Arguing With Atheists, Part 1
I work at a university.
That's something I thought I'd never say.†
I guess I'd better clarify. I'm not a professor, a graduate student getting paid to do research, a university official...or even a janitor or landscaper. I'm actually just an evangelist who happens to carry out some of my work on the university campus 1.5 times per week. My work involves having conversations with the students about God, religion and the Bible. Every Wednesday, from 10-2, I "table" at Hilliard Plaza on the campus of the University of Nevada in Reno, and every other Tuesday, I attend a two hour meeting of the Secular Student Alliance where we discuss matters of science and philosophy. Neat stuff.
As you can imagine, I talk to a lot of folks on campus who are self-proclaimed atheists, agnostics and skeptics. While I believe that this world was created by an omnipotent God, they believe that everything came from nothing about 13.7 billion years ago, that life came from non-living material about 3.5 billion years ago, and that life has been evolving ever since. You know the story.
I've kept up with the 'evolution vs. creation' debate for the past ten years and have even preached a few sermons on topics related to the debate, but it's been in the last year - as a result of my work at the university - that I've come to truly understand the issue. I'd like to share with you my conclusions.
We can debate the merits of carbon dating, the 'distant starlight problem,' cosmic-microwave background, polystratic fossils, the formation of coal and diamonds, vestigial organs, etc. We can list the scientific evidence for a young earth. And while these may be valid arguments, and while some skeptics may be slightly surprised by your knowledge, even impressed, it is very unlikely that you will make any serious progress with them because these are all symptoms of a greater problem. It's like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose.
In the end, skeptics believe that it's a matter of science vs. faith. They believe that they have all the facts on their side and that Christians and other religious people are just clinging to old, dying superstitions. I've talked to many atheists on campus who argue that the universe can be explained scientifically to the point that there is no need to believe in supernatural causes. It's their facts versus your faith.
And this is where I have taken my stand.
You see, it's not a debate between facts and faith, science and superstition. It's a debate between two different worldviews†based on two different interpretations†of the same evidence. And both involve faith. Yes, you heard me. Naturalism (the belief that we're here because of natural, not supernatural causes), abiogenesis (life from non-living material) and Darwinian evolution (molecules to man evolution) ALL involve faith.
Allow me to break this down for you...
Let's begin with the Big Bang theory, the atheists explanation of the origin of the universe. Consider this quote from page 362 of †HBJ General Science:†"If the universe is expanding, then it must have once been much smaller. If you could run the life of the universe in reverse, like a film, you would see the universe contracting until it disappeared in a flash of light, leaving nothing. In the realm of the universe, nothing really means nothing. Not only matter and energy would disappear, but also space and time. However, physicists theorize that from this state of nothingness the universe began in a gigantic explosion about 16.5 billion years ago. This theory of the origin of the universe is called the Big Bang theory."
Of course, the atheist who affirms this theory wasn't there to observe it. No one was. But more than that, this belief contradicts known scientific laws, specifically, the law of the 'conservation of energy' which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred. When I asked an atheist recently about how he could believe in the Big Bang when it contradicts this known scientific law, he basically argued that just because we haven't yet observed "something coming from nothing," it could still be scientifically possible. In other words, that may just be a gap in our knowledge, a mystery of the universe yet to be resolved.
So the atheist cannot explain scientifically how something came from nothing, or even how the entire universe came from an "infinitesimal point." But it's a fact? No, it's faith.†
Now consider abiogenesis, which is the belief that life sprang from non-living material. Has this ever been observed? No. Does the atheist have any proof that this happened 3.5 billion years ago? No. But the atheist will once again argue that just because we haven't proven that life can come from non-living material, it could still be possible. Again, we just haven't made the discovery yet. So the atheist has no factual, provable, scientific explanation for the origin of life from non-living material, but he affirms it wholeheartedly. Sounds like faith to me.
Finally, consider Darwinian evolution, or macroevolution, which is the belief in evolution on a grand scale (molecules to man evolution). Ask the atheist if there is any evidence that one kind of animal can change into another? They will give you examples of bacteria, fruit flies and Darwin's finches. But in all of these cases, the results were simply different varieties of bacteria, fruit flies and finches. You see, Christians accept what is often called microevolution. There was a time when chihuahuas didn't exist. Through selective breeding and even adaptation, a species can change over time, but a dog will always be a dog and a finch will always be a finch. But again, ask the atheist for evidence that one kind of animal can change into another kind. Don't give me an example of a fruit fly becoming a different kind of fruit fly. The atheist's only answer will be that we've not been around long enough (as an advanced species) to observe macroevolution. "That would take thousands of years of observation and research," they'll say. Okay, then come back to me in a few thousand years with your evidence. Until then, it's faith, not fact.
Oh, but wait - the fossil record proves Darwinian evolution! Right? No, it doesn't! You see, atheists will point to a fossil and say that it's the intermediate, evolutionary link between two other fossils. But they cannot prove it. There's no tag on the fossil that identifies it as an intermediate link. All we can learn from a fossil is that this animal once lived. Nothing more. Nothing less.
So let's recap:
- It takes faith to believe that everything came from nothing (Big Bang theory).
- It takes faith to believe that life came from non-living material (abiogenesis).
- It takes faith to believe in molecules-to-man evolution.
These are the three pillars of the atheists' view of origins, and yet none of these can be observed, tested, repeated or proven by scientists today.
Which brings me back to my original point.†
It's not a debate between science and faith, but between two different worldviews based on two different interpretations of the evidence. Christians look at the very same evidence and interpret it in light of a Creator.
As an example, an atheist recently used the genetic code†in an attempt to prove evolution. He pointed out that all living things share the same genetic code and used this as proof that we all share a common ancestor. My response was twofold. I first of all pointed out that I interpreted the evidence to mean that we all share the same Designer! Then I asked him who wrote the code.
The point in all of this is not to win an intellectual debate with an atheist, but to weaken their pride and sense of intellectual superiority and most of all, to illuminate the inevitability of faith. They don't have all the answers, so the question is: where will they put their faith? Which interpretation of the evidence is more reasonable?†
Is it more reasonable to believe that everything came from nothing, that life came from non-living material, and that we are here because of random, unguided mutations over the course of billions of years?
Or is it more reasonable to believe that this incredibly ordered and complex universe was designed by an omnipotent Creator, and has been sustained by Him ever since?
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
†"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalms 19:1).
I don't know about you, but this makes a lot more sense.