Atheists Take Credit for Science When They Had Nothing to Do with It

So if, as Albert Einstein insisted, Biblical religion was the necessary intellectual precondition for the gradual development of scientific method, how did the myth of the “scientific revolution” come about?

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One reason: For the past 400 years, the partisans of irreligion-from the Marquis de Sade to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins-have deliberately misrepresented the way science actually developed in the West as part of their ideological crusade against Judaism and Christianity.

What’s worse, the partisans of atheism have been intellectually dishonest in the extreme: They have tried to take credit for the development of science when, in fact, they had little if anything to do with it.

Many of the most ideological and dogmatic of atheist crusaders, although continually referring to science, and seeking to use science to justify their own philosophical assumptions and declarations, were not scientists themselves.

In fact, many of the most famous anti-Christian polemicists of the last 200 years-who sought to use science to justify their unbelief-never themselves set foot in a laboratory or conducted a single field observation.

That includes the Marquis de Sade (a writer), Percy Bysshe Shelley (a poet), Friedrich Nietzsche (a philologist by training), Algernon Swinburne (a poet), Bertrand Russell (a philosopher), Karl Marx (a philosopher), Robert Ingersoll (a lecturer), George Bernard Shaw (a playwright), Vladimir Lenin (a communist revolutionary), Joseph Stalin (a communist dictator), H.L. Mencken (a newspaper columnist), Jean-Paul Sartre (a philosopher), Benito Mussolini (a fascist dictator), Luis Buñuel (Spanish filmmaker), Clarence Darrow (a lawyer), Ayn Rand (a novelist), Christopher Hitchens (a journalist), Larry Flynt (a pornographer), George Soros and Warren Buffett (investors), and Penn and Teller (magicians).

In dramatic contrast, most of the true giants of empirical science-the people who founded entire scientific disciplines or who made landmark scientific discoveries-were primarily devout Christians who believed that their scientific studies, far from being in conflict with their religious faith, ultimately was dependent upon it.

In his book, The God Delusion, atheist crusader Richard Dawkins once again tries to reclaim Einstein for atheism, citing quotations at length in which Einstein denied belief in a personal God, but the truth is that Einstein was struggling to enunciate a middle position between atheism and classic theism and couldn’t seem to make up his mind how to describe it. “There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like `God is subtle but he is not malicious’ or `He does not play dice’ or `Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?’ are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic,” Dawkins writes. “`God does not play dice’ should be translated as `Randomness does not lie at the heart of all things.’ `Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?’ means `Could the universe have begun in any other way?’ Einstein was using `God’ in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense.”

Perhaps. Yet when Einstein was explicitly asked whether he believed in “Spinoza’s God”-meaning an impersonal Deistic God-this is what he said:

“I can’t answer with a simple yes or no. I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

Not an orthodox Jew, certainly, but hardly a snide atheist ideologue along the lines of Dawkins, Chistopher Hitchens, or Sam Harris, either.

To sum up: We have two rival claims.

On the one hand, we have scientific (let’s be charitable) amateurs-from Nietzsche and Ingersoll to Chrisopher Hitchens and Sam Harris-insisting that science and Biblical religion are fundamentally incompatible.

On the other hand, you have the greatest minds in the history of science, the people who actually made most of the discoveries that created modern science to begin with-folks like Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, Max Planck, Louis Pasteur, Werner Heisenberg, and even Albert Einstein-who insist that, not only is religion not at odds with science, but Biblical religion is what made science possible in the first place.

Whom should we believe?

Should we believe the attorney Clarence Darrow, who said “I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose” … or should we believe Albert Einstein who said, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind”?

Frankly, in the great debate over religion and science, faithful Christians and Jews stand with the more enlightened half – those who make the actual discoveries in science.

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Robert J. Hutchinson is an author and essayist. His most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth (Thomas Nelson, 2015).