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 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 Beth Drendel
Materialism is defined in in the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary as “a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” Science is the study of the material world, so it may come as no surprise that many (most?) scientists are materialists.
If materialism is reality (nothing exists but matter), then science is the study of everything that exists or cold possibly exist. In fact, that is what the scientific community, generally, claims, and many in the academic community have accepted that claim. But is that claim something that is proven by science?
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?