Lee Strobel Responds to Your Comments

After Christian apologist Lee Strobel‘s first response to your questions, there were a lot of remarks and rebuttals.

Before getting to the next question, Lee wanted to respond to your earlier comments (once again, all hyperlinks were added by me):

Wow, my first submission to this site prompted 91 comments the last time I checked. Whew! I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether we achieved the kind of mutual respect and constructive discussion that I think, deep down, we all want. As for me, my biggest emotions in reading through the comments were, first, that I was glad people care enough about these issues to be passionate about them, and, second, that I was really frustrated with this mode of communication.

With each comment, I found myself wishing I could meet with the writer personally, sit down together with a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and have a true back-and-forth conversation. I invariably found myself wanting to know more about each person’s story and all of the factors that have led them to their current conclusions. I wanted to listen more than talk.

Of course, this kind of format, by its very nature, is inefficient and unwieldy. There’s no easy way to go back and forth with clarifications and explanations. Among the 91 posted comments are dozens of additional questions and observations worthy of further exploration. I had to smile as I read them because so many are the same kind of objections I would have raised when I was a skeptic! But it would be time-prohibitive to try to address each and every one of them in this slow, awkward, keyboard-dependent approach. I’ve barely got time to answer the initial questions that prompted this whole encounter!

It was gratifying to see how, in some cases, subsequent posters were able to provide insights to help answer previous posters. For example, some questioned whether I was ever really an atheist because I had speculated that if God exists he would have disapproved of my lifestyle. As a later poster said: “I know that I, myself, sometimes wonder, ‘What if God really exists?’… That doesn’t make me any less of an atheist.” Said another: “Strobel, presumably, already had… knowledge of what the god he was raised with would think.” This, he noted, is decidedly different from believing in that deity.

Several comments begged for further clarification. Did I investigate other world religions? Yes, especially (but not exclusively) Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, and New Age beliefs. In my writings, I’ve described why I believe the evidence points more strongly toward Christianity than other world faiths. Did I change my morality because of fear of divine retribution? No, the primary reason my morality changed is because God transformed my values and character, giving me a new perspective and new attitudes toward him and other people. Because I love God, I seek to follow him and his teachings as best I can, with the help of his Spirit. That’s not burdensome to me; actually, it’s a great adventure. I’m not recoiling in fear over divine punishment; instead, I have a sincere desire to honor God in how I live and treat other people.

Some posters reacted to my comment that I didn’t have enough faith to believe that nothing produces everything [referring to cosmology]; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason.

As one poster observed, “To make the statement ‘nothing produces everything’ is patently ridiculous.” I agree! Who would ever say such a thing? Well, there’s prominent atheist Quentin Smith, who wrote in Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (p. 135) that “the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.”

In this book, Smith tried (but, in my view, failed) to explain away the kalam cosmological argument for God’s existence: Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause. He was pushed into the uncomfortable position of arguing that nothing produces everything, which, frankly, I think takes a huge leap of faith.

But another poster objected: “Logic does not follow that an intelligent being caused [the universe] or that Zeus caused it or even that a tiny unicorn caused it.” Well, I’ve never claimed that the evidence of cosmology takes a person all the way to Christianity, only that it’s one bit of evidence in a cumulative case for the existence of God.

However, there are several logical inferences that can be reasonably drawn from the cosmological evidence: that whatever caused the creation of space and time must be an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power. And that’s a core concept of God. (Before you jump on me for failing to provide specifics, please see The Case for a Creator, pages 93-123 – too much to reproduce here! And hold off on the question, “Yeah, well, then who created God?” That’s coming in a future post.)

Someone else raised questions about the 1959 origin-of-life experiment that helped lead me to atheism. The poster observed: “Just because there is controversy surrounding the makeup of the atmosphere of early earth does nothing to invalidate the results of [the] Urey-Miller [experiment], which showed that inorganic molecules CAN and DO produce organic biomolecules in the right environment. So, the building blocks of life can come from non-life.”

The problem is that Stanley Miller’s suppositions about the content of the primitive earth’s environment turned out to be wrong. If you replay the experiment using what scientists now believe is the correct atmosphere, you don’t get the same results he did. As one expert told me: “Some textbooks fudge by saying, ‘Well, even if you use a realistic atmosphere, you still get organic molecules, as if that solves the problem…. Do you know what they are? Formaldehyde! Cyanide! They may be organic molecules, but in my lab at Berkeley you couldn’t even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the stuff is so toxic… The idea that using a realistic atmosphere gets you the first step in the origin of life is just laughable… To suggest that formaldehyde and cyanide give you the right substrate for the origin of life, well, it’s just a joke.”

But let’s pretend for a moment that you could produce some amino acids by shooting electricity through the atmosphere of the early earth. Even then, you’re so far away from even the most primitive living organism that no mere waving of the hands can bridge this enormous gap. It would be like saying that rain and dirt and wind can create a rudimentary brick and therefore this explains the origin of Sears Tower.

Interestingly, when I got a chance to question Antony Flew, once one of the world’s leading atheists and author of The Presumption of Atheism, about why he has now abandoned his atheistic beliefs and become a believer in a Creator, one of the key reasons he cited to me was “the integrated complexity of the biological world.”

Flew also said something else to me: the reason he now believes in a Creator is because he was committed to following the evidence wherever it led him — even if it was to an uncomfortable conclusion that contradicted his lifetime of atheistic scholarship. I hope all of us remain as committed to pursuing truth with the same vigor and open-mindedness.


  • Chris R

    But let’s pretend for a moment that you could produce some amino acids by shooting electricity through the atmosphere of the early earth. Even then, you’re so far away from even the most primitive living organism that no mere waving of the hands can bridge this enormous gap. It would be like saying that rain and dirt and wind can create a rudimentary brick and therefore this explains the origin of Sears Tower.

    No, it’s very much not like that, sir. We have evidence that organic forms can mutate into different organic forms, but we can’t say the same about bricks spontaneously forming buildings.

    I concede that we do not know right now exactly what caused life to become as varied as it is, but I quote Isaac Asimov on this one: “To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.”

  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    I don’t see how an uncaused, …, personal being as a cause is a reasonable inference from the cosmological argument. If you were to infer consistently, then you should get an infinite regress with nothing known about any of the entities in the chain.

    And while there is an enormous gap between basic organic molecules and a living cell, billions of years is an enormous amount of time …

  • Grimalkin

    First of all, I have to say that I am very glad that you not only returned, but that you returned so quickly to address our comments. I also reciprocate your wish that we could sit down together so that I could more properly pick your brain.

    Now, onto your post:

    I think a big issue most of us had was the arrogance of the statement about not understanding why any atheist would be a good person. Even though you admit that many of us are, there’s a dig implicit in the fact that you believe we can’t be, that it is illogical for the moral atheist to even exist.

    You say now that it was the transformative power of God that made you want to be a good person. So what do you do with the millions of people who make the same claim about their conversion to Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Wicca, Hinduism, etc? For my own part, I strongly feel that my greatest advancement in personal morality came when I finally said “you know what, I really only need the Golden Rule!” and shed all the other doctrines and beliefs of religion. In other words, I experienced the same transformation that you claim came from God during my conversion to Atheism! If you believe that goodness comes from God (more specifically, the Christian God), do you believe that all of us who have attributed our moral growth to other sources are lying? Dillusional? Saved by Grace?

    “In my writings, I’ve described why I believe the evidence points more strongly toward Christianity than other world faiths.” – I am currently reading a commentary written about one of your books from Tinyfrog. I must say that it’s very interesting, but the evidence as quoted (even without Tinyfrog’s comments) does not strike me as particularly reasonable. That being said, I’ve ordered a few of your books from the library so that I may judge your reasoning for myself.

    “Well, I’ve never claimed that the evidence of cosmology takes a person all the way to Christianity, only that it’s one bit of evidence in a cumulative case for the existence of God.” – Only, it doesn’t. The evidence of cosmology points a person to the conclusion that we don’t have enough information yet. We know that life CAN come from non-life, that’s what the Miller experiment showed. If this doesn’t match the current theories about the original makeup of the earth, that’s fine. Maybe those theories are wrong. Maybe the theories are right, but our results are unsuccessful because there was some other currently unknown factor present. An “unknown factor” is not the same as “God.” The “god of the gaps” argument is not only incredibly weak, it also does you a disservice. Every time we have a scientific breakthrough, adherents of the “god of the gaps” make their god that much smaller. When you say that the evidence points towards God, I can only respond that the evidence only points to an area of knowledge that we haven’t, at this time, learned yet. Maybe that’s the Divine, maybe it isn’t. But the evidence doesn’t point toward God any more than it points to a natural but as-yet-unknown factor.

    And, I remind you, the Miller experiment proved that life can come from non-life – something you claim is too difficult to believe in. In other words, you are choosing to disregard the evidence that you, yourself, brought up.

    As for your next paragraph, I eagerly anticipate your response to “where did God come from?”

    “Even then, you’re so far away from even the most primitive living organism that no mere waving of the hands can bridge this enormous gap. It would be like saying that rain and dirt and wind can create a rudimentary brick and therefore this explains the origin of Sears Tower.” – Again, this is a very common, and very poor, argument. Bricks do not compete with each other for resources. Bricks have no incentive to become the Sears Tower. An animal with a random mutation that endows it with some photosensitivity, on the other hand, has a very clear advantage over other animals in certain environments. Your fundamental mistake is that you are approaching the evidence with the assumption of a design-or-completely random dichotomy. I hate to sound condescending, but I understood more about the mechanisms of evolution while I was in primary school. Evolution is NOT random. It is the process of selecting mutations that occurred randomly (well, in the layman’s understanding of the word). Think of picking three cards at random from a deck and then picking the one you want most when you play poker, rather than just having the top one dealt to you. The cards you get to pick from a random, but the fact that you get to pick will certainly give you an advantage. If everyone else in the game is picking as well, that advantage may end up allowing you to beat others, or others will have an advantage that allows them to beat you. Do you understand now?

    “the reason he now believes in a Creator is because he was committed to following the evidence wherever it led him — even if it was to an uncomfortable conclusion that contradicted his lifetime of atheistic scholarship. I hope all of us remain as committed to pursuing truth with the same vigor and open-mindedness.” – If the evidence ever pointed to God (more specifically, to a moral god), I’d be the first to jump on board. I tried extremely hard to be religious, but the evidence led me away. Though I was uncomfortable with where the evidence led me, I had to follow. If it leads me back, I’ll return. I always allow myself open to that possibility. But as you have seen here, I have yet to find any evidence that went beyond “We can’t explain this, therefore God must have done it” or “This is really beautiful and amazing, therefore God must have done it.” This isn’t good enough for me, though maybe it was good enough for Mr. Flew (who may, by the way, be going senile. Who may also be exploring Pascal’s Wager so close to death).

  • Arnaud

    A huge misunderstanding that I see within this response is that atheists are required to believe certain principles. No. They don’t. The only thing that makes a person atheist is his lack of belief in gods. That’s it. Nothing less, nothing more.

    Not believing in gods does leave questions unresolved. However, all atheists do not necessarily have the same responses to these questions. While one atheist author may state that all had to come from nothing, other atheists disagree. Many, such as myself, just admit we don’t know yet.

    I would find it very interesting to see what reasoning lead Lee to a belief in the Judeo-Christian god. Why must a god be the only thing that can fill the void of the universe’s origins? What evidence can lead us to conclude a god exists? How do we know that extreme emotions we feel must come from a god (or more specifically, the Judeo-Christian god)? To me, these are some essential questions that should be answered by Christians.

    I have already had calm discussions regarding Christianity in the past. It tends to lead to the conclusion that Yahweh is timeless and that it’d be impossible for multiple authors to lie when writing the New Testament. They’d “have no reason not to write an accurate historical account.”

    Putting it bluntly, these discussions immediately trigger my BS detector. They leave larger questions unanswered such as, “Why Christianity over the thousands of other religions?” or “How do you know a god actually exists outside your holy text? (leading to “How do you know revelations aren’t simply the human brain playing tricks on us?”)

    I guess I’m just too much of a skeptic to become religious. It consists of much too many things that could have just been made up.

  • Oli

    I actually agree with a few of Lee’s points and i’m gonna have to comment on Grimalkins comment.

    Firstly, the Urey-Miller experiment did not produce life. It produced amino acids. These are the things living organisms are built of but they are not themselves alive. To infer that the Urey-Miller experiment created life is erroneous.

    Secondly, I agree with some of Lee’s points. Specifically we do not know about 2 occasions. 1) how the universe started (or rather the first billionth of a second, we’ve got it sussed after that) and 2) How the first life form with inheritable characteristics came to be.

    These are gaps in science we have not yet filled. They are the only real gaps left for god to exist in. They also can only allow a deistic god. i.e. he got the ball rolling then stood back. They do not mean such a god exists, or even infer it, but they do allow room for it.

    Now to go from a deistic god to the christian god is a HUGE step. Believing in christianity with a critical mind requires that one to either accept the bible as divinely inspired or not.

    If the bible is divinely inspired, then why is it so full of barbarity, nonsense and factual errors? And why does it seem so easy to slot into social patterns of primitive people? If it is divinely inspired then what about Q, the source of several gospels, what about the gospels lost to the council of Nicea? What about the translation and copying errors?

    If it is not divinely inspired, then why bother with it at all. There are plenty of books out there that tell you how to live a decent moral live that are much better written and much more kindly and uptodate. If a modern reader discards the silly bits of the bible due to his modern view, then what does he need the bible at all?

    Different Christians believe different things so I would ask Lee a few clear questions to get a better handle on his “brand” of christianity:
    1) Do you believe that Jesus Christ actually existed in a physical form in ancient Judea and do you believe he could perform miracles?

    2) Do you believe that the bible is divinely inspired and if so, how do you account for the errors?

    3) Do you believe in hell and do you believe that all us atheists are going there when we die? Do you think this is a just punishment for us? If not, why do you believe god sends us there?

    4) I’m going to assume you are a decent human being, i certainly have no reason to think otherwise, how therefore do you reconcile the fact that you work on the sabbath, don’t advocate execution for children that rebel against their parents and don’t think that slavery is acceptable? Why do you reject these parts of the bible? On what basis?

    Finally, may i just thank you for returning to answer questions, Its deeply interesting to me to discuss religion with genuinely knowledgable religious people and i appreciate the chance to read your posts and try and understand your views.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    “Well, I’ve never claimed that the evidence of cosmology takes a person all the way to Christianity, only that it’s one bit of evidence in a cumulative case for the existence of God.”

    Many atheists, myself for example, don’t have a problem with the position of Deism. We may not agree with it, but we may also agree that Deism can’t be proven or disproven.

    The world’s religions (including Christianity), on the other hand, are definitely man-made constructs. Although they may spin an intriguing narrative, they are just a human narrative that embodies our own specie’s narcissism (that we are the center and purpose of the universe). If you think big with all the countless galaxies out there, this narcissistic religious perspective becomes ridiculous in my opinion.

    Christians all to frequently argue for Deism and then seem to jump directly to the case for a personal savior and the truth of the gospel stories.

  • Jasen777

    What did you find less credible about other religions?

  • Tao Jones

    I’ll begin with some softies.

    Lee, I definitely agree with you on the subject of coffee. But lets do it at an independent fair trade coffee shop, ok? And if you’re ever in Hamilton, Ontario, I know just the place. Though the chai at Starbucks is absolutely delicious.

    Thank you kindly for continuing the discussion in this manner. I firmly believe that this is a positive exchange and hope it continues to be. Was there a particular reason why you didn’t name names in your post? I would have gotten a real kick out of you giving attribution to me when you quoted me. :)

    Ok…

    As one poster observed, “To make the statement ‘nothing produces everything’ is patently ridiculous.” I agree! Who would ever say such a thing? Well, there’s prominent atheist Quentin Smith, who wrote in Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (p. 135) that “the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing.”

    In this book, Smith tried (but, in my view, failed) to explain away the kalam cosmological argument for God’s existence: Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause. He was pushed into the uncomfortable position of arguing that nothing produces everything, which, frankly, I think takes a huge leap of faith.

    To be fair, I have only just read pages 130-145 of Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology to try to understand the context of what you quoted. Based on my understanding, Smith’s statement seemed more hyperbole for a dramatic conclusion than anything else. I’ve never read any interpretation that seriously suggested there was nothing before a Big Bang type event. A collapsing quantum wave function is still something. Also, both Smith and Craig were basing their arguments on stated assumptions that may not be true. These assumptions are still being debated and worked on… What is the curvature of spacetime? What is gravity? What about non-locality? These answers can change everything.

    So what do you do in 50 years when the brilliant minds working on the Even Larger Hadron Collider determine definitively that the Universe did not have a beginning? Not a very safe place to keep your God.

    See, I don’t need faith that there was or wasn’t a singularity (or in abiogenesis, natural selection, etc). Instead I accept that the Scientific Method is the best way to objectively learn about the universe. My own subjective interpretation — or beliefs — based on my understanding of the objective world are completely independent of, and inconsequential, to the objective world.

    Logic, mathematics and the Scientific Method are strict forms which (when used properly) allow us to consider the universe objectively to find out what is really real (etic) without bias or prejudice from our subjective (emic) reasoning. Ideas of God/gods exist on this subjective level where faith is required.

    Hope that makes sense.

    May I ask an additional unrelated question? I guess I missed the original post where we could ask them.

    I realize it is quite specific, but do you think the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve is the story of the Agricultural Revolution? Supposedly this is an idea that is picking up steam and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Mine are here. (Yahoo! Answers)

  • http://havar.skaugen.name Håvar

    I really take issue with the Kalam Cosmological Argument: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause.”

    I don’t understand why this argument isn’t dismantled more often; the first premise is obviously flawed: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause”

    How can you say that? Do we have any empirical data that suggest this? Nothing we observe in the universe ever begins to exist, it merely goes from one state of matter to another. All of the matter in the universe that is or will be is already here either in the form of matter or energy.

    Neither is there any evidence that the universe began to exist. The Big Bang theory isn’t a theory of how the universe began, it’s rather a theory of how the universe expanded from being very hot and dense to the point where it is today. To say that the universe began is to extrapolate further backwards in time than we have evidence for.

  • Glen Sears

    First, Mr. Strobel, thank you for offering your time, effort and energy to what has been and remained a mostly thoughtful and peaceful conversation. Here I intend to offer response to some of your points and a few of my fellow posters.

    What stands out specifically to me is the absence of any modern data. We have an experiment carried out in the late 50s and the thoughts of a (soon-to-be) dying atheist. While I’m careful not to sound morose or devicive, many greater, better experiments, theories and philosophical musings have come along since before the civil rights movement. It seems folly to me to base your conclusions on outdated ideas and data…or, rather, it seems as though, once you found god, you stopped looking. Perhaps I am wrong in your case, but this mindset is common among believers, yet vilified among those of us who do not believe. In fact, it is a tenant of atheism that conclusions be malleable based upon fact and observation. The example of Dr. Kent Hovind comes to mind…conclusions based on old data, and misinterpretation of that data, to boot. Please, don’t think I am comparing the two of you. Rather I wonder in your direction why all your cites so far have been at least 30 years old.

    Next, some clarity on the Urey-Miller discussion. It isn’t the job of a single experiment to prove or disprove the whole of a scientific theory. This experiment proved that amino acid complexes can arise spontaneously from the matter we know to have been present after earth’s epoch. That’s it, and that is all for which it was intended. One cannot use one experiment to justify their beliefs, and it seems to me you’ve used this experiment to both solidify your stance on atheism, then on Christianity. I do not mean to simplify your position, but this experiment continues to consume large portions of your responses. One experiment isn’t good basis for any belief.

    Now onto “nothing produces everything, chaos yields fine-tuning”. Here, again, these statements drastically trivialize the science of the last 40 years. Strong advances in quantum mechanics show there is good reason to think order is inherent in the universe (see June 2008 Scientific American). Quantum mechanics also predicts, possibly, a revolving, cyclic multiverse (collapsing wave functions were mentioned above). These are incredibly infant fields, but they are already making uncanny predictions about the universe…I can’t remember amy time in history religion has done that consistently. But I digress.

    My point is, you may be saying, “My, there are alot of possibly’s and maybe’s there” and you’d be right. The key difference is these are questions we will be able to *resolve. I ask which is more noble: the acceptance of ignorance on the basis that it is temporary and able to be overcome, or the acceptance of ignorance on the premise that a here-to-for unknown god will one day shed the knowledge on us, after we’re dead and it doesn’t matter so much, anyway? Does that not at all sound like a cop-out to you, Mr. Strobel? If god is real, do you not think it a disservice to the incredible intelligence he has bestowed upon us to walk through life content with, even proud of, our current ignorance? I feel like, if god is real, he’d be ashamed of us for not exercising his incalculable gift to it’s fullest potential, even if doing so makes him impossibly difficult to believe in. Don’t you agree?

    Thank you again. I look forward to continued discussion with you.

  • mike

    Thanks to Hemant for recruiting Lee for this dialog, and thanks to Lee for being such an enthusiastic participant.

  • Grimalkin

    Oli: “Firstly, the Urey-Miller experiment did not produce life. It produced amino acids. These are the things living organisms are built of but they are not themselves alive. To infer that the Urey-Miller experiment created life is erroneous.” – My apologies. I didn’t mean to misrepresent the experiment. My basic understanding of it, however, is that it provides us with a possible structure for abiogenesis that does not require divine intervention and that works within the framework of evolution. Even if it doesn’t represent exactly what happened on our world, it shows us that it can happen. I think it’s a cop-out to dismiss the experiment.

    I do love your questions. I hope that Mr. Strobel will take the time to address them. Some of them have, however, already been addressed in his books.

    Jeff – I agree that Deism is by far the religious standpoint that is the most consistent with the evidence we have (for now). However, it still leaves the question “why?” Where did the deist god come from? Why did he create the universe/life? Why would he then disappear completely? It feels like too much of a cop-out. Why assume that a god did it just because we can’t understand? Why not simply acknowledge that we don’t understand and then move on? So while I agree with you that the deist god can’t be proven or disproven, I think it’s only because the deist god cheats (by always moving himself into the shadows whenever we shine our light of knowledge on where we previously thought he was).

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    1a) I understand (but do not share) the discomfort with science’s present inability to adequately explain the origins of life or the universe. What I don’t get is the step from deciding that resort to a deity is necessary for answers to those questions to Jehovah-worship. Why this God, of all the possible Gods out there?

    1b) I understand that Strobel has “never claimed that the evidence of cosmology takes a person all the way to Christianity, only that it’s one bit of evidence in a cumulative case for the existence of God.” Doing what I do for a living, I’m comfortable with cumulating different pieces of evidence to reach a conclusion (or at least, deciding that one conclusion is more likely to be true than others). So if I were going to retrace Strobel’s steps, what evidence should I look at other than cosmology?

    1c) On a related note, given my comfort with science’s present inability to resolve cosmological questions, is it even possible for me to retrace Strobel’s steps myself? It seems he had a lot of difficulty with origin questions where I have comfort. Without that discomfort, I don’t feel any need to press further where he seemed to.

    2) Strobel defines this Creator as an “uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power.” I believe I understand all of those adjectives except for “personal.” I think that means that the being is self-aware, possessed of a single identity, but I’m not really sure if that’s what Strobel has in mind. I find it interesting that most of this definition is framed in terms of describing what the creator is not rather than describing what the creator is.

    Finally, I appreciate Strobel’s time and energies. Admittedly, it’s a cumbersome format for a discussion but it’s what we have here, and fostering understanding and mutual good will between communities of faithful and unbelieving people is a worthwhile venture.

  • Loren Petrich

    One ought to consider Richard Dawkins’s Ultimate 747 argument, which is that accounting for the Universe by the traditional sort of God is replacing a big mystery with an even bigger one.

    And the Universe did NOT start out with all its present complexity. A common cosmological speculation is that it started out as a quantum fluctuation, which is a very simple sort of state.

    And complexity can increase without violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics — it happens all the time.

    Lee Strobel can look in his freezer and notice all the detailed shapes of frost crystals, and how much more complexity frost has than water vapor.

    But do freezers violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Not that I am aware of.

    In fact, such freezeout processes are responsible for much of the complexity of the Universe, though most of it takes place or has taken place at MUCH higher temperatures. That initial quantum fluctuation had a temperature of about 10^(32) K, and the Universe has been cooling ever since.

    I don’t think that I have the patience to go into much detail, but here is a very quick summary:

    Beginning: all elementary particles were coequal.

    Planck-mass transition, 10^(32) K: gravitons, elementary-fermion multiplets, gauge multiplets get separate identities.

    Grand Unified Theory transition, 10^(28) K: gauge symmetry breaks down into Standard-Model SU(3)*SU(2)*U(1), elementary-fermion multiplets split by this symmetry breaking into leptons, quarks, Higgses, etc.

    Supersymmetry and electroweak transition, 10^(15) – 10^(16) K: photons, W, and Z get separate identities and masses, elementary fermions get masses, their superpartners get bigger masses.

    At either the GUT or EW symmetry-breaking transitions, about 10^(-9) more of ordinary matter than antimatter gets generated. The matter and antimatter annihilate in this early, hot phase of the Universe, but get re-created by the extreme heat.

    The quark-gluon soup becomes separate hadrons at about 10^(12) – 10^(13) K: it is too cold to make lots of antiprotons or antineutrons, and it soon becomes too cold to make the lighter mesons, like pions and kaons. All the remaining hadrons are protons and neutrons.

    Positrons annihilate at about 10^(9) K: it gets too cold to make more of them.

    Nucleosynthesis soon follows, producing the primordial helium.

    Atoms form from electrons and nuclei at 10^(3) K: the photons are now much less obstructed, and they eventually got redshifted to make the Cosmic Microwave Background. The Universe’s matter is almost all hydrogen and helium. Hydrogen molecules form not long after that.

    Looking back to 10^(28) K, the Universe had gotten stuck in an exponentially-expanding “inflationary” phase for a while. This increased its size enormously, and quantum fluctuations got frozen into the Universe as it inflated.

    These fluctuations would later collapse on themselves to make galaxies.

    And stars would form by collapsing interstellar gas and dust clouds, with material in orbit around the protostars condensing to form planets.

    Etc.

    So all Lee Strobel is offering is a lame argument from incredulity.

  • Steve

    I know these are the same answers to the same arguments we’ve heard many times… but what makes an omnipotent all powerful being more likely than…say a Universe that has always existed? If you postulate that God always existed – it just makes no logical sense to take that over the universe always having existsted. And the Miller-Urey experiment produced 22 Amino acids and could have easily occured on an early earth near Volcanoes or other geothermal vents…despite the average contents of an early atmosphre. I think Pro-science people get frustrated when the arguments being made are based on not half-truths, but almost non-truths (22 amino acids vs. 2 things that are poisonous to humans). And the “Prime Mover” argument is really non-sequitor. In any case…I appreciate the dialog.

  • http://www.bagnecaude.blogspot.com Enrico

    that whatever caused the creation of space and time must be an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power.

    I am ok with the uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial part. But why it must be a personal being? There’s no reason at all to postulate that. No reason at all.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Couple things here I want to address.

    Did I investigate other world religions? Yes, especially (but not exclusively) Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism, and New Age beliefs. In my writings, I’ve described why I believe the evidence points more strongly toward Christianity than other world faiths.

    In general, the stock response to this question is objection after objection to the religion in question, but rarely does the convert’s chosen faith ever receive the same type of scrutiny. It almost seems like pre-converts go, “Ok, I’m almost ready to convert now, but first I want to make sure no other religion is the right one,” and then they go looking for reasons to refute them. I hope your intellectual honesty is such that (1) Christianity received the same level of criticism in your studies as other world religions, and (2) you made just as much effort to resolve the criticisms leveled at other world religions as those leveled at Christianity.

    Also, are you confident that no obscure, primitive, regional, tribal or syncretic religion you may have glossed over (for example) might possibly be the correct one, and that you have a better reason other than its lack of popularity?

    whatever caused the creation of space and time must be … uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal … with freedom of will and enormous power … that’s a core concept of God.

    Ok, first things first. The only thing you can infer from a logical standpoint is that, logically, to avoid infinite regress, something at some point in history has to be uncaused.

    Beginningless? By this you of course mean eternal, and you’re going to have to show how this follows.

    Timeless/Spaceless (i.e. dimensionless)? Tenuous, but OK, if for some reason time and space must be created.

    Immaterial? Now we get into some interesting philosophical fodder. It has been pointed out that if something is not directly observable, it must interact with nature in a testable way, or it cannot be shown, reliably, to exist. Do you believe such a test exists, and that the Christian concept of God passes it? Bear in mind that some of us were Christians, and have labored for years on the brink of belief and nonbelief, crying out to God for some kind of convincing evidence so we didn’t have to doubt anymore. Remember that even when Thomas asked for evidence, it was given him!

    Personal? I’m sorry, you lost me on that one. You’ll have to show me how this follows from the evidence. It is not enough to say that we, as persons, must come from a personal source, as you are then conflating cosmology with philosophy/sociology, or projecting your own attributes onto your image of God. Is it necessarily true that since fish have gills, their Creator must also have gills?

    Freedom of will? Einstein himself once mused that perhaps God had no choice in the matter of creating the universe. That’s a bit of a cop-out as an appeal to authority, but once again I fail to see the reasoning.

    Enormous power? Well, the Universe itself contains incredible amounts of energy, and I can only assume you are arguing that this energy has to come from something. So I will once again concede this point.

    So if we accept that at some point there existed something that has no cause, is dimensionless, and is capable of producing incredible amounts of energy and matter seemingly from nothing, and we observe that in some philosophical frameworks, these are attributes of gods, we have a hypothesis that a god may precede the universe. But that’s all it is — a hypothesis!

    We also have another model that fits these attributes nicely – the Big Bang.

    Therefore, let me reiterate my previous challenge: is it your contention that if a model fits the data more completely than any other, that that model is necessarily the correct one?

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    I hope all of us remain as committed to pursuing truth with the same vigor and open-mindedness.

    Lee, regardless of whether you believe it will, if the evidence ever leads you back to atheism, will you follow it?

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    As one expert told me: “Some textbooks fudge by saying, ‘Well, even if you use a realistic atmosphere, you still get organic molecules, as if that solves the problem…. Do you know what they are? Formaldehyde! Cyanide! They may be organic molecules, but in my lab at Berkeley you couldn’t even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the stuff is so toxic… The idea that using a realistic atmosphere gets you the first step in the origin of life is just laughable… To suggest that formaldehyde and cyanide give you the right substrate for the origin of life, well, it’s just a joke.”

    This feels a whole lot like quote mining. Several questions come to mind: Does this “expert” have a vested interest in Christianity? Is there a context to this quote? Does (s)he realize that what is toxic to one form of life isn’t necessarily toxic to another? What is his/her area of expertise? His/her status among other leading experts in the field of abiogenesis research?

    You’ll find a lot of us are those socially awkward, glasses-donning “science geeks” that got swirlies in high school, so you’ll have to forgive us for holding you up to a level of scientific rigor and requesting that you establish the reliability and credibility of your sources.

  • Eric

    “The problem is that Stanley Miller’s suppositions about the content of the primitive earth’s environment turned out to be wrong. If you replay the experiment using what scientists now believe is the correct atmosphere, you don’t get the same results he did. As one expert told me: “Some textbooks fudge by saying, ‘Well, even if you use a realistic atmosphere, you still get organic molecules, as if that solves the problem…. Do you know what they are? Formaldehyde! Cyanide! They may be organic molecules, but in my lab at Berkeley you couldn’t even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the stuff is so toxic… The idea that using a realistic atmosphere gets you the first step in the origin of life is just laughable… To suggest that formaldehyde and cyanide give you the right substrate for the origin of life, well, it’s just a joke.””

    Not really. Cyanide and formaldehyde can actually react in early Earth conditions for made ribose, deoxyribose, uracil, guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine. You know, the stuff that makes up DNA and RNA.
    My evidence? The below peer-reviewed paper.
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/aq10866526v08u65/fulltext.html

    See, it’s when apologists like you screw up science that make me so unimpressed with your religion. Instead of just stating it as fact, you could actually look it up and verify that you’re correct.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Lee, you drink Hydrogen! and Oxygen!, two combustible gases, on a daily basis. Oh noes!! You’re even partially composed of said elements, as well as Sulfur, Lead, Arsenic, Chlorine (amongst many other elements). Oh, the horror! Lee, who is this “expert” you mentioned? What are his/her credentials? What was the full context of that quote? (etc.) That Formaldehyde/Cyanide quote appears as a straw man designed to attack research into chemical evolution (and I was mocking it, of course).

    Also, are you using Quentin Smith’s statement as a blanket statement for what you think _all_ atheists (or anyone in general that accepts evolution) think? There’s this whole matter/energy thing, FWIW. And we all _know_ matter & energy exist. Why don’t we all know that a god exists? He/She/It sure seems to be a sneaky Fellow/Fella/Critter.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see you engaging in dialogue with the godless. I’d love to see you and Hemant have a discussion on TV, or better, in front of an audience (so more questions could be answered) — or better yet, before a televised audience! How about a US tour with just the two of you?

  • SarahH

    Thanks for Hemant and Lee for keeping this exchange going! I’m enjoying reading all the back-and-forth, and I have to repeat a common refrain here: Why the leap from deism to Christianity? I can understand a belief in deism as a sort of neutral remnant of god-of-the-gaps response, but I don’t understand how the Christian god follows from any of the arguments for *a* god.

    Do you think that you would have landed on Christianity if you had been brought up in a predominantly Muslim country? Or Hindu?

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    Two things:
    1. “in my lab at Berkeley you couldn’t even have a capped bottle of formaldehyde in the room, because the stuff is so toxic”

    Off topic, but I wonder why the same precautions aren’t taken at most “open casket” funerals where the corpse is loaded with formaldehyde. Or better yet, what about my old Gross Anatomy text, sitting in my library downstairs that still wreaks of the stuff [formaldehyde]? Guess I’m doomed.

    All this to say, I wonder about your friend at Berkeley’s credentials. His statement seems a bit hyperbolic.

    2. The Kalam Cosmological argument.
    Dan Barker pretty much destroys this argument in his re-publication (Godless: How an Evangelical preacher became one of America’s leading atheists).

    Lee restated Kalam:
    “Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has a cause.”

    The flaw is so obvious. This is a faulty argument. It begs the question.

    If God is the only object accommodated by the set of things that do not begin to exist, then the cosmological argument is begging the question. If there is something else that does not “begin to exist” then what are they, and how do you eliminate them as potential causes for the universe?

    As a corollary, which Mr. Strobel does not mention, Kalam involves the assumption that “Infinity is just a concept. An actual infinity does not exist in reality.”

    Here, Kalam fails again.

    If the existence of an actual infinity is impossible, that disproves the existence of an infinite God.

    For me, you’ve got to have a plausible reason for believing a god exists before you set out to discover his/her/its nature. Jehovah fails in this regard.

    For more on the Kalam, check out Dan’s Book. I borrowed heavily (read, plagarized) from it for this post. I included a link above.

  • PrimeNumbers

    “Whatever begins to exist has a cause” is an up-proven assumption. I personally have never witnessed anything beginning to exist.

    “However, there are several logical inferences that can be reasonably drawn from the cosmological evidence: that whatever caused the creation of space and time must be an uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power.” If you are asking the question of what caused space and time, surely you must first ask if it is indeed caused. If something is timeless, spaceless and immaterial, surely it’s also non-existent. Everything we know that exists has a spatio-temporal-material quality. A personal being is not something that logically follows from the above anyway.

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Yang

    Great discussion! Limited due to the format and medium, to be sure, but there is a lot of good dialog here. I am learning a lot! Too many discussions of this sort end up in flame wars and it is a huge credit to all sides that this one is so respectful.

    I look forward to more.

  • mikespeir

    No, the primary reason my morality changed is because God transformed my values and character, giving me a new perspective and new attitudes toward him and other people.

    I don’t doubt your perspectives and attitudes changed. What I do doubt is that God had anything to do with those changes. Why, the peer pressure from new peers that hold to those perspectives and attitudes goes a long way toward explaining them.

    Here, the mistake is the same as with so many other things. We have a demonstrable phenomenon: human morality. Now, we can speculate as to its cause; but until you can demonstrate that your speculative causes are actually in effect, don’t expect people to buy into your explanation. Things like the effects of peer pressure demonstrably bear on the matter. “Loving God” might even have had a bearing on it. But people fall in love with soap opera characters and, conceivably, begin to order their lives accordingly. That doesn’t convincingly show that these characters exist in reality.

  • http://conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    I enjoy having coffee with people, including Christians, who are able not to prejudge me. But Lee Strobel has already prejudged me as irrational for wanting to be a good person.

    In his previous responses he wrote

    to be honest, to this day I can’t figure out why atheists would choose any other path [than a self-indulgent, me-first, narcissistic life], although I know many do

    I wrote elsewhere about why Lee might have said this and how it’s not even consistent with his own stated experience.

    I noticed that other people picked up on this comment of his from last time but evidently he chose not to say anything about that this time.

    Yet of all he said that bothers me the most because it’s personal. As far as I’m concerned Lee can believe what he likes about God or the universe in general but I consider it disrespectful of him to imply my choice to try to be good is irrational, especially since he, when still an atheist, made the same choice as soon as he saw his wife behaving in a non-self-indulgent, non-me-first, non-narcissistic way.

  • Sentium

    Why is there the belief that there has to be a good God? At “the very beginning” wouldn’t there be a 50-50 chance that a born God could be Evil? Or any variation therein? What if the God of all Gods was Evil and that bibles where written to throw discord and living torment amongst God’s creations. Bibles as the method to perpetrate evils on the world? Just maybe, maybe, the Holy Bible was written by the wrong God–an evil god?

  • Richard Wade

    Talk, talk, talk. Mr. Strobel, I sincerely appreciate your gracious and respectful efforts for constructive dialogue, and although my remarks may be pointed, I am earnest and my intention is to honor that stance. You have convinced me of one thing:

    You have convinced me that the definition of Christian apologetics is the art of talking for so long about a claim for which there is no evidence that people begin to think that all that talk is the evidence.

    I need evidence. Talk is not evidence. Evidence has three dimensions and mass.

    So far, whenever you talk about evidence, almost all of it is about what you consider are the weaknesses in evidence that contradicts Biblical accounts of the universe and life. But you’re still talking about three-dimensional evidence with mass, and talking endlessly about the weaknesses in theory X does not imply any strengths in theory Y. When you occasionally get around to talking about what you consider to be affirmative evidence for your proposition, it’s all talk. Where’s your three-dimensional evidence with mass? You talk about your thoughts, the thoughts of others, your feelings, the feelings of others, but none of that would tip a scale with a billionth of a gram of mass. It’s just talk.

    The god you describe is a god with many excuses and caveats attached. When we ask to see him, we’re told he’s invisible. When we ask to hear him, we’re told he’s inaudible, and so on, or we’re shown beautiful sunsets or laughing babies or star-filled skies. These are usually presented to us with a condescending why-are-you-so-blind tone. I am neither blind nor willfully unseeing. I see sunsets, babies and stars. When we ask why is he so elusive, we’re told that for reasons we cannot comprehend, he wants to be elusive. Sometimes absurd non sequiturs are added at this point about free will and faith. Yours is not even the incredible shrinking god of the ever-narrowing gaps, it is the god of excuses for his everlastingly embarrassing absence.

    Apologists are like the host of a talk show where the guest of honor is late. He’s two thousand years late, and the host has to keep the audience entertained and convinced that the one they came to see will be here any minute. They’re getting fidgety, and some are leaving and demanding their money back. So the talk show host does all the talking and talks and talks all about the absent guest of honor until people’s imaginations fill in the empty chair. They’ll sit there doing that for their whole lives.

    I find John’s 1:1 statement very ironic: “In the beginning there was the Word.” Yes, that is correct. From the beginning to the end, it’s all words. It’s all talk. Show me, please.

  • MrMalone

    I’ve been a quiet observer of this website for a while, and I’m very excited to see this kind of discussion from Lee Strobel.

    I would clasify myself as a deist. I also don’t find “good enough evidence/reasoning at the moment” to believe that our universe originated from nothing. (I don’t agree with the logic of Lee’s statement of the unreason “creates” reason and that whole paragraph he mentioned).

    One of my problems with Christianity, let alone religion in general, is that if there is a specific message of salvation, from this God that seems to be able to create the universe, why then is his specific, particular method of salvation (or whatever it is he/it finds most important) not CLEAR to us humans.

    I’m sure you would say that it is clear. As it’s been highlighted already, many Christians don’t agree, even on a number of arguably fundamental things. Was or is God not so interested that his precious creation, knew for certain what the choices are, so that if we accept it, we know what we are accepting, and if we reject it, we know with certainty what it is we’re rejecting? Wouldn’t he want to make it certain and clear, to all people groups, at the same time, with all an equal chance to “repent” or “believe” or do whatever it is we need to do, to reconcile our relationship with him?

    It seems much less than godly for the creator of the universe to be so vague about something apparently so important. It looks exactly like what we would expect from something made up by man.

    If this god that created the universe still even exists, he/it is either uninterested in non-ambiguous communication, instruction, or other revelation and to which he/it is not interested in identifying him/it self as the source of such communication, clearly; or he/it is willing to allow those of us to reject god on the lack of good evidence or reasoning, and thus in such a way, reward those who are responsible enough to continue to be non-theists as if the temptation of religion is a test, and thus maybe this god in secret is evaluating those who are worthy, and morally responsible with the folly of theism, (and the gigantic moral and historical failures of the Bible, Quaran etc.) that he/it in secret, actually finds the non-theists truly worthy of populating his “heaven”.

    That makes more sense to me.

    The ambiguous nature of everything attributed to him are exactly like what someone would expect from something that didn’t actually exist.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I think before Mr. Strobel expounds any further on the genesis of life, he might like to take a look at this book.

  • Aj

    I thought my point (and others) wasn’t that atheists don’t speculate (of course they do) about gods but that atheists aren’t atheists of one particular god. It doesn’t make sense to seriously think about what a god would think of you in the context of reflection or decisions over your actions because there are many possible gods, and you lack belief in all of them, equally. Of course you can speculate that other peoples gods disapprove of you. It’s not the speculation that’s the problem it’s the context to which it was applied. I guess I’m not explaining it very well because even a lot of atheists didn’t understand and responded to something I wasn’t saying.

    It is wrong to base atheism on a 1959 origin-of-life experiment, as wrong as basing your theism on Quentin Smith. No scientific experiment, disproven would change my view on gods because my view doesn’t rely on any experiment. There are no experiments that deal with gods because there is no evidence for any gods. The belief that the universe exists because “everything comes from nothing” isn’t necessary for atheists, and doesn’t in anyway support “everything comes from God”.

    Gaps in scientific knowledge do not support religious stories. That we don’t have an evidence-based explanation of the origin of life does not mean any magical explanation is true. Strobel doesn’t have any evidence for a creator creating life, Intelligent Design is not scientific, it does not rely on any evidence, it is an argument from personal incredulity:

    The argument from personal incredulity, also known as argument from personal belief or argument from personal conviction, refers to an assertion that because one personally finds a premise unlikely or unbelievable, the premise can be assumed to be false, or alternatively that another preferred but unproven premise is true instead.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    The NCSE had this to say about Jonathan Wells’ treatment of the Miller-Urey experiments:

    First, Wells’s claim that researchers are ignoring the new atmospheric data, and that experiments like the Miller-Urey experiment fail when the atmospheric composition reflects current theories, is simply false. The current literature shows that scientists working on the origin and early evolution of life are well aware of the current theories of the earth’s early atmosphere and have found that the revisions have little effect on the results of various experiments in biochemical synthesis. Despite Wells’s claims to the contrary, new experiments since the Miller-Urey ones have achieved similar results using various corrected atmospheric compositions (Figure 1; Rode, 1999; Hanic et al., 2000). Further, although some authors have argued that electrical energy might not have efficiently produced organic molecules in the earth’s early atmosphere, other energy sources such as cosmic radiation (e.g., Kobayashi et al., 1998), high temperature impact events (e.g., Miyakawa et al., 2000), and even the action of waves on a beach (Commeyras, et al., 2002) would have been quite effective.

    Full article here.

    I suspect that if Strobel isn’t getting his information about Miller-Urey from Wells, he’s getting it from someone selling similar talking points. Indeed, a lot of what I see of Strobel looks like an uncritical repetition of apologists’ talking points.

  • http://deeplyblasphemous.blogspot.com Chris Bradley

    To me, more interesting by far than the things he did respond to are the ones he didn’t. Shocker, he cherry picked the comments and went for the ones that he had pithy responses to.

    And, really, he studied all these religions and the religion that his wife had just joined and that was the culturally more powerful one in his society was just a coincidence. Really, hehe.

  • Russ

    I see the whole Abrahamic God thing playing out as farce. It’s as though that particular deity wants to do comedy.

    The Christian version of the God of Abraham says to Christians,

    Heh! I’m sending you a savior. Here’s how it works: if you don’t believe in it…you burn in hell forever, and that includes the Jews. No Jesus. No flame resistance. Period.

    At the same time the same exact God, evidently whispers to the Jews who are no less pious or devout,

    Don’t listen to the Christians, that’s not the real savior. And, guess what?, you won’t burn in hell forever.

    Then, a few centuries later the same exact God tells the Muslims,

    Here’s your ticket to paradise, but it’s not Jesus, it’s Muhammed. The Jews will burn, the Christians will burn. But, for you, Muhammed, the real savior, is the one true prophet.

    Think about this.

    Beliefs covered by the label Christianity are all over the map of human wishful thinking, to the point of incoherency. There are atheist Christianities. Christianities which don’t believe in miracles or that Jesus was resurrected or that Jesus was born of a virgin. There are Christianities which deny the existence of hell, and Christianities they believe hell is very real. And, most Christianities would never acknowledge that their version of god is compatible with the various gods incarnated in the Muslim sects.

    The Muslims will stand up and say, “what our god told the Christians is wrong. Fact is, our holy book actually tells us in plain Arabic to kill non-Muslims.” Clearly, the Muslims don’t think the Christians have it right. The Jews, on the advice of the same god, will state that Christians are mistaken.

    No one should buy into such malarkey, and those who are currently part of it should see it for the intrinsically bizarre notion that it is and get out.

    Strobel suggests to us that we should accept Christianity, and that it makes sense in the complete absence of evidence to have faith in what the Christian god tells believers, yet, the same exact god is telling Jews and Muslims that Christianity is wrong. No one should even pretend to have faith in something as incoherent as the Abrahamic god. Seems that each of these religions has to have faith that their god is telling only them the truth while it lies to the other two. Is that really something to base your hope on?

    People should look through Strobel’s dreck and see that he’s getting paid bigtime to pretend and perpetuate this stuff.

    If Christianity conferred to its faithful any tangible benefit of note it would be observable in all Christians not just in those to whom the cash flows for speaking fees, books, clerical and administrator salaries, bonuses, and the like. Fact is, if, as Strobel and other Christians claim, atheists lead morally deplorable lives relative to Christians, it should be straightforwardly observable, but it is not. Here in the US there are more than 30 million atheists, so if even a small fraction of them were as inherently morally corrupt as Strobel defines them to be, it would be so obvious as to be undeniable. As we so often see, here is a religious person lying about the state of the world, but among his usual associates, his lies go unchallenged.

    This man claims that atheists are not moral while he would stand in defense of his beloved abstraction, “Christianity.” Has this man ever publicly spewed the same venom at the Roman Catholic Church over the sexual immorality of its clergy? For centuries essentially every member of the Catholic preisthood has been aware that the innocent were being sexually victimized, yet none of them stood up to defend the victims. Clearly, the Christianity of the priests did not and does not make them moral.

    Does Mr. Strobel voice outrage at Christian Scientists who let their children and other family members die instead of getting them life-saving medical attention? Hundreds of Christian Scientists die every year from easily treated afflictions while their families look on while praying to the same god that tells Jews that Christianity is hogwash. How is it exactly that the Christianity of Christian Scientists makes them moral? If Christianity can make a parent abandon their own child to the ravages of disease when proven cures are at hand, Christianity has no claim to moral effectiveness.

    Does Mr. Strobel publicly denounce the current African witch hunts being perpetrated by Christian clergy that are taking the lives of hundreds of women and children? Does he denounce the stupidity written into the Bible by ancient ignorant scribes that give rise to such immoral behavior? Many of the children are being burnt, hanged or bludgeoned by their parents who can’t afford the exorcism their charlatan clergy demand is required. The very Christianity that Strobel claims people cannot be moral without, has so corrupted these people’s minds that they cannot even protect their own children.

    If these are examples of Mr. Strobel’s Christian morality, it is apparent we would all do well without it.

    Americans pump over 200 billion dollars a year into the Christianity industry and only a small fraction of it(a little over 10 percent) finds its way to humanitarian aid. Every year Christianity spends more of its money on advertising, legal fees and settlement costs related to morally corrupt clergy(including pedophile priests), public relations, political lobbying, and hush money to avoid the publicity of trials than it does on humanitarian causes.

    To pretend that the thing Strobel calls his god is worthy of placing one’s faith in is complete farce. To contend that his beloved Christianity leads to moral behavior is demonstrably wrong. While many Christians are morally acceptable, many are also morally reprehensible.

    Mr. Strobel makes a living patting Christians on their heads and stroking their egos. He tells them that as members of his ingroup, they are inherently morally superior to outsiders. In turn they buy his books and pay his appearance fees. He lies to his fellow Christians about non-believers though he has demonstrated a lack of understanding of them. He defines non-believers as immoral.

    So, until Mr. Strobel can demonstrate somewhere other than in his own mind that Christianity observably sets its practitioners in better stead than the rest of humanity, he should keep his appraisals of other worldviews to himself.

  • Renacier

    Mr. Strobel, I have to echo Wade on one point:

    Where is your evidence? Where is the theist’s evidence for a god? All you have are arguments against X bit of astrology or against Y bit of sociology. To prove a thing you need evidence for the thing, not arguments against the thing’s opposite.

    Even if every objection you made were true, you would still have no valid argument for your claim. If all atheists were wrong, you would not be automatically right.
    Provide real evidence.

    (And please don’t say the evidence is there, I’m just not seeing it/interpreting it differently. I think we’re all beyond that trite cop-out.)

  • TygerFish

    With each comment, I found myself wishing I could meet with the writer personally, sit down together with a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and have a true back-and-forth conversation

    God yes! I would like to extend our Canadian friend’s offer and say that the next time Lee is in Boston, he should let us know and we will set him up with no end of kind nonbelievers who would love to buy him coffee and have an engaging discussion.

    I noticed another common misunderstanding of the principles of evolution by natural selection:

    But let’s pretend for a moment that you could produce some amino acids by shooting electricity through the atmosphere of the early earth. Even then, you’re so far away from even the most primitive living organism that no mere waving of the hands can bridge this enormous gap. It would be like saying that rain and dirt and wind can create a rudimentary brick and therefore this explains the origin of Sears Tower.

    One need not climb Dawkins’ Mount Improbable from the front! The gap is not purported to be bridged by waving of the hands, nor even of any single step. The evolution of life as it stands right now arose from countless little steps over the course of billions of years.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    MrMalone says:
    … [God] actually finds the non-theists truly worthy of populating his “heaven”.

    I agree and made a comic about this a while back…

    Personally, I think Deism is a lot closer to atheism than theism. I always get amused when apologists use deists arguments to try to support their theist beliefs.

    Once one entertains revelation as a source of knowledge, then anything is possible…. which is precisely what we have when we look at the full body of theistic literature.

    On a humorous note, check out the apologist method of inquiry.

  • Jorg

    Strobel writes: “Some posters reacted to my comment that I didn’t have enough faith to believe that nothing produces everything [referring to cosmology]; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason.”

    Sadly, this statement only clarifies what I suspect many of us have known all along: Stroble does not grasp some basic principles of studies in question. One of the more glraing errors is the false dichotomy between life and non-life. I suppose that deep down, Strobel is an essentialist, which oeads to all kinds of problems since essentialism has few points in common with modern science in general, and less with biology.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Lee,

    Thank you for responding to our comments. I’m pleasantly surprised to see your response—I had assumed that you wouldn’t have time to, particularly since you have other April questions to get to. I am virtually certain that you won’t have time to respond to these responses, but I’ll trying asking another question anyway.

    While Miller’s experiment is important and a useful starting point, I would agree that we don’t have any solid explanation for abiogenesis at this point (as opposed to evolution, about which we know quite a lot). Or any good ideas for what, if anything, happened before the Big Bang. In fact, I’ll go further and say that there’s quite a long laundry list of scientific questions that we don’t have good answers for, or even solid guesses for. And I’ll go even farther than that, and say that I would expect that there will always be scientific questions for which that will be the case. But why is this significant? While I haven’t read “The Case for a Creator,” I’m familiar with the literature of creation “science”/intelligent design. That literature, and the tenor of your posts, both seem to work on the logic that “(1) I can’t figure out how X could occur naturally so (2) The only possible explanation is that there’s a God who caused X.” Is there any more to your argument than that? And if so, what separates you from a person 2000 years ago, for whom X=lightning, rather than X=abiogenesis, and who said “I have no idea where lightning comes from, so it must be from God.” ?

    Also, if the scientific evidence points so clearly towards the existence of a God, I would expect those who are most knowledgable about science, and best able to evaluate that evidence, to be more likely to believe in God than those unable to evaluate that evidence. How do you explain the fact that, in fact, the opposite is true? Scientists are much more likely to be agnostic/atheistic than the general population—I don’t have the numbers at hand, but I believe it’s something like 60% nonreligious for the general population of biologists, and approaching something like 90% nonreligious for scientists in the top levels of the professional organizations. Why do, by and large, the vast majority of people who have shown them good at evaluating scientific evidence in other testable ways—detecting neutrinos, synthesizing drugs, etc. . .—in fact not reach the conclusions you do? I understand that those members are atheists, so maybe you think they have bad biases, you were an atheist too when you evaluated that evidence? Isn’t it more likely that you were influence by personal motivations to want to be Christian, than that you’re better at evaluating scientific evidence than most members of the National Academy of Sciences?

  • Siamang

    Back in April Hemant put out the call for questions for Lee Strobel. I thought I asked a very direct one.

    I’ll re-ask it.

    I look at the request for a question as a bit of a puzzle.

    The puzzle is this: “Can I formulate a question for Lee Strobel that will garner any response different from what a reader of his books would expect? Any question that will cause him to pause for a moment and consider the thoughts of someone outside his worldview, before launching in to the standard apologetics?”

    Here’s the best I could come up with:

    Lee,

    In your book, The Case for a Creator, why did you choose the people you chose to interview?

    The title of your book is:

    “The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God”

    You have a chapter on Cosmology, for example. Presumably you are covering this subject as a journalist. And presumably you are going to investigate the scientific evidence in Cosmology that points towards the existence of God.

    In fact, this is what you say in this part of your book:

    “I wasn’t interested in unsupported conjecture or armchair musings by pipe-puffing theorists. I wanted the hard facts of mathematics, the cold data of cosmology, and only the most reasonable inferences that could be drawn from them (p. 95).”

    In fact, this chapter is called The Evidence of Cosmology: Beginning with a Bang
    An Interview with Dr. William Lane Craig

    Now, if it were me and I were looking to write about this evidence, I’d interview a cosmologist. Call me an idiot. Maybe I don’t know how this whole “christian apologist” line of business works.

    But here’s what I’d do for a chapter on cosmology: I’d try to get an interview with Stephen Hawking, if I could. Or at least a PhD in astrophysics or relativity, right? But instead, you interview a Philosophy professor at a school of theology, the intelligent design advocate and fellow at the Discovery Institute Dr. William Lane Craig. Is that REALLY getting the hard facts of math, and the cold data? He’s a pipe-puffing philosopher!

    You have a chapter on Physics, but you don’t interview a physicist. Instead you interview an associate professor of philosophy at Messiah College.

    Why is it that you seem to have picked and chosen your interviewees to fall into line with your belief system? You had to go so far to make your point, that you had to resort to professors of philosophy at religious colleges, rather than talk to cosmologists and physicists about cosmology and physics. Why is that?

    Is that good scholarship? Is it good journalism? Is it the sign of an open inquiry? Are those the cold hard facts of math, as found by an unbiased journalist looking at all sides of an issue? Should I, as a reader, come away with that thinking that I heard the best possible case for the existence of God, and seeing that no actual physicists or cosmologists were interviewed, thereby conclude that the case for God is incredibly weak? It looks weak to me if you have to stack the deck with non-cosmologists talking cosmology and non-physicists talking physics.

    Are these really the very very best experts that the Creator of the entire universe can muster as expert witnesses? I’m looking to get F. Lee Bailey to argue the very very best case God’s got. Why did you chicken out and just get some religious apologists and pipe-puffers instead of scientists?

    Because, I may be incredibly dense, but it sounds to me that you either could not find a physicist or a cosmologist who would wax sufficiently religious, or you were purposefully stacking the deck. As I said, I might not get exactly how this apologist gig works. Is your primary audience christians or non-christians? Because I cannot imagine many non-christians would accept a philosophy professor from a bible college to be a better authority on cosmology than an actual cosmologist.

    You seem to fancy yourself an expert on Biblical history. Would it be alright for me to interview a professor of economics or law or sports medicine or some other unrelated field who has leaned back in his armchair and puffed on his pipe to determine whether or not the Dead Sea Scrolls are accurately translated? Or should I actually confer with linguists and historians and archaeologists?

    I’m sorry, but you asking a professor of philosophy about the laws of physics and the stars and the galaxies is kind of like asking a pot-smoking navel-gazing hippy about the aerodynamics of the space shuttle. Between you, me, and the lamppost, I don’t think those philosophy guys can tell the difference between a quasar and a qualium. (But a lot of them sure know what a quaalude is!) As for me, I’ll trust the guys who can actually land a rocket on mars or the moon to tell me about mars and the moon, and the philosophers can lean back in their armchairs and puff on their (usually not tobacco) pipes and blow smoke-rings and convince themselves that they understand the inner workings of the universe without looking through a single telescope.

    I suspect in answer, you will refer me to some actual physicist or cosmologist who espouses the creationist point of view, or at least a deist one. What I’m wondering though is why you didn’t see fit to perform that due diligence in your book itself. You know, as a Journalist and all, looking at the scientific evidence, and the cold, hard facts of math, and not content with the musings of pipe-puffers.

    Anyway, here’s hoping that I came up with a true puzzler of a question. One that might cause you to pause and reflect for an instant before launching into standard apologetic boilerplate.

    And thanks for conversing with us here.

  • Tao Jones

    Lee, based on your post and a number of your comments, here is a proposal for your next book:

    Couch Surfing The Atheists of America

    Do. it.

    Just imagine… a whirlwind tour of Canada and the US meeting with regular, every day atheists of various backgrounds and disciplines. Talking to real people about why we don’t believe in your god. You can crash on our couches and we can take you out for coffee. The premise alone would earn you a guest appearance on The Colbert Report. You’d get to see the best of us and the worst of us as we are. You’d see we’re not all hedonistic criminals!

    Alternate titles?

    Lee and Those of Little (or no) Faith

    The Case for Coffee With Atheists

    Dooooo eeeeet!

  • AxeGrrl

    Siamang, if Strobel answers any of the (follow-up) questions in this thread, I hope he answers the ‘main’ one expressed in your last post.

    Nicely articulated.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    What I am still unclear about is why the Christian God was chosen? Given his recent appearance in human history, 3400 years ago roughly compared to an estimated 250,000 year species existence, isn’t it more likely that God is simply the latest invention of human minds in a series of inventions? Doesn’t the God concept simply represent an effort by human minds to explain the world?

    Granted the social cohesion in Christianity may well provide a stabilising force for you personally but it does not follow that others will feel the same. This is simply your choice and not a matter of evidence. It is not a compelling reason to believe.

    A genuine miracle would be a compelling reason to reevaluate my own view on God’s existence. Let’s see an amputee regrow a limb or a paraplegic walk again. Miracles were ten a penny a few thousand years ago, where are they now?

    You’ve mentioned the mystery surrounding the formation of the universe and the unknown circumstances that turned unliving matter into life. These are wonderful questions well worth investigating further because we simply do not know the answers. Why have you chosen to stop exploring these questions and decide that God is the cause? No offence but an unanswered question does not assume a default answer. It assumed that we don’t know the answer. We should keep exploring, keep asking questions, keep testing evidence until we have a satisfactory answer and for some time beyond. We should never, ever be satisfied with an unprovable hypothesis. Why have you?

  • Siamang

    Thanks, AxeGrrl.

    Here’s a run-down of the interviewees in “Case for a Creator”:

    JP Moreland: philosophy teacher at Biola (formerly Bible Institute of Los Angeles). Fellow at the Discovery Institute.

    Stephen Myer, former philosophy teacher at the religious Palm Beach Atlantic University. Co-founder of the Discovery Institute. Holds PhD in “Philosophy of Science”.

    Michael Behe Biochemist at Lehigh University, Senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

    Guillermo Gonzalez astrophysicist at at Iowa State University until May 2008, and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

    Robin Collins, professor of philosophy at Messiah College and former Fellow of the Discovery Institute.

    William Lane Craig, Professor of Philosophy at Biola University and Fellow of the Discovery Institute.

    Johnathan Wells, Molecular Biologist and senior fellow at … well you can guess by now, can’t you?

    There you go. That’s the breadth and width of Lee Strobel’s “Case”. Seven dudes from the Discovery Institute. Three scientists and four “philosophers” teaching at bible colleges. And those of us who have followed the Intelligent Design movement have ample, *ample* information as to the *ahem* character and reliability of the three non-philosophers interviewed.

    In fact, I know more about Behe than I know about Strobel, and if Strobel picked Behe, that tells me *volumes* about how skeptical a “journalist” Strobel is.

    I guess talking to someone who *wasn’t* a fellow of the Discovery Institute… you know, that just wouldn’t be A Journalist Investigating the Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God.

    Looks like he got a wide and varied set of opinions that ran the gamut from A to B!

  • Richard Wade

    Mr. Strobel, what Siamang has reported about the blatant bias in your “research” by interviewing only people from the Discovery Institute brings your credibility down to zero. If this is true, you have not conducted a conscientious search of evidence both for and against the issues in your book, but have pre-selected sources that will fit your desired conclusions. Although your gesture of wanting to have a respectful dialogue with atheists is rare and welcome, the prospect that you have disingenuously misrepresented yourself as a person who sincerely seeks the truth through evidence makes such a dialogue seem futile at best, and deceitful at worst. I cannot see any reason to further take anything you say or write seriously until you satisfactorily address this issue.

    Thank you Siamang, for helping me to avoid yet another waste of time.

  • Siamang

    Ugh.

    I found out that Strobel also published “The Case for a Creator For Kids!”

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310711487/ref=s9k2a_c1_at4-rfc_p?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0R2F298FQ894QZB9JP4K&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=463383391&pf_rd_i=507846

    The product description says “Excellent for Homeschool Use”.

    This is nothing but indoctrination.

    Hey, Richard, should we buy a copy and go over this together and post our review of the “hard scientific facts” noted therein?

    You know. For kids.

    >:-(

  • Richard Wade

    Siamang, I was reluctant at first to agree to your proposal for several reasons, one simply not wanting to give money to what may be a misleading book. But then I thought about the kids I have encountered who are being homeschooled for reasons of “protecting” them from science that does not support scripture, and how they will be handicapped their whole lives, unable to compete or to contribute to a world that is increasingly dependent upon a steady flow of good, reliable science. They will be sidelined as the rest of society moves forward. They are the innocent victims of a system of self-perpetuating ignorance that sometimes can be shamelessly unscrupulous in its methods.

    So yes, let’s review some books.

    I want to be fair to any book we review, taking each on its own merits without a negative association to other works by the same author that we may find questionable. This may be difficult but I know you to be a fair-minded person, and I certainly try to be. The world view of the author is not the issue for me, but I would want to see if the books have arguments that are not just cogent but also sound. If they use references to scientific findings and opinions, I would want to see if those are from reputable sources and if they are free from being “spun” in misleading ways.

    I don’t object to people’s religious beliefs. I object to propagating those beliefs with a fraudulent method that exploits the credibility of science and puts children at a disadvantage by confusing them about how science works and how to think like a scientist. That is a betrayal of the trust we all owe the next generation.

    I’ll contact you.

  • Siamang

    I’ve got some time right now, I think we should get a couple copies of this and meet for coffee.

  • Grimalkin

    A note to Siamang and Richard Wade: Libraries exist. Use them ;)

  • Siamang

    I plan to use a hiliter pen.

    Otherwise, yes, libraries.

    Just checked. Los Angeles Public Library system doesn’t carry this book. And I’m not about to suggest they add it to their collection!

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