Skeptic Challenges Answered

Skeptic Challenges

DOES GOD EXIST? maintains a Facebook page with daily postings. We often get challenges and questions from atheists and skeptics or those who are seeking for answers. We want to share the following conversation from Facebook. The article we posted was about the way the tendons in the legs of various animals and birds are designed in a way that allows them to sleep while standing, hanging upside down, or perched on a branch. The article ended like this:

DGE?-…If a human falls asleep while standing up, it can be dangerous. It’s also very uncomfortable when we have to stand while we are sleepy. For some animals sleeping while standing comes naturally. It’s all a matter of design. Such a simple thing as the position in which we sleep is a reflection of the incredible design that is built into all living creatures.

SKEPTIC- Are you so willfully ignorant that you refuse to do any research?

DGE?- Please explain what you mean.

SKEPTIC- You talk about stuff like this like it’s some kind of universal mystery, but there’s already a scientific explanation

DGE?- If you read this again, you will not find any place where we said it’s a mystery. There are explanations for this and most of the other things that we have presented on this page. The few times when we present things which cannot be explained, it’s usually because science has not yet discovered the answer. What science does is to try to discover how God did it. I think that’s why God gave humans curiosity. Solving the “mysteries” makes life fun and challenging. The point we are making on this page is not that these things are mysterious. The point is that they show design and engineering–not merely random chance.

SKEPTIC- Science is not just a way to discover how your god did it. It’s a way to find out how, if, and why things work. Before you look for how Yahweh did it, the intellectually honest thing to do is to find out IF he did it.

DGE?- That’s a good point. Science does look for how things work–and why. The “why” leads us to the question, “Do the facts of how this works indicate that it could have happened by chance?” That leads to the question of, “Is it rational to think that this could have happened as a result of random accidents without any intelligent design or planning?” The more we see apparent design in the world around us, the more we realize that it takes more faith to believe all those “designs” happened by accident than to believe they had a Designer.

SKEPTIC- Prove it was designed. Provide evidence to back up your assertions

DGE?- You say I should prove my assertions. You might want to look back to see what my “assertion” was. It was that there is apparent design in the world around us. Someone you may have heard of wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.” Even biologist Richard Dawkins sees apparent design in living things. So you can say, like Dawkins, that the apparent design is only in your imagination and is totally the work of natural selection acting on random mutations. Or you can say there really is a Designer. I would suggest that design shows intelligence. I can’t prove that God exists, and you can’t prove that He doesn’t exist. All that we can do is look at the evidence and reach our own conclusions.

SKEPTIC- When someone like Dawkins says there’s a “design” they don’t mean some guy sitting in the clouds with blueprints of every species, they mean that different animals have special means of doing things to survive (stuff like horses having hooves and fish having gills). This is not proof of Yahweh or any deity.

DGE?- If your concept of the God you don’t believe in is “some guy sitting in the clouds”, then you have a very juvenile concept of God. I don’t believe in that kind of god either.

(This conversation was edited to correct grammatical and spelling errors, to clarify, and for brevity. You will find our daily Facebook postings at www.facebook.com/evidence4god.)
–Roland Earnst © 2017

More on “Lucy”

Lucy Fossil Skeleton
Lucy Fossil Skeleton

In 1974 paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson introduced the world to a claimed ancestor of humans which was classified as Australopithecus afarensis or the “southern ape from afar.” The story is that because the song “Lucy in the Star With Diamonds” was playing on the radio at the time of the discovery, the specimen was nicknamed “Lucy.” Lucy is being displayed in museums throughout the world and has had extensive exposure in the United States. The claim is that she is a link giving proof of the evolution of humans from apes. Johanson has a model of human evolution suggesting that apes became erect first, and then their brains developed to make them human. It appears that Lucy’s sacrum and hip might have been arranged in a somewhat vertical position to facilitate erect walking, and Johanson feels that is support for his theory.

The truth is that most of what we know about Lucy and about characteristics that separate humans from apes strongly supports the idea that Lucy was a monkey, and does not support the claims of those who promote naturalism as an explanation of human origins. Here are some of the problems:

1-The brain size of Lucy was about 422 cc. A human’ brain is closer to 1470 cc or more. Chimps’ brains are around 520 cc.

2-Lucy’s mandible (lower jaw) is V-shaped like a monkey’s, not C-shaped like a human’s.

3-Lucy has short, curved toe and finger bones like monkeys. Humans’ are generally straight.

4-Lucy’s humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) are the same size. A human generally has a 2:1 ratio in size with these bones.

5-Recent studies have shown that Lucy had an exceptionally powerful upper body. This is typical of apes that spend long amounts of time climbing in trees.

6-Lucy’s rib cage was conical (like an ape) while human rib cages are barrel-shaped.

7-Lucy may, in fact, have been a male. The pelvis is heart-shaped and ridge-less which is typical of males.

In the world of anthropology there are lots of new finds being made, but when atheists and skeptics lift a discovery out of context and try to use it as a club against those who believe humans are a special creation of God, the facts get ignored or slanted to whatever model is being promoted.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Einstein TV Series

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

One of the major weaknesses of our culture is the obsession we seem to have with celebrities. People who are gifted in one area of life seem to be looked on as experts in all areas of life. Often the celebrity is happy to use their notoriety to promote a cause or to oppose something. A classic example is Richard Dawkins, who is a famous biologist and is gifted in his scientific expertise. Unfortunately, he is incredibly ignorant about the Bible and spiritual matters, but he is regarded as an authority by many people, especially those looking for a way to deny the existence of God.

National Geographic is now running a ten-episode series on Albert Einstein titled “Genius.” There is no question that Einstein was a gifted scientist in areas related to physics and cosmology. Science has been changed in many ways by the work of Einstein, and no one should denigrate his scientific contributions. However, Einstein’s education, morals, and early life were not exemplary. His views on sex and marriage are similar to much of what is being taught in our secular world today and are a recipe for disaster. His political and ethical activities were not what contribute to a world order that is positive. The series will undoubtedly get a lot of attention and probably win some awards, but not much of Einstein’s life is a good model for young people to follow.

If you watch the series, we encourage you to be aware of the real Einstein as a person, while appreciating his gift as a scientific mind. There are two books that are worth reading if you are interested in Einstein. One is Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson. The other is Ideas and Opinions, published by Crown Publishing and written by Einstein himself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Bystander Effect and Christians

No More Bystanding
No More Bystanding

Several years ago there was an incident in which a young woman on a New York street was attacked, beaten, and eventually killed by a young man while over 100 people stood around and watched. No one came to the young woman’s aid, and there have been similar incidents in other places in the United States. Psychologists have labeled this the “bystander effect.” There have been numerous studies done to answer the question of why this happens. Our culture seems to fear involvement, and the “lawyer effect” where people are afraid they will get sued or hurt is only part of the issue. Thanks to cell phones we now can assume that everyone can call for whatever help they need, and our view of others is becoming an isolationist view.

If your religious view is “survival of the fittest,” then anyone who needs help is simply not fit and endangering your fitness by helping them is not going to happen. When I was an atheist, I would be likely to stop and help a woman who was having car trouble, but my motives were less than altruistic. I would be very unlikely to help a man in the same situation. Not all atheists are so selfishly guided, but the logic of atheistic beliefs would deny endangering oneself to benefit another. Some religions would push a person to help others of the same faith, but people of a different faith are considered to be enemies and would not be helped. The “golden rule” is recognized by almost everyone as a nice philosophy, but the bystander effect seems to be more widely practiced in today’s world.

In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, the bystanders were the people most qualified to give aid. The twist is that the outcast Samaritan, rejected by the people to whom Jesus was speaking, refused to be a bystander and give aid to the wounded man. The first century Church stood out in the society in which it functioned by responding to the needs of everyone in Jerusalem (Acts 3-5). Throughout the New Testament, we see the emphasis on doing good to everyone.

How do we as individuals take the “bystander effect” out of our thinking? I would suggest that we need to spend some time looking at what Jesus taught, and how the early Church responded to the culture of the day. When you read James 5, you get the picture of Christians not only addressing the physical needs of those around them but also being a part of the emotional and spiritual struggles of daily living as well. The entire “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) moves us to think differently by allowing God’s Word to permeate our hearts. Second Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that Scripture has value in molding and shaping our attitudes and thoughts. We can be the light of the world that Jesus talks about. The people of Jesus’ day were astonished at his doctrine. Our world today will also be astonished when Christians live as God calls us to live. The deeper our world sinks into secularism and selfish bystander non-involvement, the brighter the Christian light will become.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

How Many Extinct Species?

Fossils
Fossils

Atheists often challenge us with the widely quoted statistic that “95 to 99 percent of all creatures that have ever lived are now extinct.” Their argument is that if there were a wise God who created life, he would have done a better job. The skeptics are assuming that they know the purpose for which a wise God would have created those life-forms. Perhaps the extinct species had a purpose of preparing the Earth for humans, and they went extinct because they had served their purpose. But I am assuming that humans are the pinnacle and ultimate purpose of God’s creation. Atheists reject that idea. One of our skeptical followers recently posted a comment referring to “the virus called man,” as if humans are a blight on an otherwise good world.

Another possibility is that perhaps the statistic of extinct species is highly exaggerated. Since the life-forms that have gone extinct are no longer around, how do scientists determine how many species have gone extinct since life began? The number of fossils of extinct species we have actually found is estimated to be about 250,000. So we have direct evidence of a quarter of a million extinct species. According to National Geographic (May 2014), there are at least 1.9 million animal species today and at least 450,000 plant species. If it’s true that 95 percent of the animal species have gone extinct and there are 1.9 million living today, that means that over 36 million have gone extinct. If we have fossils of only 250,000 extinct species (plants and animals) how do we know that there were 36 million others for which we have no evidence? According to National Geographic (May 2014), Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, and his colleagues “reviewed data from fossil records and noted when species disappeared, then used statistical modeling to fill in holes in the record.” In other words, they are filling in the “holes” or “missing links” in the evolutionary record to determine how many other species must have existed that disappeared without a trace.

The questions we might want to ask are, “Why do we have fossils of only 250,000 species out of 36,000,000? Why are we assuming that 36,000,000 species have gone extinct based on the evidence of fossils totaling less than seven-tenths of one percent of that number?” The answer to those questions is apparently the fact that naturalistic evolution from single-celled life to humans requires us to make that assumption. Perhaps this gives us something to ponder.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Cubit Pi Silliness

Cubit Pi There is no limit to the extremes that skeptics will go trying to find mistakes in the Bible. One recent case involves cubit pi. An atheist claimed that the Bible was full of mathematical mistakes and impossibilities indicating the primitive nature and lack of knowledge of the authors. The case used was 1 Kings 7:23-26 and 2 Chronicles 4:2,5 where a laver is described, and numbers are given for its dimensions in cubits. The Bible says that the circumference of the round laver was 30 cubits and that the diameter was 10 cubits from rim to rim. The formula for the circumference of a circle is pi (3.14) times the diameter, so in this case it would be 31.4 cubits, not 30. A Hebrew cubit was 17.5 inches, a Babylonian cubit was 19.8 inches, and an Egyptian cubit was 20.63 inches, so this seems to be about a 19-inch mistake.

One might suggest that the rounding of numbers is the issue here since ancient measuring devices didn’t measure to two decimal places. But there is another interesting possibility. The ten cubits is measured rim to rim which would mean that the outside circumference was 31.4 cubits. However, if 30 cubits is the inside circumference of the laver, that would make the inside diameter 9.55 cubits. Subtracting 9.55 cubits from 10 would leave a difference of .45 cubits. So the thickness of the walls of the laver would be one-half of .45 cubits or .225 cubits (about 3.8 inches). First Kings 7:26 and 2 Chronicles 4:5 states that the walls of the laver were a “handbreadth” in thickness. Excavations of artifacts from ancient times frequently find lavers with that thickness, so the numbers are totally reasonable.

This is just another example of how desperate skeptics are to discard God and His Word. First Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks the reason for our faith, but some questions seem too silly to dignify by attempting an answer. This cubit pi challenge may be one of those questions, but we have an answer anyway.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Atheism and Translation Issues

Elisha’s Spring Fountain at Jericho
Atheists do their best to make the God of the Bible seem to be a heartless, ruthless, barbaric, evil God. We have reviewed many of their attempts over the years. Recently an example cited in an atheist blog demonstrates the difficulties that occur when an old translation is read carelessly. The story is in 2 Kings 2:23-24. The King James translation tells us that as the prophet Elisha was walking a group of “little children came out of the city” and mocked him ridiculing his bald head. According to verse 24 Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord” and two bears came out of the woods and tore up 42 of them. If you stop at this point, you could think that the God who caused this was heartless, ruthless, barbaric, and evil. Why should God be so vindictive when all the children were doing is making fun of an old bald preacher?

The truth is that God is not any of those things. The Hebrew word translated “little children” in the King James Version of the Bible is also used to describe Joseph when he was 17 and Joshua when he served in the tabernacle. It is also used to describe David when he fought Goliath and Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7, even though he was married. We aren’t talking about a bunch of six-year-olds, but rather a large group of young warrior-like juveniles who could have done great harm to Elisha. The city they were coming from was Bethel which was a center of idolatry in Israel. In 2 Kings 10:29 we read that Jeroboam established golden calf worship in Bethel. In this story, 42 young thugs come out to attack a prophet of God. That is a far cry from innocent children making fun of an old man. Another important fact in this story is what the young men are saying, “go up you baldhead,” is not about Elisha’s hair line. In verse 11 Elijah was taken up into heaven, and Elisha was left to carry on. In verse 3 the pagan prophets had jeered Elisha because his mentor was going to leave him. They said, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” They were saying he would be powerless because Elijah who gave him his authority would be gone.

The rest of the story is that Elisha showed his authority by using the abilities given him by God including miraculously purifying the water from the spring at Jericho. Whenever there is a biblical event that looks foolish or contradictory, we need to examine it more closely. We need to consider who wrote the account, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day would have understood it. If you do that, you will find that the Bible is a true, factual, and logical guide that we can rely on. We also learn that the God of the Bible is patient and shows His wrath only when humans refuse to accept anything else.
–John N. Clayton © 2017