Originally written March 2007
This is not an argument against the existence of God. My argument could be completely without error, and God could still exist. This is merely an argument against belief in a supernatural being.
Many people claim that atheists are intellectually arrogant. I get emails all the time from Christians, saying "you just think you have all the answers and are just soooo smart don't you!?" However, after reflecting on this assertion for awhile, it's actually the opposite that emerges as true. To hold a belief that God has ever had any effect on the universe is exactly the same as me stating, "I, Zachary Kroger, am the smartest person on earth, and no person in the present or future will know more than I do." How is this so? Let me explain.
Since the beginning of human curiosity, we have always placed a huge emphasis on supernatural agents. "How does the sun move across the sky" we asked. The answer, of course, was that there was a sun god that pulled the sun behind a chariot. "What causes thunder and lightning?" again, the answer was supernatural, "Thor and Zeus cause thunder and lightning." For every problem we came across, instead of actually investigating it, we came up with a supernatural explanation. Today, many people follow the same line of thinking and make up a Creator God for the answer to the question "why does the universe exist?" Richard Dawkins has pointed out that the reason these answers are so deeply unsatisfying to the curious mind is because these answers were simply made up. Indeed, such answers are based on nothing more than the laziness, ignorance or lack of imagination of the person asking the question.
Even Isaac Newton, perhaps one of the most brilliant men to ever live, fell into this trap of supernatural thinking. He was able to explain universal gravitation and discovered the three laws of motion. But he was perplexed with the puzzle of why the planets shared the same orbital plane. Instead of actually putting his brilliant mind to the task of figuring it out, he threw in the towel and declared that it must be the work of God. Needless to say, Newton, like everyone else before him that had posited a supernatural explanation, was wrong.
It's interesting to point out that throughout the entire history of scientific investigation, not one supernatural explanation has ever been confirmed as true. But time and time again, every phenomenon we investigate turns out to have a naturalistic explanation. There is not one example of someone claiming that there must be a natural explanation for something, and then the answer turning out to be supernatural. This is very revealing.
So what does this have to do with arrogance? Well, as we can see, every single time that a supernatural cause has been proposed, it has turned out to be wrong. This mode of thinking has a 100% rate of failure. Not good! However, people continue to believe that their favorite god created the universe, created life, works miracles, answers prayers, ect. Believe it or not, but this mode of thinking is about as intellectually arrogant as you can possibly get. Someone who says "God did ________" is essentially saying "no amount of scientific investigation will ever solve this problem. I know that if we went a trillion years into the future, science will still have not discovered the answer to the question of ________." So basically, by holding supernatural beliefs, you have to claim that you are in fact, omniscient. The only possible way you could ever think that something was caused by something supernatural would be to have a perfect understanding of the workings of the universe, and then know that there is no naturalistic explanation. That's a big claim.
In order for the theist to even get close to proving that God really did ________, they have to not only have to disprove all the current scientific models of explanation, they have to disprove every possibly explanation that could ever be presented, even if that explanation won't be proposed for another 10 million years. Obviously, this is an impossibly task. Therefore, the claiming that "God did ________" is a logically impossible position to hold.
So what's more arrogant: an atheist claiming that he does not know the answer to something, but pointing out that given enough time, science has a 100% rate of success? Or, a theist claiming that they know that there will never ever be a naturalistic explanation to a question that they have, even though that mode of thinking has a 100% rate of failure?
Of course, many theists will protest to my claim that they are arrogant. They may charge that I have constructed a straw man of their position. "Some believers might be arrogant, but I don't claim to have all the answers," one might say. Or, "Just because I believe in God doesn't mean that I think science will never answer some questions." And I will concede the point that not all theists act arrogantly. In fact, of all the God believers I know, I wouldn't consider any of them to be the least bit arrogant. However, arrogant behavior or not is not the issue. The issue is that the philosophical underpinnings of their beliefs demand that they take the position of extreme intellectual arrogance, whether they like it or not. The only way to logically hold a position of belief in God is to also claim you know for a fact that science will never answer certain questions. And as I have pointed out, this is an untenable position to hold, therefore belief in God is logically completely unjustified.
To demonstrate my point, just ask any Christian apologist for evidence of God. Even the top apologists in the world have never been able to give any better answer than "science can't explain the origin of life, the origin of the universe, morality or my personal religious experience, therefore God did it." To claim that these unsolved problems are absolutely unsolvable is not only intellectually arrogant to the nth degree, but such a position is not even tenable. Anyone who seriously claims such a thing should be laughed at, and not taken seriously. At this point in time, with our current state of knowledge, the only answer to questions such as how life began, why the universe exists and where morality comes from is "I don't know." And if you are a researcher in one of those areas, you could continue with "but we are working on it."
In conclusion, we can see that not only does belief in god require an enormous amount of intellectual arrogance regarding ones knowledge of the universe, but is a position that is logically impossible to defend.
Think about it.
"It is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
"There is, in fact, no worldview more reprehensible in its arrogance than that of a religious believer: 'the creator of the universe takes an interest in me, approves of me, loves me, and will reward me after death; my current beliefs, drawn from scripture, will remain the best statement of truth until the end of the world; everyone who disagrees with me will spend eternity in hell.' An average Christian, in an average church, listening to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse — and there have been some extraordinarily arrogant scientists."