I should know better than to search for religiously themed topics, even if it was to help a colleague. But I managed to stumble upon a recently published article from Charisma News; a site touting “Breaking News” with a “Spiritual Perspective”. What ensues, and this is your warning, is an article from author Tom Brown that claims the naturalistic explanations we have for the world around us are nothing but lies.
On the first point, that the Universe cannot exist with out a creator, begs the question before the explanation starts. And, as we shall see with the other answers and claims, it relies very heavily on the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. It is, in so many words, the watchmaker analogy so many are aware of; the idea that, if you came across a watch in the middle of the woods, you would assume that it had been built by someone. Philosophers like David Hume have offered counter arguments against this (we have witnessed and can compare watches being made, the same cannot be said of universes. Also, they two objects [a universe and a watch] are so unalike that the point of the analogy is completely moot).
But the watchmaker analogy also does not take into consideration the function of physics and our understanding of cosmology and astronomy; all of which we have relevant specialists in each field that help us understand how our Universe, more than likely, came to be. We also have physicists, like the late Victor Stenger, who wrote a marvelous book explaining, if there was a creator, they did a lousy job.
The author of this piece also relies heavily on scripture for this argument, but leaves out some relevant points about scripture. Like, for instance, how there are two creation accounts in Genesis. And how the first one, referenced for this point, was written during or after the Babylonian exile and was used to minimize the sky deities the Babylonians worshipped (namely the day and night, or light and darkness).
We also are able to see how the Israelites copied these stories from other Near Eastern and Semitic religions; like the “Hymn to Ptah“, “Enuma Elish“, “Hymn to Atum“, and multiple others, all dating to at least 700-2000 years prior to the composition of the creation story in Genesis.
Our author also assumes that it had to be a creator because there can be no other answer; a God-of-the-gaps answer, if ever I heard one, but science has been able to, not only answer that, but also, it seems, go back before. Theoretical physicists now seem to have an understanding, and propose a theory for, what happened before the Big Bang. They have even suggested that the universe existed prior to the Big Bang, and maybe even having existed for a seeming eternity prior to. It is also suggested that the Big Bang may never have happened.
As a quick side note, any concept of the Bible being capable of explaining things in our natural universe before we really grasped the idea with science is a stretch. This is why the Genesis creation story assumes the moon creates its own light (1:16) and in Revelation 6 when it states that the stars would fall to the earth; the authors had no concept of the natural world. Attempts to show the authors of the Bible understood these things, eons before these concepts were suggested, studied, and backed with demonstrable evidence is an attempt to grasp at straws.
Our second point is that we are “made to think of our creator”. Of course, in a culture within a world that is predominantly Christian, it is hard to think of a way we would not be “thinking of” a God. It is like stating that the earth has air, perfect for our respiratory systems so we may live! No; we are a species that adapted to the surroundings, not the other way around.
For the same reason we are omnivores, we experience pareidolia, and also why we have a “fight-or-flight” response to conflict. Our species evolved to adapt these traits and, had we not needed to hide, flee, or defend ourselves from predators, we would not need these. Since we have grown from a culture that used mythological stories to explain the world around them, and have refused to shake the mythicism in light of scientific advances, we are stuck in a world where the concept is hard to escape.
Brown’s argument turns into computers used for cloud storage, but that falls victim to the same problems the watchmaker analogy does. If you cannot use a similar concept in analogy as the product you are arguing for, your argument is lost. We can access the items we store in the cloud, we do not have access to a divine being, ethereal figures, or anything closely related to the figure of Yahweh in the Bible.
However, we see Christians who have done things like the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, and even the Ku Klux Klan and other Christian Identity movements that involve white supremacy.
It would seem, to assume a moral universe exists (which is a very subjective thing; our planet alone is filled with violence and cruelty, forget an unapologetic planet that only has, roughly, a quarter of its surface capable of sustaining life – I am unsure of what Brown assumes morality to entail, outside of our own human consciousness), we do not need to rely on a moral creator, let alone one at all. To create something does not mean to instill values in it; but, again, this concept does not mean it came from a being.
And, as for the idea that there is no such thing as morality; it would be problematic if our species did not show empathy, compassion, or build concepts of right and wrong. Again, these are subjective based on the culture you are raised in, but our species would not have gotten very far if we were okay with killing each other off.
Even today, in studies of how families survive, cope, learn, and grown, it is done best in a communal environment. Being nice to other beings means we create bonds and are shown reciprocity with our actions (that whole “treat others as you wish to be treated” idea), and by building those bonds and communities we help ensure our own survival. It is an evolutionary trait, not something instilled in us from a creator.
Further, morality and ethics are not a “black-and-white” issue. While one may be opposed to abortion, if an ectopic pregnancy occurs, and, honestly, the only option is to abort or have the mother die, what is the moral thing to do? If one’s spouse is being held and threatened with violence or death, and you have the capabilities to stop them without causing harm to your wife, but it is a violent or lethal action, would you sooner let your spouse die?
What if you were destitute and needed to feed or medicate a family member and you were able to steal what was needed without being caught? Do you not steal because it is wrong and allow the family member to suffer? Granted, these are extreme circumstances, but they are also very real. Morality changes as culture does; we would expect humanity to change along with it.
Brown’s final point is that we cannot imagine ourselves not existing, so we must assume God exists, and (I am assuming) an afterlife as well. The problem comes back to cultural issues; we do not like the thought of death because our culture has developed that way, and our consciousness and ego make it difficult to envision us as nothing.
More than that, we are likely incapable of imagining non-existence because we simply cannot. People who go through things like sensory deprivation report hallucinations, and it is classified as a form of torture. Our minds do not turn off or, it seems, really permit us to not sense things, hence making it complicated to really envision, let alone experience, nothingness.
Lastly, this argument uses the argument of existing for eternity, and this runs into the same problem as the concept of infinity. They are exactly that; concepts, not realistic measurements. We can have a value of “zero” of something, like “I have zero quarters in my hand”, but to replace “zero” with “infinity” is unrealistic. Similarly for time; I can hold a stop-watch and say “I have not started the watch, so zero seconds have gone by.” But to ask someone to start a watch and let it run for eternity is unrealistic, as it is not a measured unit of time. It only exists in concept.
While I cannot say I expected much more than easily debunked philosophical arguments, I certainly hoped for a little more. Maybe if they lay off the apologetics, and resort to actually understanding science and philosophy, we will get a real argument.