Why Science Does Not Disprove God

Why Science Does Not Disprove God July 6, 2016

I am grateful to Morrow for sending me a gratis review copy of Amir Aczel’s book Why Science Does Not Disprove God. Aczel’s previous work on the history of science and math is well-known. This book is based on interviews with a range of scientists and scholars, and is intended as a direct response to the claims of New Atheists. Aczel describes his aim in writing as follows: “The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science…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). What follows in the first chapter is essentially a history of religion as science, or in other words, as the exploration by ancient human beings of the idea that behind the visible workings of the world around us are powerful unseen forces. Chapter 2 challenges the idea that archaeology disproves the Bible, and while Aczel rightly rejects that simplistic statement, he lurches too far in the opposite direction, failing to mention that Kathleen Kenyon’s work at Jericho confirmed the collapse of the walls, but also raised problems for those who would connect that collapse with invading Israelites. That chapter, at any rate, seems like a bit of an oddity, as the volume resumes its survey of the entangled history of religion, philosophy, and science, covering topics ranging from Isaac Newton’s interest in the Book of Daniel, to Foucault’s pendulum experiment proving in 1851 that the Earth does indeed rotate (with the Catholic Church finally accepting this proof in 1913). Aczel also highlights the revisionist approach to the history of science that New Atheists adopt, such as when Lawrence Krauss inserted “[sic]” after the word “God” when quoting Einstein (p.105). Chapters 7 and 14 focus in on Krauss’ deceptive attempt to claim that science can genuinely give us a universe from “nothing” (as opposed to pre-existing laws, quantum foam, or something else that isn’t “nothing” in any obvious sense). Other chapters focus in on problems with the ways that New Atheists appeal to a multiverse, probability, and the anthropic principle. In chapter 12, Aczel seems to once again swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction in responding to the New Atheists when, in discussing altruism, he writes, “I have never heard of an atheist group volunteering to offer comfort to the ill or the distressed” (p.205). I am quite sure that I could pull up quite a few examples of atheists working together for positive ends without too much trouble, and without this exaggeration, the point would still have stood that religious charitable organizations are much more numerous and widespread.

The book is not about proving the existence of God. Rather, the aim is to show that science has not disproven God, nor has it shown that the idea of a God of some description is superfluous in light of scientific progress. It may be that the origin of life and the emergence of consciousness will have full explanations in materialistic terms. But that is not something that is scientifically proven. And when it comes to the origin of the universe that might be able to give rise to those things, science simply is not poised to answer the ultimate question. That doesn’t mean that religion is, much less that some particular religion is. That is Aczel’s point: that while the New Atheists and their religious fundamentalist mirror images confidently claim to know, if we are honest we will have to live with mystery and uncertainty.

And so Aczel’s point is an excellent one as a response to the New Atheists, and I recommend it to those who may have been unduly impressed with the confident claims those figures have made. But it is equally relevant to Ken Ham and others involved in producing the Ark Encounter. Ham abandons faith as a result of the limits knowledge and perspective humans have, and substitutes confident certainty despite not having been there (to echo his silly question). And so, as Aczel emphasizes, far from YEC fundamentalism and New Atheism being poles apart, with one likely to achieve victory over the other, they are in fact mutually creating and sustaining interdependent phenomena, with the irrational confidence and unsupported assertions of each simply leading to further entrenchment and elevated rhetoric from the other.

Now that the fundamentalists have a giant Noah’s Ark, I can’t help but wonder what equal but opposite edifice we will get from the New Atheists…

 

 


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Randy Wanat

    Well, of COURSE there are more religious charitable organizations. After all, religions have spent the last three thousand years making it nearly impossible to publicly declare one’s disbelief in gods without being run out of town or killed. It’s only in the kast century, and mainly in the last ten, that atheists have been able to both publicly declare their atheism AND organize sufficiently (thanks to the Internet) to create charitable groups that provide succor without the strings that religious groups tie to their aid.

    • I think you have likely vastly overestimated the number of people who were secretly atheists and longed to say so but could not in bygone eras. And it is interesting that an atheist would make this kind of assertion without evidence, while others here are criticizing religious people for doing that.

      Of course, Christians were considered “atheists” by the Romans, but I doubt that serves as evidence for your point…

      • Brian Westley

        I think you have likely vastly overestimated the number of people who were secretly atheists and longed to say so but could not in bygone eras.

        I think you’ve read something into Randy Wanat’s comment that isn’t there. The number of atheists isn’t the point, it’s that none of them could be public about it without risking severe consequences for much of history. So of course you won’t find groups of open atheists for the same reason.

        I would also add that the whole “religious charitable organizations” vs. “atheist charitable organizations” angle is like observing Shriners hospitals for children and berating everyone who isn’t a Shriner for not caring about sick children, as if people who aren’t Shriners can only care about sick children by banding together under the banner of “a group of people who are not Shriners” and build hospitals.

      • Randy Wanat

        Yes, it was a bit hyperbolic. But, the point stands. It’s easy for people to not be aware of atheist organizations when there are so few, so new, and the danger of public atheism has made it impossible for atheist organizations to even exist until only very recently.

      • Randy Wanat

        Also, I should say, if it were safe to be publicly atheist throughout history, perhaps religions would have begun losing adherents far earlier, and their numbers would be far fewer now. It’s not an unreasonable thing to wonder, and certainly would be the fear of the religious institutions that would motivate the draconian treatment they have devised for atheists over the millennia.

        • I still think you are overestimating the extent to which atheism was a popular option in the past and needed to be suppressed. Until Newton, even Deism did not seem plausible to many people, as we know from the relative unpopularity of ancient Epicureanism. And even the latter was not actively suppressed much of the time, was it?

  • DKeane123

    Science is not in the business of disproving things, it’s job it to accumulate evidence for propositions. A proposition without evidence is worthless in the eyes of science. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t accumulated any evidence for God or gods.

    • There are plenty of things that science doesn’t pronounce on which are nonetheless not worthless, ranging from art to values. That is the main point of the book!

      • Psygn

        Wouldn’t that fall under psychology and-or brain structure?

      • DKeane123

        I disagree. We can see the chemical and neurological effects of art on our brain. They are real. Even something like values are developed in our brain and have an impact on our actions. Values that don’t ensure our survival are weeded out via selective pressures, which is the very basis of evolution.

        • Aczel is fully aware that it is possible to make such assertions, that everything that characterizes living things provides some survival advantage. But can you demonstrate this to be the case? Can you show that peacock tails have the characteristics they do solely because of peahen preferences and nothing else? Can you demonstrate that art and altruism, beauty and benevolence, are all explicable in terms of such genetic reductionism?

          • DKeane123

            I am a geologist, not an evolutionary biologist – so not exactly my area of expertise, so keep that in mind. You use the term “everything”, and I know that there are biological traits that do not result in an evolutionary advantage, in that they have no immediate impact on lifespan relative to procreation and the survival of offspring. One such aspect would be vestigial organs – like load bearing hips on whales (that used to walk in shallow waters).

            But I think we are shifting the burden of proof here, with a little bit of God of the gaps sprinkled in. Let’s say that we cannot show that some characteristic (let’s use art as an example) does not convey some evolutionary advantage (or isn’t the by product of some other evolutionary adaptation). So we have established that we don’t know why our brains feel the need to create or appreciate art. You are not allowed to stick God into that gap. You actually have to demonstrate God exists, has the ability to alter our brains., etc. To stick God in there creates a double standard, whereby science has to provide significant evidence for a naturalistic explanation, but supernaturalists provide essentially no backup for their position.

          • Obviously the vaious forms of pseudoscientific creationism engage in the God of the gaps thing in ways that are problematic both scientifically theologically. That isn’t the point. The point is that there are things we genuinely do not know about the history of the cosmos and life in it, and something that we may never know about the origin of the cosmos and why anything exists at all. Aczel’s book doesn’t offer any kind of argument for the existence of God. It simply takes to task those who falsely claim that science has disproved the existence of God, or rendered non-fundamentalist forms of religious belief inherently irrational.

          • DKeane123

            Agreed then. The book is a solution to a non existent problem. I can’t for the life of me think of a scientist that makes the claim that God has been disproven. Which of course goes back to the issue that science isn’t in the business of disproving things.

          • I take it you are unfamiliar with the New Atheists, then?

          • DKeane123

            I am familiar with them. Richard Dawkins has specifically stated in the The God Delusion that he can’t prove that God doesn’t exist and that he has left a small amount of room for the possibility. If I have missed something, please give me a quote.

          • They think we didn’t exist before the The Four Horsemen galloped in to tell us what not to believe. I was an atheist before I ever heard of these wonderful gentlemen.

          • Sorry if it was unclear that by “prove” I meant it not in its mathematical sense (I was not discussing math) but in its more common usage, “demonstrate to the extent that any intelligent person should agree with the conclusion, while acknowledging a slim but insignificant possibility of error.”

          • But believers don’t have to meet such a high bar. They have faith, and nothing else. Which is why they twist themselves in knots and try and put the burden of proof on the non-believer. I don’t know if this used to work. But, no thinking person is falling for such a lame trick, in this day and age.

          • By “believers” here you are of course referring to the kinds of fundamentalist religious views that are criticized regularly on this blog, and which Aczel is in no way defending. And so what is the relevance of your comment to the present discussion?

          • It’s all the same to me. Belief in a god, whether it’s Spinoza’s God or some Southern Baptist’s God, it’s still belief in the unbelievable and illogical.

          • And so Einstein, whose belief was explicitly in Spinoza’s God, was illogical? This is precisely the kind of arrogant assertion that Aczel is addressing!

          • Indeed. Just because even the most brilliant minds in existence fall for it, guys like Michio Kaku, doesn’t mean they’re always logical. They’re fallible men, who fall victim to the ‘I don’t know, so it must have been gawd’ thing, just like their layperson counterparts. It’s the easiest way out.

          • That’s one explanation, but not a very plausible one, given that Einstein is obviously not appealing to a theistic idea of God to explain things he doesn’t know.

            Perhaps a more likely explanation is that there are a small number of people who enjoy the feeling of being smarter than Einstein, and so prefer denigrating him to acknowledging that one can intelligently hold views other than yours?

          • Hey, whatever. Why not put words in my mouth. Like I think I’m smarter than those guys.

          • DKeane123

            So we are going to get more into definition of terms here. But I view the word “prove” associated with “providing evidence for a proposition”. So to prove there is no God, I would have to provide evidence for a negative – which doesn’t make much sense. I would say there is a significant lack of evidence for God or gods (supernatural in general) when considering our accumulated scientific knowledge. Especially when looking at this history of science overturning what were previously seen as religious truths (this is huge for me and underscores the lack of reliability associated with revelation as a method for accumulating knowledge).

            I should also note that science isn’t the only field that I hang my atheist hat on. The history, geographic distribution, and failure of religions also significantly impact my belief.

            As an FYI – I would define myself as an agnostic atheist (I can’t know there is no God, but do not believe there is one). I suspect that Dawkins and the other more vocal atheists with science backgrounds would be in a similar boat.

          • Yes, definitions are a key part of it, and many liberal religious people would reject the theistic view of God as a being within the universe for the same reasons you do. But what about the concept of God as Ground of Being, along panentheist lines, of a kind that eschews the supernatural?

          • Skeptic NY

            I find all the verbiage associated with this god concept to be tiresome and moot. Since there is ZERO evidence for any god and since it’s clear that religion and what god(s) one believes in is almost 100% dependent on where one was born all this mental gymnastic devoted to apologetics to be harmful. There most probably is no god – get over it and grow-up.

          • John MacDonald

            “There most probably is no god.”

            Provide one shred of evidence in support of this claim.

          • Skeptic NY

            I know of no “new” atheists who claim they can disprove the god claim.

          • John MacDonald

            Atheists are all the time claiming that God has been disproven with arguments like this:

            “If there was a loving, caring personal God who watches over us and has a plan for our lives, there wouldn’t be 2 year old children dying of cancer. That isn’t love.” (notice this argument only mounts evidence against the idea that God is loving, not against the idea that God exists as Bart Ehrman and others try to argue).

            Atheist scientists among others try to mount evidence from the physical universe as suggesting God doesn’t exist, such as particle physicist Victor Stenger in the book “God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, Prometheus Books, 2012.”

          • DKeane123

            Please re-read my statement.

          • John MacDonald

            DKeane123 said: “I can’t for the life of me think of a scientist that makes the claim that God has been disproven.”

            As I said, particle physicist Victor Stenger argued that the science of physics disproves God.

          • DKeane123

            I would like to see a quote. The title does not suggest a “proof”

          • Stenger calls God “The Failed Hypothesis.” Will that do?

            http://amzn.to/29rk4Zx

            Also relevant:
            http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/stenger.htm

          • DKeane123

            You know what, I’m going to give you that one. You did find a single scientist/NA that made the claim. I disagree with his title (in the same way I a disagree with this book).

            The definition of God is different depending upon who you ask, so trying to nail down a definitive version to “disprove” is near impossible. Even the most outrageous claim, like Noah’s flood, could have happened. The geologic record clearly shows that no flood of that magnitude ever occurred on this planet, but there is still the remote possibility that there was a flood and that God through its powers erased all evidence of it after the fact (I know I would if I was responsible for a genocide). Science can never disprove something like that.

          • John MacDonald

            Here is a 3 minute video of another of the New Atheists, Dr. Richard Carrier, explaining why the scientific findings of modern physicists/cosmologists speak against belief in the Christian God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6FQdyHUXwc

          • DKeane123

            I enjoyed that. I had never heard of him and would love to check out more. Notice he never says that God doesn’t exist, just that the Christian God would have had to really like black holes and failed to mention it to anyone. It could still exist, it would just be kind of weird.

          • John MacDonald

            Here is Carrier’s web site and blog: http://www.richardcarrier.info/
            I don’t agree with his Jesus mythicism, but he’s a smart guy and makes some good points about Christianity.

          • Skeptic NY

            Most atheists did not try to prove that there is no god (seems like you don’t understand what it means to be an atheist). What they do is present evidence that everything ever discovered by man has a NATURAL explanation – no woo required.

          • Skeptic NY

            His book then is essentially useless as science has never claimed it can prove that god(s) do not exist. The god concept, like the Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy concepts are irrelevant in science.

          • On the one hand, it sounds as though you might agree with Aczel, that science and religion deal with separate kinds of matters and neither should claim that its field of inquiry invaldates the other.

            On the other hand, you refer to “the god concept” in the songular, and make reference to Santa and the Tooth Fairy, which makes me think that perhaps you haven’t got enough exposure to the range of different kinds of religions and religious ideas to be able to discuss this subject meaningfully.

        • arcseconds

          If you think that understanding what’s going on the brain when someone looks at art is understanding art, you don’t understand art.

          • DKeane123

            And you don’t understand neuroscience. Touche.

          • arcseconds

            I don’t believe you have any basis for this statement whatsoever, and it would also appear to be kind of irrelevant.

            You don’t need to be an expert in typography to know that typography is largely irrelevant to marine biology. The fact that every marine biology book ever published has been set in a particular typeface, etc. does not change this fact.

            But let’s look at this claim a little more closely. You appear to be claiming that art is ‘in the head’, and neuroscience is the study of things that are in the head, so by understanding neuroscience we understand art.

            But geology is also ‘in the head’, no? Geology is not, after all, the rocks themselves, but the accumulated knowledge of the rocks, theories about how they form, etc.

            So do you also think that we understand geology by looking at the chemical and neurological effects of rocks on our brain?

          • DKeane123

            My answer was a bit flippant. Let me explain myself better.

            We understand geology only through the ability of our eyes to transmit electrical signals to our brain (and touch, smell,and sometimes even taste), which then converts it into an image. That image is then evaluated relative to our logic, memory, and even emotional centers of the brain. Whether it is a rock, textbook, lecture or anything else. Our interaction, processing, and reaction to sensory inputs are all due to our brain function. So yes, my understanding of geology is entirely within my brain and if medical science were advanced enough, it might be able to pinpoint the areas in my brain where my geology knowledge and experiences are stored and processed.

          • arcseconds

            How can neuroscience tell the difference between a good geological theory and a bad one? Doesn’t someone actually have to look at rocks at some point?

            I have this vision of a future society where no-one actually does any experiments or field-trips any more, and neuroscience has swallowed everything, and science is understood to be entirely about peering inside people’s heads, as they think about rocks, and trees, and moving bodies. And presumably also inside the heads of the people peering inside people’s heads.

            But surely this turns into a technologically advanced version of the stereotype of natural philosophy during the middle ages, whereby no-one actually studies the phenomena, but just pontificate on pontifications on Aristotle.

          • DKeane123

            Neurosciences doesn’t tell the difference, our brain does. Which functions based upon the physical laws of the universe.

          • arcseconds

            But this seems like just as an irrelevant consideration for geology than the books are printed using ink, no?

            I mean, let’s just pretend for the moment that immaterial beings took an interest in geology. If you don’t like angels, then let’s say they’re Star Trek Q, or something. Would they not have to do much the same kinds of things as human scientists do? They would have to examine rock strata and geological processes and come up with theories and find they don’t work out exactly, and modify or reject them, etc.

            And if we encountered such beings, we could surely have a constructive conversation with them about geology — compare notes.

            If someone were to say “wait, they don’t have material brains, so their so-called ‘geology’ must be something completely different from ours” or something, that would seem to be a very weird objection to make, wouldn’t it?

            It would be about as weird as saying that a geology text book means something different depending on whether it’s ink on paper or an electronic copy.

            Just as geology isn’t a different subject now it’s increasingly done on computers, I would think it’s not a different subject if it were thought about by immaterial beings.

      • Skeptic NY

        At least we have proof art and values exist. We have ZERO evidence for any god – so the point still stands. The god hypothesis is irrelevant in science, as again there is zero evidence and no way to test for it. It’s like god(s) doesn’t exist which is very most likely true.

        • Values exist in people’s minds, just as theological ideas do. Are you suggesting that the former have some other kind of objective existence?

  • Psygn

    There is no evidence of gods, its a non-issue.

    What is a “New Atheist”?

    • Who was talking about “gods”? And as for the notion of a self-existent entity, it isn’t clear how one gets a contingent universe without one. It may well be possible, but it has scarcely been demonstrated.

      • Psygn

        Scientists create light from vacuum
        November 17, 2011

        http://phys.org/news/2011-11-scientists-vacuum.html

        • Are you trying to pull a Lawrence Krauss, despite this having been addressed in the review? Or did you assume that when it says vacuum, it means “nothing” in an absolute sense?

          • Psygn

            What you did in the review was simple denial and no intelligent reason given, It was an acquaintance of mine from high school who did the first measurement of the quantum field, Casimir Effect at the U of Washington back around 1996 within 15% of the prediction. Empty space is inherently unstable at the smallest Planck length producing an imbalance or a faint magnetic field.

            Your belief is not required nor is your squabbling about what empty space is or is not.

          • I would encourage you to ask your acquaintance whether what you are calling empty space is absolute nothingness or not. Perhaps then you will understand the point, which is implicit in what you yourself have written in each comment.

          • Psygn

            If you have some rational argument of why the existence of space, time or a quantum field needs justified or needs a creator or beginning, why don’t you get to it?

          • If you have some rational argument as to why the existence of space, time, and/or a quantum field is self-explanatory and needs no justification or beginning, why don’t you get to it?

            Can you at least admit that if spacetime simply exists eternally, that is something mysterious and puzzling rather than something self-evident, simple, and trite?

          • Psygn

            Why do you need a god thing to justify your existence?

          • DKeane123

            Turn this argument around with a one word substitution
            “Can you at least admit that if God simply exists eternally, that is something mysterious and puzzling rather than something self-evident, simple, and trite?”

          • Obviously yes. Wasn’t that clear from the outset?

          • John MacDonald

            As an agnostic, I think it’s just as reasonable to invoke “God” as an ultimate explanatory principle for things like “the universe” or “life,” as it is to say everything originated naturally and materialistically. However, it definitely transgresses the limits of reason when we try to “get specific” about “The Supernatural.” In terms of “specifics,” if you lean toward the supernatural explanation, then it is just as likely that “The Judeo Christian God” created life and the universe, as it is that “The Immaterial Power Unicorn” created life and the universe.

      • Brian Westley

        And as for the notion of a self-existent entity, it isn’t clear how one gets a contingent universe without one.

        It isn’t clear that this is a contingent universe.

        • That is the dominant cosmology, but you seem to be missing the point. Aczel is not suggesting that the existence of God has been proven or can be proven. He is rather showing that claims to have provided comprehensive alternatives which render religion superfluous and irrational overstate what science has demonstrated.

          • Brian Westley

            The “dominant cosmology” is that this universe was created by a self-existent entity? I don’t agree. That might be a common theology, but not cosmology.

          • No, please do not forget what we were talking about. That isn’t what I said. The dominant cosmology views our universe as contingent rather than eternal. What if anything came before it is not a question that we have the data to answer.

          • Brian Westley

            The dominant cosmology views our universe as contingent rather than eternal.

            Citation needed.

          • I’d recommend reading books by physicists on this topic, but here are a couple of articles that are easily accessible online that may make good starting points:

            https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328474.400-why-physicists-cant-avoid-a-creation-event/

            http://gizmodo.com/5904714/mathematic-proof-that-the-universe-had-a-beginning

          • Brian Westley

            The New Scientist link says “two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos…The other suggests that the universe is not eternal”, which means that our existing understanding of the cosmos ISN’T that, at least not yet. It’s not the dominant cosmology, but a challenger.

            That NS article goes on to make the totally arbitrary claim that “The other suggests that the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator”, where “the hand of a supernatural creator” is nonsense — the sentence should end at the word ‘cosmos’, without tacking on religious language as if that’s the only possible alternative. That false dichotomy isn’t scientific at all.

          • Right. The dominant cosmology is that the universe had a beginning – the Big Bang. But there absolutely have been challenges to that, as is inherent in the nature of scientific and indeed all academic research.

          • Brian Westley

            The dominant cosmology is that the universe had a beginning – the Big Bang.

            No, that the big bang happened — that doesn’t say whether the universe existed before that, such as in an oscillating universe which would be a series of big bangs/big crunches. The NS article implies that an eternal universe IS the dominant cosmology, because a challenge to the dominant cosmology is that it is NOT eternal.

          • It does indeed say that. I didn’t have the impression that views such as Hawking’s bounded universe had persuaded quite so many physicists already. That goes to show how hard it is to keep up with a field outside of one’s own…

      • Grimlock

        I’m not sure how one gets a universe from a self-existent entity either. Nor do I see any good reason to suppose that such an “entity” should be called a god in any conventional sense.

        • The term God (and more to the point, the Greek equivalent theos) has been used to refer to such an “entity” for thousands of years. What do you consider the “conventional sense” of the word to be, and why do you think that linguistically that usage should be made exclusive of other historic usages of the word?

          • Psygn

            God is nothing more than worship of an ideology laced with superstition and dogma.

          • I am sorry to hear that the full extent of your acquaintance with the phenomenon of religion is so narrowly limited to the recent fundamentalist variety.

          • Psygn

            Recent? Crazy fundamentalists have been killing people for centuries, millennia and the world is getting tired of it.
            Religion needs to fade into history.

          • DKeane123

            Old Testament backs up your point. Genocides are regularly referenced and either have the approval of or are carried out directly by God. Nothing recent about it.

          • The historical evidence suggests that the early Israelites were themselves Canaanites, and that the laws in Deuteronomy and the depiction of genocide in Joshua were crafted to support a revolution in the time of King Josiah. But even if they were literally factual accounts from the time they purport to be from, no one is disputing that people have killed in the name of ideologies throughout history. Atheist persecution of religion in the Soviet Bloc made it harder to be religious, but people did so. The evidence we have suggests that atheism simply wasn’t an attractive or plausible option until relatively recently – as a result of the same Enlightenment developments that gave rise to religious fundamentalism as a response.

          • arcseconds

            It seems to me to be extremely implausible to suppose that religion fading into history is something that could happen. Saying otherwise just strikes me as flying in the face of everything we know about human beings.

            The only possibility I can see is an extremely effective world government that has eliminating religion as one of its highest priorities… and even then we have to suppose that it would be far more effective than any repressive government we have yet known.

          • Grimlock

            I was thinking about a being with such properties as omnipotence, agency, etc.

            Though I seem to recall that agency was not necessarily something Aristotle attributed to his prime mover..?

            You do implicitly raise an interesting subject, I.e. the different uses and meanings of the term “god”. I occasionally see people conflating a young earth creationist god with a more philosophical and abstract concept. A generous interpretation of this conflation is in my opinion that a rather substantial gap is being ignored. So I am in general fond of people specifying what they mean by the term in a given context.

    • saab93f

      “New atheist” is a derogatory term coined by religious charlatans. It is nothing more than instead of being silent, the well-versed educated people objecting the strangle-hold religions have had on societies.
      Someone above pointed out how ultra-silly one of the premises of the book are – that science has not been able to disprove deities. The writer(s) should be ashamed of themselves – science cannot disprove Yahweh anymore than werevolves or leprechauns. Imaginary objects cannot be proven nor disproven.

      • It is interesting to watch the progression in the comments. One person either caricatures the book without having read it, or misunderstands the review and misrepresents it. Others come along and treat the caricature or misrepresentation as gospel. And not one of the commentators stops to think that, in so doing, they are confirming Aczel’s criticisms of the New Atheists…

        • saab93f

          That’s a bit uncalled-for. You don’t really expect that peeps must read to book before commenting and not “rely” on tho bloggers review and/or thoughts.

          The basic premise that science has not been able to DISprove god is just so gobsmacking silly that anyone even having touched a book (other than the Bible) wouldn’t make it and not feel ashamed. There could be good points innit as well but if you were to write a book about Third Reich and started with a claim that science hasn’t been able to prove that Hitler was a bad man or that concentration camps were anything unlike VBS camps, you’d have hard time with the rest of the book.

          What is your definition of “New Atheists”?

          • The starting point is precisely the fact that there are many atheists who compare the issue to the science of the existence of leprechauns or Santa Claus, as if that were the kind of topic that educated and philosophically well-informed theists, never mind Deists, panentheists, and pantheists, are talking about. When the title talks about disproving, it is talking about claims such as that it has been shown that one can explain a universe coming into existence from nothing, and thus God is shown to be unnecessary and redundant, when in fact what has been shown is that a universe can come into existence spontaneously if the laws of physics, or quantum fluctuations, or something else is posited as already not merely existing, but existing with precisely the characteristics needed to bring a universe into existence.

            The issue is with people like Krauss, Dawkins, Dennett and others claiming to have eliminated mystery of the sort that is what many people are referring to when they talk about God.

          • saab93f

            In anything but mathematics, proving means that there is overwhelming evidence. There is overwhelming evidence for evolution, heliocentric worldview and earth’s composition. Just like there is absolutely no evidence for a supernatural entity. Opinions, feelings and hunches or personal relationships with Jesus are not evidence.

          • Who is talking about a “supernatural entity” and who has appealed to a “personal relationship with Jesus” in this discussion? As for opinions and feelings, I would challenge you to provide evidence that they are not present in atheists.

          • saab93f

            Do you misunderstand naturally or did you take classes?
            The only “evidence” theists have are feelings that a supernatural entity is guiding them or that since they claim to have a relationship with Jesus, that would qualify as such.

            The only honest claims are that science cannot prove or disprove a deity but we can live just about 100% without the hypothesis of any deities existing.

          • On the contrary, I teach classes on this subject, which is why I am aware that the discussion is not narrowly focused on theism, never mind on a brand of theism that happens to be based entirely on subjective feelings of the theist in question.

            If you want to discuss whether science presents evidence that undermines some specific religious claims, we can do so. But the suggestion (as made in sweeping terms by Dawkins, for instance) that all religious beliefs are all of one sort, and have the same kind of basis, merely indicates a lack of familiarity with the range of religious phenomena. Which again is confirming Aczel’s point. Is that your aim?

  • dave

    The use of the term “disprove god” would suggest that the concept has been proven, has it?
    – If so, then I’d love to see that evidence backed verification
    – If not, then why would anybody be expected to believe it?

    • Grimlock

      Is the concept of a god even well-defined?

      • Psygn

        Its outside of time and space, so it doesn’t exist. lol

  • jekylldoc

    This is so the wrong question. And I am put off by your failure to say so.

    God as an explanatory hypothesis is both useless and unpersuasive. It also represents a vestige of another error in ancient religion: the effort to use notions of superpowerful avengers to manipulate society. When Christianity finally accepts that God is not out to convince us with evidence (and lets face it, if She were, there would be a lot out there) or in any other way to twist our arms into behaving ourselves, then we will have recognized the truth that sets us free, and that Jesus brought into a confused world like a meteor from outer space.

    Avoid top-down notions of God. Start with the human heart, and what messages we think are offered to it, and what effects we think follow from engaging these messages.

  • John MacDonald

    “The book is not about proving the existence of God. Rather, the aim is to show that science has not disproven God, nor has it shown that the idea of a God of some description is superfluous in light of scientific progress”

    I’m not sure you “can” disprove an immaterial entity.

  • Well, it’s not science’s job to poo poo every fantastical claim. The burden of proof, lies with the one claiming something exists, like gawd. So, the book seems to be a giant waste of time.

    • Skeptic NY

      Exactly. Not much different than a book that says that science can’t disprove Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the 57-headed undetectable purple dragon I keep in my garage.

  • David Evans

    That book looks interesting. I have bought the Kindle edition and look forward to many happy hours disagreeing with it.

    • Vern

      So glad to see that you keep an open mind.

      The elderly resist any sort of change.

  • arcseconds

    Regarding atheist charitable groups, I’ve never understood why anyone would think that their ought to be any such or think of forming them or that the relative paucity of them shows anything about atheists.

    There are plenty of secular charitable groups (the Fred Hollows Foundation serves as an example). There is no reason why an atheist wanting to help people shouldn’t join one. There is also no reason why a religious person wanting to help people shouldn’t join one. If the goal is to help people, and not something else, then secular groups surely are the way to go, for all sorts of reasons.

    Also, as there are plenty of existing religious charitable groups, it’s also possible for an atheist to ‘swallow their pride’ and work for one of those. Again, if the goal is to help people, the fact the organisation is religious in some sense is not a very strong reason not to help out.

    (Of course, there might be other reasons why not, like if it’s really a proselytizing vehicle.)

    The question is really to what extent atheists participate in charitable groups, and I think the answer is actually: plenty.

  • WeAre TheCheese

    Besides a false conclusion, this book also relies upon a false premise. New atheism is built on skepticism and challenging non-verifiable notions. Krauss admits he doesn’t know what came before the big bang, and Dawkins admits he doesn’t know how biology evolved from chemistry, etc. Both discuss applying skepticism to all matters. Skeptics absolutely can and should say, “It seems extremely unlikely that your unsubstantiated god [fill in the blank] is the cause for the universe.”

    Conversely the fundamental reason science and religion don’t mesh is that religions make scientific claims and are constantly proven wrong. Science can change, but religions are “divinely inspired” by “infallible” gods. Therefore we have two options: We can either accept the scientific truths that have replaced faith claims throughout the centuries and in doing so reject elements of our religions thus undermining the integrity of the religion, or we can be Ken Ham.

    The man is an abominable charlatan who should be damned to one of Dante’s realms of hell for preaching ignorance, but at least he hasn’t shed many parts of his religion while pretending to still be fully faithful to it. Science undermines religion, and religion impedes scientific progress.

    • The evidence does not support your claims. How did Newton’s devout religious beliefs impede scientific progress? How did Francis Collins’ religion impede the human genome project?

      • WeAre TheCheese

        How much more Newton could have progressed physics had he written more on science than religion is a matter of speculation. So too can we only assume his belief in alchemy as a probable impediment to real science as well. But then again Newton didn’t believe in the the Holy Trinity – a dangerous view that if expressed publicly would have relegated him to something like Galileo’s fate when the church arrested him and banned his work, or Alan Turing’s fate when indicted for homosexuality under an Anglican-based law, etc.

        Yes, I agree that brilliant people can simultaneously hold both rational and irrational concepts, but all irrational concepts are clearly an impediment to science – the art of rationality. One who believes that a snake wrapped around a stick or a prayer offered in the right way to the right god is a better cure than modern medicine is plainly anti-scientific.

        I’m sure we don’t need to delve further into the deep history of religious suppression of scientific progress and teachings, like for example the complete collapse of the thriving Arabic scientific community when Islam took hold, or mention again the scientific claims religions make that allegedly nullify the need to do science in the first place – God (Ra) made Adam (Atom) and Eve, so who cares about this Darwin guy? Still today I’m asked to stomach ID being taught alongside evolution and told stem cell research is evil despite its overwhelming potential to benefit humankind.

        • I cannot help but wonder at someone who assumes his or her own rationality, while denigrating Newton and others with no sense of their setting in history or the way that things that now seem irrational would not have been clearly such in the past.

          • WeAre TheCheese

            Newton’s belief in god doesn’t make him any less rational than, say, me when we control for historical context, and I agree we have more evidence standing against alchemy than was present to Newton, so I could have tempered my statement with those acknowledgements, but I won’t completely discredit it.

            Plus, the reason I bring up Newton’s belief in alchemy is not just to show that even the most brilliant people can hold irrational beliefs (his belief in alchemy or that there were hidden word games in the Bible or that the measurements of certain churches and cathedrals correlated with secret codes were assuredly not built on the same solid, rational grounds as his physics), but I also wanted to show that modernity allows even simpletons like me to weed out irrationality in our more brilliant predecessors.

            We can say brilliant scientists have believed in gods, but that doesn’t provide any veracity to the existence of those gods, just as it doesn’t provide any veracity to alchemy. In fact, if a brilliant person believes in a true scientific fact, that alone doesn’t add any veracity to that fact either. Science requires more than popular support. For one stark contrast, religion doesn’t operate in this way. It is simply right or wrong by popular demand. Skepticism and inquiry is not only banned in religion, but it could buy you a one way ticket to eternal torment – this is anti-scientific.

            We also must note the unchanging words of ancient religious scripture that adherents currently, or at one time fully believed, since they are at odds with scientific truth. Christian doctrine, for example, is and has been eroded by science, and I’m suggesting that not only does this obviously mean it’s in contrast to science, but that during the erosion of Christianity, the religion has fought back routinely for self preservation purposes.

            We can observe this erosion currently happening with homosexuality. Biological studies show homosexuality is common in the animal kingdom and further science seems to indicate it is a naturally occurring phenomenon in living species. Many Christians therefore accept the science in direct opposition to their god’s decree against homosexuality, yet many Christians still believe what they’ve been taught by non-scientific religious figures; namely that homosexuality is a trick played on people’s mind by the devil. And still other Christians are just too embarrassed or confused to really promote their opinion since they accept the authority of science and religion despite their contrast. The evidence of this conflict is plentiful.

          • Sorry for taking so long to reply, but it is hard to know how to respond to someone who has had a narrow experience of a particular kind of conservative religion, and irrationally extrapolates from that to sweeping statements about religion, all the while pontificating as though what he says is rational.

            I have in mind in particular your statement “religion doesn’t operate in this way. It is simply right or wrong by popular demand. Skepticism and inquiry is not only banned in religion, but it could buy you a one way ticket to eternal torment – this is anti-scientific.”

            Can you provide evidence that all phenomena that can be and have been labelled “religion” operate in this way, ban skepticism, and threaten one with eternal torment for any reason, never mind for science?

          • WeAre TheCheese

            It’d be all too easy. How many different sects of Christianity have ever existed? We both know it’s an extraordinarily large amount. The reason there have been so many, is because someone or some people disagree with a tenant, and rather than allowing discussion or open skepticism, a new religion (or sect) has to be formed. If the idea gains popularity, the new religion (sect) survives. The more popular religions (sects) endure much longer and grow much more.

            Years of bloodshed between Catholicism and Protestantism, for example, proves how differences of opinion, or skepticism of ideas between two sects are treated. And this schism came from one guy whose skepticism centered on eternal damnation and salvation. And how did Catholics treat Martin Luther for his skepticism? What about the Jews with Spinoza? What about the many other heretics?

            Would the Christian god not care if I, as a skeptic looking to hedge my soul, played the ultimate Pascal’s Wager and believed in all gods as the Mongolians used to?

            In this way religion does not tolerate skepticism. I agree that any particular religion twists and turns with the analysis, which can be iconoclastic, of any accepted apologists while labeling those it doesn’t follow as heretics. That is not skepticism. That is not scientific.

            But I’ll surrender your question back to you in this form: Is there a religion that fully embraces scientific truth ahead of its dogma? Is there one that has always been in perfect unison with science throughout history? I have never heard of such a religion, thus my sweeping accusations. You’ll also note I said it COULD buy you a one way ticket to hell. Let’s not misrepresent.

          • I take it you have never heard of Liberal Protestantism then? You might want to learn about it. It is the tradition that pioneered the critical study of the Bible, among other things.

            It is disappointing when someone says they have never heard of something as though they are expressing rational skepticism, when in fact they are simply expressing the narrowness of their own experience and the fact that they have made no effort to broaden that experience.

          • WeAre TheCheese

            Your lamentations and disappointments are too frequent and frivolous. I know of liberal religious study (what Liberal Protestantism can be, although it too can be dogmatic) and even those who label themselves as, say, atheistic Jews, but these are practices and labels I have no quarrel with.

            Philosophical learning and practice of religious dogma without acceptance of the dogma is simply Religious Studies (I am a fan of liberal arts), and adhering to religious practices without belief falls within the province of ethnicity (like atheist Jews following Kosher).

            I embrace the history within the Bible, as it is a major source of information for some ancient civilizations, I am open to the philosophies of the Bible as I am with other religious scripts and ancient philosophers, and I even find the Bible’s nascent science and the puerile concepts an interesting introspection into the ancient mind.

            To bring us back to the topic: liberal arts, like religious studies, can certainly be scientific in their own right – evidence is still required to bolster a claim, and these claims are still subject to peer review or skepticism. Dogmatic religions ask us to have faith (an anti-scientific trait), and they make scientific claims, which are very often untrue and completely unverified, about existence, how things were formed, how they operate and how they’ll end. They claim miracles and prophecy (scientific impossibilities) without evidence, and they are unyielding to dissent.

            Again, if you want to follow the philosophy (and not dogma) of Jesus and his followers, or Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, that alone does not make you religious.

  • Reason0verhate

    It’s well established that religious people are more generous, giving more of their time and money to charities than atheists do. Being a pragmatist, I see any belief system that promotes generosity and compassion to be preferable to one that obviously does not. I have no use for the beliefs of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they seem like nice well-behaved people, so what they believe doesn’t concern me. Whenever an atheist brings up the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I think: If the FSM religion makes its followers better human beings, what’s not to like?

    • Wussypillow

      That isn’t, in fact, well-established fact at all. Factor out religious ‘generosity’ to their own churches and mosques and the differences pretty much vanish.

      There is some good evidence that religious people are more approving of torture, though:

      http://www.pewforum.org/2009/04/29/the-religious-dimensions-of-the-torture-debate/

      • Reason0verhate

        In other words, since we donate to causes that you don’t approve of,
        we aren’t really generous?

        And if we approve of the use of torture,
        we aren’t really generous?

        Fortunately, you aren’t the one who makes the call.

        Fact remains: we are more generous than atheists.

        https://philanthropy.com/article/Religious-Americans-Give-More/153973

        • Wussypillow

          No, generosity to your church isn’t real generosity. And being pro-torture does indeed diminish your imagined ‘generosity’

          • Plainsrabbit

            But if a gay guy donated money to some gay charity, he’d be “generous,” right? But Christians donating to Christian charities are not generous?

            You people are morons.