A while back I came across a rather annoying discussion between an atheist and a Christian on YouTube. Though I did not contribute to the discussion, I thought I would respond to the exchange here in case there are people out there who find such arguments genuinely upsetting. The outspoken atheists on the internet seem to be ignorant fifteen year-olds who live in their parents house and think they know everything, but their arguments are extremely prevalent and people seem to have a hard time thinking their way through them. The exchange went something like this:
Atheist: “We atheists never believe anything without evidence, but you ignorant Christians believe in lots of things without evidence. I am perfectly willing to believe in God if there is any evidence. Where is that evidence?”
Christian presents some evidence
Atheist: “That is not evidence. You are a creatard. Evidence please?”
Christian presents some evidence
Atheist: “An argument is not evidence. You are a creatard. Evidence please?”
Now when I read such an exchange, it is difficult to believe that anyone could be so ignorant. Surely this person is a psychotic “internet troll” who fakes such ignorance in order to get a rise out of Christians inexperienced enough to “feed the trolls”? But then I have a conversation with a highly educated and intelligent coworker who tells me that he would like to be an agnostic, but he has to be an atheist because there is “too much evidence” for atheism. How would this man argue that atheism is superior to agnosticism on the basis of evidence? Can this atheist not see that his thought process is similar to that of the internet troll? Can things really be this bad?
Evidence and Argument
Now the idea that atheists are superior to Christians because atheists never believe anything without evidence is obviously fatuous. If I introduce myself to an atheist, he believes that I exist and that my name is Robert without any evidence except for my declaration. When an atheist boards a plane, he assumes that it is safe without demanding any evidence other than the fact that the airline is telling him it is safe. This is a very low standard of evidence, but it is impractical to live in any other way. I have discussed how the burden of proof for accepting various claims varies from situation to situation in my previous post, “Atheistm, Axiomatic Truths and the Burden of Proof”. The idea that “arguments are not evidence” is a more serious issue that needs to be discussed.
If I was to give a prosecutor investigating a murder a log of phone calls made from a cellular tower, he doesn’t know if this log of phone calls constitutes evidence or not. He has to dig through the log and check it against other records before he can be sure. If, after having investigated, he finds that the cellular tower has a record of a phone call made from the defendant that was placed within a few minutes of the crime, then the log is evidence in the investigation. If the cell tower is far from the murders, the log might demonstrate that the defendant could not have committed the crime. If the cell tower is near the murders, it might invalidate the defendants alibi. Only after the investigation is conducted is the status of the phone log as evidence known. Evidence is only evidence in the context of an argument.
We can see this truth if we consider the physical sciences as well. If I give you a set of temperature measurements or a series of infrared photographs, does the “evidence” interpret itself? Or can you only understand the results of the experiment if the data is presented as part of an argument in support of a model?
The problem with this generation of fifteen year-old atheists is that they know nothing about how science actually works. Grasping at the simplistic arguments of atheist scientists like Richard Dawkins without any real understanding, they delude themselves into thinking they are intellectually honest and scientific when in fact they are simpletons with a high school understanding of argumentation and logic. That the internet swells the power of their voices is a modern societal problem that must have horrific consequences. The fact is that there is very powerful evidence for the existence of God if only you will go through the trouble of understanding the arguments.
The Success of the Scientific Enterprise
The most powerful evidence for the existence of God is the fact that scientists have used elegant mathematical equations to explain a large variety of natural phenomena with great precision. This is an astonishing accomplishment firstly in that the universe itself obeys mathematical laws and secondly in the fact that these laws are comprehensible by human beings using the few pounds of biological jello between our ears. The Christian explanation for these two remarkable facts is that human beings are made in the image of the God who created the laws of physics. The atheist explanation is that apes adapting to life on the African Savanna happened to evolve the ability to understand quantum electrodynamics and that mathematics “just happens” to control the universe around us. Which makes more sense to you?
**SEE NOTE 1
(See “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” by Eugene Wigner for an excellent discussion of this idea from a non-Christian Nobel prize winning scientist.)
The Fine Tuning Argument
As elucidated by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, recent advances in cosmology, biology, planetary ecology and other sciences demonstrate that the constants of physics and the characteristics of our planet, solar system, galaxy and universe are “fine-tuned” to allow advanced life to survive on earth for long periods of time. Without this fine-tuning, advanced life would be impossible. The Christian explanation for this this fact is that human life requires the input of a superhuman creator. Atheists get away from the implications of these studies by turning to a multitude of universes each of which has slightly different constants of physics. What do you have faith in? A single loving creator or an infinite number of unknowable universes?
(See atheist Paul Davies wrestle with what he calls the “bio-friendly” universe because he cannot bring himself to use the words “fine-tuned” in this video.)
Evidence from the Bible
Some of the most powerful evidence for the truth of Christianity comes from the Bible itself. In his book, The Coming Prince, Sir Robert Anderson demonstrates that the amazing prophecy of 70 weeks in Daniel was fulfilled more than four hundred years after it was given on the exact day predicted in Daniel when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem as described in the New Testament. This is an astonishing fact and is sufficient evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible in and of itself. Those who would dismiss the book of Daniel as having been written afterwards have to account for some inconvenient facts. The book of Daniel is in Jewish texts despite the fact that Jews don’t believe in Jesus, was originally translated as part of the Septuagint and is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Given these facts, you must either believe in a spectacular coincidence, a vast Judeo-Christian conspiracy or the divine inspiration of the Bible.
Another category of evidence from the Bible is the astonishing claims made in the Bible concerning the physical universe. As I have discussed previously, the chronology of creation events in Genesis aligns with the findings of modern science both in initial conditions and sequence if one takes an Old Earth view and corrects for reference frame. The Bible also talks about how God is “stretching the heavens” on more than a dozen different occasions and this is astonishing when you consider that modern science believes that the fabric of space time is expanding.
A third category of evidence comes when you consider what the Bible has to say about the “Last Days” or the “End Times”. Putting the fragments found in different areas of the Bible together, the picture of the “Last Days” that emerges looks disturbingly like our present time. According to Ezekiel, God will reform the nation of Israel from a valley of dry bones and bring them back into the promised land. According to Daniel, “people will travel to and fro” and “knowledge will greatly increase”. According to other prophets, Jerusalem will become a “burdensome stone” for all nations and a coalition of hostile nations will surround Israel and attempt to “divide the land” and destroy Israel as a nation. There are even descriptions that sound like modern weaponry including nuclear weapons and smart bombs.
Of course, the most powerful evidence of the divine origin of the Bible is the teaching and person of Jesus Christ. His teachings, sacrifice and appeal to those of us who fall short is unique in all of human history. The fact that the words and actions of Jesus and his disciples are attested to by the blood of those who died in the early persecution of the Christian church is powerful evidence of the truth of Christianity.
Evidence for Divine Design in Biology
In a draft post, I am reviewing the problems that I have with Darwin’s naturalistic explanation for the obvious design in the biological world. For the sake of brevity, I skip this category of evidence in this discussion.
When I consider all of this evidence, the behaviour of those who claim there is no evidence is astonishing to me. How is it possible for an otherwise intelligent individual to look at the various evidence for the truth of Christianity and claim not merely that the evidence is unpersuasive but that there is no evidence? This can only be the result of what the Bible calls spiritual darkness and is, therefore, additional evidence for the truth of the Bible.
** NOTE 1
In the comment section, an atheist preferred this formulation of the argument from the success of science:
The Bible tells me that human beings are made in the image of God and that God created the universe from nothing. Because God is an intelligent law giver, this suggests that when we study the universe we should find that the underlying principles are physical laws understandable by intelligent agents. When Isaac Newton investigated the universe mathematically in the most important work ever published in the history of science, he stated this belief as the basis for why we should expect mathematical law in nature. Centuries later, this prediction has been borne out to 20 places of the decimal for a vast amount of physical phenomena.