I was browsing some christian forums when I found this piece. I didn't see any atheists actually reply to it though. (The site allows members of other faiths - or lack of) Well the guy who posted it really wanted to have atheists read it and respond (or, even better- convert). So I thought I'd post it here to gather the intended audience's thoughts/reactions/answers.

Having once been an atheist, I understand the mindset pretty well. Empirical evidence is the best thing to use in dialogue with an atheist or an agnostic. Educated atheists and agnostics will, for the most part, be utterly unresponsive to the gospel so long as intellectual barriers to faith remain. So in this thread I'd like to brainstorm some of the most effective arguments to use when dialoging with educated unbelievers. I'll start with a few and you can all add to them.

1. Fine tuning - the universe is highly finely tuned for the existence of intelligent life. The initial conditions of the big bang, which are not physically necessary but are simply given, are so utterly precise that to alter them by a tiny fraction of a percent would make life and even stars impossible. The fact that the universe just so happened to be finely tuned to allow for life, when it could have in theory been otherwise, points to an intelligent mind behind natural design.

2. The beginning - at a finite point in time, 13.7 billion years ago, the universe began to exist. The universe came to be, out of nothing, exactly as Genesis 1:1 declares. Something must be eternal, otherwise you run into the problem of an infinite regress. Either matter/energy is eternal, or something else is eternal. Matter/energy is not eternal, because it began to exist at the moment of the big bang. Therefore something else is eternal. Working with the evidence of fine tuning in the universe, we can infer that the eternal cause behind the universe must be intelligent, powerful, and intentional. Intelligence is needed to explain the ordered design of the universe, and power and intentionality are required to explain the creation of the universe. An eternal cause that is intelligent, powerful, and intentional is, by definition, God.

3. Human uniqueness - Human beings, though genetically very similar to other organisms, are vastly different from the rest of the animal kingdom. Unlike other animals, human beings posses a reflective and introspective self-awareness. Even if we allow for a purely Darwinian explanation for the development of life, the vast complexity of our unique human consciousness cannot be adequately explained. The bible, however, declares that we are made in the image of God and, hence, posses some of his attributes, albeit in drastically minimized form. If we accept this biblical premise as true, we would expect to find the human cognition utterly unique in the animal kingdom, which is exactly what we find. Even though we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, our cognition is dramatically more complex and is in fact indicative of transcendence. Add to all of this the omnipresence of spiritual belief in human societies throughout all of recorded history, and you have good empirical evidence for the uniqueness of the human mind. Given all of this, the biblical explanation for the novelty of the human consciousness has the best explanatory power and ought to be accepted as true.

4. Existence of Aesthetics - Humans are also unique in our recognition of and perception of beauty. When we look at the earth and the larger universe we are struck by a sense of wonder and an appreciation of beauty. What is beauty? Why is it that nature, as perceived through our senses, is pleasing to us? Certainly there is no Darwinian reason for the existence of aesthetics, for what differential reproductive benefit can such a thing bestow? The universe, it seems, is objectively beautiful, a fact that is hard to explain in a purely naturalistic and non-theistic framework. However the bible makes the claim that the universe declares the glory of God. Given this premise we would expect that our perception of nature would evoke feelings of wonder and awe, a sense of beauty and majesty, to point us toward the creator and a recognition of some of his attributes. Once again the biblical worldview explains the phenomena better than a naturalistic framework.

Tags: Arguments, Darwinian, atheist, beggining., bible, christian, evolution, genetics, science

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I wonder who wrote this. It reminds me of a vid I watched recently.

Richard Dawkins vs John Lennox.

"Has science buried god".  link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0UIbd0eLxw&noredirect=1

My goodness, where to start?
First of all, what is this “Christian forum” of which you speak? I have tried mightily to find one that is reasonably easy for an atheist to access, but with no success, whatsoever.
It will be hard for me to improve upon Doug Reardon’s elegantly succinct reply, but I’ll try.
In his first paragaph, this apologist tries to establish two things: that he was once an atheist; and that he is intelligent. Atheist? I doubt it. A weak-minded agnostic - possibly. Intelligent? Maybe so, but he would have made a stronger case had he spelled “dialoging” correctly (there should be a “u” after the “g”).
1. Fine tuning. This, as Doug suggests, is an argument that is destroyed by an understanding of the “anthropic principle.” Extending that idea, it should be noted that ANYTHING that exists would be considered “fine tuned.” In other words, if the universe is fine-tuned for human existence, it is equally fine-tuned for the existence of a grain of sand. And if I were a bacterium that could think, I would certainly think the universe was fine-tuned for me, and not the 99.999% of large, complex life forms that have gone extinct. It follows, then, that, if God "fine-tuned” the universe, he did it for the benefit of bacteria. Besides, I hardly think that any earth that was really “fine-tuned” would suffer through constant extinctions and geological catastrophes as we have.
2. 13.7 billion years ago - give or take - the universe THAT WE PRESENTLY OBSERVE began to exist. Virtually all physicists, using precise mathematics, now agree that the “something” we experience could have come from nothing without the involvement of any sentient process - god or otherwise. It likewise renders the concept of “eternal," which some religionists use to avoid explaining where God came from meaningless, scientifically. To claim that we can “infer” (again, because of imagined “fine-tuning”) intelligence and intentionality behind the natural world is ad hoc reasoning, totally unsupported by empirical data. The assumption that there is some kind of existential eternity inhabited by an anthropomorphic god, and not merely a natural universe beyond our present knowledge is a religious choice, not a scientific one.
3. Humans are indeed, in some ways, unique. So is a grasshopper; so is the HIV virus, To presume that human intelligence is a uniqueness superior to all other forms of uniqueness is extreme anthropocentric hubris. The aforementioned bacterium must be sitting back laughing at our egoism at presuming that our unique ability to think is superior to its own unique ability to survive for billions of years through its prodigious fecundity. If we are still around when the earth collides with a massive asteroid, it will hardly be noticed by the bacteria; but it will likely make a mockery of our vaunted brain complexity.
And who says that our complex brains cannot produce our consciousness? Scientists are hard at work trying to link our thinking ability and our self-awareness to the intricacies of neuronal flows in the brain. They’re close, but not quite there, yet. But religionists are hard at work at nothing, because their mindset is to answer each and every mystery with a Magic Man in the Sky - an entity for which they feel no need of explaining empirically.
Our cognitive abilities as Homo sapiens are indeed more complex than those of Pan troglodytes (chimpanzees). But so is a chimpanzee’s brain far more sentient than that of a monkey; it means nothing. In the greater scheme of things, all that matters is survival. If we humans are still here in a billion years, THEN talk to me about the superiority of our brains.
The Bible is herein presented as “empirical” evidence. NO IT ISN’T! The phenomenon of spiritual belief is also presented as “empirical” evidence. NO IT ISN’T!
You want empirical evidence? Take the first sentence of the paragraph where he admits that we are 98% similar, genetically, to chimpanzees. THAT is what is called empirical evidence - empirical evidence of evolution, not God.
4. Aesthetics; seriously? The universe is “objectively beautiful”? Really? I happen to believe that Sarah Silverman is far more beautiful and sexy than Marilyn Monroe ever was. Others, I would assume, might disagree. Is MY asthetic sense superior to theirs? Did God reveal to ME that Sarah is more aesthetically pleasing than Marilyn? The notion that there is, as he strongly implies, some godly standard of beauty is preposterous on the face of it. Beauty is, as Doug says, “in the eye of the beholder.” And every such beholder, whether on the streets of Manhattan or in a remote village in Africa, will clearly have a different perception of what constitutes beauty. That is more than adequately explained by choices made in our evolved minds.
As to a Darwinian explanation: the choices a brain makes to assign standards of beauty are most definitely Darwinian in origin. If a female peacock prefers a male peacock with more luxuriant feather displays, it is because that is a sign of health and fitness in a peacock. So, if the female peacock comes to regard this feathery display as being more attractive, it means the species will more efficiently procreate. It was exactly the same in early humans, except the gender was reversed in terms of which sex did the selecting. At some point in our evolutionary history the species flourished more by males selecting females with certain physical characteristics indicative of reproductive fitness. It follows, as night does day, that these traits in females would come to be regarded as “beautiful” by males. Today, what counts as beauty in a male’s eyes is no longer so strongly linked to species improvement. But the basic urge has not yet left us, fortunately.
The fact that we attribute qualities of beauty and wonder to natural phenomena is purely a choice. I happen to think where I live in the mountains is beautiful. The woman with whom I’m infatuated, unfortunately, doesn’t like the mountains; she likes the beach; and my ex-wife preferred the beauty of urban environments. Which of those would God prefer, I wonder? The implication this guy is trying to make is either that there is some objective standard of beauty provided to us by the Christian God; or that God simply decided that humans should have the feelings evoked by things they would regard as "beautiful." His reason for this would be, at best, speculative; but it would be an all but inevitable consequence of natural selection.

"Empirical evidence is the best thing to use in dialogue with an atheist or an agnostic."

Probably. Just a shame this person couldn't actually provide any, unless 'empiric' actually stems from the Greek term for 'taking extreme artistic liberty with reality to form unfounded conclusions'.

Even if we are generous and accept the premises (pretty much all of which I actually disagree with), all of the points conclude God through faulty inference without any direct supporting experiential or experimental evidence. Not compelling.

The universe was created from nothing. Impossible. Nothingness is impossible because there would have to be something there to say (show) (prove)  that there was nothing there.

The very fact that there is "somethingness" argues against the idea there was ever "nothingness." Particles pop in and out of existence all the time. Why not a universe?

I found the original source by using a unique phrase from the quoted posting. The original is here.

I read half a dozen replies there, and my head started to hurt.  Maybe I'll make an account.

I enjoyed your post there. Way too much psychobabble for me to even start with. 

The problem with this site is that this "discussion" is on a part of the site that is marked Christians only.  If you post to this as an atheist or any other non-christian tag you will have your post deleted and you will receive a warning from a moderator telling warning you that your account will be deleted if you continue to post into Christian only areas (or something similar, Ive deleted mine so I can't give the exact words ).

1. The fact that the universe just so happened to be finely tuned to allow for life, when it could have in theory been otherwise, points to an intelligent mind behind natural design.


A colony of bacteria lives on a speck floating in a vast ocean of deadly poison a trillion trillion trillion times the size of Jupiter. "Gosh," one says, "this entire ocean was FINE TUNED for US!"

Priceless.

2. [...] Working with the evidence of fine tuning in the universe...


Sorry, you already blew it with the 'fine tuning' thing in #1.

3. [T]he vast complexity of our unique human consciousness cannot be adequately explained.


Why must consciousness have a supernatural explanation? Why can't it have a natural one we don't understand yet? This exemplifies scientific discovery throughout history: we don't know how it works, so it's God, but then we discover how it works, and God vanishes.

4. Why is it that nature, as perceived through our senses, is pleasing to us?


Imagine taking a bite of a delicious cold plum. Now imagine taking a bite of the roadkill deer you found last July on the pavement, burst open, entrails hanging out, and squirming with maggots.

Concepts of disgust and beauty are survival mechanisms: seek healthy things and friendly environments, and avoid unhealthy things and unfriendly environments. This is a result of evolution and selection pressure: a natural process, not a supernatural one.

1. The universe is not, "finely tuned for the existence of intelligent life" - the universe simply IS, and intelligent life, as well as some not-so-intelligent life has simply adapted to the conditions under which it found itself. For example, there are billions of planets that couldn't possibly support life - could we call those, "finely tuned"? Early Earth, under which life arose, had a largely methane atmosphere, which would have been lethal to all lifeforms today. It was the deaths and decomposition of billions of billions of tiny microscopic organisms, over billions of years, each tiny decomposing body releasing minute amounts of oxygen in the process, that changed Earth's atmosphere from methane to the oxygen/hydrogen/nitrogen atmosphere that we know today. No one can claim "fine tuning" for the 99% of all life that went extinct as the atmosphere was modified, only 1% was able to evolve and adapt to an oxygen-rich environment, and we are descended from that small percentage. Fine tuning had nothing to do with it.

2. Time, for this universe, began at the instant of the universe's springing into existence.  Did other universes exist before the one in which we find ourselves? We don't know, and can never know. Evidence indicates that our universe will expand forever, or at least, indefinitely - did another universe behave differently, contracting after time into a "Big Crunch," from which our own universe may have sprung because of some imbalance of forces within the singularity to which the earlier universe may have contracted, resulting in the explosion that gave birth to our own? Again, we don't know, because any information as to what preceded our own universe would have been lost, as time and information would have ended with that contraction. The point is, we can say, "I don't know, I may never know, and I can live with that." The theist, by his very definition, MUST say, "God did it!" without any more evidence than supposition.

3. Human uniqueness - most animals spend their entire lives in their comfort zones. That animal which would ultimately become Homo Sapiens, for whatever reasons, ventured out of his, encountering new and different environments from those his country cousins, the gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans would, in their secluded forest habitats, ever know. Consequently, our ancestors evolved to meet each new challenge - those that didn't died. We became what we are as a result of adapting to new and changing environments, not because we were constructed in the image of some supernatural entity.

4. Existence of Aesthetics - "Humans are also unique in our recognition of and perception of beauty." - this is hardly worth responding to. The call of a humpback whale can resonate for miles. Can any of us say that the humpback is not describing to other humpbacks what an incredibly beautiful world it is in which he lives? Can we ever know what other animals think? We can't say we humans are unique in that regard, unless we KNOW we are, and we don't. Can anyone honestly tell me that my friend here is not admiring the beauty of the intricate veins he observes in that leaf?

Hard to believe nobody has posted this yet....

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