Atheist Son Writes… The Big Sneeze theory is not science

Dear mum,

Thanks for your reply. But I think perhaps you mixed up my email with one from one of your church buddies. The first thing you wrote was:

Why I believe in God as the Creator & sustainer of all the earth, all life as we know it, and all the universe?

I don’t remember ever asking that question. This is exactly what I wrote:

“…so my only question to you is are you really planning to ignore all the evidence I’m presenting to you? Or are you at least willing to take the search for the truth seriously and have your preconceptions challenged?”

This was in response to the admission in your email on March 14, that “No amount of scientific evidence will ever change my belief in creationism”. I understand it can be very difficult to read or write when your head is buried in sand but do you think you can manage a straight yes or no in your next email? 🙂

However, what you wrote next cheered me up:

“however, from a scientific point of view, I agree I need to bring other evidence of the reality of my experience in the knowledge of Him, the Creator of all. “

It’s great to see you at least acknowledge this point, in fact I’d go as far as saying this is a minor breakthrough of sorts! Yes, evidence matters, but so does the source of that evidence which brings me to the five ‘proofs’ you offer up next. Where did you come by these five arguments? A peer-reviewed journal? A science textbook?

Well, I thought I’d heard these false arguments before and so pulled out my copy of The Case for a Creator by uber hack Lee Strobel and you know what I found? The remainder of your email was a block of text from between pages 77-81. In fact, every quote you copied came from an interview with Stephen Meyer.

Now, I don’t like to deal in ad hominin attacks so I will address Meyer’s arguments shortly, but first I think you should be properly introduced to the one person you are placing all your trust/faith in.

There’s no point in sugar-coating it – Stephen Meyer is a liar and has zero credibility as a scientist. Meyer appeared defending creationism in one of the first science documentaries I made so I know him only too well. Yes, he has a combined degree in physics and earth science but his doctorate is in history and philosophy – NOT science. Even I am more qualified as a scientist than Meyer. He does not practice as a scientist and as far as I’m aware he has not published in any peer-reviewed scientific journals (although in 2004 a paper by him was rejected by the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington having failed to meet scientific standards). Similarly, his books, including his most recent Signature in the Cell (2009), have been slated by just about every scientist and philosopher as rooted in religion and factually incorrect.

Meyer is co-founder of a shadowy Washington right-wing think tank called the Discovery Institute and is co-author of a secretive Wedge Document that describes a step-by-step plan to have religion take over science education and politics in the US, but which ended up leaked on the internet.

He certainly does not even have the support of all religious people. In response to false claims Meyer made to the the Ohio Education Board, Prof. Kenneth Miller, himself a believer in god as well as author of the main biology class text book found in US schools, said of Meyer:

It is indeed sad to see how people who claim only to be interested in the truth are willing to mislead the public, but it also sets a standard of inaccuracy by which the people of Ohio may judge the reliability of their scientific claims as well. (quote Ken Miller)

Now that you know how trustworthy the man giving the arguments is, lets briefly deal with the arguments themselves:

Your first argument is taken verbatim from the interview with Meyer on page 77 of The Case For A Creator (CFAC):

1) New cosmology

The big bang theory & the theoretical underpinning in general relativity. these 2 theories now point to a definate beginning of the universe, the fact that most scientists now believe that energy, matter, space and time had a beginning is profoundly antimaterialistic. the Big Bang theory provides a scientific description of what Christians call ” creatio ex nihilo – creation out of nothing. As Noble Prize – winner Arno Penzias said about the Big Bang ” the best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms and the Bible as a whole”.

The origin of the universe is obviously a difficult question to answer but creationists saying “God did it” are like three year olds in awe of a party magician who just materialised a rabbit out of nothing but his hat. I can only imagine the religious epiphany Meyers must have each time he sneezes and discovers the clearly intelligently designed substance that has miraculously appeared in his handkerchief. Unlike Meyers cosmologists are asking the hard questions of “how” and “why” the universe came about and it is revealing real answers.

Again you quote Meyer directly from CFAC page 78:

2) Anthropic fine-tuning

the fundmental laws and parameters of physics have precise numerical values that could have been otherwise. That is, there’s no fundamental reason why these values have to be the way they are. Yet all of these laws and constants conspire in a mathematically incredible way to make life in the universe possible

The idea that there is only one set of physical laws and constants can result in life is like saying there is only one way to bake an apple pie. Meyer says change the balance of ingredients by one ounce and your pie ceases to exist! In fact, changing your ingredients may mean your apple pie tastes of cherries or may even end up a soufflé, just as life may look slightly different or even be unrecognisable if the recipe for the universe were different. Either way Meyer ends up with egg on his face.

From page 79 of CFAC – you quote Meyer:

3) The origin of life

“The third example of science pointing toward God is the origin of life and the origin of information necessary to bring life into existence, life at its root requires information, which is stored in DNA and protein molecules. ” richard Dawkins of Oxford said that” the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. If you reflect on that, you realize that computers run on software programs that are produced by inteligent engineers. Every experience we have about information – whether its a computer code, hierogglyphic inscription, a book or a cave painting – points toward intelligence. the same is true about the information inside every cell in every living creature”.

Lucky for Meyer this tired old argument that new information needs intelligent intervention is patently absurd. Were it true he and all his young earth creationist friends would all be virtual clones of Noah since no new genes could have evolved after god decided starting a flood and committing global genocide was such a great idea. Differences between parents and their offspring, bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, insects becoming resistant to pesticides, the huge variation we see in wildlife: all are examples of new information being spontaneously produced. Natural selection acting on random mutations does this all the time with absolutely no need for supernatural intervention.

A case in point is that I notice in the above quote you changed the quotation marks to suggest that Richard Dawkins said more than he in fact did. Dawkins actual quote is “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like” which in itself is pretty neutral. However, with this change you have attributed the rest of Meyer’s quote to Dawkins. I will be charitable and assume you unintentionally deleted one set of quotation marks and accidentally added Meyers name at the end (neither of which were in the original text) since I know you wouldn’t be dishonest. You did, nevertheless demonstrate that a mutation, or typo, can create new information – in this case transforming Dawkins into a raving creationist! Now that’s some fancy evolution!

Again, from page 80 of CFAC you quote Meyer:

4) An ensemble of evidence

“there’s the evidence for design in molecular machines that defy exlanation by Darwinian natural selection. These integrative, complex systems in biological organisms – which microbiologist Michael Behe calls ” irreducibly complex – include signal transduction circuits, sophisticated motors, and all kinds of biological cicuitry”…

Behe, like Meyer, is a member of the extreme right-wing Discovery Institute. And his irreducible complexity argument has been thoroughly debunked by Christian scientist Ken Miller (mentioned above) in an article here, and in a video here, so go read and watch those if you are interested in learning something.

Finally, from page 81:

5) Human consciousness

Human consciousness, certainlysupports a theistic view of human nature, Judaism and Christanity clearly teach that we are more than just matter – wer’e not “computers made of meat” in the words of Marvin Minsky, but wer’e made in Gods image. We have the capacity for self reflection, for representational arts, for language, for creativity. Science can’t account for this kind of consciousness merely from the interaction of physical matter in the brain. Where did we come from? again, I think theism provides the best explanation”

Meyer says he ‘thinks’ theism provides the best explanation for consciousness. Let’s face it, religion desperately does not want a naturalistic explanation of consciousness, since a natural consciousness does not fit easily with a divine soul. This threatens your desire for a divine origin and immortality. Well sorry to break it to you but every scintilla of evidence – from genetic predispositions of behaviour and personality, from brain injury studies, from brain imaging of healthy people – is pointing to consciousness being purely naturalistic (see Dennett 1991 and Minsky 1985).

With those old creationist canards hopefully behind us for good I’d like to get back to what we are supposed to be discussing – the origin of species. In my next email I will attempt to summarise your position based on the answers you gave in your March 14 email. Then, with both our arguments finally defined the debate can really begin!

Love, reason and understanding,

Sam

References:

Dennett, Daniel C., 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Minsky, M., 1985. The Society of Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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