An approach to challenging atheism that has been popularised recently by Ray Comfort, is to show the atheist a book and ask if they believe the book had an author. When the atheist says “Yes, obviously” they are pressed to agree that the book of life (DNA) must have had an author too.
One of my Facebook friends used this same argument recently. He said, “You would be stupid to suggest a book just appears without a writer but are willing to suggest the ‘book of life’ has no author.”
Is this a good argument? Is this atheism’s fatal flaw?
Arguing that a book could arise without a writer would indeed be stupid but comparing DNA with a book is equally stupid. It is a category error—it is treating two things with different properties as though they have the same properties.
This is why. If we look at a book and some DNA, we can ask how they come to be. We know how books come to be. We know the entire process very well, and it involves a writer.
We know how DNA changes between generations and it does not involve a DNA author. Changes to DNA are caused by such things as replication errors, chemical damage, radiation or even viruses. These causes have no intelligence and no plan. Of course, the changes they create may be beneficial, neutral or harmful, so is there a DNA proofreader, carefully checking whether to allow, or red-pen, each change? Not even that. Beneficial changes help an individual to reach reproductive age and to reproduce—which passes the new DNA on to future generations.
Books and DNA come about in completely different ways, one needs intelligent input, one does not. That is why treating them as the same process is an elementary category error. And that is why this argument is without merit.
This argument does not demonstrate a flaw in atheism—it is just more flawed thinking from theists.
AAI Vice President