Dr. Witmer on the Design Argument v. Problem of Evil

Dr. Gene Witmer compares the best evidence for theism versus the best argument for atheism. Link. 16 minutes.


Larry said...


It appeared that the main point of this video was "whichever side had the best "evidence" and the best "arguments" is the winner". Everybody wants “our” facts/evidences to counter “theirs.” What they really don’t understand, however, is that it’s not a matter of “their evidence vs. ours.” All evidence is actually interpreted, and all scientists actually have the same observations—the same data—available to them. Christians and non-Christians all have the same evidence! The difference is in the way we all interpret the facts. And why do we interpret facts differently? Because we start with different presuppositions; these are things that are assumed to be true without being able to prove them. These then become the basis for other conclusions. All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms). This becomes especially relevant when dealing with past events.

Evolutionists have certain beliefs about the past/present that they presuppose, e.g., no God (or at least none who performed acts of special creation); so they build a different way of thinking to interpret the evidence of the present.

For Christians, The Bible is the starting point to interpreting everything around them. So really, it is absurd to use science to "prove" the Bible right. Instead, true observational science is consistent with what the Bible says. (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n3/science-or-the-bible)

Thus, when Christians and non-Christians argue about the evidence, in reality they are arguing about their interpretations based on their presuppositions.

Read more at:
What’s the best “proof” of creation?

On his comment about "there is no chance that the designer is good, given the pervasive evil in the world", he is forgetting that God's creation has evil because we humans brought evil into the world. The great news is that God loved us so much that he took our punishment for us for rebelling against him. He wants us to live with him in eternal paradise, all we have to do is accept his forgiveness by admitting that you have done wrong is the sight of the Lord, then believing that Jesus is your savior.

Now that is an amazing God. Every other false religion is the world requires you to earn your redemption by doing "enough" good works. The one and only god, the Triune God has it set up so that we do not have to earn our salvation. He knows that we could not live up to his standards (ultimate perfection) because we are born human (read: sinful).

Read more at:
Death and Suffering Questions and Answers

In fact, there is evidence that he is perfectly good. It is called the Bible. He created a perfect world for us, and gives us the standard of what what is good because he is the creator. Also remember, that the law is designed for humans. God is above the law because he created everything. For example, when a Dad sets a bed time for his child, the rule is just for the child, and does not apply to the dad.

Going from that, that is why God came to earth as a man, because then he could be under the law to fulfill it in our stead because we could not.

When he brings up the problem of evil, you have to know that Adam and Eve did have free will and they were capable of obeying God's commandment of not eating from the tree. Basically, he told Adam and Eve that they can live like he had created them, or they can choose to turn away from him and live like they want to. We all know what they chose. After they had sinned (rebelled from God, chose to live like they want) nobody after them could obey God's commandments because they were inherently sinful. As a result of that horrible day and horrible outcome, God did make an ultimate good come from the ultimate evil, that is he sent is son, Jesus (100% God and 100% Man), to take our place for us. Again, all we need to do is accept the forgiveness that God has earned for us by believing that Jesus is your savior.

Here is a list of articles that deal with God and the problem of evil:
God Questions and Answers

Please read the answers in genesis articles before you start knocking down straw men.

Larry said...

BTW, I forgot to mention one point about free will. Would you like it if God constantly interfered with your free will every time you were about to break one of his laws. He would interfere many times each day. Do you really want to be a robot?

Here is another article dealing with free will:


B H said...

I have a problem with the way Witmer sets up this discussion. There can be no evidence for atheism. It's sad, but true. One could always postulate a set of gods who created our universe (or multiverse) with the intention of making it look uncreated. Occam's Razor suggests we should ignore such theories where they make no useful predictions, but Occam's Razor doesn't always lead to the correct solution.

Science cannot weigh in on any supernatural theory that does not make empirical claims. Science can only test supernatural claims where the proposed phenomena overlap with the natural world (faith healing, near death experiences, effectiveness of prayer, etc). Atheism (as a lack of supernatural theory) makes no such testable claims. All we can do is disprove the never-ending list of specific claims made by supernaturalists (where we can force them to make specific claims).

Larry, you might want to reconsider this claim that "all reasoning is based on presuppositions." Religion and science tackle their assumptions in completely different ways. Good science vigorously tests the inferences that have previously been drawn from the data. Outstanding science throws those inferences out the window. Can you say the same ting about good faith and outstanding faith? Is an outstanding Baptist one who demonstrates convincingly that Paul was not divinely inspired?

The developments of relativity, quantum mechanics, and the big bang theory were viewed as revolutionary precisely because they demonstrated previous assumptions were false. Can you name any instance in the history of your religion where previous thinking was universally rejected as false because of new evidence?

John W. Loftus said...

Larry, I've already written about Adam & Eve, and the problem of free will. I'll let others comment on the other things you wrote about. But just remember that most of the things we write about are just too brief to show you we do not attack straw men. It would require reading my book in many cases, which is getting favorable reviews.

Corn said...


All reasoning is based on presuppositions (also called axioms).

Not all axioms are presuppositions, some are indeed objectively true (mathematics is full of these). Christians typically propose one of two axioms in their arguments for the existence of god:

1) God exists
2) The bible is the inspired word of God

It would be impossible for a skeptic to take one of these two positions as axiomatic and have any meaningful investigation into the believer's argument. Likewise it is impossible for the believer to evaluate the skeptic's evidence against the existence of god while holding as true one of the two axioms. It is only when we say, "I don't know" that we can make a real inquiry into the veracity of the claim.

From the available evidence, however, the skeptic often concludes that there is not as much evidence for the existence of the god of the bible as there is against the existence of that god. These arguments are typically made on philosophical grounds although other evidence (such as the errancy of the bible) may be included.

On his comment about "there is no chance that the designer is good, given the pervasive evil in the world", he is forgetting that God's creation has evil because we humans brought evil into the world.

Are you really taking credit for that which God has claimed to have done himself? If we are to take Isaiah 45:7 as the inerrant word of God spoken through the prophet it would certainly seem that way. Of course many christians will explain away this verse as God merely saying he's given us "free will" to do evil. Or they will claim that it was a mistranslation and that shalom and ra' don't really mean peace and evil but instead more like prosperity and calamity. It's like Evil Light: tastes great, less killing.

Now what I want to know is why God put that tree in the garden in the first place.

David B. Ellis said...

All this talk of our presuppositions.

Most of us skeptics here started out from christian presuppositions. I myself started from the presupposition, instilled in me during early childhood, that God exists and the bible is his word and that the story of creation in Genesis is historical fact.

But when a person is willing to examine their presuppositions objectively those presuppositions can be rejected because they simply don't work for a variety of reasons (examples: they are contrary to observable evidence, they are internally inconsistent, they involve moral views which are incompatible with simple decency, and a variety of other ways those presuppositions fail to measure up).

Not all presuppositions are created equal. One has the responsibility to ask "what, if anything, should one assume as axiomatic and why"?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Let's see how many of your misstatements I can correct before the cats call me away from the computer to give them breakfast.

Other people have dealt with the question of 'presuppositions' enough to pass on that. But your statement that Evolutionists presuppose no God is a little absurd, given the fact that many 'evolutionists' are believers and Christians, and that probably the majority of Christians, even in the US accept evolution -- in Europe the percentage is at least 90%.

"Theistic evolution" simply holds that evolution was the mechanism by which their god produced his creation. (I've pointed out in another comment -- on the '5 big rocks' thread -- that creationists are, in fact, insulting their god by portraying him as an incredibly incompetent designer.)

You say 'true observational science is consistent with the Bible.' But the Bible was written at a time when the world was seen as the center of a very small Universe and displays this. I also point out the comment about rabbits 'chewing their cud' as a small but telling scientific mistake. (I have been pointing out that, were the Bible actually to have been 'the word of God' one of the best ways of demonstrating this would have been for it to include a few simple unambiguous statements going beyond the known science of the day. It does not.

It is hardly absurd to use science to test the Bible. To use a common quote 'God is the author of both the Book of Revealed Truth and the Book of Scientific Truth, and cannot contradict himself in the two books.'

Again, I'll leve the 'problem of error' to others, because the statements you make have been discussed elsewhere so totally that my contribution would be a waste of space. You do Exemplify the type of commenter that John refers to -- quoting a major Christian thinker -- when he says that 'someone who is not kept up at night by the problem of error doesn't understand the problem.'

If God created a 'perfect world for us' -- disregarding such minor things (not blamable on man) as cancer, tsunamis, earthquakes, along with minor problems directly blamable on God (were he the 'special creator') as sinus problems, flat feet, digestive problems and appendicitis -- why did he, as you claim, create such a contradictory, errant, and frequently absurd book as the Bible. Why did he require a Paul to get the message of Jesus straight? Why did he have to include concepts from Zoroastrianism in Christianity because he 'forgot' to include them in the OT? Why does he include four different contradictory accounts of the 'Trial of Jesus' -- none of which could possibly be true from what we know of the Sanhedrin or of the character of Pilate? Why does he include in the Pentateuch four different sources, each of which have a different conception of god, all of which contradict each other?

To continue, why does he first tell the story of 'smoting' someone for not agreeing to a Levirate marriage, then later lessen the requirement and give a ritual to excuse someone, and by pre-New Testament times have abandoned the practice entirely?

Why does he include the absurdity of Matthew's 'march of the Dead' onto Jerusalem that has no confirmation from any other source, even within the Bible itself?

Cat feeding time. More to come.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Just a few more.

If Jesus was 'God's only son,' why does the opening of Job refer -- in all translations including the KJV and Darby's -- to the (plural) 'Sons of God'? (The NIV translates it as 'angels,' but even it includes a footnote that the Hebrew reads 'Sons of God.')

If God condemned all humanity because of Adam and Eve's purported sin, why does the Bible, elsewhere, condemn imputing the Sins of parents onto their children?

If the words of the Bible are infallible, and the words of Jeremiah are part of the Bible, and Jeremiah refers to the Pentateuch as a 'scribe-produced lie,' how do you resolve the paradox. (This is why King Josiah needed to get a 'third-rate prophetess' named Huldah to 'testify' to the Pentateuch rather than using the much greater Jeremiah who was 'right at hand')

Your turn...

B H said...

prup, do you have a verse reference for the Jeremiah bit?

Shygetz said...

Evolutionists have certain beliefs about the past/present that they presuppose, e.g., no God (or at least none who performed acts of special creation); so they build a different way of thinking to interpret the evidence of the present.

All science must presuppose natural causes, it is true. As was previously pointed out, science cannot determine if the world was uncreated, or created to look uncreated.

However, science can (and has) disproven all of the Answers in Genesis pap. Any time religion makes a claim about the natural world being thus and so, science can and does weigh in. So, when you say the world is 6,000 years old, you are simply wrong. You can say that this means science infringes upon your faith, to which I reply: tough. If you want to believe that faeries exist, fine. But if you want to believe that lions don't exist, then don't safari in Africa, because reality is under no obligation to defer to your superstition.