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“I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

No, that is not a statement of my belief. That is the title of a 2004 book by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek that I have been reading. What’s different about this book is that its authors claim to believe that the available evidence proves there’s a god. They claim that because atheists are not following the trail of evidence in their insistence on a godless universe, then those atheists are making a leap of faith. Of course, these authors’ evidence for their god falls woefully short of proof.

Despite their numerous degrees, these guys are by no means deep thinkers. (Although I may be getting this impression simply because they are not honest in what they say.) For example, they make this naïve statement (p.130), “The atheists/Darwinists/materialists believe, by faith, that our minds arose from mindless matter without intelligent intervention. We say it is by faith because it contradicts all scientific observation which demonstrates that an effect cannot be greater than its cause.” An effect cannot be greater than its cause? Really? Einstein’s work has changed the world, but his cause was a microscopic sperm and a tiny egg. Or – the slippage of a few snowflakes can cause an avalanche. Or - the atomic bomb blast which destroyed Hiroshima and killed 100,000 or so people was caused by about 120 pounds of uranium. We could go on like this, but it should be obvious by now that it takes little thought to see that an effect can indeed be greater than its cause.

Elsewhere, they write (p.76), “With each passing moment the amount of usable energy in the universe grows smaller, leading scientists to the obvious conclusion that one day all the energy will be gone and the universe will die.” But where the hell could the energy go, since the universe is a closed system? What they should have said is that the order in the universe grows smaller as entropy increases (Newton’s second law of thermodynamics). The amount of mass-energy in the universe cannot change. They do go on to speak of entropy, after giving several examples of things running out of energy, like cars running out of gas and flashlights growing dim, leaving me to wonder if they have any idea what they’re talking about here, or whether they are just doing a snow job on the scientifically illiterate.

Also on this issue, they write (p.86), “. . . the Cosmic Rebound Theory contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics because the theory falsely assumes that no energy would be lost in each contraction and explosion. A universe “banging” repeatedly would eventually fizzle out just as a dropped ball eventually fizzles out. So if the universe has been expanding and contracting forever, it would have fizzled out already.” Again, they have not thought very deeply. Where would the energy “fizzle out” to, in the Rebound Theory? If the universe is everything there is (by definition), then there exists no place for the energy to leak to.

Geisler and Turek, over and over, play fast and loose with the facts and apparently have little respect for their audience. Two examples will suffice to make these points.

They point out that all living creatures today have DNA, which is an extremely complex amalgam of proteins. They say (correctly) that even single-celled amoeba have DNA. They conclude from this that life requires DNA and thus a god was required to create life. I don’t believe they are being honest here. From the details presented concerning DNA and evolution, I think they know more than they are telling. In fact, I would bet a large sum that they are fully aware that no trained biologist or evolutionist actually believes that the first life form capable of reproducing itself had DNA. A much simpler mechanism was at work in the beginning, although no one knows yet just what that mechanism was. The authors have constructed a straw man argument here because it’s easy to knock down. They are right that the first reproducing organisms couldn’t have had DNA because it’s just too complex; but no trained biologist thinks they did. Again, they appear to be trying to do a snow job on the scientifically illiterate.

Then, there is a hilarious, and likely fictitious exchange with a college physics professor. Geisler claims that after giving a talk on a college campus, he was asked to lunch by a student and his professor. At one point Geisler says he asked the professor, “If everything is material, then what is a scientific theory? After all, the theory about everything being material isn’t material; it’s not made out of molecules.” Geisler writes, “Without a moment’s hesitation he quipped, ‘A theory is magic.’ ‘Magic?’ I repeated, not really believing what I was hearing. ‘What’s your basis for saying that?’ ‘Faith,’ he quickly replied. ‘Faith in magic?’ I thought to myself. ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing! If faith in magic is the best the materialists have to offer, then I don’t have enough faith to be a materialist!’”

Now, if these comments were really made by a college physics professor, then we can be sure the professor was just yanking on Geisler’s chain. The professor may have meant his comments facetiously and the sarcasm just went over Geisler’s head – or, Geisler is simply editing out the sarcasm to make the professor look stupid in his book. At any rate, I’d bet my life savings that this exchange didn’t take place in the way Geisler claims it did.

Geisler also gives us a sophomoric misrepresentation of materialism in this alleged discussion. Materialism, properly understood, claims that our reality consists entirely of physical matter that is the sole cause of every possible occurrence, including human thought, feeling, and action. Thus, theories are the products of brains which are material objects, and there can be no theory without a material object – the brain – to create it.

Okay, I freely admit that what I’ve written so far amounts to no more than ad hominem attacks, but I wanted to show that these authors’ arguments are often scientifically unsupportable or even intentional lies. My principal counter-arguments, however, go well beyond ad hominem comments.

Now, down to the meat and potatoes of Geisler and Turek’s case for the existence of their god. On page 93, the authors state, “Namely, we can discover some characteristics of the First Cause just from the evidence we’ve discussed in this chapter. From that evidence alone [the cosmological argument and the big bang], we know the First Cause must be:
  1. Self-existent, timeless, nonspatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause must be outside of time, space, and matter). In other words, he is without limits, or infinite;
  2. Unimaginably powerful, to create the entire universe out of nothing;
  3. Supremely intelligent, to design the universe with such incredible precision; [this is the “fine-tuning” argument, which they deal with in some detail.]
  4.  Personal, in order to choose to convert a state of nothingness into the time-space-material universe (an impersonal force has no ability to make choices).

Now, we need only cast doubt on a couple of these points to disrupt their chain of logic.

Notice how they began with speaking of a First Cause in point #1, and then slipped a “he” in there? Obviously, we are to interpret this First Cause as a personal god. But, for the sake of argument, if the big bang required a force outside of space and time to cause it (a big “if”), why must it have been a god? Why not a blind, mindless force, instead? Maybe this force didn’t “choose” (as in point #4) to create a universe anymore than mass chooses to create gravity, or electricity chooses to create magnetism and vice versa. Perhaps pushing a universe into existence is just what this force does.

They might counter that the fine-tuning argument requires an intelligence, but that also isn’t necessarily so. Yes, it’s true that if the physical parameters of this universe weren’t just so, then it would not have held together long enough to permit intelligent life to develop. But, perhaps many universes have been pushed into existence before and quickly collapsed. In fact, maybe billions or trillions of universes have been “tried” and failed before this one succeeded. There is no evidence to support this hypothesis, but there is also no evidence to support the hypothesis that this is the only universe there ever was. And, there is absolutely no way to judge which case is more probable.

Now, the mindless force hypothesis I’m suggesting eliminates the need for all of those attributes generally attributed to gods, like self-consciousness, awareness of things external to itself, thoughts and desires, and intentions and plans. A god is infinitely more complex than a blind, mindless force, so a god’s existence under these pre-big bang conditions must be vastly less likely. This is an example of Occam’s razor, or the parsimony principle, which states that the hypothesis with the fewest requirements is usually to be favored.

If you go with the god hypothesis, then how do you explain where all those complex (“human-like?”) attributes come from; why does god have all those attributes? Does it explain anything to say this infinitely complex god just is? Isn’t there a huge leap of faith involved here? At the very least, their hypothesis of a first cause god is untestable, leaving no need for a leap of faith to doubt it.

Furthermore, doesn’t it take faith to believe a being could have an invisible brain? Brains require neurons and every neuron ever detected has been visible. And if it doesn’t have a brain, how could it have a thought, a single, simple thought, let alone a plan for how to create a whole universe? There is not a shred of evidence for an invisible brain beyond some ancient, highly imaginative stories. And those stories don’t prove that a god exists anymore than a stack of comic books proves a man can fly without mechanical assistance.

There is also another problem with the god-as-first-cause hypothesis that I think is quite serious. Before there was a universe, how could this god even think (even if it had some sort of brain), since nothing existed to think about? A thinking subject requires an object to think about or there can be no thought, let alone a complex plan to create a universe. Try thinking about nothing and you’ll see what I mean; it’s a meaningless concept.

Geisler and Turek appear to convince themselves in this book that not only is there a god, but it’s the Christian god and Jesus is his son, and, er, himself, somehow. . . They even claim that the Bible is inerrant! While they like to think that they have merely followed the trail of evidence and not taken a leap of faith, the paucity and weakness of their evidence appears to me to shout FAITH in capital letters!