A Few Thoughts about Atheism and Debate

I attended a discussion last night between David Berlinski and James Underdown about Darwinism sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance.  (There are more events scheduled.)  I tweeted the highlights during the event, but I have a few overall thoughts the I concluded after thinking over what I heard last night - and previous similar engagements.

First, after reading and listening to numerous discussions with atheists it's very clear that they have never taken seriously the other point of view, attempted to understand or engage the arguments offered for theism or Intelligent Design, and I wish they'd have the epistemic honesty to at least make this fundamental rational effort.  Over and over last night and on other occasions, atheists exhibit no serious familiarity with the evidence for theism or the historical Jesus, the arguments for Intelligent Design and the differences from young-earth creationism.  It could be that such engagements never result in any agreement or change of opinions, but at the very least, it's a rational duty and virtue to understand the other side.  I think this consistent evidence for epistemic laziness displays the atheists hubris and disdain for theism, ID, and creationism, and illustrates that they aren't "free thinkers" as they like to say because they've actually never thought seriously about the other side.

Second, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Underdown at the event last night all cite God's judgment and vengeance as good reason to reject "that kind of God."  What sadly is missing from their characterization of the God of the Bible is His lovingkindness, His mercy, His grace, His patience.  If they've never heard this Good News, then that's our fault for not clearly communicating the Gospel.  If they have heard of it, which I think is more likely, then I think their selective focus on those attributes of God are used to justify their rejection of God.  It's sad to hear the judgment of God mentioned without also His overwhelming love.  The Law bring condemnation, not life because we can't fulfill it.  But the Law was meant to show us this and point us to grace offered through Jesus.

Finally, Berlinski believes that mathematics is the field that can bridge the divide between the two realms of science and the mind, as he talked about them last night.  Mathematics is the study of immaterial entities with real existence that interact with the physical world in an orderly way.  Mathematics engages both realms.  It seems that science, theology, and philosophy are all used to engage the debate over theism and Darwinism, but mathematics hasn't been widely employed.  I suspect that's because there are so many fewer mathematicians than biologists, physicists, even theologians.  Our culture hasn't values mathematics much for quite probably well over a century.  We've valued the hard science since the 50s.  I'm really curious to study Berlinski's proposal and find out more about what mathematics can bring to the debate and how it might offer useful ways of bridging the divide.  I'm starting with Berlinski's A Tour of Calculus.

Melinda Penner

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