How aheism reliex on “special pleading”

from God Evidence blog


“A wonder it must be that there should be any man found so stupid as to persuade himself that this most beautiful world could be produced by the fortuitous concourse of atoms.”

–John Ray, the English naturalist (1627-1705) considered by many to be the founder of modern biology.


A hilarious article titled “Top 5 Stupid Criminal Excuses” includes the actress Winona Ryder’s highly publicized shoplifting conviction in 2002, for which she was sentenced to three years probation and 480 hours of community service. Her excuse?:  She claimed that she stole to prepare for an acting role…although she never revealed the movie for which she was supposedly preparing.

Ryder’s reasoning suggests that the law against shoplifting can be waived (under special circumstances) for famous actresses. Such flawed reasoning should not be surprising…considering that it came from Hollywood, and considering that it came from a person desperately trying to defend herself.

But the special exemptions which atheism demands are even more ridiculous when one considers that atheism demands special exemptions from basic reason in order to maintain a pretense of scientific respectability. Any argument which contains this sort of reasoning (known as special pleading) obviously cannot be deemed rationally sound.

An excerpt from the Rational Wiki post for special pleading:

Special pleading is a formal logical fallacy where a participant demands special considerations for a particular premise of theirs. Usually this is because in order for their argument to work, they need to provide some way to get out of a logical inconsistency – in a lot of cases, this will be the fact that their argument contradicts past arguments or actions.

Therefore, they introduce a “special case” or an exception to their rules.  While this is acceptable in genuine special cases, it becomes a formal fallacy when a person doesn’t adequately justify why the case is special.

And therein lies the problem for many arguments made in support of atheism: Atheists often seem to think that their arguments and reasoning can be granted special considerations or special exemptions…without adequately explaining WHY.

A perfect example would be the question of how life emerged from non-living matter. In Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, I mention that the physicist Paul Davies points out that the phenomenon of the genetic code mediating information between the two languages of life (proteins and nucleic acids) provides a mystery: How can mindless processes set up codes and languages?

Michael Polanyi, a former Chairman of Physical Chemistry at the University of Manchester (UK), who was famous for his important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, said:

“As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule. It is this physical indeterminacy of the sequence that produces the improbability of occurrence of any particular sequence and thereby enables it to have meaning–a meaning that has a mathematically determinate information content.”

Put another way, just as the chemistry of the ink and paper that constitute a newspaper cannot explain the arrangement of the letters in the words of a newspaper, the chemistry of a DNA molecule cannot explain the arrangement of letters in a DNA molecule. This is because the arrangement of the DNA letters cannot be accomplished by physical or chemical processes.

It would be just as absurd to assert that mindless chemical or physical processes could write a newspaper article as it would be to assert that such processes could produce a DNA sequence.

The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent chemical or physical processes. Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his bookWithout Excuse, he discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI):

“Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

-the words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

-the words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

-the notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

-the chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

-the genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein.”

The substitutive function of the the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind. Gitt skillfully explains this crucial point:

“An abstract symbol set provides for an immense number of combinations of basic symbols to form words. These words may then be arranged in near-limitless ways to form phrases and sentences that, in turn, are used to form larger bodies of text/messages such as paragraphs. Thus, for example, the English letters ‘a, c, and t’ may be used to form the word ‘cat’ (a mammal that purrs and meows).

The very same letters may also be used to form the word ‘act’ (a word that, depending on the context, will have any one of a number of meanings; e.g., consider the phrases ‘caught in the act‘, ‘the secondact of the play’, ‘an act of Congress’, ‘performed a heroic act‘ and others). The point to notice is that the letters ‘a,c, and t’ by themselves do not have a one-to-one relationship with the entity that they are combined to represent. These letters acquire function and meaning only after they are combined in agreed-upon sequences and assigned meanings.”
(underlining mine)

Simply put, what a symbol serves to represent must be decided upon by a conscious and intelligent agent. Symbolic representation is by necessity a mental process. Biologists with less rigid ideological commitments to atheism (or at least more intellectual integrity) have been frank enough to admit the necessity of mind (a conscious and intelligent agent) in the origin of life. The Nobel Prize winning Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, stated the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

DNA is a language (because it utilizes abstract, substitutive, symbolic representation) that is very similar to a computer language. Microsoft founder Bill Gates writes: “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any we’ve ever created.”

Microsoft founder Bill Gates writes: “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any we’ve ever created.”  Natural processes do not create anything even vaguely resembling a computer program.

Even the world’s most outspoken atheist, the biologist Richard Dawkins, concedes that DNA is a language very similar to a computer language.  In his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, Dawkins writes:

“…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”

Elsewhere, Dawkins writes:

“What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology.  The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”

In order to suppose that a code or language could be produced by an unintelligent natural process, atheists must receive a special exemption from the rule which states that abstract, substitutive, symbolic representation (language or code) can only result from intelligence. And atheists fail to explain WHY it is necessary to grant such a special exemption. Even though the reason Winona Ryder cited for being exempt from laws against shoplifting was hilariously lame, at least she provided SOME reason.

Atheists require an exemption from the rule that only INTELLIGENCE produces codes and languages because accepting that the DNA code was caused by an intelligence is DEVASTATING to atheism.  But they cannot cite a plausible reason for such an exemption, and must therefore engage in special pleading.

What is the logical necessity for postulating an unintelligent cause for the language of DNA?  The fact that atheists cannot accept the existence of an eternally existent consciousness—even though this is the view most consistent with modern astrophysics and cosmology (as demonstrated in Is There A God?…What is the chance that our world is the result of chance?) and with modern physics (as demonstrated in God is Real…Why modern physics has discredited atheism)—does not constitute a logical necessity.  Rather, it constitutes, at best, an IDEOLOGICAL necessity.*

Prominent theoretical biologist (and atheist) Stuart Kaufmann tries to explain the emergence of life from non-living matter as the result of a hypothetical “fourth law of thermodynamics” (there are only three laws of thermodynamics).  But, as we shall see, this is an especially special pleading.  William Dembski responds to Kaufmann’s hypothesis in his book No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence:

“…what should be immediately evident from Kaufmann’s statement of these [proposed] laws is that they are very different in form and function from the traditional three laws of thermodynamics.  The traditional three laws of thermodynamics are each proscriptive generalizations, that is, they each make an assertion as to what cannot happen to a physical system.  The first law states that in an isolated system total energy neither increases nor decreases.  The second law states that the entropy [the measure of disorder] of an isolated system cannot decrease.  The third law states that it is not possible to reduce the temperature of an isolated system to absolute zero in a finite number of operations.”

 “Kaufmann’s candidate laws are nothing like this.  Instead, they provide qualitative descriptions of the emergence of complexity in nature, yet without proposing a mechanism that is causally sufficient to account for the emergence of that complexity.”

Before one gets lost in any of the above high-brow scientific talk, it should be emphasized that what Dembski is driving at is very simple and easy to understand.  Natural laws such as the three laws of thermodynamics DO NOT CAUSE ANYTHING TO HAPPEN. Rather, they determine what is possible…much as the rules of chess determine what chess moves are permissible.

I have provided the following citations in a previous essay, but I must do so again since Kaufmann has provided yet another example of the bizarre atheist penchant for ascribing creative properties to natural laws.  Edgar Andrews writes in Who Made God?:

 “…When we play chess, the laws determine the moves we can make but not the moves we do make. That is, the laws are not deterministic; they don’t impose a particular outcome for the game. In the same way, the laws of nature determine what is and what is not physically possible, but they do not determine what actually occurs within the multitude of available possibilities.”

A similar point is made by the former Manhattan Project physicist, and leading information scientist, Hubert Yockey, in the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, titledInformation Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life:

 “The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin (1985, 1987a) has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”

Simply put, Kaufmann’s hypothetical “fourth law of thermodynamics” requires a special exemption from the rule that natural laws do not create, but only describe what is possible. Postulating a natural law that causes something to happen (much less something as sophisticated as the creation of a code or language) is anespecially special pleading. Supposing that a hypothetical “fourth law of thermodynamics” (or any other law) could create life from non-living matter is every bit as absurd as the idea that the laws of mathematics could cause money to appear in one’s bank account. When compared with the special pleading of atheists such as Kaufmann, Winona Ryder’s shoplifting excuse appears almost reasonable.


Dean Kenyon was one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorists in the world, and the author of a best-selling text on chemical evolutionary explanations for the origin of life. But, as the video below reveals, Kenyon was eventually obliged by the weight of the evidence to renounce his naturalistic views and endorse theism.



And perhaps most prominently, the Oxford University philosopher Antony Flew was for 50 years considered to be the intellectual “frontman” for atheism as a philosophical cause. His paper Theology and Falsification was the most reprinted philosophical tract in the world during this period. But as the video below reveals, Flew was forced by the facts of biology to endorse theism in 2004. To learn more, please read Flew’s book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

* As I mentioned in Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, even extremely prominent atheist biologists such as Francis Crick (famous as the co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix) and Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) VERY CLEARLY DO UNDERSTAND that life emerged from non-living matter as the result of intelligence. Click here to read an article discussing how Crick, in his book Life Itself, endorsed the hypothesis known as “directed panspermia,” which says that life was CREATED BY ALIENS AND THENBROUGHT TO EARTH IN THEIR SPACESHIP.  And click here to watch Richard Dawkins endorsing the same hypothesis in an interview.

Not satisfied with the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship explanation for the origin of life? DO NOT FEAR! Atheism provides other explanations…such as a piggyback ride on crystals. Sound bizarre? Click here to watch the prominent atheist biologist Michael Ruse endorsing the hypothesis in an interview.

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3 Responses

  1. I don’t hold much of such kind of arguments which seem to be forms of “God of the gap”.

    I find philosophical arguments against materialism much more impressive.


  2. Sorry the true link was .

    I’d be interested to learn your take on this.

    Lovely greetings.

  3. I always love how atheists claim science is applicable from scientists , yet blindly allow a biologist , like Dawkins , to spew philosophy as an “educated” authority on the numerous disciplines. The idea of DNA “Code” is the literal straw that broke the camels(atheisms) back.

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