"Dear Atheist"

I posted the transcript for Dear Christian before I gave the talk at GVSU.  At the talk, a very nice believer handed me a “rebuttal” to it in paper form.  It’s a bunch of snipes at evolution likely pulled from creationist web sites that doesn’t really address my talk.  I’m going to respond to the first argument and the last argument (because dammit, I wasted the time to read through the whole thing) and then tell the dude (if you’re reading this) to do what I told you to do in my talk and go ask a frakking biologist.

1.  Not only does adenine synthesis require other enzymes, it also requires adenine itself.

What the hell?  No it doesn’t.

In 1961, Joan Oró found that the nucleotide base adenine could be made from hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and ammonia in a water solution. His experiment produced a large amount of adenine, which molecules were formed from 5 molecules of HCN. Also, many amino acids are formed from HCN and ammonia under these conditions. Experiments conducted later showed that the other RNA and DNA nucleobases could be obtained through simulated prebiotic chemistry with a reducing atmosphere.

http://youtu.be/2ElUjXxnTOo

That idea that producing adenine requires other enzymes and more adenine is wrong, wrong, wrong, and obviously so even to me, a music major – and we’ve known it for fifty years.  This leads me to believe that this guy just went around to whatever web sites confirmed what he thinks he knows and copy/pasted a bunch of bullshit that wasn’t relevant to the talk I gave and handed it to me as a “rebuttal.”  This is not only irretrievably stupid, it is inconsiderate as it wastes my time.  It is also not arguing in good faith.  If the guy who handed me this paper is reading this, you were very nice at the talk, but doing stuff like this is still a real jerk move.  If you really want to know what science says, read a damn science book and ask the real experts.

And even if we had no idea how adenine was formed, so what?  There are lots of things we don’t know about the universe.  So what?  That doesn’t mean that you do know how they operate.  You could cite things we don’t know until you’re blue in the face and it wouldn’t get us one step closer to god as an answer.

You also cite complexity, complexity, complexity throughout your copy/paste job, even though I addressed that in the talk you supposedly read.  Complexity does not equal design.

Lots of complex things are produced all the time in our universe by natural, mindless forces acting upon inanimate objects. Snowflakes, for instance, are always unique and they are highly ordered. Yet we do not need to invent a snowflake-making god, since we are fully aware of the processes that crystalize water in that fashion. The same can be said for exceedingly complex things like stars, which are formed when a large hydrogen cloud collapses into itself in a process called the Jeans instability. We do not need a god to explain the stars, and we especially don’t need a god who created the stars in the same day when stars are still being made throughout even our own galaxy.

And for his last point…

2.  Our view of nature depends on reason, our reason does not depend on nature.  Therefore reason must originate from something other than nature, namely god.

Ugh…had you spent fifteen minutes reading about this stuff rather than just looking for something to copy/paste to me it would have saved both of us the time.

Anyway, take something like computers.  Here are pieces of inorganic metal put together in such a way that can perform logical functions and can reason about their environment.  They already do this really well, but will become better at it by leaps and bounds as we march into the future.  Clearly we do not need anything supernatural for reason to take place.

The response will be “Aha!  But we built computers!  Reason requires design!”  Even if I concede this point (which I don’t, more on that in a sec), it still doesn’t rescue the claim that reason is ‘outside of nature’.  It also doesn’t absolve you from the fact that you believe in an infinitely reasonable being (god) that didn’t require design.

Anyway, computers are not composed of molecules that self-replicate.  Human beings are made of self-replicating molecules (DNA).  This allows us to change over time without any assistance from god.  In fact, you only need three factors in place to have something adapt to its environment over time without any help from a designer.

1.  Reproduction
2.  Mutation
3.  Selection

Humans are subject to all three.  Being able to parse logical functions, even something as simple as ‘light good, dark bad’ or vice versa, is a tremendous advantage.  It is very understandable then, how a computer in our heads, made up of material just as un-thinking as the parts of a real computer, would evolve.  It has even been well-documented.

So, nice guy in the blue shirt who attended my talk, what does this change?  You now know that adenine doesn’t work at all in the way you thought it did (or in the way the people you copy/pasted from thought it did).  It’s clear you didn’t understand what you were saying, so will your belief change or will you keep that belief knowing that it’s based on erroneous information?  Will your methods of acquiring information be changed so that you don’t get duped again?  Will you begin to discourse in good faith?

You also now know that not only can inorganic materials be assembled in such a way that they can reason, but you now know how this could happen.  For the rest, seriously, go talk to an actual scientist.  If you want answers, behave as if you want answers.  Treat your methods of finding answers as more valuable than particular conclusions.  This is the bare minimum of what you should be doing.  Will you make at least that change?

But also, what changes about your Christian beliefs?  I mean, here you are scrutinizing my arguments, which I don’t mind even if I wish you would have done it in a more academically honest fashion.  But have you turned that inward?  You’re telling me zomg, evolution is impossible for x, y, and z reasons and expecting me, if evolution really were impossible, to change my mind.  Yet you believe that some dude rose from the dead 2,000 years ago.  Your standards for what’s impossible seem to be inconsistent.

How about you make that change?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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