Astronomers and physicists who feel motivated to rationalize their way out of the religious implications of the “Big Bang,” typically conjure up unsubstantiated theories divorced from the scientific rigor they claim to champion.
This disconcerting assessment is forcefully presented in a series of essays published as part of a new book authored by David Berlinski, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute and a noted mathematician. The same atheistic impulses at work within cosmology are evident throughout the scientific community, he argues.
“The Deniable Darwin” identifies a narrow and often oppressive orthodoxy that has taken hold within the scientific community at the expense of honest debate and open inquiry. Berlinski’s book coincides with the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” which outlines evolutionary theory.
In a series of mind-bending essays, Berlinski offers criticisms not only of Darwinism, but of intelligent design as well. Each section is replete with engaging reactions from scientists, academics and colleagues.
Despite the emergence of evidence that appears to confirm rather than deny the possibility of a creator, too many scientists place a greater emphasis on debunking religious thought than they do on advancing human knowledge in a meaningful way, Berlinski said in an interview.
“In the U.S. you have the separation of powers that keeps different branches in check, but this is not true for science, where there is now a lot corruption,” he observed. “Science needs its own critics. The same skepticism that is used in research now needs to be turned back onto science itself.”
Berlinski also suggested that scientists have a vested interest in clinging to Darwinian thought, even when theory breaks down, because their positions, status and grant money are tied in with evolutionary assumptions.
This would at least partially explain why the scientific community reacts so vociferously against research that bolsters religious conviction.“The attack on traditional religious thought marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion,” he has written.
But there is nothing wrong in principle with scientific endeavors that are infused by faith and a sense of humility toward larger possibilities, Berlinsk said.
“We are not going to adopt sharia law because an astronomer who is open to these ideas begins to make important discoveries,” he observed.
Although Berlinski is not himself a proponent of intelligent design, he strongly objects to the mistreatment and censorship of other scientists who have been identified with this concept.
Their stories figure prominently in a documentary released last year entitled “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," which is narrated by the multi-talented Ben Stein. The film includes interviews with scientists and academics on all sides of the debate, including Berlinski.
Guillermo Gonzalez, who previously served with the Department of Physics and Astronomy, at Iowa State University, was denied tenure because colleagues objected to his views, according to documentation obtained by the Discovery Institute.
“Expelled” features Gonzalez and other scientists who have been persecuted and ostracized for expressing views at odds with Darwinian thinking. Berlinski describes Gonzalez as a “brilliant observational astronomer” who has made important contributions in his field.
In his book “Privileged Planet,” Gonzalez comments how the earth is ideally positioned for observation and discovery in the Milky Way Galaxy and that the planet occupies a special place in the cosmos.
“He [Gonzalez] made no grand claims or pronouncements in his book,” Berlinksi said. “What he wrote was suggestive but within bounds of reasonable inquiry. It was certainly no more speculative than what I see from other scientists who do not share his perspective.”
Berlinski is also the author of “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.” This earlier book details the convergence between cosmological discoveries, traditional religious belief and the discomfort this has caused for secular scientists.
“The hypothesis of God’s existence and the facts of contemporary cosmology are consistent,” he wrote. In many respects, evidence for the “Big Bang” actually confirms much of what the Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas had asserted back in the 13th Century, Berlinski tells readers.
This reality does not sit well with atheists who hold sway within the scientific academy, as Berlinski explains.
“If the Big Bang expresses a new idea in physics, it suggests an old idea in thought: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” he wrote. “This unwelcome juxtaposition of physical and biblical persuaded the astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, an ardent atheist, to dismiss the Big Bang after he had named it. In this he was not alone. Many physicists have found the idea that the universe had a beginning alarming.”
Berlinski poses readers with a series of questions in “The Devil’s Delusion” that expose the limits and pretensions of contemporary science and the “New Atheists” who sit in insulated academic settings.
Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence?
Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?