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by Edward Feser
Lawrence Krauss’s “argument” for atheism is like that of an artist who confines himself to using black and white materials and then concludes that, since color doesn’t show up in his drawings of fire engines and apples, it follows that fire engines and apples are not really red.
In a recent opinion piece for The New Yorker, physicist Lawrence Krauss proclaims that “all scientists should be militant atheists.” Why? You won’t get any clear answer from the article, which is even thinner on argumentation (as opposed to sheer assertion) than the usual New Atheist tract—indeed, even thinner than the usual Lawrence Krauss tract, which is saying something. Most of the piece is about Kim Davis, Hobby Lobby, and other matters of public controversy entirely irrelevant to either science or the question of God’s existence.
The closest Krauss comes to justifying his thesis is in the following passage:
science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.” . . . In my more than thirty years as a practicing physicist, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned in a scientific meeting. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature . . .
Is this a good argument? Only if this parallel piece of “reasoning” is also a good argument:
Checkers is an atheistic enterprise. My practice as a checkers player is atheistic. That is to say, when I move a game piece across the board, I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my career as a checkers champ. In my more than thirty years as a checkers player, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned at a checkers tournament. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of the game.
So, it isn’t just science—even checkers proves atheism! Who knew?
Of course, the fallacy in the latter “argument” is obvious. That we need make no reference to X in the course of doing Y doesn’t prove that X does not exist. We need make no reference to general relativity when studying dentistry, but that doesn’t cast doubt on Einstein’s discovery. We need make no mention of the physiology of tapeworms when engineering bridges, but that doesn’t mean that reports of people having tapeworms are all bogus. Similarly, the fact that scientists need make no reference to God when doing physics, biology, or any other science doesn’t prove—or even suggest—that the existence of God is doubtful…
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