Sunday, April 27, 2008
Does science make belief in God obsolete?
The John Templeton Foundation has a website where "leading scientists and scholars" discuss the question "Does science make belief in God obsolete?" [A Templeton Conversation] One of these prominent intellectuals is Ken Miller and his answer is "Of course not."
One of our regular readers (Oldcola) left a comment on this site where he criticized the views of Ken Miller. His comment was initially posted intact but within a few days a heavily edited version replaced the original comment. The man responsible for editing the comment is Gary Rosen.
Apparently, the Templeton Foundation objected to the claim that they were soft on creationism, according to Oldcola. Oldcola requested that his edited comment be removed, and it was.
You can read an extended critique of Ken Miller's position on Oldcola's blog Coffee and Sci(ence) [Does science make belief in God obsolete?]. It's an excellent essay.
Incidentally, although it's not directly relevant to Miller's position, and it's not something that he clearly states, I find that theists of all sorts make the same false assumption when discussing the conflict between science and religion. They almost always assume that their atheist friends started life as theists and then lost their faith. Thus, they assume that there is something about science that disproves the default assumption; namely, that God exists.
While this might be true of many atheists, especially in the USA, it's not true of many others in Europe and elsewhere. Many atheists never bought into a belief in supernatural beings in the first place. This will be more and more likely as time goes on and the children of atheists have children of their own. When scientists like Ken Miller have to explain why science makes them go from being an atheist to a beleiver, it becomes much more difficult. Just look at the contortions that Francis Collins had to come up with.
Here's the point. It's up to theists to start making the case for the existence of God instead of just whining about those who have lost their faith. Let's say you've been raised in a home where superstitious beliefs are not valued. Then you start studying science seriously when you get to university. Is there anything about science that points to the existence of supernatural beings given that you haven't been brainwashed to believe in them as a child? I don't think so.
As Oldcola points out, many theists are simply afraid to abandon their comforting delusions. They believe science teaches us that the universe has no purpose—they are correct—and for them this depressing thought is sufficient to prove that science must be wrong. What they fail to understand is that the thought is only "depressing" if you've been brainwashed to to believe that there is a purpose in the first place.