More Lee-ky Responses To Strobel & Co.

Posted in Atheism, Blogosphere, Religion, Responses, Skepticism on  | 8 minutes | 3 Comments →

For the past few days, I've been evaluating various responses to Lee Strobel's questions that were posted on FriendlyAtheist. My latest stop was at a blog whose title I liked, Life Before Death, and is hosted by "biology student, secular humanist, beekeeper and Swede," Felicia Gilljam.

Now, in all honesty, those of you expecting something new here might be let down, and that's where perhaps most people on all sides can agree on Strobel's questions. Many are admittedly the same old washed-up ontological arguments one has already heard, especially if they've been even remotely following philosophy, religion and/or science for the past few years.

But what also discourages me is how overconfident many on the atheist & skeptic side seem to be in the perceived validity of some responses. Most every skeptical response I've seen to these questions contains some degree of logic-leak from drip to wave, yet in threads, too many skeptic backpatters rally around their dead fish like Piggy and the archetypal boys on Goldman's Lord of the Flies, proud and gleeful that they've pulled such beauts out of the barrel and aptly skewered them!

But how skewered are they? Let's take a look at three more and find out.

1) Perhaps most disappointing is the religious ignorance expressed in many skeptic's responses, and even worse, many of these same skeptics accuse Strobel and Co. of being equally ignorant in science. So we have the ignorant accusing the ignorant. In Back To Square One, we discussed one such example from Greta, and there's no shortage here, either.

In response to the second half of Paul Copan's question,

And, second, granted that the major objection to belief in God is the problem of evil, does the concept of evil itself not suggest a standard of goodness or a design plan from which things deviate, so that if things ought to be a certain way (rather than just happening to be the way they are in nature), don’t such ‘injustices’ or ‘evils’ seem to suggest a moral/design plan independent of nature?

Felicia said,

No. We’re social animals and thus have a system of morals. We’re not the only ones but ours are arguably the most “advanced”, whatever that means. We’re the ones who have decided what is good or bad. And the problem of evil only arises because the christian god is supposed to have made us in his own image, which presumably means that what we think is “good”, he thinks is “good”. Which makes us wonder why he didn’t make the world “good”.

First, I'm not too persuaded by the second half of Copan's question myself, primarily because the existence of a most good or moral best does not inescapably entail theism. There are a prime set of conditions for possibly all phenomena.

Second, I mostly agree with Felicia that we're not the only animals to have rule systems governing our social behavior, but I don't want to quibble about that right now. What's really wrong here is where Felicia says, Which makes us wonder why (God) didn’t make the world 'good'.

When she says that, it makes me wonder, What concept of God is she arguing against or not believing in? Contrary, the God of the Bible claims to have originally made the world good. Has the author seriously never taken a look at the first couple paragraphs of Genesis? If not, why should I listen to anything this author says about God or the Bible? This is exactly how a skeptic feels when a YEC'r demands that man's evolution from a LUCA is false because it violates the second law of thermodynamics, and surely such criticism is not a Courtier's Reply.

2) Speaking of the laws of thermodynamics, here's what I thought was a parallel logic-leak from the world of science. In response to Greg Koukl,

Why is something here rather than nothing here? Clearly, the physical universe is not eternal (Second Law of Thermodynamics, Big Bang cosmology). Either everything came from something outside the material universe, or everything came from nothing (Law of Excluded Middle). Which of those two is the most reasonable alternative? As an atheist, you seem to have opted for the latter. Why?

Felicia said,

Because there is as yet no evidence for the former.

Huh? First, what little emerging evidence we actually do have supports the former, for example work with the Higgs boson reasonably allows for preliminary acceptance of the idea that the matter in the universe did not arise ex nihilo. Second, creation ex nihilo appears to violate the laws of conservation of matter and energy. In response to my sentiments, Felicia said,

Actually, I said it because for me, it seems like the null hypothesis ought to be that nothing exists outside the universe, and so long as there’s no compelling evidence to the contrary, that’s what I’ll “believe”. But I’ll happily admit that I know very little of physics – this isn’t my area of expertise, so why am I expected to have any answers? Either way, when I said “no evidence for the latter”, I was actually again mostly talking about the christian god, as it’s a christian apologetic posing the question.

Many problems here. First, in stating anything about what exists outside the universe, we've left the NULL hypothesis. NULL means no value assigned, not that nothing ought to exist outside the universe. Second, did they not teach the laws of conservation of mass and energy wherever Felicia went to school? Third, if we aren’t qualified to speak on a particular question, why raise our hand at all? Why is she expected to have any answers? Seriously? Because she's purportedly answering the damned questions! Don't answer if you don't have an answer. Fourth, two competing Big Bang theories have absolutely nothing to do with the Christian God. The context of Koukl’s question was purely scientific, and I sense some conflating here.

3) In response to William Lane Craig's paraphrase of Alvin Plantinga,

If our cognitive faculties were selected for survival, not for truth, then how can we have any confidence, for example, that our beliefs about the reality of physical objects are true or that naturalism itself is true? (By contrast, theism says God has designed our cognitive faculties in such a way that, when functioning properly in an appropriate environment, they deliver true beliefs about the world.

Felicia said,

…everything we experience is filtered through our own senses and cognitive faculties, and those senses are very limited indeed. But by the same argument – they were selected for survival – I think it’s safe to say that what we experience is at least somewhat correlated with the “real world”. Otherwise, those experiences would be useless to us.
…Plantinga’s argument is stupid. He’s essentially saying that since we can’t prove naturalism, we should default to the other idea.

As stated, Plantinga is not saying that because we can't prove naturalism, we should default to theism. At least that's not what I heard, and IMO, she's misunderstood his argument, which is more a challenge to justify naturalism than a proof-claim for theism. Given that our senses were selected for survival and not truth, how can we be sure that our ideas about naturalism are true?

That wasn't answered. The best given was, …what we experience is at least somewhat correlated with the 'real world'. So does that mean our perceptions and beliefs are only somewhat reliable? I'm not satisfied with that. Then Felicia insults Plantinga's argument as "stupid", but does the same thing she accused Plantinga of, only in reverse scope,

As long as there’s no evidence for the existence of any god, I’m going to default to naturalism.

So, even if Plantinga suggested defaulting to theism, which I don't agree he has, such is stupid. Then how does defaulting to atheism or naturalism on account of a perceived lack of evidence for theism differ categorically? Seems to me to be just another case of special pleading.

So there's three more responses to Strobel and Co., and from where I'm looking, yes, it's true that the mainline theist camp apparently hasn't been up to much, but it is equally true that their skeptical counterparts haven't been so busy, either.

And we're back to square one, again.


  1. Karla


    Hi, it’s great to find another Christian thinker blog. I just posted answers to the 10 questions to Pastors on my blog spot from Daylight Atheism.

  2. cl


    Hi Karla,
    Thanks for stopping by. I took a look at your responses to Ebonmuse’s 10 Questions and might even comment on a few. It’s good to see dissent on a site like DA which is for the most part purely partisan. Also, although I’m no atheist, many who are “Christian” tell me I am not, and I’m always weary of labels.
    Thanks for coming by, feel free anytime, also to tell others. As I’m home sick, I’m planning on adding a “links” section to my blog today, and I will link to your blog!

  3. Karla


    I understand the label thing. It produces a lot of stereotypes. I don’t think one Christian can tell another they aren’t part of the family of Christ. Only God can see the heart.

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