Riddles for atheists


When one begins to probe deeper into the materialist/naturalist worldview (which serves as the foundation for atheism, and is defined in my essay titled God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism), one quickly realizes that it is a worldview built upon a foundation of “just so” and “it just is” leaps-of-faith.  Below are just a few of the questions that those adhering to the materialist / naturalist worldview can only answer in such a manner.  The inadequacy of the materialist/naturalist worldview for providing answers to these questions should give the reader an understanding of why a conscious and intelligent source for the universe (read: God) provides a far better explanation.

1) What are life, consciousness, and conceptual thought?  How could they spring forth from undifferentiated matter or, if you prefer, an energy field?  Are these properties “emergent,” as some atheists suggest?  OK, fine…. but “emergence” is a description of rather than an explanation for the appearance of such phenomena as life, consciousness, and conceptual thought.  Please provide an explanation for the emergence of these properties.

2) Why is the universe comprehensible?  Albert Einstein wrote: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery.  Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different.  Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori.  That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

So, with reference to Einstein’s above quotation, the following riddle for atheists emerges:  If the world as we know it is simply the result of random interaction of mindless matter, how did the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” come to pass such that conscious minds (that are able to comprehend) emerged?  What is the source of this ordering?  Was it the laws of physics?  The laws of chemistry?  OK, fine…please reference riddle #5.

3) How did reality come to be structured such that there are fundamental laws of nature and a hierarchy of intelligence in the natural world?  Even if natural selection is cited as the mechanism for this state of affairs, our question remains unanswered since the mechanism can only work within a structure.  How did this structure originate?  Why is reality structured so that random mutation and natural selection, for example, can occur?  Regarding this question, Alister McGrath, who was awarded a doctorate from Oxford University for his research in molecular biophysics, writes in Surprised by Meaning:

…This point is consistently overlooked in many accounts of evolution, which seem to treat physics and chemistry as essentially irrelevant background information to a discussion of evolution. Yet before life can begin, let alone evolve, this biological process requires the availability of a stable planet, irradiated by an energy source capable of chemical conversion and storage, and the existence of a diverse array of core chemical elements with certain fundamental properties. Biology has become so used to the existence and aggregation of highly organized attributes that they are seen primarily as core assumptions of evolutionary theory, rather than something that requires explanation in its own right. There is an implicit assumption that life would adapt to whatever hand of physical and chemical cards were dealt it. Yet this is untested and intrinsically questionable. The emergence of life cannot be studied in isolation from the environment that creates the conditions and provides the resources that make this possible.

In Why God? Why Not Just Plain Luck?, I point out how chance can only work upon an underlying structure.  For example, without the underlying structure of a lottery and a monetary system, the probability that someone will win the lottery is exactly zero.  In other words, for one to win the lottery, there must first be a lottery, and there must first be such a thing as money to win.

4) Physicist Paul Davies has said that the phenomenon of the genetic code mediating information between the two languages of life, proteins and nucleic acids presents a mystery: How can mindless processes set up codes and languages?  Please read my essays titled Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God  andHow Atheism Relies on Special Pleading for more in-depth exploration.

5) How can an inanimate thing be made to follow a law? (Such as the laws of physics, chemistry, or thermodynamics).  How can such a structure of laws (or “regularities” if you prefer) that govern the universe exist in a truly random world?  Please note that this is a question that science can never answer because it is not a scientific question.  Rather, it is an ontological question.

In the theistic model, it is immediately obvious why matter follows natural laws: The same mind that creates matter (God’s mind) also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it: “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.” [italics added]

Or, as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it: “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”

Or, as the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans put it in his book The Mysterious Universe:

“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.  Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter.  We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

What answer does the atheistic model provide to the question of how an inanimate thing can be compelled to follow a law?  Only various versions of “matter follows laws because it just does.”

6) Why is the human brain so much more complex than is necessary for survival?  If we are “survival machines” that exist for no other purpose than passing on DNA, then why do have such capacities as the ability to appreciate beauty in music, art, and in nature?  Why do we have the capacity for advanced mathematics and science?  What survival value did these capacities provide?  For example, was our primitive ancestor who was able to appreciate the beauty in a sunset somehow less likely to be eaten by a predator than our primitive ancestor who was not?  Did this capacity somehow help him/her to find food more easily?

7) Why is there something rather than nothing?  Prominent atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell answers this question by suggesting that the universe is a “brute fact.”  Russell’s answer gives us a perfect example of such an “it just is” explanation.  In other words, by endorsing a universe that is a “brute fact,” Russell is encouraging us to cease rational inquiry and simply accept that the universe “just is.”

8) If sight originated in light-sensitive cells, how did it come to be the case that reality is structured to allow a symbiosis between light energy and the physico-chemical structure of the brain and eye?

Reader:  Please note that several of these questions were extracted verbatim from Roy Abraham Varghese’s book The Wonder of the WorldA Journey From Modern Science to the Mind of God.  This book was cited by Oxford University philosopher Anthony Flew (formerly the world’s most prominent atheist philosopher) as one of the two books that most influenced him to accept the existence of God, in 2004.  I very strongly recommend that you read it.  Please view this video detailing Flew’s acceptance of the existence of God.

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8 Responses

  1. Sorry, I got to it on another page. But in this page the link still doesn’t connect

  2. Guess you will need to do a search. Sometimes links fail, people take down pages, etc. Sorry.

  3. Copy this and put it in your URL space on a New Tab or Page

  4. “The laws of physics and math are a priori to any structure, if there’s a god these laws are priori to it”. Help me out with understanding this please

  5. I posed a question to an atheist saying ” how can an inanimate object be made to follow a law? Such as the laws of math, physics or thermodynamics”
    Answer I received: misapplication of terms, you’re trying to use law as a restrictive instead of a descriptive

    I then brought up your quote from Boyle… “a law is but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.” I asked if he agreed with that. He replied hell no, you’re confusing concept of legal law vs descriptive science

    I was also told that the laws of math and physics are a priori to any structure and if god exists, they are a priori to it as well
    He said 2+2 =4 , and no god made this so

    What’s your take on this !

    And could you take down my comment from above with the twitter pic, I tried to just post the link and i posted the pic instead. Thx

  6. We are into speculation here. My only comment(s) are: Kicked that around for awhile. Not sure if I’m helpful, but I do know that mathematical laws could not exist prior to God.

    Since math is nothing but symbolic logic, and the laws of physics are “math in motion” (true?), and “In the beginning was the Logos . . . and the Logos was God,” it seems these laws are coexistent with God, being a reflection of him in some sense, but not separated from him.

    Of course, physical laws as we know them seem to have burst onto our scene at creation. But how could it be that there were no laws of physics whatsoever prior to creation?

    God always was and order and “laws” are related to, part of him and come from his existence.

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