It’s been mentioned to me a few times now, since a resurgence of activity on this blog and from the kinds of questions and answers I give on the Fundamentally Flawed podcasts, that I sound like I might be coming around to the idea of Christianity — or more specifically — that I am beginning to learn what it means to stop denying what I already know to be true, and “allow Jesus to enter my life”.
Myself and Alex have just finished recording a great conversation with David Smart, a.k.a. Ryft. David is an Old Earth Creationist. He’s a nice guy and he explained himself very well. He’s also a far more articulate advocate of TAG apologetics than Sye, Dustin and Eric combined.
But before any of the above get too excited, I should say, it is precisely David’s ability to explain things, sans the smoke and mirrors we were given in the previous three podcasts, which has given me the best and most damning insight so far, into what it is about the TAG which gave it such a bad smell from the start. At first, like a stray sports-sock which somehow found its way under the bed, I struggled to identify the source of the odour. But now, given David’s clear and calm explanation of how he understands the TAG, the flashlight of reason has been shone under the divan, and I’ve plucked the sticking little blighter out to give it a good wash.
David’s understanding and obvious awe and respect for scientific evidence is perfectly clear. What isn’t so clear, is how he gets from understanding what the scientific evidence says about the nature of nature, to asserting that Yahweh not only exists, but that the proof of His existence is contained in the bible — although he is more than welcome to elucidate on that at another time.
Incidentally, as a rather happy side-effect of this conversation, David was able to very succinctly explain what I’ve been trying to say about the basic problem of the word atheism (as opposed to positive agnosticism) for many years, but have, until now, never quite managed to put into the right words. You’ll have to check out the podcast here, to see how that came about:
I have always maintained that the reason I do all of this, and the reason I am interested in understanding the many nuances of the debate between the religious and the non-religious, is because I simply love learning about new things. There is no greater motivation behind it than that. I’m not “searching for God” any more than I am looking for reasons to deny God. There is no God to deny or accept. God, to me, is no more than a three letter word, which presents as many excuses for idiots to behave like idiots, as it gives good people an excuse to be good. But to me, personally, God is an entirely neutral concept.
So, I hate to break it to those who nevertheless say, that the more I struggle against it the quicker I find myself inexorably headed towards accepting Jesus Christ as my personal saviour, but it is precisely the act of talking to people like David, Eric, Sye and Dustin, which makes me all the more convinced there are no gods — least of all the capitalised ‘G’ God, Yahweh — with which to struggle against. In fact, if anything, the only real struggle I have, is in understanding why people who are so clearly capable of researching and understanding all of this for themselves, still somehow manage to come to such obviously flawed assumptions about the validity, much less the intellectual honesty, of their own position.
The only time the word God becomes non-neutral, is when you claim to have proof a particular God of a particular religion exists. As soon as you do that, you’re making a truth claim which, by definition, cannot be falsified. Presuppositional apologetics neatly sidesteps this fact, by saying that everything which stems from God (including Christianity and the bible) is a statement about the real world, but not a statement about God — or, indeed, the methods by which He chooses to interact with mere humans.
The reason Christian apologetics has no choice but to say this, is two fold: Firstly, it neatly erects the edifice of having solved the paradox of its own proposition. Secondly, it distracts attention away from this fact, by further asserting that it is, in fact, the atheistic “worldview” which is viciously circular; because a belief that the entire universe is merely “molecules in motion” doesn’t account for where those molecules came from in the first place, much less explain how they gained self-awareness. Moreover, the atheistic “worldview” self-demonstrates this, by virtue of its own denial of that which is self-evident; that we exist, therefore we were created.
Did you spot the bait and switch? It’s fast and it’s subtle, but once you know how to spot it, you’ll see it throughout many of the debates we’ve already podcast and, no doubt, within many more still to come. Now, you’ll have to forgive me if I use non-technical terminology here, but it basically breaks down like this:
Presuppositionalists define the problem of atheism thus:
Atheists assert that there is a scientific (non-supernatural) explanation for existence. Yet science says that everything came from nothing, which is impossible. Therefore, everything must have come from something. Atheists wilfully deny that the character and nature of this "something" as being proof of God, despite that they cannot account for their own basic existence, without acknowledging the existence of 'something'; because to assert they exist, they must also assert that they came from something and not nothing.
The problem for this statement is that, in physics, the word nothing doesn’t actually mean not-a-thing as-in zero. Now, bear with me, because this isn’t a thesis on particle physics – partly because, as I write it’s 1am and mostly because, as you might not be surprised to learn, I am not a physicist. Luckily, however, I know of quite a few people who are. And what their work reveals is truly incredible — and I don’t mean a talking snake and a burning bush incredible, I mean truly, madly and deeply mind blowing. What’s even more incredible, is you can conduct the following experiment yourself, using nothing more than a couple hundred million dollars worth of massively complicated apparatus.
Take one common-or-garden steel tube and seal it tight at both ends. Extract all the air and molecules inside the tube, until you have a total vacuum. Now, lower the temperature in the tube down to near absolute zero. Shine a laser beam from the top of the tube onto a detector at the bottom of the tube. The output of that detector should be flat; zero. Nothing, in a vacuum, should interrupt the flow of photons exiting the laser at the top, on their way to the detector at the bottom. Exactly the same amount of energy you put in, should come out the other end.
If ‘nothing’ really is not-a-thing, there shouldn’t be anything to interrupt the beam of laser light in the vacuum, and the use of the word ‘nothing’ in the above statement ‘Presuppositionalists define the problem of atheism thus’, is indeed using the correct definition of what we mean by the word ‘nothing’. But what the detector actually shows, is a slight but hugely significant ‘wobble’ in the direction of the laser light. This wobble can only be accounted for, in Quantum electrodynamics, as the interference effect of virtual particles. In other words, in the ‘nothingness’ there is always ‘something’, and we call that something the Quantum Field.
Virtual particles come into and go out of existence, in the Quantum Field, all the time. It is the appearance and almost instantaneous disappearance of these particles which causes the laser light, in a vacuum, to ‘wobble’ — because the individual photons in the laser beam are being interrupted by their interaction with the Quantum Field.
Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for those who might be tempted to say this, Quantum Field Theory is corroborated by more evidence than Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection. It is the most accurately constructed description of the way in which nature works, at a fundamental level, that humans have ever — and possibly will ever devise. One day, perhaps even within my lifetime, it will provide us with a grand unified theory of everything. Moreover (and more worryingly, if you happen to be a presuppositional Christian apologist), it already perfectly accounts for all of the observations we currently have of the cosmic microwave background radiation, left over from the big bang itself.
The big bang, was the inevitable consequence of fluctuations in the Quantum Foam. And, make no mistake, apologists who have encountered this fact are not unaware of the devastating impact this has upon their completely erroneous notions of what ‘nothing’ is actually “made” of. And, much though I do like him, I’m sorry to say that the argument put forth by David, in the podcast, that presuppositional apologetics doesn’t wilfully ignore any of the scientific evidence which demonstrates just how wrong some of its own ideas are, simply isn’t borne out by the facts.
Indeed, the very fact that the Old Earth Creationist in chief, William Lane Craig himself, feels the need to address this very problem, while simultaneously (and wilfully) misrepresenting its importance, speaks volumes as to the mental acrobatics he has had to perform, in order to deny the increasingly obvious flaws in his own ‘Kalam Cosmological Argument‘.
Finally, might I ask apologists wanting to post comments, to resist the urge to retort, “Ah, but where did the Quantum Field come from?” for one very important reason. It has been argued, not just in the previous podcasts with Dustin Segers and Eric Hovind (http://fundamentally-flawed.com/pods/) but by many presuppositional apologists of their particular stripe, that God was the first cause from which all following effects stem. But, as has been repeatedly explained to them — and by far more capable writers than myself — the very premise of this statement relies upon a glaringly obvious syllogism; a conclusion drawn from its own proposition.
The only reason there is a need to define a (singular) God as being the first cause in the first place, is because it is written as such in the bible — which is, by their own internal-logic, an effect of His causation. Further, a singular God is no better an explanation for “everything” than might be proposed by postulating multiple gods — which are specifically ruled out by Christian apologetics, by the very nature of Christianity being a monotheistic religion.
So you cannot draw any other conclusion from this. Presuppositionalists assert that the atheistic “worldview” is unreliable, by simultaneously claiming that atheists are an effect of God’s causation, and therefore proof of His existence. But, if you take this kind of reasoning to it’s own logical conclusion, the bible – being that it was written by men, and not God, is also an effect of God’s causation and so it too must be just as much of an unreliable source for accurate information about the nature and character of that which caused it. You cannot have one without the other. You either accept that you’re essentially asking for special treatment of your ideas, on the grounds you claim they were divinely revealed to you — in which case you are making truth-claims which are unfalsifiable — or you accept that your own argument begs its own question, and is therefore circular.
So, which is it to be? And please note, that this is a corner into which you have yourself painted. I didn’t lead you here with “atheistic tricks” and loaded questioning. I merely asked you to tell me more about what you believe and why you believe it. This is not “a typical atheist” looking for reasons to continue “denying God”. I got here by following, as closely as possible, your own set of arguments, made over a considerable period of time, in both verbal and written communication, wherein you were specifically asked to make the best of your arguments as clearly and coherently as possible.
Should it come as a surprise, that what we also learned along the way, is that to be “true Christian” you have to deny the validity of everything which proves your opinion wrong; including, but by no means limited to, the fact of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, the entire field of cosmology, particle physics, geology, logical (as opposed to non-logical) mathematical axioms, archeology, radiometric dating and plate tectonics? I think not.