POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

The "New" Faces of Atheism

Newsweek has an article they are calling The New Naysayers which chronicles the work of several atheists who think religion is the root of all evil.  It is interesting that the article would call Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins new faces in the atheistic world of things.  Dawkins is a well known Darwinist bull dog and Dennett is highly active with many publications which are far from friendly towards belief in God.  In fact, Dennett is invovled with the Center for Naturalism which desires to purge the world of superstitious religious beliefs.  Interestingly enough I plan on reading Dennett's new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon here in the next few months.  Anyway, the article is an interesting read for those who like to know what the leading thinkers in unbelief are up to.  Here are a few examples of the kinds of explanations of life you get with this group of people.  Feel the love from the Just so stories world of Evolutionary Psychology.  It simply demonstrates what I have always found as a terrible weakness in naturalistic thought - that of explaining the prescriptive nature of ethics.  This feeble attempt to explain altruism and supererogatory acts is week enough in giving a reason why there is morality (descriptive nature of ethics - which explains what is), but it does absolutely nothing to tell you why one ought to be moral tomorrow.  You simply can do what ever the heck you want...as long as you can get away with it.

But Dawkins attempts to show how the highest of human impulses, such as empathy, charity and pity, could have evolved by the same mechanism of natural selection that created the thumb. Biologists understand that the driving force in evolution is the survival and propagation of our genes. They may impel us to instinctive acts of goodness, Dawkins writes, even when it seems counterproductive to our own interests—say, by risking our life to save someone else. Evolutionary psychology can explain how selfless behavior might have evolved. The recipient may be a blood relation who carries some of our own genes. Or our acts may earn us future gratitude, or a reputation for bravery that makes us more desirable as mates. Of course, the essence of the moral law is that it applies even to strangers. Missionaries who devote themselves to saving the lives of Third World peasants have no reasonable expectation of being repaid in this world. But, Dawkins goes on, the impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration.

Or try this on for size.  I could replace my worship of the Trinitarian God, who loved me and gave himself up for me with the worship of [Gm1m2/r2]. 

On the science Web site Edge.org, the astronomer Carolyn Porco offers the subversive suggestion that science itself should attempt to supplant God in Western culture, by providing the benefits and comforts people find in religion: community, ceremony and a sense of awe. "Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way," she writes.

Praise Gravity from whom all cohesion flows, praise that mathematical reality here below, praise it for destroying us with black holes, praise quasars, red dwarfs and wormholes....aaaaaaamen. Give me a break. 

I personally worship the one whose mind designed gravity and the marvelous created universe in which it operates.

(HT - Ben Vastine for pointing me to the Newsweek piece)