Questions Atheists Can’t Definitively Answer
Ray “the Banana Guy” Comfort is at it again. Watch this rhetorical nonsense by his lackey Kirk “The Teleprompter” Cameron:
1. “What was in the beginning?”
Atheists have a dilemma when they say that there was nothing in the beginning. This is because nothing cannot create something. If they say that there were gases (or something) in the beginning, then it’s not the “beginning,” because the gases or the “something” already existed. Who or what made them? This is why reasonable atheists admit that they just don’t know, humbling though it may be.
Advocatus Atheist: Actually, it’s not just atheists who have a “dilemma” when it comes to understanding how the universe came to be. Everyone is in the same boat, since there is not yet a definitive answer, but this doesn’t mean that scientists don’t have working models based off of real evidence.
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking demonstrated mathematically over 30 years ago how the universe could have arisen from a quantum filed of virtual particles (the closest thing to nothing there is). To posit intent behind creation takes us outside of what the evidence allows for and changes the argument from a scientifically observable phenomenon to a philosophical consideration about the nature of the first cause.
Distinguished Physicist Lawrence Krauss, Associate Director of the Beyond Center, co-director of the Cosmology Initiative, and the director New Origins Initiative at Arizona State University, talks about the origins of the universe, and how the evidence suggests that it may have sprung from nothing, in this insightful video:
So Ray is incorrect, although there may not be a definitive answer for the origins of life or the existence of the universe, atheists can answer the question—with honesty—we simply don’t know. But we can make an educated guess. That’s more than most Christians can claim.
2. “Do human beings have more intrinsic value than animals?”
If your pet dog and your neighbor are drowning, and you can only save one of them, who would you save? If it’s your neighbor, why? To an atheist, both the dog and the human being are mere species of animal, so their value is completely subjective. Most, if pressed, would say that they would save the human being, but they have no real explanation as to why he has more worth, other than to say that there is moral pressure from the social order to value a person more than a dog.
Advocatus Atheist: As far as modern ethics goes, I’m pretty sure all living things are imputed with (or imbued with) the same intrinsic value. All honey bees are intrinsically valuable to all other honey bees. Flowers are intrinsically valuable to all other flowers. Sunshine and H2O are valuable in their own right. These things can be valuable to each other; i.e. sunshine, water, flower, honey bee all enhance each others intrinsic value by depending on one another for survival. Humans are valuable also. I fail to see Ray’s point.
Ray needs to rethink this question, and while he’s doing that he may want to check out the “Trolley problem” thought experiment.
3. “What happens after death?”
The only way any of us can speak with any authority about the subject of death is to have reliable information from someone who has been there. God has been there. He transcends death. He is both on this side and on “the other side.” When we remove God from the equation, we are left with mere conjecture.
Advocatus Atheist: What happens after death, Ray asks? In the famous words of Richard Dawkins, “You get buried. Or in some people’s case, cremated.”
4. “What is the purpose of life?”
Without reference to a Creator who made us with the purpose of eternal fellowship with Him, life has no real rhyme or reason. We are just tiny specs on a big ball of dirt, flying through space, striving to be happy, but with no purpose for existence.
Advocatus Atheist: Let’s not jump the gun just yet. Although a naturalistic worldview may paint a bleak future, a fact of living in the sort of universe we do, because let’s face the facts, everything is ultimately doomed to die out in heat entropy, aka a “big freeze,” billions upon billions of years from now—even so, this doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning in our lives. As the ex-Evangelical minister Dan Barker has reassured, “Truth is truth. It shouldn’t matter what any of us wants to believe. The fact that life is ultimately meaningless does not mean it is not immediately meaningful.”
Our pal Ray doesn’t seem to have thought it all through, and in typical fly by night fashion, dismisses anything resembling a satisfactory answer and preemptively declares a Creator created the purpose we see all around us and without this patent assumption declares life meaningless. Let Ray puzzle over this next question: If humans weren’t here, would there still be purpose to the universe? If so what? I predict Ray will say that it has whatever purpose God intended for it, well, that’s dodging the bullet now isn’t it? Resorting to the “God said it, I believed it, and that’s good enough for me” trump card doesn’t help solve the theist’s problem.
5. “Why is there order throughout creation?”
If we believe that creation came into being through a big bang, it is important to understand that all explosions cause chaos. Order can come only through an in intelligent designer. Why then is there order from the tiny atom to the massive universe? Why do the four seasons occur each year, at different times of the year, in different parts of the world—always in the same order? Why can we predict the sun’s rising to the second 100 years into the future? Why is there order in the makeup of the brain, the eye, the ear, the blood, the heart, liver, kidneys, hands and feet? Every part of creation screams (to a thinking mind) that there is a Creator.
Advocatus Atheist: The Manderblot Set describes mathematically how order can come out of random systems quite nicely. Here Ray mistakes order for design—two different things actually. “Order” happens as the natural consequences of the fixed laws of nature. What Ray means is, how come we see function which appears like it has been specially designed for a specific purpose? But he’s wrong to confuse this with the “mind” of a Designer.
Human brains are hard-wired to detect design.
Here’s an easy way to grasp the concept. Picture an old fashioned popcorn maker, all the corn kernels swirling around in a vortex within the machine. All is chaos as kernels spiral frantically about. Gradually heat is applied and some kernels begin to pop! With all the chaos, could you stare down into the whirling vortex and pick out three distinct kernels and triangulate them? Probably not. Is there any order to be found? Not at all.
Slowly but surely most of the kernels will explode into large fluffy popped corns! They will come out of the machine and land in a nice bowl waiting for them. As they come to settle it becomes much easier to pick out three popcorns and triangulate them. In fact, we might even detect patterns. Just like when we see “animal” shapes in the clouds. The popcorn may take on patterns of their own. They will seem to be ordered, but only because our minds have placed them in the order for us.
Whenever we slow things down enough so our senses can detect them, then our minds take over and will connect the dots accordingly. Design is something the human mind generates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is intent behind the order of the design.
6. “Why is there a sense of morality in every civilization?”
How do we instinctively know that it’s wrong to kill, to lie, to steal, etc. Where did this universal morality come from? The only reasonable explanation is the one given by the Bible—that “the work of the Law is written in their hearts” (Romans 2:15), and that God Himself has given light to every man (see Romans 1:18–20). If we didn’t accept that the conscience is inherent within every human being, we could never rightly administer civil justice. Morality is shaped by, but does not originate from society.
Advocatus Atheist: Moral sense, as David Hume called it, exists in us because we are aware of other’s suffering, or capacity to suffer. Sociopaths and psychopaths are immoral precisely because their brains are damaged in such a way as to hinder their ‘moral sense’ so that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong, or in some cases, find all the wrong things pleasurable. Much has been documented in the field of psychology in this area.
As for Ray’s comment about a “universal morality” this is strictly conjecture. There is no such thing as an absolute universal morality. There are golden axioms, such as not eating each other like cannibals, but not all societies in all times have obeyed such common sense ethics. And that’s what it comes down to, moral relativism and the formulations of systems of ethics. Ray seems to think his system is the only one in town… but he’s grossly mistaken. Buddhists, for example, have been living moral lives for hundreds of years before Christianity came onto the scene, and to top it off they don’t believe in God either.
What does this say? Mainly that “to do good” is a choice, “compassion” is a human trait which stems from our ability to perceive suffering (even mental anguish), and empathy comes from our understanding that when something bad happens we have the capacity to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes and realize that we would not want to undergo the burden they endure. Checkmate Ray!
7. “Why does every civilization acknowledge God?”
While atheists may argue that some religions within certain cultures (such as some Buddhist sects) are atheistic, mankind has never found any civilization (no matter how primitive) that didn’t worship some sort of Creator, whether it be the sun or some other idol.
Advocatus Atheist: It seems Ray is making a blanket statement , and a bandwagon appeal, when he claims that “all” civilizations have believed in some form of god or supernatural entity. What Ray neglects to see is that this is an anthropological question. Properly stated, the question becomes: “Why does almost every civilization have a predominant superstition, religion, or belief in a deity of some kind?”
Many anthropologists have taken up the challenge of addressing just this question. Most notably David Eller in his book Introducing Anthropology of Religion: Culture to the Ultimate and Pascal Boyer’s book Religion Explained.
8. “Which came first—the chicken or the egg?”
Evolutionists believe simple life forms, with ability to reproduce, became increasingly complex, until a bird developed a slightly different feature and became the new species “chicken.” Like its predecessor, it had the ability to reproduce. However, there is no such thing as a “simple” life form. If any form of life were simple, science could easily create it from nothing in a laboratory.
Yet, the most progressive of greatest geniuses in the scientific world haven’t got the slightest clue how to make a grain of sand from nothing, let alone a living form with the ability to reproduce. Without the book of beginnings (Genesis) to tell us that God made the chicken first (see Genesis 1:20), we are merely guessing as to the bird’s origin. If an atheist believes it was a chicken that evolved first (over time) from a simple life form, where did it come from, and how was it given life when there was no initial Genesis cause? If it evolved without the involvement of an egg, why did evolution change its mind and begin introduce eggs, if the chicken was doing okay without them? Also, why and when did a rooster become necessary to fertilize the egg so that a chicken would form within it, and which came first, that rooster or its egg? If the atheist maintains that the egg came first, who then made it, (and again) who fertilized it, and who sat on it so that it would hatch?
And that’s just the beginning of the beginnings dilemma. Which came first—the eagle or its egg? How about the duck? The owl, the emu, the ostridge [sic],[i] the tiny humming bird, and the big old albatross? There is no end to it, if you reject “In the Beginning God created . . .”
Advocatus Atheist: Ray shows us, once again, the heights and depths of his stunning intellect. Evolution explains the egg perfectly. Simply put, so as daft as Daffy Duck could comprehend, fish are egg laying animals. When a specieis makes the transition onto land, the species will still lay eggs in or near the water. The eggs must grow a tougher membrane to endure the harsher environments, and fend off attack from predators, and so enzymes build up to create a thicker membrane wall—eventually this evolves and hardens forming a shell. (I’m staying basic on purpose). If Ray extended the question, “Which came first, the fish or the egg” then I’d have to discuss cell division and reproduction in more detail, but I’m afraid that would only confound him considering the nature of the next question he asks.
However, there is no controversy to the Chicken/Egg debate–they came together and always have. Ray can bide his time by reading up on evolution. I suggest he start with these sources:
Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin
9. “Why do females exist?”
All animals, fish, and reptiles have the ability to reproduce of their own kind because they have females within the species. No male can reproduce and keep its kind alive without a female of the same species. Dogs, cats, horses, cows, elephants, humans, giraffes, lions, tigers, etc., all came into being having both male and female. If any species came into existence without a mature female present (with complementary female parts), that one male would have remained alone and in time died.
The species could not have survived without a female. Why did hundreds of thousands of animals, fish, reptiles, and birds (over millions of years) evolve a female partner (that coincidentally matured at just the right time) within each species?
Advocatus Atheist: I can’t presume to guess what Ray’s point here might even be. But females exist because all unfertilized eggs (ovum) begin as “female.” It’s only when the Y chromosome is supplied by the male sperm that a diploid cell resulting from the fusion of two haploids gametes, a fertilized ovum in other words, does a zygote become male.
Testosterone provides the necessary ingredients for males to create sperm and a steady supply of semen to carry the XY Chromosome. Females on the other hand only supply an XX Chromosome.
Therefore, parthenogenesis, or a female giving birth without insemination (as a virgin) can only produce female offspring. This makes the claims that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a baby male completely erroneous—not to mention impossible. To date no known case of parthenogenesis has occurred in the human species. Female Great White Sharks, on the other hand, have been documented to have undergone parthenogenesis.
10. “Why does entropy exist?”
If everything evolved without a Creator, and from the beginning evolved from the primitive to the modern, from simple to complex, why is everything deteriorating? Our bodies, trees, flowers, birds, fish, animals, the earth, and the sun are winding down. If evolution is true, everything should be continuing to evolve and improve. Why has evolution stopped? Instead, we see the exact opposite of the evolving process. Everything is dying and deteriorating, something the Bible addresses from Genesis to Revelation.
Advocatus Atheist: Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray, Rayyyyyy… seriously now. I was hoping for something brilliant coming from Ray “the banana guy” Comfort! This is lack luster, coming from a man of such stunning intellect.
Entropy does not “exist.” Entropy deals with the relations between heat and other forms of energy. It’s not that things are deteriorating—this is a false assumption. Entropy, in actuality, has to do with the interconvertibility of all forms of energy.
Okay, I used a big word here, so let me explain more plainly. Energy changes. If a system’s thermal energy changes randomly, then entropy is the measure of the disorder in the system. Got that? Good. The Universe is Expanding at exponential rates, thus the energy which exists is getting “stretched” thin. In other words, the more of the universe there is the less energy which can convert into matter there is. Eventually there won’t be enough to form matter, as it will be spread far too thin to gain any mass for gravity to condense into clusters perchance to form stellar furnaces—stars. Therefore, if there is not enough energy to form a star then there won’t be enough energy to form matter since stars generate matter.
What does this mean? Since the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy always increases, this means that given enough time, the matter will be stretched so thin it reverts back into energy, and as the universe continues to expand, eventually all energy gets stretched out so thin that it will dissipate like a soap bubble which is popped… and nothing will be left. And this is the heat death of the universe—the big freeze!
So to make a long answer short: Why does entropy exist? Because the universe we live in is expanding.
Q: So what happens when an Atheist answers all of Ray Comfort’s Questions that Atheists can’t definitively answer? He regains some dignity for the human race. Even so, we can never really erase the embarrassing stain of Ray’s truly blinkered intellect. I’m not throwing out ad hominems, I’m not trying to sound like an intellectual snob (especially since an uneducated toddler starts to sound like an intellectual snob when put next to Ray “the banana guy” Comfort). Believe me when I tell you, I’m gravely serious, what comes out of Ray’s mind is truly mind-boggling, to say the least.
What reeks of condescending superciliousness is the fact that Ray thinks that this grand display of intellectual prowess somehow “definitively” stumps the atheist dead in her tracks—when clearly it does not. Of course, having met our match, and with no other recourse but to accept Ray’s brilliant answers, all atheists would have to convert to Evangelical Christianity and be saved. Hallelujah! We’ll all be meeting up at Ray’s place afterwards for free pizza and soda!
Ray Comfort forgot to run spell check apparently, since it is spelled ostrich not “ostridge.”