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Defending the motion that science refutes God, atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss tickled my science fiction funny bone by invoking the X-Files.

Krauss cited Fox Mulder from the ever-popular TV show, and in the process made a very strange claim:

There’s no need for a divinity; laws of nature describable by mathematics make predictions that allow us to—not only to predict the future, but control it, without the need for any supernatural shenanigans. And, in fact, it amazes me that asking the question, “Is God necessary?” is somehow an evil thing. When we stop asking questions, that will be an evil thing.  Science has taught us also that we want to believe (in the words of Fox Mulder). (emphasis added)

That’s quite a claim: That we can predict the future, and control it. I’d love to know how he reconciles this with the deterministic universe he posited earlier in the original “Science Refutes God” debate, in which everything is pre-ordained—including all human thought and action. If we could control the future, we would not be staring down the barrel of so many seemingly intractable problems—many of which we ourselves have caused.

Here I cannot stress enough that these problems can be controlled, but only by the marshaling of attitudes and the application of forces that are, according to Krauss, unscientific—based as they are in religious teaching.

Whether we’re talking about poverty, gun violence, war, racism, or climate change, the mere application of mathematics or scientific principle will not allow us to control the future or solve those pressing problems. There is an element missing that is not a scientific truth, but a spiritual one—as Abdu’l-Baha would say, an ideal verity or intellectual reality. Science has confirmed what religion has told us for millennia—that we are all members of one human family. But science cannot tell us how to act on that knowledge. That must come from elsewhere.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that Krauss and other atheists know this. Which brings me to his point about questioning the need for God: the question itself is not evil. As a Baha’i dedicated to the foundational principle of my faith that questions are necessary to the independent investigation of reality, I see questions as good. If we answer them honestly, they help us clarify the world within and around us. What is evil is the dogmatic assertion that God is not necessary and that, therefore, we need pay no attention to anything that comes to us from a religious or spiritual sphere. With an attitude that prejudiced and intractable, all the math in the world can only amount to a meaningless pile of numbers.

Going further with his X-Files reference, Krauss continues:

And we should be skeptical of those desires. As the physicist Richard Feynman told us, the easiest people to fool are ourselves. As scientists, we have to train ourselves to be skeptical of wanting to believe. And we should try and overcome our natural tendency to assume special significance to events. And human beings are also inevitably programmed to ask, “Why?” as we’ve heard it. But the “Why?” question is ill-posed, because it presumes purpose.…

What if there is no purpose?  Does there need to be purpose? And science tells us there’s no evidence of purpose. …Our opponents want to keep the clock from ticking by avoiding the evidence … [Science], by telling us there’s no need for purpose, has refuted the need for God…. (emphasis added)

Despite his seemingly arbitrary assertion that “science tells us there’s no evidence of purpose,” Krauss makes a good point about belief and skepticism—though he doesn’t seem to grasp that it applies equally to his own cherished beliefs. His invoking of the X-Files is ironic in that context; most fans of the show understood that Mulder was the true skeptic, while Scully was a victim of her own dogmatic thinking—the poster child for the idea that we should be equally skeptical of the desire to make science (or ourselves) into a god.

Baha’u’llah, founder of the Baha’i Faith, in one of his most-quoted passages, notes that the true seeker after knowledge:

… must so cleanse his heart that no remnant of either love or hate may linger therein, lest that love blindly incline him to error, or that hate repel him away from the truth. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 282.

So can a true skeptic or a true scientist, someone who believes in the independent investigation of the truth, ever completely rule out the existence of a Creator? I’d venture to say that the answer is no.


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  • stephen burr
    Mar 18, 2017
    Interesting article, it seems to me that many "atheists" pride themselves on being open-minded and free thinking, intellectually brave people who go wherever the facts take them, while in reality, some of them at least, can be be as dogmatic and ideologically limited as any religious fundamentalist. You never find the truth by starting with an answer, whether that "answer" is an assumption that a particular religion is true and others are false, or a limiting, reductionistic materialist view of reality.
  • Mar 15, 2017
    Ah, the Purpose vs No Purpose conundrum. A silly juxtaposition really, but necessary to growth. As we look at everything in Nature, our progenitor even for the atheist, all things have a purpose. We may not agree with what that is, but the purpose is evident. The overarching purpose of all creatures and living things is to survive longer, to protect themselves, not to die prematurely (unless you're a lemming exception). Are there exceptions? Yes, as in everything in existence, to show that one way is not the only way at all times under certain conditions.
    So, excellent article, ...again, and yes, we do believe, at least in our own existence. And that is a belief we'll take to our graves.
  • Hasan Elías
    Mar 13, 2017
    Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. What could be a "scientific evidence" of God? Nonsense. We believe in God, the soul and so on because of faith.
    • Maya Bohnhoff
      Feb 28, 2018
      I like the way Baha'i and mathematician William Hatcher approached the subject of faith and belief. He wrote (in his paper entitled The Science of Religion): “It would be a mistake to say that we hold such a statement to be true because of reason, or because of intuition, or because of experience. In the final analysis, we hold something as true only because of everything else which we accept as true, that is, because this something is consistent with our experience and understanding of life as a whole.” I think you're right, science cannot prove or disprove ...the existence of God, but reason and logic allow us to posit the existence of God by inference, which is something the Baha'i writings support.
  • Mar 13, 2017
    I really enjoy these articles and they help me in daily life, too. Yesterday I was at the UU church, where they were learning about the Baha'i Faith. One guy confronted me with his belief that science disproves God. I was able to explain a different viewpoint without getting flustered. I hope he thought about it some.
  • Melanie Black
    Mar 13, 2017
    Dear Maya, the older I get, the more clarity I get on my own limited vision. As I've read these articles I've gotten the feeling that Dr. Krauss really got under your skin. One thing I've learned is that those people who illicit any kind of deep feelings in us have much to teach us about ourselves. In a way, they hold a mirror up to us. If this isn't helpful to you, I get that, too. I've certainly been enjoying your articles. At the start of each article is a question. I always know what I'm going to vote ...for.
    • Maya Bohnhoff
      Feb 28, 2018
      I'd also like to note that I've had 'mirror moments' throughout my life, but most profoundly when I was about 19. My dogmatic thinking was exploded in such spectacular fashion that it changed my life. I have striven since then to follow Baha'u'llah's guidance per the quote at the end of the article. This is why I question my assumptions constantly. One of those assumptions was that because I am not a scholar with anr impressive series of letters before and after my name, I couldn't hope to understand the arguments of secular scholars agains the existence of God ...and dare not critique them. I was astonished to realize that irrational dogmatism is just as prevalent in among professing atheists as it is among professing believers.
    • Maya Bohnhoff
      Feb 28, 2018
      Actually, Dr. Krauss didn't get under my skin at all. His arguments were, in many ways, disappointing. I was more nettled, to be frank, with the arguments FOR God put forward by Dinesh D'Souza and Ian Hutchinson, because I felt they were too limited in their scope and often didn't address the actual issue in an effort to adhere to particular sectarian doctrines. I've read Dr. Hutchinson's work on the subject of faith and so I know he is capable of giving strong arguments for spiritual reality. He simply didn't do it here and that was disappointing too. If I ...could sum up my thoughts on Dr. Krauss, in a word I'd say I found him bemusing.
  • Steve Eaton
    Mar 13, 2017
    What an absolutely great article,
    Maya! We are all prone to narrow
    vision, but some of us are too narrow to see that about ourselves.