I like Emeritus Professor Peter Atkins (Oxford University, UK) and have listened to many of his debates and discussions over the years. I have his Physical Chemistry textbook and a couple more of his books on the periodic table and thermodynamics. Recently I have been listening to him on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable podcast. I do however continue to disagree most strongly with much of what he believes around the boundaries between science and philosophy, or science and theology. One common line of Peter’s that I really wish he would stop using when addressing theistic scientists is the line that “theistic explanations are lazy explanations”.
The reason I wish Peter would stop using this line is because it is just logically false. It is Peter the atheist who is in fact being lazy, for he closes the proverbial box and restricts possible explanations for the universe and morality by arbitrarily constructing scientistic boundaries around the questions that we are allowed to ask. Peter’s consistent atheism (consistent=good) means that his answers are too limiting, and I think it is very easy to show how the artificial limits that he puts on possible explanations are demonstrably unreasonable.
Think about it like this: Just imagine (for argument’s sake) that the universe really was created by God (the theistic hypothesis). Could Peter’s atheism ever get him to the point of knowing that the universe was made by God and therefore had theistic origins? The answer is “no” because the possible answers that are available in Peter’s limited worldview rule out that possibility and therefore he can never, even in principle, get to that truth about the reality we just imagined. That is why I like Jonathan Wells’ definition of science which is “the search for truth”. This definition, unlike Peter’s, does not force atheistic scientism upon science and the search for ultimate truth because it does not limit the size of the box. Peter’s box is too small and his possible explanatory hypotheses arbitrarily frontload the hypotheses so that only atheistic answers can result (and that is intellectually lazy).
It is thus Peter who is being lazy, not the theistic scientist, for limiting philosophical and theological input into the discussion. In the process he robs us of possible answers to the biggest questions that people have been asking for millennia. And the biggest irony is that Peter’s boundaries are philosophical, which means that Peter neither derived them from science, not can he justify them from science. Peter is being intellectually lazy, which strikes me as odd given the magnitude and coverage of his Physical Chemistry textbook.
I hope Peter can enjoy the following video showing numerous examples of lazy theistic scientists.