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 20, 2019

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.

Design 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 laws of physics give us beautiful crystals, delicate snowflakes, and stunning sunsets, for example.

A world designed by an all-wise god would be elegant—simple, efficient, and effective. All the Creationists can propose is that our world is complicated—awkward, coarse, and good enough.

Francis Collins, evangelical Christian, biologist, and current 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. And yet 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, amoebas, and even the onion. Can GT be saying that the onion really needs five times more DNA than humans? Or that some amoebas need 200 times as much?

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 and flawless. 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.

(My response to “information requires a Programmer” is here.)

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 [of Thermodynamics]? 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 plant, 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 (“Proclaiming the truth and authority of the Bible”) says the same.

I do enjoy watching Creationists bash each other.

Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis is the process that turned nonliving material into primitive life. Evolution only works on living things, and it needed abiogenesis to create the first life. Plenty of hypotheses and scientific puzzle pieces exist, but there is no theory of abiogenesis yet.

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.

For more on Creationism vs. evolution, see my recent post responding to a Yale professor’s dismissal of evolution.

Continued in part 5.

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

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 9/2/15.)

Image from Wikimedia, CC license

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