The Truth About Easter – Part Five of the Richard Dawkins Challenge – How Wrong was Christopher Hitchens?

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CHAPTER 5
HOW WRONG IS HITCH?

By Ian Wishart

 

“They are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C. Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk, and he’s wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he’s wrong. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the orders of magnitude of his wrongness.” – Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist

 

There are many things I agree with Christopher Hitchens on – the rise of radical Islam being one. But when this curmudgeonly atheist stepped up to the plate this year to publish God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, I fell all over the place laughing. Not for long, admittedly, because enough people were gullible enough to shell out the $35 and make Hitchens a millionaire on the proceeds…but I still chortle over the content.

The book, like Dawkins’ The God Delusion, is riddled with false assumptions and dodgy examples. Except with Hitchens his lack of scientific knowledge does him even more harm.

“Investigation of the fossil record and the record of molecular biology shows us that approximately 98% of all the species that have ever appeared on earth have lapsed into extinction,” he writes in an unsourced claim on p88 of his book.

Given that there are up to 100 million species on earth currently,[1] presumably they account for the remaining 2% according to Hitchens’ math. So that’s 50 million species per 1%.

On that basis, Hitchens is asking you to believe that earth has hosted five billion species. Oh really? Alternatively, if he’s measuring from the number of known [i.e., catalogued] species today (about two million) then the total historic figure becomes 100 million, which is not really that different from the total estimate today. Species come, species go, other species move in to fill gaps in the market.

Hitchens must have conducted a pretty demanding “investigation of the fossil record”, given that only 250,000 fossil species have been discovered.[2]

He devotes an entire chapter to “Arguments from Design”, but apart from skittering lightly over the surface offers no cutting edge information whatsoever. In fact, the pinnacle of his entire chapter ‘demolishing’ Intelligent Design is this:

“In early April 2006 a long study at the University of Oregon was published in the journal Science. Based on the reconstructions of ancient genes from extinct animals, the researchers were able to show how the non theory of ‘irreducible complexity’ is a joke.”

Again, one sighs, mutters the words, ‘Oh really?’ and checks in with the godfather of Irreducible Complexity theory, Michael Behe, to see if he’s quaking over the Science article.

“The study by Bridgham et al (2006) published in the April 7 issue of Science is the lamest attempt yet — and perhaps the lamest attempt that’s even possible — to deflect the problem that irreducible complexity poses for Darwinism.

“The bottom line of the study is this: the authors started with a protein which already had the ability to strongly interact with three kinds of steroid hormones (aldosterone, cortisol, and “DOC” [11-deoxycorticosterone]). After introducing several simple mutations the protein interacted much more weakly with all of those steroids. In other words, a pre-existing ability was decreased.

“That’s it! The fact that this extremely modest and substantially irrelevant study is ballyhooed with press releases, a commentary in Science by Christoph Adami, and forthcoming stories in the mainstream media, demonstrates the great anxiety some folks feel about intelligent design.”[3]

Behe added that the system Science tested wasn’t even irreducibly complex in the first place.

“The authors (including Christoph Adami in his commentary) are conveniently defining “irreducible complexity” way, way down. I certainly would not classify their system as IC. The IC systems I discussed in Darwin’s Black Box contain multiple, active protein factors. Their “system”, on the other hand, consists of just a single protein and its ligand. Although in nature the receptor and ligand are part of a larger system that does have a biological function, the piece of that larger system they pick out does not do anything by itself. In other words, the isolated components they work on are not irreducibly complex.”

I was reminded of just how misleading much of the evolutionary hype actually is, when a news release hit my in-tray from the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia:

“An example of the genius of Charles Darwin’s theory on evolution is currently in flower in the guise of an orchid, the Star of Bethlehem, at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

“Botanic Gardens Trust Executive Director, Dr Tim Entwisle said Darwin predicted 41 years before its discovery that a pollinator had to exist to ensure the survival of the orchid.

“The Star of Bethlehem was discovered in Madagascar in the 1860s. It’s unique because it stores nectar at the bottom of a tube up to 30 centimetres (12 inches) long,” Dr Entwisle said.

“Darwin saw the extraordinary flower with its very thin and long tube and believed an animal had to have evolved to enable it to reach the nectar and ensure the plant’s survival.

“In 1903, 21 years after Darwin’s death, the mysterious pollinator was found – supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution. The pollinator was a hawk moth with a proboscis long enough to reach the bottom of the orchid’s nectar tube or ‘spur’. It was named Xanthopan morganii praedicta – to honor Darwin’s prediction.

“It’s clear the moth and orchid evolved together, starting with an orchid with a small tube and a moth with a small tongue and over time they both grew longer and longer,” he said. “It’s all about competition for food and pollination.”

That’s how evolutionists see it, and tell it. Quite confidently, as you can see. Now let’s deconstruct it. They would have you believe that a plant somehow knew how to co-evolve with an equally mindless moth, until both became incredibly specialised. There are many such examples in nature, incidentally.

Because these “teams” are specialised, evolutionists are convinced that they must have “evolved” that way. The other way of looking at it, however, is that the organisms were created that way.

If evolutionists could point to fossil orchids in the smaller transitional states, and equally provide fossilised examples of smaller moths with those fossil orchids, then we would have hard scientific evidence. But of course, we don’t have that. We have only a guess, and frankly it could just as easily be an example of Intelligent Design.

I don’t have an intrinsic problem, by the way with the kind of microevolution illustrated above, in the sense that there is plenty of evidence that organisms adapt to local environmental pressures. This is change within a species, though, not a change that magically creates a new species. I retain my skepticism however at the claim two non-sentient organisms instinctively “evolve” together. I really think that is pushing probability theory way too far. It could take millions of generations of moths for one to be born with a longer snout capable of reaching deep inside the orchid – how does the orchid stay alive, unfertilised, until such a serendipitous event? It seems to me the orchid is on a negative natural selection path if it becomes too deep for insects to pollinate – hardly a trait likely to secure the birth of more baby orchids.

This is not a book about the Intelligent Design debate. I laid that information out in Eve’s Bite earlier this year. But it does go to show the desperation of atheism’s rock stars – people like Hitchens and Dawkins – as they clutch straws in a bid to persuade the public that evolution is still credible.

A poll in New Zealand’s biggest newspaper, the NZ Herald, suggests otherwise.[4] Only 30% of New Zealanders believe in thoroughly naturalistic evolution, and that was before Intelligent Design hit the news. People don’t believe evolution in a monkey-to-man sense because instinctively they can see the huge gaps in the scientific evidence. The scientific argument directed at the public these days by evolutionists reminds me of those old-time pantomimes where the character sticks his head in a box, or a bucket, or whatever, and yells out to the audience, “You can’t see me!”. Yes, we can all see Darwin’s choirboys like Hitchens and Dawkins desperately hamming it up for public consumption.

Few ordinary members of the public seriously believe in the macro-evolution myth anymore. Yes, we all believe in micro-evolution (change within a species) that gives us racial differences, strange-looking dogs or antibiotic resistance within bacteria, but few intelligent people still believe in weasels becoming cats, whales becoming cows or T-Rex evolving into a turkey. The evidence for species-hop is virtually non existent.

The problem really seems to be that biologists and atheists absolutely love the word, “evolution”, but they can’t even explain it themselves, and spend most of their high-brow conferences fighting behind closed doors over how evolution “might work”.

Even Hitchens begrudgingly concedes the point.

“There are many disputes between evolutionists as to how [his emphasis] the complex process occurred, and indeed as to how it began.”

Yes. They seize on the word “evolution” because they need the word to mean something important, but they don’t actually have a blind clue about any of the detail of this alleged natural process, despite 150 years of study. Any time a critic comes close they shriek “evolution” with one voice, to illustrate ‘unity’, then go back behind closed doors to beat each other up over the lack of evidence.

“We do not hold our convictions dogmatically,” suggests Christopher Hitchens in what must be the ultimate piece of self-deprecating mickey-taking by an atheist fundamentalist I’ve ever seen in print. “The disagreement between Professor Steven Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning ‘punctuated evolution’ and the unfilled gaps in post-Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication.”

Oh really? That would be why it is OK for evolutionists to rubbish each other, but Intelligent Design scientists are not permitted to write articles for scientific journals proving their case, lest science be ‘corrupted’. If you dare to laugh at the evolutionary Emperor wearing no clothes, you are indeed “excommunicated”. Only as long as you pay homage to the word ‘evolution’ can you stay in the tent. In fact, as the new movie “Expelled” makes clear,[5] a number of top scientists who dared to support further investigation into Intelligent Design have suddenly found themselves without jobs. Excommunicado and ex-employed.[6]

Before leaving this section, it is worth examining what another of atheism’s “rock stars”, Richard Carrier at Infidels.org, has to say about the cosmological scientific evidence for God. Carrier, a historian studying for his Ph.D. and currently working as a librarian’s assistant, is a strident opponent of any claims that God had a hand in anything. Naturally, this fine-tuning issue is like swallowing a sea-urchin intact for Carrier, and he argues strongly that we shouldn’t leap to conclusions.[7]

“While the creationist thinks God explains the “fine tuning” of the universe, he fails to see that every possible universe which can contain intelligent life will appear “fine tuned” no matter what its cause.”

I don’t know that I accept his reasoning. Look at it another way. The reason science is increasingly getting excited about the “fine tuning” is because we appear to be alone. A universe teeming with life on every planet would not raise suspicions about fine tuning; if life arose here, there and everywhere then there would appear to be nothing particularly special about the residents of Planet Earth.

Carrier’s argument is only valid if the “every possible universe” he talks of turns out to have just one planet with life on it. In that case, I agree, the residents of every universe would have reason to feel suspicious and ‘fine-tuned’. But employing the multiple universe theory is the scientific equivalent of reaching for an old alchemy textbook, or perhaps Hogwart’s Invisible Book of Invisibility. We can’t see any other universes. We can’t reach any other universes because, by definition, the laws that govern this universe prevent that. Nor is there a shred of evidence that any other universe can, or does exist. And even if it does, as cosmologist Paul Davies notes, it only pushes the first cause problem back from “who created the universe?” to “who created all these universes?”

Carrier, funnily enough, doesn’t want to admit that he has a problem here.

“We already have evidence that universes exist (we live in one), and so we already have some grounds for positing multiple universes to explain the parameters of ours, e.g. there may be a million universes with different parameters and only one has life (and thus we are in it, since that is the only place we could be). This is no more ad hoc than positing God, and is arguably less so, since there is less reason to invoke an unknown type of entity (a god) than a known one (a universe).”

Again, sounds plausible. For a nano-second.

We know “universes exist”, he says, because “we live in one” [my emphasis, really it should be “we know a universe exists because we live in it”, because there is not the slightest piece of scientific evidence that universes exist, or are even capable of existing] therefore it is reasonable to assume millions of universes exist. On that logic, my clone could be God. After all, I exist so there could be billions of me and, using Dawkins’ dodgy math, one of the other Ian Wisharts is actually quite likely to be God. Or maybe I’m a “universe” in one of my other lives. Do I hear faint yelps of “Flying Spaghetti Monsterism”[8] in the darkness? There is a point when atheists, too, must face the reality that their own religious beliefs transcend scientific evidence and begin to make a mockery of true science. That’s fine, if Richard wants to call his god “Multiverse Theory”, that’s his business. But let’s not pretend it is “science” in any accepted definition of the term.

Carrier instinctively knows that the cosmological evidence for the fingerprints of God is getting stronger by the day. He can feel it. That’s why his essays are peppered with escape clauses:

“Maybe one day we will end up with God at the end of our investigations, but right now there is little encouraging news…”

“…In his 1999 debate with Phil Fernandes, Jeff Lowder made an equally crucial point: if the actual parameters of the universe do require an explanation, God is not necessarily the most probable option, since to give such an option greater weight than others which do not include a god we must have additional evidence that something like a creator-god actually exists.”

So let me get this straight: if a farmer, living on a small island known to be inhabited only by sheep and rabbits, were to come out of his house each morning for a week, and find all of his sheep slaughtered and giant animal tracks nearby, along with half-metre high piles of dung, the farmer would be wrong in assuming that something very, very big was attacking his sheep? Because, using Carrier and Lowder’s logic, it would be wrong to postulate the existence of something not conclusively proven to exist. Instead, the farmer should assume the culprits are rabbits.

The truth is, as Socrates once said, science should “follow the evidence where it leads”. Darwinists often accuse Christians and other religious believers of “appealing to a God of the gaps” – meaning that when something can’t be explained it is weak to immediately postulate God as the reason, when there may be perfectly good natural reasons.

This is true, but in turn there is a big difference between that, and the new situation where scientists are not finding “gaps”, but instead seeing clear evidence of what appears to be design in the universe. I can’t stress this point enough: using God as an explanation for disease, in the days before science knew about bacteria, was using God to fill a gap. But finding something closely resembling a Mazda rotary engine inside a bacterial flagella cell, or discovering massive evidence of fine-tuning of both the universe and the earth/moon system (on separate unique occasions), is positive evidence of God, not merely a negative inference from a gap. It demands explanation, in and of itself.

Take the experience of geneticist Francis Collins, “the man who cracked the human genome”, as the Times of London put it. Like many others, Collins was stunned to find enough intelligent code in one human cell to fill more than an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. All this time, the late Carl Sagan’s SETI project has been scouring space for signs of a simple Morse code, while genetic engineers have been decoding what Collins regards as a direct message from the Creator of the universe and life itself:[9]

“When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter instruction book[10] that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of mystery about humankind, you can’t survey that going through page after page without a sense of awe. I can’t help but look at those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God’s mind.”

Richard Carrier and other atheists would have us ignore the positive evidence, and instead reach for any other possible theory, including that the universe itself “wished” these things into existence. At the end of the day, the best argument Carrier can muster on the Infidels website comes down to either that, or a variation on deism – a deceased god:

“In fact, it gets worse when we consider the possibility that the creator no longer exists – imagine a lonely god who has a choice, to live alone, or to die, and in dying create a universe from his exploding “corpse” which will have populations of people who can then live the god’s lost dream of knowing love and never being alone. Perhaps the god stays alive, so he can share in this love, but is powerless, having given up his body for the creation of a universe.

“This is plausible, coherent, logical, and actually better explains things – it perfectly explains how god can be good and yet silent and inactive, how the universe can function so cold and mechanically and deterministically, how humans can be so confused, divided, and uncertain about god’s nature or thoughts, etc. Indeed, this theory explains everything, [Carrier’s emphasis] far better than any actual creationist theory proposed today.

“By all sense and reason, this theory should be adopted by creationists – yet they adhere to a weaker theory, oblivious to the self-refuting character of declarations like that of Mr. Walker when he writes “when I look at the wondrous universe that surrounds me, I have no problem in accepting a being that I can’t fully explain” and yet fails to see how the atheist, with just as much right if not more, can and does say exactly the same thing – but the “being” the atheist sees and can’t fully explain is the universe itself. How much simpler this is – it requires adding nothing to what we see or know. Instead, creationists refuse to accept “a being that they can’t fully explain” (the universe) and because of their refusal are compelled to invent a god to provide the explanation that they insist is necessary. They don’t notice that they then do a complete about-face, and act in an exact opposite manner when it comes time to explain their god. Inconsistency is the creationist’s hobgoblin.”

Not really; it appears to be an equal-opportunities hobgoblin. We’ve now discovered that the intellectual grunt behind one of the world’s main atheist websites lurks in boltholes named “deism” and “pantheism”, because even he can see the writing on the wall. He just doesn’t want that writing to be in Hebrew.

Perhaps the final proof needed for this chapter however comes from Richard Dawkins himself. It turns out he does believe in God, he just hasn’t come out of the closet yet. Here’s the clue, in his words:

“There is no limit to the explanatory purposes to which God’s infinite power is put. Is science having a little difficulty explaining X? No problem. Don’t give X another glance. God’s infinite power is effortlessly wheeled in to explain X (along with everything else), and it is always a supremely simple explanation.” [his emphasis].

Now look at Dawkins as he invokes exactly the same simplicity to get himself out of a tight spot on the Big Bang:[11]

“It is tempting to think (and many have succumbed) that to postulate a plethora of universes[12] is a profligate luxury which should not be allowed. If we are going to permit the extravagance of a multiverse, so the argument runs, we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and allow a God.

“Aren’t they both equally unparsimonious ad hoc hypotheses, and equally unsatisfactory? People who think that have not had their consciousness raised by natural selection. The key difference between the genuinely extravagant God hypothesis and the apparently extravagant multiverse hypothesis is one of statistically improbability. The multiverse, for all that it is extravagant, is simple.” [my emphasis]

Hey presto! Scientific atheist has big problem explaining away X (Big Bang), wheels in natural selection’s alleged infinite power (multiple universes exist, and we just happen to live in the one with life), and best of all, the explanation is supremely simple.

Dawkins believes in God. He can’t escape the scientific evidence for Creation staring him in the face. So he too, like Richard Carrier,[13] has named his deity “Multiverse”.

Now that even the world’s most vocal atheist fundamentalist has been sprung endorsing a God argument and/or a “Sky Fairy” named “Multiverse”, I think it is safe to declare that “a” God exists. The question now turns to this: which God that might be…?

READ PART SIX

 

 

[1] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/03/0305_0305_allspecies.html

 

[2] http://gpc.edu/~pgore/geology/historical_lab/preservationlab.php

 

[3] http://www.idthefuture.com/2006/04/the_lamest_attempt_yet_to_answ.html

 

[4] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3371

 

[5] http://www.expelledthemovie.com

 

[6] http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=57974

 

[7] http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/ten.html

 

[8] A favourite atheist argument is to claim the universe could equally have been created by a “flying spaghetti monster”, which is really an appeal to the absurd to make the idea of a divine Creator sound equally daft. Appealing to invisible, undetectable other universes, however, is equally a question of belief, not science. Anyone who appeals to multiverse theory is explicitly admitting the need for a Creator to explain the Big Bang. It is, in essence, an appeal to “Science of the Gaps”

 

[9] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article673663.ece

 

[10] Permit me, while I’m at it, to deal with a frequent misconception about the commonality of DNA across the life spectrum. As Collins points out in his book, The Language of God, there are vast swatches of genome where the DNA structure across a number of animals, including humans, is pretty much identical. To Collins and many biologists, this is proof that life descended from a common ancestor. I don’t find their arguments persuasive. When your child plays with Lego, they do not usually totally disassemble a toy before building another. Thus, what was part of a plane becomes part of a truck in the reassembly, but the original blocks the child used are still locked in sequence. DNA is the “building block” of life. Given that God knows the code, it seems fairly logical that if he knows the sequence, “gtttcacatggca” results in creatures with two legs, then you would expect that code to run in the appropriate places for those creatures, albeit with minor alterations peculiar to the organism. Do you see my point? A common DNA structure, rather than indicating a common ancestor, may simply mean that God simply plugged in that DNA structure to different creatures as required. An analogy is found in the IT industry: most of the world’s computers run on the same software and hardware systems, but that doesn’t mean all the computers descended from each other. Human designers simply ran the same code across a number of machines

 

[11]The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, Bantam, 2006, p. 146

 

[12] The multiverse theory took an even more Daffy Duck turn in late September, when its proponents at Oxford University (where Dawkins works, incidentally) suggested that perhaps every time there is a physical change anywhere in this universe, it creates a parallel universe. Thus, if you have a car crash and die, somewhere in another universe you pranged your car and lived, while in a third universe you didn’t prang at all. I kid you not. Apparently, everything you touched today created a new universe somewhere, as did everything everyone else touched and every tree leaf blown by the wind. “Given a number of possible alternative outcomes, each one is played out — in its own universe,” reported the study, http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=paUniverse_sun14_parallel_universes&show_article=1&cat=0 Do you have any idea how many quadzillion universes are created every single day, just because we touch things? Of course, there’s no proof. The scary thing is these guys are on public salaries. Which is more likely, that one God created the heavens and the earth, or that by turning the 320 pages of this book you personally created 320 new universes? 321, if you count the possible universe where a rampaging T-Rex survived the extinction, burst into your bedroom and ate you while you were reading this book. According to Oxford University, that universe must exist somewhere. Halfwits.

 

[13] Carrier suffered huge disappointment at the end of 2004 when Professor Antony Flew, a man he had described as “one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th Century, even making the shortlist of “Contemporary Atheists” at About.com”, publicly revealed he no longer believed atheism was a rational belief. Flew, having studied the arguments in favour of Intelligent Design, and the arguments of Richard Dawkins and others, is now convinced that science has no natural explanation for the origin of the first lifeform, nor can science explain how the first random lifeform managed to acquire reproductive ability before dying. On that basis, Flew now calls himself a “theist”, saying a God must have intervened, although he does not believe in the Christian God as such because he does not believe the Creator God interacted with humanity

 

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4 thoughts on “The Truth About Easter – Part Five of the Richard Dawkins Challenge – How Wrong was Christopher Hitchens?

  1. That would be “sheer”, and after reading your comment I fear literacy is not your strong point. Hitchens did not specify any parameters for his comment, which is what I was criticizing – throwing out unsourced ‘facts’ from a position of authority.

  2. I will admit that I have never read Dawkins, or Hitchens, or any of the other authors you have mentioned, but I read what you wrote and I am stunned at the level of shear stupidity you present. I took the time to read your other posts on this topic and was equally perplexed at how you even garner the ability to post on the internet. It is safe to state you have little to no knowledge of science, and even less on religion. Lets deal with this vaginal flotsam you have postulated in this one article alone, “On that basis, Hitchens is asking you to believe that earth has hosted five billion species. Oh really? Alternatively, if he’s measuring from the number of known [i.e., catalogued] species today (about two million) then the total historic figure becomes 100 million, which is not really that different from the total estimate today. Species come, species go, other species move in to fill gaps in the market.”

    I am a student of Paleontology, and need to point out that when it was stated that 99% of all species went extinct, that was 260+ or – million years ago. Your asinine conclusion of a ludicrous total is imaginative and handicapped by your inability to do simple math. There could have been, as many as 100 or 1000 species on the planet at that time (not all the fossils have been accounted for yet, so lets not stretch the imagination to far into fantasy.) So 1% of a small number got through the extinction event, then 260 million years later, EVOLUTION, lead to the numbers we have today.

    The remainder of this dribble just gets progressively worse, so as the comment section will not allow for a full lambasting you so richly deserve, might I suggest that you come out of hiding from behind your papers and face me in a conversation. I would enjoy verbally and intellectually kicking your DNA strand back to your ancestors, and as a final thought… “Judge thee not, lest thee be judge… to sit in judgement of a dead man (Hitchens)… well… welcome to hell idiot!

  3. What a melange of wishful thinking and poor to no evidence.

    There is no evidence for gods of any sort and Richard Carrier is right, the figure of Jesus is a literary construct.

    Cheer up though thanks to secular society you have complete freedom to believe what ever twaddle you want.

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