Not only do the atheists not seem to get it, but a lot of theists apparently don’t either. I’m referring here to Amir Aczel, the author of Why Science Does Not Disprove God. I have not read Aczel’s book, but he provides a synopsis of his thesis in a recently published piece in the Wall Street Journal: “Are Science and God Incompatible?”
In his article he argues the existence of God has not (yet!) been disproven by recent scientific discoveries:
But has modern science proved that there is no God, as some scientists are now claiming? The answer is a resounding no! Science is a wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world, and the universe. And it has brought us immense amounts of information: Human knowledge is said to double every few years. But none of it has so far disproved the existence of some kind of supreme force that exists outside our universe—a force some people choose to call God.
I cringed when I read this. “Oh no, more ammunition for Jerry Coyne & Company.” So I zipped over to Coyne’s website to see what, if anything he had to say about the book. Of course it had not gone unnoticed. Coyne accurately zeroes in on the critical weakness of Aczel’s argument: “What is it,” he asks, “with this revival of God-of-the-gaps arguments?”
Good question. I’m asking the same thing. If science could prove or disprove “God,” “God” wouldn’t be the transcendent Creator who has made the cosmos from out of nothing: he/she/it would be a demiurge. The God of Christian faith is neither a deity nor a Deity-of-the-gaps. He cannot be investigated alongside all other forces and entities in the universe. Nor can we point to a feature of the universe and say, “Aha! this demonstrates that the universe needed a divine creator to get it started.” The divine act of creation does not make the universe different from what it would otherwise be; it makes it be. Consider the astute observation by Herbert McCabe:
All created causes make a difference to the world. They are parts of the world which impose themselves on other parts of the world. When the hurricane has passed by, you can see that a hurricane has passed by; the world is different from what it was before. But God’s creative and sustaining activity does not make the world different from what it is—how could it? It makes the world what it is. The specific characteristic effect of the Creator is that things should exist, just as the specific characteristic effect of a kicker is that things should be kicked. But clearly there is no difference between existing and not existing. The world is not changed in any way by being created. If you like, you can talk about the horse before it began to exist and the horse after it began to exist (though it is an odd way of talking); but you must not say that there is any difference between the two, for if the horse before it began to exist was different, then a different horse would have come into existence.
A hurricane leaves its thumbprint on the world, but God does not leave any such thumbprint. We can say, ‘This looks as though a hurricane has been here’, but we cannot sensibly say, ‘This looks as though God has been here.’ That is why the famous ‘Argument from Design’ (commonly attributed to William Paley) is a silly one. You can’t say, “look how the world is [orderly, complicated or whatever], so it must have been made by God.’ You can no more say, ‘This sort of world must have been made by God’, than you can say, ‘This sort of world must exist.’ (Faith Within Reason, pp. 74-75)
So Jerry Coyne and I finally have something in common (beside the fact that we apparently attended the same high school): neither of us believes in the God-of-the-gaps.