From living in South Africa for more than four years, and making many close friends from around the African continent, I got a good sense of African perspectives on atheism. It would not be a stretch to say that few Africans have time for it. Most of the men and women I met would tell you they have personally seen much evidence of supernatural activity in their lives and in the world. If you try to convince them that God doesn’t exist, that miracles can’t happen, or that there is no spiritual realm, they’ll just laugh at you.
Though I’m a Westerner, I too have seen enough in my life to appreciate that the common African perspective is entirely rational and based upon empirical experience of the world. To say that atheism is true is like telling your eyes to unsee what they have seen, or telling you to stop trusting your senses. As my African friends would inform you, once you’ve personally witnessed evidence of the supernatural, atheism becomes a near-impossible position to hold.
For whatever reasons things are different in the West, where not everyone has personal experiences with such things. So what is the average person in my part of the world to do? There’s still a viable option: anyone can see why atheism is mistaken through publicly available evidence reported by science.
Offensive and Condescending
Stephen Meyer has an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post about scientific evidence that counters atheism. In “Steven Weinberg and the twilight of the godless universe,” Meyer notes that the famous physicist’s death “marks the twilight of an increasingly dated view of the relationship between science and religion.” He quotes Weinberg stating that, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” Elsewhere Weinberg stated that science corrodes religious belief:
[T]he teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I’m all for that! One of the things that in fact has driven me in my life, is the feeling that this is one of the great social functions of science — to free people from superstition.
This kind of language is highly offensive and condescending towards people in parts of the world where everyday life reveals evidence that the supernatural is real. Indeed, many of my African friends are Christians and scientists who, like some American scientists I know, see no conflict between science and religion. They recognize that God created the world to operate according to regular natural laws that can be studied by science. They believe, as I do, that He can also intervene in and direct nature when He wishes. You might believe (or assume, as many theistic evolutionists do) that such interventions never occur, certainly never in a way that would leave a record in the evidence. But your personal preferences don’t govern science, or God.
In Light of the Evidence
Meyer goes further and argues that not only can science and religion coexist, but science makes a strong cause for a religious worldview. In light of modern science, “Weinberg’s aggressive science-based atheism now seems an increasingly spent force.” This is because science challenges an atheistic worldview, but also because of the repugnant tactics of the “new atheists.”
Meyer isn’t alone in doubting the viability of the new atheism. Philosopher Phil Torres recently argued in Salon that although the new atheists “once seemed like a bracing intellectual movement,” they have “degenerated into a pack of abusive, small-minded bigots.” Torres states that initially the new atheism gave him “immense hope to know that in a world overflowing with irrationality, there were clear-thinking individuals with sizable public platforms willing to stand up for what’s right and true.” But now Torres says those hopes are largely dashed:
Fast-forward to the present: What a grift that was! Many of the most prominent New Atheists turned out to be nothing more than self-aggrandizing, dogmatic, irascible, censorious, morally compromised people who, at every opportunity, have propped up the powerful over the powerless, the privileged over the marginalized.
Meyer’s op-ed notes that there are “New New Atheists” who believe that the rise of atheism and the decline of religion aren’t things to celebrate but, rather, to mourn:
Figures such as historian Tom Holland, social critic Douglas Murray, psychologist Jordan Peterson and social scientist Charles Murray now openly lament the loss of a religious mooring in culture, though they personally find themselves unable to believe. These “New New Atheists,” as distinct from the “Old New Atheists,” do not regard science’s alleged support for unbelief as one of its “great achievements,” as Weinberg described it.
Perhaps Phil Torres could be added (in some sense) to Meyer’s list.
My Own Top Evidences of Design
Of course neither the anti-religious advocacy of the new atheists nor their uncivil discourse has any bearing on whether they are right or wrong. They could be highly disagreeable and uncivil — and yet still be correct. What matters is the evidence — and as Meyer explains in his book, the scientific evidence points in the direction of theism. Here’s my own recently compiled list of my favorite scientific arguments for intelligent design. Many parallel Meyer’s points in Return of the God Hypothesis:
- The fact that the universe exists, and had a beginning, which calls out for a First Cause.
- The exquisite “global” fine-tuning of the laws and constants of the universe to allow for advanced life to exist.
- Additional “local” fine-tuning parameters that make Earth a “privileged planet,” well-suited not just for life but also for scientific discovery.
- The presence of language-based code in our DNA which contains commands and codes very similar to what we find in computer information processing.
- The result of this information processing of language-based code which is innumerable molecular machines carrying out vital tasks inside our cells. Combined with this observation is the fact that many of these machines are irreducibly complex (i.e., they require a certain minimum core of parts to work and can’t be built via a step-wise Darwinian pathway). And many are actually involved in constructing the very components that compose them — examples of causal circularity that stymie stepwise evolutionary explanations.
- The abrupt appearance of new types of organisms throughout the history of life, witnessed in the fossil record as “explosions” where fundamentally new types of life appear without direct evolutionary precursors.
- The exceptional traits of humans and the origin of higher human behaviors such as art, religion, mathematics, science, and heroic moral acts of self-sacrifice, which point to our having a higher purpose beyond mere survival and reproduction.
As Meyer notes, these facts “do not imply a purposeless cosmos. Arguably, they point, instead, to a purposeful creator behind it all.” And as I said, through publicly available scientific evidence, that’s something anyone, anywhere in the world, can now verify.