Defending 10 Atheist Arguments (5 of 5)

Defending 10 Atheist Arguments (5 of 5) February 3, 2021

We’ve been responding to “Atheist Offers 10 FALLACIES to Disprove God” from Tim Barnett of the Stand to Reason ministry. Here are the final two arguments (part 1 here).

9. This inhospitable universe doesn’t look like it was created for mankind

Atheist argument: “This isn’t a finely tuned world created with us in mind. The sun gives you cancer, most of the water is undrinkable and diseases run rampant. If there was an intelligent designer, there wouldn’t be any mistakes.”

Christian response: “Just because you can’t drink the ocean or antifreeze doesn’t mean they’re not designed. They’re just designed for another purpose.”

My response: The point in the atheist argument, if it were hard to understand, is that this doesn’t look like a world designed for humans to live in. The fraction of the earth’s surface that a naked Adam and Eve could survive on is pretty small. Zoom out to include the universe, and the fraction is negligible.

We’re not going for a proof that the world wasn’t designed (at least I’m not). Rather, this argument attempts to make a convincing case that the world wasn’t designed. We don’t have proof that God didn’t design an undrinkable ocean, just the fact that it looks that way.

I’ve written more about how this vast universe with more than 200 billion galaxies doesn’t look like what God would create if he wanted a home for humans here and here.

“Something doesn’t have to be perfectly designed in order to be intelligently designed.”

If God the perfect designer made it, then yes, it does have to be perfectly designed.

Natural beats supernatural

“Imperfect design is perfectly consistent with intelligent design in a broken world.”

Explain how a broken world would be part of the omnipotent Maker’s perfect plan. “Broken” is just evidence-free handwaving to dismiss the embarrassing lack of perfection we see in God’s supposed handiwork on earth. Apologists credit the excellent parts of our reality to God the designer, and poor parts are blamed on humans. That doesn’t make sense even assuming that Christianity is correct.

Sure, the world could be supernaturally broken, but why go there? The natural explanation, always the default, is sufficient to explain the good and the bad in the world. The God hypothesis isn’t necessary, so let’s discard it as an unfounded and useless assumption.

“God could have made every mistake that we could possibly think of when creating everything, but that still does not affect the chances of Him existing or not.”

Is God omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good? Then he wouldn’t have made mistakes.

And if the reference to a “finely tuned world” in the atheist argument was an attack on the Fine Tuning Argument, I’ve made that attack myself here and here.

Evaluation: 9/10. This argument seems to be (1) a response to the Fine Tuning Argument and (2) the question, “Why would God make the universe 93 billion light-years across (and that’s just the visible part) to make a home for one species?” The argument would’ve worked better if it were just one or the other.

10. Evolution explains life. The God hypothesis is unnecessary.

Atheist argument: “Evolution is obviously proven and true. This means that we weren’t created by magic and are somehow superior to the animal kingdom. No creator, no God.”

Christian response: “Biological evolution, even if true, has nothing to do with the existence of God. It has to do with God’s alleged role in biology.”

Evolution, “even if true”?? Well, thanks for laying your cards on the table, I guess.

This quote is from Tim Barnett, of the Stand to Reason (STR) ministry. Greg Koukl of STR is a flaming evolution denier, so this isn’t a surprise. Evolution deniers grant themselves the privilege to pick and choose what science to accept, unconcerned with the scientific consensus (my response to that approach here). I continue to be amazed that someone more interested in the convenient argument rather than truthful argument still has an audience.

Let’s get back to Barnett’s point. He says that evolution tells us nothing about God’s existence. I agree that it doesn’t prove no God—God could’ve allow evolution to modify life. We have plenty of compelling arguments against God without evolution, but as Richard Dawkins pointed out, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Before Darwin, not having a naturalistic explanation of life was an uncomfortable omission, but now that hole has been reliably filled.

Christians: drop the evolution denial!

“If Darwin was right, atheists can still be wrong, as shown by a large number of theistic evolutionists. So, this is another non-sequitur.”

If you accept theistic evolutionists so gracefully, why cling to your embarrassing rejection of the scientific consensus? If you so readily point to them as compatriots, you should join them. Evolution denial may be more of an Achilles’ heel than you realize. Realizing that flaw in Evangelical dogma was an important step on the road to atheism by commenter Greg G.:

When I heard preachers making false statements about evolution, I could no longer trust what they said about religion. If they didn’t know what they were talking about regarding things they could look up, why think they know about things they couldn’t possibly know?

The other prong of this argument is that the Bible explains life on earth but is obviously ignorant of evolution. Somehow you’ve got to explain how God got it wrong. But Christians have rationalized away plenty of awkward facts (such as God’s support for slavery, human sacrifice, and genocide), at least in ways that satisfy them, so I have every confidence that moving to a Christianity compatible with evolution wouldn’t be hard.

The importance of evolution is that God is (yet again) not necessary to explain an important aspect of reality. That’s no proof against God, just like having gaps in our scientific knowledge has never been proof for God, but it’s one more area of the Christian façade that has crumbled. It’s one more place where the God hypothesis is unnecessary.

And what about the idea of Original Sin, the doctrine that humans inherit the sin from our common ur-parents, Adam and Eve? Evolution makes clear that there were no primordial first parents of all humans (h/t Ben York).

Evaluation: 8/10. A stronger argument would be go beyond evolution and point to other scientific explanations that don’t need God, from lightning to the Big Bang.

Concluding thoughts

I’ve probably been too generous with these evaluations. Only by changing these from proof that God doesn’t exist to convincing evidence that God doesn’t exist have they been salvaged at all. Nevertheless, with a charitable interpretation (noticeably not forthcoming from the Christian antagonists), these arguments can work. My total grade is 85/100—not bad. Tim Barnett gave each argument a zero, but I suspect that he would give that score to any atheist argument, whether he’s seen it or not. Since he’s fascinated by logical fallacies, he’s lucky I didn’t tally his.

Let’s throw the judging open to get more objective input. Readers, share your grades for these arguments and offer improvements on either side.

The Christian responses were all deliberately brief. Did my higher word count give me an advantage? I encourage Tim Barnett and Mike Winger, who I quoted in these posts, or any other Christian with a platform to respond.

Want more? I’ve critiqued other lists of atheist arguments that were attacked by Christians:

It is not everyday that you see a circular argument
with a radius that short.
— commenter Greg G.

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