"The choice we make among these three options as to the universe's origin is the most important choice in life. Everything else follows from it. It's the place where the search for the truth begins."
This is the most important choice in life, so go out and ask people how much they think on it. Then ask if what they do is based on their belief in the origin of the universe. Finally do a little research to see how science works. Colson manages to keep putting strings of sentences together that are so wrong it makes me pause and reread them several times.
So instead of going directly into why this choice is so important, Colson describes a personal anecdote. This story involves Colson, an unnamed atheist and Colson redefining terms in order to trick the unnamed atheist. Personally, I believe Colson has made this entire story up, much like Kent Hovind's story about him and the unnamed professor on a plane.
To go into the story, Colson starts off by telling the UA (unnamed atheist) that he (Colson) had never met an atheist before. Colson then completely redefines the word atheist to mean, "An atheist believes the existence of God can be disproved." This is why I believe the story is fake, the UA does not immediately respond, 'No you are incorrect and are trying to shift the burden of proof. Atheist simply means the lack of a belief in a god or gods.' Instead in Colson's fantasy world the UA responds by back peddling and claiming instead that he is agnostic. Colson then decides to redefine the word agnostic as "But an agnostic is one who says he doesn't think God can be known, and you can only be agnostic if you've tried to know Him and exhausted the search." Again the UA in Colson's story just stops talking to Colson (that part I can believe especially after Colson just told the guy what he supposed to believe). Personally I would have rebutted that definition also saying, 'Again you have changed the definition. Agnostic is a person that believes the ultimate truth value of God is unknowable. You do not have to continually search to come to this conclusion. We say Pi is an irrational number because it never repeats itself, but we have only gone so many decimal places in Pi, according to your definition we cannot call it irrational because we have yet to find an end or repetition. Again you have shifted the burden of proof. It is impossible to prove a universally negative. Instead it is up to the positive claimant, that would be you Chuck, to show evidence for your positive claim in God. Furthermore atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. One deals in belief and the other in knowledge. Your first description was more akin to a gnostic atheist or a strong atheist, you are completely ignoring an agnostic atheist or weak atheist.' Again this is why I believe this is a fictional story, or the UA was just trying to be polite at an "exclusive dinner party" for the governor, instead of being pushy and antagonistic in mixed company.
Colson does admit that this was just a "clever debating ploy" (clever is not the word I would use but it is not my ego he is trying to feed). He proceeds to create another straw man, this time about science (scarecrows beware when Chuck Colson comes to town), "it doesn't answer modern science, which has rendered belief in a personal God irrational." When did this happen? Possibly with the recent study of the brain when trying to decide what would God do, but this book was out way before that study. Please someone show me the peer reviewed scientific paper that renders a personal god irrational. Here all along I thought it was the irrational claims of the Bible that made the Christian God irrational (let's face it this is what Colson is on about, he doesn't care about any other versions of God, this is evident in his only 3 choices for the origin of the universe).
Next Colson tries his hand at philosophy and presuppositions. It is painfully obvious already that Colson has no idea of anything outside of fundamentalist Christianity. In a case of pseudo admittance of this, he quotes Alvin Plantinga. Colson claims that the statement 'God is' is a valid first presupposition. He "proves" this by pointing out that Plantinga makes the same presupposition (wow a Christian agrees to there being a God). He also claims that when Plantinga is questioned on this, he responds "whether they believe that other people have minds. Is this rational?" Now Colson gets tricky and replaces naturalism with solipsism. "But Platinga points out that individuals who call themselves solipsists each believe that they alone have a mind." Naturalism does not make this claim. This is the logical fallacy of equivocation. Naturalism would point out that we can take an MRI of the person and see a picture of their brain, so where is the picture of God? What is actually happening here is that Colson is mixing Plantinga's arguments. Plantinga has an argument against Naturalism. It is basically and argument from personal incredulity. He doesn't understand how a reliable cognitive brain could come about through evolution, therefore God did it. Yes, there is a little more to it than that, but that is the gist of it. You can read all about it here.
Colson's next evidence of the existence of God is intelligent design. He claims that the universe was intelligently designed, citing the structure of human cells and DNA. He even trots out the Bill Gates quote of DNA being more complicated than any software ever written. Bill Gates is not a biologist, nor has he ever studied biology. What Bill Gates says about DNA means absolutely nothing. This is an argument from authority. If DNA is a program, it is loaded with unnecessary code, something that no intelligent agent would ever put into their programs. Also, the most advance computer programs are not written by a single person. Several programmers write out different parts which are put together by other programmers. It would seem that calling DNA a program favors polytheism over monotheism. Of course the argument against that is that God is all knowing so he could do it himself, which leads me back to junk DNA.
Colson then quickly jumps to the Strong Anthropic Principle. Which is easily defeated by pointing out that the major assumption is that life can only evolve as it did on Earth. This assumption has been called "carbon chauvinism" in recent years. Victor J. Stenger has also shown that these so called "just right for life" factors, can be varied well outside their current just right state and still produce the basics for life. Using a program he created called "MonkeyGod", Victor simulated multiple universes by varying factors claimed to be "just right" for human life according to the SAP (strong anthropic principle). Not all of the universes survived or could contain the basics for life, but several did. This utterly defeats the SAP. Colson still tries to defend the SAP by quoting and unnamed scientist:
"It is as if, one scientist wrote, 'the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.'"
He has an end note saying that the quote is from Freeman Dyson in his book Disturbing the Universe (Colson had the quote from the magazine Skeptical Inquirer in an article entitled "Intelligent Design and Phillip Johnson"). The quote is found on page 250 of that book and here it is in its entirety:
"It is true that we emerged in the universe by chance, but the idea of chance itself is only a cover for our ignorance. I do not feel like an alien in this universe. The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming."
In the book, Dyson goes on to lay out the case for SAP. Dyson is an adopter of the theistic evolution idea. Unlike Colson who is a YEC (young earth creationist).
The next part of the chapter asks the question "Is God Is irrational?" Colson goes back to his make believe Roman world from the prologue, citing it as fact. This time he does give an end note for where he got this information. It comes from the book "Rise of Christianity" by Rodney Stark. Without having read the book I can only make so many comments on it. On the very cover of the book, Stark admits he is a sociologist and not a historian. I do know that Stark actually uses faith healing as an example of miracles going on in the church to this day. James Randi and the James Randi Educational Foundation would love to see examples of this. They have a million dollars on the line for any proof of miraculous healing and have had that money on the line since the 70's. No one has claimed it yet. This review of the Stark's book tells me enough about the book. It also tells me enough about Colson's fact checking, that it is close to if not at zero.
Colson next talks about a study in the early 1990's of the spread of evangelical and pentecostal Christianity in Roman Catholic South America. Except he leaves out the bit about the people being Catholic and implies they were pagans. So instead of this being about Christianity overcoming pagan society, which it is painted as, it is more like a revival of Christianity among Christians. Colson says this is meeting the "criteria of secular social scientists as to what constitutes a rational choice." Of course again he does not mention the scientist but has an end note. The secular scientist is Rodney Stark, who is anything but secular.
Colson then tries to prove that God is not wish fulfillment by quoting the Bible.
So his logic follows like this:
The Bible says we are born with an innate sense of God.
Some scientists, that are not named nor end noted, are claimed to be studying this idea looking for a "God gene" (follow the link, it is one scientist and his study has not been replicated or published in a peer reviewed journal).
Because of these two factors and the fact that he (Colson) cannot come up with a way (argument from personal incredulity) for the straw man of evolution he created to do this, then God exists and the bible is right.
Colson then tries to take on Dawkins' book "The God Delusion". Claiming Dawkins called YHWH psychotic. Here is the exact quote: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." That is a bit more than just psychotic and Dawkins can point to scripture to prove every description he gave. If a human did what YHWH was claimed to have done in the Old Testament, no one would hesitate to call them a monster. Colson continues this Quixote quest against Dawkins with the ever popular quote mine.
"This is how Dawkins explains that belief in God is not rational: 'Any God capable of designing a universe, carefully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be supremely complex and improbable entity that needs an even bigger explanation than the one He is supposed to provide.' 'Thus,' Dawkins says, 'He's ruled out by the laws of probability.' Dawkins is saying God can't be God because He is beyond our comprehension."
Wrong. First notice the break in the two quotes. It is because these two quotes from "The God Delusion" are not even close to each other in the book. The first is a response to the SAP argument, pointing out that one would have to explain how such a complex God that could do these things could come into existence. It is found on page 176 of "The God Delusion". The second quote is found on page 68. This is the full quote:
"The deist God, often associated with the Founding Fathers, is certainly an improvement over the monster of the Bible. Unfortunately it is scarcely more likely that he exists, or ever did. In any of its forms the God Hypothesis is unnecessary. The God Hypothesis is also very close to being ruled out by the laws of probability."
Colson is a liar for Jesus. A person who thinks the ends justify the means. He has bankrupted his own position of moral superiority that he tries to cash in on at the end of this chapter. Colson is just another televangelist out for the money of the sheep. The only thing he learned from his time in prison, over his part in the Watergate scandal, is how to steal from people legally.
Colson ends his proofs of God with Pascal's wager. There is so much wrong with Pascal's wager that I will just link to the Iron Chariots page on it.
He concludes the chapter with the claim, "If we live in an exclusively material world, human life - including mine and yours - is absolutely meaningless. No matter how intense our passions, how great our accomplishments, or what side of history we choose, all of this will turn to dust in a universe doomed to extinction." Yes, if you don't believe in God then you are a nihilist. Just because the universe has no purpose, does not mean you can have no purpose. This is yet another straw man. Colson goes on to claim that only God can give meaning to life and thus moral responsibility. That we are nothing without God. I will end this with the Atheist Eve cartoon by Tracie Harris: