I’m reading through Jerry Coyne’s new book, Fact Versus Faith: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. I’ve been looking for overall themes to comment on, and while it’s premature to say what those might be, I’m getting clues.
Where I’m currently reading, he’s trying to make the case that if there is a God he should be detectable on scientific terms–indeed, on naturalistic scientific terms. That is, if there is a God, we ought to be able to assume there is no God, and then detect him on that basis.
Am I distorting his views? Judge for yourself. (This is on or near page 47; exact page numbers are hard to grab from a Kindle.)
Advocates of theism argue that God’s interventions in the universe should be detectable. At the very least, those theists should be able to describe what the world would be like had it arisen in purely naturalistic manner, and if their god didn’t exist.
There’s some highly problematic, circular reasoning encased in there. It comes down to, Let’s assume, “at the very least,” that you’re wrong and I’m right. Now, let’s discuss which one of us is more likely right.
Here’s why I say that. On the biblical view of God (rather obviously), if God exists then everything we could ever imagine or think about is absolutely and completely conditioned by the materials he created for us to think with and think about. That’s what it means for us to be God’s creation; it’s wrapped up in the very meaning of the word “God,” on biblical theism.
But this dictum of Coyne’s requires that we have the ability to imagine a world without any God or gods, which we could only do successfully if biblical theism were in fact false.
So therefore Coyne is telling Christians that if we want to show evidence for the existence of the biblical God, we ought “at the very least” be able to do so on the assumption that the biblical God doesn’t exist. The same thing goes for the God of Judaism, of Mormonism, of Islam, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a lot of other religions’ gods.
He’s calling on us to demonstrate theism on anti-theistic, naturalistic terms. Either that, or else he’s saying, “Let me demonstrate how I know there’s no God,” while at the same time demonstrating that he doesn’t know what the word “God” means.
I’d love to see him take seriously what it really might mean. It would make for a more interesting book, for one thing. Who wants to read a book supposedly about God, written by someone who doesn’t know what the word means?
But again, I’d love to see him take seriously what God is all about. He’s rejecting the best, most important truth in all reality, and as he’s demonstrated here, he doesn’t know what he’s missing.