Quick Thought – Posing A Challenge To Atheist

On one hand atheist such as Richard Dawkins agree that “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” On the other hand atheist reject ID on the premise that there is insufficient evidence. Yet when you press the naturalist on the question of origins they concede the fact that even the most advanced evolutionary biologist in the world have no clue how life could have arisen by natural processes.

It’s interesting how so many prominent atheist thinkers agree that life appears designed, yet they all insist a designer is superfluous even though they have no clue how life could have arisen by natural processes. Are atheist guilty of blindly filling in the gaps with a natural unguided process? Is there an apparent prejudice within the scientific community that precludes God as a possibility? If life appears designed and there is no evidence to suggest it came about naturally, isn’t it logical to infer a designer?

The fact that naturalism is incapable of explaining our origins follows the basic predictions from the God-hypothesis. Sure atheist can argue that they’re “still working on it,” but couldn’t this argument be perpetuated indefinitely? At what point does the absence of evidence become the evidence of absence? How can God be considered superfluous when we have no substantiated alternative explanation, and all the while life appears to be purposefully designed? We are far beyond basic God of the gaps here; advances in molecular biology and the current data about the origins of the cosmos have some remarkable design engineering implications.

Unless there is evidence that can adequately explain away the appearance of design, I think it’s safe to assume that Intelligent Design is in inference to the best explanation.

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11 thoughts on “Quick Thought – Posing A Challenge To Atheist

  1. Yeah, abiogenesis is kind of like string theory – how are you going to prove it? Yet the problems with design hypotheses are much worse. There is no testable prediction which arises from a design hypothesis – in fact, no prediction whatsoever – because the hypothesis itself relies on a retrospective attribution of purpose. Evolutionary theory has made predictions – about what things looked like in the past, and how life today should look and respond to environmental changes. Enough of those predictions have panned out that it makes sense to go with evolutionary theory, from an intrumentalist point of view at the very least. (see Blip!)

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    • Yeah I agree to the extent that we can never scientifically ascertain whether atheism or theism are 100% factual, the existence or non-existence of a creator falls outside the strict purview of naturalism. I think the empirical data can often have some pretty remarkable implications though. But yeah it’s all deductive reasoning, basically trying to see which shoe best fits the foot print i.e. design or natural and unguided. I think it’s important to remember that Darwinian evolution says nothing in it’s premise nor in its conclusion about the existence of God, only abiogenesis could really speak to that. As well the big-bang might have something to add, what with the origins of matter and space-time.

      Do you think that the sudden emergence of ‘kinds’ already in advanced anatomical states would qualify as a valid prediction for the design hypothesis?

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      • It would tell us that we were mistaken about the mechanisms of genetic expression and heredity. But even in the most dramatic case you could imagine – say a baby born with a USB port – you still face the problem of deriving intent from function. It is a conundrum analogous to Hume’s is/ought problem.
        It is tempting to skip over the details and simply say, “Well, there must be some intent, look at how specific the function is.” But that leaves a huge excluded middle, the more so when you are seeing something for which you have no mechanistic explanation. And if there is one take-away from the scientific project, it is that you can’t exclude the middle; it will come back to bite you.

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    • I think your absolutely right that we can never derive intent from function. Just because something is complex doesn’t mean that there is some inherent purpose behind it. You are correct indeed sir. It is never the less still a prediction that follows suit with the design hypothesis, perhaps only circumstantial in nature. I also agree that we should never just exclude the attempt of providing a mechanical explanation for any given phenomena.

      Speaking in regards to OOL do you think there is a point when absence of evidence becomes the evidence of absence? I mean scientist have all but conceded any real hope in trying to figure out how particles could have self-organized themselves with respects to even the simplest strand of life, and it’s not for a lack of trying. It seems that this gap in origins, or rather this lack of a mechanism that explains our origins isn’t based on what we don’t know but rather what we do know about the cell. Based on what we do know about even the simplest cell we can conclude that amino acids can not organize themselves in a meaningful way (proteins) without a preexisting set of genetic instructions. Do you think there is ever a possibility that the evidence could lead us to believe that no naturalistic mechanism exist for a certain phenomena? or would you define yourself more as a strict reductionist?

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      • There are proposed mechanisms for abiogenesis, and they are testable in principle. The practical barriers are prohibitive, however.
        Teleological theories are not testable in principle. To take your example, we could just as easily conclude that hydrogen and its stellar descendants cannot organize themselves in a meaningful way re: the complex ecology of stars, solar systems and galaxies, without a preexisting set of genetic instructions, i.e. the laws of relativity and quantum mechanics. But then you are debating the priority of essence to existence, and you are right off into philosophy. Astrophysics shrugs and goes on its merry way without you, and you must go on without it.
        All such teleological proposals are basically philosophical proposals – theories about the nature of our phenomeology rather than its nuts and bolts – for reasons upon which we seem to agree. That’s OK. But it really is a separate argument, which won’t be settled, or even advanced, through scientific means.

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    • Thanks for weighing in on this topic, I like the feedback you give and I hope you stick around for future discussions 🙂

      One final thought that I have is I’m not sure if the theory of design is necessarily teleological. I’m not necessarily saying we can find some sort of purpose behind creation, I’m merely suggesting that creation appears designed because of what we know about the fine-tuning of chemistry and physics. Such that we know proteins can’t assemble unless they have the information codded in the DNA, which begs the question where did the information in the DNA (RNA) come from? It’s just basic anomalies like this that cause me to see evidence for design. The purpose behind that design is something that I would never attempt to try and answer through science though.

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  2. When you say the sudden emergence of kinds, do you mean to point to the Cambrian period or something else? The Cambrian fossil record is difficult to maneuver through, but it is utterly amazing in scope. However, the phyla represented in the organisms we know of today do not have kinds which relate directly to modern phylogenetic branches.

    I really enjoyed your thought process. I agree that atheists have a difficult time admitting that evolutionary biology loses grasp the closer you get to OOL; but, other experts, such as biochemists and physicists are much more comfortable speaking about the small-scale systems that populate the era of OOL. I still think you are using knowledge gaps to produce doubt. How do we find fingerprints of something that we do not have the capability of comprehending? We see the universe and we see physical actions taking place. We see a supposedly closed system in which energy cannot be created or destroyed. If Thermodynamics holds, then fingerprints would work directly against this, unless we believe God is in the universe and part of the physical, which we know is less than likely.

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    • Hey thanks for the comment, I really appreciate your feedback.

      Yeah I was directly implying the Cambrian and the bulk of phyla that appear relatively abruptly, all things considered. According to Darwin the strata beneath the Cambrian should have many ancestral forms, however we know that such forms have yet to be found. Essentially we have the largest bulk of phyla appearing at one of the earliest strata. We also have distinct phyla that appear with the compound eye already in tact. Meaning that the eye had to evolve on multiple different occasion in completely isolated events. In contrast to the design theory we have descent with modification, DWM assumes gradual evolutionary change, meaning that the lowest strata should contain the least of the phyla, yet it’s quite the opposite. It’s like Darwins tree upside down almost, where the number of phyla actually decease the higher we go in the geological time periods. While creatures such as the starfish have been found since the earliest strata, your absolutely right that the general consensus is that the fossil record is very discontinuous.

      Your also right that physicist and biochemist are not shy to postulate theories with regards to OOL. I have heard some pretty interesting ones. The quantum field theory or the crystal hypothesis, none of them really offering much more than the next, I personally think they come a little short to the design theory when it comes to explanatory power. I would agree that I find gaps to be sort of a tell tale sign that kind of points to design, only because gaps in origins is something that the design theory implicitly predicts. If a designer created everything from scratch then we could expect this almost supernatural/transcendent cause that would far exceed our capacity to comprehend or recreate it in the lab. So yea I think the gap in origins points to design. The idea of design also seems seems to be congruent with these sort of inexplicable natural laws and fundamental constants that govern our universe, like the law of the conservation of energy that you mentioned. Such laws are incapable of explaining their own origins, I suppose to someone such as myself who is looking for evidence of design, this is something that I would be quick to point out. So while I do think we have the capability to pick up on fingerprints in existing life – e.g. nano technology in the cell – when it comes to origins it’s more the fact that the footprints of naturalism seem to vanish right before our eyes.

      Sorry for the long response, I can get a little carried away with some of this stuff.

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  3. Yes it is quite interesting that the so called science driven atheists cling so hard to only believing in things that have evidence for their existence yet cannot come up with a single piece on the origins of life. “Absence of evidence means evidence of absence, ” Inwould say is very accurate.

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    • Yeah it really is quite interesting, it seems for most people they are only interested in preserving their worldview rather than allowing themselves to go wherever the evidence leads them. We seen the same thing with Hubbles discovery of the expanding universe, it had huge theistic implications and drove scientist and physicist nuts, even Einstein was unwilling to accept it at first because it’s implications were so huge. It’s amazing what we are learning about life and how purposefully designed it all appears . i can only imagine in ten or twenty years from now 🙂

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      • It really is amazing like you say all that we are learning. And it seems too that this denial of reality is something man has always done so I guess we are stuck with it! 😉

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