How do you know it’s an accident, “remarkable” or otherwise?

July 29, 2012

From my infrequent conversations with atheists over the years, I’ve noticed that they sometimes have (or pretend to have) an insufficient ability to experience wonder. They sometimes refuse to be impressed by how remarkable it is that we have life in a universe capable of sustaining life. Are they afraid, perhaps, that they would be yielding too much ground to us believers?

It all just seems so unlikely, doesn’t it? Maybe to an average person, yes. But these atheists shrug and say, “No. Of course it seems that way to your untrained eye, but that’s because you don’t understand that…” And what follows is an explanation that simply pushes the question back one generation. They evade the question, “Yes, but why are things like that?”

For all I know, Laurence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, is an atheist, but in this New York Times essay, he at least allows himself to marvel at the sheer improbability of the universe. Twice in this short essay, he refers to the physics behind the Higgs boson as both a “precarious accident” and a “remarkable accident.” He even calls it a miracle before conceding, rightly, that talking about miracles is the “stuff of religion, not science.”

Be that as it may, explaining existence by calling it an accident isn’t a scientific explanation—because, in doing so, you’re peaking behind a curtain to which you have no scientific access.

I prefer to call it a miracle.

2 Responses to “How do you know it’s an accident, “remarkable” or otherwise?”


  1. “From my infrequent conversations with atheists over the years, I’ve noticed that they sometimes have (or pretend to have) an insufficient ability to experience wonder. ” No you didn’t.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Wow! You’ve met every one of them. Impressive.

      I re-read what I wrote. I’m not speaking in absolute terms: notice words like “sometimes” and “insufficient.” I’m referring mostly to atheists who resort to some version of Dawkins’s “crane versus skyhook” argument. People who use this line of argument often speak as if a habitable universe were inevitable. When Dawkins finally concedes that this requires a great deal of luck, he speculates about a multiverse—as if that solves the problem!

      If you don’t think that these arguments tend to diminish or downplay a sense of wonder, then you and I simply don’t understand words the same way.


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