By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Varghese calls Dawkins' critique of theism among the most superficial he has ever seen. "It [the Bible] is neither a textbook of science nor a textbook of theology," he says. "It is an account of God's interaction with humanity. And humanity's interaction with humanity."
Still, why the sudden rash of caustic tracts espousing godlessness? "The increase in atheism is a backlash to the religious right," Stenger argues. "They're trying to convert the country into a theocracy so that they can have power over the rest of us. It's hard to believe it is happening in this country."
Stenger's claim seems a bit overwrought. Adoption of the social and political desires of many on the religious right—abortion prohibition, blocking widespread condom distribution, barring government sanctioning of homosexual relationships, tightened public decency standards, the rollback of sex education in schools and the tolerance of religious symbols and texts in the public square—would merely turn the clock back to the late 1950s. Was America a theocracy up through the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations?
SMU's Ruben suggests organic molecules may not have even evolved on Earth. He speculates they came from outer space. "The tail of comets passing around the Earth may have seeded Earth with organic molecules," he says.
Then there is the bizarre spectacle of the Cambrian Explosion, the geological era beginning some 505 to 550 million years ago. In this evolutionary leap, virtually every major life form and all the basic body plans in existence today—intestinal structures, jointed limbs, gills, eyes with fully formed lenses—seemingly emerged fully formed from single-celled and other simple life forms without any apparent evolutionary antecedents. This explosion from single-celled simplicity to multicellular complexity occurred within a geological moment of 5 to 10 million years. Before the Cambrian discoveries, scientists believed well more than 100 million years of evolutionary incrementalism were necessary for the basic body plans of advanced life to develop from simple life forms, which loitered for 3 billion years before this biological boom.
Tulane University professor of mathematical physics Frank Tipler, author of the just released The Physics of Christianity, believes recent discoveries in the field of physics have profoundly unsettled scientists once wedded to the idea of an eternal, material universe. In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble postulated that the universe was expanding. His discoveries lent the first observational support for Big Bang cosmology. "[T]he laws of physics tell us the universe began a finite time ago in an initial singularity...the uncaused first cause," Tipler says. "They [secular scientists] do not like the idea of a universe beginning in an uncaused first cause."
Big Bang cosmology was one of the discoveries that rattled Antony Flew's strident atheism. If there were no reason to think the universe had a beginning, "there would be no need to postulate something else which produced the whole thing," he says in Varghese's documentary Has Science Discovered God?
"I think what's happening is that the world is becoming polarized," muses Schroeder of the recent godless surge. "The more we understand about the complexity of life and how unlikely it is to have happened by randomness, the stronger the arguments that have to be made for a non-teleological world, a world without a metaphysical presence."
It's this denial of a metaphysical presence in the universe that Varghese passionately seeks to dismember. The metaphysical and its profound intelligence can be detected everywhere, he stresses. It's locked in physical laws governing particles, fields and energy. Einstein famously remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. Varghese insists this comprehensibility has a distinct source.
"There's an infinite source of rationality," he says. "There's an infinite mind, a mind behind everything. That's something you can't deny without running into incoherence."
Gilder illustrates his thesis using a computer. Silicon microprocessors, carefully assembled in all their multibillion dollar precision, could never give rise to an operating system, such as Microsoft Windows. "In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate," writes Gilder. "No possible knowledge of the computer's materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations."