Sunday, 3 June 2012

Questions Christians Struggle (Or Refuse) To Answer.

First, a brief recap by way of explanation/introduction:

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 must be 'ruled by chance and necessity' if it's not ruled by the Christian god?

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 atheist 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 discoveries, and by a lower levels of 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 prophecy that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, How do you account for the 38,000 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?

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  1. Thanks for your patience Rosa.

    I have now posted my answers to the first six questions at

  2. Thank you.

    A shame you lacked the integrity to post them here where people could compare your answers to my questions and judge for themselves if you had address them.

    The issue was, as you know, having been repeatedly reminded of it, your claim that Atheists struggle to answer these questions. I have shown that they can do and have done. The question was not whether you agreed with or liked the answers or whether they supported/refuted your 'God did it!' hypothesis to your satisfaction, or not.

    You have yet to address that issue and to explain why you made a demonstrably false claim.

  3. You have not answered these questions satisfactorily Rosa and your answers were strongly rebutted by 'A Christian Word' earlier this week.

    If your readers wish to read my own answers they can be accessed at

    Why don't you post a link to them from this blog as I have done for you?

    1. >You have not answered these questions satisfactorily<

      How predictable.

      I have answered all your questions and/or shown that they have been answered. As I stated above, the issue was not whether you accept the answers or find them satisfactory (which was never going to be possible) but whether they have been answered or not.

      Your refusal to acknowledge that demonstrable fact and admit your claim was false, does you no credit whatsoever. Nor does your tactic of trying to move the goal-posts. You made a claim which had been demonstrated to be false. Changing that claim post hoc does not change that fact one iota.

      You have been exposed as disingenuous at best. I had expected more from as a member of a normally respectable profession.

      As it is you have merely confirmed my suspicion that Christian apologetics is designed not to determine the truth through honest debate and examination of evidence, but to fool the credulous and gullible with tricks and sophistry which relies on the ignorance of its targets - the tactics of the confidence trickster and the snake-oil pedlar.

      Thank you for helping to expose this.

      Will you be risking answers to my questions at all or are you afraid I will use your tactic and dismiss them as unsatisfactory and just hope people fall for it?

      >Why don't you post a link to them from this blog as I have done for you?<

      Because you have done so twice yourself now, but your gratuitous attempt at a smear is noted.

    2. You have not answered these questions satisfactorily Rosa and your answers were strongly rebutted by 'A Christian Word' earlier this week.

      Science cannot give answers that will always be satisfactory to a theist. That doesn't make science wrong, it just means that the answers don't prove what you want them to.

      Theism starts with an answer and tries to make the facts fit that answer. Science starts with facts and draws conclusions based on those facts. The two are opposite ways of explaining the world around us.

    3. Absolutely. It was clear from the outset the Dr Saunders would not accept any answers which don't support his superstition. To do so would undermine it and close the gaps he sits his god in.

      It is quite clear that his intention all along was to avoid the fact that his claim that these questions can't be answered had been refuted, as he knew it would be, and try to obscure that evasion with a smokescreen of arguments about the answers themselves.

      Of course, his need to use tactics over substance betrays the fact that he knows he is pushing a superstition which has no factual foundations.

      As Christopher Hitchins (I think) pointed out, when you show you need to lie for your 'faith' you show you know your 'faith' is a lie. One can make the same point about needing to use tactics over substance.

  4. Hi Rosa
    I just ran Peter Saunders' latest article (his answers to the first six questions) through 'Advanced Plagiarism Checker' I recommend you do it too. The results are very interesting. I don't have the time to pursue this myself at the moment, but I didn't want it to go unoticed.

    1. Absolutely! Thanks for leading me to this.

      For any readers wishing to try this for themselves, the Advanced Plagiarism Checker can be used freely. Copy and paste Dr Saunders answers in and you will get a useful list of various creationist and Christian apologetics websites and articles.

      I wonder how the probability of Dr Saunders using precisely the same wording as other Christian apologists compares to the probability of, for example, the genetic code evolving over 3.5 billion years.

  5. Excellent posting. Maybe in 40 years you can post on the 3D holographic blog how you never heard good answers to your question.

    BTW, the "Study Bible" ad on the right hand side is ironic.

    1. Thanks.

      I thought I had blocked religious advertising but they seem to be able to find ways around it.

  6. Alright, I've been to Mr. Saunders site and I've even corresponded at him. I say "at" instead of "with" because I might as well have just debated with a brick wall. Where do I start with this guy? His entire point consists of nothing more than the same, tired "god of the gaps" argument that we've all heard before. Hell, he even states that people have been mindlessly repeating this tripe for decades, as if his predecessors failures to make a valid point make his claims more credible. And, of course, he states flat out that he doesn't want to see people point this out. I'd love to see a defense attorney preface a trial by saying he doesn't want the prosecutor to provide any evidence, and then act shocked when this brilliant strategy fails.

    Not that any of this matters. Mr. Saunders (I refuse to say doctor when is jackass doesn't even understand that the theory of evolution has NOTHING to do with the origin of life on this planet) made a claim, and this claim has been utterly destroyed. Pretending that he never uttered a falsehood and then making a piss poor attempt at proving another point entirely does not make him less wrong.

    I posted links to this site repeatedly, I'm sure he didn't bother to go there but I recommend it to you guys. There are 24 fallacies listed here, and it would honestly be easier for me to list the ones he hasn't committed. This asshole even had the audacity to demand "arguments for atheism" from me after I had repeatedly told him that neither am I an Atheist, nor do I claim to represent them. Then after he finally got through his thick skull the fact that I am not the straw man that he had spent most his life constructing he acted as if it was a mystery why I take issue with him! If it seems like that is reasonable to you, go to his site and read the last paragraph of my first post (which is under anonymous for some reason). I could not have been more clear.

    But all this is beyond the point. To Ms. Rubicondior (which Mr. Saunders seems to think is a pseudonym, presumably because the use of anonymity is literally the only thing stopping him from meeting the very definition of an internet troll) and to everyone else reading this, please just ignore this guy. He is a bigoted, self important, scientifically illiterate, cowardly little hypocrite. As I said to him, his inflammatory and, frankly, false claims do nothing more than bring shame and embarrassment onto the Christian faith. I am not a Christian any more than I am an Atheist, but I am a veteran of the US Navy, and as such I understand better than perhaps any civilian that we, all of us, represent something greater than ourselves. Whether you like it or not, whether you approve of it or not, other people judge those of your faith, nationality, skin color, sexual orientation, you name it on what you say and do. To quote myself in addressing Mr. Saunders "Any non-Christian who read this, if they had no previous perception of the Christian faith, would be inclined to believe that all Christians are opinionated, self important cave men."

    I realize I'm asking a lot here. Ms. Rubicondior, and everyone else, I realize that this guy represents an insult to your chosen faith (or lack thereof) in addition to being scum, and I realize just how good it feels to utterly demolish his claims. I mean, really, how could you not feel superior to this jackass? But there are more than a billion Christians in the world, and as hard as it may be to believe sometimes, the vast majority are good and honorable people. This scum bag, whatever else he may be, lacks the strength of character to stop acting as an example of the absolute worst the Christian faith has to offer. So I ask you all to simply stop feeding the troll.

    If you have managed to read this novel then thank you for your time.

    1. My strategy in the comment section of this blog, as on Twitter, is to provide a public platform for people like Dr Saunders to display their wilful or feigned ignorance, intellectual dishonesty and arrogant, condescending bigotry.

      I firmly believe that the best arguments against religion can often be found in the behaviour of their followers. I am more than happy to give them a stage upon which to display and to show people the behaviour their 'faith' is used to excuse.

    2. I swear, if organized religions had any sense in the world, this right here would be their number one priority. Just remember this, Ms. Rubicondior: If and when organized religion falls and rationality reigns supreme, it will not be because of you and your efforts. In fact, I don't ever want to see you taking credit for anything that can be called a "victory for Atheists".

      If the church ever falls, credit for its demise will lie solely with "Dr" Saunders and his kind.

  7. Hey. You know, I hate to be the type to keep responding to myself, but my comments on Mr. Saunders page keep mysteriously disappearing. Since I've got better things to do than keep repeating myself, I'll just put them here.

    "God, you're such a pathetic coward. Did I hurt your little feelings? Are you going to cry? No, the world can't bother you if you just pretend it doesn't exist.

    You're a walking, talking reason to convert to any belief system but Christianity. Whatever value lies with the bible and its teachings do not justify willingly associating with you. As I have said before, if the church ever falls it will have nothing to do with the actions of Atheists or any other group for that matter, but you and your kind. I hope you're proud of yourself. If there is a devil then he owes you big time.

    Now just keep muttering "ad hominem", Harry Potter, while Rosa Rubicondior and others put you proudly on display and convert more people to Atheism than they could ever possibly hope to do alone."

    "Hmmm. My responses keep disappearing after several hours. I wonder why that could be? Are you deleting them in the hopes that people will assume I used bad words? All I did was (correctly) point out your status as the single greatest reason for anyone who is reading this to completely disregard the Christian faith, an otherwise perfectly respectable religion.

    Or maybe, just maybe, your carefully constructed wall of denial and self importance is starting to crumble. You cannot stand to acknowledge the fact that you are a joke to some and an embarrassment to 1.5 billion others. You could just ignore what I wrote, like you have ignored literally everything else I and others have written that does not consist of praise for you as the second coming of Jesus, but if you do not have the last word then you just can't live with yourself.

    Or maybe this is all just a computer glitch or something. That must be it, since you have such impeccable integrity."

    For someone who insists that I am "fully entitled to express your personal beliefs", he sure is eager to censer me with some vague message about obscenities. But, hey, I'm sure I'm reading too much onto this. Mr. Saunders has been so thorough in responding to, or even acknowledging, the things people have said to him, after all. Nobody can question his ability to deal with honest criticism.

    1. I have invited Dr Peter Saunders to reply to this comment here.

    2. Ha! The coward's just started ignoring me (I mean not responding, not mindlessly muttering the same thing over and over without even acknowledging that he's being spoken to like he does with you), so I wouldn't hold my breath.

      Look, I apologize for crapping up your blog with my personal feud. It just takes a special kind of hypocrite to profess a love of free speech while censoring anything that he can't just ignore, and I just know he can't stand to see something like this out of his control. That's why he doesn't like you so much! Mouthy woman, not doin' like yer told. Don't you know the bible says yer place's in the kitchen? Ha ha, just kidding. I'd bet paper money that you've read more of that book then Saunders has.

      Alright, I have a life, so I'm just going to make this the last time I post on this matter. Bye.

  8. You call Dr Saunders a hypocrite but because of your disallowance of religious comments despite your attempts to debunk religion that is not just hypocrisy but total contradiction. Your blog Rosa is therefore totally biased towards Atheism and a totalk waste of time and space.

    1. I don't want to be Anonymous but none of your Select profile options are useable. My name is Simon Phillips

    2. I expect you had to make that unsubstantiated and false accusation because you knew that honesty was never going to do the trick.

      Doesn't the need to do that ever embarrass you or aren't you bothered about truth and personal integrity? Do you think that bearing false witness is okay if you have to do it to defend your indefensible superstition?

  9. You all seem particularly nasty to me. I'd say none of you are reeling in the converts.
    Trying to be nice and not smug or condescending is difficult, I know, as my example is this post, but I'm not claiming to be some high and mighty thinker as you all are. Be nice, OK?

    1. The opinion polls don't seem to agree with you but do you expect Atheists to just stand by while someone lies about us and misrepresents science to try to trick people into falling for his superstition?

    2. No, your beliefs are your own, as are everyone's. But the use of tact and respect are much better ways to communicate. Name calling immediately puts me off. If it makes it to that, any other arguments are invalid to me, and I can't be the only one. I just think you all could put forth a little more effort and be nice.


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