Sam Harris is the poor man’s Richard Dawkins, and he was recently at Notre Dame University to debate whether or not God is the source of morality. In an amusing and at time affecting meditation on the entire phenomenon of our Latter Day Atheists and their determined efforts to set science over and against religion, Notre Dame professor of philosophy John O’Callaghan wonders how it is that we’ve come to the point of imagining that our scientific explanations are at odds with our beliefs about God.
Must we chose between scientific explanation and belief in the God who is the creator of heaven and earth? Here’s part of O’Callaghan’s answer:
The greatest among our Christian forebears certainly didn’t think we had to. Even if one remains unconvinced by the logic of Aquinas’ Five Ways, the attitude expressed in them is not one of natural explanations in competition with God. His natural science was almost unimaginably false with regard to what we now know or claim to know. But the reality of natural causes that allows for scientific understanding was for him the best and “most manifest” argument for the existence of a god, a god Who does not compete with His creatures but, rather, enables them.
For Aquinas, God was not an alternative hypothesis or theory to be superseded by subsequent science; on the contrary God was the best explanation for why there is an intelligible world at all to be understood by successive stages in science. Without God, there is no science and no scientific progress. The best reason for thinking there is a God, after the fact that your mother told you so, the same mother who told you who your father is (and I dare you to tell her you don’t believe her!), is the glory of science, not its failure. The glory of God displayed in scientific explanation “gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed.” (Homework for Sam Harris: explain that line from Hopkins’ poem.)
Well put, as is the rest of his meditation on the strange phenomenon of atheists who imagine that science provides them with trump cards.