Monday, October 22, 2018 | Contact | FSJ | Returns, refunds, and privacy policy.

Salvo 36

Salvo 36

Column: Headquarters — Topic: ScientismSalvo #36

Faith Removal

Militant Science & Apostle Krauss by Regis Nicoll


Physicist Lawrence Krauss has a bee in his bonnet.

Krauss, a "militant atheist" and proud of it, complains that religion is getting too much respect these days. As he sees it, "we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free."1

Given the raft of legal actions, fines, civil suits, and bankruptcies experienced by wedding service providers, private businesses, and religious organizations because of their religious beliefs over the last several years, one wonders in what century Krauss believes he's living.

Oblivious to the irony, he brings up Kim Davis (the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of her faith) to ask sympathizers, "To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious views are in conflict with it?" Should a "jihadist whose interpretation of the Koran [requires it] be allowed to behead infidels and apostates?"

A passing familiarity with the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act would serve him well, as neither allows anyone to "break the law." What they do allow is for a conscientious objector to have his day in court to determine whether the state has a "compelling interest" that justifies denying him a religious exemption. For the extreme example that Krauss poses, the "compelling interest" would clearly be the protection of the citizenry, which is the most fundamental function of government.

Notwithstanding, Krauss goes on from there to display an abysmal understanding of religion and those who practice it. He accuses individuals (like Davis) and corporations (like Hobby Lobby) of seeking exemptions from laws that "do not focus on religion" but on "social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage." As I recall, the Bible has a lot to say about "social issues" like the nature of marriage, defense of the defenseless, and welcoming little ones in His name.

Liberating the Ignorant

Krauss then asserts that government has a compelling interest "in insuring that all citizens are treated equally." Well, whatever compelling interest the state may have in a given case, it can burden religious objectors only if doing so is the "least restrictive" means of pursuing that interest. In the case of Hobby Lobby, the High Court ruled that the government had no compelling interest to deny a religious exemption to a private corporation, having previously granted broad exemptions to nonprofit religious organizations.

But what really has the physicist's bee a-buzzing are pro-lifers whose religious objections are threatening the operations of Planned Parenthood. To Krauss's thinking, people who protest the harvesting and marketing of aborted babies' tissue are "anti-science" because those practices "could help save lives."  It's a bit like calling those who opposed the harvesting and marketing of tissue "procured" by Josef Mengele as "anti-science."

Anyway, religion is getting too much respect, and something's got to be done about it, so Krauss is calling on his fellow scientists to be militant in liberating "humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance." As to who really needs to be unshackled, Krauss might want to take a long look in the mirror.

No Sacred Cows?

Ignorance of religion, constitutional law, and even current events might be understandable, if uncomely, in someone whose mind is occupied with the sibylline workings of the quantum world, but when speaking about his own specialty, Krauss should be better informed, or more forthright.

"In science," he asserts, "no ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking."

I wonder if that applies to things like Darwinian evolution and man-made climate change. Actually, I don't, as he has made his opinion quite clear. Taking to the pages of Slate, he proposes that skeptics of man-made climate change be put "on the same footing as those who deny the results of evolutionary biology"—that is, as non-scientists.2 It seems that, for Krauss, there are at least two sacred cows that should be free from question and attack. And he is not alone.

Just ask William Dembski, the Baylor University professor whose intelligent design research program was shut down in 2001, and who was prohibited from teaching on campus for four years, until he left. Or ask other teachers and scientists who, like Caroline Crocker and Richard Steinberg, have been intimidated, harassed, or fired for questioning Darwinian orthodoxy.

But the most scurrilous attempt to "liberate humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance" is the proposal of twenty climate scientists (and a sitting senator) to subject skeptics of climate change orthodoxy to investigation and possible prosecution under federal racketeering laws.3 Somewhere, Galileo is murmuring a quote from Santayana.4

An Atheistic Enterprise

For all that, Krauss presses on about the openness of science, a feature he attributes to its being "an atheistic enterprise." That would come as a surprise to the geniuses of the Scientific Revolution.

Francis Bacon, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton were all men of faith whose faith gave them hope that scientific knowledge was attainable. Because the universe was the product of an Intelligence that made it intelligible to intelligent beings, they had confidence that man could discover something of the true nature of nature by careful observation and experimentation. Kepler put it this way: "The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which he has revealed to us in the language of mathematics."

Similarly, Newton warned people inclined to infer a "Clockwork Universe" from his laws of motion and gravity that "gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."

God of the Gaps?

Such sentiments were not "God-of-the-Gaps" arguments from ignorance but, rather, design inferences from evidence. It is a deep irony that Newton has been co-opted as the patron saint of scientific (sans God) materialism when, in effect, he was a forerunner of the intelligent design movement.

Scientific advancement continued well into the nineteenth century, thanks to men like John Dalton, Andre Ampere, Georg Ohm, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, William Kelvin, Gregor Mendel, and George Washington Carver—all committed Christians who made foundational contributions in the fields of electro-magnetism, microbiology, medicine, genetics, chemistry, atomic theory, and molecular motion. The distinctly theistic leanings of these pioneers enabled investigative inquiry to progress from alchemy, astrology, and classical natural philosophy to chemistry, astronomy, and modern science.

Quite the Contrary

The claim that science is intrinsically atheistic is but one of the many fictions Krauss must produce to hold his overarching myth together. Take his paradoxical statement, "The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems."

Our ability to learn about the universe derives from the fact that it is governed by laws and exhibits a rational order and functional design that reflect purpose. Given our knowledge of the integrated complexity of nature, it would seem that the purpose of the quantum field is the formation and stability of matter; that the purpose of matter is to shape space; that the purpose of space is to accommodate matter; that the purpose of gravity is to form stars and planets; and that the purpose of stars and planets is to support life, particularly human life. As theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson was drawn to conclude, "The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming."

Then there's Krauss's biggest whopper, A Universe from Nothing, the title of his 2012 book. Ontologically—not to mention, empirically—the proposition that the universe, or anything else, came from "nothing" is nonsensical.

Even the pre-modern natural philosophers understood that everything that exists was caused by a pre-existent something, and that to avoid the practical absurdity of "something from nothing" and the logical fallacy of infinite regression, there must be a "something" that is primal and uncreated. And Krauss knows it, too. His "nothing" is the quantum field, which, like Stephen Hawking's "nothing"—gravity—is not nothing, but something that requires a prior something. Mir Faisal, a physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider, also knows it. Well, sort of.

In a news article, sensationally titled, "HISTORIC DISCOVERY: Physicists 'Prove' God DIDN'T Create the Universe" (caps in original), Faisal states that while the universe "did not come from nothing," it is nothing, as its negative gravitational energy and positive matter energy balance out to zero, obviating a need for a Creator.5 By the same logic, two locomotives of equal mass traveling in opposite directions at the same speed are nothing, and require no train maker, because their total momentum is zero.

Such logical incoherence notwithstanding, the natural phenomena we observe, the laws we discover, and the equations that describe them are independent of their ultimate cause. Whether the stability of matter is caused by quantum confinement or by the One who "holds all things together," or whether the earth's orbit is the result of gravitational attraction, topographical spacetime, or the guiding hand of God, our observations and mathematical descriptions remain unaffected.

The same goes for our ability to use our discoveries and formulations to grow gardens, build skyscrapers, launch satellites, and explore space. The primal cause we accept, whether natural or supernatural, is not a demonstrable fact; it's a matter of faith.

In fact, the faith of the militant scientist has all the trappings of the religious faith he decries, complete with its:

Prophet ⇥ Charles Darwin

Sacred text On the Origin of Species

Holy relics ⇥ humanoid fossils

Martyr ⇥ Galileo

Sacred creed ⇥ "The cosmos is all there is, was, or ever will be."

Statement of faith ⇥ "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Televangelists ⇥ Carl Sagan, Neil de Grasse-Tyson

Worship centers ⇥ planetaria, observatories, the Large Hadron Collider

Priests ⇥ scientists

Vestments ⇥ lab coat (or tweed jacket and jeans when addressing the media or public)

And woe betide the unwary critic who calls it, its defenders, and their pronouncements into question.



Sidebar

"The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems."

It's uncertain just whom exactly theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss is referring to when he says "we"—certainly not the great minds of science quoted here.

"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist." —Charles Darwin

"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God."—Albert Einstein

"Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind. God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts . . . and if piety allows us to say so, our understanding is in this respect of the same kind as the divine, at least as far as we are able to grasp something of it in our mortal life."—Johannes Kepler

"There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all. . . . It seems as though somebody has fine tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe. . . . The impression of design is overwhelming."—Paul Davies

"I believe that a full understanding of this remarkable human capacity for scientific discovery ultimately requires the insight that our power in this respect is the gift of the universe's Creator who, in that ancient and powerful phrase, has made humanity in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Through the exercise of this gift, those working in fundamental physics are able to discern a world of deep and beautiful order-a universe shot thorough with signs of mind. I believe that it is indeed the Mind of that world's Creator that is perceived in this way.  Science is possible because the universe is a divine creation."—John Polkinghorne

"To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge."—Nicolaus Copernicus

"The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God."—Louis Pasteur

"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."—Fred Hoyle

"There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls."—Max Planck

"I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism."—Lord William Kelvin

"It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed."—James Joule

"In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence."—Sir Isaac Newton

"Those who devote themselves to the purpose of proving that there is no purpose constitute an interesting subject for study."—Alfred North Whitehead

Source: godevidence.com/2010/08/quotes-about-god/



More on Scientism from the Salvo online archives.

In Science, When 'Anything Goes,' Everything Goes by Denyse O'Leary

The "Icons of Evolution" Have Joined the Ranks of the Undead by Denyse O'Leary

It Tells the Truth About Ourselves by James M. Kushiner

YOU SHOULD SUBSCRIBE!


Salvo subscribers have full access to the online archives!

Salvo magazine unblushingly offers an honest, rational, and respectful perspective to hard questions about SCIENCE, SEX, and SOCIETY.

1 Year Web Access
Card image cap

Web

Full access to the Salvo online archives. Only $15.99.

Subscribe
1 Year Print + Web Access
Card image cap

Print + Web

Get 4 issues + full access to the online archives. Only $29.99.

Subscribe

Bulk Subscriptions:
Consider ordering a bulk subscription for a reading group or a small group!

All material Ⓒ 2017. Salvo is published by The Fellowship of St. James.