Me (in response to a Facebook meme):
Atheism is fundamentally incompatible with science.
Atheist A: “I would like you to explain that. I would never say general creationism is fundamentally incompatible with science. As the existence of a God can not be proven or dis proven. I would say young earth creationism is incompatible with science. What is your reasoning?”
Me: Young earth creation is BAD science, because it is an attempt to validate a premise, rather than falsify an hypothesis. But it is not “incompatible” with science–in fact, it is worse science to say “you’re not allowed to ask those questions.”
As for atheism and science:
Science is based on repeatable observation. For the same circumstances to give rise to the same objectively-observable phenomenon repeatedly, the universe must behave in a rational manner.
If the universe does not have a rational organizing principle, then there is no reason–including previous observations of what appear to be rational behavior–to expect future rational behavior. In other words, without a rational organizing principle, the universe is by definition irrational. Further, as subsets of the universe, if it is irrational then so are we. It is not possible for irrational beings to undertake a rational study of an irrational system.
Thus, without a rational organizing principle, “science” is a meaningless term applied to an impossible event.
A “rational organizing principle of the universe”–minus the mythological baggage of any particular religion–is the definition of God. Therefore, no God, no science.
Atheism is fundamentally incompatible with science because it posits an irrational universe, which negates both the function and the method of scientific inquiry.
Atheist B: http://www.positiveatheism.org/faq/firstcause.htm
Me (rebutting various points in the article he linked): “The first axiom is very doubtful indeed. Quantum mechanics works with events in nature that are, or at least seem to be, completely random. I do not know how the author has managed to conflate “being random” with “being uncaused”, but he has. They are not the same, and this is a nonsense objection.”
B: “Hume showed that humans cannot perceive ’cause’ and ‘effect’, but construct these notions from past experiences.”
Me: Hume’s arguments about causation are questionable, and irrelevant regardless. This discussion is not based on perception of causation, but on deduction of causation.
B: “Even if we agree that everything we see has a cause (which for quantum reasons I won’t) how can we infer from that that everything has a cause? This is mere speculation, it is not knowledge we can ever have.”
This illustrates my original point quite clearly: the author goes directly to an irrational universe. If the law of cause-and-effect does not apply, then science is impossible. Moreover, it is not “mere speculation”–it is an axiom of science, a fundamental law of logic, and the most-validated repeatable observation possible.
B: “And just suppose that every thing has a cause, then the argument is still invalid, for the Universe is not a thing, it is the set of all things. And a set cannot be a member of itself, so a conclusion about things in the Universe is not necessarily valid for the Universe itself.”
While it is true in some mathematical practices that sets cannot contain themselves, this is because sets are defined as not containing sets. If the author wishes to make the rather absurd claim that universe is a set (which is actually just a metaphysical collection), then he must accept the consequence: there are NO sets, because all other sets would exist within the universe. Since all numbers are a set, that means that mathematics is invalidated, and once again we have an irrational universe.
B: “Then, I’m afraid, we have to say that God had a cause too, and that that cause had a cause too, ad infinitum.”
And this is where language is important. The argument is not that “everything has a cause”. It is “all things WHICH BEGIN are caused”. All physical objects have beginnings, and all physical objects have causes (note that there is more than one type of cause; cf. Aristotle). The universe began, therefore the universe is caused.
To then attempt to apply this argument to God would require that God began. Since this is contrary to the definition of God, it may be dismissed as nonsense.