Sunday, August 28, 2016

Why Science Does Not Disprove God by Amir Aczel

New Atheism is a movement that arose after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Proponents of the movement blame religion for nearly all the violence and disorder in the world, and they aim to eliminate it and any belief in God. Many New Atheism writers call upon science for proofs that there is no God, such as biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence M. Krauss. These arguments have been picked up by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet and old-school atheist Christopher Hitchens.

Amir D. Aczel, a mathematician and science writer, argued that these authors misappropriated science for this purpose, sometimes misapplying it, misrepresenting it, or propagating misunderstandings. He presented his arguments in Why Science Does Not Disprove God.

Aczel’s perspective is very scientific, though he respects religion. He accepts the prevailing theories of cosmology that our universe began in the Big Bang. He accepts that evolutionary processes have produced higher and more complicated life forms from simpler ones though natural selection.

Aczel begins by addressing the archeological support for Biblical history. While he does not suggest that there is evidence of Biblical miracles, there is a lot of evidence supporting the historical narratives of the Bible. While New Atheism argues there is no archeological evidence to support the Bible, Aczel shows that there is abundant support for the history described in it.

Another popular argument of the New Atheists is that quantum theory demonstrates that the universe arose spontaneously out of nothing. Aczel describes how quantum theory actually shows that we cannot know some details about the earliest moments of the universe following the Big Bang and that it cannot at all address what was before the Big Bang. No theory of physics supposes it came from nothing. Some argue that it arose spontaneously, but it still occurred in due to physical process in a medium that existed before the universe, which itself raises many of the same questions of origins.

This points to the crux of Aczel’s argument. Science, math, and logic all point to their own limitations. There are huge unanswered, important questions in science, not the least of which is what is consciousness and how it came to be. We may not be able to answer such questions and there is certainly some knowledge that is not accessible to us. New Atheism proponents present science as having firm answers to these questions when it sometimes only has speculation or no real answers at all. Science may someday uncover some of this knowledge, but in can’t uncover all of it.

While he demonstrates that science doesn’t, and cannot, disprove God, he does not suggest that it can or will prove the existence of God. Aczel believes that God may be outside of what can be known through science, mathematics or even the human mind.

Aczel still has a great appreciation for science, and he wants others to appreciate it, too. His argument with New Atheism is that its proponents misuse science and misdirect people. He would rather we engage science for all the great knowledge it can bring us, not coopt it in a crusade against religion or a debate about God it may never be able to answer.

Why Science Does Not Disprove God is not written in a technical style. Most people should be able to understand it even if they have very little scientific education.

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Aczel, Amir D. Why Science Does Not Disprove God. New York: William Morrow, 2014.