Christianity Hinders Scientific Progress

It’s truly a tired mantra. Under the pretense that they own a corner on the Market of Reality while ignoring the fact that they are merely presuming upon the efforts of their relatively recent philosophical parents (many of whose principles are derived from the truths of Christianity), the New Atheists, evangelizing from their Holy Bible of Naturalistic Science and Witless Retorts written by their own venerated prophets, proclaim loudly and often, “Christianity hinders scientific progress.” And of course, as is commonly the hazard of religious discourse, there’s a good bit of nuance to hack through.

First, what is meant by “science” when this pronouncement is made? Is it knowledge and discovery in general, i.e. a general desire and pursuit of knowledge? Or are the particular sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.) in view here? Or is evolutionary science solely in view? We aren’t told. We are to assume “progress” equals “good” and “science” equals “non-negotiable.” Not too long ago Bill Nye intimated that denial of evolution (the object of a particular science) entails denial of knowledge. Sort of a bait-and-switch, depending on which side you’re on.

Second, what is “progress?” We can speak of many things as “progressing,” but they’re not all necessarily good things (e.g. disease progressing, global warming progressing, terr’ists progressing). From the tone of the statement, we’re led to believe that “progress” is what defines “good.” Or alternately, “progress” is what leads to “truth.” Indeed, this is the fundamental assumption. But why should anyone believe that “progress” is necessarily something that should not be “hindered?” How does one know that he is progressing toward truth and not simply a more realized falsehood? Experimentation can yield consistent results, but people can consistently interpret the results incorrectly.

Third, let’s see a few things that “scientific progress” has brought us:

Science gave us the Morning-After Pill.
Science gave us internet pornography.
Science gave us LSD.
Science gave us the Atomic Bomb.
Science gave us eugenics.
Science gave us the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

On second thought, I suppose Christianity really does seek to hurt scientific progress. In the same way a troubled teen is “hurt” by those trying to pull him away from progressing off the edge of the bridge. If Evolutionary Theory really does do away with the necessity of God (it doesn’t, of course), then naturally Christianity would seek to hinder further development of a God-denying rationale.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the Holy Bible of Naturalistic Science and Witless Retorts that can possibly condemn the actions of those in charge of the Tuskegee Experiment. It simply keeps its mouth shut for the sake of “progress.” There’s no provision for a distinction between “right” and “wrong.” It’s quite ironic that the New Atheists pick and choose what they want from their worldview, such that they can make it mean whatever they want it to; affirming the parts they like while denying and ignoring the parts they don’t. This is plain hypocrisy. It seems that this is what identifies “New Atheists” from atheists in general – their fundamentalist, assertive, and shallow evangelistic speech and manner. And don’t you dare ask questions, you ignorant, science-hindering bigot. Don’t you know that all truth is mere Opinion? Well, except for that one right there.

Atheists are hypocrites, therefore Atheism is false.

Just kidding.

Christianity is true, therefore Atheism is false.


6 Comments

Watty

First off, I’d like to say that I only came across this article by chance after looking through a set of news topics on an app I frequently use for news gathering. Let it not be said that I sought out someone who disagreed with me to criticize. And now that the assumed nicety is out of the way…

Mr. McMahon,

To begin with, I’d like to point out how laudable it is that the final line in your post is immediately followed by a tag that reads “bad arguments,” and is made even more so by the fact that only a few internet site icons split the gap between the two sentiments. This, due mostly to the fact that the internet has only ever been a place where “bad arguments” reign supreme.

Regardless, I’m here to address the real content of your post, which I felt was, to my dismay, very much in line with the final blurb in the post. In chronological order:

1) Your first paragraph is a very interesting exercise in run-on sentence structure. However, no amount of clever word play will disguise a base position, which is something I’ve come to realize is very much a part of the “high level” discourse that many proponents of religious positions portray. Take WLC, for example. In many of his debates, he focuses on concepts beyond the grasp of anyone not possessing of a Ph.D. and breezes over his supporting evidence that seems blatantly self-fulfilling to even the most casual of viewers. However, you are not he, nor he you, so I digress.

Prior to making my next point, I feel that I should point out that I am simply an Atheist. I don’t much care for all the new terminology, nor would I care to find out the subtle differences in each categorization as you might see it. That said, I would tend to agree with you that the more prominent of us are using the world as their stage for a sort of “preaching.” However, Christians and other major religions have been doing so for centuries with more, shall we say, detrimental results. You can have your cake, or you can eat it. Calling out a group who disagrees with you for tactics you yourself have pioneered seems a bit hypocritical, don’t you think?

And there is no “Market” of reality. Your chosen terminology implies that there are different versions of the world in which we live that can be bought and sold, which is simply not the case, despite any amount of religious dogma that might speak to the contrary (i.e. repent (currency)for the sake of your soul (result)). The only thing actually up for debate is the means by which we determine what is real and what is not; convenient how your topic is associated with this despite no mention of the relationship between the two…

2) Your second paragraph brings up somewhat of a non-issue in trying to define what the term science actually means. I say non-issue in light of the fact that the definition I associate with it remains impartial with regards to your topic. Thus, I leave it here: “Science is the pursuit of any and all knowledge regarding the functioning of the world we find ourselves in.” No matter what you are considering, consider it long enough and you will have come to some conclusion. And no matter how mundane that conclusion might be, you will have gleaned some knowledge that you did not have prior to the considering. Thus; science. So, no one branch of inquiry should be in question with regards to the religious debate. However, that is not to say that religious inquiry should be called science, as the very definition of religion involves the concept of believing things with no evidence (i.e. faith). As a result, we must “relegate” religious progression to philosophy and its ilk; overall a talk for another time.

Your Bill Nye comment seems a bit of an enigma to me, included only to introduce recent controversy for the article to remain relevant in the immediate sense. His commentary indicates that if you believe something other than what has factually been proven to be true (assuming we’d agree on what “factually” and “true” mean), you are denying the intent of possessing any amount of knowledge. And, for the record, he’s not wrong in this regard. I hazarded a quick search and it yielded this:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417112433.htm

Don’t need to have a “side” in order to recognize the validity of a piece of knowledge that ultimately contributes to our understanding of the world.

3) Progress, at least insofar as science is concerned, is again a non-issue. Study a dead skin flake for a day. Determine how many cells were lost. How many were in good health? How many would have lasted another day? Considerations such as the ones being made here would help further our knowledge about our largest organ. So, no matter how mundane the knowledge happens to be, the gaining of it remains a progression towards possessing more of it, which is the intent of science on the whole. I realize you would most likely refer to your last sentiment in this paragraph in an effort to shrug aside what I’ve said, but science moves forward blindly. If it turns out that the last 50,000 trials have been wrong (realized falsehood), science would be perfectly fine with asserting this to be the case. We did believe the world was flat for a great deal of the past, and much of the science that existed at the time pointed to this fact. However, when this was discovered to be false, science changed it’s position to suit reality and we moved on. Nothing to attack or criticize about it in instances such as these, but people continue to take issue with it.

4) Your list of scientific achievements seems to be the ultimate in religious reductionism applied to a flawed need to find the bad in anything; quite a break from your traditional teachings, eh? For every bad example you’ve listed here, I could contrast a beneficial thing science has given us. Let alone the fact that the only reason you’re able to interact with so many people is derived from a technological development. If I were to argue in the same mindset, I could say that God must have then created us with biological cues that necessitated eating. In order to accomplish this more effectively, we had to develop tools to hunt. Thus, the scientific advancements in hunting tool were instigated at God’s behest. Thus, every scientific advancement we’ve made since must be at God’s behest. Since all the scientific advancements you point out with a negative connotation are scientific advancements, they must have arisen at God’s behest. So, God’s behest must be, at its core, somewhat negative; which, coincidentally conflicts with the perfect nature of His being.

Some annoyingly cyclical logic there, huh? It’s easy for two to play at your game when the situation calls for it.

5) You mistakenly equate scientific advancement with a teen committing suicide. In what way are we killing ourselves in our efforts to understand our existence? I would expect some bullshit about the state of our society with regards to biblical principles to be your reply, but I hope that a real response might be forthcoming.

6) Of course evolution doesn’t disprove the notion of a God; no self-respecting Atheist should say otherwise. However, it does conflict with the Christian creation story, and thus serves a good benchmark to determine the falsity of Judeo-Christian theology based on how it is viewed in terms of biblical study.

7) As to the last paragraph….when and where did anyone claim that there was anything in the “naturalistic” bible you claim we hold so dear to condemn those who instigated the actions of those in charge of the experiment. Last I checked, human beings are generally less than good. This is a prime example of the fact that we are capable of horrible things, whether it be in the name of science of otherwise. And if that was your goal, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s in the name of scientific advancement during the Holocaust.

It would seem to me that this point is counterproductive anyways as there is plenty of evidence in the bible that supports doing worse to people simply because they didn’t share the same belief in God. At least with this experiment there was the chance to gain some knowledge as the silver lining, whereas the biblical examples had no benefit whatsoever. And speaking of “picking and choosing” on our part, what do you folks have to say for yourselves in this regard? I can’t believe you would even accuse atheists of “playing that card” when you invented the game that utilizes it. But, then again, hypocrisy at its finest tends to blind people to the reality of their situation in most instances.

To sum up the title of your article with one note:

Wasn’t there a period of time when the church and its followers burned people of science at the stake (or worse) for discovering things in the realm of science that might have conflicted with popular religious thought?

If that’s not a hindrance to scientific progress, I don’t know what is. Ultimately, religion was a necessary aspect of our society in its infancy, providing a sense of community that allowed for the fostering of growth in many social institutions. However, as with the construction of a building, you take the scaffolding down when it’s complete. Our society has only the finishing touches on the inside left to complete, so we certainly needn’t leave the scaffolding up any longer.

We atheists might be hypocrites, but then again, who isn’t. And I’d rather be a hypocrite than someone who tries to restrict the rights of others based on the writings of some group of backwards shepherds who vied for power by preying on the misgivings of a society willing to believe anything for the sake of mental security.

And if I were to leave one quip at the end of my rant, it would have to be:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; your claim, your proof. (Or lack thereof, in this case)

Matthias McMahon

Watty,

I appreciate that you clearly took time to reply to the post. I’ll attempt to use numbers that correspond to your own in response, when possible.

You take issue with my saying Atheism is false because the Bible is true. Do you also take issue with “1 + 1 = 3 is false because 1 + 1 = 2 is true”? One thing can be true such that anything contrary is false by definition, wouldn’t you agree? This is precisely what I’m alleging with that statement, whether or not you agree with my statement itself. Take it as a statement of my belief.

1) You’ll forgive me, I hope, for using a little literary flair (as well as sarcasm) when I write. Also, I find it to be a compliment that my manner would be compared with that of WLC or any Ph.D. for that matter, regarding concepts above people’s heads. The reason we tend to take the debate to that level consists in that certain above-the-head (which are really “foundational” ideas. Metaphysics, Ethics, Logic, etc.) ideas are simply taken for granted by the atheist (rather, the type I’m responding to), and he is incorrect. Structural damage to a house must be addressed primarily at the foundation. And you are right, I am not WLC. If you peruse the site at all, before long you might even find where my method would differ from his own.

I don’t fault the atheist for preaching. My attempt was simply to point out the irony in “preaching against preaching.”

Are you familiar with the term “Marketplace of Ideas”? I hoped to construct a similar term which could speak to more fundamental levels. I suppose I failed in that regard. My apologies. In any case, what I’m speaking to is the same thing you mentioned, namely, the means by which we ascertain a conception of reality, as well as the arbiter between correct and incorrect conceptions. Atheism certainly does not provide the latter.

2) I bring up what “science” actually means because I’m trying to make sense of what the New Atheists are actually talking about. They tend to be unclear, and very few of them possess the patience or even capacity (as far as I know) to do more than parrot the dogmas laid down by their prophets. I’m responding to those atheists in particular. Without proper and precise definition of terms, no proper and precise answer can be given. My rejection of evolution does not entail my rejection of any and all pursuits of knowledge. It is a bait-and-switch, if one disagree. In my experience, the intent is actually to conflate the two. I respond to Bill Nye’s video here:

https://choosinghats.org/2012/08/bill-nye-pie-sky/

3) My point was that there is no way to tell, even in light of apparent consistency between the results of a particular experiment, whether your *interpretation* of that phenomenon is actually correct. There is no “real” standard that transcends and delineates the empirical realm for the atheist, if “reality” is limited to only what exists within the empirical realm. “Science” might admit that 50,000 results of experiments are “wrong”…if it could provide some basis for right and wrong to begin with. It simply can’t. Observations in nature do not interpret themselves. I might point out that anyone calling the earth round before the evidence could be produced (when the earth was presumed to be flat) would be denying science at that point. So, so much for that.

4) My point here was that that entire list of things rightly falls under “scientific progress.” You are absolutely right that I could’ve used the Nazi regime as an example; they made scientific progress. Clearly I’m not denying that there are things *I* consider good. But I can. I have a standard of right and wrong. The issue is that the New Atheists in turn want “scientific progress” to be what determines “good” when there’s clearly a distinction needed. One for which atheism ultimately cannot provide.

You description of “God’s behest” doesn’t mirror the Christian understanding of God’s sovereignty over his creation, so I do not feel obligated to fry that rotting piece of fish.

5) Equate? Hardly. I simply used the term “progress” and performed a reductio ad absurdum by applying it to something you’d object to. For the sake of argument, let’s add a couple details to the teen’s situation. Say you’re a physicist and you want to test the aerodynamics of a falling body off of a bridge. There are some sharp rocks below. You also want to gauge the impact of the body onto the rocks. For science. Is it possible in your mind that certain “scientific progress” is off-limits, morally? I would hope so.

6) Many people do think so. Also, saying “conflict” is putting it modestly. Evolution is predicated on an explicit denial of the Creation account. This means that any evaluation of “falsity” is merely the consequence of bias. If there is a version of evolution that is true, it’s not anything like the theory in circulation today. Even “Theistic” Evolution changes very particular aspects of the prevailing theory.

7) I hoped the sarcasm would have been aparent. And you know, it would help immensely if there really existed some type of atheistic Bible. At least in that one sense we could hope for some consistency from the atheistic position. “Horrible,” “good,” “atrocities”? These are simply happenstance in nature that conflict with your belief. Or is it more? What defines “good” for you if what I’ve said thus far is incorrect?

There is cognitive dissonance (resulting in hypocrisy) in holding that there is no purpose to the universe, and holding that there is a purpose murdering small children should be condemned. An atheist has no basis for telling another atheist *not* to kill a child. “I don’t believe you should do that.” “What a coincidence! I believe I should!” “But, society won’t progress if you kill children.” “Who cares? I live for me.” But, athiests want Darwinianism without having Social Darwinianism. Atheists seek purpose in a purposeless universe. Some don’t, but they’re on death row. We have a basis for condemning hypocrisy. Atheism doesn’t.

Wasn’t there a period of time when the eugenicists and their followers burned religious people at the stake (or worse) in order to discover things in the realm of science that might have led to more knowledge? The Allies shut them down. If that’s not a hindrance to scientific progress, I don’t know what is.

I’m not interested in defending an amorphous “religion.” But all atheism has is walls and a roof and a basement with a computer in it. It boasts the structure, but what is its foundation? Well, Christianity. With every statement and action of yours you prove the claims of Christianity to be true. This is expanded elsewhere on this site. In short, the only proof for the existence of God is that without him, you could not prove anything. Atheism does not provide the preconditions of intellibility. It takes certain things for granted, yes. But it refuses to pay tribute. It is a Prodigal Son, of sorts.

Dismissal of extraordinary evidence requires an extraordinary reason for doing so. Why do you dismiss everything Christians have given?

Watty

I typed out a few pages in reply. Realized it was boring and likely to get some very typecast replies. Scrapped it and typed some very succinct points. Realized they were unlikely to provide any real substance to the argument. Tried a single statement and realized that no matter what I say, we’ll both go our separate ways continuing to believe what we previously did. Thus, I’ll just leave this, regardless of its implication of me being, a typical atheist.

The jump to asserting Christianity is correct is immensely larger than the jump asserting the existence of any God. I hope at some point that becomes apparent.

Resequitur

“The jump to asserting Christianity is correct is immensely larger than the jump asserting the existence of any God.”

What about the jump to that assertion? Does this need any proof, or can it be taken on it’s face?

You are missing the rub of the argument, and the statement ” I hope at some point it becomes apparent”. The problem is that we don’t view the world as you do, nor do we think that it is even cogent to view the world in atheistic or bare theistic fashion.

Scripture states that God has made Himself known to all men, simply because they have been created by Him in His image, and that the only way to interpret the world correctly is through His special revelation via Christ and His Word. To assert “no just Christians have the burden of proof” is not only to take your position for granted, but it proves the fact that the “lack of belief in God” is not just a negative position, but it requires you to posit things such as “Christians have a burden of proof”.

C.L. Bolt

“The jump to asserting Christianity is correct is immensely larger than the jump asserting the existence of any God.”

The “jump”? The jump from what? Watty is immensely confused. But he is new to the site, so it is to be expected.

We are not Thomists here. We do not argue *from* some ultimate interpretive principle *outside* of our worldview *to* the existence of a generic god discoverable through unaided fallen human reasoning.

We are Calvinists here. We argue from *the* ultimate interpretive principle *inside* of our worldview *to* the foolishness of unaided fallen human reasoning.

The Christian God in particular is our ultimate interpretive principle. He is the absolute authority who has revealed Himself to us. We evaluate evidence in virtue of our Christian presuppositions. We do not argue *to* God. We *begin* our argument with Him.

You will object that there is something unconscionable about us *presupposing* the existence of God. I reply that it is no more unconscionable than your presupposing the opposite.

You will respond that the reason you do not believe in God is because there is no evidence for His existence. I reply that when you make the aforementioned claim, you merely assume your position for the sake of arguing for your position.

Your ultimate interpretive principle requires you to believe that there is no evidence for God. Our ultimate interpretive principle requires us to believe that the evidence for God is abundant and plain.

When you complain that the “jump” to God is too far, you take out the Thomists, and leave us standing.

When you complain that the evidence is not extraordinary, you opine in accord with your own presuppositions, and leave us alone.

It is a bit like coming down hard on someone for driving on the left hand side of the road without taking into account that he’s in England.

Early December 2012 Van Tillian apologetics links « The Domain for Truth

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