Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Atheism and its Challenge to Prove the Existence of God

New Atheist and physicist, Victor Stenger, laments that most atheists don’t challenge and ridicule religious belief. Therefore, he lays out several put-up-or-shut-up challenges for theists. (However, he seems to have Christians in mind.):

  • Many of the attributes associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically [scientifically]. Such a God is supposed to play a central role in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. As a result, evidence for him should be readily detectable by scientific means. If a properly conducted experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter. 
However, Stenger has already stacked-the-deck against the theist and has retained for himself the trump cards. For one thing, science is unable to directly detect or measure transcendent causation. Let’s just start with miraculous causation as opposed to “non-miraculous,” everyday, formulaic, transcendent causation.

Science is based on experimentation and replication. However, by their very nature, miracles are delivered upon demand into the laboratory. Instead of phenomena amenable to laws and replication, they are isolated one-time events. Therefore, while they are highly amenable to anecdotal attestation, they allude science.

Nevertheless, Stenger cites intercessory prayer studies, claiming that “they should have shown scientifically that some god exists.” As he lays down his trump card, he exults that “They did not.”

However, he never asked God if He is amenable to this form of testing. Of course the New Atheist confidently asserts that if god exists, surely, He would want to provide this kind of evidence to prove His existence. This assertion, however, refuses to acknowledge that He has already proved Himself in so many ways that humanity is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) for denying His existence.

Revealingly, the more miracles Jesus performed, the more His enemies wanted to kill Him. Consequently, the Bible reveals that the problem of disbelief isn’t a lack of evidences but a lack of a willingness to acknowledge them.

Stenger then cites near-death-experiences (NDEs), claiming that they too haven’t proved anything. However, there is a wealth of NDE evidence where the subjects flat-lined and had extra-body experiences, through which they were later able to accurately relate what they had seen in the next room and even outside of the hospital.

However, Stenger retorts:

  • Whether this is a real experience or a hallucination can be tested easily by placing a secret message on a high shelf out of sight of the patient and the hospital staff. This has been tried, and no one reporting on an NDE has yet to read the message.
Stenger’s trump card demands the incredible. Why should the NDE subjects even bother to try to find and read his secret message? Could we fault them for not sitting down in the hospital library and studying one of their medical texts? Perhaps they had other things to see and do.

Stenger sets the standard of proof ridiculously high. It’s like disqualifying God because no one has ever produced His business card. Perhaps instead, He has no interest in distributing business cards and networking.

To reiterate, Stenger challenged:

  • If a properly conducted experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter.
However, naturalists have always proved adept at providing explanations, no matter how fanciful. All recognize that the laws of physics are incredibly fine-tuned for life. Some have said that the likelihood of finding such a well-tuned universe is only 1 chance out of 10 followed by a hundred zeros – an utterly mind-boggling unlikelihood.

However, this ID monument was not able to silence the New Atheists, who retorted with the idea of a multiverse. According to them, if there is a near-infinite number of universes, the odds are that one of them would be just right and would somehow perpetuate itself.

Evidently, it doesn’t disturb them that there is not even one shred of scientific evidence of even a second universe. This demonstrates that there is no end to implausible explanations with no relationship whatsoever to the evidence. If the New Atheist is satisfied with the “multiverse,” then there is no reason to believe that any evidence would ever be persuasive enough to cause them to “take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter,” as Stenger claims that such evidence would.

Stenger surprisingly concludes,

  • After evaluating all the evidence, we can conclude that the universe and life look exactly as they would be expected to look if there were no God.
What evidence? While Stenger challenges the theist to provide scientific evidence for God, there is not even one shred of scientific evidence that anything happens naturally. Indeed, events occur formulaicly, according to the laws of nature. All scientists agree there. However, are these laws natural and unintelligent or do they have a transcendent origin and design?

Although science can’t directly answer this question of ultimate causation, there are many reasons to believe that our laws are transcendent, perhaps even arising from the mind of God:

  1. They operate uniformly throughout the universe. Any force or power located within time and space cannot operate uniformly. The further we travel from a radio station or volcano, the less influence its force will have.
  1. The laws are omnipresent. Forces within time and space are not.
  1. The laws are immutable. Forces within time and space are not. Instead, they are subject to the same changes – molecules-in-motion – that affects everything within the universe.
  1. They are omnipotent and irrepressible. They act on everything, and nothing in the universe acts upon them.
  1. They are simple, harmonious and elegant. They enable scientific inquiry. There is no reason whatsoever that such laws could have been the result of an explosion – the Big Bang.
The laws of physics therefore seem to exist beyond the pressures of this universe. The Bible describes them as “the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (Jer. 33:25).

This total lack of evidence, of course, should make us wonder if the New Atheists are just as religious as they claim us to be. They believe in the incredible and scientifically unsupportable notions of materialism and naturalism. Do they have any proof that nothing exists apart from the material?

I would suggest that it is Stenger who should run some scientific experiments to determine whether his god of materialism and naturalism exists – the naturalistic “god of the gaps.”

The atheist often challenges me to prove that God exists. I’ve learned that they can always invent a competing naturalistic explanation. Instead, I’ve learned to say, “Well, if you can prove you exist (and they can’t), then I’ll prove God exists.”

Stenger concludes that “Blind faith is no way to run a world,” and I agree.

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