Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 6

Is there order in the universe? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We move on now to chapter 4. Again, Mills has the problem of not citing any sources. He just makes grand pronouncements about what these people thought without citing any of these people. In the first case, he pictures in ancient Greece a hunter firing an arrow.

Citizens of ancient Greece were quite perplexed by the observed flight of such an arrow. Which god, they wondered, kept the arrow moving toward the target? The bow obviously provided the initial propulsion, but once out of direct, physical contact with the bow, why didn’t the arrow instantly fall to earth? Which god, they pondered, kept the arrow aloft, at least temporarily? Which supernatural Being was responsible for the arrow’s continued forward motion?

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 87-88). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Someone wanting to really show what the Greeks thought would have cited ancient sources. There were more than enough philosophers that could have been mentioned. Nope. Not a one. Mills can’t be bothered to actually document his claim. It was just “God did it” until Newton came along and science finally saved us.

Of course, this relates to “creationism.”

Creationists argue that the regularity and predictability of planetary orbits are evidence of supernatural governance of the universe. In other words, creationists believe, in direct opposition to Newton’s first law, that constancy and regularity of motion are evidence not only of an external force, but of a supernatural external force. I submit to you that this creationist claim—of a miraculous Power guiding the planets—is identical in every sense to the ancient Greek belief in god-propelled arrows or god-assisted plunges to the bottom of a cliff. Let us recall that “regularity or constancy of motion denotes the absence of an external force.” If gods are unnecessary to explain the continued motion of a hunter’s arrow, then the gods are unnecessary to explain the continued motion of celestial objects. If gods are unnecessary to explain the hunter’s downward plunge off a cliff, then they are unnecessary to explain other gravitational fields as well. For, as Isaac Newton discovered, the same gravity that pulls an apple (or a hunter) to the ground is the same gravity that holds the moon and planets in their orbits. There is no difference—except perhaps to those who, for emotional reasons, strive to see miraculous visions and omens in the night sky.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 92). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Call Oz. Someone took their straw man.

First off, saying that planetary order is explained by God does not mean we cannot understand scientifically how He does it. That does not oppose Newton at all. Mills is really arguing against an Islamic understanding where God is the direct cause of everything going on, whereas most Christians have no problem with God using secondary means to bring about order in the universe.

Second, the idea of no God being necessary is really begging the question. How do we know we don’t need a God to establish order and maintain it? Well, we have our universe and we can explain it just fine scientifically. And how do you know God isn’t a reality in this universe? Because we can explain it scientifically.

I contend that the fact that we can explain the universe scientifically actually does show that there is an orderer behind the universe. If the universe is a brute fact that is an accident, why should we expect any order? Why should there be any consistency?

Creationists of Fundamentalist persuasion disagree vehemently that planetary motion is a wholly natural phenomenon. It’s far more intriguing and emotionally inspiring for them to believe in “Divine Watchmakers” than to accept the mundane, mathematical explanations of science. A minority of creationists, however, raise few, if any, objections to the conclusions drawn thus far in this chapter. This minority will readily accept that inertia and gravitation are not supernatural forces, and that routine planetary motion is simply the merging of gravity with inertia. Put another way, a small group of creationists do accept (in this instance, at least) the scientific principle known as Ockham’s Razor, which states that the simplest reasonable explanation is usually the most accurate.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 93). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I know many creationists and I have never met one who would have a problem with this. Of course, Mills doesn’t cite any of them. I still don’t know then who these people are he is arguing against.

Later, Mills talks abotu Kepler:

It is interesting to note here that Kepler was a deeply religious man, striving for years to prove his theory of “Divine Geometry” in which the planets moved in perfect circles around the sun. Finally, Kepler was forced to abandon his theory because the observed motion of the planets contradicted the theory’s predictions. Three hundred years later, “modern” creationism still maintains that the solar system obeys Divine Geometry.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 96-97). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Mills should not study medieval science if he doesn’t want to realize that the majority of scientists were deeply religious men. As for this theory of divine geometry today, again, who are these creationists? Also, the system that was set up of divine geometry was not from the religious originally, but from people like Ptolemy. This was the best theory at the time and it did work in predicting where the planets would be.

Creationism maintains that God created Earth primarily as a home for mankind. For what purpose, then, did God create the other planets and stars? Creationists sometimes respond that God created the heavens to attest His majesty and to provide man with a beautiful night sky. Such an argument—already highly dubious—disintegrates further when we consider that all planets and stars visible to the naked eye are located within our own Milky Way galaxy. Of what benefit to mankind are the other hundred-billion galaxies?

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 98). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

The problem with this kind of thing is that Mills raises the questions, but he never seeks any answers. There are plenty of scientific minds in Christianity that can address this. Mills doesn’t bother. It’s saying “I don’t know, therefore there isn’t a reason.” It’s strange since these are the same people who say science is all about exploring the questions.

He also talks about how some people used Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to show Hawking was arguing for the idea of a divine creator. In great irony, Mills says:

Science illiteracy is so ubiquitous, and religious dogma so firmly ingrained, that legions cannot read a well-written science book without hallucinating the supernatural on every page.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 101-102). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

And many atheists cannot read any data that disagrees with them and are highly illiterate of the views they argue against. (Just off the top of my head, imagine if someone can’t get the first cause argument even right!) Does the public need to learn how to read science books well? Yes, but sadly that’s because the public largely needs to learn how to read ALL books well. Mills does not set a good example in that he speaks on material that anyone who has done reading on the subject can see he is uninformed on.

Finally, in summing up all his data, what does Mills say?

Why do I find these obscure facts so convincing? Because these are the facts that we would expect to observe if the solar system formed naturally.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 102). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

To which I wonder how does anything form naturally from nothing? If something is eternal, how does it continue in existence? It is as if MIlls takes this as a given to be formed naturally. The problem is we don’t have any other universes, at least ones we have access to, that we can do a comparison of, and if theism is true, those universes would also find their existing based on God.

Next time, we will discuss life on Earth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)





Book Plunge: Atheist Universe Part 4

How did the universe come to be? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, Mills is asking if the origin of the universe is natural or supernatural. The problem is, he never defines these terms. As readers of this blog know, I have a great problem with this kind of classification. If natural becomes just whatever happens if there is no outside interference, the fact that there is any kind of order I find to be something that needs to be explained.

This starts with the discovery of the background radiation that led to the Big Bang Theory. What is not said is that at the start, many atheistic scientists were opposed to the idea of the Big Bang Theory. After all, if the universe had a beginning, then that would lead to the idea that it had a beginner. It’s a wonder why Mills never mentions this.

He does at least quote the philosopher Mortimer Adler with this great question of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Unfortunately, from here, he goes on to the first cause argument. Again, he gets it wrong:

The traditional First Cause argument goes as follows: We observe in the universe a Law of Cause-Effect. Everything requires a cause to account for its existence. Each cause, in turn, is itself an effect that demands a preceding causal antecedent. If, therefore, we regress indefinitely through this chain of causation, we would ultimately arrive at a First Cause, to Whom we give the name “God.” Historically, secular-minded philosophers countered the First Cause argument by asking, “What caused God?” When churchmen responded that “God always existed,” secularists usually offered two points of rebuttal: 1) If we can suppose that God always existed, then why not suppose instead that physical matter always existed? After all, this non-supernatural assumption is far simpler than presupposing a highly complex series of Divine Creation miracles; 2) The ecclesiastical argument—that God always existed—contradicts the original premise of the First Cause argument—that the “Law of Cause-Effect” can be consistently applied. If everything except God is governed by the “Law of Cause-Effect,” then the First Cause argument becomes ad hoc and therefore logically impermissible. In other words, we’re right back where we started, having advanced neither our logical arguments nor our understanding of universal causation.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 68-69). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

Historically, no secular-minded people argued this way against the church because no one in the church argued that way at all. Of course, Mills doesn’t cite a single person who made this argument. As to why it couldn’t be physical matter, a theist could accept that matter could be eternal, but still need a cause because in Thomistic philosophy, it is matter and thus inherently has potential. Whatever is ultimate has to be pure actuality.

It’s interesting that he next refers to the work of Newton and Mendel. There is no mention that Newton was a theist, though a Unitarian one, or that Mendel was a Christian monk. This is important since Mills consistently treats faith as an impediment to science, when if anything, it was a boon to it.

Mills goes on to say:

Likewise, it is absurd to state that the laws of physics, which are likewise written accounts of human observation, cause the outcome of the observed phenomena. Creationists loathe to admit that physical laws are human in origin.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 70). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

I am unsure what Mills means here when he says that physical laws are human in origin. If he means their reality, then they are not human in origin in the sense that these laws existed before any human discovered them. If he means the formulation of them, then they are definitely human in origin, with the understanding that they are discovered. I don’t know of any one who is a “creationist” who is “loathe” to state that.

By the way, this is something consistent in the book. Mills never defines what a creationist is. For instance, I am someone who is open to evolution and have no problem with an old Earth or the Big Bang Theory, yet by Mills’s standards, I think I would be seen as a creationist. Yet at other times, he speaks of creationists as people who necessarily believe in a young-Earth.

So when the term comes up, I am unsure what he means.

So what about Adler’s question? Mills returns to it saying:

Adler’s question, however—“Why is there something, rather than nothing?”—assumes that there is supposed to be nothing: that the “natural” state of the universe is nonexistence. The fact that there obviously is something, then, is viewed by Adler as a miracle requiring a supernatural explanation. The perceived “mystery” of Adler’s question lies, not in a supernatural answer, but in his presumptive formulation of the question itself. Adler’s question is similar to presuming that grass is supposed to be red, then claiming that its undeniably green color is evidence that a Divine miracle has occurred. From a scientific perspective, though, the question is: Why shouldn’t there be something rather than nothing? What law of science claims that the universe is not supposed to exist, or that nonexistence is the “natural” condition of the universe? There is no such law. On the contrary, the law of the conservation of mass-energy leads to a radically different conclusion: that the mass-energy which now constitutes our universe always existed, though the universe, as we observe it today, did indeed have a beginning at the Big Bang.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 75-76). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

No. Adler’s question is the correct one. Why is there something that a law can even apply to? Science only works once there is something, but for the question of what would happen otherwise, it has nothing to say. Mills is not beginning to even attempt the metaphysical question of existence. It is quite likely, he has no clue about such a question.

Later on, Mills gives us this gem:

Many pre-Renaissance scholars thought it was common sense that the Earth was flat and motionless.

Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 79). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.

It is not a shock that Mills cites no such scholars. There are two good reasons. First, Mills hasn’t done any historical research and just believes atheist arguments on faith. The second is that these scholars don’t exist.

Now to get to a point I made prior, order in the universe is something that needs to be explained. Why is there a consistency between A and B? Why is it when I put a glass of water in the microwave and turn it on for half an hour, that it gets hot? Why does it not get cold or turn to diamonds or gain sentience?

If at the root of the universe there is chaos and accidents with no order at its origin or start, then why should we expect order to show up in it? Why should I expect an accidental universe to be orderly? Mills never answers this.

At this point, I am not surprised.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)






Is Religion Natural?

What belongs to the order of nature? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While browsing Facebook on Sunday, I saw a meme shared in an apologetics group saying homosexuality is natural because animals perform homosexual acts. Religion is not because animals do not do that. Therefore, it’s not homosexuality that isn’t natural, but religion that is unnatural.

Memes are to some people meant to get you thinking. This one did get me thinking.

“Why do people think arguments so dumb are so powerful?”

To begin with, as in memes, there is never any defining of terms. What is religion? What does it mean to be natural?

I could also question that animals don’t do religion. Some animals are said to have strong burial rites that they follow. Who is to say that a lion roaring over his prey is not designed to praise his creator that way?

There’s also the problem that there are many behaviors that animals do that we would not consider to do. Animals freely poop in public and unless you live in San Francisco, this is normally frowned upon. Animals also eat their own young and again, most of us don’t have a drive to legalize cannibalism because it’s natural.

But if the person wants to play this game, we’ll play this game.

I do not know of any animals who are writing rational discourses or presenting rational arguments. By this standard then, to make a rational argument is unnatural. Therefore, we should not make rational arguments.

I also do not know of animals doing science. Now I know that so many of our atheist friends love science, but if we’re going this route, then science has to be deemed as unnatural. Therefore, if we want to do what is natural, we cannot do science.

Now if you’re an atheist reading this argument, do notice something.

Nowhere in here did I say homosexual acts are sinful. While I do think that, you do not have to agree with me on this point. I just said that this is a bad argument for a position. It is possible to affirm that you think my view is false and yet that an argument against it is bad. I think there are bad arguments against atheism and bad arguments for Christianity.

If someone wanted to refine this, they would need to define their terms. I never did in this piece because I wasn’t the one making the argument and I was trying to go by the understanding I figured the meme maker had. I could be wrong, but that’s part of the problem of the poster not defining his terms. I can’t read his mind.

And for Christians, keep in mind this doesn’t make the argument either. This argument I have presented cannot establish homosexual practice is wrong. We must make our own arguments that way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Don’t Speak of the Supernatural

Is there a problem with this term? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times when debating atheists, I find it amusing that they will always use the word “supernatural.” I don’t. Majority of the times, when I ask what this term means, I do not get an answer. It is a term I refuse to use anymore as I think it’s much more problematic.

For one thing, with this term, whatever is natural is treated as a given. What has to be proven is the supernatural and who gets the burden of proof then? That’s right. The theist does. The atheist has to make no defense of the natural.

Let’s look at that for a bit. One of the big mistakes we make is that we think we just need to argue for how the world came to be. How about arguing for how the world is? What keeps the world in motion? Look at your own self. You could go and end your own life with suicide if you wanted, but if Christianity is true, you would not end your existence. Your existence would go on. (I realize some Christians believe in conditional immortality, but even then it is God who destroys your existence and not yourself.)

You can sit in a chair all day and say “I will myself to not exist” and it will not happen. You will go on existing. You might starve yourself to death or some other means, but your mere will alone will not terminate your existing. You also are not always willing yourself to exist. After all, you have to sleep sometimes. Your existing comes from something else.

Atheists don’t usually seem to want to engage with this question.

But then, let’s go a step further. What is natural? It is hard to describe. This gets us into making supernatural even harder to describe. If natural refers to the material world, many of us believe in things that we don’t see in the material world. We believe in triangularity even if there weren’t any triangles. We believe in love and goodness. We believe laws of logic are real. We believe our consciousness is real. There are differing opinions, but some believe numbers are real. We could even say existence itself. After all, you can’t take some existence, put it in a jar, and study it.

If material reality is all that there is, then these things mentioned here do not really exist. None of them are material in nature. This is one reason I prefer to not use the term supernatural, but I instead speak of the extramaterial. A skeptical will be in a much harder position dealing with those realities, and yet here they are.

Supernatural too often becomes a term coined with anything referring to religion. (Another hard term to define, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole again.) Get rid of that and what is left but atheism? Atheism is treated as a given then, the default position.

If a skeptic wants to claim only material realities or natural (Whatever that means) exist, let him demonstrate that claim. That’s the rule. Whoever makes a claim has the burden to demonstrate it and failing to demonstrate one claim does not mean the other claim is demonstrated. It just means one party has poor reasons for believing their claim.

Defining terms is always important in debate. When supernatural comes up, it tends to end in a debate on what the supernatural is. It tends to put the Christian automatically on the defensive because they accept the term. I recommend then not using the term. It only leads to problems.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why I Reject A Natural/Supernatural Distinction

Are we buying into a paradigm that we ought not to? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many times when I’m in a debate, I’m told that I accept supernatural realities. My response is always along the lines of “Who said I do?” I in fact do not accept such because I do not believe that the term supernatural is really that meaningful anyway. I consider it a claim we have from the time of the Enlightenment that takes for granted an idea that we got from that time.

You see, in this view, the world that we see everyday is “natural.” For that, it is the one that does not need to be explained. Outside of this world is supposed to be a world that is deemed “supernatural.” This world is supposed to be a catch-all to includes ideas like fairies, goblins, demons, angels, miracles, and of course, God or the gods.

Is this really an approach we want to take?

You see, I can readily accept there are realities that we see everyday, and to be fair, most atheists and agnostics would seek to have an explanation for this rather than “It’s just there” as some sort of brute fact, but at the same time I believe in many realities that I do not have the ability to see everyday and do not operate according to “laws of nature.”

“Of course you do. You’re a theist. You believe in God.”

Okay. How about triangularity?

But don’t we see triangularity around us everyday?

No. We don’t. We can see several triangles. We don’t see triangularity itself. You could not draw me a picture of triangularity. You could only draw me triangles.

How about numbers? Now to be fair, I’m not convinced numbers exist in the same way triangularity does, but if you think that numbers do exist like that, then what is your explanation for that?

What about morality? Many of us do believe that there are objective moral truths and that some things are objectively good. This is not something that we can detect through scientific means however. It’s not visible so how could we just call it “natural”?

And then of course, there’s existence itself. Now we can say we see existence, but we don’t. We see things that exist. You can’t take just existence itself and put it in a jar.

When we accept the false natural/supernatural dichotomy, we make it so that we entirely have the burden of proof and we accept a more materialistic worldview right at the start. Why should we do that? If someone wants to say there is a natural/supernatural dichotomy, then it is up to them to demonstrate that.

When we accept it also, everything gets accepted under this catch-all term so it becomes “Oh? You believe in miracles? Then do you believe in fairies also?” The nonsense idea is that all claims of this sort are equal entirely. Of course some claims of suprahuman realities are false, but that does not mean all are. Each claim must be examined on its own.

I urge Christians to question this dichotomy wherever you find it. If you use this terminology, you’re already well on your way to accepting a materialist worldview. Don’t do it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters