Molecules in motion

molecules in motion (apologetics)
American astrophysicist Christian apologeticist Jason Lisle’s take on the “molecules in motion” logical fallacy argument, for the existence of god (Ѻ); the gist of which amounts to pointing out that things such as logic, morality, ethics, justice, etc., arising out of a blind random chance Epicurean universe of atoms and molecules moving about is an apparent contradiction, and therefore and absurd position.
In hmolscience, molecules in motion, similar to “molecules-to-man evolution” (Ken Ham, 1975), is a neo-modern Christian apologetics technique or ploy, commonly used to stump atheists, on questions about morality, meaning, truth, reason, or rationality, among others; the most-common version being “if we’re just molecules in motion, and there is no god, where do you get your morals, moral foundation, or sense of right and wrong from?”

In 1834, English chemist, physician, and natural theologian William Prout (1785-1850) in his Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, considered with Reference to Natural Theology, the eighth Bridgewater Treatise, a set of treatises focused on expounding on “the power, the wisdom and the kindness of god, as they are pronounced in the creation”, as bequeathed in the 1829 will and testament of Francis Henry, Count of Bridgewater, employed the term “molecules in motion” three times, in respect to trajectories of molecule, but not it seems in an apologetics sense. [8]

In 1926, William Wright, in his A Student’s Philosophy of Religion, in his section “The New Realism and God”, stated the following: [7]

“Naive realism is the view of the plain man, who supposes that objects exist independent of him, regardless of whether any one perceives them or in any way thinks of them. The apple exists, and is red, slightly sour, sweet, and solid, whether any mind in the universe takes notice of it or not. Scientific realism maintains that the primary qualities of matter exist independent of human minds; for it the apple of the plain man becomes atoms and molecules in motion, or electric charges. The new realists are not quite certain whether to side with the naive or the scientific realist; they would like to show, if possible, that both are in some sense right. Numbers, and all mathematical and logical principles, exist independent of minds, and of all events that go on in the world process: they subsist as eternal essences or entities. 7 plus 5 equals 12 whether any one knows it, or thinks of it, or not. The same is true of the higher numbers that no one yet has ever counted, and of the undiscovered fields of higher mathematics. Whether moral axioms also (like those of justice, benevolence and equity) subsist eternally, apart from minds, is a disputed point among the new realists themselves.”

In 1976, during the four-night debate between then-atheist Antony Flew and theist Thomas Warren, at North Texas State University, the term seems to have been employed by both parties in the debate; snippets of which are as follows: (Ѻ)

Molecules in motion (Warren-Flew)

In 1989, Austrian evolutionary epistemologist Franz Wuketitis, in his “Organisms, Vital Forces, and Machines: Classical Controversies and the Contemporary Discussion of Reductionism vs Holism”, ventured into what seems to be a Denis Diderot siding discussion on the subject of the possibility of reducing consciousness down to molecules in motion via physicochemical theories: (Ѻ)

“Perhaps appropriate translation principles will take us from the inanimate to consciousness, rather as appropriate principles take us from molecules in motion to temperature and pressure (in gas theory). Perhaps a physics and chemistry of the organism could be teleological?”

In 1998, American Christian apologist Phil Fernandes, in his No Other Gods: a Defense of Biblical Christianity, seems to have coined the apologetics version of the term, as follows: [1]

Morality also exists in the universe, for without morality, there would be no such thing as right and wrong. However, the moral judgments we make show that we do believe there are such things as right and wrong. Still, nature is non-moral. No one holds a rock morally responsible for tripping him [see: Alexander Pope, "should gravity cease when I go by?"]. There is no way that mere ‘molecules in motion’ could produce moral values. Since nature is non-moral but morality exists in the universe, the cause of the universe must be a moral being.”
— Phil Fernandes (1998), No Other Gods (pg. 76)

“If atheism is true, then man is mere molecules in motion. He has no greater value than animals. In fact, human life would be no more sacred than the existence of a rock. Yet, we act as if human life has more value than the life of animals or the existence of rocks. If the material universe is all there is, then man is just a material part of the universe. There seems to be no basis from which to argue for human rights or the sanctity of human life.”
— Phil Fernandes (1998), No Other Gods (pg. 83)

“From molecules in motion will never come moral values or the laws of logic. From a mound of dirt, a single thought will never be produced—no matter how much time is given. If no god exists and all we are is molecules in motion, from whence come human rights? If an innocent child is merely a random collection of atoms, can we really say that it is wrong to crush him? If there is no life after death and all we face is everlasting extinction, can this life really have meaning? What counsel can an atheist offer a suffering friend on his deathbed? Can we climb above despair if all we face is extinction? When the universe dies, all will die with it. If atheism is true, then human experience is a cruel joke. And, if life is a cruel joke, then why even bother to go on living?”
— Phil Fernandes (1998), No Other Gods (pg. 86)

Fernandes went on to argue that although he can't prove the existence of god, the theistic model makes more sense to him than the molecules in motion atheist view.

In 2009, Fernandes, in his The Atheist Delusion, employed the term “molecules in motion” six times, the above three quotes repeated verbatim, plus three new versions addressed to the new atheists and one in support of the Peter Singer animal rights activists. [2]

In 2012, and in 2015 (archive re-post), American deconversion atheist and Christian apologetics analyzer Bob Seidensticker blogged on the topic “Are We Just Molecules in Motion?”, oft-employed by apologeticists, wherein he employs a combination of Heisenberg indeterminism, e.g. “quarks arenotlike billiard balls”, plus emergent properties, e.g. “wetness isn’t a property of a water molecule; it emerges”, arguments, i.e. standard ontic opening apologetics, to conclude that from an atheist’s point of view, or at least in his atheism view, that: [6]

“Heisenberg states that there is unavoidable randomness at the quantum level, and things are not deterministic. Naturalists agree that a deterministic, molecules-in-motion worldview doesn’t work. Consciousness, morality, and other complex human traits don’t follow directly from fundamental quantum laws, but they are examples ofemergent phenomena.”

This patch argument to counter valid argument provoked 140+ comments in the original post and 80+ comments in the repost.

Whatever the case, theist J.P. Moreland correctly debunked all of Seidensticker’s atheist ontic opening apologetics rebuttals in 2003 as but non-scientific spooky panpsychism that’s closer to theism than atheism (see: Moreland-Strobel dialogue).

The following are examples where the term began to be employed by apologeticists in public debate:

“Christopher is somebody who is very concerned about human freedom as I am, but again, if we are just molecules in motion, how do we have human freedom? William Provine from Cornell, he’s a materialist, a Darwinist, he points out that we don’t have any human freedom if all we are is molecules in motion. Now, Christopher ought not scold anybody for being a snake-handling, Bible-thumping, funny mentalist preacher because according to his own world view, that person is that way because these are just chemicals going on in his brain. Neither could you say that Hitler had done anything wrong if it’s just chemicals going on in his brain. I mean, what is the murder molecule? How much does justice weigh? These are questions that have no answer in a materialistic world view, but that is Christopher’s world view.”
Frank Turek (2008), query to Christopher Hitchens [4]

“Alright. Let me ask the question another way. This is my last question. If god does not exist why do all people have a fixed moral obligation to love and not murder? How do molecules in motion have any authority to tell you how to behave? When you do something wrong, whose standard are you breaking, who are you displeasing? The carbon atom? The benzene molecule? Who?”
Frank Turek (2008), query to Christopher Hitchens [4]

“In a world where there is no god, where you and are just molecules in motion, why am I obligated to be rational?”
— Dustin Segers (2012), Reason Rally debate (Ѻ), comment to atheist college student (age 19) Adam Johnson (with glasses), Washington, D.C., Mar 24

The following are other related quotes:

Carl Sagan when to his grave ‘viewing the whole universe is nothing more than molecules in motion’.”
— Ravi Zacharias (2008), End of Reason [3]

“The human species is but one of many. Viewed from a sort of universal microscope, we appear as but a vast collection of molecules in motion. In our current state we are firmly attached to an earthly substrate, feeding off the energy gradient of the sun. The fate of our chemical species is undeniably tied to the affinities and energies of interaction required to maintain our evolving earth ecosystem. We live in a closed system. In order to understand the nature of things, we must learn more about both our reactions and our products.”
Jeff Tuhtan (2012), PhD dissertation: “A Modeling Approach for Alpine Rivers Impacted by Hydropeaking Including the Second Law Inequality” [5]

1. Fernandes, Phil. (1998). No Other Gods: a Defense of Biblical Christianity (molecules in motion, 3+ pgs). Publisher.
2. Fernandes, Phil. (2009). The Atheist Delusion (molecules in motion, 6+ pgs). Xulon Press.
3. (a) Zacharias, Ravi. (2008). End of Reason (pg. 34). Zondervan.
(b) Waldie, Lance. (2012). A Christian Apologetic for Christian Apologetics (pg. 116). LuLu.
4. Hitchens, Christopher, Turek, Frank. (2008). “Hitchens vs Turek, Debate: Does God Exist?” (2:11:51-hrs) (full:Ѻ)(txt)(clips:Ѻ), Virginia Commonwealth University, Sep 8.
5. Tuhtan, Jeff. (2012). “A Modeling Approach for Alpine Rivers Impacted by Hydropeaking Including the Second Law Inequality” (pdf) (pg. 1), PhD dissertation, Stuttgart University, Germany.
6. (a) Seidensticker, Bob. (2015). “Are We Just Molecules in Motion?” | Archive re-post (Ѻ), Cross Examined,, Nov 12.
(b) Seidensticker, Bob. (2015). “Are We Just Molecules in Motion?” | Archive re-post (Ѻ), Cross Examined,, Jul 20.
7. Wright, William K. (1926). A Student’s Philosophy of Religion (pgs. 358-59). MacMillan Co.
8. (a) Prout, William. (1834). Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, considered with Reference to Natural Theology (Ѻ); 8th Bridgewater Treatise (Ѻ). Publisher.
(b) William Prout – Wikipedia.

Further reading
● Seidensticker, Bob. (2015). “Are We Just Molecules in Motion?” (Ѻ), Cross Examined,, Jul 20.

External links
Molecules in motion (Christian apologetics group) – Facebook.

TDics icon ns

More pages