Framed!December 3, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
A while back there was a bit of a brouhaha over how best to present science and/or atheism to the world. Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens were said to be too “harsh” and “shrill” in their bold and confident assertions that religion was wrong. Advocates for atheism and/or science, it was said, needed to “frame” their arguments, to make them more appealing and less offensive for the average, religiously-minded layperson.
Well, some atheists took that advice to heart, and Dinesh D’Souza would like to give them the “thanks” they deserve.
The central argument of these scientific atheists is that modern science has refuted traditional religious conceptions of a divine creator.
But of late atheism seems to be losing its scientific confidence. One sign of this is the public advertisements that are appearing in billboards from London to Washington DC. Dawkins helped pay for a London campaign to put signs on city buses saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Humanist groups in America have launched a similar campaign in the nation’s capital. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.” And in Colorado atheists are sporting billboards apparently inspired by John Lennon: “Imagine…no religion…”
There is no claim here that God fails to satisfy some criterion of scientific validation. We hear nothing about how evolution has undermined the traditional “argument from design.” There’s not even a whisper about how science is based on reason while Christianity is based on faith…
[A]theists seem to have given up the scientific card.
Congratulations, framers. You’ve made Christians much happier, now that they can claim you’ve conceded defeat in the scientific realm.
Mind you, D’Souza’s argument itself is nothing new. It’s the same old “privileged planet” superstition that ID creationists have been circulating for years. D’Souza simply takes the opportunity provided by the milder pro-atheistic marketing to pretend that there’s been some new development on the IDC front.
If you want to know why atheists seem to have given up the scientific card, the current issue of Discover magazine provides part of the answer. The magazine has an interesting story by Tim Folger which is titled “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator.” The article begins by noting “an extraordinary fact about the universe: its basic properties are uncannily suited for life.” As physicist Andrei Linde puts it, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”
Too many “coincidences,” however, imply a plot. Folger’s article shows that if the numerical values of the universe, from the speed of light to the strength of gravity, were even slightly different, there would be no universe and no life.
Yes, yes, we’ve been hearing this one for years. It’s the puddle in a rocky depression, marveling at how perfectly the depression has been carved out to be exactly the right shape for the puddle to fit in. But it’s still mere superstition, and not science, to arbitrarily attribute all these so-called “coincidences” to a magical, invisible power when you can neither demonstrate any connection between this alleged Designer and the cosmos, nor can you even describe, in non-magical terms, what such a connection would consist of. Describe for us an objectively verifiable chain of causality from your alleged Cause to the observed effect, and then we’ll talk science.
But the point I want to focus on here is the role of milder atheism in helping to promote this superstitious mish-mash. Truth, especially scientific truth, is not a matter of compromise. If Einsteinian physics seems to contradict Newtonian physics, you don’t settle for answers that are halfway between what Einstein predicts and what Newton predicts. That only additional wrong answers. Instead, you need to understand why Einstein and Newton got different answers, and then present the truth—singular and uncompromising—about how physics really works.
Trying to meet creationists halfway on the question of scientific evidence (whether about creation or Creator) only introduces new wrong answers. Like D’Souza’s closing paragraph:
No wonder atheists are sporting billboards asking us to “imagine…no religion.” When science, far from disproving God, seems to be pointing with ever-greater precision toward transcendence, imagination and wishful thinking seem all that is left for the atheists to count on.
That’s right, framers, your polite approach merely proves that you are indulging in imagination and wishful thinking, that you have no actual evidence for your atheism or your Darwinism or your reality-based approach to science at all. The believers gleefully embrace your approach, even as they sneer at you for being such feeble losers. And in the end, you’ve helped them make the credulous, superstitious, creationist position even stronger. They’re placated all right, because they’re winning thanks to you.
Personally, I’d rather tell the truth straight up. And if somebody calls me “shrill” or “harsh,” so be it. I’d rather have the integrity of the truth than the patronizing approval of people like Dinesh D’Souza.