Oxford professor of chemistry, Peter Atkins (atheist) recently engaged in dialogue with Oxford professor of mathematics, John Lennox (theist), on the question of God’s existence. While atheists such as Atkins often portray their atheism as being the result of being brave enough to follow the evidence to where it leads, at one point in the debate Atkins showed his true hand.
LENNOX: Do you think it’s an illegitimate thing from a scientific perspective…to see whether scientifically one can establish whether intelligence needs to be involved in the origin of life?
ATKINS: … Let’s just take the laws of nature as available. And seeing that, letting them run free in the environment that we can speculate existed…billions of years ago, and seeing whether that sort of process leads to life. And if it does, that seems to me to abrogate the need for the imposition of intelligence.
LENNOX: And if it doesn’t?
ATKINS: Then, if we go on trying (we may have to try for a hundred years), and if in the end we come to the conclusion that an external intelligence must have done it, then we will have to accept that.
LENNOX: Would you be prepared to accept that?
ATKINS: No, because I think that…
LENNOX: I thought you said we would have to.
ATKINS: Yeah, but due to, umm…
LENNOX: So your atheism doesn’t depend on your science, then?
ATKINS: Oh, it does. But it also, I think it would show, if we failed, if we had to impose intelligence at some point, it would show that we’ve run up against a wall, having insufficient intelligence to work[?, muffled] this out.
(1:02:10 – 1:04:05)
You see, Atkins is not committed to the evidence, but to the philosophy of naturalism. Even if the scientific evidence points to the necessity of an intelligent cause to explain the origin of life, Atkins still won’t accept that conclusion. Why? Is it because the science is bad? No. Is it because there would be naturalistic explanations that have not been explored? No, Atkins presumes they would have all been explored and found inadequate. So why won’t Atkins accept that conclusion? It’s because he doesn’t want to, the evidence be damned! As I’ve discussed before, in most cases the real reason for atheism has little to do with the intellect/evidence, and much to do with the will.