Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Only the empirical god

The fourth point of the "new atheist" states: "All explanations can be understood from the position of scientific naturalism."1 First, a few definitions are in order before proceeding. Naturalism is the position that believes all that exists or is real must belong to the natural world. On this view, supernaturalism is a moot point. Therefore, science becomes the kingpin in understanding the natural world. Scientism is the belief that science is at least king (weak version) or the only way (strong version) by which knowledge can be obtained.2 All answers must therefore be phrased naturalistically, since the supernatural can't give us any answers to what should count for knowledge. According to scientific naturalism, any talk of God would be ridiculously silly. A God or gods simply cannot exist on a naturalist view.

Scientific naturalism becomes a kind of god, whereby science is the theological text. Science is always empirical. Empiricism is the belief that knowledge is only derived from sense experience. All that can be known is only contained within the natural world. This is why some individuals mock any type of theistic belief. The only way to discover is by way of the empirical sciences. This is done and justified by way of testing or through the use of the scientific method.

The problem with the "new atheists" revolves around the fact that they have limited themselves to what can be known. Also, contradictions exist within this particular way of obtaining knowledge. First, if a supernatural realm does exist, the "new atheists" will never be able to find it. They have limited themselves to the natural world and have closed their minds to the possibility of obtaining knowledge by way of an inference to the best explanation. Anthony Flew left atheism for theism exactly because he was able to follow the evidence wherever it led. He had this to say about the evidence of DNA and its' supernatural implications, "It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."3 When the "new atheist" limits knowledge to only the natural world and the discovery thereof, it is like fighting with both hands tied behind your back.

The second big problem with this naturalistic argument is that even the "new atheist" can't meet there own criteria for how one makes discovery. For example, "How do you prove the scientific method is the best way to obtain knowledge by way of the scientific method?" Additionally, problems exist concerning, the meaning of life, moral values, and humans as possessors of intrinsic values.

On the "new atheist" view, moral meaning simply does not exist. Atheist Michael Ruse notes, "Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth...Morality is just an aid to survival ...and any deeper meaning is illusory."4 Atheist J.L. Mackie says, "Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.4 I think C.S. Lewis best sums things up by saying, "Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning."5

Moral values provide another problem of that can't be scientifically tested. On the atheistic view, without God, morals are irrelevant. Therefore, there is no reason why we should behave in a morally responsive way. If the atheist says, "we should be morally responsive," an answer should be provided as to why we should. On a strictly Darwinian mindset, we are to operate according to the mechanical law of survival of the fittest, without regard for our fellow accidentally created beings. Anytime a moral law is admitted to by the atheist, then the whole game changes. For with the moral law comes the moral law-giver, God.

Lastly, humans do seem to process intrinsic value, which would run counter to the results of naturalism. Again, here is another issue that does not seem to lend itself to what science cannot give an answer to. Atheist Peter Singer, rightly justifies that when an individual recognizes humans with intrinsic values, it is proper to "argue that humans were created in the image of God."6 So,why would Singer and others conclude that humans are no more special than an ant? This seems to be a ludicrous view without any supporting evidence.

Scientific naturalism cannot measure up to its own standards and can't give us answers to some fundamental truths. When scientific naturalism is the accepted way to access knowledge, only the god of empiricism can be worshiped. By stating that understanding is only acquired by way of scientific naturalism is not only closed minded, but the possibility to discover knowledge is severely hampered and eternally dangerous to the soul.

1 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, xiii - xiv
3 Interview of Anthony Flew:
4 Michael Ruse as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 51
5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 46
5 Peter Singer as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 53

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