Today’s second letter-to-the-editor appears in the Wall Street Journal. It’s titled: Are Science and God Incompatible?
The Journal is not the place where we’d expect to find the typical letter we have in our collection, and this one isn’t really a letter — it’s a column, by a mathematician named Amir Aczel. But due to its content, it certainly belongs in our collection, so that’s how we’ll treat it.
If his name seems familiar, that’s because it turned up in one of our posts a couple of months ago — Klinghoffer: Math and the Intelligent Designer. The Discoveroids like Aczel, and that tells you what you need to know.
We’ll give you a few excerpts from Aczel’s column, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
A barrage of recent books, newspaper and magazine articles, videos, public lectures, and even a widely-viewed documentary will have you think that science has by now disproved the existence of God. And some of the people making these claims are well-known scientists, such as the British biologist Richard Dawkins, who has made a career of arguing that modern science makes religion obsolete.
Science can’t prove or disprove God, and it doesn’t attempt to do so. It does, however, provide well-tested explanations for things that had previously been thought to be inexplicable miracles. And sometimes it clearly demonstrates that certain religious beliefs are incorrect — flat Earth, young-Earth, six-day creation, etc. But none of that is — or is intended to be — a disproof of God’s existence. Is Aczel fighting against a straw-man? We shall see.
Then he provides a list of scriptural tales that have been proven wrong, after which he says:
But has modern science proved that there is no God, as some scientists are now claiming? The answer is a resounding no! Science is a wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world, and the universe. And it has brought us immense amounts of information … . . But none of it has so far disproved the existence of some kind of supreme force that exists outside our universe — a force some people choose to call God.
So far, we agree. But that won’t last long. After discussing the Big Bang, the age of the universe, and the Higgs boson, none of which he challenges, he tells us:
The mechanism that formed the universe is so precise, so complex, so incredibly fine-tuned and highly improbable, that it begs the question of the existence of a supreme intelligence that brought it all into being. Based on only one of the many parameters of a life-giving universe, the probability that such a cosmos would appear by chance is much smaller than that of winning the jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery on every single day for more days than the age of the universe.
Aha! It’s the fine-tuning argument, coupled with “the odds are against it” argument. We’ve discussed — and dismissed — that stuff in Common Creationist Claims Confuted, so we won’t bore you by repeating ourselves. Let’s read on:
On planet Earth, condensed from clouds of matter created in earlier stars, primitive life forms emerged through a process we have absolutely no understanding of and could never replicate in the lab.
Biologists may be closer to creating life in a lab than Aczel thinks. But whether that happens soon or a long time from now, the only question Aczel needs to consider is whether that chemical process is literally impossible. If it is, then okay, he’s got something to say. If it’s not impossible, then regardless of what he thinks of the probabilities, it’s not a miracle.
Then, in a few breathless sentences, he dashes through the history of evolution until humans emerge, at which point he declares:
Could all of this have emerged by chance out of sheer nothingness? The probability of it all is extremely close to zero.
So there you are. Never mind that every little step along the way was totally natural and understandable. When you drool and gape at the whole thing — by golly! — it’s gotta be a miracle! At least, so it seems to Aczel. It’s not surprising that the Discoveroids like him.
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