Essentially, I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason.
I have several issues with this statement:
1. Nothing produces everything
Theists believe the same thing. After all, according to theists, nothing produced Ultimate Reality; it simply is
. The only difference here is that to an atheist, Ultimate Reality is simply "reality" - for all we know, it simply is
2. Non-life produces life
I don't see why this is particularly troubling. Life at its most basic is simply a complex set of biochemical processes.
3. Randomness produces fine-tuning
I don't see why anyone would have to believe that. Personally, I don't believe in 'randomness' at all. Mathematical chaos isn't randomness. And fine-tuning is a subjective concept: any intelligent agents in a local domain of reality would look at the world around them and conclude that it was fine-tuned for them. That's pretty much what the Anthropic Principle is about. I'd ask Lee what form of observable universe he would expect to see if it wasn't
"fine-tuned" for humanity, but humanity existed in it anyway. To my mind, the entire concept of "fine-tuning", this abuse of the Anthropic Principle in order to make some kind of statement about Ultimate Reality, is question-begging nonsense, and misses the point.
4. Chaos produces information
"Information" is also a subjective concept. In order to declare that something contains "information", we have to assign meaning to it - and assignment of meaning requires an agent capable of assigning meaning. IOW, intelligent agents in reality. So far as we know, we're the only such agents who do that.
After all, what is "information"? Data with meaning. What is data? To us, pretty much everything: we take inputs via our senses from the world around us, and our brains attempt to make sense of it. That's where the meaning comes in. We assign meaning to patterns - we are pattern-matching agents
- and give labels to generalities of those patterns, such as "cat", "chair", "window".
So what is "information", but patterns in chaos
? Any student of mathematics knows that there are patterns in chaotic equations, so I fail to see what is so hard to believe about the notion that chaos produces patterns we interpret as "information". On the contrary, it's practically a given
that there would be such patterns, so long as we've a reason to interpret such patterns thus.
5. Unconsciousness produces consciousness
This is the one point where I would be tempted to give Lee an "out". Consciousness is an extremely puzzling mystery. However, we'd need to define what we meant by "consciousness" here: it may well be that consciousness - self-awareness - is simply an emergent property of a sufficiently complex brain. The bottom line is that we don't know. I am not, however, convinced that our ignorance is sufficient reason to leap to the conclusion that there's some Ultimate Reality "out there" bestowing consciousness upon intelligent agents.
6. Non-reason produces reason
The statement does not even compute. Intelligent agents with brains produced reason, as a tool for describing reality. It doesn't have any independent reality of its own. It is a concept - like the many other concepts we use to guide us to an understanding of the world around us.