Conversations: Arrogant Scientists?


Helena
As many critics of religion have pointed out, the notion of a creator poses an immediate problem of an infinite regress. If God created the universe, what created God?

Galene
The God of most monotheists is believed to be an uncreated entity.

Sappho
To say that God, by definition, is uncreated simply begs the question. The truth is that no one knows how or why the universe came into being. It is not clear that we can even speak coherently about the creation of the universe, given that such an event can be conceived only with reference to time, and here we are talking about the birth of space-time itself.

Helena
The physicist Stephen Hawking, for instance, pictures space-time as a four dimensional, closed manifold, without beginning or end (much like the surface of a sphere). Having said that, any intellectually honest person will admit that he does not know why the universe exists. Scientists, of course, readily admit their ignorance on this point. Religious believers do not.

Sappho
Indeed! One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be appreciated in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while condemning scientists and other non-believers for their intellectual arrogance.

Helena
There is, in fact, no worldview more reprehensible in its arrogance than that of a religious believer: the creator of the universe takes an interest in me, approves of me, loves me, and will reward me after death; my current beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of the truth until the end of the world; everyone who disagrees with me will spend eternity in hell.

Sappho
An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse—and there have been some extraordinarily arrogant scientists.

Helena
Consider this, over 99 percent of the species that ever walked, flew, or slithered upon this earth are now extinct. This fact alone appears to rule out intelligent design. When we look at the natural world, we see extraordinary complexity, but we do not see optimal design. We see redundancy, regressions, and unnecessary complications; we see bewildering inefficiencies that result in suffering and death.

Galene
Redundancy, regressions, complications, inefficiencies… Could you give me an example?

Helena
We see flightless birds and snakes with pelvises. We see species of fish, salamanders, and crustaceans that have nonfunctional eyes, because they continued to evolve in darkness for millions of years. We see whales that produce teeth during fetal development, only to reabsorb them as adults. Such features of our world are utterly mysterious if God created all species of life on earth “intelligently”; none of them are perplexing in light of evolution.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 24)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

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3 thoughts on “Conversations: Arrogant Scientists?

  1. Both arguments tend to grab the bull by the udder. Intelligent design does not mean that a finished product suddenly appears by magic. Evolution is a process, and one which shows progression. It would not be unreasonable to regard that progression as part of the design. There is therefore an argument for purpose, and that purpose can take all of time, whether finite or infinite.
    The definition of intelligence also gives a lot of variables.
    Then, what underlies belief is the idea of a soul, spirit, or life force which does not end with death. This is not inconsistent with observed natural laws. The fact that the detail and anrhropomorphic and homocentric bases of religions become ridiculous does not make the main idea invalid. It will also be noted that scientific theories accepted as fact are regularly turned on their heads.

  2. The fact that the detail and anrhropomorphic and homocentric bases of religions become ridiculous does not make the main idea invalid.
    Do you meant to say that religions, as a view of reality, may be utterly false but perhaps useful in some placebo-like way?

    It will also be noted that scientific theories accepted as fact are regularly turned on their heads.
    Of course. All facts have a half-life. The fact that the Earth is a planet in our Solar System is well attested, but it was not always true, nor will it be.

  3. Placebo perhaps, but also as representing some acknowledgement that everything does not exist or happen simply because that’s the way it is, and is an attempt to seek for an underlying purpose behind the progressions observed however infantile such attempts may be.

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