Everybody’s favorite science hating evangelist Christian is at it again. After last year’s poorly thought out attack on organic evolution Feuerstein is making waves again. This time, he is offering a sum of $100,000 to any atheist who can prove that God does not exist.
Feuerstein’s challenge is absurd, fallacy filled and completely against the foundations of faith and science. Other articles have already been written about how this challenge fails to understand the principles of burden of proof but Feuerstein’s challenge fails even within the realms of religion.
A few weeks ago, an article was going around about an Australian computer scientist proving that God exists. Really, they were just formalizing a solution to Godel’s incompleteness theorem. But, since that theorem is extremely complex and hard to understand for the non-initiated, most religious people attached the part where member of the scientific community (usually seen as atheist) was able to prove that God exists. In the minds of the religious right, a scientist had beat other atheistic scientists at their own game. Never mind that the work of these computer scientists was not even about theology, we chalked one up for theology.
This shows a widespread mentality that theology needs to be proven using scientific rigor. The ultimate irony is that religious people who see the scientific process as dangerous to their theology also rejoice when the same techniques seem to give validity to their belief system.
Using science to prove or disprove religion is a faulty and dangerous thing to do. Scientific rigor is used to discover the physical laws that exist in the universe. As a scientists observes what is going on in nature, they are able to formulate theories, hypothesis and laws to describe what he or she observes. These formulations help unlock the truth behind the actions of nature.
Unfortunately, discovering scientific laws has nothing to do with the meaning behind nature. Humans are philosophers by nature, and we strive to find meaning in what we experience in life. Science can do nothing to help us find personal meaning behind nature. Sure, we can find beauty in the formulation of scientific law, but that does not help a scientist know his or her part in the universe and does nothing to create a value system.
When we use science to try to prove or disprove religion, it is like trying to use a hammer to drive a screw into wood. Sure, eventually you will complete the task. But the screw will not fit well and there are better tools that you can use to have a better fit. Just like attempting hammer a screw, using scientific methods in a theological setting will only yield sloppy and partial results.
Anyways, religious people should be absolutely adverse to science being applied to their theology. One of the key tenants of religion is faith. Faith is complex, but at its core, it means that we believe in something that we can not see. Faith is the driving force that keeps us going in the right direction. We have faith in the future, faith in an ultimate meaning of life, faith in a higher being. This belief gives us a backdrop against which we can formulate our value systems and make decisions.
As soon as we start “proving” that God exists, the purpose of faith is lost. If God can be explained in an elegant mathematical system, then do we really need faith? Absolute knowledge, not achieved through religious means destroys faith.
I have often heard religious people describe viewing nature and having a spiritual experience as they ponder how God created all of it. They feel awe when they realize the magnitude of the power of God.
A similar experience can happen to scientists. When a non-religious scientists experiences the beauty of nature, they are overcome with the beauty, symmetry and order that we see. The complexity in what we see and the sheer magnitude of nature can create a pseudo-religious experience. It is just as transcendent.
We are all human beings, and we are all inspired by the universe that we live in. Claiming that one persons experience is better than another’s is wrong. It divides us from each other and keeps us from learning about humanity.
That is why I find people like Mr. Feuerstein so offensive. He is creating artificial barriers between people. Instead of celebrating the complexity of human thought and attempting to find truth in other people’s opinions, he is so stuck in his own tiny world that he fails to appreciate the beauty of the human race. He is putting people into little boxes, separating them from each other and causing contention.
Is that really what Jesus would do?