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At Mind Matters News: 6. Is Matt Dillahunty using science as a crutch for his atheism?

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Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor thinks so of atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty:

That’s neurosurgeon Michael Egnor’s accusation in this third part of the debate, which features continued discussion of singularities, where conventional “laws of nature” break down.

News, “6. Is Matt Dillahunty using science as a crutch for his atheism?” at Mind Matters News (October 1, 2021)

At this point in the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to the origin of the universe, Egnor challenged Dillahunty on the fact, accepted in science, that our universe began in a singularity (where Einstein’s equations break down). What lies behind that?

They continue on the vexed issue of singularities — the boundaries of nature that challenge conventional interpretations from within current science. Egnor argues they point to something beyond that.

A partial transcript, notes, and links to previous portions of the debate follow:

Michael Egnor: What is a singularity? You’ve said it’s natural, what is it?

Matt Dillahunty: The singularity is the abstraction that cosmologists have put in a particular model that seems to be the current best explanation for the origins of the universe. It is viewed as all of our observable detectable physical universe condensed to, in an abstraction, a single point. Not a point, because there’s no such thing as a point, just like there’s no such thing as a number or an instant of time, which is why I have issues related to concurrent causation, but it may be there. [00:58:30]

But at the end of the day, I’m describing what scientists have said about Big Bang cosmology. I’m not saying it’s true. I’m not here to give a lecture on Big Bang cosmology. The issue was, does a God exist? For me, nothing about the singularity within Big Bang cosmology is necessarily a nail in the coffin either way, because there are theists who think that a God exists and accept Big Bang cosmology. Similarly, there are atheists who don’t accept that a God exists and don’t accept Big Bang cosmology. I have physicist friends who are working on alternate cosmologies. There needs to be a little bit of humility here in saying there are things that we don’t understand, and just because we don’t understand them, doesn’t mean we’re justified in taking an analogy and sticking a God in. [00:59:30]

Michael Egnor: You’ve made the argument that the argument for God’s existence is unscientific because it invokes the supernatural, things outside of nature. That’s the precis of your argument. I’ve just pointed out to you that singularities are outside of nature, and that’s a very scientific argument. There’s nothing unscientific to supernatural causation. If the effect of the causation is within the natural, that’s what arguments for God’s existence use. You see natural effects and you can infer a supernatural cause, which is done all the time in cosmology.

Matt Dillahunty: I will go check, because I have a couple of friends who are physicists. Matter of fact, if any of you happened to be watching, I doubt it, but I’m not aware of any actual cosmologists that views the singularity as a supernatural or extra-natural thing. I’m not aware of any cosmologists that views the internal, or the center of a black hole is something that’s extra-natural, supernatural, not in the sense that it is outside of the universe, outside of space time. It seems to be a functional part of that, and that time began [01:02:00] with that.

Setting all that aside, because you didn’t show up with a cosmologist, when you ask “What caused the Big Bang?” and I say “I don’t know,” the fact that I don’t know is irrelevant to whether or not a God exists. The fact that perhaps at some point, I would hope we would agree, that at some point no human being had any explanation for what caused the Big Bang, because nobody even had a Big Bang model to look at. And so, at that time, clearly this wasn’t relevant to whether or not a God exists. [01:01:30]

Michael Egnor: You’ve been using science as a crutch for your atheism.

Matt Dillahunty: I’m not using science as a crutch for atheism. I was a sincere believer. What I found were problems with the reasons for my belief, either fallacies or whatever else. I am a fan of science. I have been accused of scientism. I don’t know how much that does or doesn’t apply, but I also know that it’s not relevant to whether or not a God exists. Everything about me and my life… This is why at the beginning, when we talked about doing the introductions, nothing about me is relevant to whether or not a God exists, including whether or not I believe. There could be a God, despite the fact that I don’t believe there is one. [01:03:30]


Takehome: If the “supernatural” means “outside of conventional nature,” Michael Egnor argues, science routinely accepts it, based on evidence.


The debate to date:

  1. Debate: Former atheist neurosurgeon vs. former Christian activist. At Theology Unleashed, each gets a chance to state his case and interrogate the other. In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and broadcaster Matt Dillahunty clash over the existence of God.
  2. A neurosurgeon’s ten proofs for the existence of God. First, how did a medic, formerly an atheist, who cuts open people’s brains for a living, come to be sure there is irrefutable proof for God? In a lively debate at Theology Unleashed, Michael Egnor and Matt Dillahunty clash over “Does God exist?” Egnor starts off.
  3. Atheist Dillahunty spots fallacies in Christian Egnor’s views. “My position is that it’s unacceptable to believe something if the available evidence does not support it.” Dillahunty: We can’t conclusively disprove an unfalsifiable proposition. And that is what most “God” definitions, at least as far as I can tell, are.
  4. Egnor now tries to find out what Dillahunty actually knows… About philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as he begins a rebuttal. Atheist Dillahunty appears unable to recall the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, which poses a challenge for Egnor in rebutting him.
  5. Egnor, Dillahunty dispute the basic causes behind the universe. In a peppery exchange, Egnor argues that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as proofs in science. If the universe begins in a singularity (where Einstein’s equations break down), what lies behind it? Egnor challenges Dillahunty on that.

You may also wish to read:

Atheist spokesman Matt Dillahunty refuses to debate me again Although he has said that he finds debates “incredibly valuable,” he is — despite much urging — making an exception in this case. Why? For millennia, theists have thought meticulously about God’s existence. New Atheists merely deny any need to make a case. That’s partly why I dumped atheism. (Michael Egnor)

4 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: 6. Is Matt Dillahunty using science as a crutch for his atheism?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    Takehome: If the “supernatural” means “outside of conventional nature,” Michael Egnor argues, science routinely accepts it, based on evidence.

    So, according to Egnor, “supernatural” refers to unconventional nature? So how do we distinguish unconventional nature from conventional nature? Or is Egnor just playing silly wordgames?

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Atheist spokesman Matt Dillahunty refuses to debate me again Although he has said that he finds debates “incredibly valuable,” he is — despite much urging — making an exception in this case. Why? For millennia, theists have thought meticulously about God’s existence. New Atheists merely deny any need to make a case. That’s partly why I dumped atheism. (Michael Egnor)

    If Egnor really believes that atheists simply dismiss without any consideration the most meticulous arguments for God’s existence, why is he so keen for further debates with MD? Wouldn’t it just be a waste of his time?

  3. 3
    Origenes on vacation says:

    Seversky, do you hold that the universe was caused? If so, do you hold that the cause of the universe is not part of the universe?
    If so, do you agree with Egnor, that this cause is “outside of nature”, and that we have a case of “supernatural causation”?

  4. 4
    Seekers says:

    Seversky , are you a scientist? Genuinely asking, I’m just curious as to your position on the matter.

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