Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Car Journey

My atheist friend Nick, who lives in the United Kingdom, wrote this really good story, entitled, "A Car Journey." I asked him if I could share it with you here at the Christian safehouse, and he agreed, provided that I allow him and other atheists to comment along with all of you.

The reason I want to share it is because it offers great insight into the point of view of someone who does not believe there is a God. When we chat and debate, it's really important that we first grasp the other person's rationality. This is one of the most well-stated atheistic positions I have come across. It's simple and to the point.

Please take a moment to read Nick's take on our faith. Then respond, constructively, with yours.

Note to atheists who would like to respond: I'll post your comments to this post provided they contain no vulgarity and address the issue. I won't post anything that attacks Jesus or people who believe in Him. I appreciate you stopping by the blog!

Here's Nick's story:

A Car Journey

We're going on a drive. We'll both have to be blindfolded, I'm afraid. But this is a very special car. It will never go off the road. But if we are at a junction, it can turn left or right. Or go straight on. But I don't know which way it's going to go. And neither do you.

But before we start: Look [circles a large area on the map]. This is where we are starting from.

Right. Blindfold on.

I'm going to drive for quite a while. So you might get a little bored. Sorry about that. Right ready? Good.

[Car moves off. Various left and right turns. Car stops and starts many, many times. More turns left and right. Sorry this journey is very boring.]

[Some hours later]

Right. Here we are! Blindfolds off.

See where we are now? Look at the map.This is where we are! (points at the map) What do you notice about the route we took? Anything you can say about it?

1) You could say. "It's amazing that we are where we are. Because of all those turns we took. And we just happened to have reached this point. Isn't that amazing. If we had taken just one wrong turn, we would have stopped somewhere else. It's like it's been planned. Like that was the ONLY place we could have stopped. And that we were supposed to stop here. After all, you didn't know what direction we were going in. You were blind folded, too. And you just stopped when you felt like it. Isn't that amazing."

2) Or you could say. "It's not amazing at all That we stopped here. Lets see [ look's around the car] Look, I've just found a lot of receipts on the floor of the car. And they have times and addresses on. And if I put them in time order, I can figure out roughly the route we took. Look! I can even say something about where we started with a little more accuracy! And I can say something about what happened when we were blindfolded. Isn't that amazing!"

So which is MOST amazing? The fact that we can sit and say, "Wow we are so lucky to have this big overriding plan for our lives. That can show us the way,"

Or, is it more amazing to look around us? Look at the information we have? And use it to learn something about the world? And what has happened in the past to inform our present?


  1. This is a nice explanation of a point made by many atheists, including myself. When asked why I don't believe in a God/Gods, one of my usual answers is along these lines. Why should we be content with accepting that 'It's all part of God's plan' is an acceptable answer? Humans are innately curious (thanks to our evolution!), and I for one will always strive to learn more about the world I live in.
    That's probably why I'm a biology student: nothing amazes me more than how we came to be who we are, without any outside influence, except the cold and uncaring hand of natural selection (it's a bit more complicated than that but that's not for todays discusion!).
    People often assumes that the atheistic worldview is cold and uncaring, that we live for nothing. But, we live to see the world in all its majesty. To quote the great Carl Sagan, 'we are all star stuff'.
    I mean literally, you and I and everyone are made of atoms that were produced when a star was destroyed in an explosion so vast that it shook the cosmos. How could I want anything more?
    Being an atheist is wonderful!

  2. I can't see how 1) & 2) cannot both be right?

  3. Nice story and gets to the nub. Often theists will talk about probabilities, often demonstrating a lack of understanding in the process. For instance, calculate the probability of you reading this comment. The the chance your parents were born, the chance they met, chance you were born, the chance you lived to this age, the chance you happened across this blog etc etc, you would sson see that the odds are stacked against you and yet here you are reading this, impossible?

  4. Andrew
    In 1) we are imposing our view of the world and our place in it.

    In 2) we are not making assumptions of who we are, or where we are in the world.

    In this instance, there is no right or wrong. I prefer more or less honest.

  5. I can understand the atheist thinking and how difficult it is to understand and we will never be able to understand everything...but this I know, a scientist can make a fly, a fly like any fly in every detail, but the scientist cannot give it life...just one example of the greatness of God

  6. @nickdrumr - re: 1) I don't think that is so. I think it is making the conclusion that the appearance of the journey being planned leads to a reasonable assumption that it was. Though the analogy is slightly flawed in that in it, it is possible to be any number of places, yet as I understand the argument from design, the contants are such that it would be more analogous to say we either find ourselves on a scenic lookout or in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the cliff. This is similar to what @George Good responded with - we might have found ourselves reading any number of websites, but as far as we know the universe could only sustain life exactly the way it is. We can either think 'wow, lucky' or 'perhaps there is some purpose to it all' - depends on your presuppositions which will be more persuasive I guess.
    re: 2) I think the the opposite could be said - assuming naturalism is also making an assumption And also, the given analogy of finding reciepts would tend to indicate someone was driving, don't you think? Of course, it's not a good idea to stretch analogies past their useulness.

  7. Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday and for commenting on Nick's story. I hope this provided a chance for open dialog and also will help Christians to see that atheists have valid questions. It's up to us to try to understand those viewpoints, reach out and constructively address.
    This was a great exercise for both sides, I think! Feel free to continue to post comments if you desire.


  8. @Anon (Jan 20, 6:54am)
    You might be surprised to know that we are actually very close to producing completely novel, synthetic life. One such group working on this is Craig Venter's (he of the human genome sequencing fame) lab that have already produced a synthetic chromosome with what is believed to be the minimum number of genes required for life, and transformed a bacterium into their new species, which they called 'Synthia'. Venter believes that fully synthetic life is not far away.

    Similarly, scientists recently found that RNA-precursors could spontaneously form in conditions analogous to those on the early Earth. This supports the 'RNA-first', or 'RNA world' hypothesis of the origin of life on Earth. If anyone is interested, here is the name of the article in Nature concerning this:
    "Synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions". Matthew W. Powner, Beatrice Gerland & John D. Sutherland. Nature, Vol. 460, May 13, 2009.

    And here is a link to that article on Nature, although you need a subscription to read anything more than the abstract:

    This is a very exciting time for biology!

  9. The Bible never denies our use of Science. The Bible only negates the idea that we can find our purpose for existing without God. Science has never given us that answer, and the Bbile would claim that on its own it never will.


  10. @Kevin

    Firstly, I'd argue that we have no 'purpose' as I intend you mean it, just our biological instincts to survive. And evolution tells us in huge detail what our 'purpose' is, we're all controlled by our genes to do things that let us survive and reproduce, survive and reproduce, and that's it. The only reason we are intelligent enough to be talking now is because it was an evolutionary advantage for us to be so.

    And secondly, I think to be fair the Bible tells us that God created man and everything in seven days, and whilst it doesn't deny us the use of science, as such most of science today would contradict the creation story. Most people woud say this is metaphorical, yet this seems a little selective to me. Is it acceptable to cut and pick areas of the Bible that suit us and ignore those that don't? That is surely liable to misuse. If it is all God's word, then how could one ignore any of it?
    (Slightly off topic I know, but interesting nonetheless.)

  11. @Andrew
    How can you be in many places at once? I feel you don't quite understand the analogy.

    By assuming naturalism? What else is there? You can only learn from and about your surroundings. Anything else is assuming properties that you assign to the world and your place in it, that has no foundation.

    It might "feel nice" and it might give you "comfort" to believe what you assume. But I care about what is true. And just because something feels nice. Doesn't mean it's true.