Anyone who comes here regularly will know that among the most popular comment threads on this whole blog, apart from those shamelessly designed to hike my ratings with pictures of sexy ladies, are those where myself and Christians go head-to-head.
One thread in particular, which always seems to come back to life after appearing to have faded, is Greg Koukl: Christian workshops on “New Atheist Fallacies”.
This is in large part thanks to one particularly tenacious reader, Todd, who spent the best part of last week debating with me privately via e-mail, after we somewhat went off-topic in the original comments.
I hope my use of Todd in the following doesn’t come across as targeting him for ridicule. I actually admire the guy’s refusal to give in, despite the advice of his peers to move on and leave those nasty atheists to their blasphemous, burn in hell ignorance.
Todd is my favourite kind of Christian debater, because he does his thinking out loud. He’s not trying to hide his mental gymnastics behind a pretence of certainty. He has genuinely confused the process of crow-barring the God hypothesis into scientific enquiry, with actual discovery—and with such a familiar degree of predictability, anyone new to the kind of obscurantism used in debate, who also wants to get more involved in humanist / rationalist activism, might find a look through some of the comments on that thread a revealing and handy primer as to what to look out for.
The stand-out feature of Todd’s main argument, is his mixing of Messiah myths with creation myths. This is a common theme in many debates with Christians which end up using so-called “first cause” apologetics. The problem of infinite regress is side-stepped with extraordinarily convoluted interpretations of infallible scripture. I’ve read it and seen it a lot. Indeed it’s as tried and tested as that other non sequitur of Christians who go that extra mile and espouse creationist views, that because pre-biotic life did not evolve, according to Darwinian principals, that this is not only proof of Yahweh’s intervention, but sufficient evidence against the entire scientific field of biochemistry.
The issue of symbolism also plays a huge part in much of the apologists rationale. In one e-mail, Todd quotes Colossians:
15:He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16:For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17:He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The “all things hold together” part is, apparently, God revealing himself in Laminin, the protein found in the extracellular matrix, the sheets of protein that form the substrate of all internal organs also called the basement membrane. The molecule is described in the diagram opposite.
Todd remains silent on the fact that if whoever described Laminin with this model instead showed the chemical bonds marked ‘P2’ sideways on, making the shape more closely resemble a swastika, a racist could use it as proof that the iconography of the Third Reich reveals the purity of the aryan race.
Similarly, he remains silent on why such an abstract gesture from God would be embedded within the model of a protein which, when it fails to work properly in humans, leads to muscular dystrophy. If any of the most debilitating of sicknesses stand as compelling evidence against the argument we’re the design of a benevolent, loving God, surely Duchenne, Becker, limb girdle, congenital, facioscapulohumeral, myotonic, oculopharyngeal, distal, and Emery-Dreifuss are it.
Interestingly, ‘P2’ is also the name of the Italian organised crime syndicate formerly patronised by Silvio Berlusconi, used by the Vatican to launder Mafia drug money. Perhaps Todd would argue that this too is God trying to tell us about His disdain for this kind of behaviour?
We all seek out patterns which reaffirm our existing thinking. In the case of rational enquiry, being aware of this doesn’t make one immune from it. The problem for Christians who do it, is they re-broadcast what counts as proof to them as if it should count as proof to everyone. Hence, despite a strong desire to read and learn something genuinely new, from the multitude of links, which Todd has furnished me with, I’m still waiting for conclusive evidence that severed limbs have grown back, by applying water from the cave at Lourdes, or terminal cancers which have withered in the presence of intercessionary prayers.
That the religious so badly want there to be a supernatural explanation for that which has already been described through entirely natural phenomena, is bad enough. But that their belief in belief is so strong, that they seek a supernatural explanation for that which we don’t yet understand, is incomprehensible to those of us on the side of reality.
Molecules which trace the outline of the one true cross is one thing, but what about when it’s State governors refusing millions of dollars in the stimulus package, which offers genuine benefits to the people they were elected to represent, because of how it’ll affect their future ambitions for power and control?