First of all, arguing about one’s beliefs vis a vis the cosmos, is pointless. There are few instances I can think of where it is a worthwhile pastime, even if the participants do so with respect and a desire for inquiry.
That said, I want to put a few thoughts here, to which I can refer my atheist friends and acquaintances who do seem very interested in the pointless exercise of arguing about the Universe and how it works. This isn’t meant as an argument, or refutation of their belief system – I respect their right to worship science or their own intellect or nothing at all, whatever they deem they are doing. In some ways, I understand where they’re coming from even though I know they are absolutely wrong. I understand how important it is for them to think they are superior to most around them, because they regard “reason” as their highest principle.
There are plenty of religious people – or motorcycle enthusiasts, or sports fans, or movie aficionados, for that matter – who love to believe they alone have the understanding of truth, and everyone else is sadly mistaken. Or going to hell. Or riding a rice rocket. Etc.
Herewith are some of the major points wherein I DO believe “atheists” are wrong. Sadly, they happen to be important points of their arguments. I understand there is some disagreement about terms, but mostly I notice, in those few discussions I’ve had with them, they prefer NOT to state what they believe in favor of “proving” that YOU are wrong.
1. Faith vs. Reason
This is a false dichotomy, and as we shall see, it is one of several cogent false dichotomies to which atheists tend to appeal.
There is no such thing as reason that has nothing to do with faith. There is no human being living or dead, who does now or has ever had all facts, all experience, all observation and all knowledge of everything that has been, or is, or will come to be known that we might term “science.”
The word “science” means “knowledge.” Atheists hold it to them like a shibboleth (how easy it is to use religious analogies in this discussion) that somehow “science” is the stuff that is “proved” and all the other stuff is bullshit – likely associated with religion, in their minds. In fact, “science” is the evolving body of knowledge that comes from disparate sources, is never static, and is always subject to revision and review.
The list of “scientific” frauds is quite lengthy. From Piltdown Man to Anthropogenic Global Warming, the purposeful defrauding of the public in the name of science has a long history, and it continues to this day – likely accelerating in fact.
And that’s in addition to the well-intentioned mistakes and dead-end alleys like Phrenology or the Ether Theory, that were put out there, quite believed and supported, then abandoned when they were finally disproved.
In the end, there’s this: you are given information – most likely from a secondary source – and you accept it, or you don’t. And that is called “faith.” In whom is your faith placed? I believe my atheist friends would say “in science,” but what they really mean is “in scientists,” in fellow human beings whom you trust to give you verifiable facts.
And mostly, that works. Works well, in fact. The scientific method is indisputably a marvel as a way at gathering truth from evidence you have to hand, that can be seen and measured. But so much of scientific knowledge is NOT gleaned that way. It is a misconstruction to state – as many atheists do – that all of science is based on things that can be verified and replicated.
Much of what we discover especially in fields such as cosmology, come from mathematical and computer models, constructions that are built from what scientists know, but quickly verge into supposition, conjecture, hypothesis, etc.
And again, the amazing thing is, that so much of what we explore in that way eventually proves out. But there is still so much MORE that is still not proven, and in fact, isn’t provable.
I have yet to get an atheist to explain to me, how Gödel’s incompleteness theorems enter into the argument that only the things we can KNOW without doubt can be accepted.
Gödel stated that systems of “natural numbers” will always have aspects of them that cannot be proved, and that a system of reference will always be unaware of certain fundamental errors.
The closest I came to an honest answer by an atheist to this challenge was “well, but that’s just mathematics.”
The failure to understand that mathematics is the language in which science is conducted, and that mathematical theory quickly becomes so esoteric as to merge with philosophy – with religious aspects in fact – is one of the things that makes it difficult for me to take many atheists seriously. Only by insisting they, and they alone, by virtue of their intellectual superiority, can determine what does and does not “go” as far as a relevant argument, can they maintain that illusion of superiority.
The fact is that all of us are trapped within our own heads. We have one set of sensoria, and we have one functioning brain to a greater or lesser extent. We are all similarly hobbled. And it is quite demonstrably so, that those who are supremely intellectually gifted in certain respects are often quite obtuse in others. I’m reminded of the naive and pedantic statements constantly iterated by Albert Einstein regarding “world government” and universal disarmament.
No man is an island in any respect, including the intellectual.
So in the end, there is faith. In what you place your faith. How you choose to proceed with your life, and on what basis. Because you do not know it all, and even were you to gather the sum total of human knowledge before you, you could not assimilate all of it, and you could not possibly PROVE even a significant portion of it, in the way that “science” demands.
You must take your physics textbook on faith. The mathematical formulae, their derivations, their permutations and their applications, must be explored, and so much taken at face value – on faith – or you cannot possibly hope to practically use any of it.
Is there Dark Matter? There is no way to know, at least at this point in human existence, though there is plenty of evidence for it. But even then, cosmologists are quite stumped by so much of it. Can they decipher it all? I think not. Because I think there is always a limit to the human senses, even with thousands and tens of thousands of capable brains bent to the task, that will not let us KNOW the great mysteries beyond a doubt.
It takes faith.
2. Religion vs. Science
The second great false dichotomy.
There is only Truth. I won’t even say “truth or error,” because error is simply the shadow cast by truth – or at least by what light we shine on that particular aspect of truth that we can see.
The notion that where there is Science, Religion must take to its heels, ignores certain practical facts, among them that most of the greatest minds of science throughout history, were people of religious faith. And I’m not speaking in casual terms: A great many were clergy or members of devotional communities – Mendel and Copernicus are two examples. Many others, such as Francis Bacon, Kepler, Pascal and Faraday were deeply religious and devoted as much of their lives to faith pursuits as to science.
The important thing to understand is, these people and countless others similar, did not live encumber themselves with the false notion that faith and reason, religion and science, were opposites. They rightly saw only truth.
This is one of the typical atheistic arguments, that only “proof” is admissible – and once more, they insist on lording the definition of the word, convinced only they know the correct one.
They will slip back and forth between the terms “evidence” and “proof,” but bar any evidence that doesn’t meet their sliding standard.
For instance “voices in your head” cannot be admitted – even though that’s all thought is. There isn’t a single “scientist” alive or dead who does not hear the voices in his head, and give heed to them.
As a Latter-Day Saint I believe that prophets living in modern times saw and spoke with Deity. They gave their written accounts of the things they learned from them. I have known people personally who have had deeply personal religious encounters with immortal beings. I believe their accounts – or at least the accounts of those I trust. Just as my atheist friends will believe what is presented to them regarding scientific “facts” they cannot themselves possibly hope to verify firsthand, not having the mathematics or access to expensive laboratories or faster-than-light spacecraft.
In the end, it is what you choose to believe, yourself. It is always a matter of faith combined with reason, the legacy of the Divine Parent of us all.