The Evangelical Atheist, Part III: The Cause of CauseApril 7, 2010 at 5:49 am | Posted in Political, Religous | 3 Comments
Tags: atheism, faith, religion
by Walter Scott Hudson
Despite the etymology of the word “atheism,” which does connote a lack of belief, atheism is expressed as a belief contrary to theism. It is a position on a factual scientific question. Some atheists are quite honest on this point. Consider English biologist Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most prominent agent of The New Atheism:
I do regard the hypothesis of a supernatural designer as a scientific hypothesis. It’s a wrong one. But it actually is science. I don’t have much patience with theologians who say, ‘Well, we’re really not disagreeing. It’s just that religion concerns itself with morality and science concerns itself with the way the universe is and there’s no problem between them.’ To me, there is a problem, because the moment you talk about a supernatural creator, designer, anything, you are advancing a scientific hypothesis which is either right or wrong.
Dawkins atheism is altogether different from English philosopher Colin McGinn’s proposed lack of belief in anything “godlike.” Dawkins is taking what he recognizes to be one of two positions regarding the God hypothesis. He is expressing a belief.
Nobel prize winning American physicist Steven Weinberg, like Dawkins, recognizes the scientific nature of the God question, though he phrases it differently. Weinberg says religions “provide an alternative theory of the world… [which is] something that I feel I have something to say about.” Weinberg takes offense to religion, because he sees it as encroaching upon his scientific territory.
Why would scientists be repulsed by a scientific question? The answer is seemingly because, in this case, the scientific question has no scientific answer.
When Weinberg is confronted with the necessity to explain the regularity of the universe, a phenomenon which bolstered Issac Newton’s belief in a Regulator, he concedes, “There is a mystery, I have to admit.” He quickly adds the caveat that belief in a Designer “doesn’t answer anything, because then you have to answer, ‘Well, why is the Designer like that?’”
Dawkins says essentially the same thing. “Design is a very bad explanation for the complexity of life, because it’s got a regression built into it, because you have to explain the Designer… It’s a non-explanation. We shouldn’t even regard it as a candidate for an explanation.”
What these men are saying is; because theism raises a question for which science has no answer, theism is wrong. This is all at once a conceit, no less dogmatic than when clergy insisted the sun circled the earth, and an indication they fail to understand the essential nature of their own discipline. Science is the study of the natural world. A hypothesis regarding the cause of that world necessitates contemplation beyond it, and therefore beyond science.
It is perhaps the simplest aspect of the entire God question. We know, in nature, all that is comes from something. This very knowledge is the source of Weinberg and Dawkins’ confusion, leading them to assume the Designer would require a source. The Designer, as the author of natural law, of which causation is a statute, would exist entirely independent of it. From the perspective of creation, the Designer would be just what we intuitively describe – omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Nothing else could cause cause itself. “We’re talking about something that is off the map of creation,” explains Cambridge theologian Denys Turner.
Long before man contemplated spacetime, he knew of eternity, a concept which is counter-intuitive to human experience, yet ingrained in our consciousness. The eternal has no beginning and no end. It has always been and always will be. It is a state where cause has no meaning. It is the realm of God. Atheists are free to believe otherwise. But they must concede it is their belief, and not theists’, which fails to explain anything.
More to follow…