Atheists know that “changing sides” is against the code. Not many of us do that – change sides – but I did. Atheists have been asking me for the past 40+ years why I went from atheism to theism. It’s a fair question and why I’m writing this series of articles about what convinced me that God exists. I’m reaching back to those months before May 1971 when I made “the change” to demonstrate that what I did was both “reasonable” and “necessary.”
My belief about the origin of the universe was affected by a variety of theories. As a child of the mid-20th century, I heard about creation at church and about evolution at school. Many churches taught a blend of creationism and evolution (theistic evolution), so it was easy to move between what I was learning at church and learning at school. I don’t remember any conflicts. As a student of martial arts in my early teen years I learned about a variety of origin beliefs from China, Japan and India, but they were obviously mythological. Evolution became the most reasonable explanation to me, especially as atheism became my dominant belief system in my later teens.
I became a radio journalist after college and had the opportunity to have my own talk shows in addition to producing shows for other hosts. My atheistic worldview became an issue with many listeners, which led to some interesting discussions about the origin of the universe and life. I interviewed people from a variety of backgrounds including atheists, agnostics, communists, witches, warlocks and satanists, but it was my interview with a science professor that led me to search for answers to questions I had not considered before.
The Cosmological Argument was interesting to me because it dealt with something I could see – the cosmos. I remember reading about many theories concerning the universe (e.g. Eternal Steady State, Big Bang, Static/Expanding, Oscillating). The Static and Steady State theories had been beaten up pretty well by the late 1960s and the Big Bang was growing in appeal. The discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in the mid-60s gave support to the theory of an explosive, hot beginning to the universe. The idea of a “beginning” to the universe was sounding more plausible than an eternal cosmos.
However, I had not given serious consideration to a simple question: what existed before the “big bang?” That question bothered me as journalist. How could nothing become something? Especially if there was nothing to cause it to become something?
The science professor talked about how the Laws of Thermodynamics were in opposition to the theory of a “big bang” starting the universe. I looked it up and read about the First Law of Thermodynamics – “energy cannot be created or destroyed.” So, how could nothing (which has no energy) create something with energy? I also learned about the Second Law of Thermodynamics which deals with the efficiency of energy. It states that “the energy available after a chemical reaction is less than at the beginning of the reaction.” Entropy was another way to understand the Second Law. It’s the process of gradual decline from order to disorder. The concept of “heat death” in the universe comes from that Law of Thermodynamics.
I must admit that digging into sciences in 1971 was fascinating, which was interesting given my previous disinterest in science as a youth. Something about what the professor told me drove me to continue looking for answers to questions that seemed to rise continually in my mind.
The question about the beginning of the universe led to more questions — many of them about evolution. Evolution was something I had believed without question for as long as I could remember, but I was starting to have doubts.
I was taught as a child and youth that “science” had proven evolution, but had it really? Evolutionary science sounded good to me until I saw it challenged by “creation science.” Some of the arguments led me to question what I had been taught.
Fossils: if evolution was true, where were all of the transitional fossils from millions of years of “evolving” from one species to another? Shouldn’t scientists have easily found billions or trillions of “proof” fossils instead of a small number of “questionable” ones? Why so much emphasis on finding “missing links” when tens of millions of years of living and dying creatures should have produced all the links necessary to prove evolution was true? Where were all the intermediate varieties that should be found everywhere? Shouldn’t we find all kinds of fossils showing species in various stages of change? Shouldn’t we see through the fossil record proof of every step of the creatures “evolving,” especially in light of the length of time for macro-evolution to occur? You would think the earth would be filled with billions of tons of layers of these intermediate fossils that demonstrate gradual changes, but where are they?
Civilization: if evolution was true and humans began showing up in substantial numbers millions of years ago, why didn’t civilizations begin much earlier than just thousands of years ago? Where are the “tells” of villages and cities from millions of years ago? Why are the oldest remains of human life and invention measured in thousands of years instead of millions? If evolution was true and humans learned a little more with each generation of gradual change, why don’t we have proof of their experiments and knowledge that date hundreds of thousands of years (or millions of years) into the past? Why didn’t written communication begin millions of years ago, or at least hundreds of thousands of years ago, instead of just “thousands” of years ago? Where’s all the proof that humans evolved slowly and developed human skills over a very long period of time? The proof, as I was beginning to see it, was in favor of a more recent development of civilized skills. Did that also mean a more recent development of the humans who made up civilizations? Could it be that the beginning of the human race was thousands of years instead of millions of years ago?
Sex: how did asexual organisms develop into sexual organisms? Asexual organisms would seem to have the advantage in an evolutionary world because all of them could reproduce. Sexual organisms would seem to have the disadvantage because only a fraction of them could actually reproduce another of its kind. It would seem that sexual males would be a wasted resource since they cannot birth one of their own. The difference in sex cell division between asexual species (mitosis) and sexual species (meiosis) seemed to also point to the greater efficiency of asexual over sexual. If evolution is the survival of the fittest, why would sexual species win over the asexual species? 100% of the asexual species were able to reproduce another one of their own. It seemed to me that evolution would have naturally selected asexual species as more efficient than sexual. Also, I wondered, where is the evidence of the gradual change from asexual to sexual in the fossil record? Shouldn’t we see all of the experimental parts and pieces from the sexual development through the millions of years of evolution?
The science professor I interviewed on my talk show explained that evolution was naturalistic, self-contained, non-purposive, directional, irreversible, universal, and continuing. He said that special creation was different from evolution in that it was supernaturalistic, externally directed, purposive, and completed, but was similar to evolution in that it applies universally and is irreversibly directional. He said that direction was downward toward lower levels of complexity and that the original creation, though perfect at the beginning, had been running down.
I wondered how creation would hold up under the light of the thermodynamic laws that gave evolution such a hard time. The professor said that creation actually predicted the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. He said the First Law proved that the universe did not create itself and that nothing in natural law could account for its own origin. He said the Second Law proved that the universe was moving from order to disorder and its energy was less available now than before. Given enough time, the universe would die a “heat death.” The professor added that the fact that the universe was not already dead was proof that it is not infinitely old.
The professor pointed out some of the major differences between evolution and special creation.
- Evolution – life evolved from non-life … Creation – life came from life
- Evolution – galaxies changing … Creation – galaxies constant
- Evolution – stars changing into other types … Creation – stars unchanged
- Evolution – heavenly bodies building up … Creation – heavenly bodies breaking down
- Evolution – rock formations different in different ages … Creation – rock formations similar in all ages
- Evolution – natural selection is the creative process … Creation – natural selection is the conservative process
- Evolution – mutations in organisms are beneficial … Creation – mutations in organisms are harmful
- Evolution – new kinds of life appearing … Creation – no new kinds of life appearing
- Evolution – man came from apes … Creation – man created as man, no ape to human intermediates
He had my attention. Those are some big differences. However, the idea of the supernatural was not something I could easily accept as an atheist. I needed more proof. What could he and others possibly say that would convince me? More about that next time.