Atheist: “Take me to a hospital.”
Taxi Driver: “Which one: Presbyterian, St. Vincent or Beth Israel?”
Atheist: “I’m an atheist, take me to Hitchen’s Memorial.”
Driver: “Hmm. I don’t believe that exists.”
He enjoys a meal while believing there is no chef.
He reads a book while denying it has an author.
He admires the sunset while asserting there is no sun.
He savors pleasure not knowing from whence it came.
He embarks on a journey without a map.
He travels into a desert where there is no oasis.
He plays on a sports-field that has no goalposts.
He assembles a puzzle with no picture to guide him.
He plays a role in a drama but ignores the play-writer.
He treasures life but ignores the life-giver.
He seeks for joy but dismisses the joy-giver.
He acknowledges laws but denies the law-giver.
When he is in need he has no one to pray to.
When he is grateful he has no one to thank.
He searches for meaning while rejecting its source.
He denies in his head what his heart knows to be true.
It behooves us to pray that the God in whom
he does not believe will come to his aid.
Some have great confidence in skeptical scholarship, and I once did, perhaps more than anyone else. If anyone thinks they are assured in their unbelief, I was more committed: born of unbelieving parents, never baptized or dedicated; on scholarly credentials, a PhD from a secular university; as to zeal, mocking the church; as to ideological righteousness, totally radicalized. But whatever intellectual superiority I thought I had over Christians, I now count it as sheer ignorance. Indeed, I count everything in my former life as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing the historical Jesus who is also the risen Lord. For his sake, I have given up trying to be a hipster atheist. I consider that old chestnut pure filth, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a CV that will gain me tenure at an Ivy League school, but knowing that I’ve bound myself to Jesus—and where he is, there I shall also be.
As useful and successful as metal detectors are, they can’t be used to find everything. Metal detectors won’t help you find wood, plastic, rubber, or other nonmetallic objects.
Now, suppose metal-detector man, after just combing the beach, says to you, “I know there’s no plastic or rubber on that beach because I looked for those things with my metal detector and found nothing!” Then suppose he goes even further and says, “There’s not only no plastic or rubber on that beach, there is no plastic or rubber anywhere because I’ve never found a speck of it with my metal detector!” Meanwhile, you can’t help but notice that his metal detector is made of mostly plastic and rubber.
You’d think, “Is metal-detector man nuts? He’s certainly not thinking properly.”
That’s what Dr. Edward Feser, who thought of this illustration, thinks about atheists who insist that all truth comes from science. The atheists are like metal-detector man, and science is their metal detector. Because their chosen tool — science — has been so successful in discovering material causes in the natural world, atheists mistakenly assume that nothing but material things exist. And just like metal-detector man doesn’t realize that plastic and rubber are part of his metal detector — in fact, it couldn’t work without them — some atheists don’t seem to realize that immaterial realities are part of science, and science couldn’t work without them.
When the new atheists (such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris) refer to “science,” they are normally referring to the study of material causes in fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, cosmology and astronomy. There’s obviously much to gain by studying those areas of reality. The problem arises when the new atheists assert that those are the only areas of reality — that everything can be explained by material causes, and all truth comes from science.
Such an assertion is obviously false. In fact, the claim “all truth comes from science” didn’t itself come from science. It’s not a scientific truth, but a philosophical claim about science. So the claim is self-defeating.