Theists on the run

A sure sign that atheists are making progress is the increasing number of anti-atheist books issuing from theists (these, in fact, far outnumber the Big Four “new atheist” books).  And now there’s a push-back DVD, coming from, of all places, the UK: “God, new evidence”.  It’s produced by Focus, described as a “UK registered charity”.

Focus has produced a new DVD resource to help churches respond to the claims of new atheists like Richard Dawkins.

‘God: new evidence’ features Christian academics, including John Polkinghorne, former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College, Durham, and Rodney Holder of The Faraday Institute.

They shed light on some of the developments in science in the last half century that support the theory that the creation of the universe and earth has been designed, contrary to the claims of new atheists that it was a random change of events.

Producer David Couchman, said: “Dawkins claims that God is a delusion and that religious faith is evil. But what if the scientific evidence itself is telling a different story?

“Over the past fifty years, scientists have uncovered a series of remarkable facts which show that the creation is an extremely unlikely place, fine-tuned in many specific ways that make human life possible. It shows all the signs that it has been purposefully designed as a place for us to live.

“We’ve made ‘God: new evidence’ as a series of videos about these remarkable discoveries that point us towards the Creator’.”

Now what’s the harm of organizations like Templeton and BioLogos, you ask? Just read the above.  They are enablers of woo, ultimately devoted to the idea that science proves superstition.  There’s no difference between their mischief and the blather of homeopaths and astrologers.

It’s weird, you know, that—in the absence of evidence for God—the faithful always claim that even looking for such evidence is a misguided strategy. But whenever they think they have some evidence, as with the so-called “fine tuning” of physical constants, they’re not hesitant to use it.  It reminds me of the intercessory prayer study.  When the study found no evidence that prayer speeded healing, the faithful dismissed that study as wrongheaded, but had the evidence come up positive, they would have trumpeted it to the skies.

Polkinghorne, of course, was a recipient of the Templeton Prize;  Rodney Holder not only participated in a Templeton “Humble Approach” conference on “Multiverses and String Theory,” but also wrote a paper on miracles that won a Templeton Foundation Prize.

You can find all the videos here.  I can’t bear to watch them; perhaps a stalwart reader will report?

h/t: Miranda Hale

26 Comments

  1. Jordan
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “these remarkable discoveries that point us towards the Creator.”

    Which Creator again? Oh.. right..

  2. Posted April 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins claims that…religious faith is evil. But what if the scientific evidence itself is telling a different story?

    Ummm…. evidence by definition cannot support faith. That is the definition of faith. In the KJV Bible I believe it’s something along the lines of “a belief in that which is not seen”, but obviously our modern concept of evidence encompasses more than visual evidence, so I think that’s a fair expansion.

    This is not even the atheist in me talking; if you need evidence to support your religious beliefs it is not faith. Period.

  3. Steve Knoll
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The existence of God cannot be proven & religion therefore relies, not on empirical proof, but on faith. Faith is a lousy epistemology however. It might be more convincing if God said the same thing to everyone he spoke to. That would seem to limit the number of religious persecution & wars to a level far below what we witness throughout history

  4. Anthony
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    James Sweet,

    That quote comes from Hebrews Chapter 11, and in the context of that chapter, those who are commended for their faith are those who had seen (sometimes on multiple occasions) unabmiguous PROOF that God existed. According to the Bible, their is ample empirical evidence that God does exist (Romans 1) and faith is actually all about trusting God to fulfill His promises, not about merely assenting to his existence.

    This is actually worse for believers, since their God shouldn’t just be hidden behind abstruse philosophical arguments and obscure design theory, but he should be overtly and obviously self-evident. The fact that theists haven’t been able to conclusively prove that God exists over the past 2 millenia is about as strong as an argument there is that their God is purely fictional, at least the Biblical God.

    Believers in the Biblical God shouldn’t have to hide behind a veil of faith and unverifiable belief. According to the Bible, God’s existence is beyond questioning, and all chastisements in the Scriptures are directed at those who, knowing God exists, still willfully disobey.

    • Posted April 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Uh, that’s not my reading of Hebrews 11… at least not the KJV. It says “Faith is the evidence of things not seen” and then goes on to list a bunch of people who obeyed Yahweh’s fucked up commandments without having any good reason to do so…

      But I’m no biblical scholar.

      • David Ratnasabapathy
        Posted April 2, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        Read a more modern translation, e.g. the NRSV.

        The context supports Anthony. “Faith” in that chapter means “trust in God to fulfill his promises”.

        The first part of the chapter lists examples of individuals who trusted God to deliver on his promises and subsequently reaped rich rewards.

        This is background. In the last four verses Paul gets to the point: he explains why God lets Christians be tortured and killed. He says,
        1. Trust in God just as those Old Testament characters did: they were eventually rewarded, so the persecuted Christians will be too! And,
        2. The reason why relief hasn’t come yet is that God wants to reward all Christians equally at the same time. So he’s holding off on piecemeal rewards.

      • David Ratnasabapathy
        Posted April 2, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        sorry, not “Paul”. “The author”.

      • Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        James: “But I’m no biblical scholar.”

        Nevertheless, you nailed it anyway. That chapter is praising those who acted on “faith” without any good evidence for believing or acting as they did.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    The fine-tuning cosmological argument is just another “We don’t understand, so goddidit” silliness.

    It is quite childish for them to use it to ‘prove’ the existence of a creator, especially when there are several books by theoretical physicists who use mathematical and physics principles to show that changing several of the ‘fine-tuned’ constants would result in different but possible universes.

    • Alan
      Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I’d be interested if you could mention one or two specific titles by theoretical physicists showing that different values of the constants would result in possible (i.e. life-favoring) universes.

  6. Insightful Ape
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    If the universe was “fine tuned” for human inhabitation then it is truely a waste of cosmic proportions.
    Pun intended.

    • Ichneumonid
      Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes – As Richard Feynman said “The stage is too big for the drama”!

      • NMcC
        Posted April 2, 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

        And not only is the stage too big for the drama, but the pre-production that went into it was something wonderous: 9 billion years building the ‘town'; approx 2 billion years building the ‘theatre'; another 2 billion years or so warming up with lesser acts, before, finally, the main act appears.

        If that’s an example of ‘fine-tuning’, I wouldn’t like to behold their idea of fucking about.

  7. MadScientist
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I’d also like to point out that the Faraday Institute is a religious group and not a scientific institution. Hmm… according to the Wikipedia, it’s really the Templetons again:

    “It was established in 2006 by a $2,000,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”

    Just wait, the Templetons will have an Einstein Institute next – and there’s no way to stop them (so long as they don’t call it an Albert Einstein Institute). I’m surprised they haven’t already got a “Darwin Institute”.

  8. Jason A.
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    When you can look at a universe which is instantly lethal to humans over 99.999999999999% of it’s space, and the conditions on the one known habitable planet are still harsh to lethal for humans in 80 or 90% of the living space, and claim that universe is ‘finely tuned’ for humans, you’re at the point you can claim black is white if need be.

    • Jason A.
      Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      And besides, cart before horse! The universe was here first, then humans evolved to fit their tiny niche. To claim the universe appears designed for humans is to presume the answer because you’ve presumed to look at it in an illogical way (universe designed for humans rather than humans designed for universe).

  9. Oscar Leroy
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Every time I see the phrase “new atheists” I get a headache. Now I have to lie down.

  10. Posted April 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    “We’ve made ‘God: new evidence’ as a series of videos about these remarkable discoveries that point us towards the Creator’.”

    Meanwhile David Hume goes unread and we’re left to wonder why the teleological argument for the existence of God persists despite its demonstrated falsity.

  11. Kiwi Dave
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Not being a great one for formal philosophical arguments with premise this and scientfic fact that, I instead imagine two theological dinosaurs 65mya looking up at a bright new light in the upper atmosphere and telling each other about the universe’s wonderful fine-tuning for life, or two sentient gall stones concluding that their marvellously supportive environment can be explained only by the action of the great eternal, immaterial gall stone. What I can’t imagine is that a being who could create and fine-tune the universe in 6 days, could so obviously fail to fine-tune his text book with its contradictory narratives and theologies.

  12. Jason A.
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    I wonder if these are the same people who make the ‘Bermuda Triangle: New Evidence’ and ‘Bigfoot: New Evidence’ specials that come on late night TV?

  13. Draken
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    If someone brings up the finetuning argument, I like to refer to Douglas Adams’ puddle of water analogy.

  14. Michael K Gray
    Posted April 2, 2010 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    Yep. These are the dying gasps of a morbid delusional cult.

  15. Posted April 2, 2010 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Actually, it’s pretty easy to see how duplicitous they are.

    Case and point: Every single religious person will tell you that using science to prove or disprove their faith is wrong. However, they will hold up the bible or koran as literal proof that they are correct.

    Well, if those holy books are proof, then they should be subject to the rigors of investigation. They cannot have proof to hold up and not let it be scrutinized. However, they think they can, which is absolutely disingenuous. So they do believe in “proof”, but only on their own terms. So no, that’s not science, it’s complete and utter bullshit.

    BTW, I think I may stop capitalizing “the bible”, “koran”, “pope”, etc…. I’m starting to think that I really no longer wish to give them the capitalized status that they think they always deserve.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      Welcome to sweden… I mean Sweden! :-D [Though we _do_ spell (nation) names with capitals.]

      Nowadays I’m not even giving them the benefit of their idiosyncratic titles or artist names, so it’s “church leader Ratzinger” and “church leader Tenzin”. (I assume tibetans use the same name order as the rest of the chinese?)

  16. Posted April 2, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I did watch all of the videos referenced by Coyne. They were trully astounding pieces of pure mental gladtrap bullshit. The sixth one was entirely evangelical; the bozos who appeared in videos 1-5 all made an appearance in #6 to tell the viewer that they are now certain about everything they believe because they’ve found Jebus. This experience, they all said, was what brought them to their conclusion. That’s right, accept Jebus and everything in and about the universe will make perfect sense. You don’t need no stinkin’ scientific evidence.

    These people, although holders of advanced degrees, are morans (sic). They’re poisoning everything.
    ~Rev. El Mundo

  17. Posted April 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    This stuff is of course the exact opposite of what Ayala says. So Templeton gets to win no matter what (as you point out). If there’s no evidence, then Ayala/NOMA is the way to go; if there’s evidence (or putative evidence), trot out the DVDs to say so. Better yet, do both, at the same time. It’s all good. If there’s evidence god’s there, if there’s not evidence god’s there; either way (and any other way too) the new atheists are wrong and we’re right. No one can dispute this because look, the Faraday Institute. Case closed.


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