I believe in science! Why do I need religion?!
I was amused to discover the following statement at an atheist website: …I do believe that is why science will eventually do away with the need for religion. Our available information grows at astounding rates, even the most out of touch person today knows more about the world and the universe than the most intelligent of people 1,000 years ago. Science will only continue to expand while religion will only continue to recede. The need and usefulness of religion, not to even mention credibility, is shrinking and baring wildly unusual events, it will continue on that progression. And if I were to encounter such a comment in the course of everyday conversation, my off-the-cuff reply would be, “What an interesting—but self-defeating—RELIGION you have!” Atheists are fond of depicting the God debate as a conflict between science and religion…and of declaring that they have scientific views, but no religious views. But this is nothing more than clever sleight-of-hand.
“The so-called warfare between science and religion,” writes the eminent historian Jacques Barzun, should actually “be seen as the warfare between two philosophies and perhaps two faiths.”
The God debate is a conflict of religion versus religion, or philosophy versus philosophy…not of science versus religion. “The so-called warfare between science and religion,” writes the eminent historian Jacques Barzun, should actually “be seen as the warfare between two philosophies and perhaps two faiths.” What sort of religious beliefs do atheists hold? A prominent religious belief within atheist thought is known by philosophers and psychologists as “scientism,” which holds that the only kind of knowledge that humans can have is scientific knowledge (I also discuss scientism in If the Evidence for God Is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced?). Philosopher Mikael Stenmark discusses the problems with this religious view in his book Scientism: Science, Ethics and Religion. As Stenmark points out, the key problem with the premise that “we can only know what science can tell us,” is that this very premise is something that science cannot tell us. It is a self-defeating premise:
“The problem is that the scientistic [not to be confused with “scientific”] belief that we can only know what science can tell us seems to be something that science cannot tell us. How can one set up a scientific experiment to demonstrate the truth of T1 [“T1” is Stenmark’s symbol for the premise, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge.”] What methods in, for instance, biology or physics are suitable for such a task? Well, hardly those methods that make it possible for scientists to discover and explain electrons, protons, genes, survival mechanisms and natural selection. Furthermore, it is not because the content of this belief is too small, too distant, or too far in the past for science to determine its truth-value (or probability). Rather it is that beliefs of this sort are not subject to scientific inquiry. We cannot come to know T1 by appeal to science alone. T1 is rather a view in the theory of knowledge and is, therefore, a piece of philosophy and not a piece of science. But if this is the case, then T1 is self-refuting. If T1 is true, then it is false. T1 falsifies itself.”
Regarding Stenmark’s above comments, just think about it: How could a statement such as, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge,” be verified scientifically? With a chemistry experiment utilizing a bunsen burner and test tubes? With a physics experiment utilizing a particle accelerator? Because the belief that, “The only kind of knowledge that we can have is scientific knowledge” CAN NEVER ITSELF BE SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE, it is a self-refuting belief. Or take the premise, “No belief can be accepted as true and rational unless it can be known by science or quantified and tested empirically.” How can that belief be known by science or quantified and tested empirically? It can’t, and therefore such a premise is self-refuting.
Einstein surely understood that scientific knowledge cannot be the only kind of knowledge, and that it must necessarily interact with religious/philosophical reasoning…which is why he said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Einstein surely understood that scientific knowledge cannot be the only kind of knowledge, and that it must necessarily interact with religious/philosophical reasoning…which is why he said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” So did many other crucial contributors to modern science…such as Max Planck (the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum theory), which is why he said, “There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other.” Stenmark continues by citing Oxford University philosopher Richard Swinburne:
“For an ultimate explanation we need an explanation at the highest level of why those laws rather than any other one operated. The laws of evolution are no doubt consequences of laws of chemistry governing the organic matter of which animals are made. And the laws of chemistry hold because fundamental laws of physics hold. But why just those fundamental laws of physics rather than any others? If the laws of physics did not have the consequence that some chemical arrangement would give rise to life, or that there would be random variations by offspring from characteristics of parents, and so on, there would be no evolution by natural selection. So, even given that there are laws of nature (i.e. that material objects have the same powers and liabilities as each other), why just those laws?”
“But since evolutionary theory does not provide us with an answer to this kind of question, the mystery of our existence is not yet solved and evolution is not a way to get complex designs out of nothing. Both naturalism and theism, on the other hand, provide answers to this question. Therefore, theism does not compete with science, but it does compete with naturalism. Naturalists maintain that it is merely an accident that these laws happen to operate and that the primitive soup of matter had the particular constitution it had. The best ultimate explanation [according to naturalism] of the constitution and general order of nature is that it is a work of pure chance.”
Here, Stenmark forces to the surface one of the core religious/philosophical beliefs that underlies the atheist worldview: Natural or physical laws can be cited as the final explanation for things. But the problem with such a view is immediately clear: Where did these laws come from, and why these laws instead of entirely different laws? Theism and naturalism are competing philosophical/religious explanations for why these laws exist and why they are as they are. Naturalism (in which atheism is rooted) answers the two above questions with “they just are”. In other words, naturalism does not explain why a universe which does not have an intelligent source would be imbued with physical laws. If the universe is not the product of intelligence, what compels matter to so consistently follow physical laws (or “regularities,” if you prefer)?
How can mindless matter be compelled to do anything, much less follow a law? Theism, conversely, answers the above questions by stating that laws are the result of a lawgiver (God). Moreover, theism asserts that matter is nothing more than a manifestation of consciousness (God’s consciousness), which is the view most compatible with modern physics, as I demonstrate in God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism. Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, summarized the theistic explanation of why matter follows physical laws succinctly when he said: “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.” [italics added] Or as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it: “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”
The questions of where natural and physical laws come from, and why they exist as they do, are not scientific questions. Rather they are ontological questions.
The questions of where natural and physical laws come from, and why they exist as they do, are not scientific questions. Rather they are ontological questions. The methods of science can assist in answering these questions, but are not equipped to ever answer such questions without the help of extra-scientific, and therefore philosophical/religious reasoning. But put aside for a moment the questions of where the laws of physics (or chemistry, thermodynamics, etc.) came from, and why they are as they are. Declaring that physical laws can cause or create things is a bizarre religious belief, not a scientific stance.
The rules of chess do not cause chess games to happen….personal agents (people) do. Nor do the rules of chess determine the outcome of chess games. Similarly, the laws of physics cannot cause anything physical to happen because they are descriptive and predictive, not creative or causative. The laws of physics describe and predict what will happen when one ball strikes another on a billiard table, but they certainly do not cause one ball to strike another. And they also certainly do not create billiard balls or tables. (Note: I also discuss this topic in Who Is Playing Make Believe? (Atheists or Theists)) Oxford University mathematician John Lennox critiques the reasoning of one of the most prominent members of the scientistic religion, the atheist physicist Stephen Hawking, in his book God and Stephen Hawking. Specifically, Lennox addresses Hawking’s contention that the universe was created by the laws of physics:
“A supernatural being or God is an agent who does something. In the case of the God of the Bible, he is a personal agent. Dismissing such an agent, Hawking ascribes creative power to physical law; but physical law is not an agent. Hawking is making a classic category mistake by confusing two entirely different kinds of entity: physical law and personal agency. The choice he sets before us is between false alternatives. He has confused two levels of explanation: agency and law. God is an explanation of the universe, but not the same type of explanation as that which is given by physics.”
“Suppose, to make matters clearer, we replace the universe by a jet engine and then are asked to explain it. Shall we account for it by mentioning the personal agency of its inventor, Sir Frank Whittle? Or shall we follow Hawking: dismiss personal agency, and explain the jet engine by saying that it arose naturally from physical law? It is clearly nonsensical to ask people to choose between Frank Whittle and science as an explanation for the jet engine. For it is not a question of either/or. It is self-evident that we need both levels of explanation in order to give a complete description.” “It is also obvious that the scientific explanation neither conflicts nor competes with the agent explanation: they complement one another. It is the same with explanations of the universe: God does not conflict or compete with the laws of physics as an explanation. God is actually the ground of all explanation, in the sense that he is the cause in the first place of there being a world for the laws of physics to describe.”
Atheists would have you believe that they can go from a scientific theory such as, “An apparently mindless (Darwinian) mechanism known as random mutation and natural selection is responsible for the diversification of life,” to a philosophical (and more specifically, ontological) conclusion such as, “There is no God,” without engaging in extra-scientific, and therefore philosophical/religious reasoning. But this is transparently false because “there is no God” is a philosophical/religious conclusion. And by declaring all of their reasoning to be “scientific,” some atheists are trying to conceal their philosophical/religious beliefs so that these beliefs are not subjected to logical scrutiny…precisely because their philosophical reasoning cannot withstand logical scrutiny.
Let us bring to the surface the philosophical/religious reasoning that leads from the above scientific theory, to the above ontological conclusion…so as to expose it to logical scrutiny:
1) An apparently mindless (Darwinian) mechanism known as random mutation and natural selection is responsible for the diversification of life from a common ancestor.
2) Because this mechanism for the diversification of life is apparently mindless, we can extrapolate mindlessness into the origin of life from non-living matter, even though non-living matter has neither genes to mutate nor reproductive offspring to naturally select. (Please read my posts titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism and Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God for a more in-depth exploration of this topic).
3) And because this mechanism for the diversification of life is apparently mindless, we can further extrapolate to a mindless source for this mechanism.
4) And because this mechanism is apparently mindless, we can still further extrapolate to a mindless source for the physical laws that make this mechanism work.
5) Because physical laws can create things and cause things to happen [or so says the religion of scientism], we do not need to cite an intelligent source for the universe.
6) Therefore, there is no need for such a being as God.
In case the reader is wondering if atheists are really capable of such extrapolation gone wild, consider the atheist biologist Richard Dawkins’ statement in his book The Blind Watchmaker that he “could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was published.” Apparently Dawkins believes that a scientific theory which discusses the diversification of life through random mutation and natural selection can be applied to everything…whether or not the mutation of genes and the natural selection of reproductive offspring are involved. Now that, folks, is a bizarre religion. Nancy Pearcey provides excellent commentary on this subject matter in her book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity:
“Most ordinary people hold an idealized image of science as impartial, unbiased empirical investigation that attends strictly to evidence. That’s the official definition found in the standard science textbook, bristling with objective- sounding words like observation and testing. The problem is that, in practice, science has been co-opted into the camp of the philosophical naturalists, so that it typically functions as little more than applied naturalism. How do we know that? Because the only theories regarded as acceptable are naturalistic ones. Consider these words by the well-known science popularizer Richard Dawkins: ‘Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory . . . we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.’ Why? Because it is naturalistic.
Here’s the same argument, flipped over. A Kansas State University professor published a letter in the prestigious journal Nature stating:” “‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.’ Pause for a moment and let that sink in: Even if there is no evidence in favor of Darwinism, and if all the evidence favors Intelligent Design, still we are not allowed to consider it in science. Clearly, the issue is not fundamentally a matter of evidence at all, but of a prior philosophical [or religious] commitment.”
“A few more examples drive the point home. During the Ohio controversy, one of the drafters of the controversial state guidelines wrote a letter to Physics Today, insisting that, in order to be considered at all, ‘the first criterion is that any scientific theory must be naturalistic.’ In other words, unless a theory is naturalistic, it will be ruled out before any consideration of its merits. The editor in chief of Scientific American then entered the fray, stating that ‘a central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism—it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms.’ But who says we have to accept naturalism as a ‘central tenet’ of science? As one professor I know retorted, ‘Who made up that rule? I don’t remember voting on it.’”
So, to anyone who says, “We must strive to keep religion out of science,” the only proper reply can be, “Too late… much of the scientific community is already using science as a promotional tool for a religion known as naturalism.” In conclusion, the statement “I have chosen science in favor of religion because science has a better track record for providing truth,” is every bit as meaningless and absurd as the statement, “I have chosen spending money in favor of obtaining money because spending money has a better track record of meeting my material needs than obtaining money.” Just as obtaining money and spending it are necessary parts of the economic process, obtaining data (through science), and then providing meaning to that data by interpreting it (through religion/philosophy), are necessary parts of the human knowledge building process. ————- In Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God, I bring to light the bizarre atheist religious beliefs surrounding the origin of life. These beliefs include, but are not limited to, intervention from space aliens and a piggyback ride on crystals. Return visitors to this website will note that I have brought this up several times before. Unfortunately, the temptation to bring it up yet again was overwhelming, and I was unable to resist.