QUESTION: Do You Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist? Or How Is Your TOE?

Proponents of atheism like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Sam Harris have become prominent public figures, thanks to their intelligence and debating skills, science knowledge and formidable public presences.

They are helping prompt the renewal of a much-needed public debate in the U.S. and Europe on the Theory of Everything (TOE) questions: Why is there something rather than nothing, why does the universe exist, why are human beings in it, and what happens to us after we die?

These are especially relevant questions for people who work on Capitol Hill because they have such an influential role in the making and understanding of this country’s laws, which ultimately reflect answers to those most important questions.

For example, if one assumes that death marks the absolute end of human existence, then a moral code based on a belief in an afterlife in which there are consequences for acts good and bad prior to death makes no sense.

Advertising slogans that are variations on the old Schlitz beer commercials that said “you only go around once, so grab all the gusto you can get” reflect such an assumption. The reality is such slogans reflect an atheistic assumption on the ultimate questions.

It is also a commonplace in our culture that science is credible and trustworthy as a source of truth whereas religious faith is not because the former is based on fact and logic, while the letter depends upon unverifiable private belief and emotion. And never the twains shall meet.

“Advertising slogans that are variations on the old beer commercials that said “you only go around once, so grab all the gusto you can get” reflect such an assumption.”

In fact, however, there are imminent scientists who are in great part due to their learning devout Christians —for example, the Human Genome Project’s Francis Collins — just as there are physicists like Hawking who deny the existence of God.

But who depends at the deepest level most on assumptions of faith, believing scientists like Collins or atheist scientists like Hawking? Is it possible that it’s the atheist?

That’s precisely the contention of the Christian apologists Dr. Frank Turek and Dr. Norman Geisler, who famously declared they don’t “have enough faith to be an atheist.” If you have even the slightest inkling of curiosity about these things, I strongly encourage your reading of the Turek/Geisler book.

But how can it possibly be that the atheist in fact is most dependent upon faith? What if denying there is a creator of the universe requires a Kierkegaardian blind leap of faith?

Lately I’ve been reading “God and Stephen Hawking” by the great Oxford mathematician John Lennox who provides a superb critique of Hawking’s claim that “because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.”

If the universe is self-creating, then there is no need for a creator, who thus has the right to decide how His creation functions, who occupies it and what they are expected to do or not do.

Lennox offers two incisive observations in response to Hawking. First, “Hawking assumes, therefore, that a law of gravity exists. One presumes also that he believes that gravity itself exists, for the simple reason that abstract mathematical law on its own would be vacuous with nothing to describe.”

Why is that significant? Because, as Lennox notes, “gravity or a law of gravity is not ‘nothing, if he is using that word in its usual philosophically correct sense of ‘non-being.’ If he is not, he should have told us.

“On the face of it, Hawking appears, therefore, to be simultaneously asserting that the universe is creating from nothing and from something – not a very promising start.”

Lennox also points out that physicists often talk about a quantum vacuum as if it were the creative “nothing” from which the universe sprang into existence, and that Hawking asserts humans “are a product of quantum fluctuations in the early universe.” But a quantum is not a “nothing,” so simultaneously claiming it is and creates the universe is a word-play, not science or logic.

“On the face of it, Hawking appears, therefore, to be simultaneously asserting that the universe is creating from nothing and from something – not a very promising start.”

Second, there is the question of the logic underlying the second part of Hawking’s claim that “the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.”

Lennox argues “this assertion is self-contradictory” because “if we say ‘X creates Y,’ we presuppose the existence of X in order to bring Y into existence.”

That means, in turn, he says, that if we say “X creates X,” we presuppose “the existence of X in order to account for the existence of X. This is obviously self-contradictory and thus logically incoherent.”

And indeed, Lennox summarizes, “to presuppose the existence of the universe to account for its own existence sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland, not science.”

Hmmm. If Lennox is right, then it’s true that something cannot be created out of nothing. And if that is the case, then isn’t the atheist left with the logical necessity either of arguing the universe is eternal or that it is impossible to know why the universe exists?

Both of those propositions require in the final analysis a leap of faith because neither can be conclusively demonstrated. Understand, I am a journalist, not a scientist or a philosopher. If you think I am wrong, please tell me why.

And no, this is not an April Fool’s Day post!

Author: Mark Tapscott

Follower of Christ, devoted husband of Claudia, doting father and grandfather, conservative lover of liberty, journalist and First Amendment fanatic, former Hill and Reagan aide, vintage Formula Ford racer, Okie by birth/Texan by blood/proud of both, resident of Maryland. Go here: https://hillfaith.blog/about-hillfaith-2/