Dogmatic Atheism and Scientific Ignorance
by Peter Murphy
The repeated arguments presented by atheists using science as evidence against the existence of God is erroneous -- and can be demonstrated such. This paper will first define the terms agnosticism, deism, theism, and atheism. Second, this paper will summarize a number of scientific concepts and ideas to put science into its proper and correct context. And third, this paper will demonstrate that active atheism (as opposed to passive atheism) for all its pretensions to scientific literacy is in effect composed of people scientifically illiterate, illogical, and cynical.
Religious views on the subject of a God fall into four general categories. Agnosticism is the belief that the question of whether a God exists or not cannot be known. Theism is the belief in a personal God who is interested in the minute details of daily life and who intervenes in the workings of nature through miracles. Other aspects of theism are the acceptance of direct revelation from God to prophets and holy men in times past, the importance of ritual, the leadership of a clerical body, and government support; all of these aspects exist in all theistic religions to some degree. Deism is a rational religion where God is generally seen as impersonal and nature accepted as the only true revelation, the very handiwork of God; holy books, ritual, and clerics are viewed as superstition. Atheism has two practical meanings: one is the lack of belief concerning God, and the other is the certainty that God does not exist. As such, atheism can be divided into passive atheism and active atheism. Passive atheism is merely the lack of belief, and children are born passive atheists -- of course this is not a justification for atheism because children are also born unable to take care of themselves. Active atheists are not people merely lacking a belief in God, but people dogmatically declaring God does not exist through positively worded statements like:
a) There is no scientific evidence for a Creator.
b) Science proves there is no Creator.
c) All things have naturalistic explanations.
This essay from this point will refer to active atheists as dogmatic atheists to better reflect their true mindset. Dogmatic atheists like to link their position to science as a means to squash any debate or discourse, but this use of science is in effect a belief dressed up to look more valid than it really is in light of the facts. This paper, in order to address the scientific issues at hand, will refer to God as the Creator, and the reasons will become clear as the paper progresses. The relationship between God and science is best understood if one considers the relationship as being between a Creator and the creation/nature, which allows science to touch upon those issues central to the existence of a Creator. The word God belongs in the domain of metaphysics; while the term Creator is compatible with a scientific view and open to definitions that are falsifiable.
Beliefs are fundamentally opinions. An opinion is any position taken by someone that something is true or untrue. An opinion can be either informed or uninformed. Uninformed opinions are extremely common and the dogmatic mind is amazingly uninformed. The dogmatic atheist like the dogmatic theist is obsessed with conformity and will spew a tirade of angry words against anyone who does not conform to their own particular world view. Both of these dogmatic types demand their own version of orthodoxy (literally: right opinion) be accepted as the rational norm and attack any nonconformists with as much bile as possible. Orthodoxy is not a good thing since it desires conformity and obedience to a self-elevated elite that presents itself as authoritative and informed. George Orwell wrote in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” There is no freedom of thought in a world of orthodox views. Skepticism and orthodoxy cannot coexist. To be a skeptic is not the same as being a cynic; cynicism is merely taking a negative view to a particular issue without giving it thought, while skepticism is an approach to information.
Understanding science is essential in order to refute the dogmatic mind. In science there are no absolute truths, no sacred cows, and no great secret to be discovered that will allow all scientists in a field to retire and go home. Instead, all hypotheses and theories are subject to modification and even replacement as new research and discoveries become available. Science is not dogmatic, and those who try to present it dogmatically are doing it a disservice. It is important to understand the basics of several scientific concepts in order to understand the nature of science and the method central to it.
A summarized format for the Scientific Method is as followsą:
1) Ask a question concerning observations which have been made.
2) Propose a hypothesis which could explain the reason(s) for the observations.
3) Make a prediction (which would hold true if the hypothesis were correct).
4) Test the prediction.
5) Draw a conclusion based on the outcome of the test.
Note: Use of controls, replication of experiment(s) and publication of results are also employed when using the scientific method.
A theory in science is the end result of a process of rational development that starts with a hypothesis. Unfortunately, the word “theory” is loosely used for hypotheses and theories by most scientific layman and a few scientists. Here is a further breakdown of what these two words actually mean in a scientific context:
A hypothesis is a limited statement regarding cause and effect in specific situations; it implies insufficient evidence to provide more than a tentative explanation before experimental work has been performed and perhaps even before new phenomena has been predicted.
A scientific theory or law represents a hypothesis, or a group of related hypotheses, which have been confirmed through repeated experimental tests. Theories in physics are often formulated in terms of a few concepts and equations, which are identified with the "laws of nature," suggesting their universal applicability. Accepted scientific theories become part of our understanding of the universe and the basis for exploring less well-understood areas of knowledge. A law is a theory so well supported by evidence and experimentation that there is almost no room to argue against it.
Occam’s Razor, although not technically part of the scientific method, is essential to it. Occam’s Razor is the principle that all things being equal, one should not make more assumptions than needed; when multiple explanations are available for a phenomenon, the simplest version is preferred. Since the natural assumes far less than the supernatural, science seeks a naturalistic explanation to scientific questions.
Here are a few examples of some scientific ideas in a summarized form:
The Big Bang is the theory that speculates on the origin of the physical universe and the mechanics that brought it into existence. It is believed that the universe before the Big Bang was composed of energy in the form of photons (packets of light), and some of these became quarks, in turn forming neutrons and protons (the building blocks of atoms) leading up to the Big Bang itself. After the Big Bang took place, atoms came into being and with atoms, matter. In the 1920s Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding outward and inferred that the cause was a Big Bang explosion. The Big Bang hypothesis was supported by what is now known as Hubble’s Expansion Law, and became a theory. The theory also predicted that there should be a background microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang, and this was found a few decades later. There are few problems with the Big Bang, for example, the uneven rate of expansion in the universe. Carl Sagan in his book Cosmos pointed out that this uneven expansion may be explained if one or more near simultaneous Big Bangs took place. This paper will return to this topic later and will look at some other questions that the Big Bang theory raises.
The Theory of Evolution started off as a hypothesis and grew by observation and testing into a scientific theory. Although there is debate about the fine points of the theory, for example the speed of evolution, the fact remains that observation, the fossil record, DNA research, and genetic experimentation demonstrate it as a force in nature. All scientific research and experimentation conducted up to now, without exception, support the Theory of Evolution, and nothing yet detracts from it. The detractors of the Theory of Evolution have no alternative theory that fits the evidence. Since it is a fact that artificial selection happens (where humans have manipulated plants and animals to produce and then reproduce those traits valued by humans), then to argue against natural selection over eons borders on the delusional. Creationists are merely dogmatic theists more obsessed with conformity to a religious ideology through the misrepresentation of science than studying nature. The Theory of Evolution will hold unless a better theory arises to replace it. Nevertheless, the one thing the Theory of Evolution does not address is the rise of life on earth.
The question of the origin of life is fundamental to the idea of a Creator. If one considers the Creator as the instigator of life, then there has to be something in the origin of the rise of life that has no naturalistic (meaning insentient) origin. To understand the issue here requires a review of some chemistry and scientific speculation about the first life forms on this planet. For the sake of argument, assume a life form is something capable of self replication by whatever means.
In nature everything is fundamentally atomic in essence. At the very base of matter are atoms; atoms are the elements themselves. The Periodic Table of Elements contains the 109 Elements that are the base of matter. The first 92 occur in nature, and the remainder can be created in particle accelerators. All matter, whether defined as materials or substances are either composed of these basic Elements or are compounds of the basic Elements. Iron (Fe) for example is an Element existing at the level of the atom; while water is a compound of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom forming a single molecule. Water cannot exist in a more simple state, but iron, hydrogen, and oxygen exist in a free (atomic) state. Among the Elements, simpler Elements become more complex by adding neutrons and protons to their state, and the reverse is true. If one proton and three neutrons are subtracted from mercury, gold is the result. The forces of nature can change atoms, isotopes, and molecules. For example, ultraviolet light converts methane into more complex hydrogen molecules and basic hydrogen gas.
When one takes the position that everything in nature has a natural, and in some cases accidental, explanation then it follows that before natural selection came into being some form of life must have arisen on earth. Logically, this life form had to be even simpler than a viroid, which is simpler than a virus, which in turn is very simple compared to a bacterium. At some point in the early history of the planet earth there arose a molecule that was capable of self-replication; thereby, triggering natural selection. As time passed, new more specialized molecules arose and joined together, and this collective evolved into the first plant cell, most likely something similar if not identical to microscopic blue-green algae.
In the world today there are millions of different molecules, which along with the Elements compose the matter, material, and substances of the physical universe. If one rules out the intervention of a Creator in the rise of life and accepts the idea that life is the result of an unintended natural process, then it follows that life began as a molecule. Obviously, something as complex as a bacterium or blue-green algae just did not appear in the oceans one day; life proceeded from the very simple to the highly complex. Unfortunately for those advocating this position, there is no evidence beyond speculation that such a molecule existed. There is no fossil of it, and no other molecule in nature self-replicates; so what was it composed of? Science knows that the early earth was composed of the Elements and basic molecules. In addition, the early earth was bombarded by radiation from the sun, lightning storms pounded the planet, and volcanoes produced great heat making, changing, and breaking molecules in the process. Millions of different molecules are known to exist, and yet, no self replicating molecule has ever been discovered in nature or created in a lab -- there is not even a hypothesis of what Elements may have composed this molecule. This paper will return to this important issue later.
In order to proceed with the purpose of this paper it is important to understand what “Burden of Proof” means. Technically, it refers to legal matters, but it also applies in other fields of human endeavor like philosophy and science. Every affirmative statement carries a Burden of Proof, and although dogmatic atheists deny their own assertions are subject to this basic logical requirement of argumentation, no one is exempt. A Burden of Proof does not imply, outside of its legal context, proving something beyond a shadow of a doubt, but on the responsibility to provide reasons for one’s position. If one publicly makes a statement, then one has the burden of providing reasons for that statement. This paper will now demonstrate by example that the Burden of Proof lies on the one making an affirmative statement. It is important to realize that an affirmative statement involves the wording of the statement and not just a positively worded statement. For example, the Burden of Proof equally applies to someone stating a mathematical formula is valid as one saying it is not valid. A proponent of a mathematical formula should be able to mathematically prove it, and an opponent of the formula can prove the formula flawed by showing that the proof does not work. An extremely simple example would be someone claiming that 18 is a prime number. A prime number is a number divisible only by itself and 1. The proponent would have to prove that 18 can only be divided by 1 and 18; while the opponent could easily prove that 18 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 18. Consider the following examples.
Example 1) A skeptic states he is not convinced that a Big Bang ever took place.
Response: The skeptic is unconvinced and has no Burden of Proof to prove or disprove anything. The proponent of the Big Bang model can offer scientific evidence to show that there is an outward expansion of the universe and that radio telescopes are picking up a background radiation consistent with the idea of a Big Bang.
Note: The skeptic did not state no Big Bang took place, but merely that he is not convinced. Being skeptical is not the same as making affirmative statements that things are or are not. The essence of the skeptic is to question, not to state things are not so. Socrates is an excellent example of a skeptic.
Example 2) A flat-earth proponent states that the earth is not a sphere.
Response: The flat-earth proponent clearly made an affirmative statement that something is not the case. As such, the Burden of Proof lies on him to provide his reasons for rejecting the idea that the earth is a sphere.
Note: The flat-earth proponent did not merely state he was not convinced or did not believe, but that something was NOT the case. As such, he places himself under the burden to explain his reasons. Any attempt on his part to evade his responsibility to explain his reasons would rightly be taken as intellectual dishonesty.
Example 3) A creationist states that the Theory of Evolution is unscientific nonsense.
Response: The creationist has made an affirmative statement that something is unscientific nonsense. As such, the Burden of Proof lies on him to provide his reasons for rejecting the Theory of Evolution.
Note: The creationist did not merely state he was unconvinced or did not believe in evolutionary theory, but that it was unscientific nonsense. As such, he places himself under the burden to explain how it is: unscientific and nonsense.
Example 4) A Biblical literalist states that Carbon-14 Dating is fundamentally flawed.
Response: The Biblical literalist has made an affirmative statement that something is flawed. As such, the Burden of Proof lies on him to provide his reasons why he believes Carbon-14 Dating is flawed.
Note: The Biblical literalist did not initially state that he was unconvinced by the science of Carbon-14 Dating, but that Carbon-14 Dating was flawed.
Now as can be observed from the above examples, an affirmative statement can be worded as to appear negative. To state one does not believe in something is not the same as to state something does not exist or that something does exist. A statement to the effect that “God does not exist” is not the same as saying “I am not convinced God exists.” The former carries the Burden of Proof to offer one’s reasons for that opinion; the latter carries no such burden. If the Burden of Proof always rested on the proponent of those saying a thing exists, then such people would always have to defend themselves and their beliefs. Newton formulated the hypothesis that would become the Law of Gravity, and was the one carrying the Burden of Proof to explain it. If a critic of Newton stated he was not convinced such a law existed, then that critic is not under the Burden of Proof obligation. If on the other hand, that critic of Newton said Gravity does not exist, then he has taken the Burden of Proof onto himself to provide his reasons. It would be unfair and illogical to assert that only Newton had the Burden of Proof but the denier of gravity did not. Although one cannot prove something does not exist, one can refute or at least rebut a theory that something exists by logically demonstrating flaws in the theory. For example, if a denier of Gravity released a marble that did not fall to the floor that would be proof that Newton’s Law of Gravity was flawed.
Consider these additional situations: A holocaust denier states that there was no genocide committed against Europe’s Jews by Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Obviously this denier has the Burden of Proof to provide his reasons for believing the holocaust never happened. Or consider a teacher that corrects a student’s math paper and marks “X” over a solution proposed by the student. Now it would be unconscionable to assume the teacher does not have the Burden of Proof to explain the problem and offer the correct solution.
Imagine how illogical everything would degenerate to when every statement claiming something is not so is considered valid unless proven wrong. The denials would never end. Consider this in a symbolic form. Which makes more sense?
The avoidance form of argumentation:
J: A does not exist / A exists.
K: why do you say A does not exist / exists?
J: I am under no obligation to support my reasons for saying A does not exist / exists.
Obviously, J is immature and illogical.
Note: As can be seen from this form of argument, since J has taken it upon himself to make an affirmative statement (for or against something) then it is not unreasonable to expect him to offer his reasons for his statement.
The valid form of argumentation:
R: A does not exist / exists.
S: why do you say A does not exist / exists?
R: Here are my reasons:
(Discussion at this point has the opportunity to continue since there is an exchange of ideas.) In this case, R is mature and logical.
Dogmatic atheists refuse to accept the demands of their own positions and one need only visit the internet to see a legion of atheist apologetic sites claming that the Burden of Proof does not apply to them. If one takes the time to visit impartial educational sites one will see that whoever makes the affirmative statement for or against something carries the Burden of Proof. If one says, for example, that Carbon-14 Dating is in error, then one is not free from the Burden of Proof simply because one stated something is in error -- how is it in error is a perfectly valid question consistent with the rules of argumentation. As stated earlier the dogmatic atheist is fundamentally no different than the dogmatic theist; both are dogmatic, both suffer from a need to force conformity on a number of ideas, and both refuse to defend or even justify any position they put forward that something is or is not true. Dogmatic atheists like to call themselves skeptics, but their approach is a violation of the true meaning of skepticism. Skepticism is an attitude of questioning ideas and evidence; it enables us to test our speculations. It is not merely being negative by saying things are flawed or do not exist; skepticism requires time and effort to examine beliefs and speculations. Skepticism is a process arriving at a rational conclusion; it is not the conclusion. Skeptics are above all skeptical of themselves. Dogmatic atheists are in reality merely cynics in the modern sense of that word. Cynics are cynical of everything and usually refuse to give reasons for their cynicism -- does that sound familiar? If someone is too cowardly to give the reasons for a publicly stated opinion, then he should keep his opinions to himself.
Let us now look at the standard dogmatic atheist statements earlier presented in this essay and see how each is flawed and unscientific.
a) There is no scientific evidence for a Creator.
b) Science proves there is no Creator.
c) All things have naturalistic explanations.
THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR A CREATOR is a scientifically inept statement. Science assumes all things have naturalistic explanations in accord with Occam’s Razor. Claims that science has found no evidence for a Creator implies that scientists are engaged in research to prove or disprove a Creator. Dogmatic atheists peddling this slogan open themselves up to a simple question that exposes their ignorance and presumptions: What scientific research going on now is specifically looking for evidence of a Creator? (The answer is none.)
SCIENCE PROVES THERE IS NO CREATOR is not only scientifically inept but stupid. Since science is not attempting to prove or disprove a Creator and there is no scientific research being done based on such a hypothesis, then science is proving nothing that justifies such an outlandish statement. It is no surprise that the proponents of this particular slogan become extremely defensive when asked to share this “proof” that there is no Creator. Dogmatic atheists repeatedly fall back to claiming, like the cynics they are, that they have no Burden of Proof although they claimed they have proof. The irony here is that if they had such proof, then it would be easy to prove it, so why the defensive emotional anger? The answer is self-evident, the dogmatic atheist was called on his bluff, and like a poor card player cannot maintain his cool. The intellectual hypocrisy to claim on one hand that science proves something and to become defensive and not explain how science proves it is the product of an immature and emotional mind, and such people are the ones who give science a bad name in many circles. While the dogmatic theist will hide his own ignorance and intolerance behind largely misrepresented scripture, the same holds true for the dogmatic atheist who hides behind misrepresented science. Although the dogmatic atheist will claim they have no Burden of Proof because negatives cannot be proven, the opposite is true. An affirmative statement that something can be proven not to exist is workable. The statement that science proves there is no Creator can be demonstrated if the Creator is defined in a falsifiable way and the definition shown to be fundamentally flawed. This paper will now put forward just such a definition and an examination of the definition in light of modern scientific findings. If science proves the definition flawed, then that definition is invalid.
Definition: The Creator is defined as the creator of the physical universe and the originator of biological life.
Such a definition avoids the abstractions so common in theological definitions. The above definition contains two parts and both can prove a Creator does not exist if scientific naturalistic explanations can be produced. Remember one works within the definition.
If natural forces triggered the Big Bang, then that part of the definition of the Creator being the creator of the physical universe would be refuted. Unfortunately for the dogmatic atheist, no such explanation or demonstration exists; the present Big Bang Theory, although helpful, is not the final word. What happened before the Big Bang is based solely on speculation, and it is this unknown region leading up to the Big Bang that is open to speculation -- it is here that there is room for the intervention of a Creator.
There are many unanswered, and possibly unanswerable, questions concerning the Big Bang, here are a few:
a) What conditions existed before the Big Bang?
b) Where did the energy and matter that existed before the Big Bang come from?
c) What triggered the Big Bang?
d) How and why did the universe expand?
The Big Bang was a singularity, where the laws of nature do not exist; as such, there is no naturalistic explanation and that leaves room for a Creator.
If the self-replicating molecule can be produced which triggered life and natural selection, then the second part of the definition of the Creator being the originator of life would be refuted.
Although one hears that one cannot prove a negative, the fact remains that negatives can be proven by invalidating evidence. All that is needed is a hypothesis, model, theory, or a mere statement to be invalidated. Invalidating evidence is evidence that contradicts a hypothesis, model, theory, or statement. This can be cleared up with an example: if someone claimed there was a graveyard under his new lawn, then this claim can be either validated or invalidated by digging up the lawn. Finding nothing would be invalidating evidence. Depending on how one defines a Creator, there is no invalidating evidence against the possibility of such an entity.
ALL THINGS HAVE NATURALISTIC EXPLANATIONS is an equally inept statement. There is far more unknown than known about nature as any scientist will state for the record. There are plenty of things without explanations. For example, the origin of the Big Bang and the origin of life are rooted in speculation. How does a Big Bang happen? How did life begin? What was the first self-replicating molecule? What was it composed of? These are just a few of the legion of unanswered questions in science and to claim that all things have naturalistic explanations is to expose one’s scientific ignorance.
Carl Sagan wrote the following concerning the question of atheism, God, and science:
An [dogmatic] atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists…." ˛
In conclusion, the dogmatic atheist’s assertions on the creator issue are invalid as demonstrated in this paper. Every argument presented by dogmatic atheists involving science to disprove a Creator is fallacious; there is no scientific evidence proving or even demonstrating a Creator does not exist, and there is no scientific research into the “God” issue. The shameful misuse of science by dogmatic atheists is due to their failing to make distinctions between science fiction and science (nonfiction). Dogmatic atheism, for all its pretensions to scientific literacy, is in effect composed of people scientifically illiterate, illogical, and addicted to argumentum ad verecundiam (arguments from modesty). These people are not skeptics or freethinkers but modern cynics -- the great naysayers. Deism is the only religion which is science friendly. The naturalistic approach to science should be encouraged because eventually by the process of elimination, it can indirectly provide evidence for a Creator and with time maybe find not only evidence of a Creator, but the Creator itself.
(1) University of Southern Mississippi
(2) Carl Sagan, “The Amniotic Universe,” Broca’s Brain.
There have been hundreds
scientific studies on the effects of
over the past 30 years. Some of the results indicate improved brain
coherence, reduction of atherosclerosis, faster reaction time and
younger biological age.
The survey shows a giant step forward for Deism in the fact that it actually uses the word "Deist" and for the very significant raw numbers it shows as representing the number of people who are Deists. In reality, the number of Deists is actually higher than the survey shows because the survey uses an outdated definition of Deist. For a more accurate definition please see our Deism Defined page.
Click here to read the actual survey. (It's in PDF)
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