No, I Don’t Need To Have Nobel Prize-Winning Knowledge In Order To Remain Unconvinced By Your Claims

Professional Christian apologists like Frank Turek love to shift the burden of proof via a tactic so intellectually dishonest, that I’m sometimes surprised that they manage to keep a straight face.  While it comes in various flavors and often uses various versions of the Murder One fallacy, generally dovetailed with a full on Gish Gallop, the argument boils down to the claim  that unless someone knows the deepest mysteries of physics below the Planck scale, and the entire chain of chemical reactions and evolutionary events that took us from proto-replicators to today, that theistic claims must be the default hypothesis.

It’s often presented in the form of garbage memes like this:

Imagine my eyes rolling so hard that they might violate conservation of angular momentum, and you’ll have a pretty good  idea of my reaction to this moist nugget of fractal wrongness.

To begin with,  all someone has to do to be an atheist, is to not believe people’s claims about the existence of deities. That’s it. Period. Full stop. If someone can not honestly answer “yes” when you ask them “Do you believe in a god?”, then they are an atheist.  Atheists are also afforded the ability to answer with intellectual honesty, and can say “I don’t know”, when you ask them how all of existence came to be. Epistemically, that’s also a much stronger answer than religion’s, by the way.

Now, the knowledge required to answer that meme ranges from physics, to chemistry, to biology. Many atheists don’t possess the knowledge required to speak on those subjects, so you wouldn’t necessarily be able to get good answers to questions about those fields in any case.  Moreover, anybody who could accurately provide a full set of answers to the outstanding  questions of cosmogenesis, abiogenesis, evolution, etc…  would earn multiple Nobel prizes in multiple disciplines. And, demanding that people display a Nobel Prize-winning level of scientific knowledge in order to justify not buying what you’re selling, is gobsmacking chicanery.

Yes, the whole meme is fractally wrong.

To begin with, the concept of “nothing” is the result of philosophical-make-believe. The laws of physics prohibit ‘nothingness’, and if the laws of physics hold for all of reality, then there has not only never been “nothing”, “nothingness” is, in fact, physically impossible. The Big Bang was *not* an explosion, it was the expansion of spacetime itself. Further, quantum mechanics shows that events do not have causes, they have probabilities.

Likewise, the BB did not “create” everything. It took some time before stars began to be born, and even then, it takes time for stars to begin fusing lighter elements into the heavier elements, starting with iron. Then, heavy elements were distributed through the universe when stars went nova or supernova. And the physics of thermodynamics imply that not only are proto-replicators possible, they are most likely bound to arise in any universe with our laws of physics. Then, once you have heritable structure and the potential for variation, you have the workings for natural selection.

None of this rearrangement is “magic”, and is all ultimately due to the laws of physics; chemistry is applied physics and biology is applied chemistry. These models aren’t (ahem) gospel, they are, however, maximally fit.

Ironically enough, of course, there are people who believe in magic and true creation-from-nothing. They’re the people who believe that a magical mind-without-a-body has always existed outside of spacetime and that it created the world via a magic spell/incantation (John 1:1). More to the point, they believe that the magic spell that created existence did not in fact simply rearrange things that already existed, but truly created them. Logically, if things were created instead of being rearranged, they did not exist before that. Logically, if everything was created by the magic spell, then nothing existed before that.

That is to say, if your answer to the nature and existence of the universe is, “a wizard did it”, you don’t get to accuse physicists of engaging in magical thinking, without embarrassment.


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