Question 9: A question regarding the 2015 Turek/Shermer debate

***DISCLAIMER*** The following is far from an exhaustive post. Instead, it makes a best effort to answer the question.

Recently someone asked me a question regarding the 2015 debate between Frank Turek (a Christian) and Michael Shermer (an atheist). What follows are the questions and my response. For the “question” section, any commentary I offer is in bold and in parenthesis. I edited the questioner’s question(s) for grammar and content

QUESTION

I saw on TV Michael Shermer, an athiest, who said that science, not God, better explains morality. His points were if it harms someone then it is immoral and if it doesn’t, it’s not (I’m not sure what the questioner is talking about with the word “it”). He said gay marriage is moral because it is “love”, and to oppose it is immoral because you’re taking away their “rights”. However, when asked why was Hitler wrong if morality was evolved, he said something to the effect of, “Because he was hurting the Jews.” He pretty much said the whole time that morality evolved and it’s absolute based on what peoples’ reactions are to situations. This was a debate he had with Frank Turek. In a good apologetics way, how would you refute and give an argument against Shermer’s argument that science, “evolution”, explains morality?

MY RESPONSE

I watched the video that I believe pertains to your question. The real debate part starts at about the 32 minute mark with Frank Turek’s turn. He speaks from about the 32 minute mark to about the 51 minute mark for his opening statement:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBrs-kAZluw

Turke makes an excellent point with his thesis. He explained that rules “come from ‘whos’ and not ‘its.’” He then gave an excellent illustration with his section on how baseball’s rules are made. As he progressed, he gave an example explaining the murder trial of O.J. Simpson. He gave a plethora of data in doing so. He then concluded this discussion by explaining that science (or in this case, data) doesn’t say anything. Instead, scientists do the saying. He explained data needs an interpreter. People can interpret data. Science itself cannot do this because it only gives data. People, who are personal creations made in God’s image (Genesis 1), are personal. As a result, they can make decisions and interpret data, among other things. Science, on the contrary, is impersonal. Science cannot have feelings. Furthermore, it can hardly establish a moral standard because of its being impersonal.

One can use much of what Turek said to refute Shermer’s argument that evolution, or science, explains morality. One must refute this argument with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Unfortunately, one will likely find it difficult to find specific content from Turek’s points that may convince the atheist of the error of his ways. After all, an atheist is a natural man who cannot understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Christians should be primarily concerned with making disciples of all nations, proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name, baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:36-49). Only the Holy Spirit can change the atheist’s mind about evolution and its relation to morality.

Despite those facts, this does not mean that refuting an atheist is a vain activity. The best thing to do in refuting an atheist is to refute the core of his beliefs. Carlson & Decker wrote a resourceful book called Fast Facts on False Teachings. They explain how being an atheist requires one to “have infinite knowledge in order to know absolutely that there is no God.” At its core, to be an atheist is to believe that God does not exist. However, even the smartest human being cannot possibly have infinite knowledge of everything there is to know in life. This would require the person to know every single human, place, thing, sport, subject, etc. Given the world has a plethora of people (and continues to grow), I seriously doubt any human can rightly make such a boast. Psalm 14:1 states, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” The atheist already has a problem because he/she claims God does not exist. However, one would need infinite knowledge to make such a claim. Given human’s limitations based on the fact he/she cannot possibly know every single human, place, thing and the like, it should be obvious that no human can rightly claim infinite knowledge. Therefore, to claim there is no God is simply foolish. Romans 1:18-25 states the following:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The Romans passage makes it very clear that all people have an innate knowledge of God. Unfortunately, as Carlson & Decker state, “many have turned their backs to this knowledge and have rejected the revelation of God to follow other gods.” By rejecting God, Michael Shermer has gone the way of those in Romans 1 who exchanged the truth of God for a lie. He is essentially under a delusion (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). As shown by this article here, it takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.

If one chooses to refute Shermer’s argument, one must be in prayer, have gentleness and respect when making the refutation, and understand that only the Holy Spirit can change Shermer’s mind about Shermer’s core beliefs. With those core understandings in mind, one can then best proceed in making the refutation using whatever information he/she thinks would best help. This information can come from the Bible, Turek, Carlson & Decker, GotQuestions.org or any other person/organization that has given good information on refuting atheism. We do have a good chunk of information to use. Furthermore, it is obvious that science cannot explain morality because of its obviously being impersonal. However, without prayer, gentleness, respect and reliance on the Holy Spirit, any and all information we could ever have would be irrelevant. Therefore, may we be in prayer for such opportunities as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name, baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit.

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