Banal Scientificism

Logic and Christianity

One of my favourite Christian thinkers if a fellow by the name of William Lane Craig. He is possibly one of the most articulate and erudite Christian philosophers alive today: his debates and lectures are numerous and are thankfully recorded and uploaded to YouTube for us all to watch. He has spent a lot of time debating atheists, including the likes of Richard Dawkins. He truly brings to light just how shallow is the thinking of the new-Atheists, Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens (though recently deceased) being the big three of these fashionables.

But I most enjoy listening to Craig’s arguments for the existence of God: the Cosmological argument, the Teleological argument, and my absolute favourite: the Ontological argument. He makes these arguments from the point of generic theism, relying on pure abstract reasoning, without direct reference to the God of Christianity – although he does have other arguments for that also. The fact that Craig has been making the exact same arguments (almost literally word for word exactly the same), for decades, tells me that none of the New-atheists have been able to refute him.

Although I enjoy his work immensely, a question I should love to ask him if I ever got to meet him is: how successful have these arguments been at converting atheists? Perhaps I’m completely wrong, but I have doubts at that these arguments – though they are logically watertight – are successful for the practical purposes of making converts.

The reason for this is that most people don’t make choices based on logic. This is hardly a profound statement, many before me have said as much. I don’t even say this as a dig at atheists: even most Christians, I suspect, hold their beliefs for reasons based on something other than logic. And this doesn’t demean their faith at all.

The New-Atheists

The greatest question: what is the meaning of life? – is simply not going to be determined on pure rationality. Emotion plays the greater part. Emotion can, I suppose, lead one to God, as it does in many Christians, but such emotion needs to be coupled with those Christian virtues of charity, patience, and especially humility.

The New-atheists operate on emotion, as much as they deny it. Hitchens froths and splutters as he condemns the violence carried out in the name of Christianity, and The God Delusion is full of condescending, shallow tripe. These people are not operating on logic. They are angry. Rage-filled, even. The Christian who says that the spiritual does indeed exist are mocked by the mockers. Men like Craig argue, appropriately, that God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved by science, therefore, atheism (which is the positive assertion that God does not exist) is irrational: at best, you can be agnostic (which is to say you don’t know if God exists). The New-atheists will respond with a “God of the gaps” type argument and say that there is simply no reason to believe in God without scientific evidence, and that this is sufficient for the positive assertion that God does not exist. Already, their ignorance is showing. For this assertion is simply not an option in a strictly scientific sense, for the question is not scientific. God is a being that is without physical attributes, therefore it is impossible that He could be detected by scientific methods. Science relies on physical datum which can be seen, heard, tasted, felt. None of these things can be done to God.

What lies behind their beliefs?

The reason why the New-atheists continue with their assertion that God positively does not exist is because of the metaphysic they have adopted. It is a necessary protection mechanism for their emotional needs. Of course, they have the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution as their visible lines of defence. But beyond this even, there needs to be a metaphysic. A metaphysic which supports all their scientific theories, and mandates their truth – even when physical data and common sense contradict. And that metaphysic is that of materialism. That is, the only thing that exists is the material, and all things are reducible down to the most basic types of pure matter: molecules, atoms, electrons, quarks, bosons, photons, etc. Materialism has also been called ‘scientificism’: a variation on the Christian assertion that ‘science has become a religion’. Scientificism holds that all mental phenomena, consciousness included, is reducible to material phenomena – electrical currents and molecules bumbling around in the brain. The New-atheist will agree that they haven’t yet unveiled the workings of consciousness in the material world, but they say they’re working on it. But I say they will never find it, because I do not hold to the same metaphysic as they: I believe in the spiritual metaphysic.

The problem for the New-atheist is that the metaphysic of scientificism is itself unscientific. Just like the postmodern statement that ‘everything is relative’, postmodernism is rendered irrational by making itself ‘relative’; so is the unscientific believe in scientificism self-defeating. But the New-atheist adopts it anyway – must, in fact, adopt it, for there is no other way. But it not based on scientific outlook of the world, but rather some deeper issue (maybe emotional, maybe not) within the psyche of the man: a basic belief in the way the world is.

Modes of Knowledge

Satan’s favourite game to play is inverting God’s order of things. He literally turns it upside down. Thus, men act like women, and women like men. Marriage is for the homosexual, the government works to evil ends, and the corrupt and immoral are respected and protected. Self-discipline and virtue are despised. Banal scientificism is the same. For scientific knowledge is the most vulgar mode of knowledge. Relying purely on the physical data of sight and sounds and touch, no matter how advanced our technology becomes: the telescope and the Large Hadron Collider as just more advanced ways of doing the same things that children and animals can do. The knowledges of a priori reason, intuition, revelation: should these not be considered worthier of respect than science, notwithstanding the problem of quantitative measurement? Funnily enough, science even makes use of other types of knowledge – mathematics, for instance (although some argue that mathematics is not a priori knowledge, I disagree), to interpret pure physical data. But in a very basic way, animals and children learn scientifically. Is not a full-grown man capable of doing more than just moving up the scale of scientific knowledge: are there not other scales? Banal scientificism denies that other scales – modes of knowledge – exist. It puts science first, and all else at naught. In this way, it inverts the spiritual order of divine knowledge first, and vulgar knowledge last. But, as already mentioned, the assertion that other modes of knowledge do not exist is itself an unscientific assertion: it is a metaphysical one.

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