Answering a Creationist Challenge

I was listening to a podcast of The Atheist Experience* the other day, and a creationist called in to try to challenge the host’s beliefs about how the universe began. Basically, it was the standard creationist argument that God is the only possible explanation for the laws of the universe being what they are. For one thing, I find it amusing that anyone would think atheists must have an answer to how the universe came into being. These are questions for a cosmologist, not a general atheist without specialized training in that area of science. Atheism isn’t a belief about how the universe began, it’s a rejection of the claims of theism.

But after some thought, I think I’ve come up with a simple response that doesn’t require expertise in cosmology. Science has a centuries-long history of replacing supernatural explanations with natural ones. Every single time we have finally understood a phenomena, there has been a natural, non-magical, understandable process behind it. All the assumptions about the natural world that were based on the Bible — for instance, that the earth is at the center and the Sun and everything else revolves around it — have turned out to be dead wrong. So does it really make sense to think that if we actually ever discover the true origins of life, the universe, and everything it’s just suddenly going to prove the Bible? Seriously?

*For anyone interested, here is the video of the Atheist Experience episode I am referencing.

One thought on “Answering a Creationist Challenge

  1. I watched that episode too. That was a day when I really wished I could have been on that panel, because there were some points I really wanted to make, and was wishing Don and Russell would say.

    First, suppose that the creationist managed to somehow undermine all of science. So what? That only gets us back to “we don’t know”, it does nothing to get you to any particular religion. (Russell did mention this point, but I wished he had focused on it more.)

    But I also wished that they had taken a step back and called this guy out for doing a Gish Gallop of standard creationist apologetics. Does he think that atheists have never heard any of this stuff before? Does he suppose that we’d find any of it convincing? What does he think he’s accomplishing by throwing all these assertions out there and constantly changing the subject? There’s no real way to have a serious conversation about any one point with someone who does this, he’s just out to score cosmic brownie points with his god for preaching to the heathens.

    If I were talking to this guy, I think I’d have tried to derail his Gish Gallop, and talk about how he came to be a young-earth creationist in the first place, and see if we could get to the main thing that convinced him, because it almost certainly wasn’t a litany of apologetics. Was he raised to be a biblical literalist? Did he have some sort of conversion experience? What is the one thing that he found most convincing? I think using Matt’s “What do you believe and why” is the right strategy to get a conversation going here, because nothing productive was going to happen as long as this guy stayed on his script.

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