Science and religion, depending on the perspective, enjoy a beautiful (or contentious) marriage or have been the victors (or victims) of a bitter divorce in the modern world. Debates on science and religion dot the Internet, providing plenty of food for fodder no matter which side of the family one might identify with.
One such debate involves Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and author from Oxford and his Oxford fellow, John Lennox, the mathematician and philosopher of science. Both men are marvelously well spoken and present their competing views eloquently and convincingly, though they cannot both be right in their ultimate positions.
The debate, which uses Dawkin’s book, the God Delusion, as the subject matter, is quite long, not the usual fare in the MTV age of tweets and soundbites, but well worth taking the time to listen and watch. They begin with biographical information and early influences that inform their worldviews. The meat of the debate uses statements from Dawkins’ book as the outline.
Photo by Tianna Messier
“The late Christopher Hitchens, when asked does he believe in free will, replied, ‘I have no choice.’ It’s a question I dread, actually, because I don’t have a very well thought out view about it. I have a materialist view of the world. I think that things are determined in a rational way by antecedent events. And so, that commits me to the view that when I think that I have free will, and I think that I am exercising free choice, I am deluding myself. My brain states are determined by physical events, and yet that seems to contradict, to go against, the very powerful subjective impression that we all have that we do have free will.”
Richard Dawkins (from FREE WILL – Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins)
I am reminded of the statements of atheists committed (dogmatically) to an evolutionary theory of the origins of life who admit, in moments of candor, that the world looks as if it were designed. Still, the obvious, natural explanation is discarded for complex, highly nuanced explanations of origins of the world we know. Not that the truth is always simple. It isn’t.
But, we have a tendency to subscribe to the esoteric explanations of scholars because scholars are esoteric and, well, scholarly. Not that evolution is esoteric, at least not anymore. But, we tend to take scholarly, and particularly scientific analyses, on face value as a objective findings of objective people (because we tend to think that scientists are necessarily objective).
Photo by Larry Betag
Theists are accused of committing a “God of the gaps” fallacy, which is to assume (insert) God (into the gaps in our understanding). Atheists say that this assumption (faith) is irrational and wholly unsupportable by science or reason. They say they would rather rely on science and reason, and conclude there is no scientific or rational support of the proposition that God exists.
Atheists tend to be materialists, meaning that they believe that the “world” (all that exists) is material, only. They tend not to accept that anything other than the material world exists.
An exploration of these contentions will show that the material world is not all that exists and that atheists who subscribe to the modern view of the multiverse, which is used to explain problems for which science has no answers if only one universe exists, is a resort to the same kind of fallacious thinking pinned on theists. The God of the gaps argument against faith and belief in God conflates science and reason, and a materialist worldview conflates scientific knowledge with all possible knowledge of the world.
Photo by Randy Schoof
Before there was Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, there was Anthony Flew. For most of his career, Flew was a strong advocate of atheism …. But then he changed his mind.
He did not have any spiritual or near death experience. The decision for him was not an emotional one. It was a rational one based on the weight of the evidence.
Photo by Tim Butterfield
Atheists like to call themselves freethinkers. Many of them have thrown off the shackles of religious and cultural bondage, and escaped the herd mentality, the taboos of religion and even culture, and pride themselves in their independent thinking and daring to strike out from the shores of conventional thought. New Atheism is even religious about it, but that is a topic for another day.
It seems that atheism and freethinking go together, at least by the declarations of the atheists I have known and read. But do they go together?
Can they go together?