An evolutionary biologist has determined that religion, especially the “Abrahamic religions,” are superstitions. But there’s a flaw in his analysis.
There are two things that theists always yell at me about: characterizing faith as “belief without evidence” (which in fact the Bible says it is!), and calling religion a “superstition.” I decided to look up “superstition” in the Oxford English Dictionary (University of Chicago online version) to see if religion fit the definition.
He concludes that Christianity is a superstition because it is irrational, based on ignorance, and reliant upon irrational belief in supernatural forces. One thing he doesn’t do is subject his own beliefs to this same test. That’s presumably because he believes he is rational, and because he uses logic instead of faith to investigate the world, then he is not being irrational.
I have already shown that Coyne is irrational. Not only that, but he consistently confuses cause for effect — not a quality that instills confidence in his judgment.
TURNING A BLIND EYE
He, and the modern science establishment with him, refuses to investigate the nature of his own beliefs. He claims to be rational and an adherent to logic and science, but he simply assumes some fundamental things that he hasn’t proven. Mainly, that human logic is a valid tool. He doesn’t try to prove it because he can’t. He will get lost quickly, and his farce will be exposed.
Men, as Van Til wrote, assume their own divinity. They do this when they employ the use of their logic to interpret nature. They “take for granted this inherent divinity of man” and assume that their logic “is legislative for the nature of reality.” [A Christian Theory of Knoweldge, page 145.]
What evidence do we have that our logic correlates with nature and reality? None. It’s an age-old philosophical problem that remains unresolved by humanism. It will never be resolved. It seems irrefutable that our man-made symbols (mathematics) can accurately predict nature, but unbelievers have no reason to support why this is so.
So, they simply take it for granted. “It doesn’t matter that we can’t explain how or why it works, it just works. That’s good enough for us.” They can get away with saying things like this and still be seen as respectable. Ridiculous. They take those kinds of beliefs on faith without rigorous analysis, but insist that Christians validate their faith on the laboratory table. “We’re going to all come together and assume the validity of human reasoning and logic. Now that we agree on that, use logic and reasoning to prove your faith.”
The fault that Christians have is that we have had a propensity to want to “fit in” with the cool kids. To gain an air of respectability, we assent to this intellectual game to make friends with the humanists in high places and court of public opinion. In doing so, we give away the farm. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, God cursed all mankind. Our intellects are no longer capable of rightly interpreting nature because nature reveals God to Saint and sinner alike. Since natural men are in bondage to sin, the idea of God repels them. Paul is clear: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). The unrepentant sinner is simply incapable of understanding the truth: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
LOGIC AND ETHICS
It’s not a matter of logic. There are competing logical systems. In economics, it’s Keynesianism vs. Austrianism. One (Austrian theory) predicts economic cause and effect better than the other, but it is shunned. In Egyptian chronology, it’s the Bible versus everything else. When the data are measured against the Bible, the historical timelines line up extremely well. When they aren’t, they pile up into a confusing mess. And yet, the majority of Egyptian historians prefer to work with a steaming pile of confusion instead of something coherent.
It’s like two people who get in a fight. The guilty party ought to apologize to the other, but instead they pretend that they haven’t done anything wrong — that it’s their victims who have slighted them. To the disinterested observer, it is obvious who the guilty party is, and who the victim. It’s not a matter of logic, because the logical thing to do is for the guilty person to apologize. But they don’t respond logically.
In the first season of True Detective, for example, detective Hart comes unhinged on the girl he was secretly committing adultery with after she revealed the affair to Hart’s wife. “You ruined my life,” he tells her. What an idiot. He engaged in the affair. He committed adultery. He made the decision to jeopardize his marriage. But instead of accepting responsibility for his actions he blames the girl he slept with.
The truly Christian response to the humanistic challenge is different. “We do not accept your terms. We insist that only Christianity provides the basis for using reasoning and logic as reliable tools of investigation. God created man in his image. We are to think his thoughts after him. Our minds correlate with nature because God created all of it, and he gave us minds capable of interpreting and understanding his world so that we can take dominion over it. We have proof of this: the Bible. If you disagree, what is your alternative, and where is your proof?”
They don’t want to face this problem. So, they don’t. They pretend it doesn’t exist.
All human thought is religious. It is inevitably circular. Humanists criticize Christians for relying on Scripture as our fundamental presupposition, and yet their situation is even more dire. Instead of relying on the authority of God, they rely on their own minds. If they don’t rely on their own, then they will inevitably rely on some other human’s mind. There must be an appeal to authority: Christians appeal to God by way of Scripture. Humanists appeal to men by way of men, finite creatures relying on finite creatures to explore the infinite.
PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE CURTAIN
If human logic cannot conceive of a thing, does that mean the thing cannot exist? That was Parmenides’ position. Humanists like Coyne would not outright admit such a thing because, to do so, denies authority to the scientific method which is intended to investigate the unknown and extend the boundaries of human knowledge. But this is the essence of their position: science, as conceived, cannot detect supernatural phenomena like miracles. If it cannot detect them, then they must not exist. If they do exist, then they must conform to mankind’s idea of what constitutes knowledge. This means God, who is the maker of miracles, must submit himself to mankind’s knowledge criteria if he wishes for men to acknowledge them.
Inherent in the scientific process is the requirement that an event be repeatable. An experiment must be repeatable, and its conclusions shown to be demonstrable, before its hypothesis can pass into the realm of human knowledge. But by definition, miracles are one-time events, direct interventions by God into history outside his normal governance of day-to-day regulation. So, miracles are undetectable by human science. In fact, human science is blind to miracles by procedure. If miracles did exist, the scientific method, in its present form, is prohibited from detecting them.
But the scientific method is founded upon the rules of human logic. If the scientific method is the only gate through which new knowledge can pass, then anything that is incomprehensible to human logic simply cannot exist. It can’t exist because it doesn’t conform to the rules of human logic.
But the question becomes, how does human logic itself pass through this knowledge gate? If human logic stands outside the gates to screen admission into the realm of knowledge, then who screened the screeners?
Humanists like Coyne are caught between the ancient dilemma articulated by the Greek representatives of rival philosophical systems: Heraclitus and Parmenides. Heraclitus believed that reality is in constant flux, always changing. His philosophy is best represented and remembered by his statement about the river: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.” Parmenides, on the other hand, believed the nature of reality was permanent and unchanging on the basis of its logical coherence. Logic does not change. Systems created from logical principles do not change. They do not evolve because logic does not evolve. It is fixed in time and space. That is to say, it is universal and invariant.
Coyne is the representative modern man in that sense: being a Harvard-educated biologist, he subscribes to evolutionary theory. Indeed, he considers himself an evolutionary biologist. This is Heraclitus: constant change. Creatures evolve under the pressure of random chance. But on the other hand, he claims to be a determinist, meaning that all historical action is governed by physical laws. This is Parmenides. Since the molecules that make up our brain are made up, ultimately, of atoms, and atoms are controlled by physical laws, then our thoughts and actions are also controlled solely by the laws of the universe. That we have free will is just an illusion of choice. We are incapable of exerting our will because we have none to exert. We cannot overcome the laws of physics. What we eat for lunch today was determined at the Big Bang. We are a system, a transfer function that converts an input into an output. The inputs were fixed at the beginning of the universe. Since we are atom sacks under the totalitarian governance of the laws of physics, ever unbending and unwavering in their operation, then we predictably operate on the inputs to produce predictable outputs.
Is chance dominant, or are the unchanging, fixed laws of physics? Is random process king, or is eternal logic?
If men were gods, it would make sense why their logic is a reliable tool to investigate and analyze the universe: because they have omniscient knowledge of its inner workings. But this could only be true if they created the universe, or if they received deep revelation from some mystical source. For men to pretend that they can pierce the mysteries of the universe of their own finite accord is akin to witchcraft: tampering with the metaphysical levers of reality to bend it to their will.
So who is truly irrational? Who is superstitious? The final definition Coyne supplies from the dictionary is this: “extravagant, quasi-religious devotion to a non-religious object.”
Coyne would agree that man’s mind is a non-religious object. He remains extravagantly dedicated to its powers of comprehension, despite the fact that, on his own presuppositions, he is incapable of thinking at all.