What Proof Is There For Atheism?

The common argument that atheism is simply “the lack of a belief in God,” still requires a great deal of clarification before it can be considered anything other than shifty rhetoric and polarizing disregard. Many claim to be atheist because the apparent lack of evidence corroborating the existence of an intelligent designer. However, If I were to affirm the existence of God by simply drawing attention to the inability of natural laws and behaviors to account for the origins of space, time, matter, and life, then my atheist counterpart would unquestionably be quick to point out the disparity between my observation and my conclusion.

Atheism has huge scientific implications, a natural and unguided universe is an astounding and remarkable claim that defies the most astronomical probabilities. The key to formulate a compelling case is corroborating ones own argument with as much evidence as possible, then comparing it with competing interpretations to assess the most conclusive and comprehensive argument. Yet what we typically encounter are atheist dismissing the creationist side in a attempt to establish their positions predominance by default. The irony is that this type of “weak” atheism, as it is commonly referred to, is ubiquitous even among the most militant atheist. It seems that rather than engaging in the debate most atheist have cleverly postured themselves on the outskirts of the discussion, often more content with mocking and ridiculing their opponents ideas as puerile than providing compelling arguments of their own.

Because atheism directly infers the universe and everything in it came about by purely natural processes, an educated atheist must offer compelling evidence for said universe, that is if they wish to delineate an objective and educated framework for their world-view. While we understand the kind of events that must of taken place in order for the universe to exist, the fact that we don’t know precisely how it all came about doesn’t directly imply a designer. However, at this point in time we can rest assured that atheism is far from the default position. Any argument that simply asserts the “lack of belief in God” while refusing to provide any alternative evidence for a natural and unguided universe should not be valued for anything other than ignorance. The attempt to depict a designer as inherently puerile and superfluous might be enough for that PBS special, but it’s not going to withstand its critics scrutiny.

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16 thoughts on “What Proof Is There For Atheism?

  1. Does not believing in Mithra have huge scientific implications?
    No matter the immensity of possibilities, if it exists the probability is 1 (100%).
    Atheists I know do not dismiss creationism to establish the conclusion they have reached, they dismiss it because it is without credible evidence and provides no actual answers.
    You appear to want to engage in debate. If that is so, please explain your notion of a god, and why you believe such a god can exist, then why you believe your specific god exists. I want to hear your compelling and credible argument for why creationism is true. You appear already to believe in the god of the gaps theory but I’d much prefer that you clearly state what you believe and why. Then we can talk about what might or might not be true. Show me the credible evidence that you have and why other believers of other faiths should believe you. Your work is not an easy path because not only do you have to show that a god exists but that this only possible god is the god that you believe in. It’s not simply a matter of proving an atheist wrong but proving all other religions wrong. If you want to go down this path I’m listening.

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    • Hello there, I appreciate you willingness to engage in the discussion.

      I am more than happy to answer all your questions, though I’m afraid it’s seems we are already getting a little ahead of ourselves, but no worry, we can take it step by step.

      First I would like to clarify that you are actually touching on two completely separate topics here. On one hand we have a scientific argument for Gods existence, this argument is the focus of the post above; and on the other hand we have a historical and theological argument for the Christian faith, which can be more specifically rooted in the evidence for the life and resurrection of Christ, which is extremely compelling.

      With regards to the scientific argument for Gods existence and why I believe the evidence strongly favors creationism rather than staunch naturalism ultimately has nothing to do with gaps, at least not in the way that you would imagine. Indeed when we attempt to explain the emergence of matter, space, time and life through purely natural processes we reach these dead ends that you would refer to as “gaps”, but these gaps in naturalism don’t mean that we don’t understand the nature of the events that must have transpired in the beginning stages of our universe, or in the beginning stages of life.

      In reality my argument for God doesn’t have to do with what we don’t know about the emergence of the universe, but rather it has to do with what we do know. For example, physicist understand that the big-bang was caused by what we would call quantum fluctuations. The reality is that physicist unanimously conclude that the big-bang was the beginning of energy, space, time and matter. This tells us a great deal about the type of causation that triggered these fluctuations.

      1. It was not physical
      2. It created the physical from nothing
      3. it predates the universe and natural laws

      This according to physicist Gerald Schroeder perfectly depicts the biblical definition of God. Perhaps this is the reason why Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe back in the 30’s was met by some scientist with less enthusiasm than others. Another good example of something which we know about the universe that leads us to believe naturalism is incapable of adequately explaining our existence has to do with the first law of thermodynamics, known as the law of the conservation of energy. This law says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, thus we see that in of it self the law can not account for its own existence. We know that prior to the big-bang energy did not exist, yet the first law tells us that energy can not be created, thus we are to understand that the natural laws can not be the final authority for the gauging the reality of any alleged phenomena.

      While the cosmological argument and Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe offers the most compelling evidence for a transcendental causation, we can also focus our attention to behaviors of biology and the laws of chemistry. In the late 60’s one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorist in the world converted to creationism and Christianity after coming to what he referred to as an intellectual road-block. He said one of the greatest problems that scientist neglect is the origins of genetic information itself. For example, we know that in order for amino acids to assemble into proteins they have to have the information coded in the DNA. After an extensive career in direct contact with the empirical data Dr. Kenyon concluded that it was impossible for life to self-organize without a pre-exisitng set of genetic instructions. Again for Dr. Kenyon it wasn’t an argument from ignorance, rather it was an argument from the facts, being one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorist in the world, it would be a far cry to call his scientific analysis a “god of the gaps” argument. Because we understand the behaviors, mechanics and natural laws the govern the universe, we are thus capable of making educated decisions based on facts.

      Furthermore, “gaps” in naturalism is a key prediction of the God hypothesis. Creationism predicts that naturalism will be unable to account for the emergence of energy, matter and life, because they were supernatural events fed in by a designer that is not physical but can create the physical from nothing. And indeed this appears to be precisely what scientist are observing. I know we can never scientifically ascertain the existence or non-existence of a designer per se, but again the whole point of the debate is corroborating as much evidence as possible to see which side the scale will tip, from there we can make an educated decision. My challenge to you and other atheist is to provide what you feel is compelling evidence for a natural and unguided universe. What scientific discoveries have led you to conclude that the universe could have arisen by purely natural processes?

      Perhaps we should focus on this topic first before we try and tackle the argument for the historical evidence of the Christian faith and why I believe the God we find in science is also the God of the Bible.

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  2. Hi Nathanael – ‘Atheism,’ as you noted, is a fairly broad term, so if you don’t mind, I will break your question into a couple of parts:

    I’ll start with a concession. What evidence do I have that there is absolutely no god whatsoever? None. I cannot prove that, and I would never be able to prove that. Depending on the definition of ‘god,’ it’s entirely conceivable that one does exist. The more vague and abstract the notion is (such as the concept of some underlying ‘force’ that ‘governs’ the universe) then the more likely it is.

    However, once we get into more specific concepts of gods, it becomes a lot easier to weed out the ones that are impossible. For this reason, I would actually say that the more evidence that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist than there is to say Zeus doesn’t exist. I can’t ‘prove’ that there is no one hurling lightning bolts, but all the specific (and sometimes contradictory) attributes of Yahweh start to diminish the credibility of his existence.

    Finally, I have to take issue with the statement that a natural universe “defies the most astronomical probabilities.” Any time you’re dealing with statistical probability, you have to have a sufficient sample size. If we studied 10,000,000 universes and found that none of them were ‘naturally’ formed, the claim would be valid. However, we only have access to the one known universe. A sample size of 1 is essentially useless in determining the probabilities regarding its formation.

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    • Hello Jon, thanks for your feedback.

      In regard to your concession may I ask if you thus consider yourself an agnostic?

      With respect to your second point I am interested in hearing more what you have to say as far as why you believe the God of the Bible doesn’t exists. Is it the apparent dichotomy between the prevalence of violence and suffering and claim that God is loving and kind?

      As far as estimating probabilities of any known phenomena, I’m not sure if I follow your logic here. We can figure the odds of chemical and biological life self-organizing fairly easily these days. The idea that a multiverse would somehow dispel the mystery of creation is a common argument, but if we were to find more planets with life I don’t think this would make the probabilities any more or less. To illustrate my point say for example you have a sniper trying to make an impossible shot two miles out, now irregardless if the sniper makes the shot one, two or three times, the fact remains that it’s an incredibly tough shot to make. The fact that he hits the target several times does not change the probabilities of someone hitting the shot to begin with. If the sniper did hit the target repeatedly it would be silly for someone to say, “I guess it wasn’t a very difficult shot after all.” rather every time he hits it it’s an astounding accomplishment in its own right.

      Also one last point is that the probabilities I was actually referring to were also in regards to the eruption of all space, matter, and time in the big-bang, this phenomena includes the possibility of every single planet and every single galaxy to be able to form, thus the probabilities are not something that is isolated to the emergence of biological and chemical life on our planet, but rather the odds of the initial eruption that led to creation of all matter. The probability of planets and galaxies being able to form in the first place is astronomical. The facts about Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe tells us that big-bang defies natural laws and thus it illustrates the type of anomaly that must have occurred, one which far surpasses any rudimentary explanations.

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      • I consider myself an atheist because I do not believe there is a god. Technically, though I would also be an agnostic because I do not know that there is no god. In this vein, however, I would contend that even Christians are agnostic since they also do not know. Many would certainly disagree with that assessment, but I’m not sure that you can claim knowledge of something that, by definition, is so far outside of the realm of human understanding.

        Yes, the problem of evil is one of my issues, but I also see substantial conflict between the Bible and history and the various science in addition to numerous internal contradictions in the Biblical texts. I’m sure this could be a hundred conversations in itself 🙂

        I follow your sniper example, but I’m not sure it’s applicable. The probability of the shot in general may be very low. The probability of me making that shot, however, would be even lower. The odds of a well trained, experienced sniper making it would be higher. Yes, this would be a difficult shot, but for someone with the training and the experience, it would no be inconceivable in the least.

        Tying this into the formation of the universe through the big bang, I still don’t see how we can assess the probability of it happening naturally. We have no understanding of what happened ‘before’ t=0 (The concept of ‘before’ itself is a mystery since time was a product of this as well.) If we don’t know the conditions, can we accurately say that the statistical probability is negligible?

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    • The logic of your assessment is perfectly sound, according to strict definitions everyone is an agnostic because we do not know matter-of-factly per se. Of course the fact that something has not been directly observed does not directly imply that we can not be overwhelmingly convinced by the evidence. We see this all the time in court cases, prosecutors compile enough circumstantial evidence in order to make an air-tight case. In this respect one can claim to be a theist or an atheist. This leads me back to my initial point in my post about corroborating ones argument with as much evidence as possible. My desire was to understand what scientific discoveries have led atheist to believe that staunch naturalism seems more plausible than ID. I’m curious to know whether atheist are more convinced by objective facts for a natural and unguided universe or if they just generally find the concept of a designer as inherently puerile.

      You’re right, that would be a very long conversation, perhaps I will dedicate one of my next post to the case for Christianity where we can discuss it further 😉

      I think perhaps with the sniper analogy you read into the assisting details more than I anticipated. The idea was, when holding all else constant, one improbability happening several times does not make it probable, when this happens I think it’s more appropriate to refer to it as an anomaly.

      With regards to the big-bang and what we know about prior conditions, physicist do unanimously conclude that it was the beginning of space, time, matter and energy. Thus we know that whatever caused the effects of those initial quantum fluctuations had to be consistent with the following:

      1. it was not physical
      2. it created the physical from nothing
      3. it predates the universe and it’s natural laws

      So we actually can deduce and recreate a pretty accurate idea of the prior causes and conditions that established our universe. This idea that matter emerged from free space contradicts what we know about natural laws. For example, the first law of thermodynamics says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, yet physicist unanimously concur that energy did not exists prior to the big bang, this anomaly can be taken at face value. Again it’s about corroborating as much evidence as possible to make an air-tight case, and in certain instances like this we can see that a supernatural explanation seems to fit the shoe more so than strict naturalism, can we know for sure? no, but I think the evidence begins to overwhelmingly beg for the transcendental.

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      • I agree about being overwhelmingly convinced, and that is more or less why I identify as atheist and not agnostic. I feel I have sufficient reason to reject the idea of Yahweh, just as I would Allah, just as I would any other god that has been posited. Once we get down to the vague notions of deistic gods and physical forces, I’m not sure the question really matters enough. For me anyway.

        I’m not sure I agree that physicists are unanimous that the universe is the absolute beginning of time, space, matter, and energy. Certainly it was the beginning of what we know as the universe, but once again, we’re not sure what was there ‘before.’ Many physicists have proposed various ideas of how a universe could indeed arise from nothing. Admittedly, there are points on which many of these are contested, and of course all of them are little more than hypotheses. However, I would think that the fact that we can even come up with numerous, naturalistic options that are at least plausible (regardless of how possible they seem) indicates that it would be quite hasty to presume the need for a god. If at this point in scientific advancement, every physicist were still scratching his head saying, ‘I got nothin!’ I could see perhaps stepping beyond the natural.

        Again though, I’m not sure what we can deduce about the beginning of the universe. If our universe arose through some form of multiverse, we don’t have the problem of being created from nothing. However, even that is not necessarily a problem when we take into account the balance of energy and matter in the universe. Energy and matter can, in fact, be created–from each other. What cannot change is the ratio.

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    • Interesting, I’m curious apart from historical and theological contentions against specific deities like Yahweh and Allah, what specific scientific discoveries would you say compel you to atheism? You mentioned how physicist are still proposing naturalistic theories on how ‘something’ could have arisen from ‘nothing’, what would you say are one or two specific theories that you have found to be credible explanations as to how the universe could have arisen? I ask this because I suppose I’m skeptical that perhaps some physicist will never cease to postulate naturalistic theories, so the fact that there are some circulating doesn’t necessarily mean they should be taken seriously. Because It seems that most scientist define science to be inherently atheistic, I speculate that some physicist will continue to postulate these naturalistic explanations of out necessity.

      You yourself mentioned how we shouldn’t be hasty to presume the need for a god, is it fair to assume that you presuppose atheism by default? again I only ask this because I’m genuinely interested to know the methodology of atheist thinkers.

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      • I think that each scientific discovery that is made is a small step away from the need for a god. Historically, religions were used as a means of explaining the unexplainable. Whether it was lightning, eclipses, epilepsy, harvests, or just life and death, religion was there to provide answers. This continues today as we get more and more insight into evolution, cosmology, etc. Humans have a hard time with the words, “I don’t know.” so in many ways, I think religion has been a good tool to fulfill that need to have answers. This doesn’t mean there is no god–many people still see God as the personal force behind the sciences–but to me it seems like there is less and less of a need for God in the equation. I realize this oversimplifies religions’ purpose, but I definitely think it is one aspect.

        As for specific scientific theories, I thought Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe From Nothing was fascinating. As a caveat, I’m certainly not a physicist, and I do well to keep up with even a portion of what he says. However, some of his points are that Einstein’s work shows that space and time are relative, not static and linear. It’s hard for our minds to imagine that fully, but it does open up possibilities as we backtrack to the ‘beginning.’ Likewise, quantum uncertainty has shown that virtual particle pairs can and do essentially pop in and out of existence (a small-scale version of “something from nothing”). Then looking at the fact that the universe’s net energy is 0, this presents an interesting possibility that everything in the universe is actually mathematically equivalent to ‘nothing.’

        I don’t know that scientists see science as inherently atheistic. Yes, there are many who are atheists and directly tie in their atheism to their studies. However, there are also a number of scientists who are devoutly religious. It is usually said that science doesn’t make it impossible to believe in God; it just makes is possible not to believe in God.

        I suppose that to an extent I do presuppose atheism as a default position. If we are looking for answers (to any question), it seems like it would be best to start with as close to a blank slate as possible–no assumptions that could be related to causality. If we’re starting at zero, this means there’s no god that has been put into the equation yet.
        However, I would like to think I’m not strictly opposed to God being put into the equation and tested. The problem, of course, is that science by definition only deals with the natural, so I’m not sure what hard evidence it could evaluate for the supernatural. I would honestly love to see someone come up with science’s supernatural counterpart. If it exists, that opens up a huge realm of discovery!

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    • I tend to agree with your point that, when looking for answers we should seek purely naturalistic causes before touting that God did it. In this aspect I think religion as a whole is continuing to evolve from it’s more primitive roots of mysticism. Though I think the underlining agenda of religion has always been an attempt to make sense of spiritual experiences that we encounter both externally and internally. I think this can mainly be attributed to the introspective reality of consciousness. And in the light of this consciousness I conversely presuppose God as the default position, that is the crux of my position ultimately stems from the intangibles that I would refer to as logic, reason and spirituality. I find Descartes’ ontological argument that a higher power can be inferred a priori as deduction of pure reason to be a valid argument, at least from my own experiences.

      However, you’re right that while science may not be inherently atheistic, it is inherently naturalistic. The likes of Louis Aggasiz and Issac Newton are great examples of Christian scientist who rigorously applied strict naturalism to their methodology. Believing that they could do science and make sense of the world through mathematical properties because the universe was in fact designed by a rational intellect. I find one of the common misplacement’s of reason is that because we have found a mechanical explanation for how things work that we no longer concern ourselves with the explanation of agency. Prior to the information revolution regarding the advent of modern science, I don’t think Christians or other religious groups were necessarily assuming that the universe operated off hopes and prayers, the point being that I’m not sure if mechanical explanations inherently detract from the God-hypothesis. In many aspects I still fail to see how scientific discoveries should convince us that we are making small steps away from God, especially when the most pertinent question of life still appear to be on the table. In many cases scientific discoveries would even seem to tip in favor of the transcendental if one were starting from a neutral perspective.

      It seems to me from talking to atheist such as yourself and from contemplating my own faith in God, that ultimately theism or atheism are decided prior or independent to scientific inquiry by means of some experiential constructs or intuitive extrapolations. We then in turn interpret the scientific evidence in respect to our prior intellectual commitments.Though I’m sure there are cases where people are swayed or influenced one way or the other by the scientific evidence, such as Anthony Flew or Dean Kenyon, as I’m sure there are some renown theist who have jumped ship as well. Ultimately though I presume that these world-views go much deeper than strict scientific inquiry.

      I like what you have to say about energy and quantum mechanics in general, this is easily one of the most fascinating subjects in all of science. We basically understand that matter is in fact energy that has been condensed and measured out. I found this really neat video that I just recently posted about how electrons actually exist in a wave/energy frequency prior to observation or measurement. https://howdoyouknowme.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/quantum-mechanics-debunks-materialism/ It opens up for some pretty interesting debates regarding the immateriality of reality and the apparent “physical” universe.

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  3. So, what did God do? Since we are having this discussion in terms of analogy, let me illustrate my question with an analogy: You are standing in a room. Before you is a line of dominoes in the process of toppling over, one striking the next and causing its neighbor to fall. The line leads back to a hole in the wall. You can see the first domino on your side of the wall, but beyond that, only darkness.
    What can you say about the initiating cause, simply by observing the chain of falling dominoes before you? That it was something ‘non-domino’?
    That is not entirely accurate though is it? You infer that by its participating in the chain, the initiator shared some domino properties (it partook of the laws of motion, it was at the beginning of the chain of dominos, etc.) and has some domino-dependent identity (At the very least, it is not identical with all the conventions by which we recognize dominoes).

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    • Hello there, good to have you back.

      That’s an interesting analogy. I think what’s interesting about the big-bang is that physicist generally conclude that prior to it nothing physical existed. Thus it would be like trying to prove that the dominoes were consistent throughout the entire process when the hole in the wall is to small to fit any dominoes inside it. It was Hawking who used Einsteins field equations to conclude that if we back extrapolate to the beginning of time, the curvature of space-time would become infinitely tight in order that mater would be non-existent. While of course he and other physicist have spent a great deal of time postulating sophisticated theories on different explanations, it’s by no small stretch of the imagination a bit of a conundrum. It’s like trying to explain how a chain reaction of dominoes can still be a valid theory when the hole in the wall is to small to fit any dominoes, at this point is it safe to assume that dominoes can’t be the initial causation? or do we continue to postulate theories about quantum-dominoes?

      As far as the God being the causation, I concede that this is not a naturalistic explanation. Thus it still basically creates an open ended system in which nothing can be definitively concluded other than God did it. But if this is where the evidence points to then I don’t think we should dismiss it on the grounds that it doesn’t fit into the material paradigm of science.

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      • You are extending the analogy. My point is, you can’t extend the analogy. Our domino knowledge ends with the line of dominoes. Beyond the wall is speculation, and any theories – physical, metaphysical, theological – about what goes on beyond the wall, relating to the dominoes, remain domino-based, because that’s what we have to go on. We can assert whatever we please, but asserted conditions remain such.

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    • Interesting, although I don’t think your original analogy is perfectly congruent with the actual facts, the reality is that physicist understand a great deal, not necessarily about what is beyond the wall per se, but what isn’t beyond the wall. Sure we can’t be 100% sure of what exactly caused the eruption of the big-bang, but we know quite enough to make an educated decision with regards to the nature of the kind of event that must have taken place, at this point we are slightly beyond pure speculations and more in the realm of an educated hypothesis. I find that the facts parallel enough with the God-hypothesis that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” for me to be reasonably convinced. Again no one is claiming that we have God in a test-tube where he can be 100% ascertained, but the evidence does corroborate the God-hypothesis enough for someone like myself to be reasonably convinced. I think if we are honest with the facts and willing to go wherever the evidence leads, we should be willing to acknowledge that when we put the theory of naturalism and theory of ID side-by-side, the evidence appears to favor ID.

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      • We are kind of talking past each other at this point, but…the analogy has nothing to with the physics itself, but about the relationship between epistemology and ontology.
        If you inquire within epistemology and within a specific epistemology, you will get the results of its rules and methods. Extrapolations from the results merely beg the question (regarding the relationship between epistemology and ontology).
        Within science, those will be reports of phenomena consistently shared, at minimum. You can see how design does not fit that bill, inherently. One man’s design is another’s pile of rocks, or algal accretion. But now we are way off-subject…

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  4. There really is only one question that needs answering:
    You claim your god, Jesus of Nazareth, is the creator of the universe.
    I do not believe this. Thus I regard myself as an atheist.
    If you wish to continue to assert this then please, demonstrate it.

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