A week ago today, Dr Peter Saunders, CEO, Christian Medical Fellowship, published a list of 20 questions which he claimed in Atheists struggle to answer.
I responded (20 Questions Atheists Have Answered) by showing how these questions had all been addressed and answered and challenged Dr Saunders to explain in what way the answers are unsatisfactory.
So far, the only response has been to complain that the answer to the first question does not answer the question (something which can only be sustained by re-stating the question in an all-too-familiar apologetics tactic of moving the goalposts). This is despite Dr Saunder's continued assurance that he would answer my blog 'soon'.
My reply included several supplementary questions intended to give Dr Saunders an opportunity to explain precisely how he thought his questions represent a problem for Atheists and how a failure to answer them would support the hypothesis that actions by the Christian god alone could provide satisfactory answers.
To simplify Dr Saunder's task, I present the main questions again here, modified in places only slightly. The context of the questions is given by Dr Saunder's original question, shown in red.
Of course, other Christian apologists are more than welcome to try answering the questions. Apologists for other gods may also like to tackle these questions, suitably modified, because in almost every respect, these questions are used by supporters of other gods and other religions to justify their particular superstition, so, if you are a Muslim, simply change 'Christian god' for 'Islamic god', and so on.
1.What caused the universe to exist?
1.1. In the absence of a scientific answer to this question, how exactly do you conclude that the only alternative is that the Christian god caused the universe to exist?
2.What explains the fine tuning of the universe?
2.1. Why is there no possible natural explanation for the 'fine tuned' parameters to which you alludes?
3.Why is the universe rational?
3.1. Would you expect the universe to be irrational? If so, why?
4.How did DNA and amino acids arise?
4.1. If the answer to this question was truly unknown, in what way does it support the hypothesis that the Christian god is the only way to explain it?
5.Where did the genetic code come from?
5.1. Why would you expect the genetic code to not exist?
5.2. How would an inability of science to answer this question with complete certainty at present support the hypothesis that the Christian god is the only possible cause of the genetic code?
5.3. What medical advances can you think of which were produced by scientists looking at an unanswered question and concluding the a god must have done it?
6.How do irreducibly complex enzyme chains evolve?
6.1. How do you account for variations of these processes and of less complex chains producing the same or similar outputs in other species if the chains are really irreducibly complex?
6.2. Why would an intelligent designer design so many different ways to achieve the same result and why would it create analogous systems in species which, when arranged in order of degree of difference, look like they evolved from a common, more primitive ancestor?
6.3. How do you account for redundancy in organisms and evidence of inefficient, stupid design, such as the recurrent pharyngeal nerve and a broken ascorbic acid manufacturing process in many primates?
7.How do we account for the origin of 116 distinct language families?
7.1. If this had been unknown to science, in what way precisely does it undermine the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to believe in any god?
8.Why did cities suddenly appear all over the world between 3,000 and 1,000BC?
8.1. How do you account for the continued existence of subsistence agriculture, hunter-gatherer peoples and nomadic pastoralism if, as you claim, there were cities all over the world?
8.2. How does the existence of cities support the notion of the existence of the Christian god?
8.3. If cities were somehow facilitated by your favourite god, why did it wait until 3000 years ago and take 2000 years to spread the idea, and why did it not give them to everyone?
9.How is independent thought possible in a world ruled by chance and necessity?
9.1. Why would you expect it not to be?
9.2. Why do you believe thought is independent? Independent of what, exactly?
9.3. Why do you believe the world is 'ruled by chance and necessity'?
9.4. In what way is this question a problem for the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to believe in any gods?
10.How do we account for self-awareness?
10.1. If science had been unable to offer an explanation of self-awareness, how would that gap undermine the Atheist position that there is no evidential reason to not be an Atheist?
10.2. How do you account for very evident self-awareness in other species?
11.How is free will possible in a material universe?
11.1. Why would you expect a material universe to have any impact on that debate and why, as your question implies, would you expect it to render it impossible?
11.2. How can free will exist in the presence of an eternal, omniscient and inerrant god?
11.3. How does the existence or otherwise of free will impinge upon the Atheist view that there is no evidential reason to believe in a god?
12.How do we account for conscience?
12.1. Why would you expect an evolving, intelligent, social ape not to evolve a set of memes by which to work together as a co-operative society?
12.2. How do you distinguish between someone who doesn't know right from wrong and needs to look them up in a book and a psychopath?
12.3. How do you account for the differences between different human cultures and societies if they all get their moral codes from the same supernatural source?
12.4. How do you account for the fact that a society like Sweden with it high Atheist population is more peaceful and has far less crime than a highly religious, predominantly Christian society, like the USA?
12.5. How do you account for the statistics in this blog - Not Good With God?
12.6. If you believe you can only tell right from wrong by reference to the Christian Bible, how do you know it was written by a moral god and not an evil one trying to mislead you? In other words, how do you know Satan didn't write the Bible?
13.On what basis can we make moral judgements?
This is, of course a repeat of question 12 so I won't bother to restate the same questions just to make up the numbers.
14.Why does suffering matter?
14.1. Why does suffering not matter to so many species in a universe you believe to have been created by a caring and compassionate god?
14.2. Why does pain persist when it has ceased to fill any useful survival purpose?
14.3. Why would you expect an evolving, intelligent, social ape to not be compassionate and care about its fellows when this produces a better, more co-operative, and more trusting society.
14.4. Why has Christianity so frequently and readily used deliberately brutal methods of torture and execution for those with whom it disagrees, as shown here and here?
15.Why do human beings matter?
15.1. Why do humans not matter to non-humans if, as you believe, the universe was created for them by a caring and compassionate god?
15.2. Why does it look as though morality evolved in humans by a process of memetic evolution similar to the process of genetic evolution?
15.3. How do you account for parasites like these in a universe created by a caring and compassionate god?
15.4. If there is a caring and compassionate creator god why does it look as though he hates Africans, and especially the children?
15.5. How can this photograph exist in the presence of a caring and compassionate god?
16.Why care about justice?
16.1. What precisely do you find inadequate about the answers meme theory provides?
16.2. How would failure to explain human cultural evolution as a natural process undermine the Atheism idea that there is no evidential reason to believe in any god?
17.How do we account for the almost universal belief in the supernatural?
17.1. How do you account for a falling belief in supernatural explanations as science makes more and more discovereies, and by a lower belief in the supernatural by the more scientifically literate?
17.2. Why did the supply of prophets and miracles appear to reduce markedly as we became more and more knowledgeable and our understanding of the universe increased?
17.3. Why is 'magic' a more satisfactory answer to mysteries than saying "we don't yet know but we're working on it"?
18.How do we know the supernatural does not exist?
18.1. I normally take an attempt to divest oneself of the burden of proof as evidence of an awareness that the idea being presented is false and of the intellectual dishonesty and moral ambivalence of the perpetrator. Why should I not do so in this case?
18.2. If your god is supernatural, so by definition cannot interact with the natural universe, how does it influence anything?
18.3. If it can influence anything it is not supernatural so should be detectable by science. Has your god been so detected? if so, where may the evidence be seen?
19.How can we know if there is conscious existence after death?
19.1. If your belief is that there is conscious existence after clinical death the burden of proof lies with you. Do you have any evidence for it's continuation?
20.What accounts for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances and growth of the church?
20.1. Again there is the attempt to shift the burden which has started to become almost a signature technique and which raises serious questions of sincerity in my mind. Do you have any extra-biblical evidence that there was an 'empty tomb' resulting from a resurrection?
20.2. How do you account for the four markedly, and often contradictory, accounts for them in the Christian Bible?
20.3. Given the statement purportedly by Jesus, that he would build his (singular) church on the rock of Simon "Peter" Barjonah, and his alleged prophesy that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, How do you account for the 30,000 or so Christian sects, many of whom regard the others as Satanic creations?
20.4. Do you not feel embarrassed at needing to use this intellectually dishonest tactic of the false dichotomy, which is no more an argument for your god than it is for any other and which relies entirely on the parochial ignorance of its targets to work?
20.5. Why have you not presented a single scrap of evidence for your preferred god and explained why it can only be used in support of your particular god? Do you not have any?