Mixing Science and Religion is always a hot topic. Recently, there was for example a debate between Sam Harris and Robert Winston in the Guardian, about, you guessed it, science versus faith! Harris is all for science:
We have Christians believing in the holy ghost, the resurrection of Jesus and his possible return -- these are claims about biology and physics which, from a scientific point of view in the 21st century, should be unsustainable.
Let me present the “next level” on the question of whether science argues against religion: Yes, modern science disproves traditional deities, However, you should Not use science to argue against religion!
Yes: Modern science offers a proof against traditional creator deities. Quantum physics decouples “creators” from “their creation”: There is no effect from the possibility of an entity that carries the delusion of being a creator as if you could conceivably add something to totality. You still may possibly live in a virtual reality suit or be a brain in a vat, the lab-technician being your god, but that is no fundamental god.
However: I will not further argue these claims and support your pseudoskeptic, "new atheist", ridicule the bible-thumpers group! Traditionally religious do not read this, and I have a more important message for those left:
Stop Using Science as the Main Argument against God!
In the following, I will firstly argue a little against science being all that important (1), then give examples for how science arguments backfire supporting religiousness (2), and finally I will make "new religiousness" an issue (3).
1) Science is not that important in Regards to Atheism
It is wrong to claim that modern science killed god. R. Dawkins holds that it was impossible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist before Darwin; that Hume for example was not, because he did not know genetics and thus could not be a satisfied atheist. But true "life with soul" is phenomenal consciousness, the origin of which is as much answered by science today as the origin of species was before Darwin. In fact, the old atheists have been just as much or even more satisfied than the new ones.
The concept of god has been shown to be a naïve and inconsistent one long before modern science came along. Science advertises to have the better answer to everything and it teases with having answers especially to “difficult” questions. Given the ubiquity of technology, many are under the impression that indeed science killed the traditional god, and in some ways, it did, except for that it modernized god.
Proper science has, if it is to be consistent, no choice but to confirm that god is dead. However, proper science is scarce and much of the fashionably “sciency” third culture bohemians make a terribly naïve job at mixing science with religion, to the result that they strengthen religion.
You should never use fashionable science as the base of your argument against god. Why? You will very likely get it wrong and the religious bigots will cash in on that. Let me give a few examples:
2) Examples for how Sciency Arguments Backfire
The Big Bang
Philosophically naïve scientists like Stephen Hawking have abused the Big Bang solution of general relativity in order to argue that the universe has no boundary, or better, needs no boundary condition, no god. It is a simplification of supreme stupidity for several reasons. Firstly: The singularities of general relativity are obviously incompatible with quantum mechanics, which is why string theoreticians secretly laugh about Hawking for many years now. To them, he is little more than a convenient freak in a wheel chair that attracts media attention to physics.
Let me shortly get a bit too sciency for a blog - skip this part if you must: The Big Bang that is observed in astrophysics is the so called “reheating” after cosmic inflation, and we simply do not know much more about that inflationary epoch yet. In Einstein’s classical general relativity, the Big Bang is a mathematical singularity that results from an extrapolation that leads outside of the theory’s domain of applicability (namely close to the Planck length and beyond). What does that mean? It means that the theoretical Big Bang is not a reasonable prediction of that theory; it is where the theory has already broken down!
The religious of course love the distorted Big Bang, the impressive, fiery creation myth on a silver platter: Who made the Big Bang? Jehovah! And many atheists are successfully duped and let themselves be caught in pseudo-scientific debates. However: BB does have nothing whatsoever to do with that god is a dangerous and inconsistent concept! Stop supporting the religious by discussing the BB as if it is some sort of creation event.
Religious absolutely love this wrong depiction of the early universe that many physicists still propagate in their half baked outreach efforts. Time does not begin at the Big Bang; the Big Bang comes after inflation and we do not know how long before inflation it makes sense to use the same time parameter!
BB serves as a prime example of how glamor science backfires! Modern physics proves that all the religious who insisted that there must be something before the BB (which they call “god”) have been correct! All those self-righteous sciency atheist types who defended the BB as the origin that does not need another cause have been proven wrong! Do not let the religious set your agenda! Do not argue with science that you do not understand!
Another Example: “Philosophy of Time”
Since the traditionally religious are all about creation myths, they of course love the naïve sciency misinterpretation that “origin” is to be understood in temporal or mechanically causal terms. And the sciency smarty pants see their chance to go on driveling about the latest popular science book that they neither understood nor contained anything of value except popularizing the author as super clever. Nonsense about worm-holes and closed time like loops, again, not taken from a theory where it is confirmed, but cherry picked from where it breaks down (!), all in true religious fashion, building up a straw man in order to smash it with some sort of ultra-lame “You know, actually there is no time before time!”
Wooooo – science is so profound! Religious BS! No time outside time has been obvious since Parmenides 25000 years ago and long before him, and it is beside the point! No scientific answer would ever, neither in case there is an absolute t = 0 beginning, nor in case there is an eternally inflating background, satisfy those whose skin shivers when time is mentioned – which would be old and new religious alike. Whatever the most useful description of time, it would not sway the religious one way or another from either denial or twisting it into a proof of their god!
Forget time; it is nothing more than a parameter used to quantify certain changes. If you are hung up about the mystery of “the flow", just become clear about that if time did anything at all, it better had another orthogonal time direction. I personally worked on quantum gravity with two times. Time has nothing to do with that god is an irrational nonsense concept!
Ask yourself: If tomorrow science proved that time is whatever (t = 0, infinite, circular, two dimensional, fractal, green with eggs on top), would it change your atheism in the slightest? Of course not! So it is yet another issue that the traditional and the new religious alike force upon us, and enthusiastic science kids fall for it hook, line, and sinker!
Falling for the Pseudo-postmodern Extreme Skepticism
Post modernism is largely a valid rediscovery of the young Marx and Feuerbach materialism in sociology about that what we do all day long and the thus stabilized power structures we live in and all of that determine what we hold true. Our historical explanations, religions, the perversely double-faced pseudo-democratic doctrine of the warmongering Westernized societies for example, all are little more than evolved social constructs. This is well applicable to some of science, too, and unsurprisingly, scientists are naturally not inclined to admit this, since their selective perception is evolved to have the blind spot preferably right here.
There are however dangerously obscurant and clearly anti-scientific extremes among the postmodern. These claim that there is no absolute knowledge at all, that you can be skeptical about everything.
Of course, when young earth creationists insist on that all the fossils have been planted by god, it is laughed upon. When transhumanist tell us that we are likely all a simulation, that we live in the matrix already, then it comes with so much popular science quackery a la John Smart and Kurzweil that the “new atheists” wet their pants. All of a sudden laughter turns into an awkward stumbling:
“well, we don’t know, so maybe there perhaps might be a god2.0, and he is us, like in the future you know, with the computers and internets and stuffs, but the future was already yesterday and so I am agnostic and not atheist no more”
And the creationists sing “Thank you, suckers!”
Do not waste your time reasoning scientifically with people who see reasoning as merely a rhetorical tool. The proper answer to young earth creationism is plainly: “The holy books were planted by the furious Spaghetti Monster to test our beliefs, so burn this church or mosque or whatever the hell you call this dump right now and build a Spaghetti Golden Toilet or the Monster will chop your stupid head off!”
There are agnostics that opine atheists just believe that there is no god. True, most atheists are religious people; after all, they are human. But some outspoken ones go so far as to say "what you claim to know could conceivably be overturned with some consistent science of god."
No! There is no such nonsense! Science is not just empirical, it is foremost about logic and self-consistency, which is the basis of science, the core without which nothing can be inferred from any experiment anyway. Logic cannot be overturned! Whatever your "consistent science of god" would be, it would be yet another convenient redefinition of "god" so that the religious can justify perpetuating the promotion of their poison.
This logical basis of science was once called philosophy (which is a dirty word today sadly because of academic philosophy), and wise people thus have been atheist long before the onset of empirical science.
Philosophy Killed God, Not Science
All the good arguments against religion are philosophical. Science can successfully re-express the philosophically obvious. Nevertheless, the scientific proof is at most a re-expression of what has been known for a long while: god does not make any sense; it is a useless and inconsistent concept. One does not need physics to see that, though an education in straight thinking can help.
A strict disproof of creators is a byproduct of interesting issues in advancing sober quantum theory. It is worth to supply scientific arguments as re-expressions of philosophically self-evident truths, because the vast majority of people are not intelligent enough to grasp philosophy without some intuitive, box/lever/pulley-world picture.
Many Worlds for example is little more than modal realism as it has been understood since the advent of psychedelic mushrooms maybe 25000 years ago. Even a branching Many Worlds model is NOT a quantum theory. Quantum mechanics formally describes how possible branches interfere. Without this entanglement, Many Worlds are classical descriptions.
Without the help of a ‘hands-on’ multiverse/many worlds description, most cannot understand the concept of totality or modal realism. Thus, a re-expression of modal realism in form of branching models or “god is dead” in terms of science can be very helpful.
However, the danger here is the uncritical popularization of simplistic versions of intuitive pictures. The multiverse/many worlds confusion is presented as a real (in the sense of direct realism) structure, but this is totally wrong. The whole point of modal realism’s relative existence is that totality does obviously not in the same sense “exist”. You may think that this is a hairsplitting side issue, but it is the very core on which the multiverse/many worlds confusion has become so religious.
Only if you distort the quantum physics and present the multiverse as a real structure can you bank in on the intuitive, god like perspective that makes it feel like as if one could somehow count souls in that structure and then argue with probabilities based on that; like as if a god could prune the multiverse tree, or as if Deepak Chopra could let your happy branches grow twice as many if you meditate enough.
3) Scientism the new Religion
The misunderstood multiverse leads to Deepak, to “quantum-immortality” nonsense, to a dangerous upsurge in irresponsible religiousness, all the way from the obscurant “singularity” down to Tipler’s salvation promising “omega point”. The Templeton Foundation award 2011 went to Martin Rees. Why? Because the multiverse/many worlds has been distorted enough that it counts as the best bet for the next god of the gaps!
Why is all this nonsense so popular? Humans are religious! The irony is: Especially the self proclaimed atheists fall for it, because their guard is down. It is a techno world now. You must be techno smart to party with the in-crowd now, but you fear uncertainty just like the next man, and so you desperately want to believe that in science, ideas are well founded.
Are they? Previously, respected scientists claimed the Big Bang is the big answer, thus feeding the religious. Now they say it is not so, but instead of once slowing down and admitting that established scientists did widely support a wrong, totally naive argument, the next fad is shoved down our throats instead. Now freak quantum science feeds the religious. As always, the establishment, now mostly white geeks with the cool techno flair, laps it up. It is the justification they need, the new religion that nourishes them, their own myths co-evolved along with them.
And so, usual science blogging/atheism/skepticism/popularization shoots true enlightenment in the foot. It backfires and has as yet done little more but polarize the debate and thus strengthen religiousness, the old ugly one as well as the new sexy one. Today, the religious can conveniently as never before draw on naive misunderstandings under the label of science. That those that love science are naive can be supported with just pointing to the most popular atheism and science blogs. You could not argue for religious nonsense as much with Newton as you can today by drawing on the ramblings by the likes of S. Hawking and M. Tegmark.
The “new atheists” like to bash the bible thumpers, the Einstein deniers, the hollow earth and moon hoaxers. Easy targets that one can feel superior to, witches to hunt, babies to kick. Skeptics focus on them because skeptics are just as religious; they smell a rival, and modern humans crave enemies and warfare; we are aggressive primates. The new religious fly the colors of science and skepticism, but they are the crusaders of a new dark age. As always, old atheists shake their heads in despair.