Science & Faith
9/2/13 at 09:32 PM 0 Comments

Does Science Disprove God? ... Responding to “New Atheism”

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The following are some outlined highlights of my talk at the Confident Christianity Conference, September 6-7, 2013: Does Science Disprove God? The main point of my talk was to analyze the problems in Stephen Hawking's book The Grand Design (2010). Hawking is widely considered the most important physicist since Einstein.

Critique of a Recent Contribution to “New Atheism” … Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design 

  • Hawking declared in his 2010 book The Grand Design: “Philosophy is dead” because it “has not kept up with modern developments in science.” Is this nonsense (despite its eminent author)?
    • The statement “philosophy is dead” is itself philosophical, not scientific, and thus self-defeating. It’s like saying “I can’t speak a word of English.” Nonsense!
    • Hawking’s philosophy is scientism, the claim: “science is the only way to know reality.” But science itself cannot support scientism (no observations support scientism), which makes it self-refuting. Scientism is a philosophical theory of knowledge. Scientism entails the philosophical assertion that you can’t make reliable philosophical assertions.
  • “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Hawking (Grand Design, 2010). See my blogs about this here and here.
    • The word “nothing” contradicts what else in Hawking’s statement?
      • Answer: “A law like gravity” (or a quantum vacuum), which is not “nothing.”
      • “Nothing” is the absence of anything, including properties and causal powers.
  • What if by “nothing” Hawking meant “nothing physical” (but rather something mathematical)? This view isn’t obviously self-contradictory. This is the ancient Greek Pythagorean belief that mathematical reality is the uncaused and self-sufficient (divine) cause of everything else.
    • Theology is the study of the divine (that which is uncaused and self-sufficient), and how all else is related to the divine. Even atheists have a theology in this sense, if only implicitly. Atheists generally think that the material world is self-sufficient (divine), but Hawking may believe in the ancient pagan theology of mathematical deity.
    • Keas’s forthcoming essay in Salvo Magazine (Sept. 2013): “Here is the Hawking science-theology dilemma. To the degree that we are able to rescue his creation story from contradictions, it appears all the more clearly theological (not scientific). On the flip side, denial of theological assertion in Hawking’s Grand Design makes its self-contradictory status more obvious. I will let the reader decide which is more damaging to his attempt to lead us away from theistic religion by ‘science’.”
  • What is the error in Hawking’s “more science, less God” atheistic slogan?
    • Edison invented the first long-lasting electric light bulb in 1879.
    • More scientific knowledge of electricity and light does not amount to less appreciation for the genius of Edison’s invention (personal agency).
    • Those studying the Edison light bulb should not pose the false dilemma of “Edison or natural laws.” Both are important! But Hawking presents a similar false dilemma of “God or natural laws.” Why not be open to both being important for a full explanation?
  • Tim Radford’s review of Hawking’s Grand Design comments on M-theory as a proposed “natural law” explanation of cosmic origins: “M-theory invokes … a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. This force cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it's a big mystery. Remind you of Anybody?”
  • How is “who created natural laws?” a good question, but “who created God?” is not?
    • Natural laws are fine-tuned for life (a tiny number of possibilities compared to ways for lifeless cosmos). This implies a lawgiver, and prompts: “who created natural laws?”
    • God, if he exists, is the ultimate uncaused cause (self-existent being). Thus, the question “who created God?” betrays confusion about what theists mean by “God.”

Resources that Address the Question: Does Science Disprove God?

  • Dawkins repeats Hawking’s “all from nothing” claim. Watch satirical remix of Dawkins.
  • YouTube playlist “Reasonable Faith UK Tour 2011 (Complete & Chronological)
    • W. L. Craig: “Origin of the Universe: Has Hawking Eliminated God?”
    • Bethinking 2/6: “John Lennox on Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design.
    • See also the debates between Craig and various atheists on this 2011 UK Tour.

    • Other resources related to my talk: Does Science Disprove God?

    • YouTube Video, Larry King Live, 2010: Interview of Hawking, Mlodinow
    • M. Keas, “In the Beginning: Episodes in the Origin and Development of Science,” Salvo Magazine (in the September 2013 special issue on God and science). Belief in the Judeo-Christian God supported the idea that the universe is predictable and knowable, which is foundational to scientific research. This Salvo article debunks common science-religion myths and shows how Christianity contributed to the rise of modern science.
    • Discovering Intelligent Design (2013) is a comprehensive curriculum (textbook, workbook, and DVD) that presents the scientific evidence for intelligent design to both young people and adults.

Free Resources to Stay Informed about the Debate Over Science and its Worldview Implications

  • Parent’s Guide to Intelligent Design: Download from www.discovery.org/csc/back-to-school. This guide includes a list of books, DVDs, and curriculum. It is annotated to indicate the appropriate context for the use of each item: public, private, or home educational settings.
  • Keas’s blog http://blogs.christianpost.com/science-and-faith critiques the scientific pretensions of the “new atheists.” Stay informed about the latest news concerning science and faith.

Documentary DVDs about Science that Allow its Theistic Implications to be Recognized

Leading Organizations that Critique Materialist Views of Science (and allow theism to flourish)

  • Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (www.discovery.org/csc), the leading think tank devoted to intelligent design, is a portal to scholarly online articles and weblogs. Advanced college students in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities may wish to apply (www.discovery.org/csc/summerseminar) for an intensive nine-day seminar that will prepare them to make research contributions to the growing science of intelligent design. Discovery Institute maintains an annotated list of peer-reviewed publications that support intelligent design.
  • Ratio Christi www.ratiochristi.org is a global movement of student clubs that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus. Start a Ratio Christi club on a college campus near you.

Dr. Mike Keas • Professor of History & Philosophy of Science • College@Southwestern: http://college.swbts.edu • Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute: www.discovery.org • Adjunct Professor: www.biola.edu/scienceandreligion

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