Sunday, October 21, 2012

The real problem with theism

By Mathew Goldstein

Paul Wallace has a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from Duke University, is a former university professor in physics and astronomy, a former NASA researcher, and is a Christian hospital chaplain, who recently wrote an article that was published in the Huffington Post under the title "The Real Problem With Atheism". Within his article is a concise summary of his argument in the following two sentences: "It [science] wears blinders and refuses to acknowledge whole classes of questions that are important to people everywhere, questions of good and evil, and of human weakness, and of meaning. And it seems that New Atheism, in its wholesale dependence upon science as a philosophy, imports science's blinders -- bound as they are to its optimism -- into its overall worldview." Paul Wallace also claims that atheists do not "take note of", and "roll jauntily past", the poverty-stricken, those desperate for a job, drug addicts, and mothers who just lost a child to social services. So do we all need to be Christians, or at least theists, in order to acknowledge these important classes of questions and address the problems of those among us who are experiencing difficulties?

Atheists appear to be generally competent at recognizing the impacts of behaviors and actions on themselves and others. Atheists appear to be generally competent at distinguishing the positive from negative impacts. Atheists appear to be generally competent at recognizing that people have shortcomings. Atheists appear to be generally competent at finding meaning. Atheists appear to generally participate in, and contribute to, various efforts to reduce poverty, increase employment, treat addictions, and support parents whose children were taken from their custody. Contrary to what Paul Wallace asserts in his article, there is no convincing evidence that atheists are deficient overall, relative to Christians or theists generally, in acknowledging good and evil, human weakness, or meaning, or with assisting others in need.

In addition to the aspersions on the competencies and character of atheists lacking veracity, there is also a problem with Paul Wallace's argument being illogical because his conclusion that Christianity is true doesn't follow from his premises. If we accept his argument that atheists are lacking in those competencies, and in their character, then it still doesn't logically follow that Christianity, any other religion, or theism is true. The bottom line here is always the same, and it cannot be stated too often or be overemphasized. The only way to properly justify Christianity, any other religion, or theism is to show that the empirical evidences overall favor the supernatural world-views of Christianity, any other religion, or theism over the natural worldview of atheism. That many Christians, religionists, and theists either avoid altogether even attempting to make such an argument, as is the case here, or don't come close to succeeding when they do attempt to make such arguments, is the real problem with Christianity, all religions and theism.

1 comment:

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Faulting atheists by some focus on New Atheists and their attack on religion certainly seems to be ignoring the richer part of what actual atheists understand about the larger world of issues.
The humanist aspect of many atheists seems to have been ignored here and it something we want the larger community to understand.