New Atheism Has a Real Problem with Morality

Michael Robbins has written a review of a book and uses the review to criticize the New Atheists and this greatly upset the militant atheist activist Jerry Coyne, who posted with a 3800 word reply that once again whines about atheists being “bashed.”

I’d like to focus on a small part of the dispute, as it nicely summarizes the New Atheist’s ability to deal with atheism’s morality problem.

Coyne provides the following quote from Robbins:

Nietzsche’s atheism is far from exultant—he is not crowing about the death of God, much as he despises Christianity. He understands how much has been lost, how much there is to lose.
. . . Nietzsche realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from rational principles simply retained the character of Christian ethics without providing the foundational authority if the latter. Dispensing with his fantasy of the Übermensch, we are left with his dark diagnosis. To paraphrase the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, our moral vocabulary has lost the contexts from which its significance derived, and no amount of Dawkins-style hand-waving about altruistic genes will make the problem go away. (Indeed, the ridiculous belief that our genes determine everything about human behavior and culture is a symptom of this very problem.)
. . . The point is not that a coherent morality requires theism, but that the moral language taken for granted by liberal modernity is a fragmented ruin: It rejects metaphysics but exists only because of prior metaphysical commitments.

That analysis is spot on. So how does Coyne respond?

Wrong again. Morality exists because a). we’ve evolved to have feelings of right and wrong and b). on top of our evolved emotions is overlain a veneer of secular morality derived from our preferences about how we should behave if we want a fair and harmonious society. As for us not being miserable and serious enough, life is too short, and there’s nowhere to go after it’s over. Many of us are perfectly happy with a secular morality, and don’t spend time bawling about its supposed “metaphysical grounding.”

That, in a nutshell, is the New Atheist response. Let’s now see just how weak it is as it collapses like a house of cards with some mild probing.
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Posted in atheism, Jerry Coyne, Morality, New Atheism | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

Is Sam Harris Lying?

Mike Dobbins has a thought-provoking article about Sam Harris and his new book. Here are a few excerpts:

The “unfortunate associations” Harris refers to are the very pillars of spirituality which make the word meaningful to the millions of non-religious and spiritual people, like myself, who use it. By rejecting the modern definition of spirituality that may include a higher mystical force or power, reference to a soul, or something that transcends the material world, Harris strips the word of all present day significance. In its place, he substitutes a diminutive definition based strictly on etymology. In other words, an Iron age definition only a handful of people use or are even aware exists.

An Iron Age definition. Nice! Does Sam insist on Iron Age definitions for all our words? So why does he insist on using an Iron Age definition in this case?

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Posted in atheism, Hypocrisy, New Atheism, Sam Harris | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Tweety Pete Says Even More Strange Things

Boghossian tweets:

Given that Boghossian has tried to reframe the debate between atheists and theists as one of Epistemic Knights Vs. Faith Monsters, he is not in any position to send anyone else to the kids table.

But being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table?

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Posted in atheism, Hypocrisy, New Atheism, Peter Boghossian | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Tweety Pete Says Strange Things

First, they wanted to be known as Brights.

As for now?

So Boghossian envisions atheists as “heroes” who shall be known throughout the land as “Epistemic Knights.” And they shall do battle with “villians” – the dreaded Faith Monsters.

My goodness. The university professor has begun to think like a toddler. It looks like we have more evidence that the Gnu virus can cripple the intellectual regions of the brain.

Posted in atheism, Gnu virus, New Atheism, Peter Boghossian | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

The Incredible Shrinking Dawkins

A decade ago, Richard Dawkins was known as the widely-respected, clever science author who came out as a vocal atheist. But somewhere along the line, the science part began to fade and he became known simply as the vocal atheist, the British equivalent of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The problem for Dawkins was that he thought his ability to craft clever metaphors for Darwinian evolution would translate as his ability to come up with clever expressions of atheism and clever arguments against God. But as with most scientists, the attempt to translate success in one field into success in a very different field ended as a complete failure. There is nothing clever about his atheism or anti-God arguments. And now it is becoming clear that Dawkins is not only known as the “vocal atheist,” but he is being increasingly laughed at as the Angry, Clumsy Atheist Who Constantly Shoots Himself in the Foot with Tweets. People read his tweets not to find some pearls of wisdom; they read his tweets with a bowl of popcorn in their lap, waiting for the next blow-up. Some of us began to sense this change when New Atheist foot soldiers stopped trying to defend Dawkins and instead began distancing themselves from him. Now, it’s almost impossible to find atheists willing to defend Richard Dawkins in the blogosphere.

Note how an atheist writing a recent article on described Dawkins:

But in 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

Ouch. So Dawkins is…..out of style. He is no longer even “relevant.” That’s almost worse than being “wrong” in this day and age.

And back in March, Brendan O’Neill had little trouble skillfully roasting Tweety Dawk. Savor the following excerpts:

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

I’m Not the Only One Who Noticed

Something that was posted yesterday reminded me of something else:

You often meet them for the first time at secondary school. The typical teenage atheist is more likely a boy than a girl, stronger on science than the arts, and at the high-ish end of the academic spectrum. He tells you that he has studied the nature of matter, the universe etc, and can prove that God does not exist.

Already, you are plunged into the thick of the problem, which is one of category. The teenage thinker treats the existence of God as a scientific matter, but it isn’t. Science can certainly disprove some claims that believers make about their God – or, to be more exact, it can prove that these claims are incompatible with science – but it can have nothing to say about something that lies outside its realm.


Some atheists – Dawkins, Sigmund Freud, AJ Ayer – resemble, in essence, that clever young schoolboy. They believe they have brilliantly proved religion to be a load of hogwash.

Of course, we can expect New Atheists to complain they never claimed to prove that God does not exist. Instead, they champion Sophisticated Atheism – there is no evidence for God, thus no rational basis for believing in God.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism | Tagged , | 22 Comments

The Theocracy Is Coming!

Professor Ceiling Cat had a hissy fit about the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling:

I could go on, but today I’m really afraid for America: afraid that, due solely to our Supreme Court, we are becoming a theocracy.

There they go again. The ever-present bogeyman of The Coming Theocracy(!). Atheists have been screaming about this for decades. Thus, it’s rather amusing to realize we just survived one. Over five years ago, Coyne tells us:

Well, we thought we’d seen the last of the theocracy of George W. Bush, but it apparently ain’t so.

Well, well. It looks to me like a “theocracy” is whatever the fearful atheists want it to be. Coyne is, of course, entitled to his fears and paranoia. But the problem is that such thinking is incompatible with science.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, theocracy | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Gullible Gnus

Further evidence that Gnu atheists are enslaved to their stereotypes.

Activist Jerry Coyne writes:

We haven’t had a posting of crank email for a while, and since I’ll soon be leaving for the big game (baseball), I’ll do a quick rundown. Besides, if you’re smart you’ll be watching footie today and won’t have time to read anything weighty.

The first batch are all comments on the post “Another creationist drops by to show that there’s no evidence for evolution“. Since that post was put up in late 2012, I have no idea why I got some comments about it in the last two weeks. Here are three:

From reader Nick (I love this one!):

How does evolution explane the existence of Angles and Demons .???

Nick contributed a second comment as well (as always, I preserve the original spelling):

I don’t clame to have a brain like God or even a scientist . If everlution is real it must be (in my apionion ). By the hand of God . And I do not believe in God through blind faith or superstition , but by very real and vivid spiritual experiences . God is not a fairy tail ! Nick !

Coyne’s acolytes lap this up, with comments such as “I wonder if Nick was home schooled. Plenty of people struggle with spelling, but it looks to me like he learned punctuation from someone who doesn’t know how to teach it” and “Is using bad grammar and bad spelling a prerequisite for being a creationist? Holy moly!”

Given that Gnu’s like to think of themselves as being so smart, and of religious people as being so stupid, it never occurs to Coyne, or any of his acolytes, that “Nick” is a troll. The comments too perfectly fit their stereotypes. Problem is, while Coyne and his gnu acolytes love to preen and posture as if they place so much value on “evidence,” they all seem completely oblivious to a simple fact- there is no evidence, none whatsoever, that “Nick” is a Christian. As you can see, they don’t truly place much value on “evidence.”

In fact, it seems rather obvious to me “Nick” is a troll.
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Posted in atheism, New Atheism | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Atheists as Little Children

Over at his blog, it sure looks like scientist Jerry Coyne confuses a television show with reality. He has a blog entry entitled, “And a little child shall lead them. . .” and writes, “Out of the mouths of babes come, well, see for yourself in this grilling of a priest by two kids.”

Okay, let’s watch:

It looks like the professor wanted so badly for this to be real that he overlooked the possibility that ”out of the mouth of babes come” some good acting and a clever script.

I did, however, find that clip to be quite interesting, as it nicely encapsulates something I have long suspected: when it comes to the topic of God, most atheists do think like little children.
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Posted in atheism, Evil, New Atheism | Tagged , , | 27 Comments

Richard Dawkins, the Secular Christian

Dawkins admits to being a “secular Christian”:

“I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies,” said Dawkins.

“But I am a secular Christian, if you want to call me that.”

It is true that Dawkins adheres to many of the values of the Christian worldview. So in that sense, it is true he is a “secular Christian.”

Dawkins also seems to have another belief that doesn’t seem to fit very well with his belligerent materialism:

“I think there are always paths not taken but if a different path is taken, I think there is a magnetic pull. There is a sort of something that pulls you back to the pathway having taken a fork in the road.”

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | Tagged , , | 2 Comments