Monday, 17 November 2014

The fizzing of an astrophysicist

I heard a sad story recently about a young man who has become an atheist "because of science." He is now full of bluster and dripping with scorn about anyone so naive and brainless as to believe in God in this scientific age. This deserves a few comments.

First of all, for a scientist to deny the existence of God is to saw off the branch he is sitting on. If there is no God then all the thoughts we have are merely the product of physical / chemical reactions going on in our brains over which we have no control. Every single thought we think, action we perform and word we speak is physically determined if atheism is true. That means then that it cannot be rationally affirmed, indeed, it means there is no such thing as rationality. We are all just reacting. He hasn't become an atheist because he's weighed the evidence, thought it through and come to a conclusion. He isn't an atheist because he's smarter than anyone else. If atheism is true then he became an atheist because the particular collection of chemicals that fizz in his head reacted in such a way as to make him announce he doesn't believe in God. This is why it is still true that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1). It is a proposition which, if true, could never be rationally made. If one professes to believe in reason and rationality then they cannot consistently believe that the universe is the product of mindless forces and that the only reality is material reality, because matter can't think.

Secondly, he thinks because he knows about how the universe works that this means there is no God. This is astonishingly arrogant and immensely illogical. Leaving aside the fact that scientists actually know very little of all there is to know, how can studying the universe tell you that there is no God? Unless one believes in a God of the gaps, that is, plug God in to explain what we don't know, how can gathering information about creation tell you it wasn't created? It is like the illustration used by John Lennox of the Ford motorcar. How can studying the workings of the car ever lead to the conclusion that it was not designed and built? "Oh, I know all about how the car works, so there is no need to posit Henry Ford. It was all right believing in Henry Ford before we understood how the car worked." The universe is all of physical reality, no matter how much you investigate it, it will never prove God doesn't exist. In fact, the more it is studied the more it shows the necessity of God. The beginning of the universe and the fine tuning of the initial conditions both point very clearly to a Creator and Designer. It is a fact that the universe is not eternal in the past, when it comes then to talking about what caused the universe, the scientist is no more qualified than anyone else, because there is no physical reality to talk about. Whatever brought the universe into existence is something non-physical, yet personal and powerful. And to say that the universe just popped into existence out of nothing without a cause is to abandon reason to protect a paradigm.

Thirdly, his attitude betrays a belief that science is the only way of knowing anything, but of course that belief cannot be scientifically tested so it is self-refuting. He is ignoring all the other evidence of God in history, scripture, philosophy, experience, etc. etc.

He said to my friend that Christianity has no more going for it than Islam or Hinduism. This is just silly and shows that the young man is not interested in truth and reason at all. To say that the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ, the scriptural evidence for inspiration found in fulfilled prophecy and the uniqueness of the Gospel, the existential evidence of the transformation in the lives of millions through the Gospel, the multiplicity of testimonies to answered prayer and miraculous interventions etc. are on the level of evidence for Islam and Hinduism is disingenuous to say the least (see here).

He also said that morality is just societal norms being impressed upon us. He hasn't thought this through at all, because this means he just has to bite the bullet and say there is nothing that is actually evil, it just goes against the norms of a society, like wearing shoes in the house or burping at the table. But of course, he doesn't believe torturing a child is like burping at the table - he believes it is evil, and that is because he knows that morality is real and objective, not something society invents. Furthermore, it would mean that there is no such thing as an immoral society and there can be no such thing as moral reformers. If morality is societal then how can anyone stand up in a society and say, "This behaviour is wrong!" By his definition anything a society accepts is right! But then he went on a display of hopeless confusion when he condemned Christians for being against homosexuality! For pretty much the whole of human history homosexuality has gone against societal norms, yet he says Christians are wrong! Is he saying there is some objective moral obligation to be accepting and approving of homosexual behaviour? Where does he hang that sky hook? Perhaps alongside the place he hangs his sky hook of rationality and responsibility, because on his new worldview those things have no place.