Apologetics 102: Intelligent Design

This week I was able to spend some time reading apologetics book E-mails to a Young Seeker by a former professor of mine, David S. Hogsette. I made it through to the fifth “email exchange” between Hogsette (or as he tirelessly refers to himself, Prof Dave) and his fictional “seeker” college student.

Before even getting to Hogsette’s misunderstanding of evolution, his misdefinition of atheism, or his gross misuse of the word “science”, I can’t help but point out my disgust with his overall tone and the set-up of the book. I know that apologists are trying to defend their Christian viewpoint, but it seems they can never even veil their bias or try to pretend to come off as fair; it showed in Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator when he only interviewed creationists, and it shows here as well. Hogsette’s overall tone towards this fictional seeker is unbelievably condescending and arrogant, and he portrays this college student as one of the greatest, most bumbling idiots I’ve ever seen. The seeker’s tone is as follows: “Whoa Prof Dave! I always thought evolution was, like, true, but you’re probably the smartest prof ever. Like, you gave me so many totally smart facts to think about. I can’t believe you’re so smart, Prof Dave, dude!”

I don’t know about you, but in my four years of college, and my twenty-two years of being alive, I’ve never addressed any college professor (not even my apologetics teacher, or Dave here), as “Prof”. In my own email exchanges with the author (not regarding apologetics), I never considered addressing him as anything but “Dr. Hogsette”. I’d always considered it a matter of respect and professionalism. But hey, if you want to be called Prof Dave, then I guess that’s on you.

With that out of the way, the first five email exchanges were as follows:

Exchange 1: Am I an atheist or an agnostic?
Exchange 2: Why do theists claim the universe had a beginning? Isn’t it just as reasonable to hold to an eternal universe and to believe that, possibly, God is the universe?
Exchange 3: Can’t some things be created by chance?
Exchange 4: Isn’t evolution an adequate scientific explanation for the origin of life?
Exchange 5: But isn’t theistic creation just a mindless god-of-the-gaps idea?

You can only imagine how much fun this was to read. Let me try and break down as many of Prof Dave’s fallacies as I can without losing my mind!

Although Exchange 1 is titled, “Am I an atheist or an agnostic?”, the question the seeker actually asks is, “What’s the difference between an atheist and an agnostic? I don’t know where I stand on all this god stuff.” Honestly, this is a good question. The mistake is that whoever the seeker really is, he asked it to an apologist. He was doomed from the start.

I still don’t know whether the seeker was an atheist or an agnostic. He didn’t give a specific enough definition of his position, and Prof Dave never pinpointed it for him. Prof Dave did provide a half-right distinction between atheism and agnosticism before spending pages on why he hates both positions, which is the opposite of helpful for someone trying to understand their own position. As expected, he defined atheism in terms of positive, gnostic atheism, which some people subscribe to, although it is very rare. The default, and probably the most popular atheistic position, is negative and agnostic.

I won’t dwell on all those definitions, given that you probably already know, but if you want to read up on all the types of atheism, take a look at this post. But what Prof Dave is basically saying is that all atheists know for sure that there is no god. I don’t usually spend that much energy anymore on the technicalities between “I don’t believe in a god” and “I believe that there is no god”, but in this case, the author uses the latter to assume that “you would basically have to be all-knowing to know that there is no all-knowing being like God,” which is not only a fallacy, but also a tongue-twister.

Exchange 2 echoes the interview with William Lane Craig that was featured in The Case for a Creator. In it, it is argued that the universe is not eternal, the big bang did occur, and therefore, there is a god (of course, the god of the bible, duh). Checkmate, atheists!

The main thing that I genuinely don’t understand about this argument is that I didn’t know there was anyone left that didn’t believe that the universe had a beginning. Theists know it, and atheists know it, and I’m pretty sure that everyone in between knows it. So who is he trying to convince? Why, why, is an apologist who will later argue for a literal Genesis, trying to prove the big bang and disprove evolution? Does he not know that the big bang and evolution fit into the same narrative of the old earth? Does he not know that the big bang contradicts the entire ex nihilo part of Genesis?

When I saw the title of Exchange 3, “Can’t some things be created by chance?”, my first thought was, “Prof Dave had better not try to portray ‘chance’ as some conscious being that atheists claim can create things. It’s just a mathematical probability.” But what he did was even worse: he claimed that chance is nothing more than a mathematical probability, not some conscious being that can create things. Basically, he turned the entire question around into this huge strawman rather than explaining how the anthropic principle works, which would have been the appropriate response.

If someone were to ask me, “Can’t unlikely things happen by chance?” I wouldn’t respond with, “Well, Chance isn’t a being that can make things happen. Hahaha! Wait. Was that a legitimate question? So you wanted a legitimate answer? Not just a dad joke?” A better response would be one given by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion where he explains the probability of the earth being habitable for life in this unfathomably gargantuan universe. Given that there are approximately a billion billion planets, even if the likelihood of life arising on any given planet was 1/one billion, statistically, there would still be a billion planets which can sustain life. That, my friends, is how the arisal of life is explained by chance (although I’m no expert, and I don’t have half the arrogance that Prof Dave has, or even that Dawkins has, so if I have something wrong, please tell me!).

Exchange 5 was nothing more than a reiteration of Exchange 4: why the author believes in microevolution and not macroevolution. Frustratingly, I’m not an expert on evolution, but even I could sense how saturated with fallacies his arguments were. He began the entire exchange with, “I used to believe in evolution, and I tried to reconcile my belief in evolution with my belief in God as Creator.” In my margin, I wrote, “and that’s all you need to know.” He started with his conclusion and worked backwards from there to find supporting evidence. The problem is that most of his evidence has either been refuted or it was never there in the first place.

He pulled all the classic moves:

“Evolution isn’t actually a settled topic at all in the scientific community.”
“Also, anyone who tries to refute it gets made fun of for being ignorant. Even though it’s just a theory, so it should be open for debate!”
“Microevolution happens within kinds, but macroevolution is scientifically impossible.”
“Random genetic mutations can’t create new information, which is required to make a new species.”
“With the amount of dog breeds there are, there’s still only one species. So evolution doesn’t exist.”
“Evolution defies the second law of thermodynamics.”
“The fossil record doesn’t have transitional forms!”
“How do transitional forms work anyways? If fish transformed into birds, then that’s impossible because how would a half-fish half-bird even do anything? Take that Darwin!”
“Irreducible complexity. Michael Behe. Checkmate, atheists!”

A more succinct summary of these two chapters would be, “I don’t know how evolution works, so it’s not true. Which is convenient because I decided it wasn’t true before I even began my study.”

I don’t want to go through and refute the entire list in this post, but if you want to learn a great deal on evolution and how to respond to “intelligent design” proponents, I highly recommend Viced Rhino’s YouTube channel. He’s insanely knowledgeable. And in the coming weeks, in order to learn more about evolution myself, I’m going to read Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. I hope it helps me shed my ignorance!

Unfortunately, however, some people are ignorant by choice. They revel in it, because it allows them to see the world through their narrow worldview and share it with others. College professors who have this mindset are especially frustrating for me, because they have so much power to influence the minds of my peers, some of which are probably just like the seeker in this book. This is why I find it so necessary, as someone who came out of an institution with this kind of teaching, to reveal everything that the professors, who we are supposed to trust, got so totally wrong.


Read next:

apologetics 102 the bible

22 Replies to “Apologetics 102: Intelligent Design”

  1. I still think it’s far more acceptable and honest to just say, “I have no idea” instead of racing for a 2000 year old Bible to prove a point about anything we honestly have no idea about…
    In a way it’s like looking at the Cave at Lascaux to give us information about how to live NOW.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “In a way it’s like looking at the Cave at Lascaux to give us information about how to live NOW.” Of course, that is the norm for Christians though, to take metaphorical and confusing Bible passages and apply them to advice for today!

      Like

  2. I don’t mean any offense to anyone but someone with a closed mind such as ‘Professor Dave’ doesn’t deserve to be called a professor. Professor of what? They’re meant to be pillars of knowledge in the science community.

    That aside, it boggles me how Creationists can argue for micro-evolution but that macro-evolution can’t happen. What is their basis for that? It is like saying, you can walk a mile each day but you will never be able to walk 1000 miles in your life. The only difference is time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They wouldn’t even be able to cobble together a hypothesis of god having deliberately started the evolution of life with mankind as a goal. It would mess with their little story of falling from grace and original sin, which we all need to believe in order to feel the need for repentance.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Some Christians believe in Evolution as well. But it’s clear that books like Genesis were intentionally meant to be taken literally, which is wrong. If you try to combine the two, you will end up with more problems than what you started with.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. But it’s clear that books like Genesis were intentionally meant to be taken literally, which is wrong.

          I question that “intentionally”.

          I see Genesis as compilation of stories. Some of those stories may have been intended literally, but others were not. It is up to the reader to attempt to sort that out.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, the first few chapters of Genesis could’ve been built on earlier creation myths and fables, which weren’t meant to be taken literally. Either way, most Christians see the book of Genesis as a historical book, and other later characters in the Bible appear to treat it that way too… although there are a growing number of Christians who don’t anymore.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Creationists never seem to understand probability. An event with a 1 in a billion chance of happening in a given situation isn’t anything remarkable if the given situation happens trillions of times every second. When they talk about the minuscule probability of certain molecules spontaneously assembling in a certain way, I wonder if they have any clue as to just how many molecules are interacting at every moment. You’d have to multiply their probability by trillions to get anything remotely accurate for a single planet in a single moment, let alone the entire universe for long periods of time, and the result for life in this universe appears to be roughly inevitable. So inevitable, in fact, that it would be surprising if there were /not/ any other planets with life in our galaxy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It should also be noted that their probabilities are often also bogus in that they ignore the physics and other basic scientific facts that limit possible outcomes and make certain result much more likely than others.

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  4. I have a draft article about Christian apologetic books, specifically how terrible and intellectually vapid they are, but I can never bring myself to stomach picking them back up to re-read. The stupid is just so strong.

    Good article. You have a strong constitution. Maybe I’ll finish mine someday!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Note: Long comment.

    One thing I appreciate about you, CA: Your tone.

    Another aspect of you that I appreciate is why you say what you say: “…I find it so necessary, as someone who came out of an institution with this kind of teaching, to reveal everything that the professors, who we are supposed to trust, got so totally wrong.”

    Those are two reasons why I re-Followed your blog after making the mistake of un-Following it last week: You have been a good influence on me, and I didn’t want to lose that influence.

    On the subject of evolution:

    I don’t get why Christians devote book after book after book to addressing evolution, for this reason: Even if the creation account in the Bible could be proven to be accurate, would you worship the god of the Bible? Judging by your previous posts, the answer to that question is “No.” So, what is a Christian hoping to accomplish when they set out to prove that evolution is false?

    On the subject of writing:

    I admire what you say, how you say it, and why you say it.

    However: Speaking as a person who spent four years critiquing words like these:

    “…THERE WILL BE BLOOD is one of the most mean-spirited, anti-Christian, superficial, and poorly played portrayals of religion ever created in movie history. God knows there have been plenty of insincere, sinful leaders in the Christian church, but there have also been many good Christians who have exposed and opposed such false leaders. The short length of most feature films often require stereotypes, even negative ones, to tell a good story, but when they are so mean-spirited, superficial and poorly played as this one is, they appeal only to narrow-minded bigots with an ax to grind, whose mental faculties and hearts have been poisoned by their sinful misanthropic prejudice.”
    ~Ted Baehr, Movieguide, “There Will Be Blood” review

    I can say that critiquing the writing of people who make my blood boil is exhausting work. As someone who has a passion for storytelling, eventually I came to the conclusion that I would rather create than critique — I would rather spend my time creating my own stories than critiquing reviews of other peoples’ stories, even if I was critiquing for a good reason. (To show how crazy a Christian organization like Movieguide sounds.) On a side note: It was an atheist who led me to this conclusion.

    My point being: CA, you should write about what you want, how you want, for whatever reason you want. But, in doing so, don’t run yourself into the ground.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. CA,

      One thing I forgot to mention in this comment (I had to get ready for mass right after I wrote it, and so was in a hurry) is:

      This is the first post of yours that has made me laugh.

      Your words “The seeker’s tone is as follows: ‘Whoa Prof Dave! I always thought evolution was, like, true, but you’re probably the smartest prof ever. Like, you gave me so many totally smart facts to think about. I can’t believe you’re so smart, Prof Dave, dude!'” made me think of this gem from Roger Ebert’s review of “Battle: Los Angeles”:

      “Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you’ve been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart.”

      Thank you for making me laugh, making me think, helping me be humble. My life is better because of you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my goodness, he’s arguing at the crockoduck level! That’s embarrassingly bad!

    “Given that there are approximately a billion billion planets, even if the likelihood of life arising on any given planet was 1/one billion, statistically, there would still be a billion planets which can sustain life.”

    One way I’ve heard this put, which I like very much, is that something that has a very low probability of happening can be expected to happen at least once if you have a large enough sample size. So for the universe to have a big sample size, for the origin of lie, you’d need a universe that’s vastly big, and enormously old. Which is exactly what we have. If we had observed that the universe were young, or very small, then life cropping up on it’s own would be puzzling indeed, and might require some other explanation. But as it is, life is just one of the things that atoms do, given enough time.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well said. It irks me when Creationists criticize the Big Bang by saying ‘It couldn’t have all happened by chance”. Well, as far as I know, chance might be involved but much of what going on isn’t chance, but unlike the existence of a god, we can prove and document this.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Beyond even “prove and document”, I think an important difference is that we are able to investigate things about our physical universe, while there’s no reliable method that we can use to investigate the existence of “god”.

        Liked by 2 people

            1. well, hey. If a god doesn’t want to be measured, or thermometerized, NObody’s gonna put that thermometer anywhere. At all. gods are like that.

              Like

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