Monday, August 31, 2009

The stupidity ... it burns!

Yes, I know that I have used that post title before, but it's still true.

So, what stupidity am I talking about this time? I'm talking about a blogpost over at Darwin's God called The (Real) Problem With Atheism

You can see from the title alone that this is going to be a goldmine of stupidity, can't you? Well, let's dig in, and do some fisking.

Did you know the new atheism is on the wane? Did you even know there was such a thing as the new atheism?

Yes, I am aware that there is a group of people commonly being referred to as "new atheists", and that they have spearheaded a push to get atheism into the open, letting atheists know that they are not alone, and that it's perfectly alright to be an atheist.
I didn't know it was on the wane however - I seem to see quite a few references to the new atheists in the media, and there were (and still is) a lot of coverage of the atheist bus campaigns around the world. Perhaps you could provide us with some evidence for this claim?

In recent years there has been a surge of activity from atheists. Organizations, web sites, conferences and books advocating the materialistic world view have entered the spiritual marketplace. Fueled by strong convictions, these thinkers have made little attempt to make their hard-edged attitudes palatable to the unsuspecting public. Instead, they have force-fed their ideas onto searchers, insisting that atheism is mandated by science and logic. When you strip away religious sentiment and just look at the data, they declared, atheism is required.

Yes, authors publishing books about atheism, and why they don't believe in a god, can only be considered force-feeding ideas to other people. Unlike the many books by religious people about their religions and why they are religious, which are of course just informative.

How dare atheists publish slogans like "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on billboards, without attempting to make it palatable to the "unsuspecting public"?

No, seriously, the author of the blogpost obviously haven't read the works by the new atheists, which are generally quite respectful towards other people (if not their beliefs). Reading these books would also have made the writer aware that none of those books, articles etc. claims that atheism is required based on the scientific evidence, but instead that the scientific evidence doesn't support any religious claims, and thus makes atheism a viable option. This is very different from what he claims that the atheists says.

Initially the new atheism attracted quite a bit of attention but now, as Bryon McCane pointed out this week, it is fading fast.

The evidence McCane provides for this claim is the fact that there are no books by new atheists on the bestselling charts. No great surprise, given the fact that none of the big names in that movement (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett) have published anything recently.

I take some solace in its demise not because I dislike atheists but because the new atheism sowed needless confusion. Atheism is, and always has been, irrelevant in the origins debate. But the rise of the new atheism made atheism appear more important than it really is.

I have read through this part several times, and no matter how many times I've read it, it makes no sense.

There can be two sorts of debates about origins: a science-based one, and one based on religious views. In the first case, I agree that atheism is not important, since religion plays no role, and thus is kept out of it. In the second case, atheism plays a very important role, even if you're religious - it's what keep dragging the debate back to reality. If religion, no matter how moderate, gets to dominate that debate, science won't be allowed to do its job without interference - that's why even religious people should appreciate the atheistic view in that context.

Unless of course they are not willing to conform their religious views to reality, in which case, an atheistic counterpoint becomes even more important.

For many, atheism is the driving force behind evolutionary thought. Isn't the origins debate between religious people and those who reject god? Did not Princeton's Charles Hodge early on identify Darwinism as atheism in disguise? Is not the rise of twentieth century atheism evidence for this? After all, it was the leading atheist Richard Dawkins who admitted that "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

It's only among the fundamentalist religious groups that science, such as the Theory of Evolution, is equaled to atheism. In the rest of the world, e.g. among Catholics, it's accepted that one can be religious and understand science as well. If science and religion conflicts, religion adjusts (as both the former Pope and the Dalai Lama has acknowledged).

What Dawkins meant by his comment about "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist" (which wasn't an admission but an explanation) was that until Darwin explained evolution, atheists might well realize that there were no gods, but they couldn't explain how humans came to exist. After Darwin's book, atheists could now understand how this might happen, even though there were no gods around.

It would be a mistake to think, however, that this meant that Dawkins (and others) didn't think that people couldn't be atheists before Darwin wrote his book - back then, there were still the same problems with the lack of evidence for any gods, and the problems with a multitude of religions. They just didn't have an alternative explanation (something which entirely valid - one can discard a hypothesis without having another in its place).

The rise of the new atheism seemed to confirm such views. Evolution, it seems, is all about atheism.

If you think that, you obviously haven't been following the subject very closely. Dawkins, and to some degree Dennett, did involve evolution in their arguments, but Hitchens and Harris didn't, and even Dawkins focuses much more on the lack of evidence for the existence of a god, than on evolution.

Maybe it would be better to actually read some of the authors that you criticize?

Before we close this case, however, let's take one more look. First, there are no arguments for evolution made from atheism. If you study the evolution genre, and especially that part that argues for the veracity of the theory, you will have great difficulty finding atheistic premises. In fact, I have not found any.

If you haven't found an atheistic premise for evolution, then you haven't understood anything about science. All science operate under the fundamental premise that there is nothing super-natural involved, including gods. Since the Theory of Evolution is science, the fundamental premise behind it, is that no gods have been involved - do you know what "atheist" means?

In other words, the whole damn premise of our understanding of evolution, is based on atheism.

This doesn't make science anti-religious as such, but only allows science to operate in the known, observable world, instead of the unobservable realms of the super-natural.

The strong arguments for evolution are, and always have been, from theism. God would not create this gritty world so it must have evolved. There is no meaningful distinction between theist and atheist when it comes to belief in evolution--they both rely on the same theological premises. An evolutionary theist, such as Francis Collins, and an evolutionary atheist, such as PZ Myers, use arguments that rely on the same theological assumptions.

I am sorry, but you, sir, are a moron. The strong arguments for evolution has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with observable facts - the very sort of facts that lead Darwin to understand the fundamentals of evolution in the first place. Facts such as bio-diversity and the fossil record, mutating diseases, genes etc.

For you to think that the arguments for evolution are from theism shows such a confounding stupidity, that it's a wonder that you're even able to type those words.

Oh, and I've been reading PZ Myers' blog for years, long before it moved to ScienceBlogs - could you point me to any place where he bases his arguments on any theological premises? And no, the base premise of science (which I explained above) is not a theological premise.

This is the dirty little trade secret of atheism: it is parasitical on theism. Atheism, itself, has nothing to add to the origins debate. As McCane notes, "the new atheists’ biggest mistake, by far, was to be openly intolerant of religion. They mocked, derided and made fun of it."

Atheism is the lack of religion. Nothing more, nothing less. "New atheism", or vocal atheism as I prefer to call it, is a push against the religious fanatics, which tries to impose their religious views on other people, including through removing the teaching of evolution from science classes. Pushing against such people, explaining why their arguments are not only wrong, but ridiculously wrong, is not parasitical to those arguments.

And in a science context, theism has nothing to add to the origins debate, and every time someone tries to argue from a theistic view-point, they just end up getting their arguments disproved. This is why the smarter religious sects, such as the Catholic Church, avoid doing so.

Indeed, atheism is motivated by skepticism of theism. It is not a positive argument for atheism, but a negative argument against theism. But an argument against theism usually entails theological convictions. Talk to any atheist and you're liable to hear strong convictions about what god should and should not do.

If you talk with an atheist in a strongly religious country, this is obviously the case (you are a product of your environment after all), but talk to an atheist from a secular country, and they will have a very relaxed attitude to religion (sorry, you probably didn't realize that there might be atheists outside the US).

One thing is true though, there is not really any positive arguments for atheism. There can't be - again, atheism is just the lack of belief in a god. Most people become atheists by following the evidence for gods to where it leads - nowhere. Being an atheist is a default option, where no other option makes sense to you.

As the atheist Myers wrote in the LA Times recently:

We go right to the central issue of whether there is a god or not. We're pretty certain that if there were an all-powerful being pulling the strings and shaping history for the benefit of human beings, the universe would look rather different than it does.

How do they have any idea what god would and would not do? Because they hold certain beliefs about god. Their atheism relies on their theism. Unbelievable. The folks who bring you the new, cutting edge, atheism rely on, yes, their own ridiculous pious pleadings. How pathetic.

Like many other atheists, PZ Myers didn't start out being an atheist, so he actually knows a fair bit about the beliefs of others. In this case, his argument is based on the concept of god as most people hold it, which is as a beneficiary deity.

I am leaving out a part where the author goes into atheism in the past, making no point whatsoever, and start where he returns to the now.

The story is no different today. Scientifically the theory is a muddle, but metaphysically it is mandated. Its truth is derived from the rejection of design / creation. Today, as in centuries past, the arguments come from the theists and are borrowed by the atheists.

If the past paragraphs had left me in any doubt about the lack of knowledge of the author on the subjects of atheism and evolution, this paragraph would have left me no doubt. The Theory of Evolution is one of the most well-tested, well-founded theories of science, and for someone to claim that it "is a muddle", just serves to demonstrate that he is a moron. Something we were not really in doubt about, but which has now, once again been demonstrated.

Again, evolution is clearly demonstrated as have happened in the past as well as happening now. There are no theistic arguments involved, and while design/creation is rejected, it's not only necessary to do that, because theists (such as the Discovery Institute) try to inject those concepts into the sphere of science.

Evolution is not about science, it is about god, and atheism is irrelevant. It makes no difference whether the theological arguments come from a theist such as Francis Collins or an atheist such as PZ Myers, the science is asinine either way.

What can one say in the presence of such grand stupidity - is it even possible to gleam a coherent idea from the above paragraph?

Evolution is a natural phenomenon, happening as I write this. In science, the Theory of Evolution explains the mechanisms for evolution. Science is based entirely on an atheistic premise.
Of the things that he mentions, science, god, and atheism, the only thing that is irrelevant for evolution, is god. The very thing he claims it's about.

And what was it that Dawkins said? "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Note the causal relationship. It was evolution that enabled atheism, not the other way around. The real problem with atheism is not that it is the driving force behind evolution; rather, the real problem is that it masks the driving force behind evolution. It is theism, not atheism, that is the driving force behind evolution.

I think I have already addressed this.

Reading through this garbage, I notice that not once does the author try to provide any evidence for his claims about theism (or god) being the driving force behind evolution. Not surprising, I guess, since there is no evidence for this.

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Blogger Larry Hogue said...

The twisted thing is, the author of the article you quote has science degrees (doesn't say much for the University of Illinois). He also teaches at Biola University, an "evangelical Christian university".

August 31, 2009 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Reading through this garbage, I notice that not once does the author try to provide any evidence for his claims about theism (or god) being the driving force behind evolution."

The blog uses hyperlinks.

August 31, 2009 11:56 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Yes, the blog uses hyperlinks. Those hyperlinks goes to other blogposts by the same author, or to opinion pieces by others. None of which is the same as evidence.

September 01, 2009 7:13 AM  

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