Saturday, 28 February 2015

A response to '5 Reasons Why Atheism is Foolish'

I was going to call this '5 reasons atheism is foolish' and start here with telling people to not be confused by the provocative title. But I decided it was a bit 'click-bait-y' so wanted to make it clear that it's a response. The piece I'm responding to lists 5 reasons the author thinks atheism is foolish and it can be found here.1

The blog starts by quoting Psalms 14:1 "The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good."

This verse is quoted to me often and my response is to ask why I should believe it. Of course, no satisfactory reason is ever provided. 

Here are the 5 'reasons'

1. Atheist [sic] Don’t Appreciate That Every Design Has A Designer

The blog author talks about the Airbus A380 and the Large Hadron Collider. These are very complex machines, with millions of parts and thousands of people were required to design and build them. It then goes on to say:
"They [atheists] cannot appreciate just the complexity and wonders of the human body but yet foolishly come to a poor conclusion that the human body and human existence as a result is just one big accident."
Of course we can appreciate how complex a human body is. We also (well, the vast majority of us) appreciate that the human body didn't appear on earth 'as is' and we're aware that it evolved from earlier life forms. We're also aware that evolution by Natural Selection is not an 'accident'.

This argument is also implying a false claim that complexity = design. Consider the piles of rubble left after a cyclone. Although clearly a mess, the patterns within are quite clearly complex and obviously not designed. Compare to a brick wall which is far from complex yet we know it to be designed. I would suggest that good design should reduce complexity, not increase it.

This argument also begs the question - assuming that the universe is designed, therefore requires a designer, without actually demonstrating that the universe is designed. This is a logical fallacy.

2. Atheists Think Accidents Can Create Complex & Harmonious Systems & Life-forms

I think here by 'accidents' the author means 'natural, non-deliberate' events. Of course natural, non-deliberate events can lead to the solar system we live in. What else could? Even if there is a god ultimately responsible for the universe, we can explain a solar system existing without god being involved. We can explain the effect of gravity. We can explain how stars and planets are formed out of cosmic dust. We can explain the existence of seasons, and water, and air. It's not so much that the universe is tailored for life, but that life adapted in, and to, the universe that exists.

The author then makes another ridiculous analogy between the Airbus A380, Large Hadron Collider, and the complexity of the universe.

"The make-up of the universe is far more complex than an Airbus or an LHC and it would be foolish to think that the universe was not created by an intelligent Creator who is far more intelligent than any human being could ever fathom."
The make up of the universe is complex but it's explainable *naturally*. There is no big hidden mystery with how gravity and time affects the elements.

What the author fails to acknowledge with this argument is that they are invoking a being more complex than the universe to explain the complexity of the universe. If the universe is too complex to not have a designer, then surely the 'god' used to explain this complexity is also too complex to not have a designer. Of course a 'special pleading' fallacy will be made here saying that god always 'existed' If a god can be explained without a designer, a universe can be explained without a designer.

In this section the author includes a lengthy quote from atheist turned Christian C.S. Lewis. Part of that quote:

"But if their thoughts, i.e, of Materialism and Astronomy are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true."
CS is saying that if the universe is not designed and exists by 'accident' how can we trust our thoughts, which must also be accidents.

Well this is pretty easy to test. Try crossing a busy road. Thought 1: Close your eyes and go whenever you feel like it. Thought 2: Observe the traffic , wait until there's a safe gap in the traffic, then cross. I highly recommend not putting Thought 1 into practise.

God doesn't need to be real for us to be able to trust our thoughts. We can see the results of them. We can test them. We can compare the results of actions based on different thoughts. I find it stupid to ask how we can trust our thoughts given we really don't have an alternative.

This argument is the logical fallacy of argument from ignorance. It's saying, in other words 'I don't know how the universe works, therefore God exists.

3. The Atheist Foolishly Thinks Science Has The Answers To Everything 

This is simply made up, an excuse to attack atheism with a straw man argument. I don't know a single atheist who claims this. Easily dismissed.

4. Atheists Don’t Know That Atheism is a Belief System

Atheism is the result of how atheists think, not the cause of it. The author mentions here that atheists believe in evolution and The Big Bang theory and somehow this makes atheism a belief system. Although acceptance of these areas of science is common among atheists they are also widely accepted among theists. These are scientific ideas, not atheistic ideas.

I've written here about how atheism is not a religion, I don't need to repeat it all here, suffice to say this argument is simply not true.

5. The Atheist Cannot Disprove The Existence of God

The first line of this section is 'Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'. I don't think this is entirely true. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence when you'd expect evidence to be present. It's the absence of evidence of cars that lets one know it's safe to cross a road.

Being unable to prove something doesn't exist is not reason to believe it does. No theist could prove that any of the 3,000+ gods they don't believe in don't exist, but they're not lining up to believe in all of them. No theist could prove unicorns don't exist but I'm sure they don't find that good enough reason to believe unicorns exist.

'You can't prove god doesn't exist' is a pathetic argument. We don't discuss why we shouldn't believe something exists, we discuss why we should, theists who rely on this argument know there's no reason to believe, so they resort to this. When the 'you can't prove it doesn't exist' argument comes out, the person you're arguing with has nothing left, it's the last refuge of someone who has run out of all other ideas.

The arguments above are obviously amateur and have little, if any, critical thought behind them. They are all easily dismissed and one might wonder why I'd bother responding. The thing is, despite being terrible, these arguments are common and that is why I decided to write a response. 

1 The blog I'm responding to is from a website called 'Inspired Walk' I've tried to find if it's a genuine site or a parody site but could not. Having said that, I have seen all the arguments above made genuinely. So even if Inspired Walk *is* a parody site, there are people who do believe the piece does highlight 5 reasons why atheism is foolish. 

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