It is a brave man or a fool who takes on Quantum Mechanics, Steven Hawking, string theory and Thomas Aquinas in a book for the lay reader.
David Berlinski does just that in The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. And, most notably he does it with a remarkable sense of humor.
He is writing in response to a recent series of books and writings by what could be called “militant” or “devout” atheists. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others are not content to merely disbelieve in the existence of God. They are determined to change the minds of those who do believe. Berlinski notes:
Religious men and women, having long accommodated the village idiot, have long accommodated the village atheist. The order of battle is now different. It has been the scientists … who have undertaken a wide-ranging attack on religious belief and sentiment.
Ironically, Berlinski argues that this activist science vs. religion approach is, at least in part, not a reaction to Christians, but a “lurid but natural reaction … to the violence of the Islamic world.”
We are now faced with a group of scientists who are militantly atheist and willing to accept the result of any scientific experiment which does not point to the existence of God. The cult-like nature of this group shows up whenever a paper or experiment produces a “wrong” answer.
After dealing with “the contingencies of life-getting food, getting by, getting laid” humanity has sought answers to two basic questions: How did everything, including humans, get here, and why? Religion, philosophy and science have long sought answers to these questions. Until recently, these quests were considered complimentary.
But science has now become, for many, a religion of its own. This shows up in two major discussions in science.
The first deals with the origins of the universe and what is called the “”Big Bang” theory. Berlinski shows the development of the theory and how many scientific measures point to the belief that the entire universe started at one moment. However, if science is to replace religion, a belief which corresponds to the biblical statement “And God said, ‘Let there be light’” cannot be allowed to stand.
They have thus made every effort to find an alternative.
Did you imagine that science was a disinterested pursuit of the truth?
Well, you were wrong.
It is amusing to see “scientists” who won’t accept what their research shows them about the origin of one universe devise all kinds of complex mathematics to show there must, in fact, be multiple universes. How the first of all these started is left unanswered.
To further complicate the question, the universe we inhabit has a group of characteristic properties to which science can only assign a value without knowing why those values are what they are. They include the strength of various forces, such as gravity and magnetism, and characteristics of water and other compounds. These values “happen” to be exactly the right number needed to support life, at least on Earth. Rather than accept the idea that God might have made the universe that way, “scientists” have come up with all kinds of probabilistic “multi-verse” scenarios where it was inevitable that one of them would have the right values for life. Yeah, Right.
The other major question is “How did humans get here?” Berlinski starts by saying:
Together with Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace created the modern theory of evolution. He has been unjustly neglected by history, perhaps because shortly after conceiving his theory, he came to doubt its provenance.
In an 1869 paper, Wallace “outlined his sense that evolution was inadequate to explain certain obvious features of the human race.” Berlinski comments:
Suspicions about Darwin’s theory arise for two reasons. The first: the theory makes little sense. The second: it is supported by little evidence.
The veracity of Darwinian evolution can be measured by the accuracy of Berlinski’s observation that although Darwinian biologists may claim “that evolution is a well established as gravity, very few physicists have been heard observing that gravity is as well established as evolution. They know better and they are not stupid.”
Why then the determination to force acceptance of a theory with obvious difficulties. Berlinski cites an evolutionary biologist:
Whatever the degree to which Darwin may have “misled science into a dead end,” the biologist Shi V. Liu observed …, “we may still appreciate the role of Darwin in helping scientists [win an] upper hand in fighting against the creationists.
But for most of us, the question is not between creation in seven days and science. We are more than willing to accept the enlarged time frame of the universe and the development of life on earth. We are also clearly willing to accept the benefits of science and the technological progress it allows.
Berlinski and many of his readers, including this writer, refuse to accept that science has the authority to speak outside of its realm. It can tell us what is there and how it works. When those who lay claim to special knowledge of science try to tell us what we can or cannot believe about why we here we have the right to refuse to listen.
Even more, when they ask us to believe what the evidence does not support, or seek complicating or obfuscating theories when the obvious theory supports a theory of creation they oppose, they have clearly moved science out of the realm of objective measurement and observation.
Science is a noble pursuit and a lousy religion. Those who practice it, particularly those who would use its findings to influence public decisions need to know that science will only be influential if it is seen as objective.
The “Climate-gate” controversy about efforts to “influence” the peer-review process makes science seem more political and less objective. The “pre-Cambrian explosion” period of rapid species change could at least raise questions about the validity of the Darwinian Theory. The public has the right to expect a serious discussion of those issues instead of being talked down to.
Most of us are willing to look to science for an explanation of what is here and how it works. When we ask why we are here, we look elsewhere.