Hopefully readers might know that I’m not the kind of person to assume I know everything, and I do not welcome the insults and unconstructive commentary that often takes place online in response to hot topics like this – just an advance notice.
But I cannot help but be bemused as to how Dawkins and some of his faithful followers might explain this one:
Unless I’m GREATLY mistaken (and I have seen a lot of Dawkins videos and debated one of his followers extensively on facebook and read many other debates), the central thrust of his argument against theism or deism, or at least against Christianity, is that there is ‘no evidence’ for the things that we believe, hence we have ‘faith’ – this weak, pathetic thing called faith (for which, by the way, millions of Christians have died for especially in hard-hit nations with oppressive governments such as China so we would thank Dawkins and his fellows for their sensitivity and awareness in addressing this subject). Anything for which there IS evidence comes under the category of science, and no longer requires faith, because it has been quantifiably proven. In other words, faith is based on absence of evidence, and science upon anything which is evident – in particular by testing in a laboratory or observable in nature.
First of all this is a completely misleading definition of faith coming from one who would himself say he doesn’t have faith, and he should ask those who have some. Look to books on our shelves such as ‘Evidence That Demands a Verdict‘ by Josh McDowell and many others in the realm of apologetics (Who moved the stone? by Frank Morrison would be another) to discover that any notion that we don’t think we have any evidence for our faith to be quelled. It must also be mentioned that to label all ‘evidence’ under science is laughable, evidence for things comes in historical, literary, and even art forms. Evidence for belief in God or gods is ubiquitous throughout history and culture, so the recent ascendancy of this kind of new atheism really is an aberration in social and cultural history (not that that disqualifies it of course) and the assertion that there is no God challenges centuries of belief in all cultures and would also have to assert that there has never been any quantifiable basis for a belief in god(s) in any society – and I’m not quite sure they’ve done that much research. Their proclamation as decided atheists by all accounts seems to be based on what they make of 20th/21st century western Christianity, which as I have made clear is I think a much-misguided, prejudiced and myopic assessment. Their assertions ought to be applied to and tested against belief throughout history and culture for their confidence as atheists to really stand.
But mainly I thought it might be pertinent to point out that theories like the Big Bang and the more general atheistic idea have at their centre some ‘beliefs’ which are fundamentally statements of faith without supportable evidence. The notion that something came from nothing, it must be said, is not in the slightest bit observable in nature, nor is it examinable in the laboratory, or anywhere that something ‘appears’ out of thin air – perhaps indeed with some sort of chemically-fused bang. In our experience, with the evidence of nature and the world around us, something always comes from something else. It’s primary-school stuff this. Birds and bees and all that. It’s the old argument (much-despised by atheists) that if you find a watch with many complicated components all working in perfect harmony to tell the correct time, you assume it has been designed. This argument might have been challenged by atheists on different levels, but I wonder if it isn’t simply because it’s a way of saying that we have evidence for something. A world and a universe which seems to have been created, according to all other evidence that we have available to us.
Ah, well, Darwin triumphs over that. Apparently. Except that, as most people forget, he said he was to be known as a deist – ie, someone who believes in a ‘god’, though without taking the step of defining who that god might be (a theist). Too bad. Neither does evolution magically show us that something came from nothing. Much of its data still speaks of incredibly intricate design, evidence upon which to base faith.
I personally think that Dawkins’ logic in this one is flawed and anybody who considers it ought sometime to come to this conclusion. However the persistence and pervasiveness of this thinking I think reveals what it attempts to conceal – an underlying antagonism against religion, the religious, and so on. How else could Dawkins thoughtfully rail against billions on the planet who genuinely and unswervingly hold a faith in God (or gods), many of them in peril for their beliefs? The kind of faith he talks about, isn’t held by anyone I know except perhaps himself over the origins of the universe.
One last moot point which really should have another blog of similar nature written on it. In one video I watched Alistair McGrath put it to Dawkins that much of modern science has its roots in Christianity. This is true – the very notion that the universe is understandable comes with a presumption rooted in design and harmony rather than apparently orderly chaos. But more than this McGrath rightly mentioned that many of modern science’s thinkers (I am bad with names but I can name Newton) as well as some of its more recent pioneers, have been faith-filled Christians – again, bad with names, can someone help me out with the guy who I think is a prof at Oxford who has also become an ordained priest? John someone? I can also mention (because I heard him speak recently) Ard Louis, another Oxfordite.
Anyway, to my surprise and distress, Dawkins brushed aside these correct points with a statement that he merely “wasn’t aware of the Christians who have been in science”! A man of his stature and boast! And so much of what he does is rail against Christianity, yet he has not looked into the significant contribution made by Christian scientists to his field. Either that, or he is aware, and is ignoring it. Surely not??
So in conclusive summary, a lot of people faithfully follow Dawkins, vitriolicly declaring that they have defeated the idea of god, proclaiming themselves decided atheists, when much of their thinking is based on the kind of logic that they themselves seek to destroy, ie., they have faith that something, at some point, came from NOTHING – an assertion for which they can show no quantifiable evidence.
Readers may be interested in this – a powerpoint by Ard Louis (mentioned above) who knows far more names and relevant info (being a scientist – in fact a theoretical physicist to be precise) than I. Obviously it is a powerpoint to accompany a talk so it will only half make sense. It might help the reader to glean some facts or other general thoughts though.
*Disclaimer: I am aware that to be up to speed on these things and the position of the current debate it would help if I had read Stephen Hawking’s latest book, apologies that I have not.*
*Request: comments are to be polite and helpful. Insulting ones will be deleted, and I will exercise my discretion in that.*