• The ‘New’ Atheism: 10 Arguments That Don’t Hold Water?: A Refutation, Part 7

    Chapter 7: Where do we draw the boundary?

    A7 ‘ Religion is a scientific theory.’

    ‘I pay religions the compliment of regarding them as scientific theories.’

    ‘I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis.’

    Michael Poole opens his chapter with the following,

    The first two claims [above] are not recent but seem consistent with the third and three similar ones in The God Delusion. But is it coherent to expect a scientific test for God, who is not a material object? […] The scientific enterprise, by its subject matter of material things and by its methods, does not concern itself with First Causes. […] So there is something odd about turning to science, the study of the natural world, in the hope of answering religious questions about whether there is anything other than the natural world (that is, God) to which the natural world owes its existence. (57-58)

    While science does often rely on methodological naturalism science can and does search for supernatural phenomenon and there are materialistic ways to test for supernatural phenomenon.

    To quote Donald R. Prothero once more,

    [T]here have been many scientific tests of supernatural and paranormal explanations of things, including parapsychology, ESP, divination, prophesy, and astrology. All of these nonscientific ideas have been falsified when subjected to the scrutiny of scientific investigation (see Isaak 2006; also 2002 for a review). [Philip] Johnson loudly complains that the supernatural has been unfairly excluded from the debate, but this is clearly not true. Every time the supernatural has been investigated by scientific methods, it has failed the test. [1]

    I also greatly favor Victor J. Stenger’s statement about this issue. He sums it up by arguing,

    Religions make statements about all kinds of phenomena that are legitimate parts of science, such as the origin of the universe and evolution of life. Even the principles of morality are subject to scientific investigation since they involve observable human behavior. […] The gods most people worship purportedly play an active role in the universe and in human lives. This activity should result in observable phenomena, and it is observable phenomena that forms the very basis of scientific investigation. [2]

    I don’t think much more needs to be said. However, I will note that Poole objects to Dawkins’ argument that god must also need a creator if, as theologians say, “everything has a cause,” by stating that, “Created Gods are, by definition, a delusion.” (60) Really? If that’s the case, then why do anthropologists find exactly what Poole argues is a “delusion?” The fact is that some cultures have stories about gods who are born and die. [3]

    The fact is that science can and does investigate supernatural phenomenon and to date no evidence of anything supernatural has been uncovered, despite much research into the matter. Because of the very facts noted by Victor Stenger science and religion are not “non-overlapping magisteria,” to quote the late (and great) Stephen Jay Gould.

    Poole also seems to believe that science and religion are compatible and argues against the claim of the New Atheists that they are in conflict, but he doesn’t really develop his argument. He simply notes how many religious believers see no conflict and that there have been many religious scientists. (61-62) Science and religion are in conflict because they both make claims about the origins of the universe, the origins of man, and other questions that are clearly questions for science. In this way science and religion can do nothing but conflict with one another.

    1. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero, Columbia University Press, 2007; 11

    2. The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason, by Victor J. Stenger, Prometheus Books, 2009; 14

    3. Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker, by David Eller, American Atheist Press, 2007; 14

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Arizona Atheist