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God in a test tube: “The God issue: New science of religion” New Scientist’s “God Issue” explains away religion as a part of our evolutionary heritage and demands God perform to prove Himself.
The New Scientist has just published “The God Issue” to explain the stubbornly persistent place of religion in modern society. One article claims the existence of God (or god or gods) is a scientifically falsifiable concept. Claiming the civilizing benefits of religion have conferred an evolutionary benefit, several articles explain that religion’s refusal to die is the result of an evolutionarily tendency of humans to believe in a deity.
“Like it or not, religious belief is ingrained into human nature,” the introduction asserts. “And a good thing too: without it we would still be living in the Stone Age.”1 On that basis, the articles entitled “To rule out god, first get to know him” and “We are all born believers” detail experiments demonstrating babies are more interested in inanimate shapes appearing to chase each other than those that move randomly. The baby-findings are interpreted as proof that “our highly social nature”2 renders us “strongly attracted to explanations of events in terms of agent causation,”3 the idea that things happen because someone—even an invisible someone—causes them to happen. This tendency makes humans “very receptive to explanations that invoke design or purpose.”4 One author concludes, “This attraction to religion is an evolutionary by-product of our ordinary cognitive equipment, and while it tells us nothing about the truth or otherwise of religious claims it does help us see religion in an interesting new light.”5
“Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity,”6 the editor writes, adding, “Religious claims still wither under rational scrutiny and deserve no special place in public life.”7 The solution: “Experiments with adults … suggest we do not simply outgrow this attraction but that it must be forcibly tamped down through formal education.”8
Locke was pointing out that without some sort of divine moral standard and accountability, individuals tend to make up their own rules.
Articles deride the common distrust of atheists. Philosopher John Locke wrote in support of religious liberty at a time when such views were anything but politically correct. But he is quoted as saying, “Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist.”9 Locke was pointing out that without some sort of divine moral standard and accountability, individuals tend to make up their own rules. Thus, the magazine points to the civilizing influence of religion and suggests atheists should keep the morality, admit much of it came from the evolutionary bent toward a “god-is-watching” frame of mind, and pitch the rest.
The Bible is not a science textbook but all it contains relating to science is consistent with what we see. Scientific facts are always interpreted in accord with the worldview of the observer. Furthermore, “origins science” is beyond the realm of observable science since hypotheses cannot be subjected to repeatable tests. And even renowned atheist Stephen Jay Gould said, “Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”10
In “God is a testable hypothesis,” atheist physicist Victor Stenger argues Gould is wrong. He writes, “The gods worshipped by billions either exist or they do not. And those gods, if they exist, must have observable consequences. Thus, the question of their existence is a legitimate scientific issue. … We can consider the existence of God to be a scientific hypothesis and look for the empirical evidence that would follow.”11
Much of Stenger’s reasoning consists of his own opinions, such as his assertion, “The Intelligent Design movement failed in its effort to prove that the complexity found in some biological systems is irreducible and cannot be explained within Darwinian evolution. Life on Earth looks just as it should look if it arose by natural selection.”12 Of course, his interpretation reflects the atheistic worldview he embraces. In fact, arguments about irreducible complexity are valid, and Darwinian evolution does not fully explain “Life on Earth.” It cannot, for instance, explain how molecules randomly combined to become alive and to harbor, transmit, and decode information. We can well make the analogous statement that life on earth looks just as it should look if it arose at the hand of our common Designer as described in Genesis.
To scientifically test the existence of a god, our God, or any gods, Stenger demands miracles be scientifically observable, testable, repeatable, and of course available-on-demand.
To scientifically test the existence of a god, our God, or any gods, Stenger demands miracles be scientifically observable, testable, repeatable, and of course available-on-demand. In this world of video-on-demand and have-it-your-way burgers, Stenger requires God to be a being who is subject to human command, just the opposite of the true and living God, whose existence and attributes Stenger denies as he “suppresses the truth in unrighteous” (Romans 1:18-20 & 2:14-16). He further writes off all miracles by lumping the countless claims in the names of many false gods with biblical miracles—of which the greatest, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is well attested in history, as much as any event in history.13
We spend a lot of time on this website explaining how the very rocks testify to the truth of the global Flood of Genesis, thus joining the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a key distinctive between biblical Christianity and the many religions on mankind’s menu. But aside from that important distinction, let us consider Stenger’s contention that God (or god or gods) should be testable in a scientific sense on the basis of miracles and other answers to intercessory prayer.
Before considering whether or not miracles occur, the worldview of the observer must be considered. People who deny the existence of anything supernatural can never concede the possibility of a miracle since a miracle, by definition, is “interference with Nature by supernatural power.”14 C.S. Lewis summed this up when he wrote the following:
The question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our sense … And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. … If immediate experience cannot prove or disprove the miraculous, still less can history do so. … For if they [miracles] are impossible, then no amount of historical evidence will convince us. If they are possible but immensely improbable, then only mathematically demonstrative evidence will convince us: and since history never provides that degree of evidence for any event, history can never convince us that a miracle occurred.15
Scientific methodology operates in the realm of the natural world. It is not equipped to test for miracles. And science devoid of worldview cannot interpret its own facts. Science can answer whether an observed event was fully in accord with what natural laws would produce. But who or what put those natural laws into motion? And even with an ordinary event—was it be caused by routine random circumstances or could it have resulted from circumstances divinely brought together? What about an observation unexplained by natural scientific laws? Was it miraculous, misinterpreted, or incorrectly observed? Is our understanding of the science incomplete? Science cannot pass that kind of judgment on itself.
Neither can God’s existence be tested by requiring God to perform tricks on command. He proved His existence by creating the universe. Romans 1:20 indicates creation itself attests to God’s existence and at least some of His attributes. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ proves His identity as the God (Romans 1:4) who judges, loves, and redeems rebellious human beings. The ability to see and accept the existence of God really is built into people, but not by evolution. Rather, being made in the image of God, we humans are able to recognize His hand in the world. Those who refuse and elevate fallible human knowledge above Scriptural revelation of God become “futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts [are] darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they [become] fools” (Romans 1:21–22).
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.