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Is Atheism Compatible With Science?

hands of God and man touching

Much ink has been spilt on the alleged conflict between science and religion — especially between science and Christianity. But what about atheism? Contrary to popular belief, some scholars argue that Darwinistic atheism is actually incompatible with science, because if all human thought is the result of natural laws, a search for truth becomes impossible.

"The reason is that if naturalism is true, then all our ideas are products of forces in nature over which we have no real control (as all is ruled by natural laws)," writes Roger E. Olson in his new book The Essentials of Christian Thought: Seeing Reality Through the Biblical Story. He argues that the real faith-science conflict arises with atheism, not Christianity.

But is atheism a faith or religion? How can the absence of faith be considered a faith? Ultimately, atheists can no more disprove God's existence than Christians can prove it. Olson even argues that Western culture struggles with "scientism" — a kind of religion which idolizes science.

The author defines scientism as "an irrational commitment to science as the only reliable path to knowledge and as beyond criticism (except perhaps by scientists themselves)." This approach is "a kind of idolatry of science, at least from a religious perspective. It is putting science on a pedestal where people tend to worship it and judge all beliefs in its light."

Many atheists believe that God does not exist because they believe science has disproved the supernatural. Specifically, the theory of evolution allegedly explains how apparent design can result from random chance. Thus, many atheists are Darwinists, believing that Darwin's theory of evolution makes religion unnecessary and therefore demonstrates that the natural world is all there is.

This is, however, a faith claim — it is not actually demonstrated by science. Science, being the explanation of natural phenomena, cannot definitively prove that there is no realm outside of nature. Its purview is limited to nature, so it cannot make supernatural statements one way or the other. Interestingly, it arguably suggests that there is indeed something supernatural.

The very pursuit of truth which is the spirit of all science relies on the idea that there exists an objective truth to be discovered and the human mind can discover it. But if Darwinism is correct, that very idea is a lie.

According to Darwinistic naturalism, "our very thoughts are products of chemicals in the brain," Olson writes. "Naturalism implies that our beliefs, whatever they are, are controlled by nature, which is a closed system of mathematically describable laws and material-energy forces and phenomena. Therefore, when anyone asserts something as true he or she is not really saying anything other than 'this is what I think and I cannot think otherwise.'"