MOSCOW, March 3, 2012 ― Last week a fascinating debate took place at Oxford University on the subject of religion. It showcased two articulate protagonists – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and professor Richard Dawkins, the world’s best known atheist. The debate featured a number of interesting moments, but the most revealing one came when Dawkins challenged Williams and the audience with the following question:
“Why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing?”
That a serious scientist would even consider posing such a silly question is almost beyond belief. But since Dawkins did ask it, here is the answer: Many people cannot accept the idea that life began from nothing, because such a thing has never been observed.
Scientists have never observed something come from nothing. No scientific experiment or measurement has ever indicated that such a thing is even possible. Not only has no one ever seen this, Dawkins’ claim goes against the foundational presupposition of science.
Every time a phenomenon occurs somewhere in the universe, scientists automatically presuppose that it must have an identifiable cause. However strange or seemingly unexplainable that phenomenon may appear, scientists would never assume it was just caused by nothing. Rather they set out to investigate, hoping to eventually discover what brought it about. Scientists thus always operate on the assumption that no natural phenomenon could have happened of itself. Unlike Dawkins, they never posit nothing or nothingness as an explanation for any observable event.
For a purported scientist – a person who is supposed to deal exclusively with quantifiable, hard facts – to ask that other people believe that which violates everything science observes and stands for is blatantly dishonest. There is nothing scientific about Richard Dawkins’ urging you and I to believe that something – much less something so complex as organic life – could have arisen out of nothing. There is no scientific grounds or evidence of any kind to even entertain such a far-fetched notion.
Not only is Dawkins’ suggestion unscientific, it is also metaphysically unfeasible. It is impossible to conceive that something could come from nothing. Adults who insist that things just pop into existence are normally considered insane. But this is precisely what Dawkins is trying to do when he asks you to believe that organic life “started from nothing.”
Dawkins’ claim is not only unscientific, it is simply ludicrous. His insinuation goes not only against everything we know about the workings of the universe, but also against our common sense and our deepest metaphysical intuitions. There is absolutely no basis – either scientific or philosophical – for accepting what Dawkins says.
We would all do well to pause and reflect on this. Richard Dawkins almost invariably prefaces his assertions and arguments by the statement that he is a scientist. The impression he wants to convey is that he forms his beliefs solely on the basis of hard evidence and reason. It is a tragedy that so many have fallen for his sleight of hand.
His claims to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact is that the foundational blocks of Dawkins’ worldview are not based on evidence or reason. They are his personal opinions, which have nothing to do with what science observes. If Richard Dawkins strictly adhered to science, he could never suggest that life came from nothing, because this notion is scientifically – not to say common-sensically – absurd.
Richard Dawkins’ public career ties into a larger cultural trend. In the last hundred years or so, the West has erected the cult of the scientist, supposedly a sage and educated person who detachedly observes reality and then tells us what we should believe and how we should behave. Most people have uncritically accepted this notion without realizing that – like the rest of us – scientists are fallible people and that what they believe changes over time. A great deal of what scientists believed eighty – or even forty – years ago is now considered obsolete or outright wrong. It is very likely that the same will apply forty years from now to many of the ideas and notions we believe to be true today.
Furthermore, we need to remember that it is beyond the scope of science to address or investigate the deepest questions of life such as its origin and meaning. Any scientist who claims that his field of specialization provides the answer to these questions is not telling the truth. The answer that such a scientist offers is invariably only a reflection of his personal biases. The world’s most famous atheist Richard Dawkins is a shinning example of this. What he and his colleagues believe about life’s greatest questions does not come from science, but is inevitably a product of their psychological make up, personal history, emotional predilections and a host of other purely subjective factors.
It is very important that we think critically about what we are told by those who call themselves scientists. Caution is needed especially when they make pronouncements outside the scope of their competence, because very often they will try to hide behind their professional status to make us accept things which are not only improbable but outright nonsensical.
If you look around carefully, you will see that behind almost every far-fetched idea – no matter how obviously misguided or dangerous – there is a group of highly-credentialed and enthusiastic scientists or “experts.” As a latest example, we can mention several Nobel Prize winning economists who in the last couple of years have argued that the solution to the West’s acute debt problem is more spending. But this is an obviously inane suggestion, because both common sense and practical experience tell us that it is impossible to get out of debt by incurring more debt. The claims of these Nobel Prize laureates are almost as absurd as Dawkins’ insinuation that life originated from nothing.
The lesson for us is this: Think critically and think for yourself. Don’t accept anyone’s claims or wisdom unless you give it a thoughtful and careful consideration. And above all, do not fall for the cult of the scientist. It is a dangerous idol to follow.
Born and raised under communism, Vasko Kohlmayer is a naturalized American citizen. He has lived in several countries under various forms of government, but he still marvels at the goodness of God and the wonder of life.
He has written for a number of newspapers, magazines and internet journals. Vasko currently lives in Europe with his long-suffering wife and two beautiful daughters. He is the founder of The Christian Writers Foundation.
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