Most of you are well aware of the conflict between science and religion, however, many of you have probably not been taught much about the conflict between science and atheism.
The story of Galileo, Copernicus and the Catholic Church is a familiar one. Prior to the Copernican revolution, the sun actually orbited around the Earth – and it was close enough for government research. This was recognized by virtually all authorities in academia since the time of the Greek astronomer, Ptolemy, and was widely accepted by most of the Church leaders in the fraternity commonly known as the House of the Rising Sun.
As Voltaire once wrote, “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong,” so the Church- on a Bingo Night a long, long time ago – put its money on the “established authorities” rather than on a couple of upstart Christians – Galileo and Copernicus – who believed in the intelligent design of the universe and thought that the designer bore a remarkable resemblance to the God of the Bible. While this isn’t exactly where the argument traditionally leads, I think you get the point. Sometimes the Church taught things that weren’t found in their Scriptures that later turned out to be false. Pope John Paul, for example, taught that Darwinian evolution was more than just a theory. Surprise! He was right. It is actually a materialistic philosophy known as “The Everlasting Belief in Unintelligent Design” masquerading as a scientific theory under the academically respectable title of “The Arrival of the Fittest by Means of Pure Chance.” But I digress.
No doubt you have heard it expressed that the “Theory of Intelligent Design” is not scientific. The simple reason is that the natural sciences are limited to the study of purely naturalistic and materialistic phenomena while an ultimate intelligent designer is probably not a purely naturalistic and materialistic phenomenon. Materialistically speaking, evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin put it this way:
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs … in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
To the truly skeptical mind, Lewontin’s dogmatic commitment to materialism raises a number of questions. Who put the material in his materialism? If intelligent design is ruled out a priori, aren’t we simply left with at theory of unintelligent design where chance is called upon to create absolutely everything? How can the natural sciences describe the origin of time, space, matter, energy and natural laws without reference to time, space, matter, energy or natural laws? Might a natural law giver help?
No doubt, you have questions of your own. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the weeks ahead I’ll seek answers from UCSB faculty members who have wrestled with the question of their ultimate origin and the development of their personal worldview.