Some people defend theism by arguing that theism represents a reasonable philosophy because it is consistent with the prevailing scientific picture of reality. Such defenders of theism claim that the sciences (i.e., the relevant sciences) have not proven beyond all doubt that a belief in God is false. Sometimes they add that despite all our accrued scientific knowledge of the physical and biological world, God, as conceived by Western theology and areas of Western theistic philosophy, could exist somehow and somewhere behind the scenes, beyond the scope of the sciences and critical, rational inquiry. In short, according to the defenders, belief in God has not been refuted by any of the sciences.
“Look, if I found a watch on the beach I would obviously know that all of its parts didn’t fly together by accident. I would know that there had to have been a watchmaker.” Response: It sure looked that way….until 1859. Then came along Charles Darwin and On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Over the years that followed, scientists increasingly demonstrated that God was no longer required as an explanatory factor for all of the design in nature. Instead, life on Earth turned out to be a four billion year old story of random genetic errors followed by an automatic, blind selection of the more fit and extermination of the less fit.
Even if it looks to our limited minds that the only possible answer to some current mystery regarding life or the universe is that “God must have done it”, it’s arguably bad theology to claim as much. This is because the strength of one’s faith now depends on whether or not scientists can fill this gap in our knowledge. Since science has been extremely successful over the last few centuries in replacing “God did it” answers with fruitful naturalistic explanations, the risk of one’s faith being undermined is quite high. The following are four such examples from the non-living realm.
Repeatedly, supernatural explanations for physical events (such as comets, eclipses, earthquakes, lightning, plagues, design in nature, Cambrian fossil explosion) later turned out to be scientifically explainable. Even questions surrounding the origin of our universe, its apparent fine-tuning and the origin of life are yielding to scientific investigation. As scientific knowledge continued to advance over the past 400 years, supernatural explanations for events continued to retreat and retreat. Many scientists faced with such a consistent trend have extrapolated to the conclusion that all of our earthly gods are non-existent and our holy books merely human creations.
To insist that God abruptly created all of the different major kinds of life can be tantamount to blasphemy in the minds of liberal theists. Consider: Extinctions: Over 99% of all the billions of species to have ever inhabited earth sooner or later went extinct. Also, several mass extinctions in which up to 90% of all species on the planet went extinct have been documented in the fossil record. If this is God’s purposeful handiwork, doesn’t that suggest a god that’s wasteful, inept, careless and unconcerned with the welfare of his creations?
A favorite argument for the existence of God(s) from the ancient Greeks up to 1859 was the argument from design. The incredible design of the human eye, the bird’s wing, the human brain and all the harmony in nature could not have happened by chance. Where there is design, there must be a designer. After all, what are the odds of all this design happening by chance? It’s like believing that scraps of metal could be randomly thrown together to create a 747. God was truly everywhere.
Over two thousand years ago the Roman poet and philosopher, Lucretious (99-55 BCE), expressed a surprisingly modern philosophy, one which he got from a more ancient philosopher, the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BCE).
Is the idea of an intelligible universe provided by theistic religions? ..Yes, in part it is true that “the religious tradition …inspired our quest for truth and spiritual values.” But that quest for intelligibility and ‘truth’ is much older than the “religious tradition.”
Proposition: We have as much reason for thinking that the Judeo-Christian God is real as we do for supposing that the god Poseidon, of Greek mythology, is real. In short, neither is real.
This is affirmed by a number of the new atheists and skeptics on religion. However, many from the world of religious philosophy will strongly dissent.
Contrary to popular belief, the biblical Jesus said nothing specific on the subjects of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, or sex in general, except for a few, but far reaching, comments on divorce and adultery. For example, he taught that one committed the sin of adultery by marrying a divorced woman (Matt. 5:32) and that adultery was committed in a man’s heart if he looked at a woman with lust (Matt. 5:27-8).