Jeffrey Taylor in The Atlantic reviews Jerry Coyne’s new book, Faith Versus Fact and has this to say:
…Primarily, though, Coyne focuses on the epistemological. He notes that religion has always advanced hypotheses about the cosmos and the origins of life—matters that he argues belong within the realm of science. He bluntly evaluates faith’s record of teachings about the natural world as a “failure of religion to find out the truth about anything.” Worse, he states, faith from the start leads humans toward “thinking that an adequate explanation can be based on what is personally appealing rather than on what stands the test of empirical study.”
Coyne is clear in his argument that to understand the cosmos there is no need of a “Creator.” What science says about the temporal nature of our own solar system, in fact, renders more than improbable the existence of a divine plan for humanity. “Human tenure on Earth,” he writes, “will end when the sun … vaporize[s] the Earth in less than five billion years,” while the universe “will also end [through] heat death,” with temperatures falling to absolute zero. What does this say for those who insist there’s a divine plan for mankind on Earth? The “God of the gaps,” Coyne argues, is losing out as science fills in the missing pieces…
Gee? Really? Well, that settles it – since this universe of ours is doomed to die, there must be no God.
Do people really believe this sort of thing? Have the people who make such statements ever so much as cracked open a theological book? As for humanity surviving five billion years until the Sun vaporizes the planet – seriously? Anyone who is betting on humanity surviving 500 years is taking a sucker bet. If there isn’t a God who is going to save us by miraculous action, I wouldn’t be surprised if humanity was finished 200 years from now – we’re already dying off as a species at this very moment (one crucial aspect to survival of the species is having children; the global birth rate in 1950 was around 37.2 kids per 1,000 people; as of 2015, it was about 19.4…and if it keeps up, it’ll be 13.4 by 2050).
Breaking news for you atheists out there: we believers already know this about the universe. But here’s another news flash for you: God is not inside the universe. God is outside the universe – being the Creator of same. And it seems pretty easy to figure out that if there is a being who can create a universe, that being would be pretty well able to do whatever is necessary…including create a new Heaven and a new Earth, in the by and by (that means creating a new universe, boys and girls)
To be sure, no one can prove, in the scientific sense, the existence of God. But please, if you are going to make arguments against religious belief, don’t make silly arguments – such as, science shows the universe will wind down, therefor there is no God. We know the universe is doomed – but we just happen to believe that God gives us a way out of doom. In fact, Christians believe that God became incarnate specifically to provide this way out of our doom. You can believe it or not as you wish – but there is nothing in science which can possibly prove that God didn’t become incarnate, nor any way to prove that there isn’t a way out of the doom of the universe.
As to the other half of the argument – that belief in God somehow weakens or fools us – there is even less to be said. Anyone who believes that being an atheist makes you more rational and free is unfamiliar with the actions of atheists over the course of history. Atheists have no cause to brag of their moral superiority by any stretch of the imagination. But what about the Crusades?!? And the Inquisition?!? What about them? The Crusades were a counter-attack. The warfare conducted was completely within the morality of warfare at that time. To use the Crusades to condemn Christianity merely reveals a lack of historical knowledge. The Spanish Inquisition (the gold standard, as it were, of Christian oppression), over the course of centuries, didn’t kill as many people as the French Revolutionaries did in ten months (say 2,000 by the Spanish Inquisition and about 40,000 by the Revolutionaries). And let’s not get into what the distinctly anti-religious revolutionaries of Russia and China achieved in the Pile of Corpses Competition. What the Inquisition and the Reign of Terror show is that human beings can go terribly wrong. And as far as atheists being better for science, I remind all of Lysenkoism (which, by the way, has something to teach us about how scientific “consensus” can be built up via propaganda and ruthless suppression of dissenting views).
If belief in God holds us back – prevents us from developing our full talents – then I only point out that this is simply not true. During the Age of Faith – say 476 to 1492 – the endarkened, Christian, bigoted people held back from development by belief in God managed to invent the heavy plow, adding hops to beer, horseshoes, rib vault, wheelbarrows, mechanical clocks, blast furnace, water hammer, wind mills, rudders, eye glasses, mirrors, double entry book keeping, universities, hospitals…you know, trivial stuff like that. And it was in a still mostly-Christian West (say, 1493 until 1850) where the modern world was created. In reality, it was Christianity which made possible the discovery of truths about the world which led to those fantastic inventions – and all of the other inventions we’ve got. This is because Christianity holds that a rational God created a rational universe which can be understood by human observation and experiment: that there is an objective truth about things and events to be discovered.
I get it entirely that belief in the Trinity is difficult – Christianity is the difficult religion. So difficult that even some Christians try to simplify it (and some times simplify it nearly out of existence). It is hard to believe that God came down from heaven, became incarnate as a man, died for our sins, rose again and will come again to judge us. I also understand that Christian morality is difficult – it does very much and deliberately go against the grain of what people want. The part of Christianity that everyone likes (God loves us) is counter-balanced by the part of Christianity everyone hates (go forth and sin no more; and also go out and forgive that person who did the most rotten thing to you, ever, even if he’s not sorry he did it). It is also easy to build up contempt for Christianity because so many people who profess it prove to hypocrites. Many is the priest, pastor or holy Joe who turns out to be quite the nasty sinner. One can rationally ask whether a religion is any good if it’s adherents can’t keep to even basic decency. But what is decency but what Christianity says it is? It is true that Christians – every last one of them – falls short of the perfection of Christ’s teaching; but where is atheist moral teaching which Christians fall short of? And at any rate, who among the atheists can cast the first stone at a Christian? Where is the great atheist counterpart to Catholic Charities? As one lists the sins of Christians, fairness dictates a list of the sublime acts of justice and mercy by Christians…and that is a much, much longer list; partially because even among the worst Christian sinners, some are still moved from time to time to do sublime acts of justice and mercy. Can anyone name me a sublime act of justice and mercy ever done by, say, the atheist members of Stalin’s NKVD?
If you want to disbelieve in God – or at least not in the Christian idea of God – then that is your business. But find a reason to disbelieve which isn’t based upon nonsense. Tell us, that is, something that we don’t know. We know we’re flawed. We know Christians have committed despicable crimes. We know all about the universe and what science says is in store for it. If you are going to argue against the Faith, come up with an argument which hasn’t been made – and ably refuted – a thousand times before.