A Theist’s Attempt to Distort Science
I took some time last night to catch up on reading some religious websites. One article really stuck out in my mind. It is titled “Faith Found the ‘God Particle’”. It appeared on The Christian Post the other day and was written by Larry Alex Taunton. With a title like that, I knew I had to read on.
Taunton tells the story of how h met Gerald Myatt, a particle physicist at a conference. Myatt, was unhappy with a philosophy lecture he attended where the philosopher delivering the talk claimed that he had disproved god’s existence. Philosophy and science have been at odds for a while now, recently famed physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that “philosophy is dead”. While I am neither a professional philosopher or scientist, it seems to me that the crux of this issue comes down to empirical proof or lack thereof. Myatt was upset that the philosopher in question did not have proof for his claim.
Myatt went on to explain to Taunton that science requires proof, and stated, “A more measured and, I think, honest response would be to say that God doesn’t exist in the places where he’s looked for him.” Taunton points out that Myatt is agnostic. Taunton then learns that Myatt has spent much of his career in search of the Higgs Boson.
Taunton asked Myatt if he believed the Higgs Boson exists. Myatt answers, “We have every reason to believe that it is real. Although we have never actually seen it, we see its effects.” The conversation continues and Myatt eventually concludes that a god could exist as a means to explain where the laws of the universe comes from and why they work. It sounds to me that our agnostic physicist has some theistic leanings.
There are many scientists out there who, while agnostic lean towards theism. There are even devoutly religious scientists. I believe that Taunton is either a very credulous person or is purposefully deceiving his readers. The un-skeptical reader will take from this discussion that a scientist says that god exists. In reality that is not all what Myatt was implying. Myatt is basically saying the same thing as many nonbelievers. He is saying that at this point in time there is no evidence to illustrate god’s existence, but we cannot know for sure. This is not much different what folks like Richard Dawkins opine. What does seem clear is that Myatt wants to lean towards theism, people like Dawkins very much lean towards atheism. The truth is that we do not know the answer to this question with certainty. However, the trail of evidence and continuing scientific discoveries point to the high probability that god does not exist. The gaps for god’s existence are shrinking on an almost daily basis—and Myatt said as much, though Taunton, as I pointed out earlier either misunderstood that fact, or is being purposefully misleading.
From this point, the article takes a turn for the worse and makes some fundamental errors. Taunton completely confuses the definition of the word faith and tries to appeal to science to justify his faith in god. He writes:
“Faith is a much-maligned word, associated as it so often is with the word “leap,” these words in tandem suggest something irrational or, worse, dangerous. That is not faith. Faith is evidential. It is a firm conviction that the search is not in vain and that one will eventually be proved right.”
These statements are very much in error. Faith is not evidential. Faith is the belief in something for which there is a lack of evidence. If evidence existed, we would not need faith in order to believe the proposition in question. Further, faith is not a conviction that “the search is not in vain and that one will be proved right”. Taunton is leading the reader to accept his next paragraph. He is trying to illustrate that scientists continue to search for answers on the “faith” that they are right. This is incorrect, as we shall see in a moment.
Taunton’s closing paragraph refers the reader back to Myatt’s quote above regarding the Higgs Boson. He then applies the exact same quote to god, “though we do not see him, we see his effects”. Therefore, like science, faith is a valid reason to believe in god, in the same manner that Myatt believed in the Higgs Boson.
This is pure nonsense. The many physicists who were searching for the Higgs Boson were not doing so based on faith. They had empirical evidence that it had to exist…they had just been unable to locate it. All of the calculations and data—that had been peer-reviewed and checked many times over led to the search for the Higgs Boson, not faith. Faith never entered the equation.
This is the fundamental problem between science and faith that some theists, such as Taunton either fail to recognize or seek to manipulate. As Myatt pointed out earlier, but Taunton either forgot or failed to flush out—science demands empirical evidence. When the evidence points in direction A, scientists follow direction A. Without any evidence they abandon the search and move to a different area. Such was the case with the Higgs. All of the evidence pointed towards its existence resulting in a 40 year search. Faith played no role here.
Faith on the other hand does not require any empirical evidence. In fact, it thrives in the absence of evidence. Taunton writes that we see the effects of god. Where? How? What evidence is there to suggest that anything we see if the result of god’s existence? There is none to be found. In fact, most of the “evidence” for the existence god that existed for centuries has been debunked and explained my natural means by science.
Taunton is attempting to sway the credulous into believing that having faith in god is equivalent to a physicist looking for the Higgs Boson. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, many Christians will read that post and have their faith bolstered by what they believe is some sort of science. That is dangerous, disingenuous, fallacious, and nonsense.
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