Saturday, 31 January 2009

The toughest questions christians can ask atheists ...from the professionals

Lee Strobel, author of the Case for a Creator, sought a set of the most convincing arguments for Hemant Mehta, the friendly atheist and other atheists to respond to and that might at least doubt their at

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He did this by polling some of the top experts (sic) in the field asking to respond to "What argument is most convincing to plant the seeds of doubt (or, rather, faith) in an atheist’s mind? Well if you think there would be a higher level of quality of argument from the likes of historians Gary Habermas and Mike Licona; philosopher Paul Copan; Talk show host Frank Pastore and Author Greg Koukl, than what you might find at a dinner part or internet forum, well think again! Sadly he did not ask Alvin Plantinga "considered by many to be among the greatest philosophers of modern times"!! Do you know of any real philosophers who think this? I severely doubt it. So what are these incredible questions meant to make us gain faith or doubt the natural world is all there is? Lets see:
Historian Gary Habermas: “Utilizing each of the historical facts conceded by virtually all contemporary scholars, please produce a comprehensive natural explanation of Jesus’ resurrection that makes better sense than the event itself.” These historical facts are: (1) Jesus was killed by crucifixion; (2) Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them; (3) The conversion of the church persecutor Saul, who became the Apostle Paul; (4) the conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus’ half-brother; (5) The empty tomb of Jesus. These “minimal facts” are strongly evidenced and are regarded as historical by the vast majority of scholars, including skeptics, who have written about the resurrection in French, German, and English since 1975. While the fifth fact doesn’t have quite the same virtual universal consensus, it nevertheless is conceded by 75 percent of the scholars and is well supported by the historical data if assessed without preconceptions.
Since (5) does not have have universal consensus- big surprise there - lets ignore this. What does an empty tomb most likely show anyway? The corpse has been taken. So let me get this straight: A bloke was crucified by Romans, his followers believed he was resurrected (a not uncommon claim in those times for "special" people), someone had a conversion experience and his brother was also converted. And what? This is meant to sow doubts in my mind about what exactly? Nothing as far as I can see, especially since we know much today about false memories - so much for his disciples beliefs - and the use of psychological manipulation and other processes that bring about religious conversion experiences - which entail nothing except that the experience happened. The only doubt this guy has sown in my mind is as to whether he is really a historian.
Philosopher Paul Copan: “Given the commonly recognized and scientifically supported belief that the universe (all matter, energy, space, time) began to exist a finite time ago and that the universe is remarkably finely tuned for life, does this not (strongly) suggest that the universe is ontologically haunted and that this fact should require further exploration, given the metaphysically staggering implications?

“And, second, granted that the major objection to belief in God is the problem of evil, does the concept of evil itself not suggest a standard of goodness or a design plan from which things deviate, so that if things ought to be a certain way (rather than just happening to be the way they are in nature), don’t such ‘injustices’ or ‘evils’ seem to suggest a moral/design plan independent of nature?”
This universe might have started 13 odd billion years ago but we do not know about the cosmos itself. As a deflationary or minimalist metaphysician (and so an a posteriori naturalist) why would I need to explore this further? I am not a physicist. We have known the age of the universe roughly only in the least century, a very,very short period of human history, who knows what we have yet to discover. I will certainly enjoy learning such new knowledge when it arrives but my position is such that it is least likely to be disturbed by any future discovery and the more surprising (to me) it is, the more exciting I would find it.

I much prefer the Buddhist objection to god held by a few billion people over the history of humanity that any being claiming to the creator is more likely to be deluded or lying. Given that or the claim that it created everything, which is more likely? Anyway how on earth can "evils’ seem to suggest a moral/design plan independent of nature"?? I fail to see how this is possible. If the term evil means anything, it means deliberately, extremely and severely thwarting the desires of people and there is nothing unnatural about such a view. Lets move on:
Talk show host Frank Pastore: “Please explain how [1]something can come from nothing, [2]how life can come from non-life, [3]how mind can come from brain, and [4]how our moral senses developed from an amoral source.”
Well throw everything in, will you? Since this about us doubting which is more likely: [1] we do not know that something came from nothing but if it did then it could not have come form god, that is something. [2] Go and study some evolutionary biology and research in abiogenesis, it is a very interesting subject and any of those models trump a claim that god did, since they aall use evidence-rgounded models and until the equivalent is done on behalf of god, god is a non starter in the quest to understand the origins of life. [3] Again study cognitive science and artificial intelligence and what do you mean by "mind" anyway? All the evidence points to this being an entirely natural and evolved process and any other claims about mind are most likely fictions. And how does god provide an explanation here? Again without any attempt at an explanation, god is a non-starter in the race to explain consciousness.[4] This is easy, we do not have a "moral sense" we have the same cognitive and connative capacities applicable to the moral domain as to any other domain such as prudence, politics and so on.
Historian Mike Licona: “Irrespective of one’s worldview, many experience periods of doubt. Do you ever doubt your atheism and, if so, what is it about theism or Christianity that is most troubling to your atheism?”

What troubles me about theism is there is no evidence for it and a tremendous amount of bad examples - past and present - and including these questions here, that are evidence against god. If god existed surely there would be a better case for it? Atheism is not something to doubt, it usually is just not relevant. When I have doubted the natural world is all there is, in some sense or other, I have been drawn to non-theistic approaches such as theravada buddhism, zen, Taoism and advaita vedanta: none of which appealed in the end but all were clearly far superior to the childish, naive, negative and meaninglessness presented by theism.
Author Greg Koukl: “Why is something here rather than nothing here? Clearly, the physical universe is not eternal

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(Second Law of Thermodynamics, Big Bang cosmology). Either everything came from something outside the material universe, or everything came from nothing (Law of Excluded Middle). Which of those two is the most reasonable alternative? As an atheist, you seem to have opted for the latter. Why?”
Atheists can chose either path. Atheism is not a worldview so you cannot infer their position on this. We came from a quantum foam or some previous process in the cosmos, I regard these as on the first horn not the second, if I accept this dilemma at all. Nothing to answer here.
Author Lee Strobel: If our cognitive faculties were selected for survival, not for truth, then how can we have any confidence, for example, that our beliefs about the reality of physical objects are true or that naturalism itself is true? (By contrast, theism says God has designed our cognitive faculties in such a way that, when functioning properly in an appropriate environment, they deliver true beliefs about the world.)
Huh? By contrast evolutionary biologists say that nature has selected for cognitive faculties in such a way that, when functioning properly in an appropriate environment, they deliver true enough beliefs about the world. If it had not, we would not have survived and reproduced to be able to have such a conversation.

Well thanks. If this is the best you can offer, I have even less doubts than when I started this exercise, if that is possible, that is you all have convinced me that God is even less likely now.