The Atheist’s Challenge and Essay
Probably the thing that was the most frustrating to me when we met, was your conviction that science ought to be more accepting of supernatural explanations for events. So I’m going to try one more time to show you why you are totally wrong, then I’m going to let you try to convince us otherwise.
To start with, most people have believed in supernatural entities throughout history. (Atheists have never been in the majority.) These people have earnestly tried to believe in supernatural causes for events. The cards have always been “stacked in favor” of supernatural explanations. And yet, we have never yet found a supernatural explanation that turned out to be true.
We believed in gods of thunder, gods of lightning, gods who made volcanoes explode, gods who pulled the sun across the sky, monsters who swallowed the moon. Comets were signs from God.
Yet we always found non-supernatural explanations that turn out to be true. No matter how many times primitive people performed rituals and “succeeded” in scaring off the monster swallowing the moon, that didn’t mean anything. The moon was never in any danger. It was just an eclipse.
We thought illnesses were caused by demons. Nope. Viruses and bacteria. Surely the earth shaking beneath our feet must be gods or devils! Nope. Earthquakes.
Lightning from the sky must be the wrath of God! Ben Franklin stuck a big long metal pole in the ground and solved that problem. [Think about that one for a moment. Churches were frequently the targets of lightning strikes, due to their tall steeples. Yet Christians still insisted that lightning was God’s wrath! It took science to save them from their own stupidity, precisely because science did NOT accept the supernatural explanation!]
Ghosts? No evidence. Fairies, leprechauns? Nothing. Angels, gods? Suspiciously absent. If supernatural causes were real, we’d have a lot better than “ghost stories”. We would know.
What you can’t deny is that science works, without magic. We can land rovers on Mars with pinpoint accuracy. We can create microwaves and microchips. Has fairy dust ever made someone fly? No. But science has.
If science had accepted the superstitious explanation for the movements of the stars and planets, we’d have never travelled to the moon. If science had accepted merely supernatural explanations for disease, we’d still be looking for ways to drive off evil spirits (and millions of children would still be dying of polio, measles, mumps, smallpox, and so on).
And which supernatural explanations should science accept? Native Americans had supernatural beliefs. The Muslims have supernatural beliefs. The Greeks and Romans once had supernatural beliefs. I once invented Invisible Massless Purple Unicorns. Someone else invented the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Whose supernatural explanation should science agree with? What makes your preferred source of supernatural belief (i.e. Christianity) any better than anyone else’s? Christianity doesn’t exactly have a great track record for getting things right!
It’s okay to not know the answers to things. Throughout history, we’ve never stopped learning new things, and we never will. By stopping now and pointing to something we don’t understand yet, and saying “God did it” (or “it’s magic”), we don’t accomplish anything.
Worse! When science gets something wrong, science eventually discovers the mistake and corrects it. But once a supernatural explanation is accepted as true, religious people fight to protect that idea. Religion not only fails to correct the mistake, it actively impedes progress with every ounce of religious fervor.
Here we are in the twenty-first century, nearly ninety years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, and we still struggle to teach basic, well-established science in school, because extremist religious people are threatened by the evidence of the non-supernatural origins of the species.
We develop successful medications every day, by testing on animals — because we understand the degree to which we are related to them. I can point to goose bumps on my skin when I get cold — a feature that only makes sense in a furry animal, because goose bumps raise the fur, improving the insulation and helping the animal stay warm. But simple, obvious proofs such as these don’t sink in, to a religious mind determined to defend his preferred mindset.
Religious people themselves are the best reason why science must never corrupt itself by accepting supernatural explanations. Only by continuing to study, do we learn the truth. Giving up and saying “God did it” is the worst kind of intellectual malpractice.
Faith does not free thought. It ends it.
So, now take all the space you need, and explain why science should accept the supernatural. Or, if you prefer, prove Jesus (miracles and all) actually existed. [Fair warning: Atheists hear a lot of this stuff. If your Jesus argument is mainly “other people have believed in Jesus and died for those beliefs”, well, think about the 19 Muslims on 9/11, and maybe try a different argument…]