statement that “nothing I say is true” cannot be true. It refutes itself.

              Another great example of a self-refuting or internally inconsistent logical stance (which is common among atheists) would be, “All truth is relative.” If all truth is relative, then the truth that all truth is relative is, well…a relative (not objective) truth.

              Further, the stance that logic and math cannot exist without a material mind presupposes that mind (consciousness) is a material phenomenon. But this stance does not hold water. Please review my post titled Atheism and the Denial of the Soul. A copy and paste of an important excerpt:

              Philosopher J.P. Moreland lucidly comments on the absurdity of suggesting that a “collection of molecules” or a “pack of neurons” can be the experiencer of an experience (the first-person subject of a subjective experience) in his book The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why it Matters. (Moreland utilizes the term “physicalism” to refer to the belief that the mind and brain are one-in-the-same, and that therefore human beings do not have souls independent of the brain):

              “Physicalists are committed to the claim that alleged mental entities—substances, properties, events/states—are really identical to physical entities, such as brain states, properties of the brain, overt bodily behavior, and dispositions to behave (for example, pain is just the tendency to shout ‘Ouch!’ when stuck by a pin, instead of pain being a certain mental feel of hurtfulness). If physicalism is true, then everything true of the brain (and its properties, states, and dispositions) is true of the mind (and its properties, states, and dispositions) and vice versa. If we can find one thing true, or even possibly true, of the mind and not of the brain, or vice versa, then dualism [a soul independent of the brain] is established. Then the mind or its properties and states is not the brain or its properties and states.”

              Moreland continues by elaborating on specifically how the mind and brain cannot be the same since mental states are NOT identical with physical (brain) states:

              “Mental states are characterized by their intrinsic, subjective, inner, private, qualitative feel, made present to a subject by first-person introspection. For example, a pain is a certain felt hurtfulness. The intrinsic nature of mental states cannot be described by physical language, even if, through study of the brain, one can discover the causal/functional relations between mental and brain states. In general, mental states have some or all of the following features, none of which is a physical feature of anything: Mental states like pains have an intrinsic, raw, conscious feel. There is a ‘what-it-is-like’ to a pain. But there isn’t a similar ‘what-it-is-like’ to physical states like boiling at a certain temperature or existing as a liquid. Most, if not all, mental states have intentionality—they are of or about things. But no physical state is of or about something. A thunderstorm, for example, isn’t about or of anything.”

              Kind regards,

              Scott

              • Jeff Mwangi says:

                Thanks Scott,

                Your talk reminds me of Dr. Thomas Nagel who said attacking logic is a self refuting endevour.

                By the way Scott, I think when it comes to analysing OT violence, I think it is good you read Dr. John Walton book Israel’s conquest. I think he does a better job in analysing this texts than Dr. Craig.

                Yours Sincerely,
                Jeff

                • Yes, attacking logic is the philosophical equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

                  And when it comes to choosing between theism and atheism, one must ask how logic can emerge from an illogical source. Recall that atheism alleges that the human mind and human logical faculties are the result of irrational natural forces. A copy and paste from my post titled Why Everyone is Religious…or Rather, Nobody which is relevant to this point:

                  Outspoken atheists are often fond on portraying theistic interpretive frameworks such as Christianity as superstitious or “woo-woo,” but it is not difficult to see why atheism is clearly the more superstitious worldview: Citing a non-conscious cause for consciousness, an unintelligent cause for intelligence, an impersonal cause for personhood, or a non-rational cause for reason, (etc.) is impossible to philosophically justify because, as Edward Feser puts it The Last Superstition, “a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.” Feser skillfully elaborates:

                  …the cause of a fire might itself be on fire, as when a torch is used to start a brushfire, or it may instead have the power to produce fire, as a cigarette lighter has even when it is not being used.

                  The traditional way of making this distinction is to say that a cause has the feature that it generates in the effect “formally” in the first sort of case (e.g. when both the cause and the effect are on fire) and “eminently” in the second sort of case (e.g. when the cause is not itself on fire, but has an inherent power to produce fire). If a cause didn’t contain all the features of its effect either formally or eminently, there would be no way to account for how the effect came about in just the way it did. Again, a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.

                  Material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain (either formally or eminently) many of the features we as humans possess…such as consciousness, intelligence, personhood, reason, morality, love, etc. Keith Ward, a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, makes the same point as Feser in his book Doubting Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly is a God.

                  “…there is force in the classical philosophical axiom that, for a truly explanatory cause to be intelligible, it must contain its effects potentially in itself. As the classical philosophers put it, the cause must contain more reality than its effects.”

                  The implication of this philosophical axiom cited by Feser and Ward is that the cause of conscious, intelligent, and personal (etc.) beings such as ourselves must necessarily have the effects of consciousness, intelligence and personhood contained potentially in itself. A cigarette lighter contains the effect of fire potentially in itself (even when not being used), but inanimate material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain the effects of consciousness, intelligence, or personhood potentially in themselves. This is why the only logical option is to cite a conscious, personal, and intelligent cause (read: God) for conscious, personal, and intelligent agents such as ourselves.

                  I will have to read Dr. Walton’s book. Thanks for the recommendation, Jeff!

                  Scott

  18. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    When most people talk about naturalism and atheism, don’t philosophers refer to physicalism? Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy reads: Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on the physical.

    It seems that naturalism or materialism falls under physicalism.

    Yours sincerely,
    Jeff

    Sources

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    • Jeff,

      I don’t think that I have encountered the term physicalism in my readings. It doesn’t seem to be used very often. At first glance, though, it seems to by synonymous with materialism.

      Scott

  19. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Dear Scott,

    I thought I might help with some definitions of naturalism by atheist philosopher Dr. Graham Oppy who defines naturalism: Neither God nor anything like God exists; the only concrete things that exist are natural concrete beings with natural causal powers. Dr. Oppy goes through different definitions of natural elsewhere but that’s what Dr. Oppy means by naturalism.

    Agnostic philosopher Dr. Paul Draper says that every concrete thing is either physical or ultimately explained by the physical. It seems odd for an agnostic to have some sort of naturalistic effort which brings to my question in my last paragraph.

    Another agnostic said that fundamental reality is non-mental and non-personal.

    You mostly write betweem atheism and theism. Recently, an agnostic says that anyome who argues for natural theology and says that the explanation is between theism and atheism commits the false dilemna fallacy. Rather than being forced to choose between the theism or atheism, how about we suspend judgement until a better explanation or evidence comes along to select between the two. What are your thoughts? I am of the opinion that such evidence or explanations may never be satisfactory. I mean arguments for theism have been refined over the years. What are your thoughts on the false dilemna fallacy that we are left to choose between theism or atheism when a third option should be allowed: agnosticism where someone suspends judgement until better explanations or evidence comes in?

    • Jeff,

      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. Many arguments for and against God are philosophical arguments which are not effected by further advances in knowledge, such as the classical philosophical axiom which I cite in Why Everyone is Religious…or Rather, Nobody. This philosophical axiom has remained unchanged since it originated with the ancient Greeks, thousands of years ago.

      Further, science is often in the embarrassing position of having to reverse itself, and every scientific discovery only introduces several new questions. The “false dilemma” allegation falsely presupposes that there is a third option of waiting to find out what science tells us. But, in reality, science cannot tell us anything. Only people can. Indeed, if science told you something, you should be just as concerned for your mental health as if your pet rock told you something.

      The fatal flaw with suggesting a false dilemma fallacy applies here is that this position is based upon the incorrect presupposition that scientific discovery “finds things out” and leads us down the road to final truth. I debunk this false presupposition in The Mythology of Atheism. This post is addressed to atheism, but it also applies to the allegation that theism commits a “false dilemma fallacy.” A copy and paste of an important excerpt:

      Biologist Lynn Margulis, winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science, corrects the mistaken notion that science leads down a path to final truth, in her book What Is Life?:

      “…Science is asymptotic. [“asymptote” is derived from a Greek word meaning “not falling together.”] It never arrives at but only approaches the tantalizing goal of final knowledge. Astrology gives way to astronomy; alchemy evolves into chemistry. The science of one age becomes the mythology of the next.”

      And whether or not God exists is a fundamental, ontological question. In other words, it is a question of final, ultimate truth…which can never be answered by the shifting sands of science.

      Those with a short-sighted view of the history of science are prone to overlook the fact that alchemy (which believed that metals such as lead could be turned into gold) and astrology were once considered scientifically respectable. In fact, as Margulis alludes to above, the scientific consensus of one age usually becomes the myth or superstition of the next age. Elite physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin cite examples of this trend among scientific theories in their book The Matter Myth:

      “A classic example concerns the ‘luminiferous ether.’ When James Clerk Maxwell showed that light is an electromagnetic wave, it seemed obvious that this wave had to have a medium of some sort through which to propagate. After all, other known waves travel through something. Sound waves, for example, travel through the air; water waves travel across the surface of lakes and oceans. Because light, which Maxwell discovered is a form of electromagnetic wave, can reach us from the Sun and stars, across seemingly empty space, it was proposed that space is actually filled with an intangible substance, the ether, in which these waves could travel.

      So sure were physicists of the existence of the ether that ambitious experiments were mounted to measure the speed with which the Earth moves through it. Alas, the experiments showed conclusively that the ether does not exist.

      …For nineteenth-century physicists, however, the ether was still very real.”

      Atheist [and agnostic] mythology suggests that, as scientific knowledge grows, the need for theistic belief diminishes. However, in his pivotal work on the history, philosophy, and sociology of science titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn points out how the history of science makes it difficult to justify the characterization of science as “an ever growing stockpile of knowledge” or a “process of accretion”. In part, this is because most scientific theories (or models) which were accepted by the scientific communities of the past are now perceived as pseudo-science or myth.

      Kuhn cites the examples of Aristotelian dynamics (which was superseded by Newtonian physics), phlogistic chemistry (which said that a fire-like element called phlogiston is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion), and caloric thermodynamics (which said that heat is really a self-repellent fluid called caloric that flows from hotter bodies to colder bodies). (Click here for dozens more examples). If these theories were regarded as “science” in their day, but as “error” and “superstition” today, then why should we not assume that the scientific theories of today will become the error and superstition of tomorrow? Kuhn writes:

      “…Historians confront growing difficulties in distinguishing the ‘scientific’ component of past observation and belief from what their predecessors had readily labeled ‘error’ and ‘superstition.’ The more carefully they study, say, Aristotelian dynamics, phlogistic chemistry, or caloric thermodynamics, the more certain they feel that those once current views of nature were, as a whole, neither less scientific nor more the product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today. If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge. If, on the other hand, they are to be called science, then science has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today. Given these alternatives, the historian must choose the latter. Out-of-date theories are not in principle unscientific because they have been discarded. That choice, however, makes it difficult to see scientific development as a process of accretion.”

      Scientific models shouldn’t be confused with reality.

      Commonplace atheist thought would have one believe that science “discovered” the truth of such scientific theories as Darwinian evolution….much as one might discover a lost coin with a metal detector. But in reality, it is misleading to suggest that science is a simple exercise of making “discoveries” through mere observation. Physicists Davies and Gribbin explain how the line between scientific model and reality often becomes “hopelessly blurred” in The Matter Myth:

      “At the heart of the scientific method is the construction of theories. Scientific theories are essentially models of the real world (or parts thereof), and a lot of the vocabulary of science concerns the models rather than reality. For example, scientists often use the word ‘discovery’ to refer to some purely theoretical advance. Thus one often hears it said that Stephen Hawking ‘discovered’ that black holes are not black, but emit heat radiation. That statement refers solely to a mathematical investigation. Nobody has yet seen a black hole, much less detected any heat radiation from one.

      …So long as scientific models stick closely to direct experience, where common sense remains a reliable guide, we feel confident that we can distinguish between the model and the reality. But in certain branches of physics it is not always so easy. The concept of energy, for example, is a familiar one today, yet it was originally introduced as a purely theoretical quantity in order to simplify the physicists’ description of mechanical and thermodynamical processes. We cannot see or touch energy, yet we accept that it really exists because we are so used to discussing it.

      The situation is even worse in the new physics, where the distinction between the model and reality sometimes becomes hopelessly blurred. In quantum field theory, for instance, theorists often refer to abstract entities called ‘virtual’ particles. These ephemeral objects come into existence out of nothing, and almost immediately fade away again. Although a faint trace of their fleeting passage can appear in ordinary matter, the virtual particles themselves can never be directly observed. So to what extent can they be said to really exist?”

      Science is an unending discussion of mysteries.

      There can be no question that science has been very useful to modern society. Computers, space exploration, and air travel (not to mention nuclear weapons) are all the products of modern science. But as Freeman Dyson, who holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein, notes in his March 2011 essay titled How We Know, 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….The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.

      …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.”

      Dyson’s above comments highlight one of the fundamental flaws of reasoning which absolutely permeates atheist thought: The belief that science can provide final, or ultimate, explanations which can substitute for theistic belief. This is a confusion of scientific reasoning with ontological reasoning. No less than Albert Einstein (as I cite him in Riddles for Atheists) dispelled the notion that science can produce ultimate explanations:

      “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

      The fact that this miracle is constantly reinforced (rather than diminished) as our knowledge expands is likely one reason that Einstein commented:

      “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”

      Matti Leisola notes in Heretic:

      Scientific progress requires some healthy skepticism. And that means resisting the cult of “Science Says” even when authoritative sources reassure us with talk of “scientific studies.” One for-instance: In 1964 The New York Times reported that hundreds of scientific studies showed that there was no conclusive evidence that smoking causes lung cancer:

      “Studies made in the last ten years have found no laboratory evidence linking lung cancer or fatal heart disease with cigarette smoking, The Council for Tobacco Research asserted yesterday in its 1963–64 report. A 71–page booklet written by Dr. Clarence Cook Little said the council had evaluated 350 reports by scientists working with council grants and had found ‘little to support the charge that cigarette smoke produces cancer.”2

      Fortunately, in this case there were studies and official scientific voices pushing in the other direction, and soon the Council for Tobacco Research’s 1963–64 report had lost credibility. Sometimes, however, the most prominent voices, the ones deemed to speak most authoritatively for science, have lined up squarely behind a position later found to be false. And such instances are not restricted to long centuries ago, when science was in its infancy.

      Similarly, William Dembski notes in Uncommon Dissent:

      “Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, science is not a juggernaut that relentlessly pushes back the frontiers of knowledge. Rather, science is an interconnected web of theoretical and factual claims about the world that are constantly being revised. Changes in one portion of the web can induce radical changes in another. In particular, science regularly confronts the problem of having to retract claims that it once boldly asserted.

      Consider the following example from geology: In the nineteenth century the geosynclinal theory was proposed to account for the origination of mountain ranges. This theory hypothesized that large trough-like depressions, known as geosynclines, filled with sediment, gradually became unstable, and then, when crushed and heated by the earth, elevated to form mountain ranges. To the question “How did mountain ranges originate?” geologists as late as 1960 confidently asserted that the geosynclinal theory provided the answer. In the 1960 edition of Clark and Stearn’s Geological Evolution of North America, the status of the geosynclinal theory was even favorably compared with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

      Whatever became of the geosynclinal theory? An alternative theory, that of plate tectonics, was developed. It explained mountain formation through continental drift and sea-floor spreading. Within a few years, it had decisively replaced the geosynclinal theory. The history of science is filled with such turnabouts in which confident claims to knowledge suddenly vanish from the scientific literature. The geosynclinal theory was completely wrong. Thus, when the theory of plate tectonics came along, the geosynclinal theory was overthrown.”

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Dear Scott,

        Good point Scott. I think one day, you should consider becoming a philosopher rather than whatever field you are in right now. It seems more suited to you. Haha.

        You said that agnosticism or some claims by agnostics that we should not proceed to make an ontological conclusion until further knowledge is available is an incorrect conclusion because science is asymptomatic and philosopher of science Dr. William Dembski shows why believing in the idea that scientific knowledge is increasing is a myth.

        The reason I asked why agnosticism is apparently valid is because I was studying Dr. Plantinga’s modal ontological argument. Some responses said that the argument may say the argument makes theism more probable than atheism but it does not mean that theism is true. The argument simply makes theism more probable. Not that theism is true. Another reasonable response is that we should suspend judgement until further arguments or evidence shows up. I hope you get my point.

        Thanks in advance.

        • Jeff,

          Thanks for the compliment! I don’t think the philosopher job pays very well though, lol. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was right on the money when he said, “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” In other words, we need philosophy to straighten out many of the errors of thought caused by human language.

          Another point to consider when you run across the atheist or agnostic argument that we should just suspend judgement and wait for science to “figure things out”:

          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.”

          Natural processes and manufacturing processes only address the material level of causation. Therefore, the notion that greater understanding of the natural mechanisms behind the origin of life (or the universe, etc.) in the future will rule out the need for God is 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. As I stated earlier, 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 his pet rock. 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 brilliantly 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?.

          Craig Keener echoes Varghese’s above points:

          Views about whether any intelligence exists outside nature are interpretations, not data, hence belong to a different sphere of reasoning than purely empirical scientific expertise confers. As one scholar puts it, facts in isolation “are unintelligible and non-explanatory,” inviting explanation. Yet science as science in the strictest sense proceeds inductively, accumulating finite bodies of information and constructing patterns.

          The interpretation that structures the information, by contrast, is ultimately meta-scientific. Even moving to the meta-scientific level may presuppose an intelligence that exceeds pure, random naturalism. Einstein believed that acceptance of the world’s “rationality or intelligibility” also entailed belief in “a superior mind,” which he defined as God.

          Following are a couple introductory (I have many, many more) 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.

          • Jeff Mwangi says:

            Dear Scott,

            Perhaps after some time in your field, you should still consider becoming a philosopher.

            By the way Scott, with all the evidence you have produced inyour website over the years, can you say you have cartesian certainty (100%) that Christian theism is true?

            I have loved your work in the philosophy of mind. It convinced me that the soul does exist. However, when talking about the idea of the immaterial such as the soul, it is not PROOF that the soul exists. At best, it gives an immaterial concept and theism can provide the best explanation for it. Any thoughts?

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