God, Science and the New Atheism – David Glass
The main points I will discuss in this seminar are as follows.
- New Atheism and the rise of Secularism
- God and Science: A conflict?
- Does science support belief in God?
- What about evolution?
Who are New Atheists? 4 famous examples of New Atheists are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Demmett and Sam Harris. All of these men have written popular books trying to convince the reader that God does not exist.
There are five main features of New Atheism. They are:
- Ridicule of belief in God: The mind-set is “Not just flawed, but ridiculous.”
- Religion is dangerous: After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Richard Dawkins was very vocal in emphasising that religion is “dangerous” in situations such as terrorist attacks, and it gives people false hope in an afterlife.
- Faith as belief without evidence
- Science removes the need for God
- Contempt for revelation
The cornerstone of a New Atheist’s argument is that science disproves God. Culturally, New Atheists try to convince us that belief in God is ridiculous, and politically they try to convince us that belief in God is dangerous.
These days, many believe that belief in God is a trivial, harmless delusion. The percentage of people in Northern Ireland who say they have no religion has increased rapidly over the years. In 1871 there was only one “atheist” recorded on the census in the whole of Northern Ireland. In 2011, there were 1011 atheists recorded, and 17% of the population said they had “no religion”. That figure was 32% in England, and a shocking 44% in Scotland. In recent years people are dramatically turning away from Christianity and religion in general.
However, what people seem to forget is that many of the earliest Christians, who originally discovered and invented the theories that we still believe and teach today, were Christians.
“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from a higher being.”
– Isaac Newton
One of the earliest supposed examples of a conflict between science and religion is the story of Galileo. The story is commonly told that Galileo made theories about the universe, which the church disagreed with, and he was thrown in prison, only for those theories to be proven true. However, this is not quite the case.
- Galileo had a strong religious faith – scripture seemed to teach that the earth was fixed.
- His view was in conflict with the scientific orthodoxy
- He continued his scientific work – contrary to popular belief, Galileo was only in prison for a number of days before he left and continued his scientific research.
- His lack of diplomacy may have been a factor – he had said insulting things to authorities, and may have deserved to be thrown in prison.
- It was an exceptional case.
Faith vs Evidence
“Faith is the state of mind that leads someone to believe something, even in the absence of evidence.” – Richard Dawkins
There are several arguments against this statement. Firstly, there is plenty of evidence to support the existence of God. Look around at the sheer beauty and complexity of the world we live in. Every organism is beautiful in so many ways, the way the planets orbit, and seasons come and go, all this points to a divine being, a creator, a God. Along with this, as Christians who have a very real, personal relationship with God, the prospect of him not existing is impossible to accept. We have asked God to forgive us for our sins and enter our lives, and he blesses us and speaks to us. We know he exists!
Do all beliefs need evidence? I remember having my breakfast this morning, but is there enough proof that I had my breakfast to stand up in court and convince a judge?
Has science explained God away?
Science certainly helps us all understand how the world works, but does it explain God away? There is an argument called the “God of the gaps” argument, the idea being that science explains everything, but the things that are unexplained, the existence of God answers. This is wrong. God does not exist as an explanation to the gaps in our understanding; God is the God of science itself!
Imagine a conversation between a group of friends in the kitchen. One friend walks into the kitchen and asks “Why is the kettle boiling?” The friend who put the kettle on goes into great detail about how the “electrical current left the socket and travelled into the kettle which is producing heat energy”, and he continues like this for several minutes, explaining in great detail how the kettle works. Then another friend walks into the kitchen, and when asked “Why is the kettle boiling?” he answers “Because we are making coffee.” The scientific friend then says “I’ve just explained why it’s boiling!”
The whole conversation is ridiculous! The point is, that science explains partly how God did it! Science does not explain God away, it does the opposite! Science helps us to understand how complex God’s beautiful creation is! Who created science? God!
“The chief of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics!” – Johannes Kepler.
Another piece of evidence that points to the existence of God is that the universe is expanding as time goes on. So if we go back in time, eventually the universe disappears, so the universe had a beginning. How? It points to God.
“Many people don’t like the idea that time had a beginning, probably because it smacks of a divine being.” – Stephen Hawking
The Goldilocks Enigma
Our universe and planet is just right for life.
Atheists agree: Modern science shows that if things were ever so slightly different, we couldn’t live. Luck? Incredible coincidence? Or a divine creator? Design is undoubtedly the best explanation, everything points in the direction of a creator!
What about Evolution?
Does it remove the need for a creator?
No! Evolution requires:
- An orderly universe
- A fine-tuned universe
- A suitable planet orbiting a suitable star
- Life to develop in the first place!
- Various physical and chemical laws
- Various ‘lucky’ accidents along the way
Science gives us plenty of good reasons to believe in God!
The real clash is Secularism vs Christianity. If we want to reach out with the message of Christ, we need to engage with sceptical objectors, and stand up for our faith in this time.