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Atheists, God is okay, but not design in nature

In a Guardian column, Oliver Burkeman tells us about the theology book that atheists should read David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God,

The God attacked by most modern atheists, Hart argues, is a sort of superhero, a “cosmic craftsman” – the technical term is “demiurge” – whose defining quality is that he’s by far the most powerful being in the universe, or perhaps outside the universe (though it’s never quite clear what that might mean). The superhero God can do anything he likes to the universe, including creating it to begin with. Demolishing this God is pretty straightforward: all you need to do is point to the lack of scientific evidence for his existence, and the fact that we don’t need to postulate him in order to explain how the universe works.

Some people really do believe in this version of God: supporters of ‘intelligent design’, for example – for whom Hart reserves plenty of scorn – and other contemporary Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, too. But throughout the history of monotheism, Hart insists, a very different version of God has prevailed.

Now Hart, a scholar, probably didn’t really say anything like that.  [Update:  A friend who has read Hart's book kindly writes  to say that Hart did in fact say something like that. Puzzle intensifies.] What would he then do with this?

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse

in the New Testament. We can be quite certain that Paul, its author, was addressing people who saw God as fashioning the heavens and Earth, and not because they were stupid, either. Similarly, the Creed calls God “factorem caeli et terrae” = “craftsman of heaven and Earth.”

Before the professoriate got started, to call someone a craftsman was actually high praise.

Hart strikes me as someone who is hostile to ID because it addresses modern, not ancient ideas. Information realism vs. materialism, for example. He and the atheists might well share a need to caricature, but they have different underlying reasons. And the atheists are right to be more concerned about design in nature than about arcane proofs in logic.

After all, if the new atheists are right, believing in God is an accidental misfunction of a primate brain. If the information realists are right …

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4 Responses to Atheists, God is okay, but not design in nature

  1. As to this supposed comment from Hart::

    “we don’t need to postulate him in order to explain how the universe works.”

    Perhaps Hart needs to brush up just a little bit on quantum physics?

    A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it? – 2008
    Excerpt: In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct.
    Leggett agrees with Zeilinger that realism is wrong in quantum mechanics, but when I asked him whether he now believes in the theory, he answered only “no” before demurring, “I’m in a small minority with that point of view and I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” For Leggett there are still enough loopholes to disbelieve. I asked him what could finally change his mind about quantum mechanics. Without hesitation, he said sending humans into space as detectors to test the theory.,,,

    (to which Anton Zeilinger responded)

    When I mentioned this to Prof. Zeilinger he said, “That will happen someday. There is no doubt in my mind. It is just a question of technology.” Alessandro Fedrizzi had already shown me a prototype of a realism experiment he is hoping to send up in a satellite. It’s a heavy, metallic slab the size of a dinner plate.
    http://seedmagazine.com/conten....._tests/P3/

    Quantum Physics – (material reality does not ‘materialize’ until we look at it) – Dr. Quantum video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ezNvpFcJU

    Logical Proofs of Infinite External Consciousness – January 18, 2012
    Excerpt: (Proof # 2) If you believe in the theory of Quantum Mechanics, then you believe that conscious observation must be present to collapse a wave function. If consciousness did not exist prior to matter coming into existence, then it is impossible that matter could ever come into existence. Additionally, this rules out the possibility that consciousness is the result of quantum mechanical processes. Either consciousness existed before matter or QM is wrong, one or the other is indisputably true.
    http://www.libertariannews.org.....ciousness/

    Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger by Richard Conn Henry – Physics Professor – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the “illusion” of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism (solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist). (Dr. Henry’s referenced experiment and paper – “An experimental test of non-local realism” by S. Gröblacher et. al., Nature 446, 871, April 2007 – “To be or not to be local” by Alain Aspect, Nature 446, 866, April 2007 (Leggett’s Inequality)
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/aspect.html

  2. From the OP:

    Demolishing this God is pretty straightforward: all you need to do is point to the lack of scientific evidence for his existence,

    Except the fact that you cannot put a deity in a test tube, to paraphrase Eugenie Scott. And guess what? I can’t put a neutrino in a test tube, either, so does that make neutrinos nonscientific in nature? I can’t put a black hole in a test tube either, so does that mean that black holes are nonscientific?

    This is the single most idiotic argument atheists use.

    and the fact that we don’t need to postulate him in order to explain how the universe works.

    You don’t need to, but it makes much more sense if you do, considering that no scientist live or dead has any idea of how the universe began. Theories abound, but none show any real promise in terms of scientific evidence.

  3. The idea of a God is OK for them as long as He is not the type of God the Bible claims. In other words, as long as He is seen to be irrelevant, powerless, and has no effect on their lives, who cares if people believe in “god”?

    This is called creating a false image of God or rather, idolatry. We make Him in our image and reject His revelation. Who wouldn’t be OK with a god like that? A god who makes no demands on us may be convenient and easy to accept, but he would be irrevelevant, meaningless, and worst of all, a false god.

  4. I don’t think they would like the sound of Emerson’s all-seeing, all-knowing Creator God, in his poem, Brahma.

    ‘They reckon ill who leave me out;
    When me they fly, I am the wings;
    I am the doubter and the doubt,
    And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.’

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