Arguing with Lawrence about matters that don’t require the use of bunsen burners, the Hubble telescope or integrated calculus, is increasingly proving to be more than a bit sisyphean. The guy might be smart on matters scientific, but on everything else, he’s downright incapable of learning. As others have already written on his inimitable incoherence, I will, in this piece, skip his mistreatment of Kim Davis and Planned Parenthood, and concentrate on his central claim, which is that “all scientists should be militant atheists”.
Lawrence Krauss, as you might recall, is the author of A Universe From Nothing, where he purports to have solved how universes can come from nothing, only to say that ‘nothing’ is actually something, and in fact turns out to be a whole lot of something from which universes can emerge. That book itself is enough evidence that this guy is a hack. I mean, if I sincerely proposed that cars can come from nothing, only to say that by ‘nothing’ I actually meant large production assembly lines, I’ll be put into a mental asylum.
I won’t bother to link to his intellectually sloppy diatribe, you can google that for yourself, but let’s allow him to make his case and see if, like he claims, “all scientists should be militant atheists”.
So far as I can see (and, indeed, one would have to look past Himalayas of play-ground rhetoric) his primary argument for the claim is that science does not — indeed, cannot — have “sacred” ideas, as everything should be open to criticism, thusly somewhat precluding, by fiat, subscription to any religious idea. Therefore holding religious views alongside scientific ones (the case for a religious scientist) is to be cognitively dissonant at such an epic scale as to be laughable and worthy of not only dismissal, but outright derision.
Of course, Lawrence makes no distinctions — and is likely ignorant of the distinctions — between methodological and metaphysical naturalism. A fatal error, as we will see.
Since science is the study of nature, it is by it’s very nature methodologically naturalistic in that it needs to presuppose naturalism to work. That is because in science, for every phenomena under study, the required explanans is a natural one, and this axiomatically rules out the supernatural from the getgo. Again, that is simply how science is done, else it’ll cease to work and render us unable to build upon knowledge already acquired. Because a supernatural explanans, unlike a natural one, wouldn’t be within our ability to understand, let alone control, a scientist needs to find natural causes against which he can test and compare other natural facts about our universe. So, every scientist, to do science, needs to adhere to a strictly naturalistic methodology. That is simply what science requires — that scientists, to put it trivially, use the scientific method.
Lawrence, however, does a little sleight of hand, citing that very requirement and extrapolating it to argue for the philosophical position known as metaphysical naturalism, which is the position that only the natural, or in his case, only the physical, exists. This is, needless to say, illogical, since one simply cannot infer from study of the natural that the supernatural does not exist.
So, his conclusion that ‘metaphysical naturalism’ — atheism — is true, or that it’s a view that scientists ought to hold (making them, of course, atheists) is non sequitur.
Or to spell it out in simpler terms (let’s see if you can immediately spot the illogic): As per Lawrence, belief in naturalism is the logical entailment of presupposing naturalism to do science!
Again, here is what he’s saying, further simplified: To be a scientist, you have to believe science is the only way to describe reality.
Or here, again we can go on and simplify Lawrence’s claim until his logical misstep becomes clear to even the most moronic of individuals:
Scientist = Someone who believes science is the only way to describe reality.
Of course one could be pedantic and point out the self-refuting nature of that statement in that it is a statement that purports to describe reality but isn’t itself knowledge that was acquired through science, but let’s overlook such abstract arguments for now.
So far so good?
It is but incumbent then for us to investigate what it means to hold the view that science is the ‘only way to describe reality’. And I’d say the best way to do this is to look at the nuggets of wisdom these “militant atheist-scientists” impart.
On meaning and purpose:
“the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” — Steven Weinberg, scientist; militant atheist.
“[The world] is physical and purposeless” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.
“DNA just is. And we dance to its music” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.
“Nihilism—even my “nice nihilism” is a public relations nightmare. Most of my fellow travellers think that if the scientific worldview saps morality of its truth, correctness, justification.. They might be right. It’s an empirical matter.” — Alex Rosenberg, Philosopher, Militant Atheist.
“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” — Richard Dawkins, scientist; militant atheist.
On freedom of the will:
“Sam Harris says the concept of free will is incoherent. Humans are not free and no sense can be given to the idea that we might be” — Paul Pardi, on (scientist and militant atheist) Sam Harris’ book Free Will.
“..but in the end we are simply federations of molecules, tissues, and neurons whose morphology, physiology, and behavior are determined by interactions between genes and environment..” — Jerry Coyne, scientist; militant atheist.
So, to be a “scientist“, these are, from the horses’ mouth, the logical entailments:
1. The universe is “pointless“, “purposeless“, any meaning we can derive from this “pointless” and “purposeless” universe can only be subjective (“personal” for Jerry Coyne), and ultimately as valid — that is to say, equally as “pointless” — as anyone else’s subjectively derived meaning.
2. We have no free-will — every belief we have and choice we make had been determined by temporally prior states that are essentially traceable to some initial state moments before the big-bang. In other words, it’s all an elaborate kabuki dance, as none of us are free to choose or believe anything.
3. Morality is an illusion; there is no good and evil. These feelings of right and wrong are merely illusory; sentimental predispositions that are the result of our particular evolutionary history.
Yet, suddenly — suddenly! — when it comes to religion, evil suddenly can exist, as long as it’s in the form of religion, of course!
Suddenly, we have purpose; to point out religion is evil.
Suddenly, there are moral absolutes! — religion is absolutely immoral.
And suddenly, meaning can be made to be objective, as the meaning derived from religion is often said by them to be objectively wrong.
And yet, according to Lawrence, we, the indoctrinated sheeple, seem to be afflicted with some debilitating form of cognitive dissonance.