Welcome to “Let’s Talk About It.” Our gust today is the well known atheist and author Norman Rottweiler.
Host: It is good of you to grant this interview today. I appreciate your taking the time to talk about yourself and your atheist/naturalist view of the world.
Atheist: I was intrigued by your request. Why would you want to talk to an atheist?
Host: My listeners send me questions from time to time. They ask about how the world works, or why we are here in the first place. You write extensively on these issues and I think my readers will find your comments of interest.
Atheist: OK, that sounds reasonable.
Host: What is the hardest question for you as an naturalist to answer?
Atheist: There are a few hard ones. Well…I guess the hardest one is to face the fact that there is no good or evil in the world. Ask me what is good or what is evil and I have no real answer for you. You see we live in a natural world full of random processes. Those processes have no intention, no direction, no ultimate purpose. We just have to make do with that. Things happen to us that we don’t like, that are harmful or hurtful, but that is about the extent of our ability to discern good or evil. Nature is petty indifferent to our preference or our feelings.
Host: Don’t we have rights? Aren’t there things that are morally wrong?
Atheist: We have opinions about thing. We establish conventions and agree with one another to follow those conventions. We make judgments about possible outcomes from our actions and we try to minimize the harm to ourselves or to society. It is just foolish to run red lights if you value not getting hurt.
Host: Survival of the fittest…
Atheist: It boils down to that doesn’t it. Some reject the implication from Darwinism that there is no basis for objective morality and they try to construct some objective morality based on naturalism. I just find that they fail miserably. Atheists will point to science as a means for establishing what is good or evil. In all honesty, science just can’t test something that is immaterial. If objective moral values exist, they must be outside the material universe. You can’t smell them or touch them, so how can you test them. No, they can’t even exist. Only material things exist.
Host: But, numbers exist and logic exists. They are real things, but they are not material? We use logic and numbers to tell us about the world around us don’t we.
Atheist: On materialism, they must be an illusion, a trick of the brain. It is just the way our brain works, The way the neurons fire.
Host: If you go too far down that road, you will end up believing that I don’t exist, or that your own existence is an illusion.
Atheist: That is true.
Host: And that doesn’t bother you?
Atheist: It is just the way it is. I have to accept the nature of things.
Host: But doesn’t the universe tell us that there is more to it than just material objects?
Atheist: Are you talking about design?
Host: Design, and intentionality…I think there is clear evidence for both, don’t you.
Atheist: I did say there are hard questions I can’t answer easily. Those are two of them. I am aware of the fine tuning of the universe. It is well established that if the initial conditions of the universe were not finely turned we would not be here. Some atheists argue that there are many universes and that we are one of the few that survived because all the parameters were finely tuned for life.
Host: There are real problems with the multi-universe argument. What is your view?
Atheist: You are correct, the multi-universe theory has serious flaws. I don’t support that argument.
Report: Do you see intentionality in nature?
Atheist: Now you are talking about an attribute that can only belong to a mind. I reject that there is a god, so how can there be intention to any random processes.
Host: If the universe was finely tuned for life, doesn’t that show intention?
Atheist: Certainly, but it can’t in reality because that would require a creator mind. I reject such a mind.
Host: Your objection is a priori. You fix a position before you begin an argument and thus bias your argument.
Atheist: I think the condition is self evident. To think otherwise is just to fantastic and the consequences frightening to me.
Host: That is interesting. Let me move on then. Darwinism is under attack by the newest scientific evidence for intentionality combined with the need for complex DNA molecules required for life at the earliest stages of their appearance. Is Darwinism on a precipice?
Atheist: True, it seems that you mess with the DNA, or with developing cells and either the animal mutates into something not very useful or it dies. You cannot manipulate the process and produce a new species. A pig is a pig from the time the embryo is formed and nothing we do seems able to change that ping into a chicken. You are right, there is an intention that embryos of a certain species will always become that species. You are also correct that a finely tuned universe that produces life seems intentionally designed that way.
Host: How do you deal with that in view of your a priori position that denies the existence of a god, or a mind?
Atheist: Darwinism will have to be rethought. Perhaps it is past its prime. I just think that any discussion of intention is illusory. It can’t be real.
Host: You have used the word “illusion” a number of times. Atheist accuse theists of relying on the “god of the gaps” to fill in their lack of knowledge. Isn’t your using “illusion” a way to fill the gaps of your ignorance. Isn’t it just a copout? You are avoiding the evidence for something beyond a material world.
Atheist: Look, I am an atheist. I reject a god or a mind, or a soul. They are unreal. They are not material. They are the product of the random molecular activity in our brains. I am not filling gaps by referring to illusion. I am just pointing out that there are limits to what these processes can produce, thus limits to our ability to know what is real.
Host: So you live in an illusion.
Atheist: My brain is the functioning of molecules and chemicals that behave randomly. My brain is the result of a long process of evolution that is itself a random process. What I think, feel, see, taste all are the product of those random processes. Of course it is all an illusion. That is all that random processes can ever produce.
Host: But you admit to evidence that goes beyond the material.
Atheist: To deal with that I would have to admit to a mind, to a god, to a designer. I refuse to believe in a god or mind like that.
Host: What would be the harm? I would think that would open up your world to something real, to something that is not an illusion.
Atheist: If a god existed, I would have to answer to such a god. He would establish what was good, moral or real. I don’t want to live under that authority.
Host: Despite the evidence that you admit you cannot explain.
Atheist: You don’t get it. That evidence is just as much an illusion as god is an illusion.
Atheist: God does not exist.
Host: On what basis do you say he does not exist?
Atheist: On the basis that I say so. It is my view shaped by my understanding of the material world.
Host: Which you admit is an illusion.
Host: You place a great deal of faith on the idea that god does not exist. I wish we could explore that more but we are out of time and must end our discussion. Again I appreciate your taking the time.
Atheist: So we are done. I hope your listeners will be informed and that they will join me in rejecting the myth that god exists.
Host: I think your very frank answers might have just the opposite effect. We really must end now.
Comment: The above is total fiction. Our Truthful Atheist does not exist. But it is true that Atheism at heart is simply a rejection of God. It is no more sophisticated than that. Once a person goes down that road they do indeed live in an illusion. The underpinning of logic, and reason are no longer present. Their beloved science no longer has a foundation. Their ability to make sense of evil, or to even know what that evil exists disappears. The Atheist cannot tell us why we are here, nor what we are here for. Surprisingly, Atheist’s cannot provide reasonable, persuasive arguments for their assertion that God does not exist. Atheism starts and ends with a visceral attack on God himself. It is couched often in lofty terms, but pry a little and soon the true nature of the atheist’s stand is revealed.
What is real and true is grounded in God. Apart from Him we have no access to what is real. Everything becomes an illusion.