I would like to state categorically, that I DID NOT WRITE THIS ARTICLE. It was written on NewScientist.com but can’t be read if you haven’t registered, so to save you all from registering, I’m posting it here. Enjoy, and open your eyes. There’s a beautiful world out there to be explored – without fairy tales.
THE party line among scientists – believers and non-believers alike – is that science and religion are what Stephen Jay Gould called “non-overlapping magisteria”. In 1998 the US National Academy of Sciences issued a statement asserting “Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”
Yet according to a survey the same year, 93 per cent of the members of the academy do not believe in a personal god.
Since about the same percentage of all US citizens say they do believe in a personal god, it makes one wonder what, if not their science, leads the elite of US scientists to differ so dramatically from the general population.
A majority of scientists at all levels do not believe in any god. Yet most are unwilling to challenge the religious beliefs of others. I am a physicist who, along with others dubbed the New Atheists, is willing to challenge religious belief. 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 that has profound import to humanity.
We can consider the existence of God to be a scientific hypothesis and look for the empirical evidence that would follow. Many of the attributes associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically. Such a God is supposed to play a central role in the operation of the universe and the lives of humans. As a result, evidence for him should be readily detectable by scientific means.
If a properly controlled experiment were to come up with an observation that cannot be explained by natural means, then science would have to take seriously the possibility of a world beyond matter.
Such experiments have been attempted. Scientists have empirically tested the efficacy of intercessory prayer – prayers said on behalf of others. These studies, in principle, could have shown scientifically that some god exists. Had they found conclusively, in a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, that intercessory prayers heal the sick, it would have been difficult to find a natural explanation. They did not.
Similar tests have been done on near-death experiences. Some people having an NDE during surgery have reported floating above the operating table and watching everything going on below. Whether this is a real experience or a hallucination can be tested easily by placing a secret message on a high shelf out of sight of the patient and the hospital staff. This has been tried, and no one reporting an NDE has yet to read the message.
Just as science can design experiments to test the existence of God, it can also seek evidence against a god’s existence in the world around us. Here we must be clear that we are not talking about evidence against any and all conceivable gods. For example, a deist god that creates the universe and then just leaves it alone would be very hard to falsify. But no one worships a god who does nothing.
If God is the intelligent designer of life on Earth, then we should find evidence for intelligence in observations of the structure of life. We do not. 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.
Most religions claim that humans possess immaterial souls that control much of our mental processing. If that were true, we should be able to observe mentally induced phenomena that are independent of brain chemistry. We do not.
If God is the source of morality, then we should find evidence for a supernatural origin in human behaviour. We do not. People of faith behave on average no better, and in some cases behave worse, than people of no faith. History shows that the moral and ethical guides that most of us live by did not originate with the monotheistic religions, as proponents of those religions would have us believe. Instead, moral behaviour appears to have evolved socially.
Again, if God answers prayers, we should see miraculous effects of prayer. With millions of prayers having been said every day for thousands of years, we would expect some to have been answered by now in a verifiable way. They have not.
If God has revealed truths to humanity, then these truths should be testable. Over the millennia many people have reported religious or mystical experiences in which they have communicated with one god or another. By now, we should have seen some confirming evidence for this, such as a verifiable fact that could not have been in the person’s head unless it was revealed to them. We have not.
If God is the creator of the universe, then we should find evidence for that in astronomy and physics. We do not. The origin of our universe required no miracles. Furthermore, modern cosmology suggests an eternal “multiverse” in which many other universes come and go.
If humans are a special creation of God, then the universe should be congenial to human life. It is not. Theists claim that the parameters of the universe are fine-tuned for human life. They are not. The universe is not fine-tuned for us. We are fine-tuned to the universe. After evaluating all the evidence, we can conclude that the universe and life look exactly as they would be expected to look if there were no God.
Finally, I would like to comment on the folly of faith. When faith rules over facts, magical thinking becomes deeply ingrained and warps all areas of life. It produces a frame of mind in which concepts are formulated with deep passion but without the slightest attention paid to the evidence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the US today, where Christians who seek to convert the nation into a theocracy dominate the Republican party. Blind faith is no way to run a world.
Tag Archives: Church
“Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that you died on the cross for my sins, and I’m asking you to come and live in my heart. I accept you as my Lord and Savior, and dedicate my life to good deeds and telling others about your goodness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
I prayed that when I was 7, prayed it again when I was 11, again when I was 18 and in Basic Training and feeling like I had nobody, and again at 22. I’ve “gotten saved” a few times in my life. I grew up in a family that embraced the Christian faith intensely. So intense that we went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, and Thursday nights for music practice. We went to church. A lot. I listened to bands like Stryper and Petra (hey, it was the 80’s) and all those folks. I can quote scriptures fairly well, and definitely know the basic principles that the bible teaches. I believed in a God that demanded complete compliance and constant praise. I listened to many preachers’ views on God and life, and I tried to keep myself on the straight and narrow. All for a deity that I’d never seen, heard, or felt.
Thing is… why?
I’d been questioning God’s existence since age 12, when I heard someone give the parallel examples between Christianity and ancient Egypt, and how close the two religions are. I won’t go into detail, but watch the movie “Religulous” and they cover it pretty well. Heh… my parents HATED that movie. Anyhow, I started to wonder how come we prayed to this god who never talked back, and never seemed to really give a shit one way or the other WHAT we did. I mean, in the Old Testament, God was one jealous cat. He would jack you UP if you didn’t believe in him. He told King Saul to “smite the Amalekites and leave not one of them alive, down to the last dog or mouse.” Jesus! (pun intended) God told a king to basically commit genocide and kill women, children, babies, animals. All because He was pissed they weren’t praying to him.
I’ve gone to many churches over the span of my life. I’ve known pastors who were alcoholics, who were sleeping with the female members of the young adult ministries, and pastors who could preach a tough game, but their personal lives were all sorts of fucked up. I thought a lot about churches, and pastors, and all of that. Basically, a Pastor is the guy who has excellent public speaking skills, knows the bible, and is able to convince people that HIS interpretation of the bible is the way they should live their lives. If they’re any good, they gather a large following of people, build a huge church, and drive around in their Mercedes convertibles to their $500,000 homes. What these Pastors do is preach the bible, while inserting their personal brand of values and suggest strongly that everyone live by them.
I saw a lot of families at church that had money. Hell, my family was one of them. There were churches we went to growing up that placed my parents in high positions – simply because they made $100 offerings once a week. Money buys a lot of redemption I guess. I also saw poor families that went to church dutifully and tried to interact with all other members. Problem was, the rich folks just didn’t want to associate with the poor folks. Been to jail/prison and got saved there? Don’t go to church to find people who will accept you. You might get to go up on stage a few times to tell your “story” about how bad you were and how good you are now, but I’m telling you people honestly: Christians don’t like dirty people. They don’t like those folks who live in halfway houses and come to church wearing jeans and dingy sweaters. They’ll smile, sure… but you don’t get any invites to Sunday Lunch. No, I have NEVER been arrested or incarcerated, but I do know several people and have seen for myself the several examples of new Christians getting roundly ignored because of their history.
So, back to my original question. God. Is he or ain’t he?
I have a very hard time believing that this god, who did all these miracles 2,000 years ago, is mutely silent today. I mean, shit! There’s wars and death, and unbelievers, and all that all over the world. Where’s the damn heavenly fire and all that? God supposedly stopped the Sun in the middle of the sky for 3 days so Joshua could win a battle – way back in the old testament. How come that doesn’t happen now? There’s some prophet in the bible, Elijah or Elisha, who made fun of these other religious priests who tried to call down their god to burn up this symbolic pile of wood. Basically, the pagan priests prayed and they couldn’t get a result. The holy prophet guy starts messin’ with them and says “Hey, maybe your god is taking a shit or something. Where is he?” He then proceeds to douse his ceremonial thingy with water, prays to God, and *ZAPPO* fire comes outta nowhere and burns that bastard right up! Pretty cool huh? Why hasn’t’ it happened lately?
My parents think I’m going to hell for my thinking. Sucks. I’m sad, because they really think that way, but I can’t for the LIFE of me understand why they have to put their faith in some invisible deity? My father retired from GMC a couple years back. He’s now got some form of blood cancer that requires chemo, Motrin, and hope that it helps him out. My mother has been dealing with Degenetive Disk Disease for over 20 years now. She’s messed up! She can’t get around very well because of how bad she is. They haven’t been to church in 10 years. I just don’t understand why they keep praying blindly to some deity to make them better, when the power of human will is PROVEN to be so incredibly strong, that people have completely turned their lives back around from the abyss of death – through sheer force of will. My father is the strongest man I’ve ever known. He’s got a demeanor like granite when he’s onto something. He’s honest and adroit, and will tell you how he feels about something. He’s too smart to be relying on this invisible man to magically take his cancer away. Can’t tell him that though. He won’t listen. So, they think I’m headed to hell, and I am sad that they’re wasting away in their home, praying for some cure or relief, when they could be out there living their lives and enjoying their twilight years.
I can’t believe in a God that does nothing to help his people. I can’t believe in a religion that preaches goodwill and peace towards all, but abuses its followers and forms cliques. Fuck that.