Here is a statement a friend of mine posted recently. I decided to engage him in dialogue. Here is what ensued.
“Science is not egotistical, unlike religion it has no problem with being proven wrong.”
I respect your opinion; however, you make a few assumptions in this statement which if you are a naturalist, contradict such a position. First, you state that science is not egotistical. Ok, that’s fair. There is nothing self-evidently egotistical in a field of study itself. However, you are juxtaposing it with religion. Is religion as an entity really self-evidently egotistical? Do you have empirical evidence to make such a claim? You and I have talked before—concerning evidence—I’m holding you to the same standard.
This is a tough position to take. Essentially, one is taking a position of saying, a discipline is egotistical. For example, science is humble, but architecture is egotistical. How can one prove such a claim? Science is the study of how the universe works, and architecture is the discipline of building shapes. How in a pure sense are either of these egotistical or not? How is this any different from an abstract object like a number? Is the number seven egotistical but the number two isn’t? Does religion really have a problem with being proved wrong? Again, here, his statement has assumptions. Of course, when I point this out—it is met with counter fire. We will see my other points in a minute.
Secondly, in this statement there are inherent moral judgments you are making. You are clearly claiming science to be virtuous because it is not egotistical, yet religion is immoral because it IS egotistical. So you recognize morality. Can a naturalist recognize morality? Richard Dawkins has been quoted as saying we are merely “dancing to our DNA.” In this view, Hitler is no different from Mother Theresa. They are just results of their DNA. If this is so, how can morality be a topic of conversation? Further, if one is a self-proclaimed atheist, surely he/she will respect the works of Nietzsche. Nietzsche himself is quoted as saying morality “has truth only if God is the truth—it stands or falls with faith in God.” We also see Nietzsches Parable of the Madman:
“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? — Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
So, if one holds to a view of Nietzsche’s philosophy, and yet makes moral assumptions like this—a syllogism could easily follow
- If God does not exist, neither do objective morals
- objective morals DO exist
- Therefore, God exists
Finally, I examine your use of the law of parsimony; or David Hume’s verification test: simply put, propositions are either true by definition, or they are true by empirical verification. If a proposition cannot satisfy either criteria, then it is meaningless. Since God does not exist by definition, the naturalist would insist, and since we cannot verify His presence empirically, clearly God has been refuted by the Principle of Parsimony. God is disproved, right? Well, no.
I would like to apply this two-fold test to the Principle of Parsimony itself. Is it true by definition? No. Well, can it be verified empirically? Again, no. So, should we throw out the principle altogether? Again, no. This is absurd.
Though my syllogism above works—I do not claim to be able to prove God’s existence. Science likewise cannot prove that He does not exist. However, in every statement or question, there are always assumptions. More times than not, when one questions God, there are always “moral” or judgmental implications—see Dawkins torrent of incendiary remarks about God in “God Delusion”—
Here is the rub, The question the skeptic asks is usually something like “if a good God existed, there wouldn’t be as much evil. There is much evil, so God must not exist.” Well I argue that if you believe there is such a thing as good and evil, you must then posit a moral law on the basis of which to distinguish such. If there is a moral law, then there must be a moral law-giver (that being God) and you end up affirming the existence of God when you initially set out to deny His existence.
Now one may wonder: why do you actually need a moral law giver if you have a moral law? The answer is because the questioner and the issue he or she questions always involve the essential value of a person. You can never talk of morality in abstraction. Persons are implicit to the question and the object of the question. In a nutshell, positing a moral law without a moral law giver would be equivalent to raising the question of evil without a questioner. So you cannot have a moral law unless the moral law itself is intrinsically woven into personhood, which means it demands an intrinsically worthy person if the moral law itself is valued. And that person can only be God.
Now I have to say, after my friend and I talked…perhaps the original post he made wasn’t exactly implying what he wanted it to imply. Like I say, it DOES have assumptions. Whether one recognizes this or not, they are there. His position is that religion is dogmatic in its views and science is open to new findings–basically.
Is that true? Here is what eminent athiest philosopher Thomas Nagel has to say on the subject:
“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism in our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind.”
Well, that sounds objective. I would say there…a man of science is truly looking to find a better way. Hardly! He is closed to anything but HIS way.
I close with a few quotes. CS Lewis, the prominent atheist-turned Christian writer said, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they beleived in a lawgiver.”
Kepler said “The cheif aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”
Finally–a contradiction to poonder: Oxford chemist Peter Atkins said of the widespread view that religion and science essentially conflict with each other, “Science and religion cannot be reconciled.” Well, if this is so, one would expect all serious scientists to be atheists–and this is not true! A 1996 survey showed that 40% of scientists believe in the person of Christ. Further, scientists at the HIGHEST level are beleivers. This includes scientists like Nobel Prize winner Bill Phillips and Human Genome Project director Francis Collins.
Something to think about!
 Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2007.