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Why Strict Atheism Is Unscientific

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December 19, 2012 Tags: Science & Worldviews
Why Strict Atheism Is Unscientific

Today's entry was written by Ross Pomeroy. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: Today's post come courtesy of RealClearScience. You can read the original at their website.

Do you believe in God?

If a cadre of outspoken, strong atheists wrote a litmus test for scientists, that might very well be question #1.

"Scientists, if you're not an atheist, you're not doing science right," PZ Myers -- a well-known blogger, biology professor and atheist -- regularly preaches.

But if this is true, then as many as half of scientists are doing science wrong. A 2009 study from the Pew Research Center polled members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fifty-one percent of respondents reported a belief in a higher power. Does this mean that it's too late for science? Has religion already pillaged the minds of researchers worldwide? No, of course it hasn't.

"It seems to me that we as a society have lately been caught in this false dichotomy where it's either God as the guy with the beard on the cloud or nothing at all," neuroscientist David Eagleman told Discovery News.

Staunch atheists often falsely characterize followers of religion as being "all-in" with their beliefs, opining that they ascribe to the whole creationist, woo-y shebang. "Where's your evidence?" atheists mockingly question. "You can't prove that God exists!" they accuse (correctly). Yet, hypocritically, strict atheists are guilty of the exact same crime: belief without evidence.

"We know too little to commit to a position of strict atheism. [But] we know way too much to commit to any particular religious story," Eagleman said.

Just as it's a leap of faith for a religious person to assert that God incontrovertibly exists, it's an equally large leap for a strict atheist to declare, without question, that God does not exist. As Carl Sagan eloquently explained:

An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. As this statement applies to science, so does it apply to religion. History is replete with signs that an all-powerful deity may not exist, but such substantiation is nowhere near tantamount to proof -- especially, as Albert Einstein said, in a universe as incomprehensibly vast as our own:

The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly.

Ultimately, the key is not to be swayed to one extreme or the other -- fundamentalist religion or strict atheism -- but to walk a reasoned middle path. Eagleman believes that path is "possibilianism," the concept of holding multiple beliefs or hypotheses whilst exploring new ideas.

"The goal is to avoid committing to any particular story," Eagleman told Discovery News, "whether that's religious fundamentalism or strict atheism. The goal of possibilianism is to retain the wonder that drives us all into science in the first place and to avoid acting as though we know the answers to things we can't possibly know at the moment."

Strict atheists do the world an incredible service by promoting the scientific method, skepticism, and critical thinking. But they do a disservice by campaigning against religion or touting -- as pure truth -- the non-existence of God, for those actions (especially the latter) are just as unscientific as a blind belief in all aspects of religion.

This summer, a worldwide poll showed that atheism is on the rise and religiosity is on the decline. It is my hope that these "New Atheists" and agnostics won't narrowly focus on denigrating religion, but will instead focus on encouraging open-mindedness and discouraging fundamentalism.

That would surely make the world a more enlightened place.

Steven Ross Pomeroy is the assistant editor for Real Clear Science, a science news aggregator. He regularly contributes to RCS’ Newton Blog. As a writer, Steven believes that his greatest assets are his insatiable curiosity and his ceaseless love for learning. Follow on Twitter @SteRoPo.

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Ashe - #75515

December 19th 2012

If God by definition, by necessity, is omnibenevolent, then he quite obviously does not exist. 

Bilbo - #75517

December 19th 2012


If God by definition, by necessity, is omnibenevolent, then he quite obviously does not exist.

Ashe, you need to construct a sound argument that leads to that conclusion.  So far, no atheist philosopher has been able to do that.

Dunemeister - #75529

December 19th 2012

God transcends necessity. Thus it is not possible to say that God is, by necessity, anything.

lancelot10 - #75550

December 20th 2012

If we can prove that the devil and his demonic angelic hierarchy exists then the God of Abraham exists.  Although there are some fakes - it would be illogical to dismiss all the videos of possessed persons - especially ones like that of the tragic annieliese michel.  It is extremely unlikely that her physical deterioration was caused by extraneous forces or self induced bulimia.   I hope she is saved.

There are also plenty of testimonies of those who have been to hell - Bill Weise’s 23 minutes in hell being one of the most convincing and frightening for me anyway.

Also Dr Rawlings website- the heart surgeon athiest who became a believer after bringing some of his “dead”  patients out of hell and noting their testimonies.

Films and witnesses to levitation cannot all be doctored since many honest exorcists testify to this phenomenom .

The devils best kept secret is that he does not exist - maybe evolutionists who are searching for God should look for evidence from God’s enemy Satan.

The angelic demonic realm are there to test us since there will be no rebellion in eternity - God could put an end to them now but they are there to test us and purify us by this testing -  like Job.    God created all the angels GOOD - but due to the pride of satan one third followed him and rebelled - so there are billions in the air and on the earth - listening to your every word and spotting your weaknesses- planning on how they can tempt you to disbelieve the word of God and sin.

Unfortunately I was more deceived than anyone not realising the power of these fallen angels.    After believing I did not fully repent and get baptised by water and the spirit which together with bible study and prayer would have protected me from temptation and folly - I thought my belief was enough but since I was not discipled correctly and joined a church of almost no bible study I was open to deception which when I look back on I can hardly believe.





PNG - #75575

December 20th 2012

The argument for the existence of God from evil and the Devil? I think Aquinas missed this one.

beaglelady - #75583

December 21st 2012

Lance is a poe.

beaglelady - #75555

December 20th 2012

There are also plenty of testimonies of those who have been to hell

Yeah, we’ve all had jobs like that.

Ed - #75568

December 20th 2012

As has been discussed by people in other sites, the issue is not so much as to whether some possible, vague, Diest version of God exist.  In other words, if you do not really define what you mean by God, then it is much harder to prove that he doesnt exist.

The real question, at least for those of us in America, is whether the Christian God, and therefore the biblical God Yahweh, actually exists.  If you define it in that fashion, then you get much closer to the heart of the matter for most people, and much closer to having something to critique.

Seenoevo - #75570

December 20th 2012

I don’t understand the purpose of this article on BioLogos.

Is this meant to be something like an evangelism tool, or perhaps meant to provide thoughts for strengthening evangelizing?

BioLogos’ mission statement says it is “a community of evangelical Christians ... guided by the truth that “all things hold together in Christ.””

Does this article in any way promote “evangelicalism” and that “all things hold together in Christ”?

Or is this promoting ““possibilianism,” the concept of holding multiple beliefs or hypotheses whilst exploring new ideas”?


“Ultimately, the key is not to be swayed to one extreme or the other—fundamentalist religion or strict atheism”

I don’t understand what is meant by avoidance of “strict” atheism. Is there another kind of atheism (e.g. a “moderate” atheism) which BioLogos, or BioLogos contributors, thinks is OK to be swayed by?


“... they do a disservice by campaigning against religion or touting—as pure truth—the non-existence of God, for those actions (especially the latter) are just as unscientific as a blind belief in all aspects of religion.”

What would be some examples of “blind belief” in religion, excluding religious aspects involving the book of Genesis?   


Lastly, and no doubt this is just a matter semantics, but I was struck by the words

“not to be swayed to one extreme or the other… walk a reasoned middle path... The goal is to avoid committing to any particular story”

Made me think of some Scripture verses:

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” [Mat 12:30]

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division;
 for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three;
 they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” [Luke 12:51-53]

 “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.  [Rev 3:15-16]

beaglelady - #75573

December 20th 2012


I fail to see the reason why you need to charge in here on your white steed to smite with all your might  everyone’s fanny.   Give it a rest, okay?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #75632

December 22nd 2012


The Pharisees asked Jesus, Should Jews pay taxes or not?

They also asked Him to judge the woman caught in the act of adultery.

How did Jesus deal with these false dichotomies, like the one you present? 

Louisa Collins - #75642

December 22nd 2012

I believe in God fully. It’s true that strict atheism may not in some way be scientific because of the facts that many seem to ignore. Long story short, if they have discovered many things in science for example small living organisms, we can not see them with the human eye can we? yet we know its there, this is like God. No one can actually see Him, or His angels but we either feel or know He’s there by some sort of evperience. For me, I always say that everything is made for a reason, nothing can be created by itself. There is always got to be a creator in every situation.

Argon - #75692

December 27th 2012

It’s turtles all the way down.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #75657

December 24th 2012

Give unto nature what is Nature’s and give unto God what is God’s.

GodsOwnDNA - #75701

December 27th 2012

Sometime back I saw David Eagleman’s talk on TED. It was an interesting talk. I’ve heard a lot about this guy and I expected a lot - unfortunately, it seems readily apparent that Dr. Eagleman has a surprisingly shallow knowledge of the many nuances of the “God vs science” debate.

First of all, this “polarization” he talks about is to a large extent an american phenomenon, where atheistic scientism and religious fundamentalism are the loudest voices. Its not like there are no place for middle ground. Many scientists are theists as well - and this holds true for american scientists as well. Second, I found his argument against the truth of any current faith tradition to be flawed in two ways: 1. It almost seems like he dismisses the claims of all faith traditions precisely because there are so many of them? The existence of many traditions cannot be grounds to dismiss the truth claims of all/one of them. Its as absurd as saying that all witnesses in a homicide case are not faulty because there are so many of them giving different accounts. 2. he says that if there is one truth, one might expect it to “spread evenly” and that one’s view is shaped by the predominant culture one grows up in. This does not mean that one’s culture is the sole determinant of one’s beliefs. A person may be convinced to change his/her views due to a variety of reasons and that resulting belief may or may not be endorsed by the predominant culture. This holds true not just for religious beliefs, but also other kinds of beliefs, e.g. a hundred years ago, a gay person in the US may have faced ridicule everywhere and this was reinforced by the predominant culture of the time, but now it is different, because culture is fluid. This does not mean that the truth of homosexuality not being a disorder changed. It only means that people hadn’t discovered that truth yet. Similarly, if a person doesn’t embrace one particular faith at a point in time doesn’t mean that the tradition in question might not be based on the “one” truth, assuming that such a truth exists. Also, if there is the ONE truth, why would one assume it to spread evenly? What’s the basis for such an assumption? Even scientific truth takes a long time to “spread evenly”. Religious truth - not always being immediately empirically verifiable would obviously find a harder time among the audience who want “proof” before they believe.

As a christian, my last bone of contention with this guy is the ease with which he reduces the number of viewpoints regarding the creation account in the bible to one - a literal interpretation. He says that “according to the bible”, the earth is 6000 years old. This is not true because the bible never mentions anywhere the age of the earth. He’s basically talking about one extra-biblical viewpoint which certain christians hold onto. There are so many christians who believe that the age of the earth is around 4.5 billion years. There are also many christians who believe in the truth of biological evolution (me being one of them). So, I personally find his generalizations to be abhorrent.

I expected more from someone who posits a supposedly nuanced position, but the reasons for which he reaches such a conclusion aren’t as nuanced.

Seenoevo - #75709

December 27th 2012

“e.g. a hundred years ago, a gay person in the US may have faced ridicule everywhere and this was reinforced by the predominant culture of the time, but now it is different, because culture is fluid. This does not mean that the truth of homosexuality not being a disorder changed. It only means that people hadn’t discovered that truth yet.”

What flavor of truth is the statement of “homosexuality not being a disorder”?

Is this a Biblical truth, or a truth of human reasoning, or some kind of ‘fluid cultural truth’, or an infallible human pronouncement?

I don’t know how it would be a Biblical truth, given prohibitions against fornication in general (Mat 15:19; Mark 7:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3, 5; Col 3:5; Heb 13:4) and fornication explicitly between those of the same sex (Rom 1:26-27).

I don’t understand what the human reasoning of such a “truth” would be.

If culture is fluid, it was not fluid on this matter for about 6,000 years, until recent times. What caused the change of opinion by some on this matter? On what basis is the truth of this claim made?

Or is this some type of human pronouncement of infallible truth? If so, on what basis, if any, is the pronouncement made?

sy - #75762

December 31st 2012

I believe that GodOwnDNA makes a very important point. The general view among the public (and by that I mean almost everybody) is that there are two opposing sides to the “faith/science debate” and that viewpoints like those of Biologos and so many others simply dont make it to public consciousness. This despite all the books and articles that have appeared, and the strong efforts of so many people.

This just means we have to work harder. With God’s help.

Thi Teu - #79216

April 28th 2013

This just means we have to work harder. With God’s help.

I like your comment : true and funny . I continue with a quote of jean PIAGET > here

Anantraj - #80375

May 21st 2013

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EPC electrical contractor

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