SOME ATHEISTIC ARGUMENTS–ANSWERED
In establishing the case for the existence of God, we attempt to
present clear reasoning, buttressed by factual data, that will lead to
a rational conclusion, namely, that the universe, mankind, etc., are
not self-explanatory. Rather, logical minds must conclude that a
Supreme Being exists. Our approach is positive; we are affirming a
proposition for which adequate evidence exists. Atheism, on the other
hand, is a totally negative system. It denies much and affirms nothing.
It robs one of hope and offers emptiness in exchange. It asserts that
there is no transcendent Cause for the universe; man is a mere freak of
nature—a fortuitous combination of molecules. Morality does not
exist, or if it does, man, as his own “god,” determines its nature.
Atheism is a philosophical system of contradiction and confusion.
Atheists do, however, attempt to argue their case—pitiful as the
attempt may be. In this article we will analyze two of the popular
arguments employed in defense of atheism.
NON-DESIGN NEGATES GOD?
In contending for the existence of God, theists utilize the
“design” argument, which postulates the premise that where there is
purposeful design, there must be a designer. That this type of
reasoning is valid, admits of no doubt, especially for those who
respect the authority of the Scriptures (which an atheist obviously
would not), since it is employed by an inspired writer. Paul, in his
powerful epistle to the Roman saints, declared: “For the invisible
things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being
perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power
and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (1:20). We may thus
1. If the universe evidences purposeful design, there must be a
2. But, the universe does evidence purposeful design.
3. Thus, the universe must have had a designer.
The basic point of contention, from the atheistic vantage point,
would be the minor premise. The infidel denies that the universe
reveals purposeful design. He therefore feels that he can reverse the
argument and make his point against the existence of God. He would
reason (incorrectly) as follows:
1. If the universe evidences the traits of non-design (i.e.,
chaos), there is no designer.
2. But, the universe does evidence non-design.
3. Thus, the universe had no designer.
The argument is totally invalid for several reasons. First of all,
in arguing our case for design, we are not obligated to show obvious
design in every single feature of the universe. We need only a
reasonable number of sufficient evidences to establish design, hence, a
Designer. Here are two vital principles that absolutely must be kept in
view:(1) It is possible that an object possesses purposeful design but
that its design is not recognized by the observer, and;(2) It is also
possible that an object once clearly reflected purposeful design, but
through the process of degeneration, its obvious design has been
erased. Let us consider these two points as applied to some atheistic
Suppose that a primitive native, strolling through the jungle,
should come across a watch. Curiously examining it, he cannot in the
least perceive its function. Does the fact that he sees no practical
purpose in the instrument prove that it has no design? Only a fool
would so affirm. Keep this important concept in mind, for frequently,
“primitive” atheists, unable to perceive design in various objects,
argue, upon the basis of their own ignorance, against the existence of
a Designer, i.e., God.
The Vast Universe–An Example of Non-Design?
We live in a tremendously large universe. Its limits have not been
measured, but it is estimated to be at least 20 billion light years in
diameter (i.e., the distance it would take light to travel across it at
the rate of 186,000+ miles per second).
There are billions of galaxies in our universe. We live in a tiny
area called the Milky Way galaxy, but even this is vast. If we drew a
map of our galaxy, and represented the Earth and Sun as two dots one
inch apart (thus a scale of one inch equals 93 million miles), we would
need a map at least four miles wide to locate our next nearest star,
and one 25,000 miles wide to reach the center of our galaxy! This is a
rather impressive universe, wouldn’t you say?
The atheist contends, however, that the enormity of the universe,
compared with our tiny planet, suggests wastefulness of space, hence,
non-design. We deny the premise. First of all, our vast universe
reveals a theological purpose; it demonstrates the power of the
Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament
showeth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). When Job questioned the wisdom of
Jehovah’s operations in this world, the Lord humbled him with a series
of questions about the measurements of the Earth, the purpose of which
was to reveal how very little the patriarch knew about this planet,
hence, how unqualified he was to judge his Maker (Job 38:2ff). If such
is the case with reference to this tiny speck of dust upon which we
live, how much more would it be true of the entire Cosmos? Is it not a
fact that that which we are able to thoroughly explore and minutely
examine eventually becomes quite commonplace to us? As a child, a trip
from one town to another nearby was an awesome experience. Later,
however, as one travels from coast to coast, those earlier experiences
seem so mundane. Even the size of our own country becomes unimpressive
once one has traveled around the world. We will never, though, cease to
be awed by God’s great universe for we will never be able to explore
its limits. His creative power will forever hold us breathless.
Second, the multiplied millions of stars and planets shining in the
heavens above is an aesthetic delight beyond description. And there is
certainly value in aesthetics. Atheist Paul Ricci has written: “Even
objects of art have some purpose; to provide us with aesthetic
enjoyment” (1986, p 188; emp. added).
Third, the scope of our amazing universe has a psychological value.
When David reflected upon the jeweled canopy above, he was constrained
to contemplate his own purpose: “When I consider thy heavens, the work
of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What
is man, that thou art mindful of him…” (Psalm 8:3,4). Our gigantic
universe simply is not an example of chaos.
The Earth As An Example Of Non-Design?
Next, the atheist turns his attention to mother Earth and suggests
that her features are a woeful mess, hence, evidence of non-design.
Consider, for example, the fact the Earth is about four-fifths water
and one-fifth land. The atheist argues: “What builder would construct a
house with five rooms, only one of which could be inhabited? Such
argues for very poor design.” He fails to recognize, though, that there
may indeed be purpose in just such an arrangement. Consider the
following:(a) The oceans provide a huge reservoir of moisture which is
constantly evaporating and condensing, thus falling upon the land as
refreshing rain.(b) It is a well-known fact that water heats and cools
at a much slower rate than does the solid land mass. This explains why
desert regions can be so blistering hot in the daytime and freezing
cold at night. Water holds its temperature longer, however, and
provides a sort of natural heating/air-conditioning system for the land
areas of the Earth. Our temperature extremes would be much more erratic
than they are, were it not for this factor.(c) Humans and animals
inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. On the other hand, plants
take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. We depend upon the world
of botany for some of our oxygen supply. What many fail to realize,
however, is that approximately 90% of our oxygen comes from microscopic
plants in the seas (Asimov, 1975, 2:116). If our oceans were
appreciably smaller, we would soon be out of breath! There is design in
the land/water ratio!
“But,” argues the infidel, “consider the land masses of our Earth.
Much of this area is occupied by burning deserts, rugged mountains, and
frozen wastelands. Surely an intelligent God would not have designed a
planet for man with so much uninhabitable territory!” In the first
place, we are not sure exactly how the Earth should be designed for
optimum human facilitation. We thus cannot argue out of ignorance.
Furthermore, the objection is weak for it fails to take into
consideration the principle which we mentioned earlier—that of
degeneration. Again, perhaps it would be helpful if we reasoned from
analogy. Suppose a gardener, digging in a pile of rubbish, discovers an
ancient book. Its cover is weathered, its pages are mostly stuck
together, the type has faded, etc. It is completely illegible. Does the
current condition of the book mean that it never had a message—that
it never evidenced design? Of course not. Though the message has faded
with time, there is no denying that once it was quite communicative.
Similarly, when the principle of “evil” was introduced upon this
planet, a state of degeneration commenced. Scientifically speaking, we
say the Second Law of Thermodynamics became operative (which states
that matter is growing old, wearing out, degenerating, i.e., losing
much of its “apparent” design). The Earth became subject to the
“bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:20,21), and corruption effaces
design. Too, one must consider the effects that the universal Flood of
Noah’s day had upon this planet. Doubtless many of Earth’s ideal
features were drastically altered so that we do not now see this globe
as it once was. Alfred Wallace, who has been called the “co-founder of
modern evolutionary theory,” described the early Earth as follows: “The
re is but one climate known to the ancient fossil world as revealed by
the plants and animals entombed in the rocks, and the climate was a
mantle of springlike loveliness which seems to have prevailed
continuously over the whole globe. Just how the world could have thus
been warmed all over may be a matter of conjecture; that it was so
warmed effectively and continuously is a matter of fact” (1876, 1:277).
For a discussion of this matter, see Jackson (1988, p 49).
A former minister, now turned agnostic, frames the problem in this
fashion: “Why is it that examples of order in design arguments are
always those things that appear beneficial? Genetic diseases like
hemophilia and cystic fibrosis result from very orderly procedures, and
the way that a brain tumor begins and grows until it kills the host
organism is likewise orderly” (Till, 1988, p 2). There are several
observations that may be made regarding this quibble. First, the
genetic order conceded in the examples cited, regardless of whether we
like the outcome or not, points to an “orderer.” Someone designed the
initial replicating mechanism; all of our experience forces us to the
conclusion that where there is design there must be a designer (as
indeed Ricci acknowledges on p 190). Second, the fact that the product
of an orderly mechanism is flawed does not necessarily reflect upon the
initial design or the designer. For example, if a machine which
manufactures tin cans begins to turn out irregular cans, does this
prove the machine had no designer? Must one postulate that the
machine’s inventor intended for mutilated cans to be produced, or that
the machine was imperfectly designed? Surely we can conceive that the
failure could be on the part of those who failed to follow the correct
procedures for maintaining the machine, or who abused it in some
fashion. When man rebelled against his Maker, the Lord allowed, as a
consequence of that disobedience, degenerative processes to begin,
which eventually result in death (Romans 5:12). But the fact that we
have eye problems, heart failure, diseases, etc., does not negate the
impact as a whole that the human body is “fearfully and wonderfully
made” (Psalm 139:14). We will not assume, therefore, that because our
critic’s reasoning ability is flawed, this proves his brain was not
designed. The “design” argument remains unscathed!
A less sophisticated tactic of atheism is the “I dare you”
dramatic. The infidel arrogantly challenges God to strike him down;
when no immediate response is received, the unbeliever confidently
asserts that “this proves there is no God.”
Some years ago, an atheist was lecturing in a small town in New
Mexico. He concluded his presentation, as he customarily did, with a
challenge: “If there is a God, I dare Him to strike me dead this
instant.” When nothing happened, he triumphantly folded his arms and
announced that God did not exist. The following morning, an article,
simply titled, “The Parable of the Ants,” appeared in the local
newspaper. It went somewhat like this.
Two ants were crossing the desert when they came across two giant
ribbons of steel spanning the countryside. Said one to the other, “What
is this?” His friend replied, “This is a railroad track, and upon it
runs a huge machine called a train. The train is dispatched by an
operator in a distant city, who regulates its activity.” “Incredible!,”
protested the little unbelieving ant, as he crawled upon one of the
rails. “If there is such an operator, I challenge him to send a train
down here right now and run me over!”
Thus ended the short but powerful story. No one needed the parable
interpreted. What railroad president, in his right mind, would dispatch
a train all the way to the New Mexico desert to answer the challenge of
a mere ant? What sort of intelligence would that reflect?
But let us consider the “challenge argument” from another angle.
Suppose, upon issuing his challenge, “If there is a God, let him strike
me dead,” the atheist should suddenly collapse and die. How many
converts to theism do you suppose that would make? Likely, very few.
In the first place, other atheists would probably write if off as pure
coincidence—a quirk of nature which no God had orchestrated. Or else,
the complaint assuredly would be, “If that is the kind of being God is,
I want no part of Him.” It would be virtually a no-win situation. The
fact is, however, God has ultimately imposed the sentence of death upon
rebellious man (Romans 5:12). Let the atheist who thinks He has not,
try to reverse the process of death!
The problem with the person who makes the I-dare-you-to-kill-me
argument is that he underestimates the Creator. He expects God to
respond as he dictates the terms of punishment for disobedience. He
views the Lord as One who, if he is God, should be constantly and
immediately beating man into submission. That simply is not Jehovah’s
way. He has given ample evidence of His existence for any honest person
to see. He has shown, by means of objective revelation (i.e., the
Bible) that we have disobeyed His will. He has offered pardon through
the redemptive mission of His Son, Jesus Christ. And He has warned that
there is a final price to pay if humanity continues its rebellious
course. In other words, He is working His plan and He is not under
obligation to respond to man’s ignorant and ill-conceived whims.
The infidelic arguments considered above are without merit.
Evidence for Jehovah’s existence is absolutely overwhelming and only
the fool rejects it (Psalm 14:1).
Asimov, Isaac (1975), `Guide to Science’ (London: Pelican).
Jackson, Wayne (1988), “The Earth—A Planet Plagued With `Evil’,”
`Reason and Revelation’, 8:49-52.
Ricci, Paul (1986), `Fundamentals of Critical Thinking’ (Lexington, MA:
Till, Farrell (1988), `personal correspondence’, 11/19/88.
Wallace, Alfred (1876), `The Geographical Distribution of Animals’ (New
York: Harper and Brothers).
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