UPDATE: I’ve heard from Dr. Randall, who objected to my characterization of her as an “atheist.” I apologize for that and add the correction she wishes to make:
“. . . I rarely say I’m an atheist–I say I’m a nonbeliever. I actually think it’s a stupid word.
(Do we have a word for non-most things? It’s not an active process.)
I’d like that corrected.”
Last year a film came out that I just became aware of (h/t to Mike M.): “Cosmic Origins: The Scientific Evidence of Creation“. It’s pretty much a put-up job for God, narrated by Fr. Robert Spitzer, religious philosopher, Jesuit priest, former president of Gonzaga University, and author of New Proofs for the Existence of God. The synopsis and video clips (see below) suggest that it’s the standard boilerplate argument for “fine tuning” of the universe as evidence for God. It also throws in the cosmological argument: the universe could not have created itself, so goddidit. Do these people even know physics? Here’s part of the blurb:
And this clip, a trailer for the movie, makes the God connection palpably clear:
The genial Fr. Spitzer (aren’t these Catholic accommodationists always the most affable priests around?) says this (be prepared to cringe):
If from nothing only nothing comes, and the universe came into existence, the universe, when it was nothing, could NOT have created itself—because it was nothing. Something else—not the universe—something else would have had to have done that. And that something else would have to transcend the universe.
I wonder what that “something else” is? And who created the “something else”?
I love the confident pronouncement that the universe could not have created itself. And these people are asking scientists to be humble?
What struck me, though, was this list of people appearing in the film:
Well, Polkinghorne and Heller are Templeton flaks, Owen Gingerich is well known as a religious apologist, and Jennifer Wiseman is an evangelical Christian who heads the Templeton-funded Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (Many of you subscribe to Science, the AAAS magazine, so be aware that your organization is afflicted by this religious cancer, which, among other things, sponsored a “holiday lecture” by Denis Alexander, physicist, evangelical Christian, and head of Cambridge’s odious Faraday institute, also funded by Templeton. Sense some commonality to all this?)
But Arno Penzias and Lisa Randall? I had to look up Penzias’s views, and it turns out that he’s not only a religious Jew, but has suggested that the elegance of the universe bespeaks the glory of God. A report/interview from Ceio (link above) says this:
In connection with the Big Bang theory and the issue of the origin of our highly ordered universe, on March 12, 1978, Dr. Penzias stated to the New York Times:
“The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I had nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.” (Penzias, as cited in Bergman 1994, 183; see also Brian 1995, 163).
Arno Penzias’ research into astrophysics has caused him to see “evidence of a plan of divine creation” (Penzias, as cited in Bergman 1994, 183).
In an interview published in the scientific anthology The Voice of Genius (1995), Dr. Penzias says:
“Penzias: The Bible talks of purposeful creation. What we have, however, is an amazing amount of order; and when we see order, in our experience it normally reflects purpose.
Brian: And this order is reflected in the Bible?
Penzias: Well, if we read the Bible as a whole we would expect order in the world. Purpose would imply order, and what we actually find is order.
Brian: So we can assume there might be purpose?
Penzias: Exactly. …This world is most consistent with purposeful creation.” (Penzias, as cited in Brian 1995, 163-165).
Randall is an avowed atheist, but has gone back and forth on accommodationism. In a 2009 comment comment on the Edge website, when several public intellectuals were asked to react to my New Republic piece on the incompatibility of science and faith, Randall was an explicit accommodationist. After describing how she met a science-friendly actor on a plane who nevertheless rejected evolution, Randall said this:
This reinforced for me why we won’t ever answer the question that’s been posed. Empirically-based logic-derived science and faith are entirely different methods for trying to approach truth. You can derive a contradiction only if your rules are logic. If you believe in revelatory truth you’ve abandoned the rules. There is no contradiction to be had.
Randall’s defense of a NOMA hypothesis was handily eviscerated by Sam Harris in a subsequent comment:
I am confident that Randall’s airplane adventure will mark a turning point in our intellectual discourse. Not only has she resolved all the contradictions between science and religion (and magic, voodoo, UFO cults, astrology, Tarot, palmistry, etc.), she has reconciled apparently conflicting religions with one another. Hindus worship a multiplicity of gods; Muslims acknowledge the existence of only one, and believe that polytheism is a killing offense. Do Hinduism and Islam conflict? Only “if your rules are logic.” Just as paths ascending a mountain slope can seem discrepant at the mountain’s base, and yet once we stand upon the summit, we find that all routes have led to the same destination—so it will be with every exercise of the human intellect! The Summit of Truth awaits, my friends. Simply pick your path…
On the other hand, reader Bob Carlson notes that, in Randall’s latest book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, she takes a completely opposite stance:
[A]ny religious scientist has to face daily the scientific challenge to his belief. The religious part of your brain cannot act at the same time as the scientific one. They are simply incompatible.
And yet she appears in a movie that explicitly uses scientific “evidence” to prove God. I presume she wasn’t aware of this movie’s aim when she was approached to help with it, but, given her atheism and latest statement on incompatibility, I’d suggest that she might want to publicly disclaim the film.
At any rate, this humorous blurb appears on the film’s website.