Core Argument of New Atheism Defeated

Let me repost a previous blog entry that many new readers might find interesting.  I take a rather detailed look at the central New Atheist argument – science shows God does not exist – that was advocated by New Atheist activist/philosopher Maarten Boudry. 

Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, and Johan Braeckman recently published an on-line article entitled, Grist to the mill of ID creationism: the failed strategy of ruling the supernatural out of science by philosophical fiat. The article comes across as a glorified blog posting designed to help the Gnu atheist movement in their ongoing death struggle with the “accomodationists.”

The basic argument of the article seems to be that because the “Intelligent Design Creationists” (IDCs) are correct in arguing that methodological naturalism biases science against supernatural causes, those who advocate methodological naturalism are helping the IDC by supplying “grist to their mills.”

The abstract reads:

According to a widespread philosophical opinion, the methodology of science is intrinsically naturalistic. It is simply not equipped to deal with supernatural claims, so it has no authority on questions of metaphysics. This (self-imposed) limitation of the epistemic reach of science is often used as a way to reconcile science and religion. We argue that ruling the supernatural out of science for intrinsic reasons is not only philosophically untenable, but has actually been grist to the mill of Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC),

The authors clearly think the whole “grist for the mill” saying is important, as not only is it in their title and abstract, but they repeat this saying several times in their paper:

  • IMN is actually grist to the IDC mill on several accounts,
  • In fact, Johnson’s remarks show that IMN, which is clearly his focus of attack here, is actually grist to the IDC mill.
  • their writings show that IMN is actually grist to their mill.

According to the dictionary, the saying is supposed to mean “something that you can use in order to help you to succeed.” As such, I find this whole “grist for the mill” complaint to be strikingly irrational for two reasons.

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Posted in atheism, evidence, God, New Atheism, Science | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Faith of the New Atheist

Gnu activist Jerry Coyne gives a motivational speech to the troops:

So yes, the debate can be “won”, not when religionists admit that their beliefs are unsupported and untestable, but when religion passes away from the world, as it is doing now. The fight will be long, and we won’t be alive to see the victory of secularism—make no mistake, a reliance on reason and observation will ultimately defeat superstition—but win we will.

This is hilarious.  The unsupported and untestable claim is this blind belief that one day religion will cease to exist in the world.  In fact, notice how Coyne courageously predicts victory long after he is dead and long after everyone reading his words is dead.  By placing his bold prediction so far into the future, Coyne shields his prediction from testing.  That is, his belief in a world where there is “victory for secularism” is unfalsifiable, as the secularist will always be able to promise it’s coming long after we all are dead.

What Coyne is unintentionally recognizing here is the motivational value of faith.  Without faith in their godless future, the New Atheists would throw in the towel.  If they had to rely purely on reason and observation, there would be no room for such bold optimism.

One more thing.  Notice the warfare imagery that is inherent in Coyne’s thinking.  It is inconsistent with objectivity and intellectual honesty.

Posted in Faith, New Atheism | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Sweden Can’t Defend Itself

Check this out:

A couple of decades ago, Sweden had a strong military. Its air force was one of the capable in the world, its navy had dozens of ships and submarines, and artillery guarded the coastlines from a multitude of secret mountain hideaways.

Now, after a number of fatal decisions, based on the belief that wars in Europe were a thing of the past, most of its military is gone and Sweden has virtually no means of protecting itself.

According to Sweden’s Supreme Commander Sverker Göransson, we can, at best and in five years, defend ourselves in one place for one week.


So how do Swedish politicians imagine defending the country if the Russians get it into their heads to, say, invade Gotland?

The island in the Baltic Sea is a strategically important outpost, close to the Baltic countries, which are all members of NATO. Joining NATO never appealed to Swedish politicians, but in 2009, the Swedish Parliament suddenly announced a “declaration of solidarity” with the EU. It reads:

“Sweden will not remain passive if a disaster or attack should hit another member state, or Nordic country. We expect other countries to act the same way if Sweden is hit. Our country will thus give and receive support, civilian as well as military.”

Given that NATO is essentially the USA, it is interesting to note how the secular Gnutopia we often hear about depends on the American military to survive.

Posted in Gnutopia | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Horror

Okay, maybe it’s my own twisted sense of humor, but I find it amusing that Richard Dawkins is sad about a painting of Richard Dawkins being lost. Has there ever been a person more in love with himself?

The painting looks like one of the pictures where Dawkins is posing as a t-shirt model for his web page.

BTW, the painting has been found.

Posted in Richard Dawkins | Tagged | 1 Comment

Atheist Minister Demands Right to Ban Lord’s Prayer in Church

Rev. Gretta Vosper is an ordained United Church of Canada minister. She is also an hardcore atheist. This article tells us “she is prepared to fight an unprecedented attempt to boot her from the pulpit for her beliefs.” Poor Vosper. The narrative sets her up like she is a victim, right?

According to the article:

In an interview at her West Hill church, Rev. Gretta Vosper said congregants support her view that how you live is more important than what you believe in.

“I don’t believe in…the god called God,” Vosper said. “Using the word gets in the way of sharing what I want to share.”

How does Vosper live? Well, it’s all about Vosper. “I don’t believe.” “I want to share.” Apparently, Vosper’s notion of how to live is to place Self on the Throne. So Vosper decided to stir up some trouble by imposing her atheism on the congregation:

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Posted in church, God, militant atheism, New Atheism | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

A+ Atheists Turn on Each Other

Atheists are at each other’s throats again. This time, the rage and the hate seem to be confined to the A+ strain of New Atheism (the Radical Far Left wing of Gnu). From what I can tell, militant atheist Ophelia Benson has been accused of transphobia and being associated with TERFs* (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). The war has spilled over into the pages of PZ Myers blog and one accuser lays out the case against Benson:

* Approvingly quote known TERFs, respond to gentle (yes, gentle!) notes that they are TERFs by attacking the commenters who say so and deleting their comments, then gaslighting them by saying you were never told they were TERFs…
* Responding to a question from a trans person about whether or not you recognize their identity by running to a TERF-run group to ask for aid in rebutting…
* Blocking and banning anyone who questions these actions, meanwhile becoming friends with prominent TERFs who have outright advocated against recognizing the rights of trans people to national and international bodies…
* Referring to any and all criticism of this behavior as a “witch hunt” or otherwise a campaign to smear and defame you…

PZ Myers is flummoxed:

The second problem, though, is one I’m wrestling with right now. I’m a cis male: I don’t get to tell people with a different perspective how they should feel about Ophelia’s comments. If you’re mad or hurt by them, I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t feel that way. I can’t. All I know is that I’m treading in a mine field, and I can screw up, and I have to listen when someone tells me not to step there, and that goes for Ophelia, too. It’s also the case that if we choose to stroll in that minefield, we don’t get to demand that others give us step-by-step navigation instructions — it’s on us if we step wrongly and blow ourselves up.

Why else would you think I’ve been really reluctant to speak out on this?

Well, well. We have discovered something that can silence PZ – angry transsexuals.

*You can learn more about TERFs on the wikipedia page, where you will also learn about SWERFs and whorephobia.

Posted in atheist wars, New Atheism | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Steven Pinker “Reviews” Coyne’s Book

It should be no surprise that New Atheist Steven Pinker would help promote the book of his fellow culture warrior, Jerry Coyne, with a positive review.

Pinker begins his review with some historical revisionism:

Between 2005 and 2007, a quartet of bestsellers by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens launched the New Atheism. Emboldened by the growing success of science in explaining the world (including our own minds), inspired by new research on the sources of religious belief, and galvanized by the baleful influence of religion in world affairs (particularly 9/11 and its aftermath), these Four Horsemen of the New Atheism — as they came to be called — pressed the case that God does not exist and that many aspects of organized religion are pernicious.

While New Atheists often try to cloud the issues by pretending that only religious people use the term “New Atheism,” we can clearly see that Steven Pinker himself has publicly acknowledged the existence of New Atheism. Yet the launch of New Atheism had nothing to do with “the growing success of science” or “new research.” It was all built on a knee-jerk reaction to 911. Sam Harris was the first to publish and he explains it clearly:

In my criticism of religion, I’m not reacting against any kind of fundamentalist upbringing; but nor was I told that there was no God. It really was not a subject of conversation. So my rather strident criticism of religion is really a product of very recent events. In my case, it’s September 11, 2001. So my upbringing isn’t so informative of my views at the moment.

Pinker then begins the attack on the “accommodationists” and “faitheists,” using Coyne’s faulty thinking about science to promote his militant atheism.

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Posted in New Atheism, Scientism, Steven Pinker | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Steven Pinker’s Subtle Attack on Science

Steven Pinker relies on some rather impressive sleight of hand to defend his scientism. Like most advocates of scientism, he postures as if he is merely defending science when he wants to defend the extreme views of scientism. He is the Champion of Science and leading Cheerleader For Science. As for his scientism? He tries to confuse his readers by making it look like scientism does not even exist:

The term “scientism” is anything but clear, more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine. Sometimes it is equated with lunatic positions, such as that “science is all that matters” or that “scientists should be entrusted to solve all problems.” Sometimes it is clarified with adjectives like “simplistic,” “naïve,” and “vulgar.” The definitional vacuum allows me to replicate gay activists’ flaunting of “queer” and appropriate the pejorative for a position I am prepared to defend.

I’m not sure why Pinker couldn’t use google to find Wikipedia and see how it is defined there instead of implying it is nothing more than a “boo-word.” Then again, if he did that, his sleight of hand would not be as effective.

Of course, it is hypocritical for Pinker to complain “the term “scientism” is anything but clear” given that the term “science” is anything but clear. No where in his entire article does Pinker make the slightest effort to actually define the term “science.” Yet given that Pinker is a Gnu activist, it is not surprising that he seems to subscribe to the watered-down view of science. After all, Pinker begins his essay by describing “Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith” as scientists. I kid you not:

The great thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were scientists. Not only did many of them contribute to mathematics, physics, and physiology, but all of them were avid theorists in the sciences of human nature. They were cognitive neuroscientists, who tried to explain thought and emotion in terms of physical mechanisms of the nervous system. They were evolutionary psychologists, who speculated on life in a state of nature and on animal instincts that are “infused into our bosoms.” And they were social psychologists, who wrote of the moral sentiments that draw us together, the selfish passions that inflame us, and the foibles of shortsightedness that frustrate our best-laid plans.

These thinkers—Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Leibniz, Kant, Smith—are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data.

Note that he even writes, “These thinkers…are all the more remarkable for having crafted their ideas in the absence of formal theory and empirical data.”

Say what? According to Pinker, these men actually did science “in the absence of formal theory and empirical data?” What’s more , they also did their science without the guiding hand of the experimental approach. Whoa.

So Stephen Pinker is saying that formal theories, empirical data, and the experimental approach are all superfluous to science. He says you can do science without any of them.

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Posted in New Atheism, Scientism, Steven Pinker | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Lawrence Krauss Needlessly Shreds His Credibility

Richard Dawkins sidekick, Lawrence Krauss, has been repeating Dawkins crackpot notions about child abuse and religion, this time with a twist:

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss recently doubled down on his claim that teaching creationism to children was a form of child abuse during an appearance on the “The Weekly,” an Australian satirical TV news show.

During the show, host Charlie Pickering recalled that Krauss had described telling children that evolution was a lie as child abuse in a 2013 video. “That’s a fairly brutal way of putting it,” he noted.

“Yeah, exactly, but it got some attention,” Krauss replied, “cus if I hadn’t [used that description] you wouldn’t have read the line.”

“But it’s true. I mean, there are different levels of child abuse,” Krauss added. “It’s like not allowing your children to have medicine, not allowing you children to be vaccinated, for example, is child abuse, because you are doing them harm.”

“In some sense, if you withhold information from your children because you would rather them not know what reality is really like, for fear that it is going to affect their beliefs, then you are doing them harm.”
Like his mentor, Krauss attempts to support his crackpot ideas by abandoning science and replacing it with armchair philosophy.

Below the fold, I will teach the theoretical physicist how to do science.

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Posted in child abuse, crackpots, Lawrence Krauss, New Atheism | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Good Question

At the dinner, my friend said he admired a book I didn’t like, so I sent him a copy of a review of the book I’d written. The review tipped my friend off that I was a Christian.

His response made clear that he wasn’t. He wrote, “No metaphysics are needed in my cosmos, thanks.” Although he respected his religious friends, his own views were “close to the occasionally strident and at times rude Brother Dawkins [Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion].” He noted, “We shall have some heavy lifting as workout buddies, you and I.”

I replied that a discussion of our religious differences probably would work better in a barroom than in an email exchange. “We could pretend to be college freshmen again, and it could be fun.” But my friend was not to be put off. He insisted that he had no need to “Godify the unknown or alleged unknowable.”

My new pen pal had sent me some of his writing about Acadia National Park. It spoke of “the profound responsibility of our consciousness: to use our understanding of nature to guide our conduct within nature,” and it added, “In this bloom of space-time, human reason can try to understand the development of all matter, from stars and galaxies to our own planet, fellow creatures, home island, and selves. It is our nature and duty to do so.”

I told him I agreed with these sentiments, but I wondered just why we had a duty to use our capacities for the various purposes he mentioned or, indeed, for any purpose at all.

I made it a multiple-choice question:

A) I made these duties up. If I hadn’t, they wouldn’t exist.

B) My culture made them up. I’m just a product of my culture.

C) These duties proceed from a source outside myself and my culture.

Some weeks after I posed my question, my friend apologized for not answering it. He asked me to stay tuned and promised, “I’ll give you a fair if not satisfying (for you) response to your multiple choice question—re-posed as I wish.”

But he never did.

– From HERE

Posted in atheism, duty | Tagged , | 7 Comments