Monday, August 16, 2010

Victor Stenger makes me laugh.

Physicist Victor Stenger writes a hilarious article for the Huffington Post. It's hilarious because, like so much word drool that pours out of the modern atheism movements, the obvious problem in the argument is there, but can't be seen through the biases and beliefs he holds. Essentially, he concludes that since science has looked for God in nature and not found God from a scientific viewpoint, God doesn't exist. Observe his first stellar argument:

Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God or anything else supernatural. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for electricity, gravity, neutrinos, and DNA.
Cuz we all know that if textbooks don't say it, it must not be true! Finish laughing for a minute, then we can continue.

OK, back to the article. Like most modern atheists he begins his assumptions with the religious faith of most modern atheists: that science is the only tool by which we can explain everything, and if science can't explain it, it doesn't exist. That, of course, is necessarily a belief, not to mention circular reasoning. There is no scientific proof that science alone can answer for all that exists. It has to have an assumption to begin with that if science can't explain it, it isn't true. Once you are willing to step out of that little religious covey, it becomes easier to see that 99% of humanity may not be 100% wrong about religious experience and revelation.

The rest of it, as is usual, deals with refuting Christianity's God. Typically when atheists say they are against all religion they spend 99% of their time obsessed with the Christian traditions.

Essentially, his article boils down to this: We all know that if science in 2010 can't prove it, it isn't true. And by proof, we mean proving it based on how we believe it should be able to be proven. And furthermore, we won't consider any proof that doesn't fit our own scientific methods, which, by the way, assume to begin with that God doesn't exist and there is nothing supernatural. His final two paragraphs speak volumes for this:

"As the final example, the Abrahamic God is believed by his worshipers to talk to people and provide information they otherwise did not know. Nothing could be easier to test scientifically. All you have to do is find a few examples where a truth has been revealed that later was confirmed. This could be something simple, such as a prediction of some future event that turned out to be confirmed. This has never happened.

Of course, claims of revelation can be found in all three monotheisms, but none stand up to critical scrutiny. The so-called prophecies in scriptures were all made in the distant past and can't be tested since the events prophesied have already happened, or, as in the case of Jesus returning in a generation, long been falsified."
Note there is no real evidence provided by the author who insists our beliefs should be based on scientific evidence (which, of course, would render them no longer beliefs). The famous Miracle of the Sun*, which saw thousands of witnesses account for a prediction by three peasant children regarding a phenomenon which occurred. Everyone knows it happened, the witnesses have gone on record saying it happened. Wouldn't that be proof? One time is all is needed.

Not so for our intrepid rationalists. They simply dismiss such things by saying 'mass hypnosis', or 'giant conspiracies', or 'mass hallucinations'. Now, do they have proof of any of these things? No. There is no proof that mass hallucinations, hypnosis or conspiracy happened. Yet they base their disbelief on a very simple belief: since we already believe there is no God or supernatural, there must - MUST - be some other explanation, no matter how implausible or unproven.

His last paragraph was simply bizarre, and suggests that as a historian and critical scholar, he makes a good physicist. He doesn't take into account contrasting theories on the dating of Old Testament literature. He doesn't explain the secular critical answers that attempt to explain away the prophecies. Why not? That would be icing on the cake. Simply turn to liberal/secular explanations for the later dating of the Old Testament (which may not be as true as once believed), and that would, if you are willing to enter into it with skepticism, add to the argument. It's almost as if he is unaware of the arguments, because perhaps, just perhaps, he is actually unaware of the very religion he has tried so hard to refute with science. So unaware, that a person of faith has little difficulties seeing the superficial assumptions and understandings of the faith he has tried to disprove, and can see why his supposed smack down of religion is a rather lightweight fluff ball after all.

*Yes, the link is to a skeptics website. I had a good laugh there, too. Notice his rationalist arguments against the miracle: from 'because they weren't as smart as me and didn't know what looking at the sun could be like', to 'mass suggestion' (no evidence), or my favorite: the miracle must have a natural explanation (since miracles don't exist), so the absence of a natural explanation proves no miraculous vision occurred'. Hint: if you want to prove it was no big deal that three peasant children predicted something would happen on a certain day that did happen, then get together three children, have them predict that something will happen, and reproduce the event. Or prove the countless conflicting theories 'disproving' the event are actually true and not desperate attempts at ignoring the fact that it all boils down to you being blinded by science, and nothing more.


  1. Ok, let me get this straight. He acknowledges that religion would be evidenced by prophecies being fulfilled. Then he dismisses the whole slew of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ because... why, exactly?

    This without even getting into the assumption that prophecies are meant to be testable; they aren't, they're meant to be trustable, but explaining that is a whole other story (involving free will and issues of why a God would "hide" Himself rather than making Himself readily provable). Unfortunately, once you get into that story, the discussion is dismissed because it's not science -- which is exactly the point: science can't say anything as to whether God ought to behave the way atheists want Him to, so by their own epistomological standards scientific atheists have no basis for the standards they wish to hold God to... but consistent reasoning is a difficult virtue for anybody to obtain, I've found.

    I still want to know why the fulfilled prophecies we already have don't count, though. What sample of his rejection I've seen isn't convincing. If nothing else, you'd think the end conclusion would be that he hasn't managed to find any that convince him, not that it's irrational/unscientific for anyone to be convinced by any of them. (I dunno, maybe he actually holds something more like that and this is just his case for his own unconvincedness? I've heard the argument so many times I don't care to read yet another iteration of it, but on the other hand I don't want to impute to one man all the positions of his peers.)

  2. I haven't a clue what he is getting at in the last paragraph. That was my best shot. It seems, with nothing left to say, he throws in a 'go team!' to the already cheering audience and hopes for the best.


Let me know your thoughts