By Ryan Pauly
I received a lot of responses after last week’s blog, “Is atheism a ‘lack of belief’ in God?” Most of the responses came from atheists which I expected. I also expected an immediate request for proof of the Christian God which is what happened. Over the last year I have had to reduce the amount that I interact with followers on Twitter, but when I do respond to this type of request I always ask the same question. If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? I learned this from Dr. Frank Turek, and the reason this question is important is that it lets you know whether the person you are talking with really wants the evidence. They may ask you for it, or demand that you show it, but they might not really be looking for it. So, if they respond with a long explanation or flat out say “NO!” to your question, then it isn’t evidence they are looking for because evidence wouldn’t change their mind. However, if they say “Yes!” then you might present some evidence.
When it comes to presenting evidence, there are a lot of different topics that could be discussed. You could discuss the cosmological, teleological, or moral arguments. You could also bring up the complexity of biochemical systems. Or, you could go with my response this last week and talk about the existence of the mind. Each of these topics clearly points to a creator, but we need to be careful how we present the information. There are two ways that we can go, and if we aren’t careful, our point may be mistaken for an argument from ignorance or a god of the gaps argument.
The first way to present evidence for God is by using the probability argument. It is absolutely remarkable seeing the discoveries that scientists have made over the years when it comes to complexity of life, origin of the universe, and origin of life. We can talk about the probability of these things coming into existence without God and how it is practically impossible. However, simply pointing out the probability can be insufficient because someone can always appeal to chance. The quote from Dumb and Dumber comes to mind. When Lloyd talks to Mary about the chances of them dating, she says he has a 1 in a million chance. Lloyd quickly responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” Some may always say that if given enough time it is possible with natural processes, and students are quick to point this out.
It is also common to hear a response like this, “Just because you don’t know how it happened doesn’t mean it was God.” Skeptics claim that this is an argument from ignorance. God must have done it because there is no scientific explanation. They might also say that this is a god of the gaps argument. Christians simply have a gap in their knowledge and so they plug it up with God. This was done in ancient times to give a reason for the rain or thunder. The gods were sad or angry.
The reason for these responses is that the probability argument is a negative argument. It states that the probability of this complex system is very low and so it must be designed. I think that the probabilities can be very useful, but we need to use them along with our main argument.
Argument from Analogies
We can more effectively making a case for design using the complexity of life’s chemistry and universe by using analogies. Instead of an argument from ignorance or appealing to probabilities, we are able to make a positive case for design based on specific features of the object. We can look at the complexity of the bacterial flagellum and show that it functions better than any motor that has been intelligently designed by humans. DNA is similar to a message written in a book except it would fill millions of books. We only see motors and books coming into existence from intelligent minds because they contain information, so therefore it is reasonable to conclude that a mind created the complexity of life and DNA.
We can also make a positive argument by looking at characteristics of the thing we are discussing. The beginning of the universe points to an immaterial, uncaused, purposeful, intelligent, powerful cause that is outside the universe. Christians are not ignorant of how it happened so it must be God, but there are certain characteristics that point to a creator outside the universe.
I chose to discuss the existence of consciousness and the mind this week. I was quickly met with a response like, “No one knows how consciousness came to exist, so saying God did it is an argument from ignorance.” But, I am not arguing from probabilities or a lack of knowledge. Instead, I am making a positive argument based on characteristics of consciousness. It is undeniable that we are conscious beings, and consciousness is not physical. It cannot be produced through physical processes. This information makes a positive case that it is created by a non-physical mind.
In conclusion, is Christianity an argument from ignorance? No, it is not. Christians are able to make a positive case for Christianity based on scientific and philosophical data. It isn’t filling a gap in our knowledge with God, but God is the best explanation given the evidence.
Check out these additional resources if you are looking for more evidence for God. I hope these help.
Visit Ryan’s website at CoffeeHouseQuestions.com
Resources for Greater Impact:
- I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST
- WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST – COMPLETE DVD SERIES
Free CrossExamined.org Resource
Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.