I’ve responded to Frank Turek and Norm Geisler’s 2004 book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist here and here. Turek has a new book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. I haven’t read it, though I have listened to Turek’s outline of the book. His argument for theism uses the acronym CRIMES for his six points. I’ll respond over several posts.
The C in CRIMES is Cosmos
Turek wants a beginning for the universe, so he likes the Big Bang. “I believe in the Big Bang,” he says. “I just know who banged it.”
A Big Banger? Can you likewise not have a sand dune without a sand duner? Or a mountain without a mountain maker? Or river meanders without a meanderer? Causes can be natural, and Turek must show that his favorite cause is supernatural.
And Turek believes in the Big Bang? Turek comes at science with a religious mindset. In religion, you can believe some things (the Trinity, Noah’s flood, Jesus died for our sins) and not believe in other things (reincarnation, golden plates, Mohammed visited heaven on a winged horse). Some claims are contradictory, and you can’t believe them all. But in science, the consensus view about an issue is the best approximation to the truth that we have at the moment (more here and here). These consensus views aren’t incompatible, so you can accept them all. Turek has no science degrees, and laymen like Turek and I have no choice but to accept the scientific consensus on all topics.
By what logic would we reject them?
Turek quote mines famous scientists to make his points, and yet he has little respect for science. He picks and chooses the bits that he likes as if science were a salad bar. That cosmology looks nice, so I’ll have some of that. The theologically unpalatable bits like evolution he discards as if they’re wilted lettuce.
One of quotes he gives is from cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin. Here, Vilenkin refers to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem (2003):
With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.
(I respond to the Kalam Cosmological Argument here. Physicist Sean M. Carroll makes clear that Vilenkin’s theorem must make assumptions; change those assumptions, and the beginning is no longer mandatory here.)
But the problem with quote mining is that you often miss the context. On the very … next … page we find Vilenkin saying this:
Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. … The theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.
If Vilenkin’s work is compelling evidence, as Turek imagines, surely it is convincing to the originator himself. So then is Vilenkin a theist? I don’t think so.
Continued in part 2, Fine Tuning.
It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for everyone,
to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
— W. K. Clifford (1879)
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 7/30/13.)
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