Saturday, February 16, 2013

Is atheism reasonable?

Atheists will find it difficult to convince other people that there is no God. For two very good reasons.

First, the Bible says (in Psa 19:1): "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows his handiwork." The best evidence for the existence of a Creator is His creation. And the evidence of His creation is all around us.

Atheists see the structure and beauty and the order and influence of the heavenly bodies, says Matthew Henry, but say "There is no God." They see the effect, yet say "There is no cause." The heavenly bodies could not exist from eternity, he says, because succession and motion must have had a beginning; they could not make themselves, which is a contradiction; they could not be produced by a random hit of atoms, which is an absurdity. Therefore they must have a Creator.

If you stand at the back of your house on a clear night and look up at the millions of stars shining above you, you might have difficulty supposing that God doesn't exist.

Second, the Bible says "Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20).

Deep down in every man there is an awareness of God. Atheists might deceive themselves into thinking it is not so; but deep down in every man that awareness is there.

I am no scientist, but the people who claim to know these things tell me, as evidence of the existence of a Creator, that there are more than 120 anthropic constants in the universe. (An anthropic constant is something that has to exist to allow life to be possible on the earth, like an exact quantity of oxygen in the atmosphere; an exact amount of atmospheric transparency to allow the correct amount of solar radiation to reach the earth; the exact degree of tilt at which the earth rotates; the exact force of gravity on the moon compared with the force of gravity on earth; an exact amount of water vapour in the atmosphere; etc.) The lack of any one of these constants would be expected to make life on earth impossible: but every one of the 120-plus constants is in place.

Donald Page, of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, has calculated that the odds against the universe randomly taking a form suitable for life are 10124 to one. The figure of 10124 is a figure so large it is practically impossible to imagine.

Atheists would say it all happened by chance. They would argue that there might be an infinite number of universes, and this one might be the only one where conditions for life were right. There's one thing wrong with that argument: there is no evidence of any other universe.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, took part in a debate with Britain's best known atheist, Dr Richard Dawkins, at Cambridge University two weeks ago. Dawkins sought to prove that "religion has no place in the 21st century." He described religion as "a cop-out."

"It is a betrayal of the intellect, a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human," he said. "It's a phony substitute for an explanation, which seems to answer the question until you examine it and realise that it does no such thing. . . it peddles false explanations where real explanations could have been offered."

He failed to convince his audience. The motion was defeated by 324 votes to 136.

You can see a report of the debate here.