One of the chronic intellectual fallacies of our time has become the belief that our deep and growing knowledge of how the universe works disproves the existence of God, or at the very least, obviates our human need for God. This view, popularized by “New Atheist” writers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, has become a rallying point for those disillusioned with faith—especially Christian faith—and in some circles is seen as almost synonymous with the kind of skeptical inquiry required by the scientific process.
It is, unfortunately, not an academically rigorous way of looking at the evidence for and against God’s action and presence, as described by MIT writer and physicist Alan Lightman in a recent review for the Washington Post. Lightman, also an atheist, is nevertheless critical of the New Atheist approach to questions of faith, which makes him a fair commentator on Amir D. Aczel’s new book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God.
Lightman seems to share Aczel’s opinion on New Atheist thinking, which he finds to be, at best, unnecessarily dismissive and at worst an assault on the integrity of science. Lightman does however criticize what he sees as Aczel’s own “sly mission” of attempting to use as-yet-unexplained phenomena as pointers to the possibility of an intelligent creator. He says this is a poor way to advocate for God’s existence.
He writes, “It is not the inability of science to explain some physical phenomenon that shows we cannot disprove the existence of a creative power (i.e., God). Science is a work in progress, and phenomena that science cannot explain now may be explained 100 years from now. Before the 18th century, people had no explanation for lightning. The reason that science cannot disprove the existence of God, in my opinion, is that God, as understood by all human religions, exists outside time and space. God is not part of our physical universe (although God may choose to enter the physical universe at times). God is not subject to experimental tests. Either you believe or you don’t believe.”
The full review, which assesses the claims of the book in more detail and also gives an insightful account of the so-called ‘fine-tuning problem’ as, “one scientific conundrum that practically screams out the limitations of both science and religion,” can be found on the Washington Post website.