Friday, 6 June 2008

The problem with the New Atheists

The 'New Atheists' have got the religionists publicly on the run -- the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the wonderfully blunt Christopher Hitchens have taken the battle to the mystics in books like The God Delusion, The End of Faith and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and given rational people much entertainment as they've made the defenders of faith-based superstition squirm.

So why are they taking a beating from inanities like these from Christian Dinesh D'Souza:

Thanks to the astounding discoveries of modern science, I think the God hypothesis has a lot more going for it today than it did in the eighteenth century.

Why is that so difficult to counter?  As Greg Perkins explains, their stumbling point is their failure to account for one seemingly simple question: "How do you explain the existence and order of the universe, the staggering complexity of life, the existence of morality, and so on -- without God?"  In the third part of a series exploring the key weaknesses in their philosophical foundations that effectively disarm the 'New Atheists,' Perkins suggests there is still much for them to learn -- and illustrates how D'Souza "wouldn't stand a snowball's chance against an Objectivist."  [Hat tip Nick Provenzo and this week's Objectivist Carnival]


  1. Speaking as a Theist the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens etc do make me squirm but more out of shame of being part of the same species not being part of their opposition.

    With their vitriolic and monumentally arrogant attitudes they could at least have an idea about what they're talking about regarding religion. They don't though so as I read through their books I am seeing a gigantic straw man they are attacking that doesn't relate to me except in the most superficial sense.

    I am not talking about knowing all doctrine completely, I am talking about knowing it merely sufficiently and merely what they directly address. There are enough books widely available that explain the details of this so I'll spare them the bother.

    Plus I have read all these authors, listened to them in debates and read widely on all the matters they raise and I have found none of them hold up to reason in the end (and not even in the beginning usually).

  2. Universal

    The flaw in your thinking, and for other fellows following your line, is that you posit an arbitrary (in this case a super-natural super-being that is supposedly creator of the universe, yet not of it, and also omniscient, omnipotent and all good and infinite) and then demand that other people prove it does not exist. That is, you demand of them that they prove the negative. You've got the whole situation backwards. The burden of proof falls on you, not them. It is you who assert the existence of a God, so it is you who must prove he exists (the burden of proof falls on he who claims the positive- you in this case).

    What that means is that Hitchens, Dawkins et al are being unselfishly generous in deigning to waste good drinking time discussing the whole idea of spirit-mosters and supernatural devils etc. etc. etc. They are the ones who are in the position of saying to you, "Oh yeah? Well go on then Prove it." Which as we both know full well, you can't.

    In the end, we come to the conclusion that it is the theists who are irrational, illogical and abusers of the faculty of reason.

    As was well said of theists; such people are those who seek the comfort of an intellectual short-cut to certain knowledge, instead they create a mental short-circuit in their own minds. Theism is a mental illness.


  3. re the new atheists I don't see how it's a flaw in one's philosophical position that some third party can raise spurious objections to one. And you don't need objectivism (which AFAIK basically assumes they're wrong a priori) to get round it.

  4. ... which was directed at the original post. I have the impression universal is actually correct about, say, Dawkin's grasp of modern religion.

  5. Robert Winefield7 Jun 2008, 06:50:00

    Frankly the best answer to the 'so how do you explain how the universe began Mr Smarty-pants?'

    I don't know. But I do know that it didn't begin like this, this or this. And unlike you, I'm actually actively looking for an explanation that can be physically proven in fact rather than taken on faith.

    Scientists these days is that they are willing to go through all manner of mental and philosophical gymnastics to avoid saying 'I don't know.'

    To me a scientist should relish those words: they are starting point for every scientific exploration ever undertaken.


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