A number of years ago I was browsing at a Barnes and Noble while my brother-in-law was off looking for something or other in particular. On one of the tables near the front of the store there was a book, God’s Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe by Amir D. Aczel, that caught my eye and eventually peaked my interest enough to purchase, read, and recommend. The book is a fascinating history of general relativity, Einstein’s field equation, and the cosmological constant. The book isn’t about God, but rather about the quest to describe the origin and structure of the universe.
Given my appreciation for his earlier work, Aczel’s most recent book Why Science Does Not Disprove God immediately caught my eye. This book is not a defense of religious belief, and certainly not a defense of conservative Christianity (in the conclusion he comments that “the God of literal interpretations of Scripture … certainly does not exist” (p. 252), but is rather an attempt to refute the claim of the so-called “New Atheists” that modern scientific understanding disproves God. He is especially offended by the claim that religion is not only wrong, but also bad, stupid, and responsible for much of the human evil in the world with best-selling books like The End of Faith by Sam Harris, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens in the cross hairs. His real gripe is not as much with their mistreatment of religion (although he notes this) but with their mistreatment of science. In addition to these overtly anti-religion books, Aczel also addresses claims against the existence of God made in a number of books with a more specifically scientific focus such as Lawrence Krauss’s recent book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.
In the introduction Aczel defines his purpose:
The past few years have seen the rapid growth of the idea that God and science cannot possibly coexist. I feel that many people who hold this view distort both the process of science and its value. Science is about the objective pursuit of truth, and we should be very skeptical when “science” is invoked to further someone’s sociocultural agenda.
The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science.
This book is not written from the perspective of any one faith tradition, nor does it seek to defend our often flawed religious institutions. My goal is to restore science and faith to their proper realms and end the confusion sown by those who aim to destroy faith in the name of science. (p. 5)
Science with an agenda is not “true” science – whatever that sociocultural purpose of the agenda may be. In the prologue to the main body of the text he becomes even more explicit:
The problem with the science in the books and lectures of the New Atheists is that it is not pure science – the objective pursuit of knowledge about the universe. Rather it is “science with a purpose”: the purpose of disproving the existence of God. The arguments these authors make, therefore, are often tendentious. They bend and distort science to further their own agendas in a way that is not too different from what a scientist in the pay of a pharmaceutical company might be doing in writing a favorable report about a questionable drug the company makes. (p. 18)
The body of Aczel’s book includes chapters that look at the development of science, at archaeology, at the big bang, at the “Universe from Nothing” deception, at the anthropic principle, evolution, and the infinite. Over a series of posts we will look at a number of the arguments Aczel addresses and bring his counter arguments up for discussion.
What do you see as the strength or weakness of the claim that science disproves God?
Is this a claim you hear often?
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