New Scientist on ‘losing our religion’
Published: 26 August 2014 (GMT+10)
Apparently the world is headed for secular heaven; free from the constraints of any type of organised religion. Well, that’s according to New Scientist, in an article entitled ‘Losing our religion’, which it says is a guide to a godless future.1,2
For a magazine ostensibly about science, virtually every issue of New Scientist has something about religious belief and atheism (generally portraying the former in a negative light, the latter in a positive). But credit to New Scientist for publishing criticism from a letter writer (a clergyman) who said he would “hate to see a respected science publication habitually make space for issues that don’t truly concern scientific enquiry and endeavour”.3 They published that letter in the very same issue as ‘Losing our religion’—an article that seems to be New Scientist’s reaction to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s call made earlier in the year for Christians to be more evangelical.4 (While that call has much merit, it would be nice if the Prime Minister would lead by example in his attitude to societal mores, instead of his seemingly obsessive push for ‘gay marriage’).
In the editorial pointing to the ‘Losing our religion’ feature, New Scientist said:
“Religious belief is usually a no-go area for British prime ministers. As Tony Blair’s media advisor Alastair Campbell once put it: ‘we don’t do God’. The current occupant of No.10 seems to have decided otherwise.”5
And the editorial ended with this finger-waving statement:
“Personal faith remains a private matter. But those passionate about religion’s role in public life—whether to elevate or expunge it—should recognise they are in the minority. Increasingly, none of us ‘do God’.”5
Apparently ‘doing atheopathy’ is fine for New Scientist though. Maybe they should have heeded a warning in their pages 30 years ago:
“It is no more heretical to say the Universe displays purpose, as Hoyle has done, than to say that it is pointless, as Steven Weinberg has done. Both statements are metaphysical and outside science. Yet it seems that scientists are permitted by their own colleagues to say metaphysical things about lack of purpose and not the reverse. This suggests to me that science, in allowing this metaphysical notion, sees itself as religion and presumably as an atheistic religion (if you can have such a thing).”6
How storytelling rules
There is an element of truth to that given the increasing secularisation of the world and the evolutionary indoctrination that saturates all forms of media and education. But even some atheists recognise that imbalance is a bad thing and that the media goes out of its way to attack Christianity.7 Other atheists even go as far as to claim that “Africa needs God”.
As a former long-time newspaper journalist, I can attest to how difficult it is to have an alternative view published on the origins debate, for example—see Has journalism been compromised in the creation-evolution debate? It shouldn’t be that way given that the media portrays itself as the place for a free and frank exchange of opinions.
But all of these elements work together in society to paint an ‘acceptable’ worldview; one in which religion should be ‘tolerated’ and ‘moderated’ to the point that it is seen as some sort of ‘oddity’, i.e., let them have their views but let’s not take them too seriously and don’t allow such views any meaningful platform, particularly in the media and education. According to that worldview, if someone dares to be pro-faith—especially the Christian faith, and to say that God created the world in six days—well, that quickly draws accusations that they are ‘anti-science’.
New Scientist is one publication that not only casts such slurs, but has also long insisted that science is ‘neutral’:
“Those who adopt an antiscience posture constantly ignore or dismiss the fact that science itself is neutral … But the fact remains that the intellectual structures that constitute science are morally neutral … The neutrality of science is not an especially subtle point, but it is one that needs to be stated again and again, because it is constantly obfuscated by antiscience polemicists. Curiously, where the detractors have accepted the neutrality of science, they seem to have rejuvenated that old conflict between religion and science.”8
Questions to consider
New Scientist based its latest article on a global poll9—released in 2012—of more than 50,000 individuals that it said asked the question: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person?”
However, New Scientist actually did not quote the full question the pollsters published in their paper which was: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons [sic] or a convinced atheist?”9
And even the source given for the data was inaccurate: WIN-Gallup International global index of religion and atheism: 2012, instead of WIN-Gallup International global index of religiosity and atheism—2012, i.e., religion rather than religiosity.10
As well, in a graphic New Scientist used to illustrate the changes that the poll had uncovered, it was stated, “38 countries responded to the question: Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person?” This presumably was based on a table in the poll document which was headed: ‘Trend in religiosity index among 39 countries surveyed in both waves’.10
[It should be said that finding mistakes in other publications is fraught with danger because—inevitably—we too will make errors. But that is not the aim of pointing out the errors because rather than take the word of New Scientist, we went to the source on which it based the article. And, unlike New Scientist, this ministry doesn’t take the word of fallible humans for answers to human history or ‘religion’, but rather looks to God’s Word. See: Should we trust the Bible?.]
The poll reported: “In response to this [the question] 59% of the world said that they think of themselves as religious person [sic], 23% think of themselves as not religious whereas 13% think of themselves as convinced atheists.”10 And the pollsters also observed: “Only a minority of the world, mostly concentrated in China and Western Europe, claims to be atheists.”10
What the pollsters didn’t ask
But there are flaws with the question. For example, at least one prominent evolutionist—Michael Ruse—admits that evolution is a religion:
“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.”11
So what does being religious really mean, particularly to those who reject the notion of a Supreme Being? See also: Is atheism a religion?
New Scientist highlighted the marked change in people expressing ‘no religious affiliation’—a trend that has gone hand-in-hand with the steadily increasing preponderance of evolutionary teaching in society.
The notion that evolution has ‘done away with God’ is evident not just in the poll results but also in conversations creationists have had with numerous individuals over the years. CMI supporter and former speaker Warwick Armstrong tells of an encounter he had with a friend named Peter:
“As we talked, it soon became clear that, like many who believe microbe-to-man evolution to be fact, Peter did not really know much about it—mostly just the Hollywood version. Nonetheless he ‘knew’ it was fact, and therefore, to him, it proved there is no God, nor any need of God. And isn’t that the common problem? Because of humanistic/evolutionary indoctrination any talk of God, salvation, rising from the dead, and ultimate forgiveness is nonsense to him—and of course to countless others. He may even have been moved by part of my conversations over the years but his blind faith in evolution closed his mind to reality, leaving him comfortably secure in the belief that Christianity is not something he needs to give serious consideration to. As far as he is concerned ‘science’ has proven Christianity wrong, therefore pointless.”12
What the poll reveals
If Christians were in doubt of the need to counter the evolutionary tide they would do well to look beyond the New Scientist article, ponder Warwick’s encounter and study the stark reality of the poll results.10
New Scientist’s evolutionary explanations for religion ought to ring alarm bells for Christians, and spur them to action—i.e. to speak out against such nonsense. What nonsense? Try “cognitive by-product theory”, for example, which despite its scientific-sounding name actually says that “certain features of human psychology that evolved for non-religious reasons also create fertile ground for god”.13 And can’t you just hear the patronising tone in this New Scientist claim: “Notions of a benevolent personal god, higher purpose and an afterlife, for example, help people to manage the existential dread and uncertainty that are part of being human.”13 And of course, against the other nonsense spouted by New Scientist cited earlier that evolution is religiously neutral, when their own practices contradict this.
In other words for New Scientist and anti-creationists in general, having religious convictions is just another thought process. But just don’t try to tell them their thought processes are religious as well—or that their thoughts are just the result of random motions of atoms in their brains obeying fixed laws of chemistry!
One thing the article highlighted was the fact that when nations move towards being a more secular society there is a drop in those claiming a religious affiliation. New Scientist quoted a university psychologist who said: “We have a powerful secularisation trend worldwide. There are places where secularisation is making huge inroads: western and northern Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China.”14
And what follows from that is the effect that evolutionary philosophy—which underpins secular education—is having on students. This is confirmed by the poll finding that “college educated are 16% less religious than those without secondary education”.10 And why wouldn’t they be, given that only an evolutionary view of the world is presented, and is presented as ‘science’? This shows the fallacy of neutrality in education.
Philosophy vs free gift of salvation
In considering the elements that made up the world-wide shift in attitudes, New Scientist observed that irreligion flourished where people were exposed to science and other analytical systems of thought.15 Of course, this ignores that science first flourished in countries with a strong Christian world view, because this world view provides the assumptions needed for science to work in the first place. But what it didn’t acknowledge was the obvious bias that modern materialistic scientists have against explanations about origins other than evolutionary ones. Creation is not considered; in fact it is barred from the debate.
The world is not really losing its religion—in the sense that the New Scientist article defines it. Rather, it is simply continuing to ignore the Creator God with more and more distractions—some relatively harmless like career, sports and hobbies; and others more destructive such as drugs, alcohol and various addictions. In effect, the world is ‘finding’ another ‘religion’.
And rather than the obvious limitation/confusion of irreligion/atheism/secular humanism—or whatever other ‘ism’ humans choose—can have on morality for example, consider some of the many things we can deduce from what the God of the Bible has revealed:
- Morality is real precisely because God is real. As our Creator, He is the transcendent authority—the law-giver who gets to tell us what we ‘ought’ or ‘ought not’ to do. It is because we are made by Him and are like Him that we know we cannot really treat morality as just an invention. It is because existence is more than just molecules, that right and wrong are important. It is because we are made in the image of God the Creator that morality really is bigger than we are. Which means that God ultimately defines what is right and what is wrong.16
- Can we be truly good without honouring God? No, because by refusing to honour our Maker we break the first and greatest of all the commandments. (To love Him with our whole being—Mark 12:30.)
- God dissenters need to face up to logic—ultimately, either nothing is immoral (because there is no God, and thus no such thing as morality) or atheism is itself immoral—as leading atheistic evolutionists Dawkins and Provine have admitted. There are no coherent alternatives.
- God has provided a way of escape from the curse of death and the judgment to come. Either we must suffer our punishment, or else a Substitute must endure it in our place (Isaiah 53). The Substitute must be fully human to substitute for humanity (Hebrews 2:14), must be perfectly sinless so He would not have to atone for sins of His own (Hebrews 7:27), and must be fully Divine to endure God’s infinite wrath (Isaiah 53:10). To be the mediator between God and Man, Jesus must be both—‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5).
- The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3:16) Jesus Christ came into the world to take upon Himself the curse and penalty for our sins. As God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), the God-man Jesus lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15) and willingly gave Himself to suffer death for us, in our place (Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18). He took upon himself the punishment we deserved for our sins. As He was God (as well as man), His life was of sufficient value to pay for all the sins of any number of people. And He rose from the dead, proving that He had paid the price and conquered death. Jesus’ death and Resurrection are attested facts of history—many have tried to explain away the events and instead been converted.16
So the ultimate source of morality can only be from the Creator God. And many God dissenters borrow from that code on the one hand while denying Him on the other. That does not necessarily mean they are immoral but there is no objective basis for their goodness. And the question to them should be: Why would you choose anything else but the free gift of Salvation?
References and notes
- Lawton, G., Losing our religion, New Scientist 222(2967):30–35, 3 May 2014. Return to text.
- Online version of article is titled: ‘Losing our religion: Your guide to a godless future’, newscientist.com, 30 April 2014. Return to text.
- End of intolerance, New Scientist 222(2967):29, 3 May 2014. Return to text.
- Swinford, S., David Cameron says Christians should be ‘more evangelical’, telegraph.co.uk, 16 April 2014. Return to text.
- God not-botherers, New Scientist 222(2967):42–3, 3 May 2014. Return to text.
- Shallis, M., In the eye of a storm, New Scientist 101(1393):42–43, 19 January 1984. Return to text.
- Cupp, S.E., Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity, Threshold Editions, New York, 2010. Return to text.
- Postgate, J., Who’s holding the moral high ground?, New Scientist 146(1972):45, 8 April 1995. Return to text.
- “A world-wide poll conducted by WIN-Gallup International, a network of the world’s top most independent pollsters, asked exactly the same question in 57 countries across the globe: Question: Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons* or a convinced atheist?” *Note persons in original instead of person. Accessed 14 May 2014 at wingia.com. Return to text.
- For full details of poll, see wingia.com. Return to text.
- Ruse, M., How evolution became a religion: creationists correct?, National Post, pp. B1,B3,B7, May 13, 2000. Return to text.
- Armstrong, W., Who is listening?, 15 May 2014, creation.com/who-is-listening. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p.32. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p.31. Return to text.
- Ref. 1, p.33. Return to text.
- Anderson, D., Can we be good without God?, 29 July 2008, creation.com/can-we-be-good-without-god. Return to text.