Irenic: Aiming or aimed at peace.
I am hoping that I can do more than adopt an irenic tone here, I pray that I become truly irenic in my bones. However, irenicism does not indicate that I cannot make my point, rather, it invites conversation. Please post comments and questions, they are highly welcomed!
A very good number of intellectuals these days are having severe problems seeing the power of pure materialistic random chance events to explain our current state of reality. I don’t want to center my statements so much on who is saying what, but instead on what I see them saying. I think we are approaching an end of the road for pure atheistic naturalism, for a number of reasons.
1. The universe is fine-tuned. Fixed attributes of the physical universe such as Planck’s constant, the Cosmological constant, the gravitational constant, the weak and strong nuclear forces, etc. all seem to be tuned together to a remarkable degree to allow the kinds of environments which make life as we know it possible. It is difficult to imagine that these things were not designed.
2. The rational is unlikely to emerge from the irrational. Science celebrates its rational approach to the analysis of empirical data. However, it is supposed that only irrational events have led to the emergence of the mind. By definition the mind should not exist, because only irrational events are allowed to rule the development of things in a non-teleological fashion. We are therefore not allowed to use rational analysis to understand cosmology and evolutionary biology, because that is reading something into it which by definition is not allowed.
3. The initial appearance of biological life is highly unlikely to have happened by chance. The first life on earth, according to science, seems to be simple single-celled algae. These first cells used some form of photosynthesis to live, and we have now found that photosynthesis depends on extremely complex nano-structures in the cells which exploit principles of quantum entanglement to do their thing. No one has really found any way that is even remotely convincing to explain the emergence of initial life in the universe.
4. Answers to the objections of design science increasingly ring hollow. Design science is roundly and universally caricatured and dismissed. However, the objections being raised demand a real and reasonable response. Many biological structures in living organisms really are irreducibly complex, and there is no gradual path to their appearance that would not have reduced or prevented the survival of the organism. Many other important questions are being brushed aside with no rational basis whatsoever. There are many people like myself who are beginning to suspect that the reason for this is that no one has answers, not that the answers are obvious.
5. Theological answers to the problem of evil are better than atheism’s answer. Christianity is forceful and up front about the existence of evil, and provides many means of comfort and coping and hopefulness that are substantive and ring true to a great many people. Atheism’s answer is that because there is suffering there must be no God, and so our suffering is all the more terrible and meaningless. Atheists would say that we are all like Voltaire’s Candide, walking through a comedic series of tragic problems, and every instance of good or kindness is just a setup for more horror. It does not really answer the religious answer to evil to say, “that is all a lot of hopeful myth-making.” When we each face our inevitable death and the death of our loved ones, we inherently want and know that there is more. Atheism is bereft of real comfort where life really hits us.
6. Evolutionary explanations for the human experience seem wrong. Elements of the human condition such as love, music, poetry, imagination, emotional joy or pain, the conscience, curiosity, sleep and dreaming, and the drive to explain things, are very difficult to explain in terms of evolutionary adaptation and survival of the fittest. Chimps and gorillas may learn simple symbols for getting food, but they do not create societies and write constitutions and create musical instruments and symphonies and write novels out of their sheer imagination. There does not seem to be any gradual path to the sudden appearance of these fantastic and magical attributes. The metaphysical and religious explanations can embrace the mystery of the human condition, without killing free will and human depth.
7. Explanations for these things sound increasingly like myth rather than science. To explain these things, scientists posit things like aliens from another planet or even another dimension, a kind of pantheistic living universe bent on creating life, and an endless froth of universe bubbles that apparently would help to make the amazing nature of this universe more likely. None of this is science, it is new myth-making, and it is profoundly and even embarrassingly inadequate. There is no experiment which can rationally prove or disprove such things. You can’t even call it science fiction because it isn’t science.
Even if people want to remain naturalistic atheists, I think that the arrogance of thinking that they retain the only rational explanation for our current existence has to go. In fact, they are ironically looking for non-rational explanations, while constantly anthropomorphizing certain processes to make their explanations more palatable. In many ways theological explanations are better and more solid. It is no longer appropriate for the naturalist to depend on a “Darwin-of-the-gaps” mentality in hoping that an irrational process will come along to answer these difficult challenges. I would say to all of my atheist friends, consider coming over to the theist side of the world. The water is fine!