Although atheism often claims to be ‘scientific’, it’s difficult to square that claim with the difficulties atheism causes for the scientific perspective itself.
Firstly, atheism begins with a deep distrust of belief in general, yet scientific collaboration and thus science itself are predicated on belief. Without believing the results of other scientists each person would have to go through the entirety of scientific history including every measurement, every correction, every hypothesis, verification, reversal upon the discovery of new data or more accurate observation, new hypothesis and new verification, etc etc in order to know anything at all about science.
Secondly, both modern theology and modern science are predicated on a dialectical jointure of the rational and the empirical, which initially appear to be contradictory, together with a developmental view of reality. While this causes no particular issues for a theologically grounded science, it causes a number of issues for any science grounded in the notions of atheism.
Firstly, the notion of the empirical is by no means the same as the ‘experiential’, such as is found in both Aristotelian science and common sense pragmatism. In the latter two cases, what is experienced is experienced in how it is for us. This causes no particular issue for common sense pragmatism, since that is precisely its orientation, but the empirical, often mislabelled the ‘objective’, aims at precisely not determining how things are for us, but how they are for any possible observer, whether human or not. The difficulty is that this can only be a fictional posit within the terms of atheism, since we know of no self-aware non human observers who could perform such an observation. From a theological view, any possible perspective is as such a perspective that god has, and as a result it is not a fiction, but a real perspective.
The problems for the notion of rationality arise with the conjunction of a rational empiricism and the developmental view of reality. A common assumption to both theology and the natural sciences is that reality is at least partially intelligible to rational consciousness, since without that assumption neither study would have any point. This rational intelligibility, for a developmental view, becomes problematic in that rationality itself is a relatively recent development, universally speaking. Conversely, development itself is assumed to be rationally intelligible, and by analogy the notion of the historical record, which acts as the arbiter for historical notions, is transposed into the natural-historical record. Archaeologists cannot make the same types of claim about the ‘records’ of prehistory as historians can make about records intentionally kept as historical records within the confines of recorded history, yet natural science is stretching the analogy much further, and thus the claims that are made about the natural-historical record can be even more dubious than some of the more dubious claims of archaeologists, unsurprisingly since the natural-historical record doesn’t simply contain large gaps, it largely is those gaps, punctuated by clusters of records that by definition survived due to an unusual, improbable event. Aside from this pragmatic issue, the question remains how far the analogy may be pushed in any case. Is pre-human reality as rationally intelligible as we assume? And in terms of development of life, evolutionary development, while we may assume that some more primordial forms of what we understand as intent, will etc can account for the varied modes in which life has attempted to solve its own basic problem, that of how to make the probability of the recurrence of itself as self same more probable, more reliable, to what point can we assume such primordial modes of what must occur in order for there to be problems posed by reality which life must solve in order to develop? Adaptation is only a coherent idea within the notion of solving problems posed by the environment, how far back can we posit the prerequisites for such a coherence?
Going back as far as science posits there being a back to go to, the notion of the singularity is the biggest problem in science for an atheist. Firstly the singularity manifests an identical set of features to the god of the theologians, i.e. precisely the attributes theology claims can be rationally understood. Secondly, while the singularity is not a cause in the spatio-temporal sense, since neither predate the ‘explosion’ of the singularity, yet it remains a cause in some sense. As it is no longer, as well, it is temporally tensed in an indefinite manner, which implies that it is not eternal, and what is not eternal must arise in some way. This creates precisely the infinite regress atheists mistakenly claim is applicable to the god of theology. Worse, according to the theory although the singularity is neither spatial nor temporal, and thus not material in any sense, it had a determinate state at the moment of the ‘big bang’, which state is more improbable than anything in known reality. Yet how something that from an empirical perspective is not, nevertheless has state, is at best completely unclear.
The only thing we have any evidence of with similar properties is rational consciousness itself, which has state, yet cannot be grasped empirically, merely experientially. The only evidence we have of it is our own immediate awareness of experiencing it as ourselves. Our only knowledge of the mathematics that can describe the state of the singularity originates in the same source. Yet the notion of a rational consciousness that precedes all reality, existing only outside time and space in our sense, is the most fundamental notion that atheism denies.
Of course, it’s possible to turn this argument around and see modern science as merely an extension of theology, after all ‘natural science’ began as theology of nature and by that means took up a number of theological assumptions that outside Christian belief become far more questionable. The difficulty is that an atheism prepared to do that would have to jettison modern science virtually in its entirety. This may be less problematic than many atheists would think, particularly since the idea that modern technology is predicated on modern science, rather than vice versa, is demonstrably a false claim. It still would be the case, though, that atheism is at base anti-scientific, it would just be so in a more aware way.