Has Belief in God Harmed the Advancement of Science?

Atheists Claim That Belief in God Has Harmed the Advancement of Science

The position of classical atheism, and especially as argued by Dawkins, is that science has disproved God. Anybody who insists on clinging to belief in God is a superstitious reactionary, a religious fundamentalist who is in complete denial about the advances of science, since atheism is the only viable option for evolved thinkers.

Science is the only reliable tool for the discovery of knowledge and it alone has revelatory power. Furthermore, believers in God have always been threatened by progress in science since they intuitively understand that science holds the silver stake necessary to impale the blood-thirsty vampire of belief in God.

A Christian Response

First, let us deal with the argument that believers in God (and specifically Christian believers) have historically reflected hostility toward science and have done all they can to thwart the progress of science. Actually, the opposite is true.

Christian believers have a long and distinguished history of involvement in the scientific enterprise, which has been based on the belief that the universe reflected a rational and intelligent Creator and that intelligence was built into the universe. The origin of modern science, as Alfred North Whitehead says, required an insistence on the rationality of God that deified nature (as seen in Aristotelian pantheism) could never achieve nor could Eastern religions, since they considered nature utterly random and incapable of objective investigation.

The list of serious Christian believers involved in the scientific endeavor is deeply impressive and includes Copernicus (who proposed the heliostatic theory), Tycho Brahe (who discovered a new comet and built an observatory), Roger Bacon (a prime developer of the inductive method), Kepler (who formulated the elliptical movement of the planets, and developed and confirmed three astronomical laws), Galileo (the first to use the telescope to study the universe), Pascal (who discovered barometric pressures vary with different altitudes), Newton (who discovered the law of gravity and invented calculus), Farraday (the discoverer of electromagnetic induction), Pasteur (the founder of microbiology), and Gregor Mendel (who laid the foundation for modern genetics). In our own day, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and a former atheist now turned evangelical Christian, is credited with mapping and sequencing the full human genome.

As for the argument that Christianity fears science, one must be careful to determine from the outset exactly how the term "science" is being used. Christianity does not fear the scientific method nor does Christianity fear factual data. The problem comes when science brings philosophy in through the backdoor and without a proper introduction to the other house guests.

This happens when scientists operate with philosophical starting points that preclude contact with data (or require convoluted explanations to avoid, at any cost, a nonmaterialistic interpretation of the data). This avoidance strategy is required to protect and defend deeply held naturalistic assumptions about the universe. One example is the a priori assumption that nature is all there is and that only natural explanations are meaningful, no matter what kind of gerrymandering one must do with the data.

One immediately thinks of the arguments against the so-called Intelligent Design movement that seek to shut down data accumulation and reasonable scientific theorizing on purely philosophical grounds by claiming that the Intelligent Design movement is simply theology or religion masquerading as science.

In point of fact, the findings of modern science are confirming the biblical material that complexity and intelligence are basic building blocks in the universe. Professor Michael Behe has shown that Darwin did not have the tools to observe what we can observe today on the biochemical level, and what we do observe establishes that the fundamental tenants of Darwinian evolution (i.e., random mutations over long periods of time) are insufficient to generate even the "simple" complexity seen in the most basic life forms.


Further Reading:

Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York: Macmillan Press, 1926), p. 18.

Dr. Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Free Press, 2006).

Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).

 

Read the Rest in this series on the Traditional Arguments of Classical Atheism:

Part 1: Belief in God is psychologically explainable as part of a regressive and infantile cultural stage.

Part 2: Belief in God has disastrous social implications.

Part 3: Belief in God is illogical.

Part 4: Belief in God has harmed the advancement of science.

 

Adapted from Craig A. Parton, “God Does Not Believe in Atheists,” Modern Reformation, March/April 2008. Used by permission.

Photo of Craig A. Parton

Craig A. Parton

Craig A. Parton is a trial lawyer and partner in Price, Postel & Parma LLP of Santa Barbara, California. He is also the United States director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights, which meets each summer in Strasbourg, France, to provide advanced training in apologetics (see apologeticsacademy.edu). He is also the author of Religion on Trial.

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