The idea that this universe came into existence through the deliberate conscious action of a Designer is taking a lot of pot shots in the press and popular media these days. It is no longer a case of skeptics presenting arguments against the idea of a Creator, it is no longer a conversation, discussion, or even debate. In many popular circles and forums, it is more about affirmed atheists scoffing at the intellect of those who choose to believe.
Popular and entertaining figures such as Christopher Hitchens, Bill Nye and Bill Mahar seem to relish in their ridicule of believers. Often the underlying sentiment of their scorn contains the subtle inference that if only people were as smart as they were, they would be able to see how foolish it is to believe in a Creator God. It is almost as if they are trying to peddle their worldview to others through peer pressure and pseudo-intellectual posturing, rather than using sound reason and logic. Lets take a look at three of the most common arguments that atheists use to try and prove that there is no God.
The Bible Gets it Wrong so there Must Not be a God
A favorite sleight of hand is to point out some apparent problem in the Bible, usually something in the book of Genesis, and then use that to congratulate themselves that they have succeeded in proving that God does not exist! Am I missing something? If I were to purchase a product made in China and fond the instruction manual difficult to follow as a result of cross-cultural and cross-language translation, would it be in any way logical to conclude that my device had no intellectual designer! Would it be rational for me to conclude that because I am not able to understand the manual well, that the intricate parts of my new device must have just fallen into place and somehow ended up at my Walmart by some freak chance accident?
If I wanted to understand the manual, I might seek out some professional linguistic help on that, or perhaps consult an expert in Chinese culture and worldview... but it would be ludicrous for me to jump to the conclusion that my device had spontaneously assembled by random chance! If I tried to use the problems I found in the manual to prove to others around me that my device could not have possibly had a designer, I doubt that I would get a lot of traction on that argument. And yet when it comes to the Creator and the Bible, this type of argument seems to get a lot of applause every time! I wonder why.
Finding problems in the Bible is just not a good argument to prove that a Creator God does not exist. It may be a successful argument that works on many people to convince them that God must not exist, and I am guessing that this is why the argument is still used as one of the main tools in the atheist's tool belt, but it is NOT a good argument against a Designer-Creator. It does not show a superior intellect to make this kind of argument. In fact I have often found that when there are few good arguments to prove a point, people will often resort to these types of fallacious argument strategies.
The only legitimate point that can be made by referring to difficult passages of the Bible is there is a very real disconnect between how God first communicated with people and how we interpret that communication in our worldview of today. The Bible comes to us across the distance of 3500 years, through the veil of language and cultural translation. It is to be expected that we are going to have problems understanding the full meaning, or why information was given in the way that it was. Most all of the problems that people point to in the Bible are more a result of a misunderstanding of the Nature of Inspiration. Once you get a healthy, balanced understanding of how the Bible was inspired and written, the problems melt away.
However, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not there is a Designer-Creator and no one should let anyone pull this kind of bait and switch logic.
Evolution is Real so there Is No Need for a Creator
Another favorite argument is to say that evolution is a proven scientific fact and therefore God does not exist. Really? How does observable evolution prove there is no Creator? Of course there is plenty of evidence that all living creatures have the amazing ability to adapt incredibly well to new environments. If isolated from other population-groups of their same species by natural barriers, small populations may over time naturally select for favorable traits that help them survive in the new environment. If isolated long enough, they can take on enough changes that they can be categorized as a new species, distinct from their parent population group. But in the end a cat, no matter what size or shape it takes, is still a cat. A bear is still a bear, a horse is still a horse, of course... and a finch is still a finch! The amazing ability of animals to adapt to new environments is what science has proved with the 150+ year study of evolution. Nothing more.
The idea that all of the complex life-forms that we see around us today somehow evolved from a one-celled organism that got a spontaneous start through the random combination of chemicals with no design or Designer is NOT a proven scientific fact. Don’t let anyone try and slip that one by you! This kind of “large scale” or “macro-evolution” is merely a theoretical extrapolation of the basic principles of observable “evolution”, or more accurately “speciation”, that can be documented by science. In reality, the fossil record that we have discovered has many scientists puzzled over multiple events of the sudden explosion of thousands of complex life forms, with very little evidence of any intermediary forms.
The fact that living creatures have the ability to evolve, adapt, and change over time to be better suited to new environments does not prove that there is no Designer-Creator. For me it does the opposite! For me, speciation encourages my faith in God! It speaks of the incredible intelligent design that has gone into the creation of life forms, to give them this built-in ability to survive in new environments as they spread out over new territory. It is as if the Designer has taken extra effort and special care to include "contingency data" in the DNA of all life forms to help an isolated population adapt and survive! For me, speciation, through natural selection and the forces of "survival of the fittest", are more of an argument for an intelligent Mind behind life, than it ever is for a proof that there is no Creator!
Even if it could somehow be proven that all of the diversified and complex life-forms that we see around us today, did all naturally evolve from a one-celled organism in some primordial soup, for me it would still only be all that much more amazing evidence for a Designer-Creator! How else could it be possible that so much potential could be programed into the DNA of that first one-celled organism? (I don't believe that it happened this way, I am just pointing out that, from pure logic alone, you can only take the argument of evolution back so far. At some point you still need an incredible intelligence to get the ball of life rolling, not to mention a suitable environment for the ball to roll and develop into the diversity of life we see around us today!)
The Earth Is more than 6000 Years old, So God Does not Exist
Another argument that always makes me smile a little when I hear it is the argument that states that, “Scientific evidence proves that the Earth and Universe is much older than 6000 years, therefore there must not be a God!" What? Just exactly how does an old Earth, even with evidence of microbial life dating back 3.5 billion years in any way prove that God does not exist? How does a Universe of 13.8 billion years prove that there is no God? You can poke fun at the “young-earthers” until the cows come home, it still doesn’t prove to me that God doesn’t exist! The only thing that this evidence shows me is that the Creator has been actively working at points in time that date back further than what some Christians have come to believe. That they got this wrong does not in any way prove that God does not exist.
The fact that science measures the beginning of our Universe to be an event that took place over 13.8 billion years ago does not shake my faith in a Designer- Creator, it only strengthens it! How awesome is our God that He can create space-time and stretch it back far enough to allow for the natural development of galaxies! I can look at the images of today's telescopes and marvel at the birth, death and rebirth of suns. I can even get on board with the idea that this cycle of the birth and death of suns is necessary for the development of the heavy elements needed for planetary systems and rocky planets such as ours. I enthusiastically embrace all of the fine tuning needed for all of the right elements to exist and function according to unseen laws of physics. For me, this all points to an amazing design that must have come from a Creator with unimaginable intelligence and power. But then we are just getting started! Beyond all of the physics necessary to create environments where it is possible for life to exist, then comes intricately balanced ecosystems of diverse and complex life-forms, including one creature that has the capability of consciousness, self-awareness, and the rational intellect to even contemplate a time-space universe of 13.8 billion years!
People's conviction of a literal, six day creation week, that happened in the recent past, whether that was six thousand years ago or one hundred thousand years ago, has nothing to say for or against the existence of a Creator-God. Even if it is possible to attack a firmly held date for creation, by disproving the date with overwhelming scientific evidence, you have done nothing to disprove the event! In reality it is not possible to disprove the actual date! Here is why. When speaking of the Creator, we are talking about One who has the ability to create space-time, be active in all space-time, and indeed exist outside our space-time! Since the Creator of the Universe, must by default be transcendent of the Universe and the space-time of the Universe, the question of the actual date of creation becomes a moot point. When you are discussing a God that has the power to stretch out time-space, and be present and active in all time-space, the creation event could have happened as recently as last week!
No matter what way you might look at it, poking fun of "young-earthers" or shaming their belief system and worldview, just is not a convincing argument that God does not exist. It doesn’t display some superior intellect, only the apparent lack of any good arguments to use. The scientific evidence of an old earth and universe, including ancient life, should not in any way discourage any believer, or cause them to give up their faith in a Creator. It should encourage them to study the question of the age of the Earth and Universe, and develop ways to understand this evidence in light of their faith, but should not in any way be interpreted or conceded as an evidence against the Creator.
When I was a young man in first-year college I took a class in speech and communication. I remember how our textbook pointed out many of the most popular techniques that people use to argue their opinions in ways that are improper, invalid or fallacious. This textbook has not survived my many moves, but thanks to the internet it is not hard to find a good list of fallacious arguments, on-line. Try Googling "False Methods of Argumentation", and you will find a nice variety of sites that share invalid styles of argument and debate. When it comes to the debate between atheists and believers, I am always amazed at how easily the presenters slip into one of these invalid forms of argument. Otherwise intelligent, balanced, honest and academic people, quickly resort to passionate, "straw-man arguments", or one of the many others just like it.
In some ways, this is understandable. The questions are tough, impossible to recreate or test in the lab. However, when all of the false lines of reasoning fall helplessly to the ground, I believe that in the end, simple logic and reason must stand! Pure logic strongly and convincingly states to me that an intricately designed physical universe, with an amazing diversity of life, balancing harmoniously in complex ecosystems, simply requires the action of an intelligent Designer. For me, that life exists at all is, in and of itself, the most powerful, irrefutable argument for a Life-Giver. That I have air to breath, delicious food to eat, satisfying occupations to enjoy, interesting people to share the pleasures and adventures of life with, and that I have the capacity to think about these things at all, are more convincing arguments to me that God exists, than anything that I have ever heard from naturalists or atheists to prove that God does not exist.
I get it that many people have felt “burned” or “tricked” because of one thing or another that has been pointed out to them in the Bible. I remember how I felt at the age of five when I found out that Santa wasn't real. I felt tricked and betrayed. I wondered how I could believe anything my caregivers said after that! I can understand that when people are presented with ideas that make it seem as though their childhood education was a series of deceptions, that it can in the same way cause some internal conflict. But is it responsible to then quickly jump from that on to the bandwagon of disbelief, and question the existence of a Creator altogether?
At some point I believe that everyone needs to stop and ask themselves, how everything in our Universe could just fall into place without a causal Actor, a unfathomably intelligent Mind, a Designer-Creator. The choice to not believe in God should not be a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived deception, but a personal, face to face encounter with the reality of our Universe, using nothing but pure logic. "I think, therefore I am", should be just as naturally and easily followed by, "I am, therefore someone with incredible intelligence must have made me", regardless of what your caregivers and educators may have said that might be creating dissonance in your thinking today ...
Don't be deceived by the presenter that tries to infer that if you were only more educated, more intelligent, you would surely see that there is no God. Many people have fallen for this! They want to trust people who have had the luxury of getting doctorate and post doctorate degrees in science and philosophy. Respect for education is high in our culture and so it is tempting to just accept the claims of the learned scholars, rather than taking the effort to do personal research or give much personal thought on the big issues. That is what many atheists are counting on! They know that people live busy lives and it is hard to take time out to do personal study. Real, pure arguments against a Causal Mind, responsible for the physical order of the Universe and complex life that exists all around us are difficult to come by. With no good arguments at hand, it is much easier to simply say something like, "I have advanced degrees on these subjects, I have dedicated my life to this study, I am on a much higher educational and intellectual plane than you are. Trust me! If you could see what I see from up here, you would understand how foolish it is to believe in God."
Don't be fooled! Misery loves company and so do non-believers! Belief in God has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. The more I study, the more firmly I believe in God! From my perspective, I think that I would have to be pretty ignorant not to believe, and I am not alone. I have a "great cloud of witnesses" with advanced degrees that believe the same as me.
I like and respect Bill Nye and Bill Mahar, and many others like them. I think that they are interesting, informative, funny and entertaining. I appreciate the contributions that they have made to our culture, political landscape and science education. I just think that they could do better when it comes to the topic of belief or non-belief in a Creator. They could show a little more respect. After all, this is not their area of expertise. Bill Mahar likes to point out that he has "taken a whole course in religion". Sorry Bill, one course is not enough for you to aspire to the level of "expertise" that you have laid claim to. If you don’t have any good arguments that there is no Creator, why speak on the topic at all? I don't try to do political satire, you shouldn't try and speak on Creation! You are free to be an atheist if you choose, but why do you feel the need to try and shame or trick others to join you? I am not going to speak disparagingly about your intellect or try and trick you into changing your mind with fallacious arguments and I believe that it would be better if you stopped trying to do the same for people who believe in a Creator.
Bill and Bill, stick to what you do best, science, social commentary, and politics! Let others grapple with the questions people might have about our "manual" and we will keep you posted on propositions that address the questions with respect and thoughtfulness rather than scorn and ridicule.
Bottom line is, if you are on the fence about whether or not there is a Creator God, be careful not to be swayed by ridicule, shame or fallacious arguments. There are many very intelligent, educated people who believe in God. In spite of the popular media, believing in God does not mean that you are stupid! In 2016, it is still OK to believe in God!