Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 1: Atheism is Self-Denying

Mark Phillips | October 16, 2018

My wife spent the morning with a friend yesterday. Her friend shared a conversation she recently had with a young man, 11 years old.  He said he could not believe in God because no one can prove God is real.

This reflects the influence and messaging of public school, private and public post-secondary education, media, and other modern message-bearers. While the world outside of Europe and America is becoming more Christian,[1] it is no wonder an overwhelming majority of anthropologists and social scientists have determined that our culture is post-Christian.[2] This trend away from Christianity is evidenced by a recent Pew poll which details that over 80% of those who consider themselves “non-religious” or “unaffiliated” with any religion say science conflicts with religion.[3] How should Christians respond to this decline?

1 Peter 3:15 commands believers, “…always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you…” So it is incumbent upon every Christian to comprehend some basic science that proactively supports biblical theism.

Theism can be scientifically corroborated. From there, steps to the God of the Bible are less insurmountable. Learning scientific support for God can seem intimidating, a task better left for the “experts” to handle. But, you can understand three basic concepts that are devastating to atheism and powerful tools supporting a creator and designer God. You can and should grasp them in such a way as to present them with love and humility to an unbelieving world that erroneously embraces scientism, the belief in science as the supreme authority in all matters of truth.

God is truth and truth will not deny or contradict itself.  R. C. Sproul rightly said that God’s creation and Scripture will not be in conflict with each other, for all truth is God’s truth. Speaking of natural revelation in God’s creation and Scripture, he stated, “I believe that both spheres are God’s spheres of revelation and that truth has to be compatible.”[4] So the Christian need not fear a true and right conclusion from scientific observation of God’s creation.

In this series, we will cover three concepts you can grasp to defend your faith:

Concept One: Atheism is Self-Denying. It cannot rely on its own conclusions because those conclusions would only be a result of the mechanical unfolding of chemicals in the brain.
Concept Two: The Cosmological Conundrum. How atheism fails to explain … uh … everything—all the stuff of the universe like matter and energy, and … everything.
Concept Three: The Programming Paradox. DNA determines how proteins are made; but DNA can’t determine how proteins are made without the help of proteins. In other words, DNA can’t function without certain proteins; but those certain proteins can’t exist without DNA.

Don’t be alarmed by terms like protein and DNA. By the end of this series, you will understand these terms and the role they play in undermining Darwinism and blind chance evolution.

Atheism is Self-Denying: The Atheists’ Conundrum

Atheism is self-denying because it cannot rely on its own conclusions. Why? Because any conclusion about what is true requires an appeal beyond scientific naturalism. The explanation will follow, but let’s first understand some basic terms.

Scientific naturalism, also materialistic naturalism, philosophical materialism, or simply materialism or naturalism, is a philosophical belief that the material world is all that exists. This includes galaxies, stars, planets, moons, nature and all life on earth, … all the physical stuff that we Christians know God created supernaturally, but that philosophical materialists believe is all there is. From this naturalistic foundation, it is also believed that life is only a mechanically unfolding process without a supernatural cause. Darwinism is the explanation for the random process of life coming from and developing through this mechanically unfolding process. It is the theory of biological evolution developed by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. We will talk more about that in the third article of this series.

Scientific Naturalism and the Origin and Development of Life

Let’s consider the origin and development of life ultimately leading to human consciousness, according to scientific naturalism. Atheism says the material world is all there is. So life was “biochemically predestined” to begin as it did, since there was no outside force driving its creation. Driven by forces of nature, life forms became more complex by the same random, undirected, unfolding chemical reactions and interactions. This process eventually led to human beings and human consciousness. So the human brain is only a physical computer programmed by nature, by chemically unfolding events. No computer can respond to input beyond its programming. It has no free will, so “thoughts” and “conclusions” are only chemical processes of the human brain, which itself is a result of the mechanical unfolding of chemicals.

Chemical Conclusions

So, when an atheist reaches the conclusion that scientific naturalism is true, his conclusion has only the illusion of truth. Chemicals in the brain are responsible for the conclusion. Free will choice is an illusion according to scientific naturalism, there is no way to know what is true.

According to atheism, a Christian has no choice but to believe in Christianity. It is just the specific mechanical unfolding of chemicals that created his Christian belief—a biochemical illusion. Same for any other worldview, including atheism. In any biochemical illusion of a thought conclusion, there may be programming influences from family, culture, and so forth, but they are also a part of this predetermined mechanical unfolding of chemicals ultimately resulting in the neurochemicals masquerading as the free will choice to decide upon a worldview. When we receive information that influences how we see the world, there is still no choice of how we will respond to that influence because everything, including thought and choice, is a result of a mechanical unfolding of chemicals. The influence is just another player in the illusion of volition.

In the atheist’s philosophy of scientific naturalism, the processes of the physical world are chemically rigged from the beginning [5] without any room for free will conclusions about what is or is not true. The problem for the atheist then becomes obvious: Any claim to truth must make an appeal beyond the deterministic unfolding of chemicals, posited by scientific naturalism. Otherwise, without transcendent validation, that truth conclusion is an illusion with no objective reliability, a simple result of ages of undirected chemical reactions.

Scientific naturalism is logically self-denying. Atheism cannot rely upon its own conclusions because those conclusions would necessarily be only illusions of thought according to the limitations of scientific naturalism. Illusions are not reliable for suppositions of truth.

Read Next:
Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 2: The Cosmological Conundrum
Are Science and Faith Compatible? Concept 3: The Programming Paradox


NOTES

[1] There are numerous references to this. Even the Washington Post made note: Granberg-Michaelson, Wes, “Think Christianity is Dying? No, Christianity is Shifting Dramatically.” Washington Post, May 20, 2015.

[2] Barna, “Infographics in Cities and States: The Most Post-Christian Cities in America – 2017.” July 11, 2017.

[3] Pew Research Center, “Religion and Science.” October 22, 2015.

[4] Sproul, R. C., “Q & A at Ligonier’s National Conference,” cited by Mathison, Keith, “When Science and Scripture Conflict – A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture,” Ligonier Ministries, June 15, 2012.

[5] A “beginning” poses its own problems for scientific materialism, which will be discussed in Concept 2 next time.


Mark Phillips avatar
Mark Phillips is Chairman of Theology and Science at Trinity Classical Academy in Santa Clarita, CA. He has a background in biology and chemistry (B.S.) as well as advanced degrees (Th.M., Ph.D., G.D.Th.). His mission is to equip students with knowledge and application of scientific apologia, producing young men and women who know science without yielding to scientism.

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