"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.


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.

  • Christine

    Even when I was religious it always bothered me that the standards of evidence were different for the “right” answers and the scientific answers. All those animals couldn’t fit on an ark? Well, God spoke to them and convinced them all to crowd in. More peer-reviewed biology journals than anyone will ever read? Well, some of those articles have minor mistakes. The whole thing is worthless. But when some overwrought people point at an empty tomb and have visions of the dead man talking to them, that’s supposed to be the most compelling evidence in all of human history. I like to think that a real God would have more self-respect.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Most creationists don’t know enough biology or biochemistry to effectively argue about evolution. They pull something, often third or fourth hand, from a creationist source like Answers in Genesis or Behe and mindlessly regurgitate it.

    Actually my biggest complaint about most creationists’ arguments is their basic idea of science. They see science as a zero-sum game, if evolution loses a point then creationism automatically gains a point. The idea that science is self-correcting based on new evidence is incomprehensible.

    I suspect this is because most creationists see evolution not as a scientific theory but as a competing dogma. Darwin was not a scientist, he was a prophet. That’s why the Lady Hope’s spurious deathbed conversion fable is so important. If Darwin “accepted God” then he renounced evolution.

    Creationism is based on a 2500 year old myth. Creationists keep adding other myths to their story. The thought of finding out the actualities of evolution and the evidence to support it are is evil. That would be exposing themselves to an alien dogma and make The Big Guy In The Sky™ angry. And if TBGITS™ gets angry, then there can easily be some smiting. No, it’s much safer to offer misunderstood fabrications about adenine synthesis and other misrepresentations of evolution. That’ll make TBGITS™ happy and he’ll withhold any smiting.

  • Sastra

    Oh, I like to ask creationists if, upfront, they will agree to renounce Jesus Christ as their lord and savior if they’re wrong on the science and the experts in the relevant fields are right. Ask them if they will sign something to that effect, with an excited glint in my eye, telling them that I’m so tired of those “liberal” Christians keeping faith in God no matter what — and so pleased to meet a Christian who is finally, finally agreeing to make a test for the existence of God. A scientific test! Ask them for a pencil and paper so I can have their agreement to abandon Jesus if the facts fall the wrong way, in writing.

    Well, okay. I did this once. Stopped the creationist cold: he suddenly got a very wary look in his eye and backed out, mumbling about not testing God.

    Might have given him food for thought; might have just made me sound like a wack-o, though — which is why I only did it once.

  • AtheismSteve

    So slapdash they couldn’t be bothered to select a font beside Word’s default, the hideous Calibri.