I’d like to start by thanking Shawn for a very interesting read. When I read his post the first time, I knew that this was going to be a fun debate. Perhaps, the first of many discussions.
I’m going to save my evidence for my arguments until the end because it will be a bit technical and I don’t want readers to get bogged down in that kind of tedious reading before getting to the more fun and interesting rebuttal.
Not the Average Christian
If I may, allow me to give a little background on myself. I became a Christian fresh out of rehab. After becoming a Christian, I spent two years in relentless study actually trying to disprove the Bible. Then I discovered the discipline of apologetics. I noticed that I had a gift for it because, unlike most Christians, I don’t presuppose the existence of God. Let me give you an example.
I just had a conversation with my 12 year old daughter. She said, “Dad, in science class, I told my teacher I don’t believe in evolution.” She thought I would be beaming with pride. She explained the situation and I allowed her to finish. I then asked, “Why don’t you believe in evolution?”
She responded, “Because the Bible says that God created humans and therefore we could not have evolved from monkeys.” Good reasoning for a twelve year old. But I replied, “But, when talking to atheists, you cannot presuppose the existence of God. You have to study evolution, look at the evidence, and come to an objective conclusion.” Most Christians, I think, would not insist on this line of thinking.
The point is that it’s not wise to treat me, or any apologist, as the “average Christian.” Atheists often presuppose that we’re all the same and base their arguments on that assumption.
From here, I’m going to address Shawn’s post section by section.
Shawn’s entire argument against my proposition is based on agnosticism (and is also an Appeal to Ignorance fallacy). That is, taking the “we just don’t know” approach. We apologists run into this all the time in debates from the lay levels to the highest levels of academia. I would admit that there are many things about the world and the Universe that we don’t know. However, we base our beliefs on the evidence that we currently have. In his introduction, Shawn claims, “That we should not accept his(my) argument because for it to be true we need to know facts that we don’t currently know.” In this post, I’m sure you will find that I will prove this statement wrong beyond the shadow of any doubt.
Also, throughout his post, particularly in the intro, Shawn continuously calls my claims “guesses” or “assumptions.” This is very misleading terminology. I intend to show that my arguments are based on good reasoning and are backed by good evidence.
Why We Cannot Say Much About Deities and Universes
Shawn’s three points in this section are mostly irrelevant to this debate and I’ll show you why. (To save on space, I simply responded and therefore it may be necessary to look back at his post to see what he initially said.)
- Shawn is guilty of the composition fallacy here. He is clearly stating that since we cannot know much about the parts of the Universe, then we cannot know much about the Universe as-a-whole. Just because we don’t have every bit of information of all of the properties of the Universe does not mean that we can’t draw any conclusions about the Universe itself.
- This point is completely irrelevant to this debate. I have not claimed to know the properties of any god or goddesses nor have I claimed that the Christian God is the God that I am talking about. I have simply given an argument that if the Universe had a beginning, it must have had a cause, and if it had a cause these are the necessary attributes of that cause. Also claiming that something “is not Biblical” is a Red Herring and not relevant to anything that we’re discussing.
- If the Universe has a definite beginning then it is contingent. If the Universe is eternal, then it could be argued that it is necessary. So the claim that “Any good argument for why God is necessary would also work for the Universe” is false. It would only work if the Universe is eternal which we will show that it is not. It is obviously contingent. So the only question that need be asked is contingent on what?
Nature of the Universe
Shawn says that he cannot accept the “very specific claim” that the Universe is contingent because we don’t know what the Universe is like. It doesn’t matter what the properties of the Universe are like. If it were useless to study the Universe as-a-whole without knowing “what the Universe is like” then what you’re saying is that all of the cosmologists who have spent their lives studying the beginning of the Universe have wasted their time. I cannot accept that those who specialize in this area would spend their lives on a futile pursuit.
“Cosmologists believe that time could have come into existence with space during what people call the Big Bang. So there was no time before the Big Bang. Maybe. This is most likely true if the universe is necessary.”
Actually this is most likely if the Universe is contingent. Most cosmologists agree that time and space came into existence at some point. This is how we can reason that the First Cause of the Universe is timeless and spaceless. In other words, eternal and immaterial. You see, we are not presupposing the existence of God but actually using deductive reasoning to conclude the necessary attributes of the cause of the Universe. When we look at these attributes, we see a First Cause that has all of the attributes of what religious people call God.
About the multiverse hypothesis. Alexander Vilenkin, a proponent of the multiverse hypothesis says,
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
And besides, even if our Universe was only part of a bigger multiverse it would not change our argument much. It would then state:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The multiverse began to exist.
- Therefore, the multiverse had a cause.
To say that there was no first cause for all things is to face an infinite regress of events. This is why no matter how many steps you add to the equation, you must face the fact that there was an initial first cause.
Next Shawn says,
This accuses me of the False Dilemma fallacy. I am not creating a false dilemma because I am not saying that “here are the two options, now pick one.”
I am simply stating my position in a debate format. This cannot be claimed to be a false dilemma.
In the next paragraph, he accuses me of the Common Sense fallacy. This is interesting considering that fifty years ago most scientists believed in an eternal Universe. Now that more data has been gathered, they have concluded that all of this time, in this case at least, religious people had it right all along. It seems that the more evidence we gather scientifically, the goal of disproving the existence of God moves farther away. In fact, science gathers more and more data that supports the existence of a being that religious people often call God.
The Special Case
Shawn says next,
“I would argue that the God you believe in would also be contingent if he existed.”
If that is the case, you must then posit what He is contingent on. You see, with this line of argument you run slap into the problem of the infinite regress.
Then he states,
“What if there was no rule of non-contradiction or identity? What if that’s not how reality worked? Then saying that God exists becomes meaningless. This is because in that bizarre reality God existing is not different than God not existing. Thus, God could not exist to create an ordered reality, because at the same time he exists he also doesn’t exist.”
I’m not sure what Shawn is trying to prove in this section. One could “what if” arguments to death but it doesn’t make them any less true. These type of hypotheticals show nothing more than an active imagination. Sounds a lot like special pleading to me but I’ll let the readers decide. He continues this line of thinking in the paragraphs to follow but they’re no more reasonable, logical, or convincing.
I wonder can Shawn give a definitive definition for the word “life?” If so then he is better equipped than all biologists. Every definition that biology tries to settle on ends up getting disproven by something else. When I was in school we were told that a living thing is something that is made up of other living things. But viruses are not made up by other living things and they are considered living. So to say that something has to be materially biological in order to be considered living is to rely on your own definition.
I would say that anything that exhibits intelligence and morality could be considered living. And, even though not a part of this debate, one can easily show that if God exists He must be intelligent (because of the design of the Universe and our biological make-up) and is moral (shown by the moral argument). So it really comes down to semantics or how you define the word “living.”
Then Shawn again appeals to materialism.
“But we know that minds are what brains do. A functioning brain generates the phenomenon that we call mind.”
This places a huge burden of proof on him to show that the mind is nothing more than a reaction to the functioning of the brain.
I studied psychology for two years before changing my major to theology. Psychology deals with two main aspects of a person. It does teach about the functions of the brain and how it works. But it teaches that only to help give insight to the immaterial mind. The mind can only be studied through interaction. Almost all of the biggest break-throughs in psychology have come about by talking with clients and studying their mind completely apart from the brain. Looking at the brain cannot tell you anything about who a person is.
This is known as the Problem of Mind or the Mind Body Problem. There is no doubt that the brain has a profound affect on the body in so many ways. However, there is even less doubt that the mind is something different. Is the mind dependent on the brain. It may appear to be to a hardcore materialist but there are so many things that are very much up for debate on this issue. Is it possible to have a mind apart from a physical body. Well according to the hypothetical line of thinking that Shawn has taken throughout his opening post then I would be well within my rights to claim such a thing.
Either way it doesn’t matter. I am not starting with the concept of God and working backwards. Instead I am saying that because reality is the way it is, we can deduce certain attributes of the one who started it all. And because of the obvious intelligent design of the human body we can deduce that the creator of that body must be intelligent.
Also, earlier in his post Shawn says that “maybe the Universe acts differently than the part of the Universe we can observe. Maybe there is an alternate reality than our reality.” It’s obvious that he does not want to stick by that statement in this section because to admit that there can be an alternate reality in which an intelligent mind can exist apart from a physical body would be to admit the possibility of God. This is an obvious reversal of position. His whole argument against my stance is “we just don’t know.” But he seems content on knowing something that would stand on his side.
Next Shawn says,
“You are stating that life cannot come from non-life. The evidence doesn’t indicate that.”
What!? That’s about all I can say about that. There is no evidence to support anything but. Scientists have done everything they can to prove that they can create life from non-life. The funny thing is that if that happens, it would just further prove my position.
I am not suggesting that life biologically came from God. But He did create life. Therefore, if a scientist were to create life from non-life in a petri dish, it would show how God can create life from nothing. For without the man and the dish the experiment would not have been a success. Now, biologically we have no reason to believe that life can come from non-life with the exception of the beginning of life itself. And even in that case we had a living being that had the ability to do so.
What is the Truth?
“You say God must exist, or else the universe wouldn’t exist. But we don’t know God exists.”
But I’m not saying that God must exist or else the Universe wouldn’t exist. That would be a presupposition. I’m saying that the Universe exists and it is contingent therefore it must be contingent on something. This is a Straw Man. That is, it is a misrepresentation of my position.
Next Shawn states,
“I know that makes sense to you, Tony. I get that this flatters your belief in God. But I think we should always be suspicious of things that agree with us.”
That is why I said in the beginning that it’s a mistake to treat me as any other Christian. I have presupposed nothing. I have followed a line of evidence to where it leads me. This presuppositionalism sounds good to fellow atheists but is not in line with reality. I have not been “proud.” I have not “declared answers.” I have given the arguments and am about to give the evidence.
At the end, Shawn accuses me of making “what if” arguments based on assumptions and guesses. But assumptions, guesses, and what ifs are the very basis of his position. And if he does present any evidence, it would be too late for me to respond in this debate and I’ll be forced to do something that I try my best not to do: to write a rebuttal apart from the debate itself.
Do I have any evidence for my beliefs? Yes I do! So stand by…
Time for the Evidence
You see, there’s no presupposing in our argument. We follow the evidence where it leads and even though scientists are mostly atheists and do not believe in God, the evidence is becoming more persuasive as science makes new discoveries.
Cosmology, over the span of time, has said that the Universe is eternal. However, the evidence in the last fifty years or so has become more compelling that the Universe had a definite beginning. And if it had a beginning, the question must be asked, “how did it begin?” and “what began it?”
(Acronym “S.U.R.G.E.” taken by the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist written by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. Many of the words and sentences were taken verbatim from chapter 3.)
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
This is a philosophical fact. There is no evidence that anything that has ever come into existence without a cause.
In the video above, Dr. William Lane Craig demonstrates my view that the first premise if the Cosmological Argument is self-evident. The atheists will say, of course, that maybe Universes act different than every other object that we can observe in the Universe. But there is no reason to believe that to be true and the burden of proof would be on them to show that that is the case. And without using outlandish hypotheticals absent of any evidence.
What’s interesting about this video is the second exchange. Notice that those who advocate for science over religion will abandon science all together when science seems to confirm religion. This is, in fact, Shawn’s entire basis against my proposition.
2. The Universe began to exist.
I’m going to go through the evidence but if you’d like to you may watch the video for a slightly more in-depth presentation as I will be as brief as possible.
S- The Second Law of Thermodynamics
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states, among other things, that the Universe is running out of usable energy. Every minute that passes, the Universe has less and less energy that can be used to sustain itself. This leads scientists to conclude that eventually all of the energy will be used up and the Universe will die.
With this constant diminishing of energy, scientists can deduce that at some point in the past the Universe had a maximum amount of energy and that point would necessarily constitute a definite beginning.
U- The Universe is Expanding
Good scientific theories are able to predict that which has not been observed. This will obviously fly in the face of the line of thinking that Shawn wants us to adopt that “we just don’t know.”
Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity predicted an expanding Universe. A prediction that Einstein himself did not like because he believed that the Universe was eternal. However, Edwin Hubble later confirmed that the Universe is expanding through observation about ten years later. If the Universe is, in fact, in a constant state of expansion then it follows that it began from a single point. What scientists call a singularity.
R- Radiation from the Big Bang
In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson accidentally discovered the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang. A discovery made by accident and eventually won them both Nobel Prizes. This radiation had been predicted as early as 1948 but for some reason no one ever attempted to find it. Obviously the prediction that if the Big Bang were true it would have left a cosmic background radiation and the discovery of that radiation almost 20 years later gives good evidence that the Big Bang is true and, therefore, that the Universe did have a definite beginning.
G- Great Galaxy Seeds
If the Big Bang really did occur, then scientists believed that we should see slight variations in temperature of the cosmic background radiation. The temperature ripples enabled matter to congregate by gravitational attraction into galaxies. When found in 1992, the scientific community was stunned at their precision. The ripples show that the explosion and expansion of the Universe was precisely tweaked to cause just enough matter to congregate to allow galaxies to form, but not enough to allow the Universe to collapse on itself.
E- Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity
Einstein’s theory was the “beginning of the end” for thinking that the Universe is eternal. And he did everything he could to keep it from showing that (namely he divided by 0). The theory itself, which has been verified to five decimal places, demands an absolute beginning for space, time, and matter. It shows that space, time, and matter are interdependent-that is, you can’t have one without the others. As well as prove my second premise, this also shows that if the Universe had a cause (which I think we’ve proved that it did) this cause would have to be spaceless and timeless. In other words, the First Cause would necessarily be immaterial and eternal.
Origin of Life
This has been a long post and I have had to go to great lengths to show the incoherency of Shawn’s opening post. Therefore, I have not gone in as much detail as I would like in presenting my evidence. However, I believe that the evidence for the Cosmological Argument is well in place and I will keep the evidence for the origin of life short as I am still developing it in my mind.
Quite simply, with the amount of information that is found in a single strand of DNA, it must have been designed. There is tons more evidence for this particular argument but I am still trying to form this argument.
In conclusion, there is plenty of evidence that supports the existence of God and the fact that He is a special case. That is, that the Creator of the Universe would have attributes that far exceed that of any entity within the confines of the Universe. As I said before, if Shawn introduces any new arguments that I would not be able to respond to, I will write an unofficial rebuttal that will not be apart of this debate.
So, Shawn’s claim,” That we should not accept his(my) argument because for it to be true we need to know facts that we don’t currently know.” Has clearly been proven false. You may not agree with my arguments or my evidence but it cannot be said that I am asking you to accept things based on “facts that we don’t currently know.”
I thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. Until next time… keep thinking.
If you’re interested in learning more about the evidence for the Christian faith I would like to recommend these two books. These men were both atheists and used their vocations (Journalist and Cold Case Detective) to follow the evidence where it lead; to Jesus Christ!