“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind …. This is a somewhat ridiculous situation …. [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist.”
This quote comes from Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University. Although I disagree with Nagel, I do respect how truthful he is about his beliefs. What he says is very telling: 1) he wants atheism to be true; 2) that most well-informed and intelligent people that he knows are religious; 3) this “cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition,” that is, there are many others who feel the same way he does; 4) this problem is responsible for all the scientism and reductionism that we see; 5) the overuse of evolutionary biology to explain things, especially the human mind.
I want to make some comments on what Nagel has said. First, he is not the only scientist or philosopher who has said similar things. There have been others who have admitted that evolution is merely a religion that replaces Christianity. For example, Dr. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University, has said:
Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion – a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality….Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
Richard Lewontin, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist, makes the following comment:
We take the side of [evolutionary] science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism…Moreover, that materialism is absolute for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.
Second, Nagel’s views on atheism and evolution have infuriated many other atheists. At a scientific workshop a couple years back, the participants commented on how sad they were that he made these remarks. They weren’t just sad, however, there were very angry. In an article discussing the workshop, Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, wrote about the participants’ reactions to Nagel’s new book at the time Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.
Ferguson went on to briefly discuss the many book reviews of Mind and Cosmos. Very few of them were nice. In fact, most reviews were pretty bad, one even calling Nagel an “idiot”! The Guardian actually awarded the book its “Most Despised Science Book” of 2012. His comments about God have definitely struck a chord with many atheists. The question is “why?” Why are so many atheists so angry with Nagel? It is not as if doing science requires Darwinian evolution:
“I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.
I also examined the outstanding [bio-discoveries] of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernable guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss…From my conversations with leading researchers it had become [sic] clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.” (See also here and here for a look at how many scientists in the past and present are creationists.)
Take a look at the following information about the probabilities of evolution. Sir Fred Hoyle (an evolutionist) says:
“The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials contained therein.”
He also said it this way:
“Now imagine 1050 blind persons [that’s the number 1 followed by 50 zeroes] each with a scrambled Rubik cube and try to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the solved form. You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling at just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends. The notion that not only the biopolymers but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial soup here on earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.”
Now I understand that the creation-evolution debate is a bit more complex than a couple quotes on probabilities, and that they, by themselves, do not prove evolution wrong. The point that I want to make is that mathematics, which is the most exact science we have, points to the fact that it is highly unlikely (mathematically) that life could have come about completely on its own. These facts have led some scientists to conclude that there really was a designer – just not the God of the Bible. Sir Francis Crick, one of discoverers of DNA, has proposed that aliens created life and placed it on the Earth. Even Richard Dawkins entertained the idea that aliens created life on earth:
“Well it could come about in the following way: it could be that at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved by, probably by, some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this this [sic] planet. Now that is a possibility and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the, at the detail…details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”
Nagel noted something called Scientism. This is the belief that science is the absolute and only justifiable way to know truth in the world. Since humans are required to interpret scientific facts, scientism is really humanism, a belief that humanity can solve his own problems and doesn’t need God for anything. In this view, humanity essentially becomes a god in and of himself.
It is with scientism that the beliefs of Nagel, Crick, Dawkins, and the others come together. The reason why they have to either have faith in evolution occurring against mathematical probabilities and/or in alien creators are that they do not want God to exist (or at least the God of the Bible). They want to make their own rules, and essentially be their own gods. This is why they get so angry when someone on their own team admits that Darwinism and atheism may not be as “scientific” as they want them to be.
I understand that not every single atheist may think this way (or at least that is what I’m told). There may be atheists who become atheists not because they want to be a god or do not want God to exist, but because of other reasons. What is interesting is that many of the atheists in academia (like Crick, Nagel, and Dawkins) do not want God to exist. These are people who are intelligent and “scientific.” They blame Christians for being biased, yet it is clear that they have biases themselves.
Before wrapping up this article, I want to mention one last thing. I know that evolution does not require atheism. I have been criticized before about this supposed belief that I have (which I do not have by the way). There are many religions that are compatible with evolution, but Biblical Christianity is not one them (see here, here, and here for reasons why I believe this).
 Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997). 130-131.
 Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post, May 13, 2000, B-3.
 Richard Lewontin. “Billions and Billions of Demons,” New York Review, January 9, 1997, p. 31.
 Philip Skell, “Why Do We Invoke Darwin?” The Scientist 16:10.
 “Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, vol. 294, November 12, 1981. Quoted in The Revised Quote Book (Brisbane, Australia: Creation Science Foundation, 1990). 21.
 Fred Hoyle. “The Big Bang in Astronomy,” New Scientist, vol. 92, no. 1280, November 19, 1981, p. 527.
 Expelled, DVD, directed by Nathan Frankowski (Premise Media, 2008).