How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? (A Response to Geisler and Turek, Part 4)

How Much Faith to Be an Atheist? (A Response to Geisler and Turek, Part 4) September 2, 2015

This is a continuation of my response to the Christian apologetics book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek. Read part 1 here.

I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist Norm Geisler Frank TurekDesign Argument

Geisler and Turek (“GT”) tell us that DNA is complex, and complexity points to a designer.

You don’t need anyone to tell you that something beautifully designed requires a designer. (page 111)

Beautifully designed? Like what? Like parasites, bacteria, and viruses? Like birth defects, cancer, and Alzheimer’s? Most of earth and pretty much all of the universe are inhospitable for humans without technology. I don’t see the hand of a particularly benevolent designer. The Design Argument fails.

And if something is beautiful, why must it be designed? Simple rules of physics give us beautiful crystals, delicate snowflakes, and stunning sunsets, for example.

Francis Collins, evangelical Christian, biologist, and head of the National Institutes of Health, says that DNA evidence for evolution is stronger even than that from fossils. Nevertheless, many apologists push DNA as exhibit A. They’ll say that DNA is information, and information means intelligence. They’ll demand that we show them a single example of information not coming from intelligence. In response, I ask for a single example of intelligence not coming from a physical brain.

My argument reaches the opposite conclusion from theirs: I say that DNA alone makes a clear rebuttal against the Design Argument. My full argument is here, but let me summarize. First, think of the attributes that all designers use. They might want to make something durable or economical or strong or beautiful or lightweight, for example, but no designer will add junk. But when we examine DNA, we find:

  • pseudogenes (broken genes, like the broken gene for making vitamin C in every cell of your body),
  • fragments of endogenous retroviruses (8% of human DNA are these bits of virus),
  • vestigial structures such as nonfunctioning eyes in cave fish and a pelvis in whales, and
  • atavisms (archaic DNA that occasionally gets switched back on such as legs on snakes and teeth in chickens).

DNA length is also not proportional to the complexity of the animal, and lots of species have far more DNA than humans, including salamanders, fish, amoeba, and even the onion. Can GT be saying that the onion really needs five times more DNA than humans?

This kind of sloppy DNA is not something a designer would create. That doesn’t prove that God didn’t create DNA, just that the Design Argument fails. And don’t tell me that God’s ways are greater than ours, and we aren’t in a position to judge him. We don’t start with the God hypothesis; rather, we follow the evidence, and this DNA mess doesn’t point to God.

The Christian response is often to handwave that the DNA got corrupted over time. Yes, it’s adulterated today, they’ll admit, but that’s just a product of living in a corrupt world.

Let’s think about this remarkable, evidence-less claim. Presumably this means that, going back in time, we would find progressively cleaner DNA until, at some time, the DNA was perfect. Was human DNA perfect 3000 years ago when the stories that became our Bible began to be collected? Was it perfect six million years ago when we had our last common ancestor with chimpanzees? Was it perfect four billion years ago in the first life form? And whatever your answer, where’s the evidence? Evolution is the scientific consensus, and it doesn’t support this claim.

Thermodynamics revisited

GT put on a lab coat again to give us a lecture about thermodynamics.

How did life arise from nonliving chemicals, without intelligent intervention, when nonliving chemicals are susceptible to the Second Law? Darwinists have no answer, only faith. (p. 125)

Here again is that denigration of faith that seems ill-advised in a Christian apologetics book.

High school students who’ve been paying attention in class know how this complaint fails: the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that entropy (“winding down” or disorder) in any system is increasing overall, but that doesn’t mean that it’s increasing everywhere. When a seed turns into a tree, that’s an decrease in entropy (because it’s an increase in order), but overall entropy in the earth/sun system is still increasing.

What makes this more entertaining is that other Creationists make clear that this appeal to thermodynamics is embarrassing. Answers in Genesis (“an apologetics ministry dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith”) says that the argument should be avoided. Creation Ministries International (motto: “Proclaiming the truth and authority of the Bible”) says the same.

I do enjoy some good Creationist-on-Creationist action.

Abiogenesis

If we ignore the unhelpful appeal to thermodynamics, we could distill this down to a question about how abiogenesis (the step before evolution) happened. That’s a valid question, and science doesn’t know.

Science has lots of unanswered questions. GT’s only argument here could be, “Science doesn’t know; therefore, God,” which is no argument.

GT use science when it suits them (thermodynamics, Big Bang cosmology) and reject it when it doesn’t (evolution, abiogenesis). One wonders who died to leave them the Judges of All Science. One also wonders what they think of their readership that none will care enough about science to be offended at their arrogance.

In several places (pages 115 and 120), the book uses the term “spontaneous generation,” an idea discredited almost two centuries ago. That they use it as a synonym for abiogenesis shows again their disdain for science. For them, it’s a tool to be used or discarded as suits their agenda.

Evolution

Hatred of evolution colors much of Frank Turek’s work in particular (I’ve responded to his musings on evolution before). In this book, chapter 6 is titled, “New Life Forms: From the Goo to You via the Zoo?” This presumably means that evolution can’t be true because it’s yucky (“People came from pond scum? Eww!”), as if yucky has any bearing on truth. These are often the same people who believe God made Adam from dirt.

It’s telling that they must stoop to schoolyard taunts to make their case.

GT make many more flabby denunciations of evolution, but I’ll save them for another post on evolution vs. Creationism.

Continue with the Moral Argument in Part 5.

Creationists are like the undead.
They can’t see themselves in mirrors.
— commenter Greg G.

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  • Paul

    “Beautifully designed? Like what? Like parasites, bacteria, and viruses? Like birth defects, cancer, and Alzheimer’s? Most of earth and pretty much all of the universe are inhospitable for humans without technology. I don’t see the hand of a particularly benevolent designer. The Design Argument fails.”
    I think you’re forgetting that God created a perfect world. God didn’t create birth defects, cancer, etc… That all happened after man’s disobedience. Your counter argument fails.

    • GingFree

      He already for saw this “counter argument”

      Blaming imperfection on man but at the same time attributing all that is seemingly well “designed” to God is cherry picking. Sorry, but your argument fails as you don’t provide evidence that nature used to be “perfect”

      • Greg G.

        Excellent counter points in your conversation with Paul in this thread. I salute you.

        • GingFree

          Thanks, sir! I’m new to this online community.

        • Welcome!

        • GingFree

          Yeah I always read the comments on articles like this and on other channels at Patheos because I feed on debate, nice to actually delve into it myself.

          Thanks for the welcome!

    • This is all just theology–it’s gossamer and dreams and wishful thinking.

      You’ve argued for only how your theology explains it. Without evidence, this counts for nothing.

    • tsig

      If the world god created was perfect then how could a perfect human sin?

  • Paul

    “Simple rules of physics give us beautiful crystals, delicate snowflakes, and stunning sunsets, for example.”
    But where did the laws of physics come from?

    • GingFree

      Why do they have to come from something? Why can’t they just be the natural progression of a young universe? Where did God come from?

      • Paul

        “Where did God come from?”
        Do you believe in God?

        • GingFree

          Not quite.

        • Paul

          Well, I believe that God is eternal and therefore not created. And since neither of us believes that God was created, it doesn’t make sense for you to ask me the question “Where did God come from?”
          Do you believe that the laws of physics didn’t come from anywhere – that they are just a natural progression of a young universe? ( I find it a little bit odd that you used the word “young” to describe the universe.)

        • GingFree

          And that is special pleading, why can’t the laws of physics simply be? (Not that I am stating that is what I think)
          According to current models, the laws of physics did not always exist; or at least in their present form, that they “formed” during the progression of the (then) young universe.

        • You say that God was eternal and you don’t have to say what caused him? You don’t get to just make a statement and not back it up. God is eternal? Show us.

          Or admit that this is just a statement hanging in air, without support.

        • MNb

          Quantum fields may also be eternal and therefore not created. They account for everything. So your question “where do the laws of physics that explain snowflakes come from” does make exactly as little sense.
          Except that quantum fields also are responsible for predictions that came true. God not at all.

    • Are you saying that a godless universe would have no laws of physics?

      I await evidence of this marvelous claim.

      • primenumbers

        No doubt if our universe was utterly chaotic they’d suggest that things just can’t go about doing random things on their own and some godly force is necessary to keep things moving randomly.

        But what really matters is that our universe is entirely materialistic with natural laws at work, which is entirely contradictory to the supernatural universe a supernatural god would make just like themselves with bodiless minds doing supernatural things.

        • One wonders how much evidence supporting natural explanations it would take for them to drop the supernatural presuppositions. I’m guessing no amount would be sufficient since logic and evidence aren’t their currency.

        • primenumbers

          Evidence can only chip away at the psychological underpinnings of religious belief. And that’s doubly hard work when the believer is part of a community of believers ready to patch those chips with rationalizations, or to insulate themselves from even seeing that evidence.

        • Kodie

          Fear of atheism.

        • MNb

          Plus existential fear.

        • TheNuszAbides

          some thought leaders will strive to tie those tightly together.

    • tsig

      They are inherent properties of the universe. Why did they have to come from someplace?

    • MNb

      The laws of physics are formulated by humans.
      BobS used the words “rules of physics”, which refers to well understood processes in nature. In the end go back to quantum fields.
      So your question really is “where do quantum fields come from?”
      I can’t rule out the possibility of a god who likes playing dice, to paraphraze Einstein, but if that’s the answer I can rule out all versions of abrahamistic religions, because the abrahamistic god is anything but a dice playing god.

  • Paul

    “In response, I ask for a single example of intelligence not coming from a physical brain.”
    in response, where did the DNA information to create the brain come from?

    • GingFree

      Did you just ignore his points? “Information” is attributed from humans onto things. There is no inherent “information” in DNA.

      • Paul

        “There is no inherent “information” in DNA.”

        What’s your evidence for this?

        • GingFree

          //What’s your evidence for this?//

          This is meaningless and makes no sense.

          You need to show evidence that information is inherent to something, and to be also to differentiate non-information from information.

          Bob’s point is that intelligence comes from a physical brain, (and to elaborate) and that the brain in order to process everything has to regard everything as information. DNA “contains” information because that is what the brain attributes to it. Same with everything else.

    • DNA came from evolution. Its precursors came from abiogenesis. Evolution is extremely well supported by evidence; not so much for abiogenesis. But you got nothin’ for the God hypothesis.

      • GingFree

        Basically the only thing that has been shown for abiogenesis is that it is very possible. It doesn’t violate any laws or anything, and self replicating molecules are something we’ve observed in nature. It’s the best answer we have so far.

    • tsig

      Mine came from my mother and father.

  • Paul

    “Evolution is the scientific consensus, and it doesn’t support this claim.”
    Does consensus make something true?

    • GingFree

      No, but the fact that experts in related fields overwhelmingly support it, that lends it some credence. Oh, and that wasn’t even claimed in the article.

    • Does consensus make something true?

      We accept the consensus because it’s be the best approximation to the truth that we have.

      You got something better? I await it with barely contained enthusiasm.

  • Paul

    “New Life Forms: From the Goo to You via the Zoo?” This presumably means that evolution can’t be true because it’s yucky”

    No, “Goo to You via the Zoo” just means common descent evolution. Another term I’ve heard is “molecules to man” evolution.

    • GingFree

      So what?

      • Paul

        Because Bob said “This presumably means that evolution can’t be true because it’s yucky.”

        • GingFree

          His point still stands, you cannot NOT accept something because it is gross or somewhat demeaning.

        • Paul

          You completely missed my point. Bob, yes Bob, is the one that said “This presumably means that evolution can’t be true because it’s yucky”. He is putting his interpretation onto the statement “Goo to You via the Zoo.” I countered by provided what the term actually means.

        • GingFree

          Bob was using alliteration. I’m pretty sure he knew what was meant, but his point is what I stated before, just because something is yucky, or demeaning or doesn’t sit well or make you fell warm and fuzzy.. doesn’t mean it’s not true.

          Creationists say “evolutionists say we came from pond scum!” and expect that argument to be taken seriously, but no, it is irrelevant for the aforementioned reasons.

        • Paul

          ” just because something is yucky, or demeaning or doesn’t sit well or make you fell warm and fuzzy.. doesn’t mean it’s not true.”

          I agree. If you came to the conclusion that God created the world, you’d accept it even if that answer repulsed you?

          “Bob was using alliteration.”

          FYI: That was not an alliteration. Alliteration means “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.” For example, “Suzy sells seashells by the sea shore.”

        • GingFree

          //I agree. If you came to the conclusion that God created the world, you’d accept it even if that answer repulsed you?//

          The thought of a God created world doesn’t repulse me at all, though the Biblical God seems to be a bit of a prick. So yes, if the evidence was overwhelming (like Him coming down saying the Bible is true and then creating a Dog in from of everyone on Earth simultaneously).

          //FYI: That was not an alliteration.//

          Welllllll, that’s why I barely passed my English courses in college but did really well in everything else. Oh well. He wasn’t using literal language is what I meant.

        • Turek uses schoolyard taunts to denigrate evolution. If he wanted to use adult terms, he could’ve. That he deliberately chose a demeaning rhyme shows how empty his argument is.

          Got the evidence? Then present that instead of a taunt.

    • “Goo to You via the Zoo” is an attempt at painting evolution as yucky (and hope that gullible Christians take the bait). If he meant common descent, I’m sure he would’ve used that simple and well-understood term.

      Speaking of common descent, biologist Michael Behe accepts it. Non-biologist Frank Turek rejects it. I don’t get my science from non-scientists, and you shouldn’t either.

  • Paul

    “…but no designer will add junk. But when we examine DNA, we find: pseudogenes (broken genes, like the broken gene for making vitamin C in every cell of your body), fragments of endogenous retroviruses (8% of human DNA are these bits of virus),
    vestigial structures such as nonfunctioning eyes in cave fish and a pelvis in whales, and atavisms (archaic DNA that occasionally gets switched back on such as legs on snakes and teeth in chickens)….This kind of sloppy DNA is not something a designer would create.”

    Why are you inferring that it is sloppy – that there is “junk” DNA?

    • GingFree

      Because it is sloppy? While some “junk” DNA has found use, most of that use is NOT required for homeostasis and NOT all of “junk” DNA has a found purpose.

      In fact; endogenous retroviruses, ERV’s, are a great example of evidence for evolution by the sheer odds that they could be in the DNA as they are without evolution and descent with modification.

    • Greg G.

      Endogenous retroviruses are really good evidence for common descent.

      A retrovirus enters a cell and embeds itself in the DNA of the host cell at some random location. The normal cell machinery treats the ERV DNA as instructions so it produces more ERV copies.

      Some copies may have a detrimental mutation that make them non-functional. If one of these embeds in an egg or sperm cell, it may be passed down through descendants for a long time, especially if it is near a useful gene. That why about one twelfth of human DNA is composed of them.

      The sequences are identifiable as retroviruses but they are broken versions and many of them are in the same locations on the same genes in all humans. That means they are passed down genetically from parents going back thousands and millions of years. We know this because many of the retroviruses are found in the same locations on complementary genes in gorillas and chimpanzees.

      It would be absurd to think that many retroviruses just happened to embed in the exact locations of reproductive systems, and be passed down genetically in multiple species.

    • I just explained how it’s sloppy and unlike anything that a designer would add. Reread the post if you still don’t get it.

  • tsig

    When they claim something is beautifully designed they are begging the designer question.

  • L.Long

    “And if something is beautiful, why must it be designed? Simple rules of
    physics give us beautiful crystals, delicate snowflakes, and stunning
    sunsets, for example.”
    The people who use the ‘complex-beautiful’ argument have never seen fractals. Also the argument fails as I do not find any of the examples given by xtians as beautiful! It is in the brain of the beholder not in the nature of the item that determines beauty. I know a person that thinks deadly parasites as beautiful, and I think thunderstorms are beautiful, while the kids hide under the bed scared.

  • Kodie

    I don’t know about the designers not adding junk. If things weren’t designed junk, they couldn’t be improved, they wouldn’t need to be improved. I think this is a bad argument.

    • MNb

      It can be improved though by adding that the designer is supposed to be perfect. But even then I don’t find it that convincing. I prefer asking “how did god do it and what means did he use?” to show that it’s based on a false analogy.

      Addition: after reading GingFree’s comment underneath I realize something else: the Design Argument is teleological. Then BobS’ argument can be improved like this: parts of DNA don’t serve any purpose and hence contradict the idea that an Intelligent Designer designed DNA with the specific purpose to create Homo Sapiens.

      • Kodie

        Well, god is supposed to be perfect, but designed things come from humans and are never completely perfect, even as the designer strives to be and may be congratulated on the ideality of their design for a short while until someone (maybe the same designer) improves it. I’ve made stuff that I think is awesome and then about 2 weeks to a year later, I’m sick of it and how awful it is.

        The argument Bob uses is that designers of earth never add junk. They don’t mean to, but it’s impossible.

        • primenumbers

          Design infers a designer, but the process of design is a very human and imperfect one involving experimentation, testing and iteration, all things which a perfect being would have no need to do. Therefore if design does point a designer, it cannot be pointing to any reasonable theistic conception of god.

        • Philmonomer

          parts of DNA don’t serve any purpose and hence contradict the idea that an Intelligent Designer designed DNA with the specific purpose to create Homo Sapiens

          I think the standard apologetics answer is that we just don’t know what that purpose is (yet). Then they cite to someone somewhere saying scientists used to think XYZ was junk DNA, but now we know it does ABC thing.

        • primenumbers

          I don’t think you actually wanted to reply to me, but I’ll pick up on your point:

          If we don’t know what a chunk of DNA does, then we don’t know what it does. We can’t assume it does nothing unless we prove so, and neither can we assume it does something until we prove so. The DNA Design/Designer argument is flawed in the very argument itself, so there’s little need to even go into looking at counter-examples which may or may not be good ones.

        • The examples that I cited are ones where biologists know exactly why that DNA is there and agree that the organism would be just fine without it.

          (With the small caveat that, like a junk yard, sometimes there’s some good stuff in there that you can repurpose. DNA that used to do X and is now broken or switched off has no selective pressure to do anything in particular and can mutate and maybe after a million years turn into functioning DNA that does useful thing Y.)

        • Right–they don’t mean to. That’s the point.

          A designer would never deliberately add a nonfunctional pelvis to a whale. He might do something that others would think is junk, but in his own mind he would never do so.

    • A designer might deliberately make something durable or lightweight, but they would never deliberately add junk to a design. Your or I might think that something is junk, but it’s not in the mind of the designer.

      • RichardSRussell

        Maybe the Creator is OCD and just likes to fill every available space with something, like Migration Period artists with their horror vacui. Yeah, I’m sure G&T can hardly wait to start advancing that explanation for God’s behavior.

  • 90Lew90

    This stuff is a carbon copy of AiG’s shite. Top to bottom.

    • MNb

      It’s worse. Even Ol’ Hambo is smart enough to recommend against the “2nd Law refutes Evolution” shit.

      • 90Lew90

        I’ve seen him spout just that with my own eyes.

  • RichardSRussell

    evolution can’t be true because it’s yucky

    This is essentially the same argument the TBs make against gay sex, as they completely ignore the reaction of any 8-year-old kid to a description of straight sex: “You put your what in her where and you both like it? Ewwww!”

  • MR

    High school students who’ve been paying attention in class know how this complaint fails: the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that entropy (“winding down” or disorder) in any system is increasing overall, but that doesn’t mean that it’s increasing everywhere. When a seed turns into a tree, that’s an decrease in entropy (because it’s an increase in order), but overall entropy in the earth/sun system is still increasing.

    When I was still a Christian but having drifted, I was wanting to get back to my spiritual side and I heard about The Truth Project. It had been presented to me as a reconciliation between science and religion. Having an interest in science, I was excited to see what they had to say. Of course, it was far from a reconciliation. It was an attempt to discredit. Lecture after lecture I listened to them twist and misrepresent science to say what it didn’t say, and sometimes they would even twist it to say the opposite!

    One of the things that really stuck out for me was a discussion of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. “Science,” they declared, “says that the universe is in a state of entropy. That everything is growing cold and dying out and descending into chaos. But is that really what is happening? Is that what we see with our own eyes? No! Life is bursting out everywhere! Where is the chaos? Look at the order and wonder of nature! Where is the entropy?!” We were then treated to a five minute montage of fish and lizards and horsies and accelerated footage of flowers bursting into bloom.

    I sat there thinking, “Er…, yeah, but what about the sun…? I mean, didn’t we learn about entropy in high school and about closed systems and about how the earth isn’t a closed system and how it gets it’s energy from the sun? How the universe taken as a whole is a closed system and does in fact exhibit entropy and…. I mean, didn’t we all learn that in high school?” They completely left out the whole closed system and energy from the sun part!

    It was so disingenuous that I wanted to get up and walk out right there. That was a big turning point for me. That was my first real experience of Lying for Jesus.

    • “These danged kids are getting science in school! It’s ruining our story. We gotta get ’em earlier!”

    • MNb

      Last few days I had a somewhat similar experience, though far less dramatic.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/08/is-it-christianity-versus-science-what-brunner-said/

      If you are interested you should especially read the comments. In one Olson says “science can’t say anything about God making dead bodies alive” and in another one something like “we shouldn’t let secularists get away with neglecting evidence for God.”

      I suspect there are some similarities, but I’d like you to check – if you are interested.

      • MR

        Interesting. Thanks, MNb. The message I hear loud and clear is, “Science, don’t rain on our parade! God belongs to history and philosophy where he can be kept vague and protected. Stay out of our domain!”

        But, they don’t see that science is quite happy to leave God in those domains. It’s religion that steps into the scientific realm, and then science gets to say, “Uh, no. That’s not how things work. The evidence shows that the earth is billions of years old. The evidence shows that the sun doesn’t stand still. The evidence shows that man was not created 6,000 years ago.”

        Imagine if the Bible had all the science right. “In the beginning, God created the universe. And the universe was formless and filled with light and was extremely hot and dense and expanded rapidly…,” and went on to describe galaxies and stars and planets forming and how life evolved and…. We’d all probably be believers.

        I mean, it’s not science’s fault the Bible gets it all wrong.

        If you’re ever in Los Angeles visit the Holyland Exhibition. A quirky “museum” with biblical “artifacts” horded by some whack job preacher back in the early 1900s. There I was informed by the old, spinster-like guide that, “Science says the earth goes ’round the sun. The Bible says the sun goes ’round the earth,” then she added wryly, “Who do you trust? God or science? I know who *I* trust!”

        Yeah, me, too.

  • Cognissive Disco Dance

    How did life arise from nonliving chemicals, without intelligent intervention, when nonliving chemicals are susceptible to the Second Law? Darwinists have no answer, only faith. (p. 125)

    Presumably they wrote that when “the google” was still some sort of newfangled scary thingy that fundies were too old and cranky to waste time with. Nowadays only an idiot would expect people not to google something like that.

    • Ron

      Oh, come on now! Every TrueChristian™ KNOWS that Google (founded by atheists) and the Internet are the tools Satan uses to plant seeds of doubt.

  • Ryan

    As a Christian, I’ve learned that you can’t disprove or prove God when you look at the evidence. To me, I think about what is the most plausible scenario. Obviously, that doesn’t mean it is always correct but what is most probable.

    I don’t think creation and evolution oppose one another directly. When I think about the most plausible scenario when it comes to life coming from non-life it leads me logically to the possibility of a Creator. I believe that is just as viable of a hypothesis as any. When I think about the origins of the early church the most plausible scenario for the disciples dying for their faith is that they truly believed in what they were dying for. That doesn’t mean its true, but I think there is credibility in their death for Jesus being who He said He was.

    • Mark Martin

      Science doesn’t have an answer for abiogenesis therefore Jesus, seems like a pretty big leap in logic to me.

      The disciples dying for their faith is dogma. We know for a fact Joseph Smith died for his faith so why are you not a Mormon?

      • Ryan

        Not saying that. I think it just leads to the valid hypothesis that there could be a creator. Dying for a faith doesn’t make it true, but looking at the context around it can lead to evidence. Mormonism’s context and history make is pretty easy to debunk based on hard evidence.

        • Which sidesteps Mark’s point. We have excellent evidence that Joseph Smith died for his faith (unlike the stories about the deaths of the apostles). Is “who would die for a lie?” a valid argument or not?

        • Ryan

          I agree. I don’t believe it is a valid argument. People do die for lies all the time. I think you have to look at each example in its context to see if it lends credibility.

        • Greg G.

          When I think about the origins of the early church the most plausible scenario for the disciples dying for their faith is that they truly believed in what they were dying for. That doesn’t mean its true, but I think there is credibility in their death for Jesus being who He said He was.

          People do die for lies all the time.

          We have multiple accounts for some martyrs. They couldn’t have been martyred and buried twice. It proves that some stories were made up. It also discredits the other stories as none of them appear until the second century. Churches apparently tried to bolster their apostolic succession and added a noble death to make their apostle look more saintly.

          Second century martyr stories are a poor excuse to be a Christian.

        • Ryan

          What if you based it just on Peter being a martyr? and would you agree that the apostles did endure suffering after they believed they saw the risen Jesus? If so, I think that would give credibility.

        • adam

          “What if you based it just on Peter being a martyr? and would you agree
          that the apostles did endure suffering after they believed they saw the
          risen Jesus? ”

          How could when you just base it on Peter.

          And you do understand that dying for your beliefs provides ABSOLUTELY NO evidence that the beliefs are valid.

          Mormons, Heaven’s Gate, Jim Jones, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc….

        • Greg G.

          I think Mark was written is allegory and is not reliable as history. The other gospels are based on Mark and do not contain much reliable history.

          I think the most accepted letters of Paul and the Epistle of James are about the only links Paul’s era. Reading the gospels back into Paul’s writings is not helpful and leads to confusion.

          I don’t think there are any reliable reports about the characters involved after those epistles.

        • MNb

          Which contexts lends credibility and which ones not? What’s your standard and your method?

        • adam

          ” I think it just leads to the valid hypothesis that there could be a creator.”

          And where would this ‘creator’ get it’s KNOWLEDGE of how to create?

        • Mark Martin

          I agree there could be a “creator” but if it is completely impossible to ascertain its nature then what does it matter, how does it affect your life in any way? This is the same response I give when I’m in discussions about other universes, multiple dimensions, or anything spiritual really. If its effects on reality are imperceptible then there is no difference between it being real and it being fiction.

          Your second response is just special pleading. If you can apply your logic to other religions you should do the same for your own.

        • MNb

          How do you test that hypothesis? What’s your standard and what’s your method?
          Your answer regarding mormonism seems to imply “as long as we can’t debunk it due to lack of data regarding context and history we can accept it” – which is obviously highly unreliable.

        • Ryan

          I am not saying if you can’t debunk it then you should accept it. I think you look at the evidence and make a decision. I completely understand why people can be atheist. I don’t think that is unreasonable, but I also don’t think you have to abandon reason to believe in God.

        • MNb

          That’s not what I was saying. You seemed to say “if a belief system’s context and history don’t make it pretty easy to debunk based on hard evidence we can accept it” – to which I added that that seems unreasonable to me.

    • Philmonomer

      [deleted: since Bob’s January 17 “Who Would Die For a Lie” post better deals with it, and the post provides a satisfactory reply (from a Christian’s perspective) to my now-deleted comment. Oops.]

    • adam

      “when it comes to life coming from non-life it leads me logically to the possibility of a Creator.”

      Where did YOUR ‘Creator’ get its KNOWLEDGE to ‘create’?

    • MNb

      “When I think about the most plausible scenario when it comes to life coming from non-life it leads me logically to the possibility of a Creator.”
      How do you measure that plausibitily? What’s your standard? What’s your method? You already dismissed science with your first sentence and rightly so. But what do you use instead?

      “they truly believed in what they were dying for.”

      So did the SSers who died at the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1945. Why would their idea of racial superiority be any more or less credible?

  • I believe that is just as viable of a hypothesis as any.

    As Mark Martin noted, there is no logic behind this. Scientific explanations have a terrific track record. Religion has taught us precisely nothing about reality.

    the most plausible scenario for the disciples dying for their faith is that they truly believed in what they were dying for.

    Have you looked into the evidence that disciples actually did die for their faith?

    I’ve written a post on this. Let me know if you can’t find it.

    • Ryan

      I’m not sure how there is no logic behind that. How has Christianity not taught us about reality? There is a vast amount of verifiable historical data that has helped us see reality (course of human history). Scientifically speaking, IF Christianity is true, it IS our reality. It accounts for our existence and purpose. I’m not making the case for Christianity by saying this, just that it would teach us much about reality, if true.

      I’m unaware of any credible hypothesis that they didn’t die for their faith. I’ll look for your post. Thanks.
      -Ryan

      • Here you go:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/01/who-would-die-for-a-lie-another-weak-christian-argument/

        Very few Christians bother to see what evidence that claim is built on. Answer: not much.

        • Ryan

          I think the case for Peter is pretty strong. The others not as much. It seems pretty evident that they did endure suffering and persecution after they claimed to see the risen Jesus. That, to me, lends credibility that the apostles had a deep conviction and were not liars.

        • adam

          “It seems pretty evident that they did endure suffering and persecution after they claimed to see the risen Jesus. That, to me, lends credibility that the apostles had a deep conviction and were not liars.”

          It seems evident in the STORIES about them.
          But we know people really dont rise from the dead, it just doesnt work that way.

          But THAT, to me, lend credibility that the ‘apostles’ were delusional and not liars.

        • Greg G.

          Which tale? It seems to have grown from John 21:18 where Jesus says that when he was old, he would hold out his arms and someone would dress him and lead him where he did not want to go. Then it became a story that he was crucified. In the third century, Origen says he was crucified upside-down. The Acts of Peter says he was leaving Rome when he had a vision of Jesus going to Rome to be crucified again, so he turned around to get martyred.

          If he died denying Jesus three hundred more times, do you think that story would be passed down? The story of his death seems to have grown with each telling.

        • Summarize the case for Peter for us.

      • MR

        I’m unaware of any credible hypothesis that they didn’t die for their faith.

        I’m unaware of any credible hypothesis that they did die for their faith.

      • MNb

        “How has Christianity not taught us about reality? There is a vast amount of verifiable historical data that has helped us see reality (course of human history). Scientifically speaking ….”
        Isn’t this wonderful? To tell us what christianity has taught us about reality you fall back on science …..

        “I’m unaware of any credible hypothesis that they didn’t die for their faith.”
        They did. It just says zilch about the correctness of christianity – just like the SSers dying at the Eastern Front are not evidence for racial superiority of Aryans.

        • MR

          Did they, MNb? Even as a Christian, being of the Protestant faith, we never took anything related to the saints as being certain. Everything I have ever seen, even from the catholic church, says the stories of the saints are either tradition, legend or myth.

          Also, one of the fallacies that I see with the “die for a lie” argument is the assumption that even if they did die for their faith, that they had an option to renounce and make it all better. That’s absurd. Spreading what you know to be a false religion is no better than spreading what your oppressors believe to be a false religion. And that’s just one scenario on how it could have played out. And that’s if it even happened at all.

        • MNb

          I’m hardlyy interested in the probability of “prosecuted christians died for their faith.” I just assume that they did. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I remember an account of a Roman investigator who questioned christians and eventually send them to the arena. Go ahead if you want to dispute that account; just don’t expect me to discuss it.
          I’m only interested in the non-sequitur “they died for what they believed hence what they believed is True.”
          So basically my answer to you is: shrug.

        • MR

          No, I agree with you. And especially in the case of ‘persecuted Christians’–all you need is belief. People die for beliefs that aren’t true all the time. I thought you were specifically talking about the saints who actually knew Jesus. One of the nuanced arguments is that surely they wouldn’t have died for a lie. But, that is based on a lot of assumptions.

        • MNb

          Really, I wouldn’t see what difference “actually knowing Jesus” would make. Plus I don’t claim they died for a lie; my point is exactly that they (whether the early christians or the SSers at the Eastern Front) believed the claim they were willing to die for. Self deception is not a lie and psychology has made clear how easy self deception is.

          “that is based on a lot of assumptions.”
          Worse – some of those claims directly contradict science, like the assumption that the early christians were not capable of deceiving themselves.

        • MR

          I agree, and that’s just one scenario. I ask myself if I would believe similar claims from another religion. Of course not. Nor would they. That simple little test undermines pretty much any “evidence” that has ever been presented.

  • Hans-Richard Grümm

    Nitpick: it is the entropy of interplanetary and interstellar *space* which increases because the Earth is radiating thermally at 300 K, while it gets radiation from the sun at 6000 K.

    • Your point is that the overall entropy of the earth isn’t increasing?

      It seems that space is static, neither increasing nor decreasing its matter or energy, so I’m surprised that its entropy would be increasing.

      • Hans-Richard Grümm

        No. The Earth is (roughly) in a flow equlibrium (aka dynamic equilibrium), so that equal amounts of energy are coming in and going out and the average temperature and total entropy *) of the Earth does not change (much). However, the energy coming in has low entropy, while the energy radiated away has high entropy and ends up in interstellar space.

        As I said, a nitpick 🙂