Atheist Michael Nugent has written another article at the Irish Times titled “If there is a natural explanation then there is no reason to invent a god.” The main idea he wants us to accept is that science has proven to be a reliable method for finding natural explanations to the questions man asks, and if, we have a natural explanation, then there is no need to introduce the concept of a God.
It’s probably not too much of a surprise that we found some logic errors in the justifications he used to backup his idea.
Right off the bat Mr Nugent starts with the following statement:
“There is good evidence that our universe came about naturally, which is more persuasive than the evidence that it was created by a god (small “g”).”
This is peculiar because there actually isn’t any “evidence” at all, much less “good evidence, to support that our universe arose by natural means. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t really tell us anything about this evidence except for a single theory proposed by Stephen Hawking. A theory is not evidence.
“The study of how our universe developed from the instant it began to expand is called cosmology. And science has consistently proved a more reliable way of studying all of these questions than has theology”
This is kind of true but not really. Mr Nugent is really mixing apples and oranges here. Christian Theology is largely unconcerned with telling us every little detail about our natural world. It’s primarily concerned with our relationship with God so in that sense science has some advantages due it’s focus. But the Bible has time and time again proven to be a reliable source of information despite conventional explanations of the time. Two quick examples that come to mind are:
- The Bible says the universe had a beginning despite the long standing belief that the universe was eternal
- The Bible said the Earth was round when certain peoples believed it was flat. Isaiah 40:22 “”He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth…”
“Every generation we learn more about how the universe operates.” … “In every generation religious people explain the parts that we don’t yet know by attributing them to gods.”
This is a gross oversimplification of the situation. Sure, prior to the Scientific Revolution in the 16th/17th century, the majority of Christians would probably have attributed the unknown to God, but how can he justify this to be the case now? As a Christian who’s professionally trained as a Mathematician and Engineer, I’m quite comfortable believing that science will uncover plenty of natural explanations to things we do not understand. God gave us science to understand our universe. To paint modern educated Christians as incapable of understanding how discovery and the Scientific Method works is ridiculous and more importantly, not accurate.
“Then Gamow worked back from the expansion to explain the Big Bang 14 billion years ago. And so we come to the question of what happened before the Big Bang. In some ways it is a meaningless question, as time as we know it only started with the Big Bang. But we can be guided by the consistent pattern of scientific answers relentlessly replacing theological answers.”
“What happened before the Big Bang” is in no way a meaningless question. Time really has nothing to do with it; it’s all about cause and effect. The Big Bang was an event and there had to be a cause that created that event. It’s only a meaningless question to someone who wants to downplay the event because there’s no natural explanation.
“If there is a plausible natural explanation, there is no reason to invent a god.”
The point of asking questions is to uncover the truth. Just because we can connect the dots with a natural sequence of events doesn’t mean a God is uninvolved. We should always look for signs that there is something bigger than ourselves because there’s no good non-god answer to the question – “Why should anything exist at all?”
We are most likely to find the answer to this question in the field of quantum physics. This shows that, at a subatomic level, random energy fluctuations can and do cause tiny particles to randomly come into and go out of existence.
And Stephen Hawking in his latest work suggests that these fluctuations plus gravity could have brought our universe into existence without inventing a god.
Stephen Hawking and Mr Nugent understand that in order for the Big Bang to work, something had to cause the event. Clearly something (a.k.a The Big Bang) cannot come from nothing so they assume gravity and energy existed outside of our Universe. This really doesn’t solve the problem; it only pushes it back a layer because now the question becomes “how then were energy and gravity created?”
For more information on Stephen Hawking’s theory, take a look at this rebuttle by professor John Lennox of Oxford.
“Science tries to prove itself wrong, while religion tries to prove itself right.”
This is simply untrue and slanted to make science appear more noble. Science isn’t a “thing” that takes action; religion isn’t a “thing” that takes action. It’s all about people and a honest person will always try to question his understanding and grow in knowledge and wisdom. When we get new pieces of information, we have to fit it into whatever model we’re using; the information either fits and confirms our model or it doesn’t fit and we have to adjust our model (or double check our observation). An atheist who understands science so well should know this.
Science is a great & powerful tool for understanding how our universe works; nobody can deny it’s usefulness. However, only a fool would think it’s the way to understand our world. Humans are so special and so complex that it really is impossible to imagine that science will ever fully unravel the depths of who we are – and this is why we need theology. Natural explanations only take us so far and by failing to look for God we will never understand the full story.