Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another Article Attacking a Neo-Atheist and Promoting Religion

In the Daily Mail, Melanie Philips believes that a disbelief in God allows people then to believe in anything (like quack cures and kooky conspiracy theories) and that science is to blame. One point in her favor is the idea that when science promises to provide answers (as she claims Dawkins does), and the answers themselves are nonsensical, people then eschew belief in science, too.

Disturbing indeed. But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this is all as irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.

We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which faith is presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have replaced such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense.

It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that "when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything." So it has proved. But how did it happen?


The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is "true for me".

That is because our society won't put up with anything which gets in the way of 'what I want'. How we feel about things has become all-important. So reason has been knocked off its perch by emotion, and thinking has been replaced by feelings.

This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic. And this collapse of objective truth has, in turn, come to undermine science itself which is playing a role for which it is not fitted.

When science first developed in the West, it thought of itself merely as a tool to explore the natural world. It did not pour scorn upon religion; indeed, scientists were overwhelmingly religious believers (as many still are).

In modern times, however, science has given rise to 'scientism', the belief that science can answer all the questions of human existence. This is not so.

Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now presumes to do so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.

The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of life itself.

There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question "Who created God?", it follows that if scientists say the universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question "What created the bang?"

The ending is pretty weak. Talking about how "intelligent design" promoters are shot down by not obeying the scientific principle of evidence in support of one's theory and then stating that some scientists are ignoring that principle well. She does hit on a couple of important points. She discovers the exact false dilemma that Leonard Peikoff discusses in his "Disintegration, Integration, and Misintegration (DIM)" hypothesis. Most people are only aware of religion (truth handed down from "on-high") and subjectivism (anything goes because you can't know anything anyway). I am lucky enough to know that I can have a solid basis for knowledge and values that is anchored in reality, not religion.

What it comes down to, is that because this columnist doesn't know about Objectivism, she gives a bogus argument for religion because it is anti-scepticism.

1 comment:

Marnee said...

But the only way that religion is anti-skepticism is that it embraces the supernatural, namely god. Otherwise it leads to all kinds of skepticism, especially of science.

In my estimation, she also mischaracterizes the nature of truth in the context of the Judeo-Christian tradition. While there is the notion of absolute truths (cool beans), only that which is revealed to man by God is considered truth, here. QED: Knowledge arrived at by means of reason is irrelevant to truth at best and impossible at the worst. This is a kind of skepticism, yes? To the extent that any given Christian/Jew ever discovered any truths, as an Objectivist would understand them, he has implicitly rejected the Judeo-Christian concept of truths.