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Part 3 A Famous Atheist Overstates His Case

Here is a second example of overstating your case.  It is a quote from an atheist Cornell University professor Dr. William Provine:

“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either[1].”

This is a classic overstatement by a university professor who should know better.  As Einstein once said, “Scientists make bad philosophers.”  In his summary he moves from the science of biology to philosophical conclusions.  He is trying to tie physical processes or methodology to reach non-physical conclusions.  Darwinian evolution can tell us nothing about the immaterial world of God, purpose, design, life after death, morality, meaning of life, or free will.  Funny he says there is no free will; as he freely chooses his words to try to convince our free wills to accept his ideas.  This is similar to saying I cannot speak a word of English, as I am speaking English to make that appeal.  He tries to dismiss the existence of free will while at the same time expressing his free will to present a specific word order to make a free will case against free will.

As followers of Christ, we can easily do the same.  We can do what William Provine did and mix material processes with immaterial conclusions.  Or we can find an article that matches what we already believe and without checking out counter arguments we rush out and present the case.  I sometimes do this in the world of politics.  I don’t spend enough time studying the issues and I should stay out most political conversations.  Getting good information about political issues is hard and one of the reasons I don’t like politics.

We just need to be careful about framing our case and not to overstate it.  And we don’t have to be an expert to make our case.  The vast majority of us stand on the shoulders of authorities.  If I try to make a case against evolution I do not speak on my own authority.  I do my research and use the work of others.  Based on research of experts we can utilize defeaters that have to be answered.  As far a Darwinian evolution, three defeaters that have to be answered.  1) How does life come from non-life, 2) where are the billions and billions of transitional forms, and 3) how do you explain irreducible complexity (all parts of a living organism have to be in place at the beginning to survive)?  If any of these defeaters cannot be adequately answered then macroevolution, molecules to man theory, is false.

I don’t have to be an expert to present this challenge.  Books such as Michael Denton’s “Evolution a Theory in Crisis,” Michael Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box,” and Stephen Meyers “Signature in the Cell,” provide a foundation for me to give reasons for doubting Darwinian Evolution.  To refute me, don’t attack me because I am not a scientist but show me why my reasons for doubting Darwinian Evolution are wrong.  I have yet to hear good answers.

The best defense is to use questions to keep you off the hot seat and prevent overstating your case.  The more claims we make the more we have to answer.  However, we do have to say something.  Remember 1 Peter 3:15 “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.” Peter tells us advanced preparation is a necessity for the follower of Christ.

One of the best books on how not to overstate you case is called The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona.  They make a minimalist case utilizing 5 facts the majority of New Testament scholars agree on.  This is a great strategy for making the case Jesus rose from the dead.

Whenever we get in a discussion we need to be as prepared as we can be.  This is an ongoing process.  We need to avoid coming into any discussion with the attitude of an expert.  We need to be humble enough to say I don’t know and I will look it up and get back to you.

In the Book of Acts, the Bereans were commended for investigating the teachings of the Apostle Paul.  We are prone to overstate our case when we parrot a teaching we never investigated.  We need to study and work through issues we are going to present.  We don’t have to be perfect at this.  At times we may overstate our case.  When that happens, humbly back away and reshape the argument in a way that makes a more modest claim.  People will respect our humble attitude and efforts to restate the case.



[1] Provine, W.B., Origins Research 16(1), p.9, 1994

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