“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen F Roberts
For atheists, this is a very valid point of view. However, I asked around and couldn’t find a single atheist who had dismissed the gods of other religions – only the Christian god. In order not to have missed the boat, I endeavored to do a survey to find out what god(s) atheists were actually rejecting.
Well, the results are in, although some might argue perhaps that the sample size (124) was a bit small. In any case, here are the results. Out of 124 atheists that were in the survey, only three had rejected a god of a religion other than Christianity (or in addition to Christianity). However, those three had not rejected the gods of all religions. The only conclusion that I can draw from the survey is that the vast majority of atheists reject the Christian god without rejecting the gods of all religions, or even considering them for that matter.
An atheist website offered this explanation for the rejection of God: “I do not reject God, because I have no proof he exists or does not exist. Reason says there is no need for a God, but can’t utterly rule His existence out.” However, in my survey almost every respondent (atheist) said that they rejected only the Christian god. Why only the Christian god? Do they have a monopoly on God?
Back to Stephen Roberts and his quote (see above). Roberts posed the question to deists that they should first examine why they are rejecting the gods of other religions. Therefore, I think that it is only fair to ask atheists to do the same. After all, why do atheists seemingly reject God without examining the gods of religions other than Christianity? Can you truly be an atheist if you have only rejected the Christian god?
Therefore, I pose this question. Who is the real atheist?
“I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist.”
– Albert Camus
The New Scientist cover story (from 2009) on why Darwin was wrong about the Tree of Life produced a firestorm of controversy, with arguments on both sides. I’m not a scientist so I have only one criteria to evaluate such scientific theories: Does it pass the smell test? So, let’s try and break it down.
According to a BBC website, Charles Darwin showed how all life is connected with his publication of Origin of the Species. That connection is generally referred to as the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life (from that same website) shows that early animal life started with insects and worms and evolved to sea life, with the earliest forms being jellyfish and starfish. Then the fishes crawled out of the sea and became amphibians (i.e. frogs and toads). The amphibians gave birth to mammals, everything from the hippo to the giraffe to lions…and eventually humans who for the most part came near the end of the evolutionary chain.
So, humans, as well as nearly every other animal life form, evolved indirectly from worms and insects. Well, for me, that doesn’t pass the smell test right there. Besides, how did this all happen? That is, how did the worms and insects become fish and how did the amphibians give rise to mammals?
There is nothing on the Tree of Life to explain the transition from one species to another seemingly unrelated species (e.g. going from a frog to a giraffe and/or a lion). The Tree of Life just assumes that it happened. It’s what I call a “poof” moment (see my last post). That is, the frog just goes poof, and becomes a lion. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand those poof moments. Creationists will no doubt say that it was God and evolutionists will no doubt say that it was just some random cosmic accident (mutation).
As you may know, I’m quite happy being a consensus of one. Interestingly enough, though, I seem to have a lot of company with my take on this one. The real surprise is that one of the criticisms of the Tree of Life comes from someone who was an evolutionist himself. I’m talking about Stephen Jay Gould, the world-renown paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science. Gould said that, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”
Therein, lies the problem – fossils, or transitional fossils to be more precise. If evolutionary theory is correct, there had to have been a whole series of species which existed that got us all the way from the frog to the lion, especially since evolution is supposed to have happened gradually over a long period of time. However, after 150 years of intensive searching, there’s hardly any transitional fossils that have been found, as Gould has admitted.
In the end, all I can do is scratch my head at the Tree of Life drawing. It sort of reminds me of the food pyramid chart and how “milk does a body good.” I’d be a monkey’s uncle if I knew why milk should have gotten such great press. However, according to the Tree of Life, I have it backwards, as the monkey should (poof) be my uncle instead. Just poof.
Darwin’s drawing of the Tree of Life (from Origin of the Species) says very clearly at the top “I think”. So, Darwin merely hypothesized that his Tree of Life was possible… but only if his theory of evolution was correct.
“For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life. We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”
– Dr Eric Bapteste, evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University
One of the recurring themes in society today is the ongoing debate between creationists (with Christianity as their advocate) and evolutionists (with atheists as their advocate). The problem is that ideology, on both sides, is driving the discussion. As physicist David Bohm succinctly put it, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” As a result, the diatribe rages on with no realistic chance of ever ending. I, myself, fall somewhere in the middle since I believe that they are both wrong.
Interestingly enough, both sides do agree on one thing. They both believe that the universe was created out of nothing, and from nowhere! Christianity believes that God created the heavens and earth (in six days no less) because a holy book said so and the atheists believe that we all evolved from a bunch of dead chemicals. So this, then, is the ultimate question of creation. That is, exactly how do you create something out of nothing? For me, it just doesn’t pass the smell test. That is, the only thing that can be made out of nothing…is nothing. The fact that both sides use the very same absurd argument is an indication that there is no proof. Therefore, we’re dealing with blind ideology. In fact, we not only have one religion, we have two – belief in God and the belief in materialism.
The God Delusion
Religious texts are not truths. They are simply claims, the word of man about God if you will. After all, how could man possibly understand the Infinite with his finite mind? As the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.”
Religious texts only become “the truth” when a believer takes a leap of faith and adopts such a belief system. Then, and only then, texts are referred to (by the believer) as the Word of God. That’s not to say that God doesn’t exist, only that man’s idea of God is faith-based.
With respect to the Bible’s creation story, there is no evidence that the Garden of Eden was a real place, complete with talking snakes. The story was written by Jewish holy men who considered Genesis to be allegorical; even Origen, a prominent early Christian theologian, believed that to be the case. So, why then does Christianity insist on their Creation story being the Word of God? I hate being redundant and, since I’ve covered this topic in great detail in prior posts, I won’t burden you with having to read it again here as the explanation is quite lengthy.
So, let’s just say that Christianity has deluded itself with respect to its God. They worship an angry, vengeful and violent God (of the Old Testament). And why? Well, because they are joined at the hip with the Old Testament since they adopted it and its creation story. Is there really even one Christian out there who really wants to worship an angry, vengeful and violent God? Probably not, especially since almost all Christians consider God to be all-loving and good.
Bottom line: If there is a God and he created the universe (out of something), then Christianity doesn’t understand their own Creator. As Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” And so they did – invent him, that is.
The Hawking Delusion
Stephen Hawking says that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” The reverse, of course, is also true. That is if there is a God, then he would make science unnecessary. Since science can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, then science may (unbeknownst to everyone) already be somewhat irrelevant. After all, science wants us to believe that somehow the cosmos, with no intelligence behind it whatsoever, was able to (poof) materialize out of mindless nothingness. Just poof.
Atheists do not believe in God so they need an explanation as to how, and why, man came into existence without the help of a Creator. Thus, a belief in materialism. Geneticist Richard Lewontin, an atheist himself, explained just how that thought process works: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” As a result, ideology, not science, rules the day.
As Lewontin said, materialism is absolute. So, the atheist having accepted materialism, will embrace evolution. The attraction of evolution, according to neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, an atheist himself, is that since evolution doesn’t require a blue print, it doesn’t require a blue print maker either. The end result is a worldview that life began, as physicist and Nobel laureate Arno Penzias noted, as the result of an absurdly improbable cosmic accident.
Bottom line: Science has deluded itself that it understands the cosmos, in direct opposition to what Einstein said that the human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. However, who needs proof when you have Stephen Hawking?
“The difference between science and philosophy is that the scientist learns more and more about less and less until she knows everything about nothing, whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”
– Dorion Sagan
Life is somewhat a question of time. That is, between birth and death all you have is time. It’s such a mysterious and elusive thing that no one seems to know exactly what to make of it.
Nevertheless, almost everyone seems to have weighed in on the subject. In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant described space and time as a priori notions that allow us to experience the world around us. Then, Einstein came along with his theory of relativity and said that space and time (space-time) were mathematical constructs. So, does time really exist? That’s the $64,000 question. Apparently, physicists aren’t sure. Simon Saunders, a philosopher of physics at the University of Oxford, had this to say about the subject, “The meaning of time has become terribly problematic in contemporary physics. The situation is so uncomfortable that by far the best thing to do is declare oneself an agnostic.”
In the field of cosmology, there is another factor apparently in play. In an article in Nature, two prominent researchers called out the scientific community for breaking away from science’s mandate of experimental confirmation in the development of new theories. This comes directly on the heels of exotic theories such as String Theory, the Multiverse and supersymmetry. The two researchers who wrote the article, George Ellis, professor emeritus of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Joe Silk, professor of physics at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics and at Johns Hopkins University, stated that “a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.”
Yes, falsifiable, just as science philosopher Sir Karl Popper stated in his groundbreaking work Conjectures and Refutations. Accordingly with respect to the Multiverse theory (for example), the additional universes of the multiverse would lie beyond man’s powers of observation, as they would be beyond space and time and, therefore, could never be directly investigated. So, a theory like the Multiverse Theory could only ever be, at best, an approximation of reality. At worst…well, let’s just say that it might make good science fiction.
As John Horgan discussed in his book, The End of Science, the conundrum for theoretical scientists is whether or not they can remain relevant. After all, there is a limit to knowledge as science attempts to push beyond what’s observable (beyond space and time). Theoretical science is almost by definition limited in that regard regardless of what scientists like Stephen Hawking might say. Quoting Stephen Hawking might make good press but it doesn’t necessarily make good science. For example, Hawking, in his book The Grand Design, said that, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” This is not a fact, but rather an unproven theory and, I would argue, tantamount to a declaration of faith (in an ideology). After all, Hawking has gone on record as saying that science makes God unnecessary.
So, from my perspective, scientific theory is a moving target and it’s only a matter of time before many of the current scientific theories get replaced with new ones. That’s why we have previously moved on from theories like the earth is flat and the sun revolves around the earth. Since some current scientific theories are incompatible with each other (e.g. the rules of general relativity seem incompatible with those of quantum physics), it’s only a matter of time before the next shoe falls, or as Adam Frank said in his book About Time, “In an era in which the search for quantum gravity has multiplied dimensions and the discovery of dark energy has sent cosmologists back to their blackboards, all the fundamentals seem up for grabs.”
Despite all of the research, time is still an enigma and that may not be changing any time soon. Great minds like Einstein and Planck concur that the fundamental laws of nature are beyond man’s ability to comprehend them. Despite that, scientists claim to understand the cosmos – that things called dark matter and dark energy make up most of the known universe. However, they have yet to find either. Perhaps, it has something to do with what Confucius once said, “The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.”
“What a life in science really teaches you is the vastness of our ignorance.”
– David Eagleman, neuroscientist
In a recent post, I mentioned that Richard Dawkins freely discussed the possibility that evolution may have been the result of an “intelligent designer.” I got some flak, understandably so perhaps, because Dawkins has repeatedly said that he doesn’t believe in Intelligent Design. Of course, what he discussed with Ben Stein calls into question how strongly be believes in that belief system. What follows is a transcript of the interview that he did with Ben Stein. So, you decide.
Stein: How did it (the universe) get created?
Dawkins: By a very slow process. We know the kind of event that it must have been. We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.
Stein: What was that?
Dawkins: It was the origin of the first self-replicating molecule.
Stein: How did it happen?
Dawkins: I told you. We don’t know.
Stein: So, you don’t have any idea how it started.
Dawkins: Nor does anyone.
Stein: What do think is the possibility that intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in evolution?
Dawkins: It could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe some civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed the form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility. I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence of that when you look at the details of our chemistry or molecular biology of some sort of designer. That designer could well be a higher intelligence than elsewhere in the universe. That higher intelligence would itself had to have come about by some inexplicable process. It couldn’t have just jumped into existence spontaneously.
The remainder of the interview dealt with questions about things like the existence of the gods of religion so I did not bother to detail it here, although you can watch the entire interview on YouTube if you so desire.
So let’s recap, what Dawkins said.
Dawkins on the origin of life: It comes from a self-replicating molecule. However, no one knows how it happened.
Comment: Nor can science even trace life back to a self-replicating molecule. So, if no one knows how it happened, then you can’t say with any confidence what the origin was. Ergo, the concept of a self-replicating molecule is based on an ideology. That is, as Dawkins said, “We know the sort of event that must have happened for the origin of life.” To be more precise, Dawkins knows the kind of event which is consistent with his own ideology. As Paul Feyerabend, a well-known philosopher of science, once said, “Thus science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit… it is inherently superior only for those who have already decided in favour of a certain ideology, or who have accepted it without having ever examined its advantages and its limits.”
Dawkins on an “intelligent designer”: An intriguing possibility.
Comment: So intriguing, in fact, that he laid out a whole scenario of how it could have happened.
The Dawkins scenario: Possibly due to a highly advanced extraterrestrial civilization which seeded life onto this planet.
Comment: Sound familiar? It should because it’s the Directed Panspermia Theory of Francis Crick.
Dawkins: “That designer could well be a higher intelligence than elsewhere in the universe.”
Comment: Dawkins admits that the origins of life (the first self-replicating molecule) are unknown but that it might have been caused by an extraterrestrial civilization. Bottom line – Dawkins admits that evolution is not a fact.
Dawkins: “…it’s possible that you might find evidence of that when you look at the details of our chemistry or molecular biology of some sort of designer.”
Comment: Yes, Dawkins used the dreaded “d” word (again).
So, perhaps there is a disconnect on what Dawkins has said and how it has been interpreted. After all, it was Dawkins who said at a recent TED conference that now he has proof that evolutionary theory is correct. The implication is that he must not have been certain in the past even though he said that he was. Based on the Stein interview, Dawkins may not “believe” in Intelligent Design but he certainly acknowledged the possibility of it, even referring to it as intriguing. After all, we’re talking about theories as to the origin of life. You may believe in one theory and yet acknowledge the possibility of other theories. The point is that, in this case, none of these theories have yet to be proven.
So, evolution is still just a theory, not a fact. Does that sway anyone to change their support of evolution? Probably not. After all, ideology is virtually unassailable. Interestingly enough, though, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, in his book Mind and Cosmos, does argue that the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false. Disclosures can sometimes come from the most unexpected places. Just ask Richard Dawkins.
Jim Gates, a theoretical physicist and a pioneer of supersymmetry, has found that scientific equations which describe the fundamental nature of the universe contain embedded computer codes. The same thing could be said for DNA, as Bill Gates readily admits. So, if DNA and the laws of nature contain computer codes, where’s the programmer?
“A scenario describing the genesis of life on earth by chance and natural causes which can be accepted on the basis of fact and not faith has not yet been written.”
– H. P. Yockey, physicist and information theorist