Continuing from my previous post, I address more of Albrecht Moritz' 15 objections from atheists against the compatibility between science and religious belief. These objections are discussed in his paper How can a scientist believe in God? Moritz is a scientist who believes in God, and defends that belief with sometimes unscientific explanations. It seems clear that when he is outside his field of expertise, he often falls back on traditional theistic notions. Without further ado, here is the next set of atheists' objections.
6. It was always believers whose worldviews were confounded by scientific discoveries, never naturalists
By 'confounded', Moritz is referring to the need to revise one's understanding of things in light of new scientific information. He discusses how emerging cosmological views in the 20th century (the Big Bang) forced reluctant atheists to abandon their older unscientific steady-state theory, in which time had no beginning, while theistic beliefs held all along that time did have a beginning. And now atheists are desperately trying to modify the Big Bang theory to restore the notion that time has no beginning, because their worldview supposedly demands it. But Moritz is really revealing his ignorance of cosmological theory here. First, let's get straight what is scientific and what isn't. Steady state theory was based on observation of the expanding universe. It wasn't just an attempt by atheists to justify a worldview that presupposes no beginning to time. Theistic creation, on the other hand is based on a biblical myth. But science, unlike religion, not only accommodates changing theories, it drives those changes, based on our observation of the world. Moritz wants us to believe that atheists can't stand the idea that time has a beginning, and that's the reason for the newer inflation theory, which implies that the big bang is not the beginning of time, and that there is some eternal existence that probably gives rise to many universes (which is an idea that theists can't stand). He doesn't understand that this theory is now dominant because it does a better job of explaining reality, not because atheists need to refute theistic creation. In fact, it is religionists like Moritz who are confounded by a scientific theory that disputes their own unscientific beliefs. For the record, real scientific theories are based on what best explains observed reality, not predicated on an imagined worldview that Moritz attributes to atheists.
7. Evolution is an inefficient way of creation
Moritz rightly notes that since God is eternal, he doesn't have to wait billions of years to see the results of his evolutionary process, when all of time is accessible to him in an instant. But still, why create such a huge cosmos, and go through all that evolution when he could just create the world he wants? The only answer Moritz has to offer is that God is an artist, not an engineer.
I prefer to see God as an artist, who apparently found it much more satisfying to let everything develop within a grandiose structure, a vast universe, instead of tinkering around with solar systems and RNA polymerases. A term like ‘efficiency’ does not apply, it only make sense in judging the work of someone who has limited resources at his/her disposal.A rather hand-waving explanation, I must say. And this is consistent with many theists who have no satisfactory explanation for why God would do things the way he does. They just make up an answer that sounds pleasing to them.
8. The vastness of the universe argues against the God of religion
Moritz gives a simple answer to this:
The revelation by science how vast our universe, God’s creation, really is (and it may be even much larger than what we can observe) gives a limited glimpse to the believer what God’s infinity really may mean.This strikes me as strange, because it merely reflects the changing concept of God in light of scientific discovery. Before the 20th century, it was always assumed that mankind was the crowning achievement in God's creation. See, for example The Grounds of Theistic and Christian Belief, from 1885. Before the advent of modern astronomy, the universe was thought to be much smaller, with the earth at its center, in accordance with this belief. Only when science destroys the old theistic conceptions does the theist modify his conception of the world. So the cosmos has now been morphed from the cradle of mankind into a showcase of God's grandeur, and Moritz pretends that's the way it always was. But if God wanted to reveal his grandeur, why not show it more directly, so that it could be seen by all generations of men, without modern technology?
9. The parochial God
This is the idea, as expressed by Richard Dawkins, that our anthropomorphic concepts of God and Jesus don't express the true grandeur of an infinite and incomprehensible God. Moritz harkens to the previous objection, noting that there is nothing parochial about a God who creates the vast universe. But he seems to miss the point that Dawkins makes - specifically about anthropomorphic Gods, and especially Jesus dying on the cross. Instead, Moritz declares that it is Dawkins whose idea of God is parochial. He never explains how the Christian view of Jesus as a man rises above Dawkins' objection.
10. The size of humans makes them insignificant, pointing to a godless universe
Moritz breaks this down into four points. First, he notes that theists have long asked the same question. He refers to Psalm 8:4, which asks "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?". The problem here is that the following verses actually aggrandize mankind: "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet". The traditional biblical view is that man is the pinnacle of creation, and holds dominion over all of nature, but modern science casts serious doubt upon that view. The vast universe is mostly hostile to man's survival, and certainly not under his dominion. So Moritz fails to answer this objection.
Second, Moritz denies the traditional theistic belief that the world was made for man, and cites newer Catholic doctrine that says "the world was made for the glory of God". But once again, this flies in the face of scripture and the traditional dogma that the world was indeed made for man. That dogma has gone by the wayside purely as a result of modern science. And it also flies in the face of the Catholic belief that God is perfect and whole in his own right. Why would such a God need to be glorified? Moritz doesn't say.
Third, Moritz asserts that it really makes no difference how big or small we are if our purpose is to be fulfilled according to some Christian ideal of life. Good point, but the real objection is not about the size of humans. It is rather that the universe is so much larger than it would need to be in order for us to fulfill that purpose. Which is what makes us seem insignificant by comparison. And Moritz still doesn't address that question. Interestingly, he makes a case for humans being "just the right size" for living in this world, but he ignores the scientific reality that we are a product of the physical world and the laws of physics, which is the real reason we are the size we are. We are adapted to our world, not the other way around.
Fourth, he ponders whether the universe could be smaller in order to "raise our significance", and then rejects that notion on the basis of physics. And that is in keeping with modern science, but it is based on the notion that God prefers to work in this manner rather than just creating what he wants in an instant. But that raises the question of why an omnipotent God would want to limit himself to work within the laws of physics. Again, Moritz provides no insight to the answer of that question. Instead, he raises the specter of God's design, and the assumed "fine tuning" of the laws of physics to enable this creation, and even goes so far as to speculate whether the earth really is at the center of the universe "in terms of complexity". And while he is quick to point out that he rejects Intelligent Design in biological science (which is his own field of expertise), he readily accedes to pseudo-scientific notions that a designer had to precisely set the laws of physics in such a way as to make our world possible. But this is outside his area of scientific expertise, and most physicists don't share those notions. Nor do they see evidence of purposeful design in the universe. To repeat the issue that Moritz has failed to answer, if God is so powerful as to establish the laws of physics and create a whole universe in accordance with those laws, what is the point of choosing a method that isn't more focused on the direct creation of man, but instead has all the appearances of something that is completely natural, and but for any number of random events along the way, might easily have failed to produce mankind at all? Even if the laws of physics were fine-tuned, the evolutionary development of man is still accidental. God would still have to guide events every step of the way, at microscopic and macroscopic scales, to assure the evolutionary outcome. And the free will of man would certainly throw a monkey wrench into that plan.
In my next post, I will finish my review of Moritz' How can a scientist believe in God?.