The tagline of Ray Comfort’s new documentary, The Atheist Delusion, promised atheism would be “destroyed with one scientific question.”
Kirk Cameron said it featured “high-resolution logic,” Ken Ham called it “compelling.” The trailer featured atheistic young people calling Comfort’s questions “eye-opening,” saying “I’ll definitely consider this” and even “I’m lying to myself.” The movie was supposed to explain “Why Millions Deny the Obvious” (a second tagline).
As a former Christian and current atheist, such things caught my attention. What were these claims that were supposedly opening the minds of atheists to the “Truth”? Could they possibly take more than mere minutes to dismantle? Upon viewing the film, there is truthfully just one word in the English tongue to properly describe it: embarrassing.
The atheists whose gears are clearly turning at half-speed, who fail to see each of Comfort’s points from a mile away, who are left utterly struggling for words are embarrassing (though, in their defense, even pastors have off days sometimes).
Comfort’s arguments, which rely on hopelessly weak analogies, silly metaphors, gaps in humanity’s scientific knowledge, and meaningless semantics are all embarrassing. The only thing this film “destroys” is a segment of poorly prepared college students from the University of California — Irvine who apparently need to read this article as badly as Christians.
First, Comfort recycles the famous “watchmaker” analogy, here using a book. Could a book make itself? When the inevitable answer is No, that is somehow evidence that existence must also have a creator.
This is, to any critical thinker, rather unsatisfying, as the creator’s existence would by extension of this hopeless analogy also require a creator. But to the religious, existence needs an explanation, but God does not. Something has to be the “uncaused,” as Comfort calls God. Strange that it would be something we have no proof of (a deity) that a thoughtful person would deem the “uncaused,” but not something we do have proof of (existence itself). It is further strange that Christians deem life and planets and existence so complex they all must require a deity, while that deity, being able to create existence, would be even more complex and marvelous than existence! So how is it that we then give deities a free pass? To the atheist, it is just as sensible (if not more so) to suppose existence has always existed, that it was “uncaused,” and that “nothing” was never a thing.
“But the Big Bang — ” the creationist objects. Comfort doesn’t really discuss the Big Bang specifically, but does insist something can’t come from nothing. All that needs to be said here is that we do not know for certain that existence did not “exist” before the Big Bang. We do not know if there was nothing, nor if true nothingness is even possible. Can Comfort prove for certain that there was true nothingness? That would be impressive, as astro-physicists cannot. It is, and perhaps always will be, beyond the scope of human science. We may never be able to confirm if theories concerning existence before (or independent of) the Big Bang, multiverse theories — parallel universes, daughter universes, bubble universes, infinite universes, and so on — are valid. At the moment, Comfort is simply filling a gap in scientific knowledge with God (a strategy used by humans since we cowered at thunder) and relying on an unproven premise at the same time.
It would indeed be wonderful if a loving deity that required no explanation for his existence created our existence. But the idea has no real explanatory value concerning our existence. And there certainly isn’t hard evidence for it.
Regarding evidence, Comfort addresses another topic. He asks the atheists, “Are you open to evidence?” As sensible people, they say Yes. One woman said, “It would just have to be extraordinarily compelling.”
Comfort then presents his cringe-worthy “evidence.” He explains that DNA, as scientists say, is “the instruction book for life,” that there are 3.2 billion letters in the 46 chromosomes making up the human genome. “DNA is the genetic information encoded in the cells of every living thing,” he explains, “that instructs our cells in how to grow and how to function.”
“The fact that there is intelligent information tells us there must be an intelligent designer.” Such “intelligent information” works “to selectively arrange the building blocks of life. That knowhow and forethought does not exist in any of the materials from which life is made.” DNA has an “external nature.” He concludes, “Where did that specified information come from? It’s origin is certainly supernatural.”
The atheists struggle to even form words to counter this, to my astonishment. Allow me to assist again.
First, “intelligent information” is hollow semantics. Comfort puts the word “intelligent” in front of “information” to make his argument sound more reasonable, in the same way he emphasizes how DNA is like a “book” with “letters” to prop up his analogy. Yes, DNA contains “information,” but putting an adjective in front of it doesn’t make it supernatural. Neither does suggesting genetic coding has “knowhow” and “forethought” independent of its material nature.
Second, explaining that DNA determines how our cells grow, change, and function is as far as Comfort will go in his explanation of what DNA is, relying on vague terms like “letters” — and perhaps “information” is even too vague. Why doesn’t he explain the “information” is entirely made up of chemicals? Why not explain that the “letters” in the “book” are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine, chemicals held together by sugar phosphate? Why not describe purines and pyrimidines, the organic bits that make up the chemicals? Why not talk about the nitrogen atoms of the purines and pyrimidines? Why not describe how the arrangement of A, G, C, and T determines what a cell is and does? How the arrangement is used by enzymes to make mRNA and then proteins, from which a cell is mostly built?
Because doing that would point out the obvious: the “information” isn’t external, it’s biological. It isn’t independent of matter, it cannot exist without it. The code doesn’t have “forethought”; it’s an interaction of chemicals. He doesn’t do this because “instructions” coming from the simple arrangement of mindless chemicals doesn’t help his case as well as pretending they aren’t rooted in matter, aren’t related to and could never have come from nature, and that therefore “God did it.” This is nothing more than a religious person believing natural biological processes to be too complex to exist without a designer, like the “gap” argument regarding the Big Bang (only in this case it’s more embarrassing, as much more is known about DNA and how it functions, even if we don’t know for certain yet how it arose).
I sincerely hope the people Comfort interviewed aren’t biology students, because otherwise it’s time to weep for the future of the American scientific community.
Third, I can’t help but mention that Comfort’s point that all life has DNA actually helped scientists prove once and for all that Darwin was right. By mapping the genetic code of Earth’s lifeforms, scientists determined — and continue to determine daily — that all life on earth actually shares the same DNA. DNA is passed on through reproduction. You share more DNA with your parents and siblings than you do with your more distant relatives. In the same way, humans share more DNA with some living things than with others. We share 98% with chimps, 85% with zebra fish, 36% with fruit flies, and 15% with mustard grass. It is not surprising that creatures similar to us (warm-blooded, covered in hair, give birth to live young) are closer relatives than less similar ones. But all life shares DNA, no matter how different. When mapped out by genetic similarity, we see exactly what Darwin envisioned: a family tree with many different branches, all leading back to a common ancestor.
Those are the two major arguments in The Atheist Delusion. Using a lack of scientific knowledge, then ignoring scientific knowledge, to build a case for a deity.
Yes, there is more to the film. Comfort insisting the Bible had some insights into science that man at the time could never have discovered; asking why, if evolution is true, do we not see creatures with “half-evolved teeth” or “half-evolved legs”; asking how a chicken saw without eyes or felt without a brain if it supposedly evolved; asking why trees just happen to provide oxygen and cows just happen to provide leather, meat, and milk; concluding that the atheists he was speaking with still wanted to be atheists because they wanted to continue looking at porn and fornicating. These things would take even less time to level, but as they were not the major arguments in the film, and in the interest of brevity, I will leave that to others.
At the end, some of the atheists said Comfort’s points made them think; others actually said they now believed in God’s existence, that Comfort had given them proof of an intelligent designer; a few said, “Yes, I’m no longer an atheist,” and one even prayed with Comfort to become a Christian.