Should We Rid the Mind of God?

Here is a video that is right up our recent chain of posts on the existence of God. This debate is between Alistair McGrath and Peter Atkins. It is poorly moderated, but the accents of the speakers makes up for it. Why do the British sound more intelligent? Unfortunately, the audio is rough in spots, especially during the Q & A. It is also over an hour in length if you choose to watch it.

I think there are some important elements to notice here that are characteristic of the current debate between theists and atheists.

Atheists, or scientists who are atheists of the sort as the speaker here (Peter Atkins) and Richard Dawkins et. al. believe that the only way to know anything is through science. There is no other truth available to us, and that all we can know can be shown through science. As a result, there is no basis for conversation about God, because from a scientific standpoint God cannot be proven, therefore it is delusional to speak of a God. This epistemological starting place rules out God’s existence before the discussion has begun. They view philosophy and theology with disdain as deceitful supporting institutions which need to be done away with as well. They refuse to discuss the possibility of knowledge outside the boundaries of science and the scientific method.

Secondly, a question is asked in the Q&A section about arrogance. Peter Atkins, the atheist, repeats a phrase he claims to regret saying in a previous venue: “It’s ok to be arrogant when you are right.” I find that to be a frightening posture for anyone to put themselves into. As amazing as our puny minds are, they remain puny. To arrogantly land on our present plateau of scientific knowledge with anything other than an overwhelming sense of what we still do not know, and how that knowledge may affect our worldview is stunning arrogance. At least in my view.

Third, another point made in the video is that Atheism is a philosophy that needs to show justification. Alistair McGrath says (and I agree with him) that the honest starting point for scientists (empiricists) in all of this is not atheism, but agnosticism. The most science can say in this debate is that we cannot know whether or not there is a God. It cannot prove or disprove, and in this way it demonstrates its limitations. Peter Atkins response, which is a common one, is to say that the idea of God is the equivalent to the idea of “a teapot once revolving around Mars.” It is simply absurd.

Not all scientists subscribe to what is seen here as “scientism.” Scientism is the belief that science is the only way to know whatever it is we know. For Scientists who subscribe to scientism, nature is all that there is and there is no reason to talk about anything else. Science for them explains everything.

In the next few days I am going to post portions of a lecture given by University of Georgia professor Dr. Henry Schaeffer on the relationship between faith and science.

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