Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More on the Science & Atheism Question.

Sorry it has been a while. I will be keeping up from now on. My goal is at least one post per week. We'll see how it goes.

I want to pick up where I left off in my series by Dinesh D'souza on the issue of science, atheism and faith. Part 3 is titled "Atheism Masquerading As Science". Just click the link below.

Special thanks to Alan Moore for his comments on the issue. It has not only given me food for thought but has given me some point/ counter-points with some people I am presently in dialogue with. Keep it coming bro.!


Alan said...

I've been thinking about this article and some of the comments that follow it. It seems like the battle is largely semantic -- specifically, what is the meaning of "religion". To say it's semantic doesn't mean it's not important, though, because it affects how we interpret the first ammendment.
To an atheist, "religion" means "organized religion", and thus codified beliefs, a holy scripture, corporate worship, etc etc. They seem to balk at the idea that atheism is a religion because it bears none of these trappings. To a Christian, on the other hand, "religion" means worldview -- how we see the cosmos and how we respond to what we see and believe.

Either way we go, I think there are going to be problems if we apply the first amendment so granularly to our educational system. If we take the atheist view of religion, then the inevitable question is how do we determine if a set of beliefs is a "religion"? If a group of atheists codify their beliefs and meet in cathedrals to discuss their cosmology and morality, should we then marginalize atheism the same way we do other religions? What about teaching "God" without respect to a religion?
On the other hand, if we decide that all worldviews are religions, then how to we teach anything without having the obligation to teach everything? I think Dinesh is overlooking the fact that in our pluralistic culture it is not a question of Christianity vs. Atheism, it's a question of Christianity vs. Islam vs Judaism vs. Buddhism vs Hinduism vs New Age, vs. etc etc. So do we have to teach every creation story, to be fair?
I think, ultimately, that the problem isn't atheism so much as it is scientific rationalism -- the promotion of Science as the primary (or sole) means of acquiring truth. I'm becoming more convinced that we should be less concerned with making science recognize God, and more concerned with making people recognize science for the limited point of view that it is.

To be more clear, Science has one tool in it's tool box: natural law. All things in the universe must be explained by natural law and only natural law. Natural law cannot include a God, unless you count a "clockmaker God" who simply set the system in motion. Natural law is inherently atheistic in that sense. Thus, to take a system that only recognizes natural law and elevate it to the status of absolute truth is to reject the idea of a personal, active God. The leap of faith there is not the rejection of God so much as it is the unquestioning acceptance that natural law is the only reality. Why should that be the only thing? That assertion is every bit in need of proof as any claim to the existence of a creator God.

My conclusion is that science should be taught as science, but that we need to recognize it for what it is: a system for gathering facts with an arbitrarily limited scope of answers. As such, it cannot be relied upon for determining Truth, and is not capable of disproving ideas that lay outside of it's scope.

Don't know if that makes any sense...

Matt K. said...

when i bite into a really good steak i like to just chew on it for a while before i swallow it. inevitably, however, it loses its flavor and texture and eventually i get bored with it and just swallow.

your comments are something i have been chewing on for some time and it still is holding its flavor and texture. thank you!!!

one thing i would like your thoughts on is in the area of proof/ measurability. science is seen as superior because it can verify or refute it's claims. to atheists there is no such way to measure, verify, explain...i.e. prove the claims of so many different religions who all claim truth with no one agreeing on any one thing, given the whole (especially within a belief system itself). i guess what i am wondering is how do we go after the "there's more to truth discovery than natural means" in a way that is credible to atheists... particularly in the scientific arena? How do we say "this is how you verify metaphysical claims to truth."

i would love to get your thoughts on these two statements.

Alan Moore said...

Offhand, I'm not sure any religion can be verified or refuted in a sense that would satisfy the atheist. Science can be refuted or verified because it has a clear domain of truth: natural law, that which is repeatable and constant. When you bring in the super-natural (that which exists outside or above natural law), any influence it has on our world cannot be detected by a means that only operates in natural law. At best it can be deemed inexplicable.

Now, you can verify to some extent that biblical accounts happened, or could have happened, based on archaeological evidence or third-party historical accounts, but you can't really prove the supernatural aspect. If you find some indication of it, the atheist will insist on a natural explanation of some sort, no matter how unlikely.

But there you begin to see how atheistic rationalism and "science" unravel themselves from a philosophical point of view. Expecting us to prove or disprove spiritual truths with scientific methods is like giving me blue and red paint, asking me to paint my garden, then using my picture as proof that my garden has no green or yellow in it. The method arbitrarily limits what I can prove with it, and when one accepts as truth ONLY science, ONLY the provable, then one has limited what can be true too much.

Science cannot prove itself. It has to be verified by something outside of science. So in answer, I guess it's really not so much a question of providing scientific-style veritibility to religion as it is demonstrating that the rationality of science isn't all that it appears to be.

But I'll think on that some more, it's a good question.