Atheists Can Be Pseudoscientists, Too

A few years ago, Ben Stein released a documentary called Expelled. In this documentary, Stein advocates Intelligent Design as an alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory. At one point in the documentary, Stein interviews popular atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, being sort of a poster-child for modern day atheism, made the point that he believes a rational explanation to the origin of life on earth was that it was planted by aliens. “Aliens? Really? And this is coming from a guy who is supposed to advocate reason?”

That’s what most theists would say if a comment like this were made. I, however, don’t find anything inherently irrational about what Dawkins said. He may be right. Personally, I don’t think he is, but he did propose an explanation of some kind in order to solve the ongoing problem of abiogenesis. My beef with Dawkins doesn’t lie in exactly what he said but the entirety of Dawkins’ argument as a whole. You see, Richard Dawkins is one of those guys who advocates an atheistic worldview because he believes that theists are making radical pseudoscientific God-of-the-Gaps assumptions and taking away from the good work of science. To Dawkins, science is the key. To a degree, I think he’s right. I don’t advocate young earth creationism or Intelligent Design, as I see evolutionary theory to hold a lot of weight to it. But, it seems that Dawkins is committing the same crime that he is accusing theists of doing. He’s advocating pseudoscience. There’s nothing scientific at all about assuming that aliens planted life on earth around 3.9 billion years ago. Even if he’s right, there’s no testable hypothesis to assume this. And even if there was, there’s still the problem of abiogenesis occurring on another planet. And even if this could occur on another planet, you still have to weigh the mathematical probabilities of evolution successfully taking place on another planet as it has done on ours. (I am no expert on this stuff, so I’m trying not to go into it much. My point is that Dawkins has simply raised more questions that he seems to be answering with the same pseudoscientific principles that he is accusing theists of using.)

A recent study has indicated that more people in Britain believe in ghosts and aliens than in God. But so what? Does this matter? Only if you take into consideration that most atheists accuse Christians/theists/etc. of holding pseudoscientific beliefs. But creationists and ID proponents are not the only Christians/theists accused of pseudoscience. In an article he wrote on Karl Giberson, Jerry Coyne says:

“I gave the answer above to why the middle ground is losing: accommodationism doesn’t work, nor does converting naturalists into theistic evolutionists. So there’s no reason that middle ground should increase. The reason it’s decreasing is palpably obvious: America is becoming less religious as young people either lose their faith or fail to embrace any. Further, as they become less religious, they become more pro-science (being religious is a barrier to accepting science). And if you’re pro-science and a “none,” theistic evolution simply isn’t credible.”

It’s not that he blatantly says anything against the theistic evolutionist camp as being a group of pseudoscientists, but he does make his point very clear that embracing modern science will diminish one’s faith in a deity. This is demonstrably false. Coyne doesn’t seem to take into account that there are MANY scientists who do believe in God, and, while many young people do lose their faith, many young people also grow in their faith by embracing a love and understanding of science.

Another pressing issue in the whole “Science and Religion” discussion is the multiverse theory. Does the existence of multiple universes exclude the need for a creator? Possibly, but let’s think about what we’re dealing with here. The principle of uniformity states that all natural laws that operate in the universe now have always operated in the same way, and they also operate in the same way all the way across the whole of the universe. This is a totally reasonable principle, and there are scientific reasons to accept it (pretty much everyone accepts this principle). The problem is that when you start throwing multiple universes into the mix, you lose the uniformity principle. Why? Because there is no reason, especially no scientific reason, to assume that the same uniformity that exists in our own universe (the only realm of existence that we can actually study, I might add) exists in other universes. The multiverse may not, in fact probably doesn’t, have the same natural laws that exist in our own universe. If they don’t, then the laws of the multiverse may not be natural. They may be supernatural. My point: there is no way to make scientific claims about the multiverse. It is unobservable, it cannot be experimented on, and it may not even behave under natural law. It’s all pseudoscience.

(Just for the record, I personally do not believe in the multiverse. There are Christians who do, however.)

The bottom line is this: embracing science is not a one-way street to atheism. There are many Christians, most notably Francis Collins and Alister McGrath, who converted to Christianity from an atheistic perspective and now believe that God gives much more beauty to their scientific endeavors.

To conclude, I would like to emphasize the fact that not all atheists believe in pseudoscience. At the same time, neither do all theists. There are rational theist perspectives and there are rational atheist perspectives as well. My point of writing this post is to simply show that atheism should not be conflated with science.


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