Monday, December 12, 2011

The closed-mindedness of Phillip Adams

Today the Australian Broadcasting Commission ("ABC") has posted an article on its Religion and Ethics Website by Greg Clarke of the Centre for Public Christianity in response to a particularly bitchy piece Phillip Adams wrote in his column in The Australian last weekend. Now I must say that in so many ways I really like Adams, but he does have a "thing" about theists. So, it's worth reading Greg's article. If you want to read Adams' original (and you should) then it is HERE.

Greg Clarke

Christmas approaches, so it must be time for Phillip Adams to reestablish his reputation as a no-God-botherer.

In last weekend's column in the Weekend Australian, Adams used the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics to local astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt as an opportunity to claim a few certainties for atheism. It always stuns me when the columnists come down firmly on the questions that the academics are still wrestling with. (Note to self: remember to apportion claims in columns to actual knowledge.)

Adams suggests that Schmidt's discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate provides the lay-down misere for the nothingness of existence, the victory of nihilism and the bullet in the Godhead.

"The facts are in," writes Adams, "more than ever He, She or It is a redundant notion." With his usual confidence, Adams implies that the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is not worth answering, and that the "something" is a mere blip on the way back to the "nothing."

This question has fascinated the pointy heads since forever. Most of the ancient Greeks didn't believe in "nothing" as a possibility: they were convinced the universe is eternal. The rise of science modified this belief, such that in the medieval period it was slowly replaced by belief in an eternal Being as the source of all things.

Modern science, with its theories of the origins of the universe, actually did put the nail in the coffin of the eternal universe theory. We now know that the universe did have a beginning.

But it did not sound the death knell for the eternal Being theory. Thomas Aquinas's argument in the thirteenth century that God is the uncaused cause of the universe still warrants attention.

Islamic thinkers "improved" this approach, with the Kalam cosmological argument stating that all things that exist have a cause, and since we now know the universe had a beginning, it must have a cause (other than itself). This leads many thinkers towards notions of God.

Furthermore, many find satisfaction in the arguments about the fine-tuning of the universe (such as Professor Alvin Plantinga), the unlikely nature of human intelligence and information theory (Professor John Lennox) and game theory approaches to the probability of the universe (Professor Richard Swinburne), and feel similarly led by their minds to the notion of a God.

So is Schmidt's research a game-changer, as Adams suggests?

To finish reading the article (and also follow the debate in the comments) go HERE.


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