The Atheist “Challenge”

About a month ago I came across a YouTube video by a fellow WordPress blogger The Barking Atheist, the video was a response to a video containing 25 questions (actually slightly more, but who’s counting) for atheists.  I’ll link to the video below as well as the Barking Atheist’s response.  I don’t know if I have too much to add, but the fallacious nature of the questions annoyed me enough that i thought I’d express my thoughts,

I will point out that I’m not a biologist, cosmologist, physicist, chemist, geologist, or expert in any scientific discipline.

enjoy…

Original “challenge” video:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frm3fNOFSuA

Barking’s response:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19oPgXKpKh4

And the (more than) 25 questions:-

1a.How do you think life began?
As stated above, I’m not a scientist, but conditions on a primordial earth would have, at some point, needed to have been right for inorganic chemicals to react and form organic compounds which would have been the first building blocks of organic life as we know it.
1b.Does empirical science prove your answer?
yes, the Miller-Urey experiment (the barking atheist refers to this as well) carried out in 1952 was an attempt to replicate the event.  when the vials from the experiment were opened and examined in 2007 it was found the constituent chemicals had created over 20 amino acids, further information can be found here.
2.Why has every civilization believed in a creator?
That’s a very bold assertion, and offered with no proof.  While I can’t quote any off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure there have been cultures that have developed without the concept of god(s), and did just fine, until the christians decided to “educate the savages”
3a.What types of government structures have been created from an atheistic world view in the past?
None that I’m aware of, some government have rejected theistic worship, communism for example, instead setting up the political leaders as idols to be worshiped in some cases, but atheism hasn’t been the route of the system, it’s been the result of the rejection of theism, and it’s not universally true, Cuba is communist and has a thriving Catholic community.
On the other hand, The USA was founded as a secular nation, and that seems to have worked out pretty well, especially if you’re Christian.
3b.What positive ideals has atheism offered this world?
Atheism doesn’t offer anything, it’s a lack of theistic belief, nothing more, there are no dogma, ceremonies, rituals or holy books, it is not a religion or way of life, and should not be treated as such.
4a.By what authoritative writer or principles do you live your life?
I live by the principles my parents taught me when I was a child, and also by the laws of the country where I live.  I don’t feel the need for any supernatural agency to tell me that I’m a good person.
4b.Do you live by any standards?
As this is the second part of question 4 I’ll assume you mean moral standards; as humans evolved as a tribal species, our morals come from a simple understanding of what is good for the pack is good for the individual, and that fuels what we consider to be right and wrong today. So the standard I live by come from the society I live in, not an 1800 year old book.
5a.In your opinion should religion be removed from public?
Yes
5b.If so where should it be tolerated?
People should be free to practice their religious faith privately in their own homes (it’s in the bible y’know- Matthew 6:5 & 6:6), if public places of worship are to remain open, they should not be permitted charity status and should be taxed.
6.How did the universe begin? Can nothing create everything? What was the cause?
I don’t know how the universe began, to my knowledge no one does, but unlike the theist community I have no compulsion to put god in the gap and declare the question answered.  If we ever do understand what state the universe was in before the big bang, I’m willing to be it’ll be a million times more amazing than anything dreamt up by a 1st century sheep herder.
7a.Hypothetically if you had to choose a religion what religion would you choose?
Secular Humanism
7b.Why would you choose this religion?
I’m not a member of the humanist society, but I’m pretty sure I fill the bill already anyway, and you didn’t specify it needed to be a theistic religion.
7c.Would you tell others of your religion?
Yes, if I was asked, anyone who knows me probably knows my views anyway.
8.How can evolution explain features of irreducible complexity apart from intelligent intervention?
I’ll refer you the Barking Atheist here, he’s a Biology major and his answer covers it far better than I can.
9.How can natural selection produce something that is a prerequisite for natural selection to operate?
Can you phrase that question in a way that makes any sense?
10.Morality seems to change with the times in the atheist community why are morals so subjective within the atheist community?
You’d need to provide some examples of this, but if true, it’s not limited to atheists, unless christians still practice the stoning of disobedient children at the edge of the city or selling people in to slavery.
11a.What is the motive of freeing others from their belief in a God if they are
(i)happy and content with their belief and(ii)dont hurt others?
(i) I have no particular desire to free anyone from their beliefs but from my perspective (and to paraphrase Matt Dilahunty,  a man much smarter than me) I’d like to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible, this is because our beliefs inform our actions and our actions have consequences.
(ii) define ‘hurt’, lets take the ban on stem cell research in America during the G W Bush years, if this work had continued how much progress could have been made in treating the following illnesses:

11b.How can you tell who is not content and happy?
I don’t try to, I focus on what’d true and what isn’t.
11c.And why the main focus on Christianity?
In the western world most non-believers have a better knowledge of Christianity because it’s what they’ve grown up either surrounded by or as part of, either way they know it better than, for example, Islam or Hinduism.
12. If humans evolved from Apes why have the transitional species gone extinct but yet the Ape and Man still exist? Why the middle gap?
The phrasing of the question suggests you don’t know the topic, but I’ll indulge you anyway.
The first thing you need to understand is that human beings did not come from apes, humans are apes, this is important so take notes.  what we learn from evolution is that modern humans and modern apes share a common ancestor, in the case of modern man and chimpanzees the Common ancestor we share is Australopithecus afarensis. Transitional species have not died out, all species are transitional, including humans.
13. Can you give three examples where the narrative of Jesus and his message would be a negative influence if what he said was true?
I don’t know the theology/mythology well enough to give three examples, but the part where he said he wasn’t sent to replace the laws of the old testament wasn’t exactly his finest hour, was it?
14a.Do you think the world would be better if there was no belief in a God?
Yes, almost every war in the history of the human species has been fought over either resources or belief in spiritual figures for whom there has never been a shred of evidence, get rid of gods and we get rid of a lot of needless suffering, anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, sectarianism, and a load of other isms that I can’t think of right now
14b.What if there were no rules or standards to that belief system?
What belief system? I thought we just got rid of it.
15.Can you give five examples of Atheists being persecuted in America currently?
No, but I don’t live there,  more generally atheists are the least trusted demograpgic in the USA and it’s practically impossible for an atheist to be elected to any public office. Is that not bad enough?
16.Do you think the laws that govern America are for the most part just and appropriate?
I think the laws are, for the most part, ok, its the people enacting them that are the problem.
17.Can empirical science prove the missing link, big bang, or the abiogenesis theories? If not why are they taught in schools today?
There is no missing link, the big bang and abiogenesis are being better understood all the time by the scientist who are researching those fields.  what’s not understood is what existed before the big bang, and science has no problem with the phrase ‘we don’t know’, and manages to continue with the research without inserting the supernatural, ‘god did it’ has never met any standard of evidence in a science lab, and never will.
18a. Do you think if the story of Jesus was proven true that his resurrection would be the greatest feat in human history?
It depends which part of the story, if any, was proven true.  there may well have been a Jewish mystic (or several) kicking about with a band of followers in the first century, and the stories became amalgamated, got exaggerated and started the legend that became the stories of the bible.  If any one of these travellers was called Jeshua, and perhaps had delusions of divinity.  As for his resurrection…  I very much doubt it happened, everything we know about Jesus comes from the bible, there are no contemporary extra biblical sources that confirm these events, and the bible it’s self is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
18b.If not what was greater?
how about man harnessing powered flight in 1903, then breaking free of earths gravity, setting foot and walking on an other stellar body just 66 years later?
19a. What came first the chicken or the egg?
the egg
19b.What does evolution say?
Evolution says nothing, it’s a biological process, not a conscious entity.  Genetics tells us the first chicken egg would have been laid by an animal similar, but not identical, to a modern chicken, probably a hybrid of red and grey ‘Junglefowl’ species.
20.What three things would you change if you were the creator of this world?
That is a huge question, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  I’d like to start with eradicating starvation and disease and work from there, but it’s a massive question that I really don’t know how to answer, and why would I be limited to changing only thee things?
21.If belief in an afterlife is a naïve wish for people that are afraid of death cant non-belief be a naïve wish for people that are afraid of accountability to God after death?
Only if you could prove beyond reasonable doubt that this ‘god’ character exists, and despite almost 2000 years of Christian dogma, you’ve not managed that yet.
22.In a universe without God or immortality, how is mankind ultimately different from a swarm of mosquitoes or a herd of cattle? Are humans of more intrinsic value?
Mankind is aware of his/her existence and aware that actions have consequences, and makes decisions based on this knowledge, most other animals exist purely on instinct and don’t have the capacity to think beyond the need to survive.
23a.Do humans possess the ability to feel love, affection, and empathy?
Yes, well most can, those that can’t are called ‘sociopaths’
23b.If so, explain how?
you’d really need a neurologist for this (and so do I, but that’s unconnected) I think emotions are chemical reactions in the brain, and we react to them.
23c.Can it be explained without using the metaphysical?
yes, use an MRI machine and you can see them too
24.Who contributes more charitable services and financial resource to the worlds suffering and impoverished? Atheist or Theist?
There really is no way to know, and this is where the religious community is potentially streets ahead, they have strength in numbers, phenomenal organisation, and can channel their efforts collectively much easier than non-believers, getting free minded people to work together is sometimes likened to herding cats, so there really is no way to collate accurate figures, but what would be more interesting is what any charitable money is used for; my experience is that money donated via religious organisations is often conditional, leading to the opinion that the donations are only offered as an excuse to preach.
Another recent incident that has come to my attention is the American Cancer Society bent over backwards, changed its rules and went well out of its way to block donations from Todd Stiefel of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and  Foundation Beyond Belief, donations that would have totaled approximately $500,000, for no reason other than the money was coming from atheist sources. Further information can be found here and here
25a.What evidence would you need to prove that God existed and by what standard of evidence?
I don’t know, but if god does exist, then he/she/it does, and so far has chosen not to make its self known to me
25b.Do you follow this same standard in all of your current beliefs?
No, the standard of evidence varies depending on the claim being made, the more incredible the claim, the better the evidence needs to be.


Not meaning to be pedantic, but I count that as 39 questions, not 25 as many of the questions had more than one part. It seems someone hasn’t been taking their ten commandments too seriously, but it seems only to apply to a neighbour.

In my answer to question 5, I made reference to a couple of bible verses, verses I find are often ignored by the faithful.  I’ll quote them below to finish off:-

Matthew 6:5
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

LLAP

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