Another Atheist Comes to Christ Because of Science

A 2009 display used by paleontologist Dr. Günter Bechly. It was meant to show that the weight of the scientific evidence supports NeoDarwinian Evolution. For Dr. Bechly, it ended up having the opposite effect! (Image taken from the video linked below.)

In 2009, one of the largest German events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, was headed up by Dr. Günter Bechly, a world-renowned paleontologist with an incredibly impressive list of original research published in the peer-reviewed literature. At the time, he was the curator of the Stuttgart Museum of Natural History, and he wanted to show, in no uncertain terms, that there is absolutely no scientific dispute about origins. As a result, one of the displays in his museum’s celebratory exhibit (shown above) was a scale with creationist and intelligent design resources on one side and Darwin’s book on the other. Darwin’s single book tipped the scale, indicating that the weight of the scientific evidence was in evolution’s favor.

There was only one small problem. Dr. Bechly had not actually investigated any of the resources that were on the “light” side of the scale. Oh sure, he had read other evolutionists’ views on those resources, but he had not actually investigated them himself. He decided to do so, and he was surprised by what he found. As he explains in the documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines:

…and what I recognized to my surprise is that the arguments I found in those books were totally different from what I heard either from colleagues or when you watch Youtube videos where the discussion is around intelligent design versus NeoDarwinian evolution. And I had the impression on one side that those people are mistreated – their position is misrepresented and on the other hand that these arguments are not really receiving an appropriate response. And they have merit.

He ended up being scientifically convinced that Intelligent Design is the better explanation for the amazing world he had been studying his entire career, and he made that decision public in 2015. Then he faced a firestorm.

His requests for new fossil material were blocked. He received an announcement that one of the most important positions in his research staff would not be refilled when the current employee retired. The large amber collection he was responsible for was moved from his office. He was told that he must resign from the German Research Foundation, which directs the allocation of certain research funds. He was told that he was a threat to the credibility of the museum and that he should quit. The museum then deleted his pages from their website, despite the fact that they said nothing about Intelligent Design. It then dismissed him as the head of a major exhibition that he had designed, despite that fact that he was the resident expert on the subject. Eventually, it became clear that he would no longer be allowed to do the research he wanted to do, so he resigned from the museum. He is now a Senior Fellow at The Center for Science & Culture, an Intelligent Design Think Tank.

In other words, the High Priests of Science marshaled The Inquisition against him. When a scientist of his caliber is convinced by the arguments of the Intelligent Design community, he must be silenced. After all, the official pronouncements from the Holy See of Science is that there is no debate on the validity of NeoDarwinian Evolution. An accomplished scientist who used to parrot that pronouncement and now says it isn’t true must be excommunicated. Otherwise, his heresy might spread!

Of course, the High Priests of Science are still left with a major problem. How can they rationalize the fact that someone who clearly understands evolution and was fully indoctrinated in their dogma could be convinced by “anti science” shysters like Intelligent Design “scientists.” Perhaps they played on his religious leanings? As Dr. Bechly explains, that’s not possible:

I’m coming from a family background which is totally secular, agnostic. [I] was not baptized, didn’t join any kind of religious education, never went to church, so I was completely irreligious. [I] was not even interested for most of my life in philosophical or metaphysical questions. I was interested in nature, in animals, and natural sciences.

Much of Dr. Bechly’s spiritual journey is similar to mine, even though I have always been interested in philosophy and metaphysics. He examined the data and ended up realizing that there had to be a Designer who fashioned the amazing world that we scientists study. He eventually came to realize that this Designer is the God of the Bible. That’s pretty much what happened to me.

While the High Priests of Science will try to censor any scientist who has the audacity to follow the data against their pronouncements, they cannot keep the truth hidden. Those with Dr. Günter Bechly’s intellectual integrity and courage will find it.

12 Comments

  1. cjl says:

    Thank you for maintaining this series. It is always encouraging to hear that God is having victories in the hearts of men!

  2. John D says:

    Thanks for posting this. There are a few YT videos in which Dr. Bechly speaks at length regarding his views and even some of the honest evidence he sees of evolution. I see him as a person of extreme honesty and forthrightness.

    The story itself is fascinating… Definitely a little bit of Saul in there.

  3. Alaska Nivanuatu says:

    I’m reminded of a quote by Chinese paleontologist Jun-Yuan Chen:

    “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”

    He said it to Jonathan Wells back in 1999; it’s quite probable that China has become just as scientifically dogmatic as America (or Germany) but it seems there is hope for intelligent design in China and other parts of Asia (and Brazil):

    https://evolutionnews.org/2017/06/in-china-we-can-criticize-darwin-continued/

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Back in 2001, I spoke at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. At that time, the university had a yearly lecture series where they brought in an advocate of an idea that went against the current academic consensus. I was invited to lecture on young-earth creationism. I told them in my first lecture that Barbados has more academic freedom than the U.S., because no state-run university in the U.S. could ever sponsor a young-earth creationist to do a lecture series advocating for young-earth creationism.

      In my experience, U.S. universities have a DISMAL record when it comes to academic freedom.

  4. A few years ago, I wrote an article titled, “I used to be an atheist just like you”. If you’re curious, search for it online. In short, I argue that no atheist like me (that is, well educated about the apologetics argument pro and con Christianity) ever becomes a Christian for intellectual (rather than emotional) reasons.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Thanks for your comment, Bob. I read your article (and it’s follow-up) and will have to disagree. I do think you run the risk of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy the way you set up your argument, and it can certainly be turned around. I could easily say that all the examples of Christians-turned-atheists that you give are also not “well-informed” Christians. In addition, I think it’s hard to change a person’s mind once he or she has listened to all the arguments and made a decision. However, I do think it happens. I have several examples, and many of them seem to have come to faith as a result of intellectual arguments. I am sure there are emotional reasons involved as well, since we are all emotional people. I assume that’s also true of Christians-turned-atheists.

      When it comes to worldview decisions, it is very difficult to disentangle intellectual and emotional motivations. However, I do think that for some converts from atheism to Christianity, the deciding factors are intellectual. That was certainly the case for me, and it seems to be the case for others, some of which I have discussed here.

      1. Jay: Thanks for the reply.

        “I do think you run the risk of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy the way you set up your argument”

        My argument has the weakness that I know of only a small number of conversions either way, and there could be a counterexample to my argument (which is: no one becomes a Christian (1) who is well informed on the arguments both pro- and con-Christianity and (2) who does so for intellectual rather than emotional reasons).

        But as my blog says, I take a “you will know them by their fruits” response.

        “I could easily say that all the examples of Christians-turned-atheists that you give are also not “well-informed” Christians.”

        Given the poor state of Christian education within Christians (to which I imagine you agree), I’d suspect that that’s true for most conversions!

        “I have several examples, and many of them seem to have come to faith as a result of intellectual arguments.”

        My challenge is this: if there was an atheist who (1) knew the arguments well on both sides who (2) converted for intellectual reasons, then he’d know why the dozens of arguments that I point to are all (or mostly) wrong. I know that if I became a Christian for intellectual reasons, I’d be very motivated to go back and revisit all those arguments and point out the flaws in my atheist interpretation of them.

        Where is this rebuttal? Not seeing it, I am assuming that no such convert to Christianity exists. If you want to encourage your atheist-turned-Christian examples to respond to the arguments on my blog, have at it. It’s the Cross Examined blog at Patheos.

        “When it comes to worldview decisions, it is very difficult to disentangle intellectual and emotional motivations. However, I do think that for some converts from atheism to Christianity, the deciding factors are intellectual.”

        They may be, though (as in the case of Antony Flew) that doesn’t mean that he actually understands the arguments.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          Once again, Bob, I will have to disagree. I have seen many atheist arguments, and they all have sound rebuttals. You may disagree with those rebuttals, of course, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sound. I know that in my case, I thought I had good rebuttals to the argument from design, but that’s just because I didn’t know much science. The more science I learned, the harder it was to believe the rebuttals, so I ended up changing my mind.

          I suspect that’s what happens in a lot of cases. The more you learn about a subject, the weaker some arguments become and the stronger other arguments become. The more educated I became, the weaker the atheist rebuttals became, and the stronger the theistic arguments became.

  5. “I have seen many atheist arguments, and they all have sound rebuttals. You may disagree with those rebuttals, of course, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sound.”

    This sidesteps my argument. Let me repeat it: if *I* became a Christian for intellectual reasons, the first thing I’d do is summarize all the errors in the arguments I made. I’ve never seen anyone do this. Sound rebuttals that I would agree with (because I would’ve written them)? I haven’t seen this.

    If you think you have compelling arguments, you’re welcome to come to my blog and browse for arguments. Pick the ones you think you’ve got the most compelling response to.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I am not sidestepping anything, Bob. I am just saying that good rebuttals to atheist arguments do exist, regardless of whether or not you want to accept them. For example, in your blog, you talk about divine “hiddeness” as the “most powerful argument against Christianity.” However, God is not hidden at all. Indeed, everyone (even atheists) contemplate His existence at some point in their lives. If something is hidden, how in the world can we even contemplate it? In addition, He has given us lots of evidence for his existence, such as the amazing design we see in nature.

      When I look at the world from a purely scientific point of view, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that God exists and is not hidden at all. I suspect that this is part of why Dr. Bechly is a Christian today. You obviously come to a different conclusion than me and Dr. Bechly when looking at the same evidence. Does that mean one of us is not “well informed.” Perhaps, but I would submit that it could very well be you. The more science I learn, the more evidence I see for God’s existence. That’s why I started believing in God. I didn’t want to believe. I was drug there by the evidence, kicking and screaming the entire way. So from where I sit, the more “well informed” I became, the more I saw that God is not hidden at all.

      1. “I am just saying that good rebuttals to atheist arguments do exist, regardless of whether or not you want to accept them.”

        And I disagree. So are we at an impasse? No, and that’s the approach that I take in the argument summarized in “I used to be an atheist just like you.” Take the atheists with roughly my knowledge of the apologetic arguments pro and con. There are perhaps millions. Now look at just the many thousands who like to write about it. If any of those gradually realized that all those arguments were wrong (that is, found intellectual arguments for Christianity), he would almost surely write about it.

        So where is this guy?

        “For example, in your blog, you talk about divine “hiddeness” as the “most powerful argument against Christianity.” However, God is not hidden at all.”

        I’d be happy to continue discussing particular arguments, but I’d rather do it at my blog. Replying to comments on yours difficult.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Bob. I don’t have any interest in continuing a discussion at your blog. I have enough to do. In answer to your question, “Where is this Guy?”, there are many. Some have written books, others have blogs, etc. There are many knowledgeable atheists who have become Christians. Here are just a few of their blogs and resources, starting with Dr. Bechly himself:

          Dr. Günter Bechly

          Dr. Holly Ordway

          Dr. Sarah Irving-Stonebraker

          J. Warner Wallace

          Guillaume Bignon

          Leah Libresco

          Dr. Patrick Briney

          Dr. Sarah Salviander

          Doug Ell

          Dr. Alister McGrath

          Etc., etc., etc.

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