Atheists, like the infamous Rosa Rubicondior, will often make assertions about the correctness of their position, often appealing to some kind of ad populum, “we do this without faith” argument without thinking through what they necessarily have to presuppose before they even get to the position to draw a meaningful conclusion.
In this post on her blog, where she is monologuing about her book, Ten Reasons to Lose Faith in Faith, a book I will admit that I have not read, she excerpts portions from it.
Before I proceed, let me be clear: this is not a review of the book, but an analysis and response to the argument that she is putting forward in the excerpt on her blog.
First, for my readers, if you are not familiar with Rosa, which is an assumed name, let me allow her to introduce herself from the about section of her book:
I am materialist rationalist who decided to be led by the evidence many years ago and who thinks the Universe is wonderful enough without magic and forever-hidden mystery, and that being an evolved ape, 3.5 billion years in the making, is infinitely more marvelous than being the unworthy product of a magician who made me out of dirt.
As you can see, she is neither fair in her representation of the position she is opposed to, nor is she feigning any neutrality. Seeing that she is a materialist though, this post here may be of some interest in that regard.
Rosa quotes from her book, which reads,
It is not insignificant that for everyday life, and for any activity where material reality has to be taken into account, the only way to make rational decisions is to behave atheistically. The simple task of crossing a road is the same for an atheist as for a theist, even though a theist might want to mutter a few prayers as well. In the end, it is the physical evidence that the road is safe to cross that determines the appropriate action.
Let’s ask one simple question: where does she get the idea that mere matter can reason at all? How does she know that she can determine what is real or not? Notice that her grasp of a material reality is filled out by immaterial concepts, namely in the form of words that are used to describe that material reality by using terms like “road” and “cross” and the purpose for crossing the road. Her blind materialism clouds her that reality is merely a skeleton that is fleshed out by an accompanying immaterial reality.
Atheists and theists leaving a sinking ship must go through exactly the same process of getting into a lifeboat even though the theist might spend a moment in prayer. Only the most insane of theist would decline to get in a lifeboat believing a god would be along to save them shortly. In effect, theists crossing a road or theists getting into a lifeboat are behaving just like atheists. Even Christians have a saying, ‘God helps those who help themselves’, to explain why people need to behave like atheists in everyday life. That rather begs the question though of why the Christian god would favour people who behave like atheists.
First, the saying “God helps those who helps themselves” is not Christian. The saying can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin who was, at best, a deist. It is not a biblical statement at all, and while some Christians may have picked it up, it is irrelevant to the argument.
Clearly her argument is against Christian theism, but by not qualifying the term “theist”, it comes off sounding like a hasty generalization. Being a Christian who believes in the absolute sovereignty of God, while I agree that it would definitely be a sign of, let’s say, lack of discernment, as opposed to insanity, to believe that God somehow owes me such a rescue. I also realize that to willingly stay behind in such a situation because I have trusted my life to him in Christ so that another might live is the highest calling of a believer. She’s free to ask the question, but she isn’t free to deny the fundamental problem that the answer poses to her.
Let’s read this quote,
Even the most religious of scientists must behave in science as though the material world is all that there is. No science is made possible or the answer made more reliable by including a god or something supernatural in the hypothesis because these things are untestable, unfalsifiable and hence unusable in real world science. A good scientist must behave as though he or she were an atheist when it comes to doing good science. Any religious beliefs must be excluded and discounted as surely as any personal bias. In effect, science is atheistic even if the scientist is not.
The error in her first assertion is the fault of her materialism, and begs the question: if the material world were all that there is, how would you know it? Have you ever thought about that? Just how would you know that the material world is all that there is when you are using that which is immaterial to make the assertion? Such is the self-refuting nature of materialistic assumptions.
Her next assertion is rather complex, so it may need to be broken down. She says, “No science is made possible or the answer made more reliable by including a god or something supernatural in the hypothesis […]” Let’s think about that. What does “science” do? It tells us about the material world and the relationships between elements that make up the material world, however in order to do science, you have to account for the laws of logic, the principle of induction, and uniformity in nature– that the future will be like the past–, all of which allow for science to be done in a meaningful way, and those are not material in their nature. She’s essentially assuming her conclusion without accounting for what leads up to it. In other words, in order to do science, you necessarily have to believe that it can be done, and the only meaningful way that science, which has to have a meaningful grounding for the knowledge that comes from the endeavor and for the intelligibility of the universe that is being studied in general, is that God exists and we know this because, as Paul states in Romans 1:20(ESV),
[His] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (emphasis added)
God, by the fact of his existence and his creative act in time is not only a part of the hypothesis, but is the grounds by which the hypothesis can be drawn, which goes to the second half of the statement, “[…]because these things are untestable, unfalsifiable and hence unusable in real world science.” Just what is she assuming that Christians are arguing? I’m guessing that this is an argument against Mormonism, more than Christianity. It is the fact that things are testable, falsifiable, and usable that testifies to God’s existence and makes “real world science” possible.
She continues in her excerpt,
Science only started to make any real process when scientists discovered the scientific method which requires them to behave like atheists when they do science. When, like creationists do today, scientists were expected to start from a religious view by for example taking the Bible as their starting point, science never progressed beyond that of the Bronze Age people who wrote the Bible. In effect, science was a pointless attempt to confirm Bronze Age superstitions, including a flat Earth, a geocentric Universe, the Sun and Moon as lamps hanging from a dome and the heart as the seat of emotions and thought.
Let’s deal, first, with her anachronism: “scientists” didn’t discover the scientific method. That’s simply a logically absurd statement, absent of any grasp of the reality of either history or logic. People have long been making observations about the world and formulating hypotheses about the reason behind some phenomena in the world, in fact, most historic philosophers of religion argued that this is what gave rise to animistic religions throughout the world, that the vast variety of events in the world were caused by spiritual forces. The fact that people have been making observations and have been coming to errant conclusions about the causes of what they have been seeing is nothing new. In fact, apart from a monotheistic view of the world, specifically a view that can be traced back to the revealed religions, and the interchange that they had with cultures, that the animistic view begins to draw back revealing the ignorance that it was, for it is in the monotheistic, revealed religions that the creation becomes knowable, but can only be known truly and meaningfully as it relates to its Creator. It is because of that fact that I can flip the statement, in that atheists actually have to behave like theists when they do science, because they have to ground intelligibility, uniformity in nature, and logic, things that have neither grounds nor guarantee of consistency from an atheistic worldview.
Her second statement, that beginning with the Bible as foundational, science would never have moved beyond the Bronze Age is also absent of any historical grounds to draw that conclusion. It is because scripture demands us to test assumptions, such as,
[Test] everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21, ESV)
…[Let] each one test his own work…(Galatians 6:4, ESV)
Now, while these were made in a spiritual context, it drove those men who believed Scripture to expand their application into the physical world. They saw these as divine appointments and took the entirety of Scripture to say that in knowing the world and how it behaves, they could know their Creator better, for as Isaac Newton wrote,
We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of anything is, we know not. In bodies we see only their figures and colours, we hear only the sounds, we touch only their outward surfaces, we smell only the smells, and taste the savours; but their inward substances are not to be known, either by our senses, or by any reflex act of our minds; much less then have we any idea of the substance of God. We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion.
(From, General Scholium, of The mathematical principles of natural philosophy. By Sir Isaac Newton. Translated into English by Andrew Motte. To which are added, the laws of the Moon’s motion, according to gravity. By John Machin Astron. Prof. Gresh. and Secr. R. Soc. In two volumes. London: Printed for Benjamin Motte, at the Middle-Temple-Gate, in Fleetstreet. MDCCXXIX, vol. 2, pp. 387-93.)
Ultimately though, the refutation of her argument is this: whatever those scientists set out to do, either to confirm belief or to answer questions about that belief, what they were in pursuit of was truth, and truth can only have meaningful grounds if there is something that is true to hold up to as a standard.
She goes into so much more in her post, and this post is knocking on 2000 words, so I’ll cover those in another post. But as to claims that she makes about science, be sure and check this video out for a great history of science lesson.