Does an atheist need to explain the following?

As a Christian, I accept and respect the decision of an atheist to negate God; this is clearly their prerogative. However, I submit to you that there are multiple outstanding issues which might pose difficulties for an Atheist who wishes to remain content that Science actually speaks against God, rather than for Him. For instance: 1. How did something come from nothing (i.e. what caused the Big Bang)? 2. Irreducibly complex systems. 3. Non-living matter needing to arrange itself into living matter (mathematically refuted). 4. The Cambrian Explosion. "It's as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history" (Dawkins 1996) 5. An incomplete fossil record – “the trade secret of paleontology” (ATHEIST Gould, Stephen Jay; Professor of Zoology and Geology, Harvard University, USA) 6. The Anthropic Principle. 7. Origins of the mind. 8. Can a brain produced solely by a chance, undirected system be capable of determining ultimate truth? (A question posed by Darwin himself). 9. Are things “right” (i.e. moral/ethical) just because we say they are? (Without something transcendent to ourselves there is no objective morality). Clearly an atheist is not obliged to have definitive answers but could faithfully anticipate science filling in all these gaps. I’m just not sure I could live like that? I feel science happily points towards God. In Christ Tom
Atheist Answer: 

Atheists can deny gods, but we can't "negate" them. If there's a god here somewhere, it's there, and all the disbelief in the world won't destroy it. If there aren't any gods, however, all the belief in the world won't create one.

I've addressed a lot of your numbered points before if you want to have a look in Recent Posts, but I'll summarise for you.

1. The Big Bang wasn't necessarily something coming from nothing. It might have been, sure, but nothing prevents the existence of a natural precursor: say, another universe. In that case, the implication is an infinite series of universes, or a stable external universe producing unstable internal universes like this one.

Your solution to the same problem is that God created the universe, and he existed forever before that. If you can simply declare this, isn't it simpler to cut out the extra entity and suppose that the universe itself has always existed in some form? God explanations always look so clean and simple, until you then have to explain the god.

2. Name one actually irreducibly complex system. Those presented in public so far have been hypothetically reduced, and in most or all cases already had been when they were presented as irreducibly complex. If you have a favourite example, we can go through it here.

3. The mathematical refutations of abiogenesis (life from non-life) have themselves been refuted, starting with Hoyle's famous Boeing 747 argument. In brief, although the chances were small, the opportunities were many and the possible forms early life could have taken were almost infinite. Most impossible-looking probabilities suppose that only a particular protein or enzyme must be formed.

4. Quote-mining Dawkins, of all people, will get you nowhere. The Cambrian "explosion" was if anything a very slow explosion, occurring over several million of the 15 million years of the Cambrian period. It was indeed a period of great change and many new variations, but since it's around the period when animals themselves first appeared, one would expect this. Nobody said evolution had to proceed at the same rate throughout its 3.5 billion year history.

5. The incomplete fossil record is hardly a secret. A given plant or animal has an incredibly small chance of becoming a fossil at all, and we'll never find most of them anyway, so it's inconceivable that the record will ever be "complete".

Those fossils we have found, however, paint a sparse but consistent impression of branching descent from a common ancestor. What would really throw evolutionary theory off is not missing fossils, but fossils in the wrong period. The famous hypothetical example is rabbits in the pre-Cambrian.

6. The anthropic principle is often very atheistic in nature. It counters the sense of privilege we might feel in having a planet which is perfect for our needs, by saying that we could only have emerged on such a planet, wherever it was.

What you really mean is the fine-tuning argument, which states that if the conditions of the universe were even slightly different, we could not exist. In the hypothetical context of a multiverse the above applies again; out of the many different universes we could only have emerged in one which suits our needs.

There are other objections which do not require this model, for example: perhaps to achieve a different but life-friendly universe, the conditions of the universe need to be wrenched rather than tweaked, and other equilibria exist far away from the current "settings". All possible arrangements have not been tested, only those near ours.

7. The mind can be easily explained, at least in broad strokes, by evolution. The mind is beneficial. Those animals including primates which developed rudimentary versions of the brain functions we think of as "mind" had a tremendous mental advantage over those which didn't. Later, any deadly contest of will or wits was won by whoever had the better mind. Natural selection favours the clever, all other things being equal.

8. Darwin was in no doubt that an undirected system had in fact produced the brain. It may not in fact be capable of determining ultimate truth, whatever that is, but it is perfectly capable of making reasoned decisions based on the evidence before it.

9. Perhaps nothing is intrinsically "right" or "wrong". We can never know. Therefore we adopt a heuristic approach to morality: that which is beneficial is usually right, and that which is harmful is usually wrong. If it works, we keep it. If it doesn't, we change it.

Without something transcendent to ourselves there is probably no absolute morality, but there is plenty of objective morality. The objects used can be simple and straightforward, like a comparison of relative benefit and harm, or they can be tried and tested, like the ancient ethic of reciprocity (the Golden Rule), or they can be complex and careful, like the law.

These objects can certainly be challenged, but in the absence of any infallible authority we actually know exists, we use the most solid things we have, such as logic, mathematics, group consensus and our common human empathy.

Tom, I notice something about your perspective, based on your nine issues. It is not science that points to God, it is rather the perceived failings of science. You point in every case to what science supposedly can't explain (though in most of these cases it's well on the way), instead of what it can. Yours seems to be a god of the gaps.

Those gaps are getting smaller. Just this year, for instance, scientists discovered a method by which RNA (a precursor to DNA) can form, and elsewhere they synthesised rudimentary self-replicators. There is now less we don't know about the natural emergence of life from non-life than there was a year ago. God is a necessary part of that process to fewer people. The nature of gods of the gaps, Tom, is that they shrink.

If you want to keep believing, you're better off embracing the world as it really is, rather than denying things like evolution for which the evidence is overwhelming. God can always fit around science if you want Him to. Just accept that things are as they are, and say God made them that way.

- SmartLX

What is your answer to this argument?

"Finite minds cannot understand infinite minds" This of course says that God is infinite and we humans with out finite minds cannot and will never understand god and the stuff he does. <br> For example we think all the old testament stuff is bad. Somebody could say say "you may think god is being bad, but you cannot understand god and his ways, stop looking at him as soon kind of human, his powers are higher." <br> Somebody can say this for all the bad stuff in the bible or when there is a difficult part to understand about god. <br> we They just say "His powers are higher and you will never understand it, so don't criticize because you're a weak mind compared to his."
Atheist Answer: 

Shortest possible answer: "Says you."

It was Christians, among others, who declared that God is beyond understanding, after failing to reconcile His destructive actions in the Bible (and other catastrophes since) with His supposed existence as an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and entirely benevolent being with an interest in humans. It's one of the many approaches to theodicy, and probably the most dismissive and least satisfying.

Remember that this is the being from whom fundamentalist Christians attempt to take their entire moral code, word for word. Yet they admit that nobody, let alone them, understands why God supposedly commits such atrocities or allows them to happen. If they can't understand this side of Him, they really have no understanding of God's own moral code at all, and they're flying blind.

One reply would be that God's moral code applies only to God and not to humans. Some of God's supposed instructions to humankind are pretty clear and just about sensible (like the Ten Commandments), but other times he instructs armies to wipe out entire races, so it's not as if His unexplained lapses in benevolence never affect us.

In short, as long as Christians declare that we cannot understand the God of the Bible, using Him as the ultimate arbiter of morality (or anything else) is a shot in the dark.

- SmartLX

Social Contract?

Your justification for jesus' existence was thurough. However, the existence of a social contract (athiest moral stem) that is just innate in humans has even less proof of existing than jesus. How can you justify morality based on a guide that cant be proved? I understand how a social contract is constucted, but what purpose does it serve in the end? And if there is no purpose to existence, why are we alive?
Atheist Answer: 

Your question is asked in good ole theistic backwards style. The questions you ask have very obvious answers, the type that almost don't warrant answering. But in the spirit of AskTheAtheist, I'll play along. Truly the only reason I jumped in was so I could get another stab at linking to Jake's morality video. Jake is the creator of this site, if you're just joining the party.

Here are the answers to your questions (I'll answer them in a very basic style, k ?)...

How can you justify morality based on a guide that cant be proved?

How's this for a guide that can be proved... one person shoots another person, everyone who loved the victim is crying. Do you think the people crying are hurt and upset, maybe even devastated? Do you feel good when you are hurt and devastated? If you are like me, you don't feel good when you are hurt, therefore you try not to devastate and hurt other people.

I understand how a social contract is constucted, but what purpose does it serve in the end?

It keeps us alive as a society, otherwise we'd most likely all be dead.

And if there is no purpose to existence, why are we alive?

What book told you there was no purpose? The Bible? I've never known anyone in my life without a purpose, that's just some retarded bullshit nonsense that Christian terrorists pull on you to scare you into believing their bat-shit stupidity. Avoid them, they're con artists.

- Brian Sapient
Rational Response Squad

Morality and the Athiest's Response

In your video entitled "Where do atheists get their morals from ?" you answer that question by saying that all societies are under, what you call, a social contract. Then at the very end of the video you say that this social contract is, in essence, the golden rule, "do unto others as you would want done unto you". So, are we to assume that all societies moralities are based off the Bible's Golden Rule? If not, then what is the difference?
Atheist Answer: 

Do a little research on the Golden Rule to see just how exclusively Biblical it is. Not.

The Bible has plenty of instructions that everyone would agree are great ideas, like "thou shalt not kill". It also has plenty of instructions everyone would agree are terrible ideas, like much of Leviticus. The good ideas are not only common sense, but they can generally be found in other sources pre-dating the Bible by centuries.

Consider the possibility that the good ethical advice in the Bible is not good ethical advice because it's in the Bible, but rather its human authors put it into the Bible because it's good ethical advice. It's a reflection of human nature, much of which is benevolent.

This may make the Bible a good moral guide if you cherry-pick the sensible parts, but it certainly doesn't establish its God as the only source of morals.

- SmartLX

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