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REVIEW: Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism by David Mills

INTERVIEWER: But don’t you think there has to be some kind of ultimate justice for human beings? People who do wrong are not always punished in this world, and good is not always rewarded. Don’t these injustices require an afterlife to redress the imbalance: where good is ultimately rewarded and evil punished? MILLS: You’re undeniably correct that there is often grave injustice in this world. But that sad fact argues against, rather than for, God’s existence. There is no reason to believe that the injustice we perceive in daily life is not typical of how the universe as a whole operates. For example, suppose that a deliveryman places a large crate of oranges on your doorstep. You open the crate and discover that every single orange you see on top of the box is rotten. Would you then conclude that the remaining oranges on the bottom of the crate must be good? No. You would conclude that the rotten oranges you see on top are probably quite representative of the shipment as a whole. Likewise, the injustice we perceive in our world is evidence that we unfortunately live in an unjust world, rather than that justice is waiting “just beyond sight.”

the universe—which is the sum of all mass-energy—could not, according to the mass-energy conservation law, come into existence ex nihilo in the way demanded by creationism. According to this well-confirmed scientific principle, our universe of mass-energy was never created, and cannot be annihilated. To believe in “scientific” creationism, therefore, is to overlook or dismiss the law of the conservation of mass-energy.

what about Mortimer Adler’s question: “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” I hesitate to criticize Adler because I admire his writings and respect his outstanding contributions to education and to contemporary philosophy. So, in Adler’s defense, let me point out that he has always claimed to speak as a philosopher, never as a scientist. Adler’s question, however—“Why is there something, rather than nothing?”—assumes that there is supposed to be nothing: that the “natural” state of the universe is nonexistence. The fact that there obviously is something, then, is viewed by Adler as a miracle requiring a supernatural explanation. The perceived “mystery” of Adler’s question lies, not in a supernatural answer, but in his presumptive formulation of the question itself. Adler’s question is similar to presuming that grass is supposed to be red, then claiming that its undeniably green color is evidence that a Divine miracle has occurred. From a scientific perspective, though, the question is: Why shouldn’t there be something rather than nothing? What law of science claims that the universe is not supposed to exist, or that nonexistence is the “natural” condition of the universe?

The question of whether Einstein believed in God depends on your definition of “God.” If you define “God”—as the creationists do—as a supernatural Being Who created the universe, Who hears your prayers and Who decides whether you go to Heaven or Hell, then the answer is no. By the traditional definition of God, Einstein was an atheist. Einstein himself said, “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”7 Regarding life-after-death, Einstein said, “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.”8

Einstein’s statement that “God does not play dice with the universe” was a reference to the philosophy of pantheism. Rather than proposing a miracle-working, personal Deity, pantheism accepts the supremacy of the laws of physics. Thus interpreted, Einstein’s statement would read “The laws of physics do not permit Nature to behave randomly or chaotically.” As we noted, however, even this “translated,” non-mystical expression of Einstein’s statement turns out to be false, as Niels Bohr and Max Born demonstrated.

After conceding that physical laws sufficiently explain Nature’s behavior, we may wonder why the citizens continue to insist so dogmatically that the Greek gods exist at all. What evidence is left to substantiate the gods’ existence? None. We may wonder whether psychological or emotional attachment to the gods may be clouding the citizens’ scientific judgment. Likewise, modern creationism, in the end, has little to do with science, and everything to do with human psychology and emotion.

The Theory of Evolution does not predict the fossilization of any species. Fossilization occurs for wholly independent reasons of geochemistry—not because of evolutionary theory. So fossil gaps in no way contradict evolutionary science. The geologic column is a fortunate coincidence of Nature that attests biological evolution.


Creationist argument: Even if one believes that all life evolved from a single cell or cells, a Creator is still necessary to explain the origin and complexity of cellular life. Answer: Earlier, we discussed how creationists point to highly evolved organs, such as the human eye, and claim that the organ’s complexity reveals supernatural design. The fallacy of this argument is to assume that “blind chance” or “random accident” guides evolutionary progress. Moreover, the argument falsely demands a lottery-like instant winner, rather than a gradual accumulation of adaptations through natural selection.


In closing, let me outline a few general observations about the philosophical differences separating religion from science: 1. Any religion worthy of the name must, by definition, include some form of belief in the supernatural (e.g., gods, devils, holy ghosts, angels, heaven, hell). Science, however, addresses only naturally occurring phenomena and thus, by definition, excludes consideration of the supernatural. 2. Religion derives its belief system from “Divine Revelation” and from “inner conviction.” Science, by contrast, derives its laws from real-world experimentation and through mathematical and logical reasoning. 3. The religious adherent believes that “all things are possible to them that love God.” If asked whether Jesus could throw a rock faster than the speed of light, the religious believer would unhesitatingly say yes. Science, however, establishes laws restricting Nature’s behavior. Science says, for example, that Jesus could not throw a rock faster than light. 4. Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe. 5. The religious individual strives to behave “morally” in order to please God and to gain heavenly reward. The science-minded individual derives his ethical system from the real-world consequences of his actions upon others and upon himself. 6. The religious individual tends to hold his beliefs rigidly, fanatically and with a closed mind—never seriously questioning the accuracy of his Church’s teachings. The scientist, however, is eagerly and open-mindedly searching for new theories and for evidence to topple old theories.

A true miracle is, by definition, impossible through natural means—or at least highly improbable. The chances are always greater therefore that the report of the miracle is mistaken in its account of what actually occurred or why it occurred. What if its 2per cect mir and 98 natural

deterrence, separation and rehabilitation are reasons for punishment because (and only because) they produce beneficial results. Thus, the punishment of an individual—or the promulgation of the possibility thereof (i.e., deterrence)—that produces a better social environment than the absence of punishment would produce has a reason for implementation. We must now differentiate punishment implemented for good cause from punishment enacted solely for vengeance or sadistic pleasure.

the percentage of scientists endorsing ID theory is trifling? A study published in Nature (July 23, 1998) revealed that, of the membership of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, only 7 percent of its leading scientists believed in a personal God, much less in the “evidence” of the ID crusade. ID’s greatest triumph therefore has been in convincing the general public that there is a controversy raging among scientists over Intelligent Design. There is no scientific controversy whatever.

Craig concludes, “So the universe can’t have an infinite number of events in its past; it must have had a beginning.” Craig is correct that if you mix finite and infinite numbers in a mathematical equation, you will indeed get contradictory and nonsensical results. But this fact is entirely definitional—i.e., it mathematically relates only to itself, rather than to the empirical universe. It’s like saying “two plus two equals four; therefore, the cosmos sprang into being from nothing, proving a Creator’s involvement.” Craig’s conclusion is a non sequitur (it doesn’t follow). He is offering valid observations only about his self-created, self-contained universe of abstract numbers, rather than about the true, outside universe in which we actually live. As an admirably devoted Christian, Craig no doubt believes in the power of Biblical parables. But he has completely failed to demonstrate—or even attempted to demonstrate—the real-world applicability of his arithmetic parable through the scientific method. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Craig’s arithmetic parable is wholly irrelevant to the law of the conservation of mass-energy. Consequently, it is unimportant whether Craig has lost three, half or all of his marbles. The mass-energy conservation law nonetheless forbids Creation ex nihilo. Craig similarly argues that the universe can’t be infinitely old because an infinite length of time would have to precede the Big Bang—an infinite length of time which, by definition, could never have ended to permit the Big Bang to occur. In other words, in an infinitely old universe, we could never actually arrive at any specific moment in time. Craig repeatedly misuses his mathematical infinities to “prove” a conclusion that is mathematically cohesive but empirically ridiculous. Let me demonstrate why: Suppose that you wish to walk a distance of one city block. Needless to say, before you can reach your final destination one block away, you must first traverse half of that distance (or half a block). Likewise, before you can reach your midpoint half a block away, you must first arrive at a point which is half of that distance (or a quarter of a block from your starting position). Before you can walk a quarter of a block, you must walk an eighth of a block, etc. All of these facts are incontrovertibly true and can certainly be extended to infinity (e.g., before you can walk 1/5000 of a block, you must walk 1/10000 of a block, ad infinitum). Applying Craig’s theory about infinities to the real world, you could never arrive at your final destination one block away. Why not? Because you would first need to arrive at an infinite number of intermediate waypoints—an infinity of waypoints that, by definition, is without end and therefore impassable. How could you possibly travel “beyond” an infinite number of anything? Back to reality: It goes without saying that, despite the mathematical “impossibility” of your reaching an infinite number of waypoints, you can easily walk the length of a city block within two or three minutes at most. This example illustrates the clear distinction between ID’s philosophical “proofs” of God’s existence and the true world of experimental physics. All cosmologies—whether secular or theological—are forced to contemplate an infinite regress, either in the form of mass-energy or in the form of a god. So the question again reverts to whether: (A) this infinite regress harmonizes with the mass-energy conservation laws (as I have been suggesting), or (B) whether a god violated the mass-energy conservation laws through an ex nihilo Creation event. Craig is back where he started, having made no forward progress whatever in his God-Did-It argument.