1. Loftus: “Astronomy has established that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old and arose out of a cosmic singularity. No account of the development of our universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in Genesis, as the latter are pure folklore.”
This comment appears to be very ignorant in the context of Christian theology.
Firstly, the creation of the universe from nothing, via a cosmic singularly, is described in the very first sentence of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Please note the key word “beginning” which clearly implies a finite beginning to the physical universe. How is this at all inconsistent with Christian theology? Even physicist Victor Weisskopf once said that “The Judeo-Christian tradition describes the beginning of the world in a way that is surprisingly similar to the scientific model” (1). The Nobel laureate scientist & physicist Arno Penzias also concludes that “The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole” (2). So, Loftus’ claim that “No account of the development of our universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in Genesis” is simply false. Secondly, we have already touched on just how incompatible atheism is with Big Bang cosmology. Refer to Refutation #1 point 3.
Thirdly, Genesis is not a modern scientific account of creation as Loftus thinks that it should be. It was intended for a specific audience at a specific time in history about the revealed truths of God in creation. Further, Loftus just asserts that there is a conflict without any argument whatsoever (hence I shall be looking through his blog for anything he has written on this subject). Loftus is also just too simple here as he takes nothing (no data, no texts, no arguments, or anything) into account. The subject of the Genesis creation account has a rich history of interpretation and many contemporary thinkers have likewise done their best to understand it. Particularly helpful in this regard is John Lennox’s book 7 Days that Divide the World. Loftus would do well to interact with such work. In a presentation John Lennox asks “What is the major emphasis of [of Genesis 1)?” to which he answers: “That there is a creator… that there is a beginning to space-time too” (3). Although very simple that is ultimately the purpose of the Genesis creation account.
2. Loftus: “Archaeology has found no evidence of 400 years of Israelite slavery in Egypt, Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, or an Israelite conquest of Canaan.”
This is another fallacy known as “arguing from silence.” In other words, Loftus is saying that because no physical evidence exists that puts the Israelite slaves in Egypt it therefore did not happen. The entire argument is therefore built upon a fallacy, yet let us actually consider Loftus’ assertion.
Firstly, how much evidence does Loftus expect us to have of a couple of thousand Israelites (I detail the traveling Israelite population here) living in a location within a foreign country where 100% of the papyri has been destroyed? The Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen explains this, he writes that “In the sopping wet mud of the Delta, no papyrus ever survives (whether it mentions fleeing Hebrews or not)…In other words, as the official thirteenth-century archives from the East Delta centers are 100 percent lost, we cannot expect to find mentions in them of the Hebrews or anybody else” (4).
Even further, since the Exodus account was so embarrassing for the Pharaoh are we to expect him, or anyone close to him, to leave us some nicely decorated murals commemorating his great loss on his palace walls? This part of Egyptian history, that of not celebrating harsh losses & defeats in battle, is something we know for fact did not happen, as commentator Jeffery Sheler writes:
“Official records and inscriptions in the ancient Near East often were written to impress gods and potential enemies, it would be quite surprising to find an account of the destruction of pharaoh’s army immortalized on the walls of an Egyptian temple…Indeed, the absence of direct material evidence of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt is not as surprising, or as damaging to the Bible’s credibility, as it first might seem” (5).
Or what about the mud hovels that the Israelites probably lived in while at the Delta? Kitchen: “The mud hovels of brickfield slaves and humble cultivators have long since gone back to their mud origins, never to be seen again. Even stone structures (such as temples) hardly survive, in striking contrast to sites in the cliff-enclosed valley of Upper Egypt to the south” (6).
Professor Sommer believes that there are no real reasons to doubt the presence of the Israelites in Egypt, he writes that: “To put it bluntly, there are no archaeological or historical reasons to doubt the core elements of the Bible’s presentation of Israel’s history. These are: that the ancestors of the Israelites included an important group who came from Mesopotamia; that at least some Israelites were enslaved to Egyptians and were surprisingly rescued from Egyptian bondage; that they experienced a revelation that played a crucial role in the formation of their national, religious, and ethnic identity; that they settled in the hill country of the land of Canaan at the beginning of the Iron Age, around 1300 or 1200 BCE; that they formed kingdoms there a few centuries later, around 1000 BCE; and that these kingdoms were eventually destroyed by Assyrian and Babylonian armies” (7).
For a fuller investigation of this subject please visit my article. The bottom line is that there are good reasons as to why we have an absence of physical evidence putting the Israelites in Egypt. We are not dealing with history 500, or 1000, or 2000 years removed from us, we are instead dealing with history well over 3000 years in the past. That is a long time for hovels, papyri and so on to dissolve to dust. In fact, I’d like to know what Loftus thinks of other archaeologically invisible events. Perhaps we should outright reject the migrations of Celts in Asia Minor, Slavs into Greece & the Arameans across the Levant which have all been described in sources and have left no archaeological trace (8). Would that be reasonable?
Also, as Loftus would obviously not mention, is that in other places of the Bible physical evidence and external non-biblical textual evidence well supports many of the narratives within the Old Testament. Anyone can access this information at my blog, or in any academic journal on biblical archaeology.
3. Loftus: “Geological evidence in the sedimentary rock layers of a roughly 4.5 billion year old planet confirms the slow evolutionary development of life, just as astronomical evidence confirms the slow evolutionary development of galaxies, stars, and planets.”
Okay. Thank you for the science lesson Mr. Loftus.
4. Loftus: “Geology also falsifies that at any point in human history there was a universal flood which covered the Earth.”
Here Loftus is critiquing the Genesis flood. Again, he is being just too simple as Christians have different views on the Genesis flood. Some see it as a universal flood covering the whole Earth while others view it as a localized flood in the Mesopotamian region.
5. Loftus: “Neurological evidence from strokes, seizures, and other brain malfunctions falsifies that human beings possess any immaterial mind or soul. If there is an immaterial mind, where is it located? As Sam Harris has pointed out, if God had created us with an immaterial mind, then there is no reason to expect that he would have also created a brain for us.”
No such thing.
If one thinks of the brain as an instrument which the mind uses to interact with the material world then seizures and strokes etc. do not prove at all that there is no non-material part to the mind. Just because we don’t know why God chose to use the brain as an intermediary between the physical world and the immaterial mind does not mean that he didn’t.
The question also seems to not make sense: “If there is an immaterial mind, where is it located?” How would anyone go about locating an immaterial reality? And since we are embodied beings it would make sense that God would create a brain for us. Joshua Steiner concludes:
“Why is it the case that an immaterial mind makes the physical brain unnecessary? It simply means that the physical brain is not the locus of the human, but simply the medium through which we can think and process information. The brain is what allows the mind to be conscious. Or so it appears to me. But this doesn’t make either the immaterial or the material aspect of ourselves irrelevant” (12).
So, both of these arguments are non-sequiturs. They do not prove anything.
6. Loftus: “As the late Carl Sagan noted: “We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can give her 500 milligrams of tetracycline every twelve hours…. [T]he scientific treatments are hundreds or thousands of times more effective than the alternatives (like prayer). Even when the alternatives seem to work, we don’t actually know that they played any role.”
Here Carl Sagan, an astronomer who Loftus quotes, is putting prayer against medical science. This is just silly since one can both pray for and give medicine to a victim. Why does it have to be an either or decision? Why can’t it be both? It is true that some patients (as my GP had informed me when I interviewed her on medical miracles) take the spiritual route over the medical one, in other words, they choose to only pray, or get others to pray, for their condition to improve while at the same time refusing to take medication. Often they die as a result whereas other times they don’t. But, that should hardly put one off from praying for the sick and it further tells us that people ought to be sensible and take their prescribed medication.
Further, many studies have shown well documented healings in response to prayer (refer to point 4 in Part #6). So, I think a powerful argument can be given in support of utilizing both prayer & medical science in unison since both have been shown to work. However, prayer for healing is often unpredictable since many who receive prayer are not healed while others have extraordinary recoveries that defy naturalistic explanations. However, this would come down to the volition of God who ultimately decides who he wants to heal. So, we can’t argue that because God chooses to heal one person and not the other that it means prayer is ineffective.
7. Loftus: “Voltaire said: “Prayer and arsenic will kill a cow.”
I can hardly put words together to describe how offensive this statement is to sincere believers. Especially believers who live out their lives in service to others from all over the world.
Arsenic has been used to commit homicides in the most heinous of manners. When one is poisoned with arsenic (often as a result of a spouse wishing to get rid of their partner often for life insurance pay) their death is slow and agonizing. Arsenic is also undetectable since it looks like water & gives off no smell and so forth, so doctors struggle to find the source as to why someone is retching up blood, going through intense dehydration, and nausea. That Loftus would agree with Voltaire that prayer is as harmful and analogous to this is shocking. It’s also odd that other atheists, such as Matthew Paris, actually see the opposite of what Loftus does. In fact, after visiting Africa, Paris writes that “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God” (9). His report is well worth the read. Even the atheist John Steinrucken believes that it is Christianity that provides “a moral compass to the great majority” (10) and with prayer being a corollary of that.
So, we needn’t take what Loftus says here seriously at all. It’s probably comments like these that show people “that what the New Atheists have created is a hate movement” (11). I’d argue that that would aptly describe Loftus.
To be continued…
1. Victor Weisskopf quoted in: The World of Physics (1987). p. 300, 317.
2. Browne, M. 1978. Clues to the Universe’s Origin Expected. 1.
3. Lennox, J. On Genesis (5:23 – 5:32.). Available.
4. Kitchen, K. 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. p. 466.
5. Sheler, J. 1999. Is The Bible True? p. 78.
6. Kitchen, K. 2003. Ibid. p. 246.
7. Sommer, B. 2015. Biblical Criticism Hasn’t Negated the Exodus. Available.
8. Berman, J. 2015. Was There an Exodus? Available.
9. Paris, M. 2008. As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. Available.
10. Steinrucken, J. 2010. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.
11. Mader, E. 2015. Dealing with New Atheist Bigotry: Some Basic Steps. Available.
12. Steiner, J. Personal Correspondence (12/26/2015).