Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monkeys From Nothing

"So lemme get this straight. You’re saying that there was just a big explosion in space that came from nothing, and then we crawled out of the goop and turned into monkeys? That’s how we got here? That’s absurd!"

Disclaimer
It’s extremely disheartening to think that in the 21st century, where man has accomplished amazing things, kids are not being adequately equipped in the public school system to understand even the fundamentals of cosmology, biology, or history. While the above hypothetical query is a vague generalization of ignorance and a strawman argument, it doesn’t stray too far from what some religious people believe. Therefore, I will attack it for what it is, and take from it what you will.
 
Okay, that’s about as straight as a corkscrew. I agree that what you said is absurd. No, I am not claiming (nor is anyone else, as far as I can tell) that we “came from nothing” or “turned into monkeys”.
What you’re really asking involves three different sciences: cosmology, abiogenesis, and evolution.

You Are What You Eat
First of all, we know evolution happened. It’s a provable fact that we can observe today (by studying microorganisms), and there’s a mountain of fossil evidence for common ancestry. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project that was completed in 2003 (and an evangelical Christian), said that even if there were no fossils, the DNA evidence *alone* is enough to confirm common decent.
So, we can trace the lineage of every living thing back to some sort of beginning (yes, you and a carrot are very, very, very, very, very, distant cousins). We know that life is here, and we know that it’s changed. Now the question becomes, where did life come from? That’s handled by abiogenesis. There are a number of scientific theories about how life could have evolved from nothing, and some of them have actually demonstrated the possibility of life from non-life. The Miller/Urey Experiment simulated hypothetical conditions present on the early Earth and showed that, given billions of years, organic life can grow out of inorganic material. There are a number of other theories about how life could have came from maybe another planet or at the bottom of the ocean…the point is, we don’t yet know exactly where or how, but we do know that it is scientifically possible for this to occur.

Now we have to go even farther back. We can trace back the history of the universe—using cosmology—to the formation of planets, galaxies, stars, etc. and eventually to the Big Bang, which isn’t a “something-from-nothing” proposition. We don’t know what happened before the Big Bang, we don’t know the state of the universe at the time before time. The laws of thermodynamics state that matter and energy are interchangeable, and that it cannot be created or destroyed.

I Don't Know
You may notice that I’m saying “we don’t know” a lot. That’s actually the wonderful thing about science: you don’t know, so you try to figure it out. You look for an answer. This is also where theistic belief asserts an answer and labels it “God”. Saying “God did it” is just an attempt to solve a mystery with another even greater mystery. It tells you nothing about how or why, and more importantly, it forces you to stop searching for a real answer. Asking “who cause the Big Bang” is a fallacious question, because it assumes a) that there had to be a “who”, and b) that it was “caused” by something, meaning it wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
 
To argue against the popular alternative to all this provable, demonstrable, evidence is the theist, who simply states that he, too, doesn’t know how or why, but that “God did it” in his “mysterious ways”.

Reason To Believe
As I’ve shown, we have a plethora of evidence and reason to believe that everything occurred naturally. This is a big question, and I’d advise everyone to read and learn more about what we *really* known and what we’re trying to figure out. But there’s no significant justification or evidence that there was any kind of intelligent, transcendent “force” that caused life, the universe, and everything. Because of this lack of knowledge, I'm agnostic. Because of this lack of evidence, I will not believe.
Will you?
Visit talkorigins.org for more information.

-STA

12 comments:

ChristianFAQed said...

I believe your comments about the fossil record supporting evolution is probably the biggest misconception in this post. The fossil record actually does the opposite of being evidence for evolution. In fact because of the lack of transitional fossils, evolutionists are creating new theories to work around it, such as punctuated equilibrium. You can read a little more about that here.

Similar DNA does not prove anything either. DNA is the building blocks of organisms. Just because two organisms share similar building blocks does not prove one came from the other. You may use it as evidence, but not proof.

My question is how do even atheistic evolutionists not believe in a god? I am some what of a programmer so when you tell me there is a program but no programmer, that is beyond my comprehension. How could we have the law of gravity without a law giver? Even Steven Hawking refers to a law giver in his scientific works.

In the debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, Mr. Lennox asks a question that Mr. Dawkins muddles through. When you see a garden do you not think that there is a gardener? Mr. Dawkins response was pretty much, "yes, science has shown this garden has no gardener." His response does not make sense.

Even if you believe in evolution, I still do not understand how one could not believe in a creator. Something created the program in which evolution and natural selection would work.

As a programmer I know that when creating a video game if the programmer does not specify code in order for the environment to work then it doesn't. And if there is no programmer at all then there is no program.

I'll anticipate two responses and then I'll leave it up to you. The biggest response I get from this exercise of logic is "If God created it then who created God?"

The question ignores the argument. Would it matter if a dolphin created God? The logic does show that a god exists in some form or another. Whether or not God was created is irrelevant.

"This does not prove the Judeo-Christian God." That is correct it does not. But again, it ignores the argument. The logic was not meant to prove the Judeo-Christian God, but simply that a god exists.

When debating with an atheist, I don't need to show Jesus died and was resurrected, but rather simply that any god at all exists. In doing so, it shows the fallacy in atheism.

STA said...

1) Please watch this series.

2) There are transitional fossils, anyone who's ever been inside a museum can see them. All living things are "transitions" from their parents. If you're attesting to something like Kirk's CrocoDuck, then you're equally as insane.

3) Evolution != Atheism. Evolution describes how living things change over time. Atheism is the lack of theistic belief. There are several scientists who believe in a god, and many who do not.

4) Your comment that there can't be a physical law if there isn't a "law-giver" belies your ignorance. Our physical "laws" are descriptive. They're not the same a the law that we have for, say, running a stop sign.

5) Your modern-day analogy of the watchmaker argument doesn't save it from the same flaws as its predecessor.

6) You or anyone else for that matter still must give evidence that a god exists. Saying, "We don't know, therefore, God" is intellectually dishonest and, perhaps more importantly, lazy.

ChristianFAQed said...

2) The idea that there are transitional fossils is debatable even amongst evolutionists. Just because you or others say they exist does not take away from the fact that credible, educated evolutionists say there are not. So at best you can say transitional fossils are debatable.

If there were definitive transitional fossils then theories like "Punctuated Equilibrium" would not need to be created.

4) I'm very surprised to hear this kind of response from a self proclaimed programmer. If someone does not write the code then nothing happens. Same with the law of gravity, if the law does not have a law giver then why does it even exist and how can it be measured if it was not first configured.

5) I'm not sure what the purpose of your link was other than to present more straw men arguments. None of them answered the question of how do you have a creation without a creator? How do you have laws without a law giver?

Whether he designed it or set up the rules and let it create itself is irrelevant to the question and ignores the logic.

Something had to make the law of gravity or it would never work. I would think a programmer such as yourself could easily understand that.

6) The laws are evidence of a law giver as much as a program is evidence of a programmer. Even Richard Dawkins has said that it "looks like it was designed". If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then the burden of evidence falls on you to prove it is not a duck.

P.S. try to post credible sources. Web sources with no editors or publishers or fact checkers are rarely convincing.

STA said...

Quit with your tired, defeated Ray Comfort arguments and actually read about what you're trying to argue against. All you've said is, effectively: "I don't know how or why, so X" where your X is your creator god (I'm assuming the Abrahamic God?). Like I said before, God-of-the-gaps won't cut it...give me something. An argument doesn't "win by default" if the opposing argument is shown to be wrong. Even if somehow evolution was proven incorrect, that doesn't automatically make the "God answer" right.

Yes, Dawkins said the universe looks designed. I say it too. But just because it "looks" like a duck doesn't mean it's necessarily a duck. If you'd actually read what Dawkins was saying (other than just use him for quote-mining) or if you understood evolution at all, you'd realize that evolutionary processes can produce things that look designed, but are the product of natural selection. Was the mud hole that the puddle is in designed just for the puddle? Was your nose designed for glasses?

The link I gave you to the flaws in the watchmaker argument doesn't need to be "credible"...the arguments stand on their own.

ChristianFAQed said...

But just because it "looks" like a duck doesn't mean it's necessarily a duck.

I read Dawkins response and I've read yours. Believe it or not, I completely agree with you. But you didn't seem to catch mine.

You are correct, just because it looks like a duck doesn't mean that it is not a duck. The look of design is not 100% proof of a creator, but is certainly is evidence for one.

The problem you haven't seen with your argument is that if it looks like a duck then it is in your court to provide evidence that it is not a duck.

If all the evidence points to something, even if it does not prove it 100%, then it is up to the prosecutor to provide evidence against.

If there is no case against it, then the case is easy to judge.

Notice that not once did I say I could prove anything, however, I have provided evidence for. Creation is evidence for a creator. Laws are evidence of a law giver.

I've never met or seen my Senator however, I have seen his name on the ballad list and seen his legislation pass. That is evidence for his existence. If you are saying my Senator doesn't exist, it is up to you to provide the evidence for his non-existence, because all the evidence I see points to the idea that he does.

Proofs are for mathematics, everything else is examining the evidence. The evidence points to a creator, what evidence do you have that points to no creator?

Your arguments of evolution are irrelevant. Dawkins proves that himself when he had a program written to show that natural selection would work... The problem with the program was that it had a programmer. Had there been no programmer, there would be no program for natural selection.

What ever system you use to prove it happened on its own has to be created. Something had to create the system for it to work. The law of gravity had to be programmed in some way.

Every program has a programmer, every law has a law giver. It is logical evidence to conclude this. What is your evidence against this logic?

Calling it God of the gaps is a straw man argument. You are saying you do not know so you can't give evidence. If you cannot give evidence against, then expect me to conclude that there is a creator when all the evidence points to it.

STA said...

Wow, that's really convincing: "Where did the sun come from? Somebody must have put it there! Even if you prove that it was created by natural processes that we can observe, you still have to explain who programmed those processes! I know who, it was MY God."

You're asking the right questions, but with in the wrong way. It's not "who" make things the way they are. When you start by asking "who", you've already limited the field of answers. What reason can you give for presupposing a "who"?

Just because we don't know what things were like before the big bang doesn't mean that a "who" had to consciously "create" it! What evidence do you have for that? What evidence do you have that A) your God exists, B) it was YOUR God who created everything (including natural selection?), C) how YOUR God did it, and D) how exactly you know any of this?

ChristianFAQed said...

You're getting ahead of yourself and are still ignoring the logic.

Even if you keep going back, even past the big bang, there was some kind of intelligence that set up the program.

You want me to prove it was my God. I can work the logic for you later, but I don't have to prove it was my God in order to show the fallacy of atheism. All I have to do is show the logic of any god or creator.

Right now, lets work with what is on the table. Systems and programs and order show that there was a programmer/creator/orderer of some kind of intelligence. That is the evidence. Creation itself is evidence of a creator just as a 97 Ford Mustang is evidence of an engineer or a garden is evidence of a gardener. Order is the evidence of intelligent intervention.

That is the evidence for. Since this a case, lets hear your evidence against there being an intelligent creator.

STA said...

We know that man-made objects are designed a posteriori. We have heard of designers. We know of companies that make things like Mustangs and computers. We don't look at a car and "know" that there was a designer just by looking at the car -- we use our knowledge of the existence of automobile manufacturers.

We have ZERO evidence that things like rocks, trees, and people are "designed" by any intelligence at all, let alone by a god and certainly not any specific god at that. Not to mention that we can see evolution at work in microbiology shows us that you don't need an intelligence to make stuff.

And don't try to shift your burden of proof onto me; if you're making the claim that a god exists and makes things like universes and people, you must show how you know.

ChristianFAQed said...

I don't know how you can say "zero" evidence when that is exactly what I have been giving you.

When you look at a garden is anything man made in that garden? It could just be flowers, but we still assume there is a gardener, not because he made what was in the garden but because there is order to it. There are patterns, rows, order. Those things give the evidence that intelligence is involved. Now, do we KNOW there is a gardener just because we find what looks like a garden? No, but the order is the evidence.

There is order to gravity, to microbiology, to our solar system, to our ecosystem. The fact that evolution works at all is evidence of a rule giver. The constant speed of light suggests a configure. Order is evidence of intelligent intervention.

If there was such a being/beings that configured the universal laws, those would be gods by definition and would therefore show the fallacy in atheism.

So you saying there is zero evidence is not convincing. There is some basic evidence for you right there. So what is your evidence against?

Do you not have any evidence against? Is that all you can give up, is that you don't know the evidence against, but you're sure it's out there? Do you really think that is a good argument?

I have yet to say I have proof of anything or even that I "know" anything, all I'm doing is laying out the evidence. If you have no evidence to the contrary, then who do you think would win in a court of law: The defendant who presents evidence for his case or a prosecutor who presents no evidence against his case?

I have presented my case with evidence, so now it is in your court to present evidence against. If you can't present evidence against, then why would I ever make a decision to be an atheist? Should I just hold out the rest of my life on the faint hope that someday maybe someone will have evidence against this logic? How much sense does that make?

STA said...

"If there was such a being/beings that configured the universal laws, those would be gods by definition and would therefore show the fallacy in atheism."

Well said. If there were such a being, then there would be a god-like thing. But this being has yet to be detected and you certainly haven't provided me with evidence warranting such a bold conclusion.

We recognized "design" by contrast to the "naturally occurring". We have no evidence to support the idea that rocks or trees or people were ever designed, and overwhelming evidence that point to the result of natural processes. If the appearance of order is all it takes to label something "designed", then who designed your gods? Are they not infinitely complex and orderly? Oh that's right...they get a special pass from that argument -- because they're gods!

Yes, we can see complexity, order, and beauty in nature. One of the beneficial adaptations of humans is the ability to infer intent. This allows us to anticipate behavior on the part of other organisms that might be detrimental (or beneficial) to our survival. However, this ability can be overgeneralized; we can see intent and purpose where there is none (i.e., seeing faces in clouds or smoke). Seeing design in the whole of nature is an example, since the religious view is usually that the universe was designed for our benefit. Inference of design is really a kind of fallacious inference of intent. That our surroundings seem well suited to us (to the extent that they are; though I can give several examples of why this is not the case) is not surprising, but is not evidence that it was designed for our benefit. Rather it is a testament to the power of evolution to produce well-adapted organisms. I did already ask you if you think the hole was designed for the puddle, or that your nose was designed for glasses, right?

You can call the inferred order and beauty of nature "evidence" of a "god", but I don't. Saying "light is as fast as it is" and "look at my knee...see how it bends?" is not going to convince me of any sort of designer.


"Should I just hold out the rest of my life on the faint hope that someday maybe someone will have evidence against this logic?"

It's your life. If you can't live without thinking you and everything else was specially designed, then I guess you should believe in some sort of designer. I, on the other hand, only believe something whenever there's sufficient evidence to do so. So far, science has shown all the other "evidence" for God to be nothing but natural processes -- we haven't seen any need for a god yet. He was once needed to explain earthquakes, illness, and even child birth. Not any longer now, but should people have lived their lives with the faint hope that someday someone would show them how God wasn't the cause for disease? Maybe not. Maybe "God" was the best explanation they had at the time. Maybe your god is the best explanation you have now. It doesn't explain anything to me; it only fills in the box labeled "unknown" with "magic". Guess we'll just have to see what turns up, eh?

ChristianFAQed said...

If the appearance of order is all it takes to label something "designed", then who designed your gods? Are they not infinitely complex and orderly?

I believe I answered this in my very first post. Who designed the god? Who cares? The question is irrelevant. I don't have to answer that question to show the fallacy of atheism. If a god exists at all, whether he was created or how he was created is irrelevant, atheism is still wrong.

Order does show design. If you input random characters into a php script, what happens? Nothing. If you randomly mash buttons on the keyboard when writing C++, what happens? Absolutely nothing.

The fact that there is order. That gravity can have consistent measurement and that light has a consistent measurement, suggest that some one or something made them that way.

Is it proof? No. Is it evidence? Yes.

How many lines of perfectly written code does it take to create environments like in Halo or Quake? And if even one semi-colon is missing from the code, what happens?

So you are telling me the laws that brought all of this existence into being was totally random and without intelligence behind it. That makes about as much sense as mashing buttons on a keyboard to write the next "Unreal Tournament". Because our universe is infinitely more complex than any video game.

Your argument about the environment being suited to us or vice versa is irrelevant. Whether light or gravity were designed for us or not is irrelevant. It is the fact that it is a constant and measurable law, that gives the evidence of a law giver. Else it would be random and chaotic. Who it was made for and why, is irrelevant to the evidence that a god made it.

Perhaps you mistake that I am trying to prove Yahweh to you. I don't need to prove the One true caring and loving God to you in order to show the evidence of a god. If any god at all exists, atheism in danger.

I, on the other hand, only believe something whenever there's sufficient evidence to do so.

Really? I have given you evidence for a god. I have yet heard one piece of evidence against a god. So who is winning this debate?

Guess we'll just have to see what turns up, eh?

How very interesting. What are the consequences if you are wrong? What are the consequences if I am wrong?

STA said...

First of all, this isn't a debate, I'm simply giving you a forum to tout your tired arguments. You're welcome.

Your statement that unless things are designed they are "random" and "chaotic" is a head-scratchier in itself. If gravity or light were something else (say, 8.8m/s2), then it would be something else, and you'd still have the same answer for me. It's like saying "what are the odds that we'd decide to draw the letter 'A' the way we do? It must be evidence of a GOD!" I'm alive because I was born. If I wasn't, I wouldn't be here to talk about it.

The fact that you can't see how a game engine and the universe are two completely different things is mind-numbing. True, randomly mashing buttons won't get you the next UT, but what if the language somehow chose against those characters that best fit the environment, until the code worked itself out? You don't understand evolution. Until you do, I don't see the point in wasting time with you.

Your laughable attempt at persuasion via Pascal's Wager is enough to make me think that you don't understand any of these arguments in the first place. See my previous comment.

I think we're done here.

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