In my debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens... he raised a point that I did not know how to answer... Hitchens' argument bothered me.
Here's what Hitchens said. Homo sapiens has been on the planet for a long time, let's say 100,000 years. Apparently for 95,000 years God sat idly by, watching and perhaps enjoying man's horrible condition. After all, cave-man's plight was a miserable one: infant mortality, brutal massacres, horrible toothaches, and an early death. Evidently God didn't really care.
Then, a few thousand years ago, God said, "It's time to get involved." Even so God did not intervene in one of the civilized parts of the world. He didn't bother with China or Egypt or India. Rather, he decided to get his message to a group of nomadic people in the middle of nowhere. It took another thousand years or more for this message to get to places like India and China.
Here is the thrust of Hitchens' point: God seems to have been napping for 98 percent of human history, finally getting his act together only for the most recent 2 percent? What kind of a bizarre God acts like this?
[Erik] Kreps noters [sic] that it is not the number of years but the levels of human population that are the issue here. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever been born is approximately 105 billion. Of this number, about 2 percent were born in the 100,000 years before Christ came to earth.
"So in a sense," Kreps notes, "God's timing couldn't have been more perfect. If He'd come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be? But He showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world's population, so even though 98 percent of humanity's timeline had passed, only 2 percent of humanity had previously been born, so 98 percent of us have walked the earth since the Redemption."*********************
Suddenly savage man gives way to historical man. Suddenly the naked ape gets his act together. We see civilizations sprouting in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and elsewhere. Suddenly there are wheels and agriculture and art and culture. Soon we have dramatic plays and philosophy and an explosion of inventions and novel forms of government and social organization.
So how did Homo sapiens, heretofore such a slacker, suddenly get so smart? Scholars have made strenuous efforts to account for this but no one has offered a persuasive account. If we compare man's trajectory on earth to an airplane, we see a long, long stretch of the airplane faltering on the ground, and then suddenly, a few thousand years ago, takeoff!
Well, there is one obvious way to account for this historical miracle. It seems as if some transcendent being or force reached down and breathed some kind of a spirit or soul into man, because after accomplishing virtually nothing for 98 percent of our existence, we have in the past 2 percent of human history produced everything from the pyramids to Proust, from Socrates to computer software.
So paradoxically Hitchens' argument becomes a boomerang. Hitchens has raised a problem that atheism cannot easily explain and one that seems better accounted for by biblical account of creation.
Excuse me? If atheism cannot easily explain something - man's recent progress - then the Bible easily explains it? That is a convincing answer? Perhaps for a Christian who reasons in circles, not for an atheist, though. The simplicity of "God caused it" is not a persuasive account, just an easy, imaginary answer.
Actually, D'Souza does not answer Hitchens question, but does answer a question that Hitchens did not ask.The question was not, why was there no progress for so long in mankind's span on earth? That, D'Souza answered. Nor was it, what happened when and after God finally intervened? D'Souza answered that also. The question, however, was why did God wait so long to intervene in man's life on earth and only in ancient Israel? That, D'Souza has not offered any answer to. One can say at its best D'Souza's answer is a lame excuse for God's intervention when it was - that only a small fraction of men missed out on it, but in the larger picture it was for the good of the greater amount of men - whatever the reason was for it not happening sooner.
What D'Souza thinks is an answer is flawed, anyhow.
Hitchens often asks this question and uses the 100,000 year figure of man's existence as a minimum that anybody has to accept, based on the science. This excludes the science-rejecting Biblical literalists who claim the earth itself is only 5,000 or so years old. Hitchens actually accepts the science that man has been around for much, much longer than 100,000 years. So what happens to D'Souza and Kreps' arithmetic based on science that man has been around for 500,000 years, say? Then how do they explain God's timing?
If they can say God's timing was nearly "perfect," with two percent of all men missing out on it, can D'Souza also claim with consistency that an intelligent designer made the universe? If He made a universe of fine-tuned, irreducible complexity, that same intelligent designer's intervention in man's existence failed by two percent. Two percent should fall well outside the quality specifications tolerance of such a supremely intelligent designer.
Furthermore, D'Souza does not answer Hitchens as to why God allowed 1,000 years to pass before His Word spread across the earth after Its arrival.
Man suddenly developing knowledge is a "historical miracle"? If a miracle is a violation of natural law, how does the correct use of the human mind qualify as one? "Because after accomplishing virtually nothing for 98 percent of our existence, we have in the past 2 percent of human history produced everything from the pyramids to Proust, from Socrates to computer software." (Never mind the dearth of knowledge in subsequent religious societies.) D'Souza offers that non-answer to Hitchens' question of "what kind of a bizarre God acts like this?" If anything, he elaborates on it! By D'Souza's admission, 98% of human existence passed by on a primitive level before God intervenes with the gift of knowledge. (Wait - isn't there a story about God and a forbidden tree?)
What D'Souza's "answer" consists of is merely recasting Hitchens' very question as a statement, albeit in Christian terms: "it is a miracle according to the biblical account of creation," and he is satisfied that he refuted Hitchens.
D'Souza and Kreps think they nailed Hitchens: "God's timing couldn't have been more perfect. If He'd come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be? But He showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world's population." Besides the fact that biblical scholarship has proved that the records of God's relationship with man are indeed unreliable despite God's intention, why would an omnipotent, omniscient, intelligent designer allow His intervention into man's existence and its timing be dependent on man's circumstances? If He is responsible for the sudden surge in man's knowledge at this specific point in time, He could have made that happen sooner, like at the beginning of man's existence. Is that expecting too much from a fine-tuning, intelligent designer? Why would He do otherwise - which is what Hitchens' was asking!
Hitchens is not the one who threw a boomerang at himself, D'Souza.