AUTHOR: Jackson, Wayne
PUBLISHED ON: April 29, 2003
TAGS: atheism

                                 Wayne Jackson

        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
    logically argue:

        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

                              DESIGN UNRECOGNIZED

        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!

                                DESIGN DISTORTED

        “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!

                                 THE CHALLENGE

        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[12]:49-52.
    Ricci, Paul (1986), `Fundamentals of Critical Thinking’ (Lexington, MA:
        Ginn Press).
    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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