Science needs Christianity to survive

Christians must realize that they need science in order to defeat atheism. But, what’s even more true is that science needs Christianity in order to survive. It has to be stated clearly that genuine and productive science cannot exist without Christianity.

The historical truth is that science was born of Christianity. All of the great pioneers in astronomy and physics were devout Christians, because modern science has been based from its beginning on uniquely Christian beliefs and faith. If Christianity had never existed, there would have been no science to lift humankind out of ignorance and barbarity.

Most atheists are not only ignorant of the true history of science; they make up their own history as in the totally false story of the alleged persecution of Galileo. Those few atheists who know and admit the truth about the origins of modern science would undoubtedly argue that science has outgrown its Christian roots. Richard Dawkins and other scientists-turned-professional-atheists argue that science has been liberated from Christianity, which is either a self-serving delusion or an outright lie. The one thing atheists are correct about is that Christianity has become a diminishing factor in science through the last few generations.

The loss of Christian guidance is distressing, because science cannot survive as a source of truth and useful knowledge without the preeminence of Christian values, beliefs, and faith. Individual humanists and other non-Christians can certainly do real science, but only in a Christian intellectual environment that inhibits the natural anti-scientific impulses of the human mind. Secular humanists see science as a human endeavor that must be in constant and unfailing service to humankind, which really means that science must be bent in service of humanist preconceptions of how the world should be.

True science can serve only one purpose — the search for truth. It is up to engineers, entrepreneurs, and others to use the results of science in ways that are beneficial to society. Scientists, however, can have only one guiding concern, and science is corrupted to the degree to which other concerns (wealth, reputation, and political power) motivate them. Christians as a group were never perfectly motivated by the desire for truth, but the Christian scientific community was effectively guided by that ambition. It is difficult for people who really believe that the scientific search for truth is an attempt to learn something about God to disappoint their God by allowing worldly concerns to get in the way of the search for divine truth.

The vitality and trustworthiness of science is in direct proportion to the Christian influence in a discipline and in inverse proportion to the influence of secular humanism. The following is a list of the major fields of sciences starting with those which have been most influenced by Christianity to those that have been least influenced:

  • Physics and astronomy
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Climatology
  • Social and behavioral studies

The above also serves as a list of scientific fields from the least corrupted by secular humanism to the most corrupted. It is ironic that humanists think of themselves as the great rational defenders of science, but in truth, the more influence secular humanism has in a discipline, the more it prevents real science from occurring.

Astronomy and astrophysics was for centuries the bastion of Christians trying to understand God through the study of His magnificent creation. Atheists supported astrophysics as long as its findings could be used to undermine Christian beliefs and faith. When the discovery of the big bang confirmed Christian scriptures and a new understanding of the exquisitely precise fine-tuning of our universe for intelligent life destroyed the atheists’ cherished principle of mediocracy, humanists abandoned genuine science and grabbed onto the quasi-scientific notion of the multiverse the way a drowning person clings to a life-preserver. Atheists will destroy astronomy and cosmology before they will accept any science that supports Christian beliefs and faith.

The corruption of science by secular humanism is far worse in biology, medicine, climatology, and the social and behavioral studies. Biology, climate science, and medicine have gone off the rails as secular humanists have infiltrated and appropriated them for humanist social and political purposes. The behavioral and social studies have been constant failures of science because humanist followers of Freud and Marx controlled them from the beginning.

Science can survive individual humanist scientists, but when a critical mass of humanism occurs in a discipline, all of the intellectual failings of the human race are let loose and the ancient barriers to knowledge that prevented science until the intellectual triumph of Christianity 400 years ago are once again raised. Humanism will always destroy everything it touches.

Articles will follow that demonstrate the corrupting humanist influence on science in biology, medicine, climatology, the social fields of study, and the study of individual human behavior.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the specific ‘scientific’ reason for my conversion to Christianity.

LC writes:

Thank you for making the story of your conversion to Christianity public.  I am a Christian apologist who is using your story as a discussion point in a meetup I am holding.  One of the atheists that is attending is asking what specific scientific reasons (not philosophical or theological) you found most compelling in your conversion.  The article mentions your work on deuterium abundances as well as your amazement that the universe is comprehensible.  Do you have any other scientific reasons that I could share with the group that you find compelling?

My conversion was a two-step process that took place over many years. I first went from atheism to theism, and then after a few years, I went from theism to Christianity. The former was completely unexpected; the latter was a very deliberate process.

You will have to explain to your atheist attendee that you cannot separate science from philosophy, so there was no ‘purely scientific’ reason for my conversion. What specifically led me to believe in God was the idea best expressed by Einstein when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

Through my research in cosmology, I got an overwhelming sense of a universe that is so rational that it’s as though it wanted to be understood. I had a specific question I was trying to answer with my research — how much of the universe is comprised of ordinary matter* — and it shocked me when I realized not only how answerable the question was, but that there was no reason it had to be this way. How is it even possible to have a rational universe without some kind of rational cause? I realized that by far the best explanation for the existence of the universe is that it was caused by a personal, rational, transcendent being of some kind. At that time, I called this personal cause “God,” but didn’t have any specific religious beliefs beyond God as the Creator.

Note that this is not a God of the gaps argument or an argument from incredulity, which is how atheists often try to spin it. It’s simply the most rational explanation, and I had no choice but to accept it on that basis. If you want to understand this explanation in greater depth, William Lane Craig has some good articles and videos on the philosophical argument that the cause of the universe has to be a personal being.

It was that realization that took me from atheism to theism. What took me from theism to Christianity was mostly Gerald Schroeder’s book, The Science of God, which I highly recommend. After reading the first four chapters in particular, I reasoned that the odds of Genesis not being divinely inspired were so low as to be effectively impossible. Once I realized that Genesis was, contra the odds, rather scientifically accurate for a thousands year-old document, I began investigating the rest of the Bible and specifically the evidence for the gospels. I came to the conclusion that the best explanation, given the evidence, is that the gospels were true, so I accepted Jesus on that basis.

* One of these days I’m going to write a post about the details of the research project and how it ultimately led to my conversion.

How (not) to argue with atheists

As a scientist who is Christian, I often get requests to help other Christians in their arguments with atheist friends and relatives. These requests are usually borne of desperation, because Christians often don’t know how to respond to scientific objections to Christian belief. However, enlisting the help of someone like me is almost always doomed to failure in these cases, and I’ll explain why.

Years ago, when I was a freshly-converted Christian, I got into a protracted argument with a militant atheist who was a retired engineer. For months, we went back and forth about the scientific validity of Genesis, about the reasonableness of miracles, about the historical evidence for Jesus. To my frustration, it went absolutely nowhere. I finally realized he wasn’t merely devoid of belief, as he claimed, but was deeply invested in the idea of the Bible being false. He’d read countless books purporting to debunk Christianity, which struck me as a bit odd for someone who insisted he simply lacked belief. He also got noticeably angry when talking about God, which, as I would gradually realize over many arguments, was a big tell. After months of arguing, I discovered the reason for his anger. His father and grandfather were bad men who had treated him very harshly when he was a young boy, and both died when he was still young. He recalled asking his Christian mother if his father and grandfather were going to heaven or hell. When she told him they were going to heaven and closed off all further discussion, he became angry and resentful. He never forgave God for failing to administer justice to his bad father and grandfather, and an atheist was born.

Many atheists have had similarly bad childhood experiences with religion, and became atheists when they were young. This is because children have a highly tuned sense of justice, and without a wise adult to help them put pain and disappointment into perspective, it can turn into anger and resentment toward God. Anything that is perceived as an injustice on the part of God — a failure to act on their behalf in a time of distress, a failure to punish someone for wrongdoing, or the failure to prevent a parent from abandoning them — is paid back with anger and denial. The scientific arguments against God are just cover for the anger, to give it an air of intellectualism.

The reason logical arguments don’t work against militant atheists is that you can’t logic someone out of an emotional belief.

My engineer acquaintance expressed his anger with God by actively rejecting anything to do with God and trying to convince others to do the same. That was the reason for the books debunking the Bible, the scientific arguments against God, and so on, in spite of his professed “mere lack of belief.” And that was the reason my rational arguments in favor of God and the Bible were ineffective with this man.

However, this is not true of all atheists. I was an atheist for many years, and my lack of belief wasn’t rooted in pain and anger, but in arrogance that was founded on childhood experiences. Growing up in a secular country with atheist parents, what little I observed of Christianity was from a great distance, it was extremely limited, and it was filtered through an adolescent mind. It left me thinking Christianity was silly and for the weak-minded. It took some maturing to humble my attitude, but mostly I came to believe in God by being exposed to evidence that Christianity was intellectually deep and consistent with what I observed in the world around me.

To be effective in an argument with an atheist, you have to first discern what forms the basis of his disbelief. Is it a casual sort of atheism that’s based on lack of convincing evidence? If so, present him with evidence. Is it an arrogant atheism based on preconceived but false ideas? If so, knock down the false ideas. If it’s an angry atheism based on a deep-rooted emotional experience, then you will not be able to convince him through even the most rational arguments and powerful evidence. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do with an angry atheist.

One of my colleagues is a converted Christian who says that in his angry atheist days, his favorite thing to do when arguing with Christians was to knock them off balance. He knew he couldn’t dissuade them from their beliefs with his arguments, so instead he’d try to get them to doubt just a little, knowing it would be a growing source of consternation to them. Christians can take a page from his book and likewise knock atheists off balance.

Most angry atheists like to assume a stance of intellectual superiority over Christians, so you can use that to knock them off balance. Present them with this list of Christians who are in science and tech and note how many of them are also Nobel laureates. Present them with this collection of quotes about God and religion by great scientific minds (not all of them Christian). The reaction will be to wave their hands and say that it just goes to show it’s possible to be smart and believe stupid things, but that’s okay. You will have planted the seed of doubt, and it will grow.

There are other ways to knock atheists off balance, but it requires some skill in rhetoric. Rhetoric is an argument that appeals to the emotions rather than to the intellect, and with most people it has far greater power to convince than rational arguments. This is why so much of politics and advertising is based on rhetoric. So, don’t bother with rational arguments when dealing with an angry atheist — rhetoric is what you should use. If you want to master it, start with Aristotle.

Remember, always respond to atheists in a way that addresses the real problem:

  • respond to lack of evidence with evidence
  • respond to false notions with truth
  • respond to anger and superiority by knocking off balance and with rhetoric, and let God take care of the rest.

 

They really are that weird

It won’t come as a surprise to a lot of you that, by their own admission, atheists tend to be neurologically atypical. This is based not only on their behavior, but on diagnostics like Asperger’s tests and other tests that demonstrate a lack of empathy. But if you need more evidence, here it is.

During an exchange on Twitter, someone questioned whether God is moral, because there is terrible suffering in the world for no obvious reason. I asked this guy to explain to those who suffer that they are going to be annihilated by Nature after this one crappy life. Because, that’s the reality if there is no God. This is how he responded:

“Sorry if you have a crappy life, but not everyone does.” And meanwhile Richard Dawkins and James Watson will enjoy their good lunch.

That’s their response to horrible suffering in the world, and it’s supposedly better than telling someone God allows suffering for reasons we don’t quite understand, but if you accept Jesus, you will have eternal joy with Him.

Why Rationalia is doomed to failure

Earlier this week, science popularizer Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed a virtual nation that sounds like a science-fetishists dream-come-true:

It provoked some mocking responses on Twitter, like this one

The idea is ripe for mockery, because, of all people, a scientist should understand what a subjective basis for policy this is.

As a scientist, I’m very much in favor of evidence and reason; but to base an entire nation’s policy on the weight of evidence is ludicrous, for one simple reason. Has our knowledge of the world stayed the same in the last 500 years? the last 100 years? the last 5 years? the last six months? The last six minutes? The answer, of course, is no. The weight of evidence is constantly changing. There have been so many major revolutions in science and philosophy based on the current weight of evidence that our view of the world has been upended more times than you can probably count. Ironically, to base your policy only on the weight of evidence means that your policy is completely subjective, not objective.

Also, who decides how to interpret the evidence? Interpretation is subject to limitations, like current technology, limited human perception, and human emotions. This is why bad theories persist for so long in spite of evidence to the contrary, and why there are alternate theories for just about everything. And even when there’s consensus, that’s hardly a guarantee that the evidence won’t support an entirely different view in the future. Remember, there was a time when most people thought the Sun went around the Earth and that there were no such things as germs.

But for the sake of argument, let’s accept the premise of Rationalia and apply its sole law of the land to judge whether Rationalia would be a place in which anyone would want to live. We don’t need to imagine it, because there have already been at least two major historical movements based on reason and evidence — the French Revolution and communism. The first devolved into an orgy of violence and produced the exact opposite of what it intended, and the second led to misery and genocide on a scale never before seen on earth before it ultimately collapsed under the sheer weight of its opposition to reality. The weight of evidence says that any nation whose policy is based solely on the weight of evidence will be an unmitigated disaster.

Don’t misunderstand me. The point here is not to reject evidence and reason — evidence and reason are important and have their place in any decision-making process — but they cannot be the sole arbiters of policy.

[This isn’t the post I alluded to yesterday. That one probably won’t be posted until next week. -Ed.]

A response to a critic

A friend recently sent me a critique of my testimony by someone named James of “Reasonably Faithless.” After I read James’ response to my testimony about how I made the journey from hostile atheism to a belief in Jesus, I was at first inclined to ignore it. Christians should generally resist the temptation to allow themselves to be sucked into the black hole of atheist discourse by feeling the need to respond directly to every attack on Christian belief. However, I think readers of this blog can benefit from what follows.

As I read James’ critique of my testimony, I marveled at how much misrepresentation, hypocrisy, nit-picking, taking things out of context, incoherent philosophy, and false science he packed into a few paragraphs. If you’re ever faced with such a response, you may feel the temptation to respond to each and every point, but I’m here to tell you that’s a waste of time. Instead, focus your efforts on helping other Christians withstand such assaults on reasonable belief.

To that end, there are two criticisms of my testimony, one logical and the other scientific, that can serve as useful exercises in how to refute atheist nonsense masquerading as legitimate criticism, logical thinking, and genuine science.

First, the logical argument James raises in his concern about the pain of human existence:

She also reveals some extremely offensive views about suffering:  essentially, people are “made to suffer for the bad things [they’ve] done”, and there is always “a reason for suffering”.  This seems especially insensitive to the people who have lived a life of terrible suffering merely because of the place and/or time of their birth, and who never experience a silver lining of any kind.

The basic atheist argument about the human condition is that all the pain people experience in this world is proof that there cannot be a God, because a loving God would not allow people to experience so much suffering. In the secular humanist protests against the unfairness of pain you can hear the voices of children furious at their parents for imposing consequences for bad behavior. C. S. Lewis answers this as well as anyone can in The Problem of Pain. James demonstrates his foolishness when he says that it is “extremely offensive” to point out the obvious truth Lewis demonstrated in his book about human suffering, which is that most of the pain people experience in life is the result of the bad choices they freely make.

James, however, makes one claim that deserves serious consideration — some people experience terrible suffering simply because of the place or time of their birth. There is some truth to this; a significant amount of pain that some people experience cannot be easily explained as the consequence of their actions. But, even when atheists manage to raise a valid point like this, they immediate veer off into incoherence.

As dedicated secular humanists, atheists are essentially children in their understanding of human existence. Most of them don’t so much disbelieve in God, but resent or feel anger towards God for being ‘mean.’ Those of you who are parents will recognize in the atheist mindset the child-like determination to avoid all discomfort and unpleasant consequences. The reason for this is that atheists need to believe in the possibility of ‘paradise’ on earth. As a result, they also need to believe that no one should ever have to feel bad and there should never be negative consequences for anything people do.

As long as we exist in this world, people will never fully understand their place in the grand scheme of things. But if you give some thought to James’s claim of my insensitivity about the mystery of human pain and suffering, you realize his logic is not only backwards, but leads to a conclusion that is fundamentally quite vile. It reminds me of something Richard Dawkins wrote in The God Delusion. He quotes the famous geneticist, James Watson, who said in response to a question about the purpose of life:

“Well, I don’t think we’re for anything. We’re just products of evolution. You can say, ‘Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose.’ But I’m anticipating having a good lunch.” 

To which Dawkins adds, “We did have a good lunch, too.”

When I read that I thought, “What a couple of jerks.” What kind of people can look at life as meaningless and bleak and then distract and comfort themselves with food? A ‘good’ meal or any other kind of material pleasure is small comfort to those who live a life of terrible suffering merely because of the place or time of their birth, and who never experience a silver lining of any kind. Atheists take away all hope for those who suffer. So, who is being insensitive?

Every time I hear nonsense like this, I wonder whether humanists ever bother to work through to the logical conclusions of their beliefs. If they did, they would realize it is vastly more insensitive to tell people who suffer terribly through no apparent fault of their own that there is no reason for it. It is cruel to tell people that this one life of misery is all they get until they are annihilated by a cold and indifferent universe.

Then there is the scientific criticism of my testimony:

After reading Gerald Schroeder’s book, The Science of God, Sarah became convinced that the book of “Genesis is literally true”.  (The word “literally” is used in a pretty non-literal sense here, since Schroeder’s theory is that the first “day” of creation was 8 billion years long, the second day was 4 billion years long, etc – the thesis of Schroeder’s book is really that Genesis can be squared with our modern scientific understanding of the universe, apart from a few teeny little details like evolution.)

If I was the type of person inclined to dictatorship (which I am not), the first thing I would do is make it a state crime to comment knowingly on a book you have not actually read. I mean, I’m assuming he hasn’t read Schroeder’s book, because he’s made two very basic blunders about Schroeder’s model that could’ve been rectified by reading the chapters on the age of the universe and evolution. It’s possible James has actually read the book, in which case he is either deliberately misrepresenting Schroeder’s argument or has failed to comprehend it.

In any case, I used “literal” in a very literal sense in my testimony. Schroeder makes a compelling case for reconciling actual 24-hour Genesis days with a billions year-old universe. It works because, as every good physicist knows, you have to specify from whose frame of reference those 24 hours elapse. You can read Schroeder’s book to see how this works or go through my slide show presentation for an explanation.

James goes on to demonstrate that he is unaware of the science behind Schroeder’s explanation:

So, does Schroeder’s book constitute a good reason to think that “Genesis is literally true”? Most definitely not.  Here are several scholarly reviews of the book…

Whereupon he cites a few critical “scholarly” reviews of Schroeder’s book, including one by historian, Richard Carrier, a man who is best described as the court jester of the New Atheist movement and an utter embarrassment to intellectuals everywhere.

When I first read Schroeder’s book, I spent a lot of time verifying its claims. Contrary to James’ assumption, that meant investigating criticisms of Schroeder’s model — the very ones James cites — which I found to be not only wrong, but surprisingly inept. For ostensibly smart people (most of them, anyway), these critics failed to understand the basics of Schroeder’s argument. I was especially taken aback that someone with credentials like those of the late mathematician, Mark Perakh, could fail to understand the straightforward physical argument laid out by Schroeder. I will write a separate post about this, because it deserves serious attention.

But James’s criticism of my testimony gets worse from there:

… Sarah came to believe (for whatever reason) in the truth of Genesis, and then deduced that the gospels were true.  Think again about her words: “I knew the Bible was reliable because of Genesis.

This is a lie. He conveniently omits the statement in my testimony just before this one — “I knew of the historical evidence for [the Gospels’] truth” — which clearly implies I investigated the truth of the Gospels independent of Genesis.

However, Christians do have reason to believe in the general reliability of the Bible based on Genesis. It was chosen as the first book of the Bible for a reason. Among other things, it immediately establishes the reliability of the Bible in general because Genesis 1 performs a miracle right in front of our eyes – it gives a scientifically accurate account of the creation of the universe and life on earth over 2500 years ago when no person could have possibly known how the universe formed and life came to be. At the very least, this miracle of information that anticipated so many modern scientific discoveries should lead one to consider the truth of the other parts of the Bible.

James concludes with a common bit of atheist dogma about the Bible:

The book of Genesis was composed by unknown authors.  It’s a mash-up of numerous sources from a number of different traditions.

Having once been an atheist, myself, and now observing them from a Christian vantage point for a number of years, I’ve noticed patterns in their behavior. James presents us with a perfect example. What happens is this: one atheist will come up with an idea — say, that Genesis is just a mash-up of numerous sources from a number of different traditions — and then others pick it up, repeat it (often verbatim), and the idea gets passed around and around, and meanwhile nobody bothers to investigate whether the claim is actually true. They just repeat it mindlessly and accept its truth blindly, because they are emotionally invested in it being true.

If any of them bothered to check, they would discover that the idea that Genesis is just a mish-mash of other faith traditions is provably false. One of my colleagues, who is deeply informed on the topic, refers to this claim as “traditional [theologically] liberal blather” dating back to the 1800s and based on little more than pure imagination. All you have to do is compare Genesis with one of these alleged sources, the Babylonian Enuma Elish, to see that they could hardly differ more. This is another topic I will address in more depth in a separate post, because it’s an intensely stupid notion that needs to die a horrible death. [Update: Uniqueness of Genesis is discussed here.]

To my Christian readers, here is what you should take away from all this. Do not waste time trying to convince atheists of the foolishness of their arguments. They make these arguments for highly emotional reasons and will not part with them on account of either reason or science. Atheist emotions are in turn rooted in a deep desire for self-indulgence, which is in eternal conflict with God’s intention that we overcome earthly desires. Instead, spend time becoming totally familiar with atheist assaults on Christian beliefs and faith so that you can help shield yourselves and others, especially children, from the deceit and temptations of atheism.

For the rational person, is faith a bad word?

I had the chance to speak with Oxford mathematician, John Lennox, while he was visiting Austin a couple of weeks ago, and as an experienced Christian apologist, he offered me some very good advice. One piece of advice that surprised me, however, was that I should limit my use of the word “faith” in conjunction with science.

The problem is, while we Christians understand what is meant by the word “faith,” atheists don’t. The word has been co-opted and corrupted to mean “blind faith,” as in “believing without reason or evidence” or “believing in spite of evidence to the contrary.” Here’s a typical example (sent to me by an atheist on Twitter):

blackmore_faith

Christians and atheists use the same words, but it should be evident we’re speaking different languages. For the atheist, faith is the act of surrendering your intellect. However, C. S. Lewis probably put it best when he explained that faith is, in fact, the opposite of that: it is the act of holding onto a belief you once accepted through reason in spite of your transitory emotions.

There is a wonderful example of faith in Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact, which did not make it to the film adaptation. In it, Dr. Arroway, who understands and believes in the laws of physics, is admiring an enormous Foucault pendulum. Her friend, the not-quite-priest, Palmer Joss, asks her if she’s willing to test her faith in the laws of physics by placing herself just a little beyond where the pendulum is predicted to stop in its upward swing. (See the video below.) Admirably, she does so, but admits to having her faith shaken a bit as the several-hundred-pound weight at the end of the pendulum was swinging towards her face. This is precisely what Lewis meant by having faith–holding on to a reasonable belief in spite of your emotions.

There is another, slightly different, sense in which Christians use the word “faith,” which doesn’t have anything to do with emotions. It means to accept something as likely to be true in spite of your inability to prove it. Christian philosophers, William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga, point out ways in which we take things on faith, probably without even realizing it. For instance, most of us take it on faith that there is a past. Does that sound ludicrous to you? Well, try proving that the universe didn’t just pop into existence five minutes ago, complete with fake memories of everything that we think happened in the past. You can’t prove it didn’t happen. Try proving that you aren’t in the Matrix and being manipulated to think you’re experiencing things that you really aren’t. You can’t. Yet you very likely go through your daily life taking it on faith that reality is reality and that you are in fact experiencing these things and that your memories are real, because that is a reasonable thing to do.

Atheists engage in faith every bit as much as Christians, but the ones who object to “faith” are either too blind to realize they engage in it, or they pick and choose what sort of faith is acceptable and what is not.

Faith is not a bad word. Unfortunately, Lennox is right, and you won’t get very far with non-Christians if you insist on sticking to the strict definitions of words that carry emotional baggage. By all means, correct atheists who accuse you of having faith as though it’s a bad thing, but when trying to convince them that Christian beliefs are reasonable and not at all incompatible with, say, modern science, you will have to use other words. For all their talk of reason, most atheists are no different than most people in general, and are far more readily convinced by rhetoric than by dialectic. In other words, they are more easily moved by clever appeals to emotion than by strictly logical arguments.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss an atheist’s not-so-clever attempt to dismiss the Argument from Contingency and the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

JB is arguing science and faith with an atheist friend and asked for a bit of help with the science. JB’s friend sent him a link to “Arizona Atheist,” who attempts to refute two of William Lane Craig’s arguments for God’s existence. Despite AA’s bold claim to have “demolished” Craig’s arguments, it is in reality such a weak and muddled attempt that it hardly seems worth commenting on. However, since it’s apparently cited with some frequency by those seeking to refute Craig’s arguments, it’s worth getting into it.

The first argument is the Argument from Contingency, which goes like this (quoted from the link):

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3).
5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2, 4).

Now this is a logically airtight argument. That is to say, if the premises are true, then the conclusion is unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like the conclusion. It doesn’t matter if we have other objections to God’s existence. So long as we grant the three premises, we have to accept the conclusion. So the question is this: Which is more plausible–that those premises are true or that they are false?

Since the logic is airtight, the only way to attack this argument is to show that any of its premises are wrong. AA goes after Premise 1:

According to modern physics, however things can seemingly happen without cause. There are several things we observe that appear to have no cause. For example, “[w]hen an atom in an excited energy level drops to a lower level and emits a photon, a particle of light, we find no cause of that event. Similarly, no cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus.”

This constitutes a very weak attack on Premise 1, for two reasons:

  1. Just because we find no cause doesn’t mean there is no cause. Note the tacit acknowledgement of this with hedge words like “seemingly” and “evident.”
  2. AA has misunderstood the argument. The Argument from Contingency doesn’t address events, it addresses existence. The photon exists, and it most certainly has a cause — an electron in an atom dropping from a higher energy level to a lower energy level. The products of radioactive decay exist, and they likewise have a cause — radioactive decay of a nucleus.

Next, AA goes after the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which goes like this:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is similar to the Argument from Contingency, but differs in that it rests on the “controversial” nature of Premise 2. (As we’ll see, it’s only controversial in the sense that you can sort of dispute the standard interpretation of big bang cosmology if you accept some strange assumptions.) AA therefore primarily goes after Premise 2, but not before first dismissing Premise 1, again on the erroneous basis that “things can seem to happen without cause.” (Note how he once again hedges and does not state that things do happen without cause, just that they “can seem to.”)

AA then goes on to attack Premise 2 in one of the most desperately feeble attempts to dismiss reason and evidence I have ever seen. (Why are atheists constantly held up as champions of reason? I have seen no evidence that this stereotype is warranted.)

Craig supports the validity of Premise 2 with both philosophical and scientific arguments against an infinitely old universe. For the latter, he cites work by theoretical physicist Alexander Vilenkin, who figures prominently in AA’s refutation.

AA awkwardly begins his refutation by stating,

Again, as I’ve said already, just because Craig can’t imagine an infinite universe doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simply arguing that it’s impossible without any proof is no argument.

Craig rejects an infinitely old universe, not on the basis of his inability to imagine an infinitely old universe, but on the basis of what he demonstrates is a logical impossibility. At this point, it is incumbent on AA to show in what way Craig’s philosophical argument for Premise 2 is flawed or to provide evidence contradicting it, but he doesn’t do this. Instead, he supplies a quote from Vilenkin, which is irrelevant, because it doesn’t address any of the premises, but instead disagrees with the interpretation that Premise 3 implies the cause is necessarily God*.

Okay, now for the bit where AA completely abandons any reasonable standard for evidence and reason. The prevailing paradigm of modern physics is that the universe began to exist somewhere (somewhen?) between 11 and 17 billion years ago in a sudden event called the big bang. There is loads of evidence for the big bang, which is why virtually no one believes the steady-state cosmological model anymore. Now, even though the standard interpretation has been that the big bang represents the creation of the universe from complete and total nothing, there’s a wrinkle: in actuality, it’s not entirely clear what sort of a beginning the big bang represents. In spite of the mounds of evidence supporting the big bang, there is a limit to what we can know about it. As physicist Alan Guth put it, the big bang theory “gives not even a clue about what banged, what caused it to bang, or what happened before it banged.”

AA rests his entire case against the Kalam Cosmological Argument on this wrinkle, even after Vilenkin’s commentary on it should have convinced him otherwise.

Vilenkin is an author of a theorem that shows pretty conclusively that the universe cannot be past-infinite; in other words, it has a finite age. But does this necessarily imply a beginning? In a correspondence AA initiated between Vilenkin and the late atheist physicist, Victor Stenger, Vilenkin comments that his theorem does not prove that the universe must have had a beginning, however

…it proves that the expansion of the universe must have had a beginning. You can evade the theorem by postulating that the universe was contracting prior to some time.

First of all, it doesn’t disprove that the universe had a beginning. Second, what this essentially means is that the big bang could represent, not the beginning, but one of many “beginnings.” If the universe is cyclical, that is, if it bangs and expands and then contracts and crunches, and does this over and over for eternity, then the universe is effectively eternal, and this is what supposedly negates Premise 2.

That could kind of, sort of maybe present a very weak argument against Premise 2 — its chief drawback being that not only is there no evidence for it, there is no known way to test it — except that AA inexplicably goes on to quote Vilenkin stating that it also happens to be theoretically impossible given what we assume about the nature of time, and that even if we grant that something very weird happens at time = 0 to allow a contracting universe, it still effectively supports Premise 2:

This sounds as if there is nothing wrong with having contraction prior to expansion. But the problem is that a contracting universe is highly unstable. Small perturbations would cause it to develop all sorts of messy singularities, so it would never make it to the expanding phase. That is why Aguirre & Gratton and Carroll & Chen had to assume that the arrow of time changes at t = 0. This makes the moment t = 0 rather special. I would say no less special than a true beginning of the universe.

So, AA’s refutation of Premise 2, his “demolishment” of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, rests not on the standard, accepted interpretation of the prevailing paradigm of cosmology — that the universe began to exist billions of years ago — but on the untested, unproved possibility that Vilenkin’s theory is wrong, that you can somehow get around a beginning, but at the cost of accepting something that is “no less special than a true beginning of the universe.”

I’m genuinely confused by AA’s response to Vilenkin’s comments. How much do you have to hate evidence and reason to read Vilenkin’s responses to these questions about his theorem and still conclude that it supports your case?

Having gone through this exercise, the absolute worst you can say about the Kalam Cosmological Argument is that Premise 2 is not 100% proven. But we already knew that. If you know anything at all about how science works, you know that nothing in science is a done deal — you can’t ever prove beyond doubt that any scientific theory is true — which is why Craig says “that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence.” That is the standard by which all of modern science has operated for centuries. For something to be considered “true,” it only needs to be probably true based on a preponderance of evidence to support it and with no evidence to seriously contradict it. By this standard, it is true that our universe began to exist 13.8 billion years ago — which means we are reasonably assured Premise 2 is true, and therefore the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a legitimate argument. Given the weight of evidence and reason, it is far more supported than an untested — and untestable — theoretical exercise in exploring alternatives.

AA says he does not think philosophy is the best way to get at the truth; it’s reasonable to assume that he thinks science is, and yet he does his level best to ignore it to avoid accepting the conclusions of two very powerful arguments in favor of God.

Incidentally, two years after AA posted his attempted refutation of Craig’s arguments, Vilenkin announced — at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday celebration, no less — that there is just no getting around a beginning for the universe.

—–

* I don’t know what Vilenkin’s arguments are against Premise 3 implying the cause is necessarily God, but there is a case, however weak, to be made on the basis of an eternally expanding and contracting model of the universe. If it’s correct, it renders God superfluous. However, not only is this model theoretically unlikely, it’s physically untestable.

Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss Everettian multiverses and faith.

DW writes

It was a pleasure encountering your blog, and reading through some of your writings. Your story of your encounter with and transformation by faith in Christ was genuinely inspiring.

I would gently push back on a single thread of thought, one I encountered in your witness on James Bishop’s blog. You talk at some length about the Everettian multiverse, a concept that has been seized upon by anti-theists as “proof” that God neither exists nor is necessary for existence.

Whether a quantum branching multiverse is “theory” at all in the scientific sense is open for debate, but I’d like to suggest…as a practicing practical theologian…that multiversal cosmologies are not inherently antithetical to Christian faith. They are also, for atheism, something of an own goal.

An Everettian multiverse refers to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics developed by the late physicist, Hugh Everett. Everett essentially said that the seemingly probabilistic nature of the quantum world is explained by every possibility actually playing out in different universes.

DW is right that the multiverse cosmologies are not inherently antithetical to Christian faith. RTB’s resident astrophysicist, Jeff Zweerink, discusses this a little in his booklet, Who’s Afraid of the Multiverse? DW offered to send me something he’s written on the topic, so I’m curious to see what he means by the multiverse being an ‘own goal’ for atheism.

As I’ve said repeatedly, the main scientific problem with the multiverse hypothesis is that it is not science, it is science-flavored. It suffers from one insurmountable scientific problem, which is that there is no way to test it, since every universe in the multiverse is causally disconnected from every other universe. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting topic for scientific discussion, since the existence of a multiverse is intriguingly hinted at by some physical theories.

The theological/philosophical dimension is also worth exploring, as it emphasizes the difference between a God-created multiverse and a godless one. As much as some atheists cling to the latter as a comforting alternative to the former, what it actually represents is the end of all hope.

Hugh Everett was a brilliant scientist, but he was also at least partially motivated by his desire for immortality when developing his Many Worlds model. This goes to show, despite claims to the contrary, that atheists can be as emotionally driven in their philosophies as anyone else. That’s not to say it was an unreasonable motivation; I mean, who could blame the man? He knew his godless worldview strongly implied he’d eventually be annihilated by an indifferent universe. It’s a terrifying thing to contemplate. However, a godless multiverse is no better — and in my opinion, considerably worse — than being snuffed out for all eternity by an indifferent universe. If there is an eternal multiverse that wasn’t created by God, then we are all doomed to either pointlessly repeat the same life over and over for eternity or to live out every possibility, which includes an infinite number of both pointlessly enjoyable and pointlessly miserable existences. It is only with a personal Creator that existence has any purpose and any meaning.