Thursday, March 31, 2011

Philosophical Atheism

For the past 15 years I have rested comfortably in my faith holding to facts and convictions that supported the Scriptures. In January of 1996 I responded to an article that attacked Christianity on 16 points by writing a 100 page booklet. I then used this booklet to teach a couple of classes. Challenges of skeptics, atheists and evolution were resolved in my mind. Eventually, I lost interest in debating the topic.

Both atheism and humanism lost ground in the later 1900's. Even Antony Flew, the champion of atheism who debated C.S. Lewis, renounced atheism in favor of deism. Now, with the emergence of the new-atheist, who are emboldened by men like Richard Dawkins, atheism and humanism are attempting to make a comeback. I have been drawn back into the debate and have began reading some of their books. Yesterday I told my wife that I felt compelled to research and write a book in the next few months to address atheism's new strategies. This book would also speak to some of the other issues that can be addressed with apologetic evidence. I am now continuing to read and decide if I really want to extend the effort debating and researching something I could quickly loose interest in. There are already many very good sources available, yet it would be interesting to search out and address all the skeptic's questions and challenges. I know I would sleep better if I did.

One book I have been reading again is Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity. In chapter fourteen he discusses atheism's scientific methodology. There is a bias in science towards materialism and naturalism which is understandable on one level, but very dangerous on the other. This materialism manifests itself in two forms of atheistic science. One form is acceptable and necessary. The other is an ideology and a religion.

D'Souza calls the first type procedural or methodological atheism because it means that scientists go about their work presuming that we live in a natural, material world. Which, of course, is true. These scientist are not looking for God nor are they going to resolve difficult problems by saying, "Well, then this must have been a miracle or supernatural intervention." None of us want our scientists, doctors or, even, our car mechanics to give us an answer that sounds like that. We want facts. So, science uses the materialistic and natural scientific methodology. These scientists are not saying there is no God, there is no supernatural, or there is no soul. They are simply saying the scientific method does not measure these areas. So, we do not comment on those areas.

The second form of atheism is philosophical atheism. These scientist believe "that material and natural reality is all that exists. Everything else must be illusory." They hold to the conviction that because God cannot be measured or proven with an experiment then there is no way of discovering God. They tend to present their views as if one of their greatest discoveries was the discovery of not finding God. Thus, there is no God and anyone who says differently is unscientific and ignorant according to their doctrine.

D'Souza writes:
If you were to ask a scientist, "Why is that water boiling?" he or she would answer in terms of molecules and temperatures. But there is a second explanation: the water is boiling because I want to have a cup of tea. This second explanation is a perfectly valid description of reality, yet it is ignored or avoided by the scientific account. The reason for this is that science is incapable of answering questions about the nature or purpose of reality.

Philosophical atheism is narrowly dogmatic because it closes itself off from knowledge that does not conform to materialism and naturalism. . . By contrast, the theist is much more open-minded and reasonable. The theist does not deny the validity of scientific reasoning. On the contrary, the theist is constantly reasoning in this way in work and life. The theist is entirely willing to acknowledge material and natural causes for events, but he also admits the possibility of other types of knowledge.

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