Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ten Topics #2

John Loftis, at his blog Debunking Christianity, lists ten objections, concepts, or topics that seem to be raised most often by atheists in debates with theists. Over the course of the next week, I'd like to comment on each of them. Here's the second (my response to the first can be found by scrolling down the page):

2. Science has radically altered how we understand the universe, so theism must grapple with the implications of science before offering prescientific beliefs as truth.

This is largely true, but it seems to assume that the only good reasons for accepting theism are those reasons which are subject to scientific confirmation. That assumption is false. There are lots of good arguments for theism that don't have much, if anything, to do with science. The moral argument, the argument from the contingency of the universe, and the modern ontological argument, to name just three are each very compelling (see here; for more) but none of them relies on the data of science for its force.

Even if we limit ourselves to just those arguments upon which science does have something to say it's hard to see what data about the universe the skeptic thinks the theist might be ignoring. After all, it was skeptics who resisted for decades the standard Big Bang model of cosmogeny because they found the idea that the universe had a beginning unnervingly close to the Genesis account of divine creation ex nihilo.

And it's skeptics, not theists, who've been scrambling for the last three decades to develop a cosmological model that would enable them to escape the implications of cosmic fine-tuning.

The discoveries by scientists about the structure and nature of the universe fit very well with the theist's belief that the universe was designed and created ex nihilo by an intelligent agent, but comports poorly with the belief that the cosmos is the product of a chance fluctuation in a preexisting quantum vacuum, or worse, nothing at all.

Perhaps the writer of #2 has in mind the alleged conflict between evolution and creation, but, if so, this is not a conflict between science and theism. Theism is perfectly compatible with evolution. What it's not compatible with is the philosophical assumption that evolution is a purely naturalistic, unguided process, but that assumption, though it may be adopted by scientists, is metaphysical, not scientific.