When the NASA New Horizons pictures of Pluto were recently published, a lot of people reacted with declarations of, “I LOVE SCIENCE!” and of how amazing, awe-inspiring, and praiseworthy science is. There is nothing inherently wrong about appreciating science, loving it even. But, do people realize that science didn’t create Pluto? That science has nothing to do with the existence of Pluto?

You might think that this phenomenon of people declaring their love of science has nothing to do with shirk and is absolutely harmless. And in many cases, I would agree. But in our cultural circumstance, where people are increasingly leaving religion, becoming agnostic and atheist, and generally denying the relevance and power of God, these statements are not without a deeper significance.

The universal human response upon seeing the sublime wonders of nature is to be in awe, to be dumbfounded with the splendor that is the natural world. Also universally human is to feel that someone, some agent, is responsible for this splendor — that it didn’t just come from nothing, that it didn’t just create itself — and then to praise and appreciate that agent. For those who do not believe in God, these involuntary sentiments have to be directed somewhere. So people divert their declarations of adoration to science or “mother nature,” etc. Obviously, these people do not believe that there is an actual entity or deity of Mother Nature. And they couldn’t believe that science is responsible for the creation or preservation of natural phenomena. So in what sense should the sight of Pluto elicit that kind of glee, joy, adoration, excitement, and love toward a man-made academic discipline? Or put another way, if people show this much love and appreciation toward science for its ability to produce images of or to discover details about the natural world, then what about the Creator of those details and the objects of those images?

How utterly stupid and senseless is it for humans to praise science for what they see in the natural world, in essence praising their own minds, without at least acknowledging, if not being certain about, the possibility of a Creator? You could imagine a person who doesn’t show any appreciation for nature. You show him these pictures of Pluto, take him to see the most beautiful sunset, etc., and he says, “So what? What’s the big deal? These are not impressive.” That would be a more intellectually consistent attitude. Also more intellectually consistent would be to praise and love Pluto itself. And that is what nature-worship throughout history has been. (It’s no coincidence that all the planets in our solar system have the names of Greek and Roman gods.) But since, according to modern materialism, it would make little sense to praise, love, or show devotion to a lifeless, unconscious rock in outer space, that option is also closed. So people praise science instead, as if that makes any sense.

And the rest of us are left wondering, how idiotic to deny a Creator but also praise science. At most, science is a lens. If you were to read a food photo blog or architectural design blog and were particularly impressed with what you saw therein, you wouldn’t gush over the photographer and ignore the chef or the architect? That would be completely illogical. And if you believe that there is no chef or architect, that the cuisine or the architectural marvel built itself, then, still, why praise anything? The photographer or photography in general has nothing to do with the object of the photograph. If photography is what is spurring this adoration, read a book on photography. If science is what is really praiseworthy, go read Newton’s Principia. Don’t browse space photos and spurt about how mindblowingly amazing science is.

Subtle ShirkWhen the NASA New Horizons pictures of Pluto were recently published, a lot of people reacted with…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Daniel Haqiqatjou

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4 comments

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  • Really? So a non-believer can’t genuinely feel awe and admire beauty. You clearly have no idea how people actually think. Your lack of empathy appears to lead you to deny the emotional life of atheists. In all of that, you are wrong. Your conclusions bear no resemblance to anything in real life.
    Stop attacking other world views and try to understand.

    • Of course he can. This is philosophy, not opinion or slander. No need to take it personally – I know I can obsess over nature’s beauty like a dumb hippie despite being an atheist – but this bit certainly was delicious food for thought, as was most of the rest of his blog!

  • I’m amazed by your blog. I’m the most avid atheist I know, I’ve always believed that it was so stupid of people to need a made up story to have a sense of morality…but I realise it’s not just about me, and the incredibly selfish individualistic culture I’ve grown up in. Your blog is immensely philosophical and has opened my mind to new philosophical horizons never before explored. Thank you Daniel and keep writing! In fact I’m shocked that your blog isn’t more successful…I’ve been raving about it to all my friends. Unfortunately people don’t like being confronted with uncomfortable truths about themselves and especially the culture they