Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Why Don't Scientists Believe in God?

Mikey at Shadow to Light is stumped once again by the views expressed by atheist scientists.  He has dug up a three year old a video compilation of fifty scientists (actually one of a series of similar videos) making brief comments about their views on atheism or agnosticism as proof of his contention that the scientists' atheism is unjustified.  The problem is that this video doesn't make any claims about providing arguments to justify atheism.  It merely contains brief snippets of scientists talking about belief.  The video was compiled by Dr, Jonathan Parajasingham, who says:
I do not claim that this video demonstrates there is no God. It is not an argument against God in itself ... Parajasingham
So what is Mikey's beef?  It seems that no matter what atheists say or do, he is bound to find fault with it.  But that has no bearing on the truth of what they say.  He either fails to understand or he deliberately misinterprets everything that doesn't agree with his ideological beliefs.

In his latest diatribe, Elite Scientists Don’t Have Elite Reasons for Being Atheists, Mikey starts out by making a dubious claim right in the title of the post.  What gives him justification for this claim?  The video that constitutes his "evidence" doesn't purport to answer the question.  But Mikey won't let that inconvenient fact get in the way of his incessant ranting and raving without rhyme or reason.  Mikey's claims aren't justified by the evidence he presents.  The fifty scientists in the video weren't trying to make an ironclad argument for atheism, and many of them made no attempt to justify their views.  Why Mikey would see this video as proof that atheists' lack justification for their belief is a mystery to me.

Mikey has summarized what each of them said in the video, and made much hay about the fact that many of them didn't present an argument in favor of atheism.  Some of them actually did give some rationale for their atheism, and in each of those cases, Mikey makes a facile dismissal of what they have to say.  For those who said that science provides better explanations for what we observe than God, for example, Mikey simply waves his hand and calls it "God of the gaps logic".  Some of them mentioned the inconsistency between a supposedly good God and the real world that doesn't reflect this goodness.  Mikey dismisses these statements as "just another version of the Argument From Evil."  But the one reason for non-belief that was most often cited by these scientists was barely noticed by Mikey.  And that reason is a lack of evidence.

What Mikey misses altogether is the fact that people who don't believe in God don't need to provide arguments in favor of atheism.  To justify their lack of belief, all they need to do is note that it isn't supported by the evidence.  This is basic epistemology.  For the empiricist, observable evidence is justification for belief.  Without it, belief isn't justified.  And that's all any rational atheist needs to say.  If theists want to claim that their belief is justified, it's up to them to make some argument that overrides the lack of objective evidence (if they can manage to do that).  But let's not be fooled by people like Mikey who try to shun their own burden of proof, and place it instead on non-believers.

Mikey also tries to make the case that most of these scientists were atheists before they acquired their scientific education.  I suppose the argument is that their atheism isn't based on any scientific understanding, and therefore it isn't rational.  Where does Mikey get his information for this claim?  He bases it on the deeply flawed anti-Dawkins "study" by none other than Elaine Ecklund (which I discussed in my previous post), using 48 cherry-picked interviews, and making conclusions that are not at all representative of the scientific community.  He doesn't have any real data to support this claim.  The fact is that Mikey has no basis whatsoever to say that the atheism of scientists lacks scientific justification, or is irrational in nature.  But if he wants to make that argument, he should be prepared to accept that most Christians were indoctrinated with their religion before they acquired any intellectual means to justify their own religion.  With this argument, Mikey is treading on very shaky ground.

Mikey sums up his diatribe in this way:
But their reasons for being atheists and agnostics are varied and often personal. And their typical arguments are rather common and shallow – god of the gaps and the existence of evil. It would seem clear that their expertise and elite status is simply not a causal factor behind their atheism.
Once again, when a valid reason for disbelief is given, Mikey either dismisses it, or he doesn't notice it.  And above all, he ignores the biggest reason for non-belief - lack of evidence.  He seems to be looking for an argument from authority.  He wants to hear them say that their belief comes from their superior scientific knowledge.  And when he doesn't hear that, he feels justified in claiming that their atheism isn't based on scientific knowledge, and so he wants us to think it must be just irrational belief.  And once again, if that's his argument, Mikey is treading on very shaky ground. 

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