In a column for the New York Times, Ross Douthat argues that science supports creationism. However, he never gives scientific support for any intelligent design hypothesis, nor does he explain how a god came to be or which deity is the correct one.
While science has yet to confirm the existence of Yahweh, Vishnu, or Ra, it has explained many phenomena previously attributed to gods, such as extreme weather, healing plants, and eclipses.
Let’s run through Douthat’s five points and examine them.
First, he claims that fine-tuning in the universe proves the existence of God. I am disappointed that he trots out such a hackneyed, many-times-refuted assertion. I enjoy a good intellectual spar and having a New York Times columnist, in a fresh work, resort to something this lame is, well, lame. His thinking is akin to arguing that a puddle holds the precise amount of water that it does is because the water was designed for puddle-filling purposes.
In a more original and thought-provoking point, Douthat posits that the notion of a multiverse strengthens the idea of God since some of those universes – or one of anyway – are suitable for human life. But University of Chicago biology professor emeritus Jerry Coyne suggests that points away from such a deified notion. Coyne writes, “If God wanted to simply create life, with humans as its apotheosis, why did he go to all the bother of setting up multiverses, many of which don’t allow life?”
Douthat’s third point is that consciousness proves God. He claims physical processes are inadequate to explicate the complexities of consciousness, which run the gamut from comprehending the idea of color to doctoral theses on Greek philosophy.
This is at once the god of the gaps fallacy and special pleading. Further, Coyne notes that naturalism has shaped our understanding of consciousness, specifically, “the parts of the brain that are necessary for the phenomenon to appear in our species, the chemicals that can take it away and bring it back, and so on.” Moreover, science is an ongoing process that admits it doesn’t know everything and continues to search for answers. As Coyne explained, “Consciousness will be explained when we know all the parts required, and how they interact, for a being to become conscious.
Onto point four. Douthat feels that the comprehensibility of the universe itself proves God. However, this is more special pleading since whatever created God would have to have instilled that comprehensibility in him, then the even more advanced god have done the same before that, ad infinitum.
He next argues that reputed sightings of demons, along with near-death experiences and feelings of overwhelming spirituality vindicate the notion of god. But if this is the case then ALL gods are real, along with ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, and psychic powers.
What’s more, these experiences can be replicated with drugs, chemical mixtures, and deep meditation. Astronauts in training often report mental and physical reactions similar to near-death experiences. Persons with psychosis or other severe mental issues also report profound, very-real-to-them accounts like this.
Finally, Douthat thinks that because evolution leads us to believe in things that are real and true, a ubiquitous belief in God points to his existence. However, no amount of belief makes something true.
Taken in totality, Douthat’s work breaks little new ground and the few original tidbits fail to satisfy the book’s stated goal of proving God through science.