Dec. 14th, 1997 Debate
    Richard Howe vs. Dan Barker: “Does God Exist?”

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, students, faculty and friends. My name is Bill Bishop. I'm president of the Humanistic Atheist Students Association, a new campus organization for student freethinkers, skeptics, atheists and agnostics, and anyone concerned with issues such as the one that will be debated tonight. Co-sponsoring the debate is the Campus Crusade for Christ, an interdenominational organization which serves as a spiritual resource to University of Florida students. Their purpose is to help students establish and develop a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and teach those students how to tell others about having a personal relationship with God. I would like to thank Jason Pratt of the Campus Crusade for his generous assistance with the organization of this event. I would also like to thank the many volunteers that helped with the details and promotion of this event and I would especially like to thank all of you for coming tonight. Some of you have traveled long distances or even put off some school work to be here. While we represent a wide range of beliefs, or lack thereof, we can all agree that the topic of the debate tonight is important and has great influence on how we live our lives. We are privileged to have with us tonight, two accomplished, intelligent, and caring individuals who have spent years studying the topic of tonight's debate, "Does God Exist." Dan Barker spent nineteen years working as a missionary, ordained minister, associate pastor, touring evangelist, Christian songwriter and performer. Then, over a five year period, he became an atheist. He is now the Public Relations Director for the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He frequently represents freethought on the talk show circuit and at personal appearances around the country. His book, "Losing Faith in Faith," is both a challenge to believers and an arsenal for skeptics. Richard Howe is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics, receiving degrees from Mississippi College and the University of Mississippi. He joins us today from Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is founder and president of the Ischar Institute, where he writes and publishes their newsletter and is an itinerant speaker. His publications include, "Homosexuality in America, Exposing the Myths," and "The Case for Christianity." Our moderator tonight is Nathan Morris, a member of the U.F. Speech and Debate Club. You will hear him introduce each portion of the debate. After the debate, there will be a period of audience questions, so please have your questions ready. Weíll have a mike **** so weíll alternate to each speaker. Then there will be a reception later at the Civic Media Center, which is located on University Avenue a few blocks east of 13th St. It's also across the street from the Barnett Bank. Our topic tonight is, "Does God Exist?" and each of our guests has agreed to shoulder some burden of proof. As often, this is unusual for a debate format, but I think it will work out well. Please join me in welcoming Dan Barker and Richard Howe to the University of Florida. [audience applause]

We will begin with Richard Howe, with a twenty minute opening statement.

Richard Howe:
Good evening Mr. Moderator, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate, and thank you for your presence here tonight. Tonight I wish to defend the notion that God exists. By God I mean a being who is a personal immaterial cause of the Universe and the grounding of morality. I will set forth evidence for why it is reasonable to believe that there is a God. I believe that a strong case for God's existence can be marshaled along the lines of God being a better explanatory hypothesis than atheism for a number of features of reality that are often themselves undisputed between the theists and atheists. An explanatory hypothesis is an entity that one posits in order to explain a certain effect, event or phenomenon. It is not unlike the way a natural scientist reasons in understanding the scientific experience. A scientist explains a certain effect, event, or phenomenon by positing an entity that is the cause of that effect, event, or phenomenon. For example, a scientist collides particles together in a particle accelerator and observes other particles flying off from the collision in a peculiar trajectory. The scientist then posits an entity, say, another nuclear force, as an explanation for the behavior of the particles. In a similar manner, I submit to you that God can serve as a better explanation than atheism for several features of reality. I will start in that God is a better explanation that atheism for 1.) the existence of the universe, 2.) the design within the universe, and 3.) moral experience. First, God is a better explanation than atheism for the existence of the universe. In philosophy, this is known as a cosmological argument. Have you ever asked yourself, "Why does the universe exist at all? Where did it come from if indeed it came from anywhere?" To my mind there are only three logical options concerning the existence of the universe. Some have suggested that the universe has always existed. Others have said that perhaps the universe just popped into existence completely uncaused out of nothing. Still others maintain that the universe was created by God. I think that we've shown that of these three, the third is the most reasonable. I argue that it is not possible for the universe to have always existed. I believe that the universe must have had a beginning. To state my argument as a syllogism: The universe began to exist. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence. I think both scientific and philosophical evidence point to a beginning of the universe. Scientifically, everything we know about the universe indicates that it is running down. This is known as the second law of thermodynamics. Physicist Paul Davies says, " The second law of thermodynamics says, roughly speaking, that in any change, the universe becomes a slightly more disorderly place, the entropy goes up, the information content goes down. This naturally tendency towards disintegration and chaos is evident all around us. People grow old, cars rust, houses fall down, mountains erode, stars burn out, clocks run down." But, if its the case that the universe is running down, then if it has always existed, it would have run down by now. Astronomer and agnostic, Robert Jastrow, the founder and director of Nasa's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University says, "Now three kinds of evidence, the motion of the planets, the laws of thermodynamics, and the life story of the stars pointed to one conclusion, all indicating that the universe had a beginning." Again Jastrow says, "Discoveries in astronomy in recent decades provide evidence that the universe came into existence abruptly." Indeed, at the end of his book God and the Astronomers, he characterizes the destiny of those scientists who are slowly awakened by the scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe, "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." Philosophically, it can be shown that the universe must have had a beginning, for if the universe had always existed, this would mean that the past is an actual infinite. A look at the nature of the actual infinite will show why the past could not be an actual infinite. It is impossible to traverse an actual infinite. Traversing an actual infinite would be like trying to count to infinity. But it is not possible to count to infinity - no matter how long one counts, he will always be at a finite number. This is true even if one counts into eternity. But if it is not possible to traverse an actual infinite, and if the past is an actual infinite, this would mean that the past could have never been traversed, and that the present moment could never arrive. Since the present moment has undeniably arrived, then the past could not be an actual infinite. Suppose that someone suggests that the past could be an actual infinite in this way: Suppose instead of counting to infinity, one would count from eternity past downwards from negative infinity to zero. Could this be logically possible? The prospect yields contradictory answers. If one had been counting from eternity past, then it can be shown mathematically that he would reach zero at the present moment. But the question poses itself, "Why did he not reach zero yesterday, or last month, or last year?" Indeed, it can be shown that if the past is an actual infinite, then no matter how far back you examine it, he would have already been finished counting. But now we have a contradiction. If the past is an actual infinite, it would be true both that he has been counting from eternity past, and he has always been finished counting from eternity past. Any assumption that yields a contradiction is false. Thus, it is false that the past could be an actual infinite. And if it is false that the past could be an actual infinite, then the universe must have had a beginning. Both scientific and philosophical evidence support this first premise that the universe began to exist. The second premise of the syllogism says whatever begins to exist has a cause for its existence. Notice that the cosmological argument is not saying everything must have a cause. In his book Losing Faith in Faith, Mr. Barker twice conveniently misstates the argument just this way, so he can then try to embarrass the theist by asking, "If everything needs a cause, then what caused God?" This, however, is a facile treatment of the argument. The theist's position is that everything that begins to exist, that is, every finite, contingent being, must have a cause. We experience nothing in the physical realm that exhibits self-existence. Everything we know about the universe suggests that the things that make up the universe are caused to exist. Thus, there must be something that caused the universe to exist which itself is not part of the universe. Now there are those who offer denying the law of causality altogether. To me, this is not so much an explanation, as an abandonment of reason. If the law of causality does not exist at all, then there is no longer any obligation to insist that one's premises bear any causal relationship to one's conclusions. Any conclusion follows legitimately from any premise. Everyone would be equally rational or irrational in believing anything for any reason, since reasons do not cause conclusions. Even a skeptic, ****, who is credited with dealing the most formidable blow to the notion of causality conceded, "I've never asserted so absurd a proposition, as that anything might have arrived uncaused." The conclusion of the syllogism follows necessarily. There is no need to reject the law of causality simply to avoid the conclusion that the universe was caused to exist. I submit that God is the cause of the universe. Second, God is a better explanation than atheism for the design in the universe. In philosophy, this is known as a teleological argument. The notion of design can be unpacked along several lines, three of which I want to examine: 1.) design as cosmic constants. 2.) design as information, and 3.) design as cognition. First, design as cosmic constants. Much data concerning the nature of the physical universe bespeaks of it having been fashioned precisely for the existence of life. Nature exhibits a number of physical characteristics that some refer to as "cosmic constants," whose simultaneous substantiation seems so antecedently improbable, that the appeal to a cosmic mind and **** to explain them, is imminently more reasonable than attributing their coalescing to mere chance. Cambridge theoretical physicist Paul Davies moved from promoting atheism in 1983 to testifying in his 1988 book, The Cosmic Blueprint that there is, "For me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming." Astronomer Robert Jastrow concurs, "according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the universe was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell in it. This result is called the anthropic principle. It is the most theistic result ever to come out of science in my view." In response to these incredible statistics, some have never-the-less suggested that the theory of evolution is adequate to account for its apparent design. Mr. Barker says, "Life is the result of the mindless design of natural selection." But is it reasonable to relegate these cosmic constants to the random coalescing of particles in evolutionary theory? Biochemist Charles Thaxton, mechanical engineer Walter Bradley and geochemist Roger Olsen in their book The Mystery of Life's Origins calculate the chance formation of life from non-life as 1 in 10 to the 40,000th power. To give you a better appreciation for just how large 10 to the 40,000th power is, realize that the estimation of the number of atoms in the known universe is about 10 to the 79th power. That means if you took one atom, and painted an X on it, (which, that would be hard enough to do right there, if you could take an atom and paint an X on it, that's probably proof that there must be a God if you could do that) that means if you took one atom, and painted an X on it, threw it into the universe, and shuffled all the atoms, the chance that you would select that marked atom randomly on the first try is only 1 in 10 to the 79th power. ****, who has been described as one of Britain's most eminent scientists, has widely observed, "any theory with a probability of being correct that is larger than 1 part in 10 to the 40,000th power must be judged superior to random shuffling. The theory that life was assembled by an intelligence has, we believe, a probability vastly higher than 1 part in 10 to the 40,000th power of being the correct explanation. Indeed, such a theory is so obvious, that one wonders why it was not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific." Second, design as information. It in evident that our world exhibits order and complexity. Scientists believe that known laws of nature can account for the occurrence of certain manifestations of order and complexity, but there is a certain type of order and complexity that known laws and regularities can not account for. This is called information. Scaling the mountain to observe much complexity but no order in the seemingly random arrangements of rocks and mounds and rivulets and dirt, all of this complexity can be explained by the natural effect of wind and water erosion. At the top of the mountain we examine a snowflake. A snowflake contains much order but no complexity. You can account for the crystal formation of a snowflake by the behavior of water as it freezes because of the nature of the water molecule. But as you go to the other side of the mountain, you see the carvings of Mount Rushmore. The peculiar arrangement of features exhibits a specified complexity for information. The significance of finding information, is that uniform experience indicates that information comes from intelligence. You would never feel the obligation to try to explain Mount Rushmore on the basis of wind and water erosion. Is there any information in nature? Some scientists insist that there is. According to Thaxton and Bradley, "Proponents of an intelligent origin of life note that molecular biology has uncovered an analogy between DNA and language." The application of this data to the design argument is this: uniform experience tells us that information has its origin in intelligence. It is not the case that each individual DNA must have been fashioned by an intelligence. The existence of photocopied text can be accounted for the actions of the photocopy machine. But the information in the text must have come from an intelligence. Likewise, the existence of the DNA molecule in each cell can be explained by the known laws of chemistry, but the information contained in the DNA must have come from an intelligence. Thus, the presence of information necessary for biological life in best explained by intelligent design. I suggest that God is the intelligent designer of biological life. Third, design as cognition. In philosophy, this argument is sometimes known as realiableism. Most people believe that their sense organs give them accurate information about the external world. Suppose you were traveling Highway 24, and saw a sign that said, "Waldo 17 miles." If you knew that the sign had been blown together by random processes such as the wind, you would have no reason to believe that Waldo was really 17 miles away. The reason you trust the information conveyed by the sign is because you believe that it was not blown together by random forces, but rather was placed there on purpose by an intelligence. Because you believe the sign was placed there by that intelligence, you conclude that there is a correspondence between the information on the sign, and how far away Waldo really is. But why should you believe your senses, if they are really the result of the random processes of evolution? Why should you believe they are accurate? If we are, as Mr. Barker asserts, the products of, "the gradual accumulation of tiny changes over millions of generations of environmental suitability," instead of being deliberately fashioned by an intelligence, so as to be able to know truth by our senses, then why should you believe that your senses are accurate? Environmental suitability for survival is not enough to guarantee truth. There are two further problems here for the atheist. First, in his book, Mr. Barker he defines truth as, "the degree to which a statement corresponds with reality and logic." In another place, Mr. Barker says, "concepts, as far as we know, exist only in brains, which are material things." I wonder how it is that Mr. Barker can know whether his propositions or concepts, which are physical states, correspond to reality, which are physical states. If he is only ****, then his assessment, that propositions correspond to reality, assumes a vantage point of perspective which is impossible for him. His judgment, that a particle proposition corresponds with reality, is itself merely just another dream state, that presumably is the product of antecedent chemical processes. It has nothing to do with cognition in any meaningful sense. Further, if these brain states called concepts are merely the result of the laws of chemistry and physics, then what are we to make of Mr. Barker trying to believe anything. Must it not be the case, on his model, whatever he believes, he is physically determined to believe because of the antecedent chemical processes that give rise to his belief. He can not believe that something he thinks is reasonable to believe. Mr. Barker's atheism can not be rational in any meaningful sense of the term. Lastly, God is a better explanation than atheism for moral experience. In philosophy, this is known as the moral argument. Theism better explains how it is that morality even exists. On the atheist/materialist world view, how is one to account for moral properties? How can physical objects, that possess properties such as mass, inertia, and velocity give rise to properties such as justice, beauty, goodness, and truth? I submit to you that they can not, and certain atheists have admitted as much. The late atheist J. L. Mackey, in his book The Miracle of Theism admits that, "objectively intrinsic prescriptive features super**** upon natural ones constitute several **** qualities in relation, that they are most unlikely to have risen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful God to create them." Well how would an atheist like Mackey ground morality? He argues that morality it not something that is discovered but is made. The title of his book is revealing: Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong. For without an objective standard, how is one to make a reality? Mr. Barker suggests that right and wrong are functions of human needs. He says that ethical systems, "are based on the value humans have assigned to life. Good is that which enhances life, and evil is that which threatens it." But on whose life is this value assigned? My own? My race's? The majority of humans? I agree that I value my own life, but why should I value another's? If the violation of the lives of others enhances my own life, how can Mr. Barker claim that this is wrong? Many atheists, however, misunderstand the theists' argument here. Theists are not claiming that atheists can not be moral. I'm sure there are many atheists who lead exemplary lives, and I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Barker is one of them, but the issue is the metaphysical grounding of what we all know to be the case, namely, that there are certain actions that are intrinsically wrong, and others that are intrinsically right. An illustration might help to show the distinction I'm making here. Since theists believe that God created the universe, theists believe that gravity exists because of God. Atheists deny that gravity, atheists deny that God created gravity. But just because atheists deny the actual cause of gravity, doesn't mean that atheists float. Just as atheists experience gravity without believing in the existence of the God who created gravity, in the same way atheists can experience moral reality without believing in the existence of the God who is the grounding of moral reality. There is even a greater problem for the atheist here. As I have argued earlier, the atheistic materialism such as Mr. Barker's entails physical determinism. But if physical determinism is true, then morality is impossible, for how can one be responsible for something that he did if his actions are merely the result of the regularities of physical laws antecedent to the action? Such notions as objective moral properties and freedom of the will, are inexplicable in such an atheistic model. Yet many popular atheist writers enforce this notion without regard as to how incoherent these notions are in an atheist/materialist world view. As one philosopher noted, many humans are living off the dividends of a theistic world view. In conclusion, I've argued that God is a better explanation than atheism in three areas: the existence of the universe, the design in the universe, including design as cosmic constants, design as information, and design as cognition, and three, moral experience. With this evidence, I believe that the reasonable answer to tonight's question, "Does God exist?" is "Yes." Thank you. [audience applause]

Dan Barker will now present his twenty minute opening statement.

Dan Barker:
Thank you Richard for coming down here for this.† Today's been a lot of fun and I want to thank all of you for coming as well. I want to thank Bill Bishop and H.A.S.A. and Albert Vernon and Brian Thorndyke for all their hostility, hospitality. [audience laughter] Like Darrow said, "I don't believe in God because I don't believe in Mother Goose." Atheism is simply not belief. Atheism has nothing to prove. Atheism makes no assertions. Atheism simply is a lack of belief. There are many different ways to become an atheist, again some are intellectual, some are emotional, some are social, some are political, some are just atheists because they just never had the chance to hear about the belief in God. We were all born atheists. I'd like to know how many people in this room still believe in the existence of any of the Greek gods. Are there anybody here who believes in Zeus? There's usually one in every crowd. [Audience laughter] Anybody believe in Diana? Millions of people believe in Diana. **** What about some of the Roman gods? Anybody here believe in the god Mercury, or the war god Mars? No? The whole world used to believe in these things. What about the Norse God Thor, who caused thunder? Anyone believe in that? Or Odin? There any Wiccans here among us? No? What about the war god Jehovah, who is in the Bible? Are there any people who believe in the Biblical god Jehovah, raise their ... look at that, I knew it. Most of you believers are Christians. I suppose there are some **** out there as well. The only difference between you and me, is that I believe in one less god than you do. [audience laughter, some applause] We're all atheists when it comes to somebody else's god. In fact, do you know the early Christians were called atheists by the Romans, because the Christians didn't believe in god, right, so they were called atheists. They were without a belief. I used to be a believer. I was a very strong believer. I used to preach sermons for nineteen years. I thought it was so real. I read the Bible, I prayed, I asked for forgiveness of my sins. I was a doer of the word, not just a hearer. I wasn't much for sitting around talking. I wanted to go out on street corners and preach and knock on doors, and I did that. And many, many people came forward after I preached to accept Jesus as their personal savior and have their sins washed in the blood of the lamb. And many of you know that sermon and I believed that fervently. I believed I had answers to prayer. I believed I could see fulfilled prophesy. I believed that the word of God was ministering to me. I was a true believer and I know what its like to believe in the existence of a deity. It's a very powerful, very seductive belief. That's what motivated me into the ministry. I wanted to know the truth and to speak the truth. The same motivation drove me out of the ministry. I have since learned that God is not the truth. Jesus and the Bible are not the truth. They are seductive myths, that hold cultural power, but it is not the truth. Atheists, like myself, traditionally take three different approaches to this topic. And different atheists will have a different flavor. The first approach, and the basic approach to atheism is simply to do a head-on rebuttal of theistic arguments and I will do that later. I will directly rebut. During by rebuttal time I will respond to what Richard raised and show how illogical the arguments are and why they are wrong and how I came to realize that this seductive kind of thinking is circular and it is bad reasoning. The second approach, which is really also pretty basic, is that of evidence. It's to notice that for all this talk about a god, one thing that is very obvious, is that the existence of God is not obvious. We wouldn't be having this debate tonight, would we? [audience laughter] If it were something that were obvious. Scientists don't get together and debate the existence of gravity. They might debate some of the hypotheses, but gravity is something that we repeat and we know is real by tests. I can make a prophesy. When I let go of this pen, it will move down. [Drops pen.] See that? A prophecy that came true. It was tested. The Bible never did make a single prophecy that came true in any debate, and if youíre interested in why, you can make so much happen **** in my book, Losing Faith in Faith that Richard has talked about a bit and apparently he loves it dearly. [audience laughter] So, itís **** illogical, so I wonít go into all that, about why prophecies fail and why the Bibleís contradictory and all that, what I used to believe. Also, on Sunday, there was a story in the New York Times about the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It has a little bit about me in it, but in the middle of the New York Times you look in this Sunday magazine to read about it. The burden of proof is always on the shoulders of the person ****, Richard and I both agree that there is a natural universe. Whenever you have a debate, you should start with where you will both agree. We both agree there is a natural universe out there, right? He has an additional belief that I donít have. He has the belief thereís something that transcends the ****. You know, I donít have ****, so itís not my responsibility to disprove his hypothesis. Most atheists simply say, "Whereís the beef?" or, "Show me the money" or, "Whereís he heading to when he wonít come up with anything to justify his major belief?" Scientists donít get together every Sunday morning, joining hands and bow their heads, and say, "Yes, gravity is real! [audience laughter] I know gravity is real! [more laughter] In my heart I will be strong. I know what goes up must come down." [audience laughter] You know, what if they did that? What if they did that every Sunday? They did that, hands in their laps? Wouldnít you think theyíre kind of insecure about the concept? You know? [audience laughter and loud applause] Yet you know every person in this audience knows that thatís basic insecurity. You donít know that thereís a God. You donít know. You make yourself believe. The Bible even says Jesus comes to God because he believes that he exists. You donít know he exists. Youíre just hoping, youíre wishing, or youíre fearful or whatever it is. [some chuckles] What the basic atheist says is that God has not been disproved, but that God is merely unproved. I would be happy to change my mind right here, right now. This is all it is. I would be really happy to say I was wrong. **** science says, hereís the hypothesis prove it wrong and letís go for it, the problem with theism is that theism never makes itself vulnerable to falsifiablility. No theist ever says, "Hereís how you can prove me wrong. Letís go for it." In fact, Iím going to ask Richard during our cross-examination to show me if his hypothesis is falsifiable. Iím going to ask him for an example of a sentence that, if true, would make your hypothesis false. If youíre asking me to disprove your hypothesis, then what would you accept as disproof? Tell me what it is that you would find acceptable as a disproof of the existence of God. Then we would have a fair, equal share of the burden of proof. But, even if it is not falsified, there is nothing you can say about it that would make it true or make it false. Can any of you think of something? In which youíd be honest enough to admit that it had worked for you so that you could discard it? Are you objective enough to say, "Yes, I would discard it," like I did? **** looks like a lousy one, but **** ever done that. But the third approach that some atheists take, and thatís the one Iím going to concentrate on right now, is a minority approach. Itís an approach that does assume what you might call some burden of proof. I think that if God is inclined in a certain way, you can disprove that particular God. It doesnít necessarily disprove all gods, but if God is inclined in a certain way with certain characteristics, you can prove logically that such a God cannot exist and therefore, does not exist. These are known as the coherence arguments. Itís not meaningful, if you donít know what you mean by God, then what are we debating, right? My favorite, and thereís about a half dozen of these coherence approaches, and my favorite is the free will argument for the nonexistence of God and we call it FAAG. Now follow this approach. God is inclined as a personal being who knows everything.. I think most Christians would believe that. Personal beings are capable of making decisions. Some of us would call that free will. If you canít make a decision, youíll never be able to make a choice for God or against. ****. Free will requires that you have more than one option each of which is avoidable. A free decision can only be affected if youíre in a state of uncertainty during a period of potential. This means that in order to have free will, you canít know the future. You canít know what the futureís going to be or you donít have free will, right? If you know it, if you predict it, youíre stuck, if you donít have the potential to change it, to avoid it. But the **** being knows everything. He does know the future. If thereís a God and heís omniscient, he knows all of his future choices. He knows what heís going to do tomorrow. He has to, because heís God, right? Therefore, in the mind of God, the future is fixed. It cannot be changed, not even by God. That does seem to put some serious limits on his power, doesnít it? Tomorrow at twelve noonÖ Talk about materialism! This being who knows the future is utterly materialistic and complete robot and complete slave to whatever nature he has. If God shows off his power by changing what he was going to do anyway, then he wasnít omniscient in the first place, was he? No being is both omniscient and omnipotent. That is logically impossible by definition. Such a being would not have more than one option. Such a being would not have an option that is avoidable. Such a being therefore, could not have free will and is therefore, not a personal being. It canít make decisions. How could you relate to some being who is just robotic, computerized, and doesnít really make any decisions, doesnít make any judgements, canít change his mind, canít really make any evaluations, canít have any free will? A personal being who knows that everything cannot exist, therefore cannot exist for God does not exist. You follow that? Hereís another one. We define beings as identities that have a body or a brain, some kind of housing. But God is defined as a spirit. What in the world is a spirit? Iím going to ask Richard to define the word "spirit" for me. Iíve never heard a definition of the word that doesnít simply tell us what itís not: intangible, non****. What is a spirit? You donít know what it is. If God is a being, he must have some kind of a housing and yet, **** never been confirmed. Another coherency problem is that a being, a person, has to have some kind of an identity. I recognized the red-head guy from New York over there, the six foot tall womenÖ You know we recognize people how? By limiting them. We put limits on them. Iím limited in so many ways that people know who I am, I have an identity **** my limits. But if God is an infinite being, he has no limits. Thereís nothing you can say about him. You canít, you know, no hair color, no weight, no sight, no nothing. Thereís nothing you can say about an infinite being that could limit such a thing. So if you canít define the being and it has no limits, then it has no identity. To have no identity is not to exist. Therefore, an infinite being not only cannot exist, but does not exist as a personal being. What about another aspect of omniscience? Letís take your argument and turn it on its head. If God is a limited being of eternal existence, then there must thoughts in the mind of a being and they must be somehow logical. God created logic, supposedly. These thoughts must precede. One precedes the other and each thought follows from it. How can you have any kind of thinking without some kind of coherent link in your mind, one thought preceding one another? If God is eternally existent, then he never can traverse those number of preceding thoughts to get to the thought that he has today. That turns his cosmological argument unside down completely. Has it ever occurred to you, that kind of infinity cannot exist and he never got to saying, "Let there be light," or he would have said it an infinite number or zero number of times. Also, if God is omniscient, think about what this means. Not only does God know everything, about the past, present, future, the total combined ways of science, whatever,[slight, unintelligible interruption] he also noted anything about himself, because being God, he has to know everything about how he **** he is. So in his mind, where he thought, he must have a model, not only of all of us, but he must also have a model of himself. He must have a model of himself within himself so that he knows who he is. But of course, that model of himself within himself has to include that model of himself within himself if heís truly omniscient and you get into an infinite regress. God would take so much time and burn up an infinite amount of energy just to remember who he is, there would be no time left to ****. [audience laughter and applause] How in the world would that ****? And suppose God was going to tell you something, being omniscient. I know what happens an infinite number of years ago. **** didnít have to think that **** what it would take for him to say that, right? That kind of being cannot and does not exist. Atheism is reasonable. Atheism is respectable and atheism is also better for morality. Atheism and humanism combined together are a much firmer basis for moral behavior than any theist system has ever been by proof and by philosophy. If you read any Stephen Hawking, Ö Does that mean four minutes orÖ? Okay. Do you know that **** cosmology is way ahead of Richard? Do you know that ****, Hawking, and others have ****? The universe had no beginning in time. We know that. Time itself is our **** to think one-dimensionally and so we think of time as a straight stream going back to some point at the singularity. But now Hawking and others are suggesting that that doesnít quite explain the universe how it really works. Time, he suggests, even though its not **** to us, is multi-dimensional or at least two dimensional and that the point of the Big Bang isnít really a point of beginning at all. Itís just simply another point on a universe that has no beginning or no ending at all in time. Carl Sagan, who was an out-and-out atheist by the way, his widow Ann Druyan just reconfirmed that back at our convention last Saturday down in Tampa. But Carl Sagan wrote an **** book and Hawking had an embarrassingÖ, put that word "God" in his book. In one of his later books, he said, "now maybe I shouldnít have put that many God phrases in there, but the editors insisted because Iíd sell more books that way." In fact, he said that so much. Carl Sagan said about Hawking ****,"Hawking is attending, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort that heís done so far, a universe with no empty space, no ending or beginning in time, and nothing for a creator to do." That was the introduction to the book he just returned. So he argues about actual infinities, he argues about the well-meaning voice for outdated arguments. We now know we shouldnít think about time that way, just like we now know we shouldnít think about earth as being flat, two-dimensional. Now we know that itís spherical and if youíre still pushing in a flat, two-dimensional state of mind like the biblical writers, they **** back then. It still **** at mind, I get a spherical shape to it all, doesnít make sense. Not a clue. They didnít have the force of mind to comprehend and writers are going to ask us still, "Whereís the beginning of the Earth? Whereís the starting point?" Well, you can point them to the starting point. Itís at the North Pole, right? You can say that all these latitudes come up to zero and **** and get real small and form a point up there. A flat-earther might say, "But whatís before that? What happened before that?" And you say, "Thatís a meaningless question. You donít have noÖ There is no before that. That point at the pole is just the same as any other point on the sphere." And the point of the Big Bang, that point in time that we have to think of as beginning really is the same thing. Itís meaningless to ask what happens before that? What caused that? There was no before. And even under the old cosmology where the idea that space-matter of energy and time were all in existence at that singularity. Time came into existence at that point as well, so therefore, if time came into existence before the Big Bang, there was no before the Big Bang as the king of existence had it, so itís meaningless to ask what came before. Therefore, it is meaningless for us to ask what caused it because cause implies temporality. If thereís a God up there, heís having his thoughts in a logical, temporal way and heís coming to a point in his thoughts where heís thinking, "I-Iím going to decide to create the universe." But he canít do that. If time came into existence after that point, there can be not a God himself at that time to think how to create the universe. This cosmological argument fails and Iím going to continue with the rest of my time to rebut the other arguments. [Loud applause]

Dan Barker will now have his ten minute rebuttal.

Dan Barker:
Richard says that whatever has a beginning, whatever began had a cause and then he posits the answer rather than doing what science does and saying, "We donít know. Thatís what a number of possibilities recommend." He simply out of the air grabs, "if it had a beginning, it must have had a beginner." And you know what? You canít do that ****. You are simply hypothesizing. You are simply saying that there must be such a thing as an uncaused cause. How do you know that? How in the world can you know that there could be such a thing as an uncaused cause? You are simply positing that there must have been an uncaused cause. If youíre just going to do that, posit it with no evidence, then why not just be done with it and posit that the universe itself is an uncaused cause. Why not just do that? Why give me thisÖ? Why try to answer one mystery with just another mystery, because the existence of God is just another mystery? An answer to nothing. If you answer one mystery with another mystery, youíd be answering nothing and youíd be still back to square one. This becomes another example of the "God of the gaps." All through human history, weíve had these questions. What causes thunder? What causes the lightning? I donít know, there must be a big Thor up there that does it. [audience laughter] But now, now weíve learned about electricity. Now we donít need that Thor anymore. Weíve erased that God, right? And as the line moves up, answering more and more questions, the Gods disappear. We still have a lot more questions up here and **** we no longer put a God down here, Thor too. Heís living in gaps, the gaps are getting smaller, but all you are doing is basically proving the existence, not of a God. Youíre proving the existence of a gap in human understanding. If your cosmological argument even is right, even if it is trueóthe universe had a beginning, therefore it must have had a cause. All you can prove is that we have a question mark. And then you were thinking of ****, this thing called God, which I bet you got out of the Bible. **** [some laughs] I mean, I might be wrong. You mightÖ, I mean, how many of you came to believe in God as a result of contemplating the second law of thermodynamics? How many of you did? [audience laughs] All right, maybe a couple. I bet most of you got it from a holy book or from a tradition or a culture. Most of you got that idea in the first place from a preacher or from your mom or dad or ****. But youíre just positing, you just put it there. A problem with your argument about the second law of thermodynamics is that you are making a leap of faith here somewhere. The laws of thermodynamics were obtained inductively by observing systems closest, within the universe. We look at this. We look at that. We look at the ****. But you are taking that inductive law, which is a descriptive one. Itís not a prescriptive law, itís just something that we observe. Youíre taking that law and then youíre applying that thing to the entire universe, as if the universe itself were a thing and youíre saying that that same law applies to the entire universe. In order for this to apply, the universe has to have at least the potential of leaking. There has to be somewhere for the universe to leak in order for the whole concept of thermodynamics to make any sense in the universe. But since the universe is all there is and there is no edge to the universe, itís a meaningless concept that there could be the universe leaking, in any way, in that sense. So it is an inapt application of the laws of thermodynamics to apply them to your argument. Besides, if the laws of thermodynamics apply to the universe as a whole, in which he seems to be committed, then shouldnít the first law also apply to the universe as a whole? You know what the first law says? The first law basically says that matter cannot be created, the conservation of energy, it cannot be created or destroyed. If that law also applies to the universe as a whole, that does away with creation. Doesnít it? You canít have it both ways. If you want to have the laws to apply to the entire universe then you have just disproved the possibility of creation. These design arguments are also curious. Itís kind of like a person who marvels at how amazingly all these rivers could be made to flow right by the major cities. Have you noticed that? [audience laughter, some applause] Youíve got it backwards and I guess the biggest flaw in this whole thing, this design thing, this really was helpful for my easy way out of theism, is if functional, ordered complexity requires a designer, you find a watch lying there, if Mount Rushmore requires a designer, then isnít the mind of the designer at least as complex and functional as the thing he designed? Isnít the mind of God orderly, functional, and complex? It has to be. How could it be created? Assume, right? If you can leap from Mount Rushmore to a human creator, because this is evidence of design, and then leap from a human creator up to a God. You could just see heaven as the designer or creator. Then why do you stop leaping there? Donít you see evidence of wonder and magnitude and functionality and complexity in the mind of this God you believe in? You have to keep leaping. God needs a God. And if he doesnít, if you say that there can be something that is self-designed, then what you have done is **** back the question. If God doesnít need a designer, you are exempting from the premise that all things that show evidence of functional complexity need a designer and God certainly needs functional complexity, according to your argument, or he could not design anything. Thatís called circular reasoning. What youíre doing is simply assuming what you wish to be true by saying, "Well God is off the hook before I start my argument proving that thereís a God." Thatís begging the question and thatís bad logic. Where do you decide to draw your line? You admit that things like crystals, things like perhaps, microevolution, the resistance to pesticides, letís say, things like maybe a nice orderly **** sand dune, these evidences of beauty and harmony design donít need an intelligent designer because we can account for them by the laws of nature. You admit that, that there is some level down there we can account for. But then you seem to draw the line across nature and say, "Aha! Up here, oh now these things we can explain are just too complex." Again, thereís the "God of the gaps" because you have reached the level of your understanding that you donít ever answer. You posit this equally mysterious, intelligent, all-powerful being that can answer for your questions. But what part here do you use to determine where you draw that line? I submit that this figure **** one times ten to the 40,000 is arbitrary and the reason itís wrong is because of this assumption that It all happened … All these molecules were put in this one box and it happened with one shake. I believe that if you put all the molecules in the universe and put them in one box and gave it one shake, it would be quite a miracle to see human being walk. I agree, I admit. Even Richard Dawkings in his book takes it even further and says, "Look at the evidence for complexity and order we see." But it wasnít one shake. It was billions and billions and billions of shakes over billions and billions of years with long stretches of very minute advantages accumulated over time, in fact long periods of extinction where a lot of the trial and error didnít make it. Evolution has been repeatedly proved to be true…

This transcript is copyrighted by the University of Florida Humanistic Atheist Students Association


Opening Statements

  ē Richard Howe
  ē Dan Barker


  ē Dan Barker

More to come...

© Copyright 1998 by the University of Florida's Humanistic Atheist Students Association.