God and Science

I have been dialoguing with a friend – who’s an atheist and thinks science is the only way to arrive and conclusive truth.

Here some of his views

(1) He believes that science – has illuminated our knowledge of the world and has exposed many fallacies ideologies made by Abrahamic religions e.g. Christianity and Islam.

(2) Christianity – its antecedents in Africa was a companion of western colonialism and slavery.

(3) Christianity contains fallacious claims about the world and human existence ….. e.g. the age of the universe, Adam and Eve.

(4) Christianity’s potency as an ideology and theological views – have been used as tools to promote western supremacy.

We are both of African Origin. I’m half Zambian and Half Belgium. He’s Nigerian. I will much appreciate your thoughts on the arguments he raises.

You wrote, “science is the only way to arrive and conclusive truth.”

I think your friend is not skeptical enough.  Science cannot arrive at conclusive truth.  It is, in fact, a tenant of science that all of its conclusions are provisional.  Virtually nothing can be known conclusively.  Only things like analytic truths (brown objects are brown) or mathematical truths (such as 1+1=2) can be known with certainty.

You may want to try an exercise with your friend to help him to have a better approach to these topics.  I would ask your friend to prove conclusively that the external world exists.  That your friend is not in some sort of dream, hallucination, or other such state.  Your friend may appeal to various things, but patiently point out that anything your friend may point to is part of the external world and thus cannot be used to prove the world’s existence.

If your friend is reasonable, the exercise may be helpful in helping your friend to realize that demanding conclusive proof for the things he believes is unreasonable.  The right question, rather, is to ask, “What are we most justified in believing?”  We cannot hold out for conclusive proof because it will never come.  We must make do with what we have available, and conclusive proof just isn’t available to us for virtually everything we believe.  The exercise can also help to point out that we are justified in believing in what we perceive unless there is some reason to doubt it.  Your friend is justified in believing in the external world unless there is some reason for him to doubt his experience.  Arguments for God’s existence tend to rely on firsthand experience (such as our firsthand experience of moral truths), and so it is helpful to show that such experiences do provide justification.

I would also focus on God’s existence first if your friend is an atheist.  The inerrancy of the Bible or Christianity’s history isn’t the biggest issue to tackle right now.  I would pick an argument for God’s existence that you are familiar with (I prefer the moral argument with atheists) and start there.  If he tries to bring up Christianity, the Bible, or Jesus I would just respond, “I understand that is a concern for you, and we can get to that.  At this point I am not asking you to believe in those things, rather I am just asking you to believe that God exists.”

If you try to fight the battle on all fronts at once then it will be difficult to make any headway.  I would rather focus on one topic at a time so that constructive headway can be made.  Since he is an atheist, God’s existence seems a natural starting point.

Matt Bilyeu