God: The Failed Hypothesis: A Review

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re going to start another book of Victor Stenger’s. This time, we’re looking at “God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.”

You know it’s going to be fun when the title is even a category fallacy.

That, of course, is something we’re going to get into.

To begin with, Stenger wants to make the case be entirely scientific. He says that philosophy and science have played their roles, but science has sat on the sidelines. I agree in some ways. However, that is because of what science is. Science isn’t capable of settling the debate once and for all either way. I don’t think theists can use science to prove God. I don’t think atheists can use science to disprove God. That doesn’t mean science is useless in the debate. Inferences can be drawn. An atheist can infer from what he believes to be a sound case from macroevolution to atheism being true. I don’t think that’s sound, but he can. The believer in Intelligent Design can infer from that a designer, which I do think is more sound since the ID believer is positing intelligence and the case of macroevolution does not rule out intelligence.

This is my first problem with Stenger. Stenger places science over these areas which happens to be the problem of American culture today. It is assumed that the scientists are the ones who know the best and religious people are those who know the least. Granted, many religious people have abandoned the intellectual grounds of their faith, but for those of us who bear the name of Christ, that is not because of a command of Christ but of not following the command of Christ. I’m not saying we should all be intellectuals. We’re not all meant to be. I’m saying we can all however know what we believe and why and realize blind faith is not even faith at all and is certainly not a virtue.

Stenger says he is aware that sophisticated theologians have developed highly abstract concepts of a god they claim to be consistent with the teachings of their faith. Stenger says that this can be abstracted enough to be beyond the realm of scientific investigation, but your average believer won’t recognize this deity.

First off, we do not just have sophisticated concepts of God, but also arguments for them. For many people for instance, when they read about how Aquinas believed God is simple, they just assume that he just thought that up without any reason whatsoever. At this point, I don’t care if Aquinas was right about what he said, even though he was. I care that he did have reasons for believing what he believed and that was based also on his epistemology. He argued like a philosopher.

Second, the church has not had a history of ignoring science. I also don’t just mean that they saw science as a threat. They didn’t. They saw science as an aid to understanding the glory of God in creation. When philosophers made arguments for God, it was not because they were afraid of the realm of science.

Third, Stenger should really not be seeking to just speak to the typical believer, which is a point I was getting to last night with the new atheists not wanting to take on the toughest arguments but appeal to only those who do not know their faith well. Throughout the works of the new atheists, you will consistently find that they do not interact with what their opponents say. They consistently make the same mistakes, such as none of them has a valid definition of faith that is based on a study of the ancient languages.

Stenger’s case in fact is built entirely on the God of the Gaps. He states that “If God exists, he must appear somewhere within the gaps of scientific models.”

Why think this however? It is as if to say that if Shakespeare does not appear in any gaps in his plays, then he does not exist. This doesn’t mean that God cannot step in, but there is no requirement that says that he must. For instance, a deistic concept of God is still God and it would not be ruled out.

In fact, for centuries, Christians doing science were pleased when they filled in the gaps and saw more of the glory of God. Consider what Proverbs 25:2 says:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

I have several times seen the question of atheists of why doesn’t God do something like tell us immediately all that we need to know. He doesn’t because part of the joy for us is discovering more about Him. This is also for those who want to know Him. I do not wish to enter the debate about the so-called hiddenness of God, but for early Christian scientists, they believed that they were revealing further the glory of God by doing their science. For too many atheists, showing an instrumental cause is the same as disproving an efficient cause.

Stenger’s main point isn’t even valid in the Preface. I will condemn a God-of-the-gaps mentality just as much. I am against it in the sense that because we have an unknown, we should not automatically try to put God in. However, this does not rule out that God could be what does fill in some gaps. I don’t think there’s wrong in thinking that. I think there’s wrong in thinking that without having sufficiently examined alternative explanations. It does no harm to God considering those of us who are theists have good reasons to uphold his existence such as the existence/essence argument, the argument from beauty, the moral argument, the kalam cosmological argument, etc. or we can believe in times that he did act in the past with sufficient and justified reason such as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But it would not be sufficient to just end here and say “Thus, we have no reason to read further.” By all means, let us let Stenger make his case, but as he wishes to examine the data as a scientist, so we wish to examine the inferences he makes from the data as philosophers and theologians.

Let the challenge begin.

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