Commentary

Science Uprising: A New Case Against the New Atheists Comes to YouTube

Jonathan Witt
By Jonathan Witt | June 21, 2019 | 3:58 PM EDT

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A new YouTube series, Science Uprising, challenges the notion that the smart money is on atheism.

I was part of the creative team behind the project. One of our aims was to reach Generation Z, “digital natives” who get much of their impression of the wider world from the internet, including streaming services like YouTube.

This generation tends to encounter well-articulated arguments for unbelief much earlier than their parents did, and they often encounter those arguments online. Science Uprising is among an increasingly rich body of online video material that pushes back against the flood of anti-theistic online propaganda.

The video series features researchers at the forefront of the intelligent design movement, including Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe and Cambridge-trained philosopher of science Stephen Meyer. But it also feature some top researchers outside this circle, including renowned research psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, leading synthetic organic chemist James Tour, and physicist Frank Tipler. For you physics/cosmology folks out there—yes, that Tipler.

Each Science Uprising video is 6-8 minutes long, fast-paced, and produced by filmmakers with extensive experience in the television industry. David Arabia, whose camera work can be seen on the popular History Channel series Mountain Men, headed up the project.

Each episode begins with a masked host who appears to hack into television and internet feeds around the country to offer a contrary perspective. One moment people in restaurants, classrooms, living rooms, Times Square, etc., are watching science popularizers like Bill Nye and Neal DeGrasse Tyson peddle a vision of man and nature as mere matter in motion. The next moment, the hacker host has replaced them onscreen to question their claims and introduce the episode topic.

In the first episode, released June 3, Carl Sagan famously intones that “the cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be,” then the masked host crackles onto the screen and asks, “How do they know the cosmos is all there is?”

In the second episode, released Monday, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne tells his audience that free will is an illusion since humans are essentially just “robots made out of meat.” The masked host then asks, “Are you and I really robots?”

The point of this hacker framing device isn’t that we live in an Orwellian police state. The United States enjoys tremendous press freedom—a freedom we are taking full advantage of through this video series. The idea, rather, is that if you passively absorb mainstream media and public education in the West, you will get a blinkered sense of what the latest scientific evidence suggests about the nature and origin of humankind and the cosmos.

Subsequent episodes will be released every Monday into July. They explore everything from DNA and genetic mutations to the curious way Earth and the laws of nature appear to be fine-tuned to allow for life. Each video includes one or more experts providing evidence that reality is more than matter, and that the world is charged with purpose and design.

To take one example: In the first episode philosopher Jay Richards argues that scientific materialism—the idea that matter and energy are all that really exist, and immaterial things like emotions, beliefs, and personalities are merely illusions —is contradictory and self-defeating. As he notes, “Oddly, the scientific materialist has to deny the existence of scientists.”

“In the modern age,” he continues, “people often try to identify this philosophical idea of materialism with the practice of natural science itself, but there’s no reason these two things would go together. Natural science is just a formal way to discover truths about nature.”

This is why Nobel Prize winning physicist Charles Townes, quoted in a later episode of the series, could study the striking fact that the laws and constants of the universe appear to be exquisitely fine-tuned to allow for life, and then conclude without contradiction, “Intelligent Design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe. It’s remarkable that it came out just this way.”

This is a side of the story many young people never hear. Science Uprising is all about changing that.

Jonathan Witt, PhD, is a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and executive editor of Discovery Institute Press. He is co-author of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature and Intelligent Design Uncensored (both from IVP), as well as The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot (Ignatius).

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