Sunday, November 29, 2009

At the alter of Darwin

Point 5 of the 'new atheists" according to John Haught is: "All living things are the result of Darwinian evolution." While it is true that evolution takes place (evolution in the sense of change or microevolutionary adaptations), the question really is to what extent? On a Darwinian scale all life has evolved from a single celled organism. Multiple problems exist with Darwin's view. First, how did this first organism appear from non-living material? Second, what evidence exists in the fossil record? Third, How do you add new genetic material? Fourth, How does a cold blooded organism (which is more primitive) develop a warm blooded system by way of small gradual changes? Fifth, what about the Cambrian explosion?1 Sixth, what about irreducible complexity?2 Seventh, what do you do with the appearance of design and the rise of consciousness?

Today, however the theory of evolution is being presented as settled fact. Much of what is being presented by the "new atheists" is nothing more than religious philosophy. Evolutionary changes cannot be denied, but are we talking of macroevolutionary changes where all life springs from a single life form (i.e. tree of evolution) or are the changes merely adaptations (microevolution) within the various phyla of organisms?

1 ( a secular article that addresses the Cambrian explosion)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Only the empirical god

The fourth point of the "new atheist" states: "All explanations can be understood from the position of scientific naturalism."1 First, a few definitions are in order before proceeding. Naturalism is the position that believes all that exists or is real must belong to the natural world. On this view, supernaturalism is a moot point. Therefore, science becomes the kingpin in understanding the natural world. Scientism is the belief that science is at least king (weak version) or the only way (strong version) by which knowledge can be obtained.2 All answers must therefore be phrased naturalistically, since the supernatural can't give us any answers to what should count for knowledge. According to scientific naturalism, any talk of God would be ridiculously silly. A God or gods simply cannot exist on a naturalist view.

Scientific naturalism becomes a kind of god, whereby science is the theological text. Science is always empirical. Empiricism is the belief that knowledge is only derived from sense experience. All that can be known is only contained within the natural world. This is why some individuals mock any type of theistic belief. The only way to discover is by way of the empirical sciences. This is done and justified by way of testing or through the use of the scientific method.

The problem with the "new atheists" revolves around the fact that they have limited themselves to what can be known. Also, contradictions exist within this particular way of obtaining knowledge. First, if a supernatural realm does exist, the "new atheists" will never be able to find it. They have limited themselves to the natural world and have closed their minds to the possibility of obtaining knowledge by way of an inference to the best explanation. Anthony Flew left atheism for theism exactly because he was able to follow the evidence wherever it led. He had this to say about the evidence of DNA and its' supernatural implications, "It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."3 When the "new atheist" limits knowledge to only the natural world and the discovery thereof, it is like fighting with both hands tied behind your back.

The second big problem with this naturalistic argument is that even the "new atheist" can't meet there own criteria for how one makes discovery. For example, "How do you prove the scientific method is the best way to obtain knowledge by way of the scientific method?" Additionally, problems exist concerning, the meaning of life, moral values, and humans as possessors of intrinsic values.

On the "new atheist" view, moral meaning simply does not exist. Atheist Michael Ruse notes, "Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth...Morality is just an aid to survival ...and any deeper meaning is illusory."4 Atheist J.L. Mackie says, "Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.4 I think C.S. Lewis best sums things up by saying, "Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning."5

Moral values provide another problem of that can't be scientifically tested. On the atheistic view, without God, morals are irrelevant. Therefore, there is no reason why we should behave in a morally responsive way. If the atheist says, "we should be morally responsive," an answer should be provided as to why we should. On a strictly Darwinian mindset, we are to operate according to the mechanical law of survival of the fittest, without regard for our fellow accidentally created beings. Anytime a moral law is admitted to by the atheist, then the whole game changes. For with the moral law comes the moral law-giver, God.

Lastly, humans do seem to process intrinsic value, which would run counter to the results of naturalism. Again, here is another issue that does not seem to lend itself to what science cannot give an answer to. Atheist Peter Singer, rightly justifies that when an individual recognizes humans with intrinsic values, it is proper to "argue that humans were created in the image of God."6 So,why would Singer and others conclude that humans are no more special than an ant? This seems to be a ludicrous view without any supporting evidence.

Scientific naturalism cannot measure up to its own standards and can't give us answers to some fundamental truths. When scientific naturalism is the accepted way to access knowledge, only the god of empiricism can be worshiped. By stating that understanding is only acquired by way of scientific naturalism is not only closed minded, but the possibility to discover knowledge is severely hampered and eternally dangerous to the soul.

1 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, xiii - xiv
3 Interview of Anthony Flew:
4 Michael Ruse as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 51
5 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 46
5 Peter Singer as quoted in, Kingdom Triangle, p. 53

Monday, November 23, 2009

No meaning, no purpose, and no hope

The third point of the "new atheist," according to John Haught1 is: "The universe has no purpose or meaning." It is true that, without God the universe is without purpose or meaning. I would also add that this life is without hope on the atheistic worldview.

What I find puzzling is the passion of the "new atheist" in wanting to spread this message. First, it seems they (new atheist) are trying to give meaning to their view by saying that it has no meaning . Why give meaning to meaninglessness? It seems to be a contradictory view. Second, the message being promoted does nothing to further the condition of humankind in a morally responsive way. I am not denying that atheists can't be moral, but am saying that a message of purposelessness and meaninglessness is one that has the potential to bring not only disorder, but untold terror.2 When man is supreme without any moral grounding, then why should we even consider the good of others? Good is, in fact, an obsolete term on an atheistic worldview. On a purely Darwinistic view, survival of the fittest becomes the only guiding force for moral values and decisions.

The "new atheist" are correct about meaning and purpose without God in the picture, but trying to force this position on others will only cause the degradation of society.3 If this view ever becomes the dominant view, you can count on two things, the world will truly be without hope and a scary world filled with unimagined terror will ensue.

John Haught, God and the New Atheism, Introduction pages xiii-xiv
2 Good article dealing with the logical moral outcomes of atheism:

3 Great story by Nietzsche depicting the condition of man without God:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Beginning

The second point of the "new atheist" is, "the natural world is not the product of the supernatural, but nature organized itself." It is now known that the universe came into being by way of the big bang some 14 billion years ago. The universe, therefore, had an origin. As William Lane Craig has stated, "from nothing, nothing comes." In other words, the universe did not just pop into existence by some unknown, chance, natural process. There must be an explanation for the beginning of the space-time universe.

There are only two choices here concerning the origin of the universe: either some unknown cause brought everything into being by a natural process or the universe is the product of a supernatural being. William Lane Craig, has also revived an ancient argument called the "Kalam Cosmological Argument." The argument is as follows: 1.) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2.) The universe began to exist. 3.) Therefore, the universe was caused. Since, it is impossible for things to pop into existence and since the universe shows incredible design, it is only logical to believe that the universe was caused by a supernatural being, who is unlimited in power, immaterial, and personal. The "new atheist" can posit no position as to how the universe began to exist. All they can do is make incoherent statements without any type of support.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New atheism and naturalism

The first tenant of the "new atheist" is: "Nature is all there is. There is no God, soul or life beyond death."1 Naturalism entails that the natural world is all that exists. Knowledge, therefore is limited to the natural world. This also ties into a view called "Scientism." The strong form of "Scientism" sees science as the bearer of all knowledge. Science is the only true way by which knowledge can be obtained. Weak "Scientism" will allow other forms of knowledge, but science itself is superior to all the other forms of knowledge.

The naturalist, Wilfred Sellers, announced back in the 60's that, "Science is the measure of all things."2 On this view, the supernatural is inconceivable. As the late Carl Sagan so stated, "The universe is all there is, or was, or ever will be." Christopher Hitchens believes, "Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and microscope, it no longer offers any explanation of anything important."3 Any view of the supernatural is therefore ridiculous according to the "new atheists." In the end, any religious believer is laughed off the stage by the "new atheist" as anti-intellectual and ignorant.

1 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, introduction pages xiii - xiv
2 Sellers as quoted in J.P. Moreland's, Kingdom Triange, p.41
3 Hitchens as quoted in John Haught's, God and the New Atheism, p. 53
* Various debates and discussions with Christopher Hitchens:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sam Harris and the New Atheists

The "new atheists" differ in their outlook from the old atheist because of their fervent passion to see all religions, not simply be quiet in their religious claims, but that all religions are extinguished. Sam Harris is leading the charge. He is quoted as saying that, "If anyone has written a book more critical of religious faith than I have, I'm not aware of it."1

There are seven tenants of the "new atheists." Some of the tenants seem to overlap one another. The seven tenants are as follows:
1. Nature is all there is. There is no God, soul, or life beyond death.
2. Nature organized itself, it is not the product of a Supernatural Being.
3. The universe has no purpose or meaning.
4. All explanations must be understood from the position of scientific naturalism.
5. All living things are the result of Darwinian evolution.
6. Faith in God has resulted in untold evil and should be rejected on moral grounds.
7. Morality does not require belief in God. People behave better without faith than with it.2

It is the belief of Harris that only "the end of faith" holds any promise for saving the world.3 In the coming blogs I would like to examine the 7 tenants of the "new atheists" in John Haught's book, God and the New Atheism. I will also examine some of the other major players within the movement.

1 Sam Harris - An article titled "Radical Mysticism" which can be accessed on-line at:
2 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, Introduction pages xiii-xiv
3 John Haught, God and the New Atheism, p. 8

* for a good review of Sam Harris and others in the new athiest movement: