Theists are in a good position to offer a reasonable case for theism. A reasonable argument doesn’t require certain, only good grounds. So atheists can’t claim the rational higher ground, which is a large category of arguments they offer against theism.
The new atheists rely on science, but their claims display scientism – the idea that only claims or facts verified by science are true. Truth is limited to what can be scientifically verifiable. Scientism is self-refuting because the statements of science themselves can’t be verified by the tests of science. These are philosophical and ethical statements.
Science isn’t on the side of the atheists because science has natural limitations, just like any field of study, to make final claims about things beyond it’s ability to test. Science, by nature, studies physical things and their causes and effects, therefore it cannot in principle make final claims about thing outside of the natural world. Science does offer input and observations to supplement our reasoning, but it cannot foreclose on the possibility of the supernatural.
There are two definitions of science that help reveal a shell game played by the new atheists. First is the methodological definition, which is the rules and practices of science that help to lead to good conclusions. When someone claims something isn’t scientific, it can mean the method was wrong. But a second definition is philosophical, which is the metaphysical view of the world called physicalism or naturalism.
Many claims that something isn’t scientific are philosophical claims, but this is a limitation on the kinds of answers that are allowed. When something is said not to be scientific, it’s important to distinguish which definition is being used. These two definitions can be at odds with each other because usually the philosophy drives the answer, not the methodology. The philosophy is often driven by presuppositions, not conclusions.
The shell game determines the kinds of answers. Rationality is defined as scientific and only certain kinds of answers are considered scientific. Therefore, religion is rules irrational at the outset, not as a result of a reasoned argument.
The new atheists, particularly Christopher Hitchens, raises the problem of evil as an objection to Christianity. The problem is that this objection requires objective morality to be real, which has no grounding in a naturalistic worldview. Naturalism only allows preference claims, and then there is nothing to object to other than “I don’t like what I consider evil.”
Moral obligations are held between persons, and the person who obligates us has to be in a position to make the demand. We’re not obliged to obey any demands that aren’t made by an appropriate authority, and nature has not moral authority. The kind of being to make such demands must be transcendent and morally superior.
Atheism can’t make sense of morality with any kind of authoritative claims.
- Guest Blogger, Greg