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Skeptical Sunday: Dear Atheist…

August 1, 2010

Hey guys.

I’m drowning in work right now (no pun intended. I know you don’t know why that’s a pun but after I’m done with the gig, I’ll tell you and then you will) but I want to get something new on the blog. I really want to do more posts on writing, but also want to get Skeptical Sundays up and running again.

So here’s a post I wrote toward the beginning of the year and then didn’t post, for some reason. I think I was saving it for a rainy day. So I’ll put this up for now, and continue on with our regularly intermittent programming.

* * *

I saw a link regarding an “open letter” to atheists posted on a Christian forum. You can find the original here.

Since it was addressed simply to “Atheist,” it seemed to be as much for me as anyone else, so I thought I may as well answer it, just for fun.

Dear Atheist,

Do you think its a coincidence that…
of billions of stars and planets in the many galaxies, only earth has life, and abundance of it?

How do you know? Have you been to all the billions of stars and planets in the many galaxies? Have you investigated each and every one of them for life in all its possible forms?

I’m not surprised that you’re starting off your “letter” with an arrogant, bald assertion you’re incapable of supporting, but…well, I guess I’m just not surprised.

the sun is 400 times the size of the earth’s moon, 400 times further away from earth than the moon, yet they look both proportionally the same size in our sky?

When you factor in the proportional mass/distance relationship it almost seems obvious that they should essentially be the same size from our perspective — considering that our relationship with both sun and moon is a function of gravity, and gravity is a function of mass, then objects of different mass should also be of a different distance from us, and the difference in distance should be proportional to the difference in mass in order to maintain the orbital relationship.

No, I don’t think this is a coincidence, I think it is a mathematical necessity for the system to be the way it is.

(I’ve since been corrected that this is hardly an accurate portrayal of the situation — the sun is a great deal more than 400 times more massive than the moon, and the moon is in fact an unusually large natural satellite proportional to the Earth, compared to other planets and their moons. Still, even if it’s an unusual, rare, or wholly unique situation, there’s at least one part of my previous statement I stand by:) That does not mean I think some higher power had a hand in it.

Let’s take the moon. It is of just the right combination of mass and distance to maintain a relatively stable orbital relationship with the Earth. If it were significantly larger, or closer, it would be pulled down into the surface of the Earth. If it were smaller, or further, it would be flung off into the void of space.

This makes it seem like some phantasmal hand must have placed it in just its special place. What it fails to recognize is that in the life of our planet, there very well may have been other satellites that did not fall into a proper orbit and either crashed to Earth or flew off into space. The moon is the one object that hit its sweet spot and stayed where it is so we could observe it. The rest could not hold their position and were destroyed, one way or another, before we even showed up to take a look.

This concept is the same when it comes to planets orbiting the sun. We have eight planets (moment of silence for Pluto) — how many hundreds or thousands or billions of other would-be planetoids didn’t fall into a proper orbit and were lost before life even arose here? We’ll never know. But the fact that the planets that are still here are in an orbit that allows them to be here is hardly miraculous. It’s not a coincidence, but it’s got nothing to do with a god.

Last thing: the sun and moon don’t always look proportionally the same size in the sky (see: annular eclipse). So the question itself is based on a false premise.

the sun lights the days nicely, while the moon glimmers in the night sweetly and the clouds bring forth rain to water our crops, which bring forth food in your stomach?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sun lights the day, as we define the “light of day” as what the sun does. It is a bit coincidental, and fortunate, that the moon happens to be comprised of a substance that reflects the sun’s light and so provides a brighter light of evening than the stars could do alone, but I think “sweetly” is your own evaluation and not an objective form of measurement.

There are also strong indications that the presence of the moon is a necessary part of what makes Earth a life-sustaining planet, so it’s also not a coincidence that life arose on a planet which was capable of sustaining life and not one which was not.

The clouds don’t “bring forth rain,” they are made of evaporated water that eventually condenses, becomes denser than air, and falls back to the ground. It is certainly no coincidence that water nourishes crops — life as we know it is predicated heavily on the presence of water. One of the reasons life arose here is the significant amount of water present on the surface. So no, it’s not a coincidence that there’s water here and we need water. If there weren’t water here, and we needed water, we obviously would have died out long ago. It’s got nothing to do with a god.

birds in the air whistle sweet songs and dogs show unconditional love?

Bird songs aren’t for our benefit, they’re generally involved with mating or other forms of communication, and over time the best songs proved to be ones that sounded “pleasant” to other birds, and therefore attractive, and therefore beneficial. Patterns that work tend to continue working, so it’s hardly surprising that what sounds pleasant to one creature should sound pleasant to another.

As for dogs, dogs were bred by humans over many generations, with a focus on specifically breeding a tendency toward loyalty and affection for humans. No, it is no coincidence that well-bred dogs show “unconditional love” — we made them that way, and quite intentionally.

(It’s worth noting that wild dogs, ones who have not been selected for these behavioral traits, are far less likely to show unconditional love toward humans; as are breeds of dog like Rottwielers, which are bred for aggression rather than affection.)

your body heals naturally when you cut yourself, or you become sick and it goes away?

Obviously this isn’t a coincidence. A creature with the ability to heal a wound is going to have a better chance of surviving and passing on its genes than one that lacks such an ability. We are the descendants of those creatures better suited toward survival than their competition, so that’s why we have the ability to heal. Our ancestors could, so we can.

By the way, hemophiliacs have an impaired clotting mechanism and thus cannot heal as effectively as people without the disorder. Similarly the immune system, and those whose immune system is genetically impaired. Not only is this a stupid question, it’s kind of offensive, implying that there’s something less worthy or special or human about people whose bodily systems do not function as well as others.

humans have intangible senses, called emotions where we feel love, hate, anger, sadness, happiness, shock, confused, hurt, healed, and so forth?

Emotions are quite tangible, in the sense that they occur in the brain and we can see and measure their occurrence. We can also measure certain among them according to the hormones that each emotion releases into the blood. These emotions are likely as much of a survival advantage as the ability to form blood clots, and therefore neither surprising nor coincidental.

you were born from a lady’s womb and you will die a death, without choice of either?

I’m beginning to think you don’t know what “coincidence” means.

Certainly it’s no coincidence that I was born from my mother’s womb. My mother and father had sex and the gametes they produced (egg and sperm) combined to form me. If you looked at my genetics you would find I have both my mother and my father’s genes. I could not have been born out of anyone else for the simple fact of genetics. Of course that’s not a coincidence. That’s how sex works, dude.

As for dying a death, I have every ability to choose when and how I die. I could kill myself tonight if I so chose, or tomorrow, and I can easily think of a hundred ways that I could do so.

I don’t intend to kill myself, tonight or ever, as it would be a waste of a perfectly good me. But I totally reject the notion that I don’t have any choice in the matter — I’m simply choosing not to exercise my capacity for self-termination.

the complexity of dna is so mind boggling, that scientists worldwide now have gone from ‘no god’ to claiming a “Divine Creator”?

They’re a tiny minority of the scientific community at large, and most of them believed in a god already and are just latching onto the so-called complexity of DNA as the latest justification for their unjustified superstitions.

your body’s anatomy is complex, so fine and so articulate that you wonder how this “accident” came to be?

I don’t wonder and I don’t think of it as an accident. I just explained sex to you a few questions ago. Just because no one taught you the birds and the bees doesn’t mean the rest of us are in the dark ages too.

there are endless variety of delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, wheats to make infinite delicious recipes to satisfy our hunger?

No, it’s not a coincidence. Like dogs, we made them that way. We found a thing we liked to eat and we cultivated it for this, that, or the other — sweetness, size, crop yield, nutrition. Obviously we’re not going to go out of our way to cultivate something that disgusts or harms us universally, so the foods that have flourished and diversified are the ones that we like because we’re the ones helping them flourish and diversify.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I think we did it quite on purpose.

there are thousands and thousands of exotic amazing land animals and thousands more amazing sea creatures?

And billions more that have gone extinct and did so before humanity ever showed on the scene. So?

you have eyes so you can see, ears so you can hear, heart so you can feel, mind so you can think?

I don’t feel with my heart, I feel with my nervous system. My heart is just a pump of muscle contracting involuntarily at regular intervals to circulate my blood.

Oh, you meant emotions? Those are in the brain, as previously mentioned. Again, these are evolutionary advantages, as are the ability to see and hear, and it’s no coincidence that we’re descended from creatures with the traits that made them most likely to have the most descendants.

And by the way, I’m again a bit struck by how this argument seems to cast aspersions on the blind and deaf as somehow less worthy or special or human. Why do you hate the blind and deaf?

there are thousands of recovered artifacts proving the validity of Scripture, the Holy Bible itself?

This is false. There is not a single such artifact. At best what have been found are:

-Early manuscripts that match the later ones, demonstrating that the manuscripts were accurately copied, or
-Artifacts indicating that some city or place mentioned in one of the stories really did exist.

What you don’t have is specific evidence of the extraordinary miracle claims related in the Bible, and evidence for one item is not evidence for anything else.

We have millions of identical manuscripts of the Harry Potter books and we know that King’s Cross Station exists in London, which also exists. What we DON’T have is evidence that the events related in the stories ever actually took place, and evidence of King’s Cross is not evidence of Hogwarts.

So in short: no, this isn’t a coincidence. It’s a lie.

those who have faith in Jesus Christ witness miracles, worldwide?

No, it’s not a coincidence — those who have faith in Jesus are going to be predisposed to use “Jesus” as the explanation for anything that they don’t understand, much as Muslims will say “Allah” and Scientologists will say “Thetans.” It’s a function of their paradigm and is in essence created by their belief.

almost all Old Testament prophecies have been already fulfilled and more continue being fulfilled?

The original post linked to a list of “Messianic prophecies” from the Old Testament that were “fulfilled” in the New. So some vague and made-up prophecies by one set of writers have been “fulfilled” by a character in a collection of also-probably-made-up stories told by people who were well-familiar with the prophecies. I am not much impressed.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I think the writers of the Jesus stories did it quite on purpose.

a farmer plants the seeds, yet the farmer does not make the seed grow and the farmer never initially created the seed?

I don’t even see how this fits into the dichotomy of “coincidence/not coincidence.” What the fuck are you talking about?

that fruits and vegetables have seeds so that they produce more fruits and vegetables?

Well, if they didn’t, obviously we wouldn’t have fruits and vegetables anymore, would we? Durrrrr.

your body needs vitamins and nutrients found in GOD’s natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, wheat?

Well, if we needed nutrients that weren’t found in our environment we wouldn’t last long, and the creatures that could sustain themselves off the environment would flourish.

Again, neither coincidental NOR an act of intelligence.

Again, durrrr.

you just happened to be here on a Christian site reading this letter?

No, I saw the link on Twitter from someone who posted it on purpose, and who I follow on purpose.

your calendar says that the current year is 2009? What happened 2009 years ago?

It says 2010 but I’ll give this to you since this is just an old post.

It’s not a coincidence that our calendar begins with the supposed birth of Christ (although his “birthday” is strangely placed toward the end of the year — you’d think they’d have normalized it to be January 1) because the calendar we use was created and established by Christians who did it on purpose. The calendar was established in 1582, by the way, by Papal degree.

The Jewish calendar does not consider this to be the year 2010 (5770, rather). The Islamic calendar begins on the date of Muhammed’s flight from Mecca to Medina, making this the year 1431. This no more validates their story than the Gregorian date of 2010 validates yours.

According to the Mayan calendar, today’s date is

Also, do you think it’s a coincidence that Tuesday is named after the Norse god Tiw (Tyr), Wednesday after Woden, and Thursday after Thor?

Now, ask me if I think it’s a coincidence that you’re a religious apologist and all your arguments are either uninformed, incoherent, or just plain silly.

One Comment
  1. //Facepalm.

    It makes me sad when Christians put so much energy and time and thought into telling other people that they’re wrong (and it especially annoys me that even WITH all the effort, so many of them come nowhere close to getting any of their rhetoric right).

    Jesus spoke and taught about a lot of things. But he never really spent a whole lot of time trying to convince people that he was right (or at least, no one who was listening thought it was important enough to write it down and make lots of copies).

    He did say he was God, and that he was the only way to God, but he really didn’t harp on it. What he DID harp on was loving people. Feeding-the-hungry, caring-for-the-poor kinda stuff.

    If more Christians listened to what Jesus was actually saying; did the things that Jesus taught; the world might be a little bit better place, and I might feel less ashamed to call myself a Christian.

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