I Am Not a Scientist

When I was an agnostic and didn’t identity as either a theist or an atheist, it was because I found it overwhelmingly arrogant of people, comparatively infinitesimal specks in this universe, to say that we know where the universe came from or where it is going. How could anyone know how old the earth is? How could anyone know what happens to us after we die? How can anyone be certain of whether or not there is a god? While I do have the humility to say that we can’t be completely sure on topics like this, I have gained the curiosity to understand that it is worth our time to try to find out and determine what it is that we believe given the information that we have.

For example, right now I do not believe that there is a god, but I do believe that the universe is almost 14 billion years old, the earth is about 4 billion years old, the universe came from the big bang, life on earth is evolving, and so on and so forth…things that your typical atheist generally believes. NOTE: all that can be said for all atheists is that they do not believe in God, but they can differ on any of these topics; however, it is popular for atheists to also agree on the rest of these statements.

I’m pretty confident in these statements. I’m pretty confident that the Bible is scientifically, geologically, and historically inaccurate. And I’m pretty confident that there is no god.

But I’m not sure. Because I’m not a scientist. In fact, I’m really bad at science. My specialties lie in art, music, and writing, but I’m hopeless when it comes to biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, algebra, or pretty much any other mathematical or scientific subject. I love and appreciate how science works and how it allows us to learn about the world around us, but when it comes to doing things like physics homework, not only am I a miserable failure at it, but I abhor it.

I know, I know: how dare I show any kind of uncertainty of my beliefs!? How dare I not be a scientific expert!? What kind of atheist am I!? I might as well be converting to Christianity right here right now.

I’m not saying that all atheists have to be scientists, but it seems as though we are generally expected to be fully capable of refuting scientific claims made in favor of biblical accuracy. If a young-earth creationist said to me, “Archaeological and geological studies are continuing to show that the Genesis flood is absolutely historically accurate,” I would say, “That’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s so much evidence that disproves it.” If they would go on to say “Oh yeah? What evidence do you know of?” I would probably start calling in backup like my friends Mason and Limey who are experts in arguing against creationism, because I myself couldn’t hold up in an argument. Not that I love arguing, but I want to be able to know that my beliefs are solid enough to hold up against those of young-earth creationists. I know that denying evolution is ignorant and ridiculous, but I don’t have the scientific training to tell you why, and that’s frustrating.

If you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen that last week, I posted a photo of a young-earth, anti-Evolution library I found in my church.

church

On that shelf are 89 books discussing either why evolution is false, why natural science fails without a supernatural deity, why Genesis is accurate, why the young earth idea is correct, why scientific dating methods are inaccurate, etc, etc. Of course I look at that collection of books and I say, “Wow, that’s a lot of BS for one little bookshelf.” But this really annoying voice in my head just loves to play Devil’s Advocate (or Christian’s advocate?) and say “how can all of those books be incorrect!? I bet if you read them all you wouldn’t be able to refute every single thing that they said.” I do hope to read some of them; I already have Francis Collins’ The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, and The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Refuting Dawkins on Evolution caught my eye, since it is a response to Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.

Speaking of Dawkins, I was interested to see that they do have The God Delusion in their selection. 89 books for Christianity and one against it. Even though the scale does tip in favor of creationism just a bit, I respect that they at least have a representative from the other side. What worries me, though (because something always does, as you now know), is that whoever put that there probably read it, and their faith was so unshaken that they weren’t afraid to present it to their fellow Christians. I want to read Dawkins, Hitchens, and Krauss to become a more informed atheist, but if Christians can read their books and remain confident Christians, then how persuasive can they be?

Of course, I plan to make it through The Language of God and stay the (mostly) confident atheist that I am. Knowing how your beliefs hold up against those of the other side is an important part of understanding why you believe what you do. Hopefully after getting into those books and into my upcoming apologetics class come this fall semester, I’ll realize that it really was just a load of BS and that I have nothing to worry about, but it’s hard not to be a bit uneasy.

If you’re also scientifically challenged (whether you’re an atheist, a Christian, or something else), let me know in the comments how you deal with science-based arguments or debates. As always, I would love any book recommendations that support naturalistic beliefs without being overly technical.


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I Am an Atheist (27)

34 Replies to “I Am Not a Scientist”

  1. I appreciate your honesty about your abilities in science. However, not even scientists are a hundred percent certain of their conclusions. This is not how science works. Most sciences advance through confirmation or disconfirmation via experiments of their hypotheses and theories. Theories are such that they are well confirmed and there are not any disconfirmation. There is some nuances here about disconfirmation. Any particular disconfirmation, for instance, may only call for a tweak to some of the content of a theory. Having said this there are some theories that are so well confirmed, and there are not any disconfirmation, that it is unreasonable to not accept them as true, even if these truths have to be considered as provisional.

    There is an excellent book by Richard Carrier called “Sense and Goodness without God.” It is a defense of methodological naturalism. While not a book on science per se, he does show that mathematics then science are the most certain types of knowledge we can obtain. Carrier has also written books that debunk Christianity using his skills as an ancient historian in his arguments. Carrier also holds a bachelors degree in philosophy in addition to his Ph.D. in history, so he is no slouch when it comes to his philosophical arguments in the above mentioned book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi. As a Christian, I feel really sorry that there is so much argument around faith versus science. Especially young earth creationism – sounds like its more of a big deal in America than here (I’m an Aussie). I think its a real distraction to the really important questions about who Jesus is. I’ve just read ‘A doubters guide to the Bible’ by John Dickson (fellow Aussie) who argues clearly for an allegorical interpretation of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Other scholarly writers who don’t see the need to dumb down faith are John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford Uni (author of ‘Gunning for God – why the new atheists are missing their target), and Alister McGrath, who gained doctorate in molecular biophysics before becoming Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford (wrote ‘The Dawkins Delusion’). Thoroughly recommend these books as it doesn’t sound like they’d be in your church library!
    All the best with your reading
    Cathy

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  3. Hi, I love this perspective of what having no religion means to different people. It’s extremely insightful, since I’m no manner of scientist either and I definitely engage in writing and arts much more than science – even though science means a great deal to me (I’m a bit of a study monkey). I think the greatest purpose you can have in life is to do what makes you feel fulfilled and to search for whatever truths we can find in this world. And you seem to be doing just that!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. One the one hand, you needn’t feel bad for lacking expert knowledge to support your unbelief. It has not been possible for a person to have expert knowledge on everything of consequence for some time now. Leibniz is usually considered to have been the last person to be at the forefront of every major field of knowledge and he died 300 years ago. We are all now beholden to other experts even for things that are important to us. Even if you were to become a cosmologist you would still need to rely on others to provide the arguments for other areas. Psychologically, this can be very unsettling, (it is certainly a bane for me!) but there is no way around it. But the nature of the scientific method – of reliance on evidence, peer review, falsifiability, etc – means the trust we put in experts is not the same thing as faith.
    On the other hand, you should feel a little bad. While it is not possible to be an expert on everything it is certainly possible to occupy the other extreme and hold a comprehensive worldview with nothing to support it at all! And you don’t want to be there either.
    So what is the solution? You forget about justifying your unbelief to others and make the focus of your learning to become knowledgeable enough in each area to satisfy your own questions. And it is ok to never be completely satisfied. The more you know the more you realise how little you know. In fact, if you ever feel you know enough, take it as a sign that you are at risk of being in ignorance of your own ignorance.
    Think of it the way you think of your health. You only go to the doctor when you have something that needs an answer. If you aren’t satisfied, by all means seek another opinion, just from another doctor, not a quack. Otherwise, you can probably get by day-to-day with the basic knowledge you have. But even so, always ask yourself how you might do better – a change of diet, a change of habit, some more exercise.
    Fortunately, you don’t need to be anywhere near the level of a contemporary expert to feel satisfied that the biblical view of the universe is false. I am a big Dawkins fan but the books I would recommend are The Big Bang by Simon Singh (for cosmology), Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne (for biology), Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences by James Lawrence Powell (for geology) and for why science and religion are irreconcilable in principle, Faith vs Fact, also by Coyne.
    Don’t be troubled by the fact that many remain unpersuaded by such books. People are persuaded by different things and if a person is already convinced that evidence and reason are not things to be persuaded by, then how could such books change their mind?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was with you up until your last paragraph. Do you honestly believe that only dumb and unintelligent people have religious faith? That is the impression of your last paragraph. If you are indeed open to scientific inquiry and truth then do you admit your presuppositions can hold back other interpretations of the data? It works both ways. Presuppositions hold us all back regardless of whether an Atheist, Satanist, Buddhist, etc… When we can drop our presuppositions and look at evidence through all possibilities then we remove the barriers to finding truth that we all tend to cling to. The argumemt for intelligent design is making prigress in the scientific community but it is going to smash both evolutionists and creationists theories to pieces before it is finished. Evolution has played its part in helping to remove the faith bias in science. Now it is time to remove the evolution bias and see what the truth really is.

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        1. Real truth meaning are we open to looking at data without filtering it through our presuppositions. If not, then we might not get the actual truth – truth being what is – not what we want it to be. Does that make sense? So in this regards if I have a creationist bias and there is evidence that flooding occurred all over the earth but at different times then I will ignore the data pointing to the different times and just focus on the data that water has covered all of the earth at some point in history. Evolution bias would be doing the same type of thing with evidence supporting intelligent design or with evidence that supports young earth folks. It can also get in the way of interpreting data. For example, near death experiences are something that we do not understand but there are thousands of well documented cases around the world where persons have an out of body experience while being medically dead who can tell you details about conversations and things that were in places that their body was not located. We do not understand these experiences scientifically yet, but there could be any sort of quantum physics at play. This is not an evolution bias, but if someone writes these off as lunacy then they are ignoring the evidence. Christians tend to ignore evidence for the out of body experiences for example.

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          1. I still don’t understand your definition of evolution bias. If you accept the scientific process that produces the evolution theory then you proceed with this theory as truth ( as we know it today) until the scientific process tells you different. The way you describe it, it sounds more like truth bias. Know what I mean?

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            1. That is exactly my point. If you are always looking for interpretations of data to meet evolutionary theory then you could miss an alternative explanation of the data. For example, Darwin’s Doubt, a scientific book that looks at what current research is showing regarding our origins. Instantly I hear grumbles but that just proves my point. We are eitjer open for evidence or we are biased towards what we already want to believe. Confirmation bias is a known phenomenon.

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            2. That book was written by the founder of the main organization for the movement for intelligent design. It sounds to me like he isn’t immune from having a confirmation bias towards his belief in intelligent design. After impartially studying all sides, what do you believe about origins?

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            3. I don’t know. This is one of those areas where I am not smart enough to understand what I am reading. I do not believe in a single source point for the beginning of life on earth. No theory to date is solid enough to prove it. NASA is hunting, literally, for more support and expects to find biological life outside of earth by 2024. Personally, I am one of those mentally unstable persons who couldn’t handle being here by chance. I would kill myself. I struggle not to already. I will read your stuff and see what’s up. And I have never read Dawkins. He scares me. I have read a Sam Harris book. It was interesting. What Dawkins book should I start with?

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      1. Where did I say ‘only dumb and unintelligent people have religious faith’? Where did I call anyone ‘dumb and unintelligent’? The author says that they while they would like to increase their knowledge, they are wary of some of the books they have heard of because they have failed to be persuasive to ‘confident Christians’. The point of my last paragraph was that the ability of these books to persuade others, of any group, need not necessarily be a criteria he needs to worry about. The author need only ask himself whether he finds these books, or any alternatives, more persuasive to himself and can defend that position in rational debate.
        The method these books employ is to use evidence and reason to persuade. If the counter argument is that they are selective of evidence, or misinterpret evidence; then we can have a rational debate about the evidence and the merits or otherwise of different interpretations. But if the argument is that evidence and reason are not things to persuaded by, then there is no way to move the debate forward and these books are not going to be persuasive to a person who holds that view.
        In no way do I label or restrict those who are unpersuaded by evidence and reason to people of faith, nor do I ever suggest that the reason they are unpersuaded is due to a lack of intelligence. That was your presupposition.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for clarifying. The dumb and unintelligent part was how it came across. It wasn’t out right said but that was how I read it. Your comments above explain the meaning better for me to understand.

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      2. Not to answer for the blogger, but I do not think that her last paragraph implied anyone was “dumb” or “unintelligent.”

        By the way, show me one bit of evidence outside of the Bible that creationism is true, or that it even rises to the level of science. Presuppositions are inherent in any belief, but that does not make everyone’s equally valid.

        And, if you are hankering after biblical creationism, the argument from design will not help. For some arguments against it see my blog posting “Why Deism Is Not the Answer?” @ https://aquestionersjourney.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/why-deism-is-not-the-answer/

        Also, watch your spelling – “prigress.” Not that it affects the content of you reply.

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        1. DNA as a language. If you came across a complex item like a digital watch in a forest we would not say it was there through evolution. You would know it was created. Why is DNA/RNA not seen the same way? Cambrian explosion. Reductionism for all life on earth. Nothing on earth is evolving or in transition.
          And if evolution is true then there is no creator and mankind is a parasite with no hope on this planet or any planet. The value of life has no meaning that is justifiable or inherent. You can’t inherent what never existed in the first place.

          And I am not a scientist or anything close. If evolution is so apparent and solod then why can it not wipe out all other theories? It can’t. There is too much information for it to explain that it falls short when synthesizing, kind of like trying to synthesize the foir gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It just doesn’t work.

          Everyone assumes they know me because I disagree with evolution. I must be some Bible thumping conservative. Sorry I misspelled anything. I do some replies on my phone(like this one) and I tend not to spell check these as well.

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          1. I am not about to get into a tit for tat argument with you.

            But, I will ask two final question? If the design argument is so solid, how is that a perfect god design DNA that does not always function the way its suppose to? If eyes were designed by a perfect god how come organism with eyes can go blind? Please do not answer by way of “god works in mysterious ways.”

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            1. The theological answer is that creation is corrupted. What was intended to be perfect no longer is. NASA expects to find life off of our planet by like 2024. It will be interesting to see what that entails and it is interesting how certain they are. It is my guess that by 2050 our conversation will be considered archaic if not sooner, and if the Neolibertarians have their way then we all may care less about theology and science and more about survival very very soon.

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            2. And how about this, what can we agree on? People need food, water, and safety to live; but to thrive they need love and community. I encourage you to invest in those around you daily. I am trying to do the same. Cheers, Brother Williams.

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            3. One last post.

              What makes you assume that I am not surrounded by those I love and who love me, as well as, being involved in a community. It is insulting that you should assume this. I have all these things and more.

              And please refrain from calling me brother. You are not my brother in any sense. I do not even know you or anything about you other than the few posts that I have read, and neither do I want to.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. That was not implied. Sorry if that came across as indicating that you weren’t doing that already.

              I don’t understand the offense of calling you brother. It is a formal title used to indicate a shared commonality, in this case as sharing this world with one another. I am sorry that I offended you with the use of the word.

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  5. I’ve been following a woman blogger who is staunchly anti-evolution and refuting every attempt she makes against evolution (most are not difficult even with just a basic understanding of the science). For someone saying the Noah Flood is real, the ONLY possible evidence for it is IF all flood data can be traced to ONE distinct date; otherwise, a BIG flood is just a BIG flood, NOT a global flood. Think the Indonesian Tsunami and how it affected Indonesia vs how it affected NYC.

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  6. To give my two cents on what you’ve written:

    “I want to read Dawkins, Hitchens, and Krauss to become a more informed atheist, but if Christians can read their books and remain confident Christians, then how persuasive can they be?”

    If I were in your shoes: Ultimately, I wouldn’t base my choice to be an atheist off of what others — like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Krauss — have said.

    In the end, Dawkins, Hitchens and Krauss are human beings like everyone else. Not the be-all and end-all authorities on a subject like atheism.

    Of course, you should read multiple perspectives on both sides of the “Is there a god?” debate in order to better understand what you yourself believe.

    But, in the end, your choice to be an atheist is just that: Your choice.

    And it is a choice, I believe, that should ultimately not be based off of what others have written, but based off of what you yourself believe to be true.

    What I’m trying to say is:

    Reading the works of others can only take you so far. In the end, you should formulate your owns reasons for why you believe what you believe. Otherwise, you’re just parroting others’ words: You are claiming to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions when, in reality, the words coming out of your mouth were put in there by someone else. It’s just that that “someone else” is someone — like Hitchens — that you agree with you, so you don’t mind.

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  7. I am always a bit perplexed by “scientific arguments” against the existence of God, because I have come at the question from a philosophical standpoint, and find classical theism incoherent on a metaphysical basis.
    I don’t see how, when people say “God” in reference to a person who is timeless, with various unlimited attributes, and who is an unchanging causal agent, we are talking about anything at all. (Apologists circumvent these problems by piecemeal argumentation and apophatic process – but those methods uniformly fail to demonstrate a concept of God that holds together across all the desired domains)
    For us to examine something scientifically, we must have some proposed mechanism of action, in other words, we must be able to at least say what the object of inquiry is.
    God doesn’t make it to that standard, but that doesn’t seem to be the real problem to me.
    For instance, evolution and molecular biology offer useful, consistent explanations where creationism and vitalism do not. If an élan vitale can someday be demonstrated, the influence of which can alter the course of an organism’s fate, then I shall happily declare myself a vitalist.
    That won’t redeem apologetic arguments, or bring us one millimeter closer to a coherent God-concept.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I suppose that I am some kind of scientist (mathematician and computer scientist).

    I know, I know: how dare I show any kind of uncertainty of my beliefs!? How dare I not be a scientific expert!?

    Scientists can be uncertain. It is easy enough to be certain that young earth creationism is nonsense. But I cannot be so certain about our current scientific theories of the universe. We might someday come up with even better theories. Uncertainty is allowed for scientists.

    If a young-earth creationist said to me, …

    You don’t have to pick arguments with your friends and neighbors. If one of my neighbors is a YEC, that doesn’t bother me. However, if he tries to force his YEC ideas on the school curriculum, then I might have to argue with him about that. Generally speaking, we can tolerate a wide diversity of beliefs among our friends and neighbors, as long as they mainly keep those beliefs to themselves.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree we can live side by side with those who have views we don’t share as long as they don’t force them on others. However, the reality is that almost never seems to be the case. I believe history shows that atheists have been religiously tolerant for many years and what has it given us in return? Here is the USA it has lead to a twisting of the historical truth of the founding principals of our country. It has lead to a political system that is only accepting of christians in political power. It has lead to politicians imposing their religious beliefs into the everyday life of all Americans like “In god we trust” on our money or “Under god” in our pledge of allegiance to our country. When you pair this up with a population that is so busy just trying to keep a roof over their heads that they don’t have the time or energy to stand up against the powerful christian machine. A christian machine that can now publicly support a political candidate of their choice thanks to the removal of the Johnson Amendment.

      I agree with you, I’m not going to pick arguments with my friends and neighbors but I’m also no longer going to be silent and allow them to run the show. I am going to be proactive it educating the world. My silence only makes them stronger. I won’t be silent.

      Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like I’m ranting..LOL. I just believe atheists need to speak up and be counted or nothing will ever change.

      ~AW

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Or present the young earth data and information alongside the big bang, evolution, intelligent design, and trust students to use critical thinking to work it out. Why is this such an abhorrent concept?

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  9. “I want to read Dawkins, Hitchens, and Krauss to become a more informed atheist, but if Christians can read their books and remain confident Christians, then how persuasive can they be?”

    I think it’s important to identify the intent of christians reading Dawkins, Hitchens and Krauss. Is it to find truth? In most cases I think not. I think the intent is to know how the other side thinks. This is why they are not persuaded.

    “If you’re also scientifically challenged (whether you’re an atheist, a Christian, or something else), let me know in the comments how you deal with science-based arguments or debates.”

    Just remember that you are most likely on an even playing filed with most people when it comes to science. Don’t be intimidated. Be skeptical. Most important, never allow the burden of proof to be put on you. You are not making the claim. Allow them to provide you with the supporting evidence for their claim. One claim at a time. Then address their claim of evidence and reset the debate to zero. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. For example, If I’m asked if something can come from nothing I just say “I don’t know…because I don’t know. They don’t know either. I point out it does not support the existence of a god even if it could proven to me it can or can’t. I point out it’s completely off topic. I am now back to square one with them. Whats your proof of god?

    The great advantage you have as an atheist in a science debate with a christian is there is no scientific proof of god. None. Most christian “scientific proof of good” is not science at all. If you drill the question down far enough you will find it always leads back to the bible and faith.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I like reading your entries if only insofar as they offer a fresh perspective of a socially conditioned young individual desperately seeking to be an outsider in a society that is basically delusional. I detect a hint of skepticism in this entry from your earlier steadfast opinions and I think your oppositional attitude towards your peers is wearing thin. This could be from the weight of collective pressure from friends or the pangs of conscience daring to question family and tradition. Whatever the case it seems you are looking for genuine answers to the universal questions and neither atheism or Christianity are giving you much needed sustenance. Trial and error on your own terms and in your own time. I agree science is another hypothesis in much the same way as religion is. No-one has ever come back from the other side and offered us, here in the living, a vocal broadcast of what there is beyond death, nor have they offered us an explanation of our existence in this place we call the universe that satisfies. Not to my knowledge and not to my personal, acceptable standards. Science offers mathematical equations of intensified thought which essentially still remain in the world of hypotheses. Reading Dawkins can be a cold and stale affair. . Nonetheless, the physical consequences of scientific empirical thought have materialised in ways almost unimagineable, including the realm of modern technology. You can’t really say the same for religion except in its ability to create feel good sessions and much of its mythology comes from an era before our time. Reading Hitchens can be a cynical exercise in exorcising the world from the evil called religion and as such over the top; however, reading the historical rise of Christianity during pagan Rome when it was considered another cult from the East and Nero’s deliberate targeting of this obscure cult for the burning of Rome will put it in perspective. Any good historical recount of Roman History, especially Nero, will give you a social context. I sincerely believe that looking at religion from a historical perspective and tracing it up to your own family tradition objectifies the social reality of religion in life; it tears away the conflict with personal identification and notions of loyalty and the like from your personal equation. I have to admit though the wonder and the mystery of the universe still leaves me with a baffling sense of nothingness and yet at the same time the urge to comprehend it all cultivates a healthy quest for personal reflection. I know I come from across the planet and from a world very different to yours but nonetheless I think I can contribute to your discussion. I am from a different context but I can relate to your dilemma.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your ad hominem argument does not invalidate any of the content in the her blog.

      You are right that to understand how Christianity took hold in the Roman world one needs an understanding of the social context, and anyone’s belief’s are certainly affected by his or hers social environment. But, it still does not invalidate valid arguments.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. If it’s any help, two most engaging people you might be interested in, Richard Feynman, and Richard Dawkins. Both are readable, unpretentious, and have several YouTube videos featuring them, so you get the measure of each man as well .

    Liked by 2 people

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