Topic: Serious Discussion /
The Criticism of the Scientific Atheism
The Criticism of the Scientific Atheism(C) balcerman. If you want to use this text as a whole or in part, send a message to me. You may freely use any part of this text within this thread without permission
The main topic of the text below is to introduce the reader to the criticism of the world outlook called "scientific atheism".
Scientific atheism is the outlook where there is no personal god, and the only existing objects are material ones. The followers claim that this outlook is based purely and exclusively on the science, and mostly that science has shown that God doesn't exist. One of the most famous of such atheists is Richard Dawkins.
This is the only atheism considered here. There are to many atheisms to criticise them all in a single place and keep the text in reasonable length. It is already long.
It is not my intention to convince any scientific atheists that they should belive in any god or any reality other than the material one. My intention is to point out the weaknesses of their system so they can improve it and make it better and more consistent. This is why I put some questions in the end of most arguments. They are not there to prove on how little you know but to show you some possible lines of development.
I do not hide my liking for scientific atheists as they follow the outlook I followed myself for many years in the past. I tried to keep myself strict, matter-of-fact and non-aggressive. Apologise for all places where I failed to be like that. Also apologise for all grammar errors since I'm not a native english speaker.
I realise that not every atheist considers all views criticised here as true. People are different and they are differences in what we think. However most of scientific atheists I talked with consider most of these views as true.
I've divided the arguments in two groups. First group is the Reasonable Arguments. It shows reasonable weaknesses and inconsistencies of the scientific atheism. It answers the questions: "Why I can't believe in scientific atheism? Why do I consider this outlook as partially unreasonable, inconsistent and false?".
However it is known that people are basing not only on the pure reasonable issues, but also on emotional ones. So there is a second group, the "Emotional Arguments". It answers the question: "Why I don't want to believe in scientific atheism? Why do I consider this outlook as possibly terrifying, depressing, and destroying to the man and to the society?"
1. Excessive Idealism
2. False Unity
3. Unscientific Science
4. Popular Science Views
5. Unconscious Faith
6. Unconscious Interpretation
7. Rational Schizophrenia
8. Theoretical Empiricism
9. Blessed Ignorance
10. Unreligious Religiousness
11. Material Metaphysics
12. Explanation by Nonsense
1. Motivation Zero
2. Objective Relativism of Etics and Morality
3. Man's Lack of Value
4. I, Robot
5. Depressive Vision of Man and Society
"The God Delusion" R. Dawkins (EN, PL)
"Philosophy Made Simple" R. H. Popkins, A. Stroll (EN, PL)
"Psychology. Made Simple Books" A.P. Sperling (EN, PL)
"Philosophy of Science and Humanities" J. Such, M. Szcześniak (PL)
"History of Philosophy" Tome 3, W. Tatarkiewicz (PL)
Scientific atheism has become quite popular these days. In my eyes one of the main reasons is the focus of this atheism on the critics of other world views instead of resolving it's own problems, and not talking about these problems. Many atheists cannot mention a single weakness of their system, but they can argue for hours about weaknesses of other systems. This way it seems that scientific atheism has no weak points in the eyes of its followers since nobody mentions it. Many scientific atheists seem to not even bother about critics of their own system, as if it woundn't be worth to think critically not only about opinions of others, but also about their own as well (why?).
If you are a scientific atheist, can you mention five sample weaknesses of your own system, without reading the further part?
Can you mention five sample advantages of any theistic system as well?
Many scientific atheists consider their system as the only existing atheistic system, which means that all atheists agree with each other, and that atheism is a consistent view. On the other hand as one of the main accusations against theism they consider the total disagreement and inconsistencies between different theistic systems or even within them. Is it true?
Theism is a view about existence of the personal god or gods. All other elements are free to choose. Atheism is a view about nonexistence of the personal god or gods. All other elements are free to choose as well. There are many possible theisms, i.e.: islam, judaism, christianity, zoroastrianism etc. There are many possible atheisms as well: buddhism, confucianism, taoism, scientism etc.
One can say: "Sure, but at least SCIENTIFIC atheists agree with each other while i.e. christians still disagree even within their system."
This is not true. Even this essay contains issues in which some scientific atheists believe in, and some don't. Also, there are many discussions about the purpose, meaning, essence and methodology of science. Since scientific atheism claims that it is based on the science, its followers have to accept that there is no agreement among them.
If you are a scientific atheist, can you mention any sample disputes carried on within the boundaries of scientific atheism these days?
While scientific atheism states that all opinions within it are scientific ones, many of them are simply not. The existence of only observable objects is not a scientific view. The completeness of scientific knowledge is not a scientific view (actually it is scientifically proven that the scientific knowlegde is not complete, and it will never be). The "science will explain everything one day" is not a scientific view. The opinion does not become scientific by simply calling it like that.
All statements of scientific atheism which makes this system atheistic are not scientific ones. Sometimes I think that the only scientific element in scientific atheism is the name.
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know why the main and central statement of scientific atheism, which is "Personal god(s) does not exist" is not a scientific statement? Do you know any criteria applied to recognize if a statement is a scientific one or not?
Popular Science Views
Most of scientific atheists I've talked with base purely or almost purely on the popular science books, dropping mostly or totally scientific publications. It's not strange anymore that they think about their views as a "scientific ones". They identify the contents of popular science books with pure and literal science, while science is only one of the parts of such books. People who read both popular science books and science publications or textbooks, can see the difference. Not only the used language is different, but also the subject matter.
Popular science books contains not only generalized scientific fact, but private philosophical views, interpretations, and likes and dislikes of the authors as well. They also contains possible future discoveries and theories according to what do the authors expect.
It's perfectly fine to read such books if they are only a supplement for reading the science publications and textbooks. If they are the main source of knowledge, they will bias the views of the reader, who will think that all statements contained in popular science books are pure science.
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know how to recognise whether a book is a scientific publication, a textbook, or a popular science book? Do you know any search engine for scientific publications? And answer to yourself: how much popular science books have you read recently, and how much scientific publications? Are your views still purely scientific, or popular scientific?
"Scientific atheism is a system without faith and beliefs. It is purely founded on the scientific knowledge." - this is the popular view among scientific atheists.
Second sentence is false, because of the reasons given in the Unscientific Science
and the Popular Science Views
parts. First sentence is false, because of the general problem connected to any knowledge system made by humans. Every system is developed in the limited time. No matter how long it is elaborated, there is always a starting point. Because of that in every system there is only a limited number of meaningful statements (no matter how huge is this number). Even if these statements are based on each other and proven without any logical fallacies, there will be a set of initial statements without any evidence. If there are no unproven statements, there probably is a circular logic fallacy within the system. These statements are called the assumptions or axioms of the system. You have to assume the truth of assumptions without any evidence. In simpler words: you have to believe that the assumptions are true. This is why every human knowledge system is based on faith in its assumptions, and assumptions are beliefs of its followers. And scientific atheism is not an exception.
The followers of one system sometimes try to reason: "But at least the assumptions of my system are more sensible than the assumptions of yours". Is this reasoning sensible itself? What does mean "more sensible" with reference to the set of statements based on pure faith, standing against other set of beliefs?
Most of atheists I discussed with are ready to defend the "faithlessness" of their own system even at the cost of logical fallacy of circular logic, or refering to the faith itself ("Maybe not now, but in the future it will be surely proven"). This is what this part of critics is about: the advantage of many theistic and atheistic systems over the scientific atheism is the advantage of conscious faith over the unconscious and disowned faith. The followers of other systems recognize the inevitability of faith and just move on, while scientific atheism wastes huge amounts of efforts trying to find a nonexisting way of avoiding it (why?).
If you still can't believe in the presence of beliefs in every system, make an experiment. Take any statement you consider as true, and ask "why?". Then take an answer, and ask again "why?". Repeat the same question with the second answer. Do that with every statement you received from next "why?" questions. Sooner or later you will encounter a statement without any evidence known to you.
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know any assumptions of your own system?
Similarly as in the case of faith and beliefs, scientific atheism calls itself a system without any interpretation. In the eyes of its followers this is the best system of all, because it explores the reality in the direct way of science. At the same time the followers accuse other systems of not only exploring the reality, but interpreting it as well.
The problem is that science itself is an interpretation of reality. Scientific theories are not only supposed to be backed on the observation, but they also have to be as simple as possible, useful, elegant etc. Why reality is supposed to "care" about men's sense of elegance, usefulness or simplicity? And last but not least: why reality is supposed to be completely observable?
More, basing on the interpretation of science, scientific atheism builds its own, huge interpretation. More, in many crucial points this additional, atheistic interpretation stands in open contradiction with scientific one, or goes far beyond it. This includes problems mentioned in Unscientific Science
Everything in human mind is an interpretation, and scientific atheism in not an exception, although scientific atheists totally ignore this issue. The bottom line of this point is ignoring and denying the interpretation by scientific atheists.
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know what does the word "interpretation" mean? Do you know why we as humans are condemned to interpretation, no matter what views and opinions we have?
Scientific atheism promotes rationalism as the main (sometimes it adds "and only") approach in exploring the reality. To its followers, to prove any statement, it is sufficient to give a rational reason for this statement. More, rationalism says that everything what is inconceivable with a man's mind, is not true.
It is hard to me to make a good critical approach of this point, since I realize how complex and varied rationalism is as a system, and since I consider myself as a rationalist in some part. I'll try to make it as clear as I can.
While providing the rational reasons is a useful and helpful way in many cases and discussions, it may easily lead (and actually leads) to mistake. The problem is that rational reasons can be found very often. They can be provided even for opposing systems or theories. Most of world views have some rational reasons, including both atheistic and theistic ones.
On the other hand there is no constant agreement on what actually is rational. There are even scientific issues that once were denied because they were considered as not rational, and after some time they were accepted.
The other problem is the psychological mechanism of rationalization, which causes us, people, to look for the rational reasons for our views, and provide them even if these reasons are not true. There were experiments that have shown how people rationalise their views or behavior even it they are not rational.
The worst "proven" thing in atheistic rationalism is the part that says about inconceivable issues. The rational schizophrenia begins with the assumption: "Every event has the rational causes; if we can't see these causes, it means that we haven't look for it long enough or it is not true". It's not hard to see that this rule is impossible to refute. If there actually is an event without rational reason, the atheist will deny it or he will still believe that there is a rational explanation which will be discovered in the future. Sometimes atheists create explanations of supernatural events which require faith in incredible conspiracy theories or improbable coincidences. These conspiracy theories and coincidences are more irrational than supernatural events themselves but for some reasons in the eyes of atheists they are perfectly rational. The general question is similar to the one mentioned in Unconscious Interpretation: why actually reality is supposed to care about being understandable by man's mind, especially if it is not created by the mind similar to ours?
Another issue is creating a false dilemma between rational and not rational explanations. The causes of every event may be considered in the different areas and levels. Different explanations, rational and not rational doesn't neccessary have to exclude each other. They may concern different meaning levels.
Historically, there were many rational systems - they all agreed that the man's mind is a sufficient and only possible tool to explore the reality, and to get the reliable knowledge about reality. But most of them totally disagreed on what actually is reliable according to real world. Some of the rationalists thing that the only reliable issue is the existing of a material world; others think that the only reliable issue is the existing of themselves; other others - that the existing of God it the only reliable issue. This is why rationalism was highly criticized and dropped by many thinkers. There was also an idea of the "inborn knowledge" in the past of the rationalism. "Inborn knowledge" idea said that every man is not gaining the new knowledge about world and itself; he only remind the complete knowledge which he already had, but which was somehow forgotten. While this idea is already dropped, many scientific atheists still use science as it would be the game of reminding the complete omniscience of some conscious mind.
All in one, to me, rationalism is a worthy addition to the world view, but not as the only or main part of it, since it has the same limitations as the reasoning of the human mind. To explore the reality, rationalism is totally insufficient. It also leads to mistakes. And scientific atheism often wrongly uses "argument from being rational" as ultimate, sufficient, universal, definitive, and ending answer ("It is rational, so it has to be true"). The reasonable approach seems to be: "Many events have rational cause, but we don't know if all of them have one. It is worth to look for the rational cause, but not by force. It case when the rational cause exists, remember that this cause does not neccessary exclude other rational or not rational causes and explanations".
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know the name of the system which is the biggest and most powerful critism of rationalism these days?
Science is based on the empiricism. Empiricism is based on the observation and reflection. All in one, any system that claims to be based on the science is supposed to be based on the observation and reflection. Do scientific atheists base on these things? From my experience, no.
I see it on the way how atheists criticize theism. Dawkins "The God Delusion" contains the template definition of god and the reasoning on why He cannot exist. Dawkins' definition itself contains a major fundamental error, which makes all reasoning not applicable to at least christian God. Dawkins would easily notice this mistake if he'd only make a small research of christian view on the God. But, as he wrote himself, he has a right to criticize theism without having knowledge about it.
I see it also when I talk with scientific atheists about how the science works and which statements are justified by science. Most of them have many objections and they accuse me of lying or lack of knowledge. When I give them my scientific sources, they call it biased or wrong. But when I ask them for their sources, they ignore my question and they don't provide anything. In best case, they provide some popular science books.
Empiricism requires effort in making observations and research. Scientific empiricism additionally requires calling the scientific sources or at least university handbooks. Popular science books contains not only scientific facts but also private and non-scientific views of their authors, and they cannot be a base for talking about how science works or what exactly does it say (see the Popular Science Views
Empiricism requires listening, observing, reading, checking, and being ready to change the views and theories if they stand in contradiction with what we observe - even if it is not rational.
And what is theoretical empiricism? It's when somebody says "I'm an empiricist" and doesn't do all these things required in empiricism, or when one keeps theories above observations.
If you are an empiricist, do you know what is the essential assumption of empiricism? Are all branches in science empirical? Is empiricism only possible in science?
Ignorance is the lack of knowledge, learning, information, mostly intentional. There are wide areas ignored by scientific atheism. The biggest one is the philosophy. It is sure that atheists ignore philosophy, because while they attack it by saying about it's uselessness and inconsistency, 100% of arguments they use themselves are philosophical ones. They also deny the fact that science is based on the philosophy of science. And again, at the same time, when talking about science, they widely use arguments and terms from the philosophy of science.
Ignorance leads to most of other issues from this essay. Excessive Idealism
, False Unity
, Unscientific Science
, Unconscious Faith
, Unconscious Interpretation
, Material Metaphysics
- all came from the ignorance, mostly the ignorance of philosophy.
Also when criticizing theism, many atheists ignore basic issues of theism, which makes their critics useless. Why? Because this way they criticize some inconsistent image of theism existing in their mind, instead of the real one. Having such arguments and ignoring the real theism allows them to say that theism is totally illogical and irrational. One of the examples is the Dawkins' template definition of god, and his claim about his right to criticize theism without having knowledge about it (it is mentioned in the Theoretical Empiricism
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know the names of two popular systems from the area of philosophy of knowledge, which are widely supported by scientific atheists? Can you mention 5 terms from the philosophy of science which are often mentioned by atheists in discussions about science? Do you know the name of scientific atheism in philosophy?
"Let's eliminate all religions and introduce science as religion". Some scientific atheists state this directly, others just behave like they would like to do this. None seem to see a contradiction of such approach. Eliminating religions just to provide another one? What for?
One of the explanations I heard is the following: "People apparently need religion and there must be at least one, but if people will treat religiously something other than *god*, it will be safer for us all". Although it is easily observable that people indeed need religion (or something to believe in), second part of this reasoning fails to me completely, since there were systems that treated religiously something other than *god* and failed to be safe. The most cruel and bloody system in the world, communism, treat work as religion, not *god*. The biggest war in the history of humanity was caused by religious treat of own country and nation, not *god* (national socialism/facism). Maybe religious treat of some soccer sport club is safer?.. And last but not least: people who treat *god* religiously also cause lot of deaths and suffer. The point is that it's not possible to find something safe for religious treat. It's not the treated object, but religious treatment itself cause danger. On the other hand it's inevitable - people WILL search something for religious treatment. The best security system for religion and religious treatment I know is what some modern christians start to see: keep an eye on yourself first and then on the others; require more politeness, kindness and mildness from yourself and than from others; because if everyone will do so, there will be no religious wars, no matter of the worshipped object.
The other problem is: what sense has introducing artificial religion which is better for everyone only in the eyes of their inventors? What if some people will not want to drop their religion for worshipping the science? Will it still be better for them? Will you force them to change religion to science? Maybe it is better to separate or eliminate them somehow since they seem to be dangerous to you and to themselves? Because I won't convert to science religion, and many others will not too. Science is a very useful tool for sorting the observations. It's something we people may be proud of. I am amazed by many science achievements and the beauty of theories, but religious worship?... It's still a tool. In my eyes worshipping science is like worshipping a hammer, or a computer.
Metaphysics is probably the worst-perceived part of philosophy for scientific atheists. The reason is that metaphysics contains non-scientific views on reality, and scientific atheism claims to rely only on science. However all scientific atheists I've talked with believe in existence of material world. They are totally unaware that this view is metaphysical one, not physical.
The essence of science are observations. Science begins with observations and end with observations, and in the middle you have fallible generalization of observations. Nothing more. Science doesn't speak at all about what realm is under these observations. You can imagine whatever you like: material reality, god's mind, Matrix, your own mind creating the observable reality or perfectly anything else you can invent. You can imagine that the world as it is was created 20.000.000.000 years ago, 6.000 years ago or yesterday, by god, by blind set of dependencies, by you, by some kind of supercomputer. All these views are non-scientific, and science has no tools to determine which view is more probable than others.
It's not the point to start to believe in all these possibilities because there is no scientific way to explore them and find the correct one. The point is that it is impossible to be a "scientific atheist". If you really base on science, and science only, you have to resign from believing in material reality and admit that all possibilities mentioned above are non explorable by science. Any reliable estimations are impossible. This way you will stop being an atheist and you will become some kind of agnostic, who says "I don't know". Or you can still claim that god surely doesn't exist, but to be honest to yourself you have to admit that it's not a scientific view, and you do not base on the science only. This way or another you can be "scientific" or you can be an "atheist", but you cannot be a "scientific atheist" (you cannot be a "scientific theist" as well).
If you are a scientific atheist, do you know what is the difference between ontology and epistemology? Do you know why science has nothing to do with ontology, and everything to do with epistemology?
Explanation by Nonsense
There are some questions considered as "hard" for scientific atheists. One of these questions is the question for the purpose of human life. I consider this question as sensible, rational, and one of the most important questions we can ask. It gives us the motivation to live our life and mostly shows us how to live.
However most of atheists I've meet said: "The question about the purpose of life has no sense".
I don't really understand why it has no sense.. The question has a proper grammar and simple understandable words. My guess is that it is to hard to admit that there is no reasonable sense of life in scientific atheism system (there are more details on that in emotional arguments). It is much easier to attack the question itself and to say "the question itself has no sense" even if it obviously has sense.
If you are a scientific atheist and you consider the question "What is the purpose of human life?" as senseless, why do you think so? Why does it have no sense to you?
What is the motivation to live or to do anything in scientific atheism? For 8 years of being a scientific atheist I was determined to find a reason sufficient enough to make an effort of living. I found none. Thinking reasonable everything I do has no sense, mostly because death will end it nevertheless. No matter what I will achieve, and how good relationships will I have, it won't count in the day of my death. What is the difference in the end? Bigger tomb? More people on the mourning? "Living in the memories of others"? It's not worth at all to me. The total nonsense of human life made my motivation to do anything or to live going down to zero.
If you are a scientific atheist, can you give me any good reason to live, within the boundaries of scientific atheism?
Objective Relativism of Etics and Morality
What is good and what is bad in scientific atheism? There is no ultimate source of ethics and morality in opposition to most of other systems. Most scientific atheism followers I've meet so far believe that the morality is not discovered, but constructed, and that everyone determine what is good or bad to oneself. There are atheists who says that moral = economic, moral = pleasure, moral = lack of suffer etc. Some says that there is no such thing as morality at all.
Lately it is fashionable in scientific atheism to say that morality is equal to set of rules that makes society possible to exist. When they are asked "What kind of society?" the answer is "The one we all want to live in". Considering the fact that people strongly disagree with each other on how they want to live and how the society would like to be, what do you mean by "we all"? Christians? Muslims? Hindu? Atheists who believe that moral = economic? Maybe those atheists who think that moral = lack of suffer? All those people want a completely different society. Some of them are terrified by others vision of society. I think that "we all" mostly means just "me and those who agree with me". Remember that your vision of society is not the best one for all, no matter how much you like it, and that others have their own vision of society, no matter how much you hate it.
All in one, there is no one morality or ethics, and everybody may construct a different one. How am I supposed to be sure that my life is good and not bad? There is no such thing as "good" and "bad" beside what I will state. So I can state that killing and stealing for my economic profit is "good". I can feel free to kill and steal with clear consience. More, I can consider those who want to catch me and put me in jail as "bad" ones, who disturb me in doing "good".
It's a perfectly fine and consistent approach when the morality is relative, and it is relative in the world without the ultimate source of morality.
Man's Lack of Value
How much am I worth in the scientific atheism system?
Considering that I am nothing more than a set of atoms and connections between them, I am worth as much as these atoms. I am equal to them and there is nothing more what I could call "me". So... am I worth a lot? Not really, there are plenty of atoms around. Should I respect other sets of atoms? Only as much as I need it to get a respect from them, if I care of course. If I don't, why am I supposed to be nice to a set of atoms?
The determinism is a very popular opinion among scientific atheists. Interesting fact is that there is no statement in science about complete determination of every event by laws natural. It's more like science divination and nonscientific belief of atheism ("Science will prove that in the future, you'll see").
What does this opinion say about us? In shortcut that we have no choice in anything we do. There is no free will and we are totally determined by outside factors. Making our choices is an illusion. We are no more than robots that work automatically. We have no more free will than a stone or a building. Comforting, isn't it?
One of the conclusions of such belief is that punishments have no sense. What is the sense of punish someone who made something wrong because of no choice? The same goes with rewarding. If I made something good because I had no choice, why should I be rewarded? Would you reward a match after it helped you to make a fire? Will you give a medal to the plane because it brought you over the ocean? Will you put a tree into jail because it fell on the man and killed him? Courts have no sense since their purpose is to bring to justice, and it's not justified to punish the robots. No rewards and no punishments.
Depressive Vision of Man and Society
Have you heard about five most important questions of the spirituality? Here they come, together with the answers from scientific atheism:
1. Who am I? A set of atoms, worth as much as these atoms and connections between them
2. Where did I came from? Nothing
3. Where am I going to? Nothing
4. What is the sense of life/work/suffer/...? None/None/None/None (anything you will put there)
5. How am I supposed to live? As you wish, it doesn't matter in the end anyway. Be nice if you wish. Be a criminal if you wish (just don't let them catch you). Just do anything you want and don't expect anything from others.
All in one, I found scientific atheism as extremely depressing. There is no sense in making any effort in doing anything, no purpose of any achievement, no meaning of any sacrifices to others. Man has no more value than a heap of atoms he is made of. There is no choice in anything a man can do or think. There is no reason on saying how the others should behave or to accept what others say if it limits us since the morailty and ethics are totally relative. Therefore it is not possible to create a functional and organized society, at least if it's supposed to be based on reasonable and fair rules (can we still talk about fairness in scientific atheism?).
I can see two logical ways of living in such world. The first one is: "At least I will get as much pleasure as I can, no matter than costs and others.. it doesn't matter anyway. If I will hurt anyone else it's because I had no choice. I don't have to care about remorse since we are only a sets of atoms, nothing more. It's like I'd hurt a stone. When I will get old or sick I will kill myself because there will be more suffer in my life than a pleasure". It's a despairing hedonism
Second way is: "I have no free will, not even the smallest purpose of life, my value is not really much. There is no argument in creating the common morality or ethics, so I can't expect any behavior or respect from others. If this is the world, then I should accept it and learn on how to live in it and not get crazy. It's a hard world and we cannot expect any justice, compassion or help. Just learn on how to accept and live with it. There is no other choice". It's a miserable existentialism