We’re up to chapter 5 of God or Godless, by John Loftus (atheist) and Randal Rauser (Christian).
Randal seeks to support his contention by pointing out that some scientists have a quasi-religious outlook on the cosmos. The natural world is their God, and the scientific method their dogma. But this religious impulse should be directed at the Creator, rather than the creation.
John, in his opening statement, pretty much reverses the original assertion by saying, in effect, “religion is no substitute for science.” Science gives us reliable answers in our quest for knowledge. Religion ‘has never answered one single question or solved one single problem.’
John is guilty, I fear, of not one, but two category errors here. First, he is assuming that scientific enquiry and religious enquiry are the same sorts of thing. But they are not. Scientist Stephen J. Gould called them ‘NOMAs’ – ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ (scientist-cum-theologian Alistair McGrath more accurately calls them ‘POMAs’ – ‘partially-overlapping magisteria’). Science and religion generally ask different kinds of questions, and the kinds of answers they come up with should not therefore be regarded as mutually exclusive.
John’s second category error is to assume that there is a single entity that can be called ‘religion’. But there is not. To pit science against religion would be like pitting science against politics, and then saying, ‘scientists agree about many more things than politicians agree on, therefore science is good and politics is bad.’ Just as there are different political beliefs, so there are different religious beliefs. Some religions are positively evil, others are just wrong-headed, still others are a mixture of true and false, good and bad.
I’m pleased that John is a ‘Christian atheist’ – that it is specifically the Christian God that he says he doesn’t believe in, and the Christian Scriptures that he thinks are riddled with error. He forthrightly asserts that science has disproved many of the basic tenets of the Christian faith:-
When it comes specifically to the Bible, archaeologists have shown us there was no worldwide flood as told in the tale of Noah and his ark. They have shown there was no exodus by the Israelites from Egypt, that the reign of King David was not as extensive as recorded in the Bible, and that there was no worldwide census at the time when Jesus was born. Philologists and historians have shown us that Moses did not pen the first five books of the Bible, that Daniel is a book filled with postdated prophecies about events that had already happened, that the Gospels were not written by contemporaries of Jesus, that the Pastoral Epistles were not written by the apostle Paul, and so on.
It would be difficult to write a more unscientific paragraph if one tried.
- he offers no evidence whatsoever for any of these sweeping statements
- it is a gross and misleading exaggeration to say that ‘archaeologists, philologists and historians have shown us…’. So much for ‘doubt’ being the hall-mark of science (page 48)! John should have said, ‘some archaeologists, philologists and historians think that…’. That would have had less impact on the uniformed reader, but would at least had the benefit of being true.
- it is woefully biassed, because it completely ignores the many positive evidences for biblical history
Yes, I know that John was writing under severe word limit restrictions, but that fact itself should have made him much more cautious and guarded in his statements. That’s what a scientist would have done.