Atheism Revisited

Augustine Pamplany CST

The popular impression regarding faith and science is that science has made religious belief an affair of the uneducated old ladies. The emergence of modern has rendered the belief in God as foolish. There is no scope for miracles and there should be no recourse to faith from science. In fact this popular assumption is too old fashioned to withstand the test of critical scrutiny. The changing attitudes of the atheistically minded scientist and philosophers are well-epitomised in the recent conversion of atheist like Antony Flew, Timothy W Massaro has succinctly identified five reasons whereby scientific atheism loses its grounds as a result of the recent developments. The five such reasons are: nature is well-ordered; nature bears the marks of a designer; science is only one source of truth; the laws of nature pose a problem for atheists; and scientists cannot escape the question of God.

It has been noticed that some of the most outspoken atheists or skeptics give a very a simplistic picture, one that is not scientific. The case is true about Stephen Hawking too. Hawking is often seen as supporting the atheist cause. However, there are deeper nuances to his writing. He ends his best-selling A Brief History of Time with this remarkable passage: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” In an interview he has responded: “The overwhelming impression (of the universe) is one of the order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws.” In fact Hawking only questions the scientific need for God. He is led to the pressing question: “You still have the question: why does the universe bother to exist? If you like, you can define God to be the answer to that question.”

The “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris have a mythological kind of faith in science. They have been critiqued by the once atheist philosopher Antony Flew himself: Their failure to construct a “plausible worldview that accounts for the existence of a ‘law-abiding,’ life-supporting, and rationally accessible universe” ultimately puts their arguments from a supposedly scientific perspective on difficult ground. Gerald Schroeder comments on this setback: “The most powerful challenge to atheists’ view of the world lies within the world itself: the simple reality of existence. Why is there existence? Forget things as complex as life. Just consider the being of anything: space, time, matter in any form. Is there some “law,” some axiom, that demands there be existence independent of an underlying force that brought it into being? Even if we posit that the universe and all existence are eternal, the question remains: Why is there an “is”? It’s a question that calls for an answer.”

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