Christmas nonsense from a funny man

gervais1I’m a Ricky Gervais fan… a big Ricky Gervais fan. The original BBC version of The Office was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, and there were moments in his follow up series, Extras, that were equally hilarious. I’ve also enjoyed his stand-up comedy — rare for me — as well as his frenetic and unpredictable talk show interviews. But every man has his limits, and Gervais found his when he decided to turn philosopher in the pages of The Wall Street Journal.

In Monday’s edition, he offered a “Holiday Message” for his Christian friends. 

“I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe…”

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Since science deals with material realities, and God is by definition, immaterial, we wouldn’t expect to find Him under a microscope. And you know what’s logically impossible? An infinite regress in a strictly material universe.

And then there’s this:

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?”

While that sounds reasonable at first, it doesn’t hold up. Atheism — the notion that there is no God and the universe is without a Creator — is itself a truth claim. And when you combine that with the fact that belief in some kind of deity is universal across every culture and time period, it’s clear that atheists are the ones making the innovative claim in need of proof.

But dorm room unbelief aside, here’s the paragraph that caught my eye:

Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. 

Really? Science is “humble” and “knows what it doesn’t know”? While that may be true in theory — the scientific method is a fine tool for investigating the material world — it certainly isn’t in practice. These days, scientists extend their expertise to matters of philosophy, theology, and morality, as well. (See Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, or Sam Harris’, The End of Faith, among many others.)

When Stephen Hawking revealed his undergraduate level misunderstanding of theist arguments by saying that the universe could have been created spontaneously through natural laws like gravity, he moved (clumsily) into the realm of philosophy.

Science is a wonderful aid to humanity when it “knows what it doesn’t know.” But that doesn’t describe the aggressively atheistic scientists of today, nor their fans in comedy.

  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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