BSR 20: Christianity Is Anti-Science

BSR 20: Christianity Is Anti-Science June 6, 2020

Summary of reply: We’ll wonder why there’s a map of world religions but not of world science, follow the evidence for the universe (it’s not looking good for God), and look for clues to a Cosmic Designer in human DNA.

(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)

Challenge to the Christian: Christianity is anti-science.

Christian response #1: Christianity isn’t anti-science, it’s just that there are many kinds of truth besides scientific truth. For example, truth can come from logic, mathematics, metaphysics, morals, history, or aesthetics.

BSR: Science makes “testable explanations and predictions about the universe” (Wikipedia). But take science’s methods—to follow the evidence honestly, to collaborate and critique, to reward the finding of errors and overturning of accepted truths, and so on—and apply them in other areas, and you can also have reliable results. History and mathematics are examples. Theology and perhaps metaphysics are not.

Theology not being a route to truth has a silver lining for the Christian because it prevents the Scientologist, Satanist, or Mormon from demanding that their contradicting supernatural views be taken seriously.

Christians imagine that the Big Questions—Why are we here? What is our purpose? Where did we come from?—is exclusively theirs to answer. But religion’s answers are dependent on the society. In India, Hinduism has one set of answers; in Yemen, Islam has different answers; and in Alabama, Christianity has different answers again. And it’s not like the answers from the world’s religions are gradually coming together. In fact, the opposite is true. Here again, following the evidence is the way to go. It turns out that Science does have answers to these Big Questions; it’s just that religion doesn’t want to hear them.

Look at a map of world religions and ask yourself why there is no equivalent map of world science.

Look at a map of world religions and ask yourself why there is no equivalent map of world science. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #2: Christianity isn’t anti-science. Some of the most famous scientists in history were Christians, as are many scientists today. And these scientists are bold enough to ask the Who question.

BSR: It’s true that Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, and many other scientists from centuries ago were Christian. But at that time pretty much everyone in Europe was a Christian. Newton’s chair at Cambridge required not only that he be a Christian but that he be an ordained Anglican priest.* Christianity was pretty much the only intellectual game in town, even though it explained little, and that poorly. How many of Europe’s early scientists would be Christian if they were living today, witnessing the explanatory power of modern science?

As for asking the Who question (in addition to asking What, How, and so on), Newton’s science never had a “then a miracle occurs” in step 2. His explanations were natural at every step. He did write a lot about Christianity (and alchemy, too, for that matter), but that was a separate project from his physics.

That’s true for modern scientists like Francis Collins as well. God is never cited as a cause in any of his work.

Might the Cosmic Salamander have snotted out the universe? We can’t prove it didn’t, but that’s not where the evidence points. Let’s follow the evidence. It doesn’t point to the Cosmic Salamander, to God, or indeed any Who at all.

Might the Cosmic Salamander have snotted out the universe? We can’t prove it didn’t, but that’s not where the evidence points. Let’s follow the evidence—and it doesn’t point to the Cosmic Salamander or to God. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #3: Don’t use science to reject the existence of God when the scientific evidence is most reasonably explained by God.

BSR: The argument claims that two scientific facts are important support for Christianity. First, (1) that the universe came from nothing and (2) that this was caused by “something powerful, non-spatial, non-temporal and non-material.”

(1) No, science has no consensus position on what preceded the Big Bang or if the idea of preceding even makes sense before time started. Christians must also explain how God created the universe from nothing if they claim to be following the science.

(2) The Big Bang could’ve been a quantum event, and some quantum events need no causes. Furthermore, if the zero-energy universe hypothesis is correct, the universe contains zero total mass and energy, and the need for a powerful something-or-other to kick things off vanishes. And remember that science’s uncertainty is never support for God.

The second claimed fact in this argument is that DNA is strong support for the Design Argument—that the universe looks designed, so there must be a Designer. But this fails, too. DNA alone neatly defeats the Design Argument.

To see this, first consider what the hallmarks of human design are. A designer might optimize for strength, efficiency, cost, speed of assembly, durability, lightness, or even beauty. What you never see is deliberate junk, and yet junk is just what you see with DNA. Human DNA has 20,000 nonworking pseudogenes. Archaic genes are sometimes switched on due to DNA copying errors (these are atavisms, like tails in human). Vestigial structures are flashbacks to body features from ancestor species (such as blind eyes in cave fish). A surprising eight percent of human DNA is fragments inserted from viruses.

Might God have a reason to put this junk in human DNA? Maybe, but the claimed parallel between human designers and God—that is, the Design Argument—fails. Human DNA certainly looks like it was the result of a sloppy process like evolution rather than the precise design of an omniscient Designer.

Human DNA alone defeats the Design Argument. It’s a record of the twists and turns evolution made. No Designer would add this junk. [Click to tweet]

(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)

*An exemption from the king allowed Newton to accept the Lucasian chair at Cambridge without taking holy orders because Newton had heretical views about the Trinity.

Continue with BSR 21: Earth Is Insignificant in a Huge Hostile Universe

For further reading:

Do you realize if it weren’t for Edison
we’d be watching TV by candlelight?
— Al Boliska

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Image from Mary Loftus, CC license
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