Dr. Wayne Rossiter
While Dr. Wayne Rossiter currently resides in the modest position of Assistant Professor of Biology at a little Christian College in Pennsylvania, this young academic has still managed to gain some notoriety in the atheist community with his dramatic conversion story from atheistic Evolutionary Biologist to Christian Biologist – and some celebrity in the Christian community due to his no-holds-barred criticism of theistic evolution which he publicized in his 2015 book, Shadow of Oz.
Practically on the heels of his last book (published in October of 2015), Rossiter released a new book in January of 2016, coauthored with his brother. Straying away from his field of biology, this new book – titled Mind Over Matter – looks at the modern world and asks the question “The idea that matter and energy are all that exist, and that these two things alone are sufficient to explain everything about the universe – does this fit the facts?”
This writer had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Rossiter about his new book and get just a few of these facts.
The seeds of this concept – that the material universe was poorly suited for explaining all of the facts humans knew about the broader spectrum of existence – were undoubtedly planted while Rossiter was still an atheist, as described in this excerpt from his first book:
“On what rational grounds could I care about the state of the planet (or even my family) after I’m gone? And what did I even mean by “good” or “bad”? I couldn’t argue that any objective morality existed apart from our subjective experiences. Any moral laws that might objectively exist – whether or not anyone ascribes to them – would be beyond our grasp, and we would have no objective or rational reason to obey them if they did exist. Nothing mattered. This is Dennett’s “universal acid,” and Darwin’s ideas applied that acid to the human condition. If molecules led to cells, and cells to organs, and organs to bodies, then the “molecules-to-man” hypothesis was true. We really were just wet computers responding to external stimuli in mechanical and unconscious ways. No soul, no consciousness. Just machines. I was completely and utterly devastated. (pp. 4-5)”
However, it was not his conversion experience which inspired Rossiter to write this book. In the interview, Rossiter explained that this book was largely in reaction to another book: Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists. Boghossian’s book claims to offer what amounts to evangelism techniques to win religious people over to atheism in a similar way to how religious people evangelize unbelievers. Boghossian focuses largely on the fact that (he says) religion is blind faith in unverifiable, superstitious nonsense, whereas skepticism places its belief in confirmed scientific facts.
In response to this, Rossiter says:
“…arguments like his have been successful for all of the wrong reasons. The science vs. religion debate has been wildly popular in the media, but the content on the atheists’ side has been fairly empty. My brother and I wrote Mind Over Matter as an attempt to offer quick and easy responses to the most common objections raised against belief in God. We basically got tired of well-meaning Christians getting bullied by bad arguments. This book represents a partial antidote.”
The Biologist and the Philosopher
Mind Over Matter was written in equal parts by both Wayne and his brother, Brian. The book contends that the universe requires both the material aspects – such as energy and matter – and immaterial aspects – such as number sets, principles of logic, morality and minds. Fittingly, Wayne is a Biologist while his brother is a Theologian. Between the two of them, they provided insights on both the material and immaterial functions of the universe. Says Rossiter:
“When my brother and I get together, all we do is discuss these issues. The book emerged from several years of those discussions. The process was completely organic. We just started keeping notes on the ideas we’d discuss, as well as the types of objections that were most common in the mainstream debate circuit. It was also surprisingly egalitarian. I’d say the book is really about a 60/40 split in effort, which is incredibly gratifying. It really was a joint effort.”
Despite the fact that the book stands in broad disagreement with atheism – as well as most of the presuppositions people in the modern world hold – the book is not, Wayne assures, disagreeable.
“…we start with shared facts about reality, and work towards a rational case for God. For example, most atheists don’t realize that they must assume the existence of immaterial things like numbers or logical relationships before they even begin to do scientific experiments or engage in debates. The quantity pi (3.14) has no volume, mass, charge or spatial location. Yet, it is a real attribute of our material world. So, clearly reality is not just matter. Likewise, many fields of science routinely infer the actions of intelligence in causing physical phenomena. If a behavioral ecologist goes into the field and sees a conspicuous pattern of bramble in the grass, they will rightly identify it as something intelligently and purposefully made (in this case, a nest made by a bower bird). When you put observations like these together, you begin to get an answer to why there is this 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics' in describing the natural world, and why the universe is both logical and comprehensible. While such features of reality continue to befuddle atheists, they fit nicely within the worldview of the theist. This was our approach in writing Mind Over Matter.”
As challenging as the subject matter may seem, Rossiter’s heart for the work was for the average Christian reader, and so he has kept the work digestible:
“…it’s a really short book that’s intended for 'on the street' use by any believer. Sure, some of the jargon is unavoidable, but basically, this book offers sound responses to objections like 'Who made God?,' 'We can replace God with science,' 'We have the fossils, we win,' etc. Right now, atheists are winning debates in the public sphere using arguments that are easily knocked down. Our book shows you how (and why).”