Atheists often claim that the “God of the gaps” is shrinking. In fact the scientific evidence for God is growing.
What was an atheist doing on Pope Francis’s advisory committee for his environmental encyclical, a scientist who advocates the crackpot Gaia hypothesis and the reduction of the human population by some six billion people?
Why is conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia deemed “unfit to serve” due to his “real loyalty … to religion and a phony man in the sky”? A Constitutional originalist, he’s derided as a religious fanatic simply for allowing his reasonable belief in higher morality, natural law and human sinfulness to guide him in the same way those beliefs guided the American Founders.
And why is it now considered gauche in many circles to blame a criminal’s evil action on his free decision to do something wicked?
Much of the answer is found in an idea called scientism, a dogma masquerading as science. If a man murders another man, or pens a beautiful poem, or takes a bullet for a stranger, scientism insists the academic researcher explain such things in purely material terms — genetics or environmental conditioning, for example — and never by invoking something spiritual such as the free choice to do good or evil.
Scientism is so pervasive these days that it can seem unassailable, but it’s actually quite vulnerable, since it rests on a grand historical narrative that collapses under scrutiny. Collapse that grand narrative and you collapse a cherished bulwark for atheism.
The Historical Sciences: The Clue’s the Thing
To see exactly why things are so shaky for scientism, we first need to understand what exactly the historical sciences do, since it’s in the historical sciences where scientism has run into trouble.
The historical sciences reason by looking for causes active in the present and with the demonstrated ability to leave behind whatever mysterious clue is under investigation. The influential nineteenth-century geologist Charles Lyell summarized the principle in the title of his most famous book: Principles of Geology: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth’s Surface, by Reference to Causes Now in Operation.
Continue reading below…