Follow me on Twitter at @jeff_vastwastl
The following is a compilation of essays I had published in the Lutheran Science journal. There may be some small differences between the essays as represented in the journal and how I have reproduced them here. My critique of Michael Martin had a portion of it dropped during editing for the journal. I have included that dropped portion on this site. For more information on the journal, see www.lutheranscience.org and pull down the list of resources from the top of the screen.
Around 1998 I had just embarked on my new “career” as a part-time Christian philosopher. After reading numerous Christian publications and obviously getting one consistent view of what I was exploring, I felt, to be taken seriously, I must explore the other side. With that fact in mind, I picked up a copy of B.C. Johnson’s Atheist Debater’s Handbook at a local library and decided to test my new mental skills.
Now, my critique of this book is important because, even today, I find praise for it. For instance, a writer on the “Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” web site says “I bought this at Randi and Friends a couple of weeks ago and I’ll tell you what it’s fantastic! It’s not a big book so it wastes no space with lengthy exposition, rhetoric or digression but gets straight to the point of annihilating theism with crushing logic, rationality and unrelenting presentation of argument and analysis.”
Johnson’s criticizes the theistic argument to/for design which often uses for evidence an accurate adjustment and assortments of parts that serve a purpose and could not have arisen by chance (such as in William Paley’s example of a watch or the organization of the human eye today).
This argument arrives at its conclusion – that the eye is designed – by starting with a claim about the way we identify watches as designed objects. It argues that we must identify products of God’s design by the same method we use to identify watches as designed. The only examples the theist can use are instances – such as watches – which are not thought to be designed by God. The theist’s argument must begin this way because any non-hypothetical argument must proceed from what is presumed to be true. Arguments supporting Divine design will be based upon examples where design is presumed. Without assuming God’s existence, the only things presumed to be designed are objects not designed by God. Hence, to start with presumed examples of God’s design would be to assume just what we are attempting to prove – namely, that there are such examples. Therefore, the only reliable method available for detecting design is the one we have successfully used to detect products not designed by God. (p. 37-38)
Here was the first challenge to my faith and I had to ponder this mental retort Johnson has provided. Is it true that we can’t attempt to find examples of what God has fashioned using criteria from things not produced by God? Put differently, he proposes that if one is to discover whether A created (a1, b1, and c1), we can never, for our criteria, use items not created by A.
This reasoning seems faulty as far as the search for design is done in science, particularly in searching for evidence of outer-space alien intelligence where nobody proposes that we cannot detect alien design because we only have, for our examples of design, things not created by them. Carl Sagan, for instance, spent a great deal of his life speculating about life on other planets and, in fact, his book Contact – which was made into a movie – featured aliens sending prime numbers as signals. Similarly, no one protests when we debate whether aliens helped create the Egyptian pyramids or designed crop circles. Lastly, when encountering ancient societies that have long disappeared, we do not suppose that we cannot detect their design because for our examples of design we only have items not designed by them. For instance, with Stonehenge researches never suggest we cannot discover who put the stones in that shape and why it was done because we do not have any other examples of design by them. Clearly something is wrong with Johnson’s reasoning.
Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland has also pointed out flaws in Johnson’s reasoning. He notes Johnson’s methodology of insisting that we can only infer design by using criteria from objects we know are designed begs the question by ruling out creatures as designed even though they are at issue. Also, Johnson’s criteria are too strong and make it impossible for God to be known by man. This reasoning, if applied consistently, as I stated, makes it impossible to recognize as designed any object created by alien beings or other cultures. Lastly, Moreland says Johnson and others who argue similarly do not understand the nature of a criterion. Our criteria for recognizing design in human artifacts may serve in many purposes but do not constitute the totality of the criteria of design in other cases.
Let me expand on what Moreland has said. The “accurate adjustment of parts” criterion is used in identifying messages as designed (as in text on parchment) and also watches but the criteria by which we identify messages or watches is not limited to that criterion alone. Similarly, this criterion is not the only one used to identify products of a divine designer.
After jumping from the “accurate adjustment of parts” criterion to one that proposes that we only recognize design in items that “differ” from nature (a method that is totally useless), Johnson continues by drawing a comparison between the eye and a whirlwind as if to suggest that the eye is no more designed than the whirlwind. This analogy is spurious though. It is one thing to create a whirlpool or whirlwind but yet another to create DNA or an eye and a brilliant explanation of the difference is given by Sean Pitman who explains the difference between chaos and complexity. If you have air in a room and remove 10% of it, not much changes except the pressure. However, if you take away 10% of someone’s leg, that person might suffer impairment of function (a simplistic example, but it makes the point). Humans are complex while gases in a container are not and, for that matter, neither are whirlwinds. DNA and eyes are complex and these are among things that creationists believe are designed. Johnson simply cannot see the differences in degree between the two. It is not just any arrangement that peaks a creationist’s interests, but specific irreducible complex arrangements.
However, some unintended events can happen without planning and that point is made by Johnson in suggesting the eye is the result of unintended consequences. Johnson’s uses the example of meeting someone on a bus to demonstrate this. Surely the odds are incredibly high against meeting someone on a bus and perhaps those odds do not rule out such a consequence no more than they rule out the existence of the eye. Johnson forgets that the only reason one meets a person on the bus is because intelligent action was involved: two people choosing to take the bus. The meeting did not happen by random occurrence. Duane Gish mentions how this type of argument was used on him in a debate and his refutation of it.
In the exchange between Sluijser and Gish, Sluijser attacked Gish’s probability argument by asserting that he had calculated the probability that Gish would be on that particular spot in the world at that particular time and, according to these calculations, it was impossible for him to be there. Gish was quick to point out that his being there was not due to random chance processes but that he was there because he had been invited and had used deliberate processes to get there. Response from the audience showed that they realized that Sluijser had strengthened Gish’s probability argument by unwittingly demonstrating that random chance processes could never accomplish events that would require deliberate actions by an intelligent being.
Returning to Johnson, we could say that the meeting on the bus was accidental but being there was a result of intelligent planning. So, if Johnson wanted to apply this analogy to the eye, he would have to say that the eye may be an unintended consequence but putting the processes in place for it to develop would require an intelligent designer or planner. So his arguments do not eliminate the need for God and actually strengthens the design argument.
Johnson again stumbles when he tells about a rock formation that spells out a phrase that says George Washington was the first president and suggests that this message would not convey useful information if we believed that the sentence is an accidental arrangement of rocks. That is true enough, but he then suggests that if we believe the eyes gives us correct information we must believe they are designed and if they are not designed they would not give us useful information. Accidental eyes give us no more correct information than accidental sentences. However, he says, purpose is a necessary component in sentences but not in eyes – because humans must agree on what parts constitute a sentence – and hence undermines the theists’ analogy between sentences and eyes. Merely because eyes give us useful information is no reason to conclude they are designed, he thinks.
However, Johnson again is wrong. First, the reason for concluding the eyes are designed is the particular arrangement of its parts, not whether or not they give us useful information. If, for example, we were to view incorrect information we would still consider them designed. Things created by an intelligent agent or unintelligent cause can relay both useful and correct or incorrect and useless information. There is no logical connection between an arrangement of parts and its accuracy of information.
It’s understandable why Johnson would include an attack on probability-based arguments because many theists suggest evolution is just too improbable to even generate a cell much less anything else. He mentions the eye again and states the combination of atoms that make up an eye is “only one out of billions of possible combinations” (p. 53) and therefore the eye combination is just as probable as any other combination. Therefore, he concludes that it is incorrect to say that the eye is improbable because its probability is the same as any other combination. Ergo, the eye is not that incredible after all.
I must remember that logic if I ever go to a gambling casino and decide to mess with the dice so they give me constant roles of seven (which, by the way, I have no knowledge of doing). When the head of the casino questions me if I rigged the dice, I will tell him that the combination of sevens he witnessed is not to be unexpected because it has the same probability as any other combination, and therefore merely an inevitable result of chance.
Johnson’s interpretation of the probability argument is not correct and certainly does not match the interpretation chance a casino boss would use. The casino boss would not reason as Johnson, but instead would reason as so: “The long succession of sevens being rolled by Mr. Stueber is so improbable because there are so many successions of rolls that are not rolls of sevens. Therefore, the probability is so much greater for rolls that are not sevens than for rolls that are sevens. Therefore Mr. Stueber must be rigging the dice.” Thus, a theist argues, “There may be one possible combination that makes an eye work, but perhaps a few million or billion may make it not work. Therefore, the probability against the right combination of an eye is extremely large.”
I will stop rhapsodizing on Johnson’s errors here, but not without drawing intellectual blood one last time. If you remember, Johnson argued that we cannot use criteria for design using items not designed by that supposed designer. If Johnson is serious about this, then he should not even be able to complain about the evil which God permits in this world – a topic to which he devotes an entire chapter. He must suppose that we would not design a world where evil was permitted, but apparently God has designed such a world. However, Johnson making such a judgment would involve him doing the very thing he said we could not do: using criteria based on what beings other than God would do. How exactly does he know what God would create anyway when all he knows is what we would or would not create?
Johnson, of course, is not the only critic of the argument to/for design. Atheists have their own niche on the internet and have compiled several common responses to the design argument which includes the following:
The Watchmaker analogy suffers from three particular flaws, over and above those common to all Arguments By Design. Firstly, a watchmaker creates watches from pre-existing materials, whereas God is claimed to have created the universe from nothing. These two sorts of creation are clearly fundamentally different, and the analogy is therefore rather weak. Secondly, a watchmaker makes watches, but there are many other things in the world. If we walked further along the beach and found a nuclear reactor, we wouldn’t assume it was created by the watchmaker. The argument would therefore suggest a multitude of creators, each responsible for a different part of creation (or a different universe, if you allow the possibility that there might be more than one). Finally, in the first part of the watchmaker argument we conclude that the watch is not part of nature because it is ordered, and therefore stands out from the randomness of nature. Yet in the second part of the argument, we start from the position that the universe is obviously not random, but shows elements of order. The Watchmaker argument is thus internally inconsistent. Apart from logical inconsistencies in the watchmaker argument, it’s worth pointing out that biological systems and mechanical systems behave very differently. What’s unlikely for a pile of gears is not necessarily unlikely for a mixture of biological molecules.
The first response above is weak because the two types of creations are different only in the respective makeup of that creation (pre-existing material vs. material already existing) but this does not suggest anything else about the makeup of the designed object or objects. The second response does make a valid point but the creationist has the rejoinder that he or she can add other evidence which suggests which designer did the creating. This, to me, harkens back to B. C. Johnson’s point about animals made by God or made by alien beings. The accurate-adjustment-of-parts criterion is not the only one used to match a particular item with a particular designer. The third reply misunderstands theist arguments about the design of the watch and the universe. The watch stands out from the randomness of the beach, not the randomness of the entire Earth and universe and that is why people would suppose it was designed. Not every facet of the universe or Earth is designed (certainly not the beach) and so there are areas that are not designed in a way that the design of a watch can stand out from it.
Some evolutionists oppose the design argument because it posits an unscientific explanation – a creation by a divine being. A scientific explanation to them is one that appeals to a cause guided by natural law. This was part of the criteria in Judge Overton’s 1982 court ruling against an Arkansas act requiring balanced treatment of evolution and creation. The best response to this reasoning comes from Jonathan Wells who quotes philosopher of science Larry Laudan. Galileo and Newton established the existence of gravity long before anybody could give an explanation for gravity. There must, therefore, be something wrong with this judge’s ruling. Lawyer Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial, reflects on this trial and notes that “Philosophers of science have found much fault with Judge Overton’s definition” and have hinted that many evolutionist witnesses at the trial “got away with a philosophical snow job.”
The same reply applies to Richard Dawkins who, like Johnson, attacks theistic arguments from improbability. A tornado going through a junkyard could not assemble a Boeing 747 – according to an argument by Fred Hoyle – and, Dawkins says, creationists have misappropriated this argument to suggest improbable things cannot originate without creation. Sometimes, he says, this suggestion takes the form of the idea there is no “free lunch” (In other words, there is no existing without something bringing it into existence.) Dawkins laments that “However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the ultimate Boeing 747.”
First, this assumes, of course, that God is an entity composed of parts that have to be combined in some fashion like molecules would in DNA. Second, this assumes that there is a top-down (or perhaps bottom-up) level of complexity where highly complex things can never be made by simpler beings or organisms. What evidence does Dawkins have that this is so? Lastly, we do not have to explain the existence of God to believe in or argue for His creation any more than we have to explain the existence of any being before we posit that being may have interacted in the world to create or produce something.
What of the position that any attempt to posit that life is created by an intelligent divine being is merely an attempt to push religious belief? That argument, of course, is not surprising considering in American a large portion of those who believe in intelligent design also are Christian or are heavily indebted to creationism in the Bible. However, Moslems also believe in a divine creator. Aaron Schachter, in an article in The World, tells of Adnaan Akhtar who, at an interfaith conference in Tel Aviv, told delegates to unite against Charles Darwin and materialism which are “the foundation of the conflict and corruption going on in the world.” His latest book, The Atlas of Creation is an 800-page refutation of evolution which he delivers to schools and research institutes around the world. While the Koran does not giving the timing of creation as the Genesis account does, Adnaan believes that God created the world and denounces believers in evolution as pagans and crackpots. There may be good scientific reasons to suppose a divine creator did something, but science won’t by itself tell you who that creator is. That question remains within the realm of theology.
Lastly, I’ll mention one of the most pertinent intellectual thought stoppers in this debate: the fear of creation as nothing but “god of the gaps.” David Mills sarcastically suggests that
Historically whenever primitive man lacked scientific understanding of an observed event, he created a “God of the Gaps” to fill the intellectual vacuum. A sailor who knew nothing of astronomy would interpret an eclipse of the sun as a sign from the Almighty. A mother, unaware of the existence of viruses and microorganisms, would ascribe her daughter’s illness as to the wrath of God (or perhaps the devil). A 14th-century farmer, knowing nothing of soil chemistry, would attribute crop failures to the sins of his family. Unaware of biological evolution, medieval man considered the complexity of his own anatomy to be evidence of Divine Creation. The wider the gaps in scientific understanding, the greater the historical need for a miracle-working “God of the Gaps.”
Mills, of course, does land some punches. Too often people have attributed events to untrue causes (and not always for religious reasons). However, Mills is out of touch with modern scholarship on this issue, particularly William Dembski’s “explanatory filter” which, he says, “is a criterion for distinguishing intelligent from unintelligent causes.” Whether it is accurate is another question that will be debated for a long time, but it does represent an attempt not to argue for design based on mere uncertainty.
While there will continue to be skeptical arguments against the possibility of divine design, this essay has shown that, despite the appeal to common sense, a large portion of skeptics’ arguments simply have no logical appeal.
Atheists have no shortage of reasons for not believing in God. Atheists, for instance, believe God does not exist because there is evil in the world. They also believe God is incapable of being known by any means possible. Neither one of these reasons are valid.
In 1997, former atheist Patrick Glynn had his book God: The Evidence published by Prima Publishing. Glynn uses cosmological design arguments and near-death experiences, for instance, to argue for God’s existence. My analysis of atheist arguments in this article explores Michael Martin’s critique of Glynn’s book. Before I jump into this critique of Martin, I will briefly explain why Glynn wrote his book.
Glynn, the associate director and scholar at George Washington University Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. was, by the late 1970s, a convinced atheist. This was partly due to the influence of academia. Glynn’s professors didn’t tell him God was dead, but “it was simply assumed that religious belief had become impossible for rational beings in the modern era, a fact that one accepted with a certain melancholy and nostalgia for previous ages when it was still possible for ‘men’ to believe.”
However, beginning in the 1970s his beliefs were challenged. First, in 1973 Brandon Carter gave a presentation on the anthropic principle which suggested the universe was not a random accident but had physical constants that were finely tuned for life to exist on our planet. Two years later Raymond Moody published Life After Death, a book recounting people’s near-death experiences. This suggested a realm beyond life on Earth where spiritual beings and God could reside. Later in the 1970s, some authors like Scott Peck argued faith and mental health could not be separated, and the more religious one is the healthier one becomes. These authors laid the groundwork for his doubt, and his encounter with a spiritually strong woman, Gabriele, who would become the love of his life, finally led him to change his mind.
When theists use the anthropic principle to argue for God’s existence, they are saying that the universe appears to be made to support life and therefore it was designed for that purpose – much like bicycle parts are designed to be part of a bicycle. Purpose implies intelligent thought and intelligent creation. Incredibly, Martin, in his critique of Glynn’s book, claims that the anthropic principle can be restated to imply nothing more but functionality. Martin would suggest that the universe’s appearance of design is only apparent and not a result of some supernatural being’s desires.
What Martin misses is that the reason many things have a function is because they are designed
What sort of reasoning is this, though? If we apply Martin’s reasoning to the bicycle, we would say the function of bicycle parts is to be part of a working bicycle rather than saying that is their purpose. However, obviously Martin’s counter-argument doesn’t work where design is present because the bicycle is obviously designed. Taken too far, using Martin’s own illogic, we could disprove that Martin’s essay is designed by saying the function of his essay is to provide information rather than that being its purpose.
What Martin misses is that the reason many things have a function is because they are designed. A bicycle’s function is to provide a means of transportation for a person, but that is because it is designed. Without design, it would never provide that function. Martin’s rebuttal only pushes the issue back a step. Why does the universe have the function it has? Most likely it’s because it was designed to have that function.
Referencing fellow atheist Victor Stenger, Martin suggests that order can be produced from disorder so that no creator god is needed. In a Huffington Post article, Stenger explains his claim that nature tends to go from disorder to order.
That’s an easy one since you don’t have to rely on complex biological arguments. You can go back to simple physics and look at something like water. Water appears in three phases: gas, liquid, and solid. If you are out in space or in a polar region, then the natural state of water is solid–ice. But that occurs only after water vapor, which is a gas, is condensed into liquid water, which is then frozen into ice. That original vapor has little structure and is about as simple as it could be. Then when it becomes a liquid, it develops some structure but can still flow and change shape. Finally, when it becomes solid ice it has considerable structure–crystal layers and so forth. So, there is this tendency in nature, in physics, for physical substances to go from simplicity to complexity. That is actually the natural trend of physical processes.
This is another example of an argument that has been answered years ago. Ice isn’t complex, but DNA is complex as well as the words in a book. If we believe Stenger’s argument, we would have to believe Martin’s essay about Glynn could come about by chance since water can form into ice. That would, however, be absurd.
Creationists like Charles Thaxton, and others, have described the difference between complexity and order. Crystals, for instance, are examples of periodic structures which have order but not complexity. A crystal, as far as information-possessing capability, is like a book with one word repeated throughout. By contrast, an aperiodic structure has complexity. DNA macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of complexity.
Since Glynn uses near-death experiences in his apologetic, Martin criticizes them as well. Near-death experiences are evidence for God because they suggest a realm to which we go after we die, a realm inhabited by spirits, ghosts, and angels. Obviously, we didn’t create that realm. There are good reasons for believing God must have created it. If anything verified the existence of this realm and these beings, it would undermine Martin’s beliefs and indirectly provide evidence for God’s existence.
Near-death experiences are evidence for God because they suggest a realm to which we go after we die, a realm inhabited by spirits, ghosts, and angels. Obviously, we didn’t create that realm. There are good reasons for believing God must have created it.
However, when I read Martin’s essay I was surprised that he suggested ESP would be a likely explanation for the knowledge people obtain while they are out of their bodies. People who have out-of-body experiences will see their physical body lying on a hospital bed or even see something outside the building they are in. From a Christian perspective, these occurrences are not surprising. If their bodies are lying on a table and they are capable of seeing something they could not normally see, then a part of themselves exists at that location to see it. This is strong evidence for the existence of the soul and its independence from the body. In my experience secularists have been quick to debunk things like ESP. Yet, in this case Martin favors the ESP hypothesis probably because this is the only avenue available to debunk the evidence for life after death which, of course, provides indirect evidence for God’s existence.
Atheists try to refute divine design of the universe by suggesting there are an unlimited quantity of universes, and eventually one would be produced by chance that has the properties necessary for life to exist.
Atheists try to refute divine design of the universe by suggesting there are an unlimited quantity of universes, and eventually one would be produced by chance that has the properties necessary for life to exist. Glynn correctly points out that the multiple universes in this theory are “speculative, undetected, and undetectable in principle.” Martin, however, claims that God’s existence has the same problems. He has a point. Is God as undetectable as multiple universes?
One problem I have with the multiple-universe hypothesis and one that it seems the non-religious never realize is that if we can use it to explain apparent divine design we can use it to explain any design including the writing on papyrus or ancient machines. However, a problem occurs because we know some things are designed. What this means is that we must explore and explain the evidence for design even though there are multiple universes where something with the appearance of design can appear.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig, in response to atheist Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, suggests the design hypothesis, that God created the universe, is simpler. According to the principle of Ockham’s Razor, we should not multiply explanations beyond what is necessary. If there was a simple mechanism for creating these multiple universes, then it would be preferable to the design hypothesis. Since there is no mechanism, the design hypothesis is preferred. There have been attempts to explain a mechanism for creating these many universes, but they require fine-tuning, and this once again requires a designer.
Martin takes on the evidence that good mental health among believers is evidence of God’s existence. Martin scores debaters points when quoting Glynn as saying that some illusions promote happiness. Is belief in God a mere illusion to make one happy?
It’s true that people often choose to believe what is patently not true because of emotional needs – as in the need to believe a loved one will not die despite their upcoming demise. Also, people will find difficulty believing what they subconsciously know is not true. Yet, we are not dealing with a few people who choose to believe something because of emotional fulfillment or believe something they truly know is not true. We are dealing with people in general who believe in God because they suspect God exists, and they believe because they are unhappy without God in their lives. They act in the same way as a bicycle “acts” without a wheel. Something in their life is incomplete and they decide that God fills that missing ingredient. In this way, the design argument applies to humans in the way the design argument applies to the bicycle.
However, atheist beliefs are not satisfying even though Martin thinks otherwise. He suggests that absolute moral standards are compatible with atheism because whatever reasons God would disapprove of an action are the same reasons we would disapprove of it. Violence toward women is a case in point. Martin says it violates the victim’s rights, undermines the fabric of society, traumatizes the victim, and so forth. If God considers it wrong because of these reasons, we would believe it would be wrong for those reasons as well. Therefore, we can have objective moral codes as well.
Martin’s explanation relies on sleight of hand. We often speak of people’s rights and some of them are granted by changes in culture or law – as in the right of women to vote. Many rights are suggested to be metaphysical permissions that cannot be usurped even by a law, and I believe that is what he is talking about here. Such rights only make sense within a belief system where some granter, perhaps a divine one, has given people permission to do an act or given them a command to not do an act. Theism describes such a world view. What Martin does here is take a key tenet of theism, assume that atheism can embrace such a tenet even though at its core it does not, and then pronounce that atheism can embrace objective morals as well.
Martin says Glynn presents no persuasive evidence for God’s existence, and his evidence is flawed. I find Martin’s grasp of Glynn’s arguments weak at best, his counter-arguments flawed, and final conclusion groundless. To me, Martin’s essay is just another example of how deeply flawed atheism is.
Throughout our history there have always been people who wish to discount the existence of a deity, and Geoffrey Berg is a recent contributor to this quest.  Something as grandiose as disproval of God’s existence should require more than a mere 175-page book especially when such claims as Christ’s resurrection and the creation of the universe lurk in the background to upset the atheist apple cart. So it is instructive that Berg’s arguments are merely philosophical and no scientific or historical arguments are featured and, after being promised an intellectual buffet in this book, we are left still hungry with barely anything to eat.
His “aggregate of qualities argument” that uses statistics to undermine the very possibility of believing not only in the god of Christianity but any god at all.
So there are so many possible versions of religion that by the sheer laws of chance nobody can have any sensible hope of believing in the correct type of religion and the correct version of God even if God were to exist. Such is – and should be – the power of numbers and arithmetic to produce a valid argument. The sheer logic of statistics properly applied can indeed amount to an overwhelming and valid argument that throws light upon what may otherwise be a very confused situation. In essence, the aggregate of qualities argument works to throw light on the likelihood or otherwise of God existing by using an arithmetical, statistical analysis of the topic. (p. 27-28)
Atheists, of course, do not take such an argument seriously because they believe that life can originate spontaneously despite the overwhelming odds against it. Also, I am a person of numerous characteristics whose existence is very unlikely. Yet, I am here and this must mean that the existence of very unlikely things is possible.
However, he starts his argument in the wrong place. The traditional Christian position is that God is not an aggregate of parts that assemble such that we can calculate the probability of His existence. If we start in the wrong place we are bound to end in the wrong one as well.
Next Berg claims we cannot, in principle, even understand or comprehend God. His analogy to explain this argument is the jigsaw puzzle of the whole Earth. If we did not have a complete picture of the Earth, we would not be able to assemble the picture. Given our mortality, we would not be able to recognize immortality because we could never be sure a being was actually immortal. Berg summarizes by saying “The comprehension, mortality, and power gulf between us and a potential God is so great that we humans lack, inevitably lack, the means to identify God even if God exists.” (p. 52)
Again, if we apply this kind of argument to evolution we run into difficulty believing that biological or stellar evolution happened. The immense number of events that make up “evolution” can be seen as a puzzle that cannot be comprehended because nobody can exist throughout the entire life of Earth’s history to see them happen. We can, per Berg’s example, only comprehend a small piece of the cosmic evolutionary puzzle. So, if one cannot comprehend God by viewing only a small piece of a puzzle, neither can one comprehend or believe in evolution. I should additionally note that scientific disciplines, let alone theological disciplines, never depend on the ability to comprehend every facet of anything, for to do so would mire us in constant agnosticism.
The argument from evil rears its ugly head and Berg says “God, being by definition supremely good and omnipotent and our creator, would if he existed have created the best possible world. Yet we can be sure . . . that the world taken as a whole throughout the ages is not the best possible world. Therefore it is logically shown that God cannot actually exist. Therefore as God cannot exist within the parameters of Logic, God cannot and does not exist at all.” (p. 82-83) So the man who claims we cannot in principle even understand or comprehend God now claims that he knows for sure that God would not create the best world. This is a horrible internal contradiction.
His last two chapters are the most developed and concern a “potential” god who has the characteristics of omniscience and omnipotence. Such a god could not conceivably know that it is immortal because it is the only being that is god (by definition). Since our only knowledge comes from association with others, the only experience that a god could have about immortality would come from other immortal beings, and god would by definition be the only god like that, then he or it cannot be omniscient. Therefore, god cannot exist because it cannot be omniscient. His objection against a god being omnipotent suggests omnipotence is the ability to do anything, but this would be as absurd as creating a square circle or an object He cannot lift.
There are three problems with his reasoning. Let’s say a god that has been leading us to believe he or it is immortal has been lying to us all these years about being immortal. That only means that either we, or he, was deceived and does nothing to rule out that god’s existence. What Berg does not understand is the difference between the impossibility of square circles and the problems he has with the nature of God. You cannot have a square that is partially a circle but you can have a god that claims it is omniscient but is not and still exists. The Christian position is that God can only do what is logically possible or what is consistent with His character. It does not mean that God can create square circles.
Neither is it logical to suppose we can only have knowledge about ourselves from studying others because unique individuals, then, could never have true knowledge of themselves.
Lastly, his counter-argument begs the question by ruling out from the beginning the possibility of a god having the very characteristics that define it as god. One could say that if this god he is contemplating does not have all power and knowledge, even to the extent of knowing there is no other god, then it is not a god.
To conclude, most of Berg’s arguments are philosophical, internally contradictory, and without merit and this shows that intellectuals with degrees are not necessarily the most intellectual.
People who like the book have nothing really intelligent to say about it in their online reviews. For instance, consider this blurb:
The reason atheists write books and discuss the existence of gods is because the idea of supernatural beings is nonsense and faith heads go around trying to conform the world to their personal idea of what they think their god wants and claim that not believing in their lies will cause torment. If religion relegated itself to private discussions, then we’d have nothing to discuss. We don’t want anyone to come around and claim that an invisible, never before seen, or proved, being doesn’t agree with our life choices and therefore we are evil and will be forced to live according to these claimed rules.
So, the only reason that people invent religious tenets is to force others to conform to their wishes? This shows atheists write what they do because they don’t really understand why religious people believe as they do and would be better at seeking to understand them rather than throwing rubber bullets as in the above quotation.
View The Wastelands of Unbelief book, a follow up re-edit of my book the Vast Wastelands of Unbelief online for free NOW.
 B.C. Johnson, The Atheist Debater’s Handbook, (New York, Prometheus, 1981). Page numbers for all quoted text will appear in body of my essay.
 Carl Sagan, Contact, (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1985).
 J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker House, 1987), 68-69.
 Sean Pitman, “Chaos and Complexity,” http://naturalselection.0catch.com/Files/chaoscomplexity.html
 Duane Gish, Up With Creation, (San Diego: CA, Creation-Life Publishers, 1978), 45.
 Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, (Washington D.C., Regnery, 2006), 132-133.
 Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial, (Downers Grove: IL, Intervarsity, 1993), 114-115.
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (New York, Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 138
 David Mills, Atheist Universe: a Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism, (Berkeley: CA, Ulysses Press, 2006), 85
 William Dembski, “Redesigning Science,” in William Dembski ed., Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design, (Downers Grove: IL, Intervarsity Press, 1998), 104
 http://infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/glynn.html. (accessed April 25, 2016) All quotations from Martin henceforth in this chapter will be from this essay unless otherwise noted.
 Patrick Glynn, God: the Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Postsecular World (Rocklin, CA: Prima, 1997), 4.
 By this I mean individuals who believe in a God but not necessarily the God of the Bible.
 Charles Thaxton et. al., The Mystery of Life’s Origin (Dallas:TX, Lewis and Stanley, 1984), 129-130.
 Glynn, 50.
 William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God?: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (New York, Oxford, 2004), 13-14.
 Glynn, 73.
 Michael Martin, “Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape,” http://infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/rape.html.
 Geoffrey Berg, The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God, (publisher unknown, 2009) All future citations from this book will have page numbers noted in the text.