Some Belated Comments On Lawrence Krauss’s Enforced Ignorance in the New Yorker

So here I am, finally getting around to responding to Lawrence Krauss’s New Yorker article last September, “All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists.” Someone posted a reference to it on Facebook that reminded me of it again. He thinks he’s correcting “enforced ignorance.” We shall see.

I’m compelled to respond to several things:

The Kim Davis story raises a basic question: To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious views are in conflict with it?

It also raises the question, to what extent is Congress permitted to write laws that conflict with the religious views of a large plurality of the population?

Davis is free to believe whatever she wants, just as the jihadist is free to believe whatever he wants; in both cases, the law constrains not what they believe but what they do.

Religious beliefs are not merely “beliefs” but guides for action; that is, I not only believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in real history, but that his life, death, resurrection, and moral teachings are all integrated facts of history. To believe in his moral teachings as part of my religion is to consider it morally essential to act in certain ways. Therefore any law that constrains my ability to act according to my religion constrain the free exercise of my religion; it violates my religious freedom.

(The laws from which they wish to claim exemption do not focus on religion; instead, they have to do with social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.)

Thus with a stroke of a pen Dr. Krauss the atheist physicist rewrites both Christian doctrine and theological history, as if he had any knowledge or authority with which to do so. You see, the laws from which they wish to claim exemption are not social-instead-of-religious laws. That would require that religion have no interest in social matters. It does. As a matter of doctrine, it does. As a matter of doctrine for thousands of years, it does. To imply this large separation by which social issues have nothing to do with religion is to declare Christian belief to be something different than it has ever been.

Krauss is not qualified to do so. Neither is the law.

Laws should not be enacted whose sole purpose is to denigrate [religious ideals], but, by the same token, the law shouldn’t elevate them, either.

“Sole purpose”? Does he mean that if a law’s secondary purpose and/or clear effect is to denigrate religious ideals it’s okay?

The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking.

Hah! He doesn’t consider atheism to be open to scientific attack. Just read what follows immediately after this:

This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.”

He goes on to insist that religion is irrelevant to science.

The more we [as scientists] learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems.

The more one uses tools insensitive to the presence of purpose, the less likely one is to discover purpose. That doesn’t mean the purpose isn’t there. It means certain scientists don’t recognize it: their tools — including their own cognitive biases and preconceptions as individuals working in science — don’t have the capacity to find it even if it exists.

It isn’t just Krauss’s telescopes or equations can’t find purpose in the universe. Some cosmologists do see design in the universe. It’s that he’s made himself utterly insensitive to it. As referenced by Peter Boghossian (p. 86 in A Manual for Creating Atheists) he once said something very similar to,

If I walked outside at night and all of the stars were organized to read, “I am God communicating with you, believe in Me!” and every human being worldwide witnessed this in their native language, this would be suggestive (but far from conclusive as it’s a perception and could be a delusion).

He has all his instruments, including his cognitive instruments, tuned to reject any hint or intimation of spiritual reality. No wonder those instruments don’t find purpose, either! (Would he deny the existence of DNA if he couldn’t find it with a telescope?)

It’s clear that many of the people protesting Planned Parenthood are opposed to abortion on religious grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science.

Really? Try these:

It’s clear that many people supporting equal transgender access to bathrooms are doing so on secular grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science.

It’s clear that many people who opposed Josef Mengele’s experimentation on live human beings during the Nazi era did so on religious grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science.

If you thought either of those was a non sequitur, so was Krauss’s howler of a statement. Opposition to abortion on moral grounds does not make one anti-science.

I see a direct link, in short, between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life.

Maybe he should look for direct links to where those ethics came from in the first place.

Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance.

A more ironic statement could hardly be found. The scientific revolution actually started about eight or nine hundred years ago, there was never any period of religiously enforced ignorance — and the reason you didn’t know that is because of the ignorance enforced upon you today by people like Lawrence Krauss.

Image Credit(s): YouTube.