Home > Atheism > Dogmatic New Atheism.

Dogmatic New Atheism.

With all the news about the New Atheism, I’ve decided to put a compilation of their dogmatic, polemical, fanatical and fundamentalist attitudes for all to see:

On Science/scientism/science being the only method of experience?

Haught raises again the question of how science is legitimized: “Exactly what are the independent scientific experiments, we might ask, that could provide ‘evidence’ for the hypothesis that all true knowledge must be based on the paradigm of scientific inquiry?”
But Haught does not refer to any specific scientist or philosopher who has made that hypothesis. As I have already mentioned and will undoubtedly do so again to drive the point home, most atheist authors fully accept and have written about the virtues of non scientific modes of human experience such as art and music. Science is just a particularly valuable method humans have developed to learn and partially control the physical world. (Stenger, The New Atheism, pp. 70-1, 2009)

Doesn’t seem science is the only way to view the world by Stenger, what does Dennett have to say?

My fundamental perspective is naturalism, the idea that philosophical investigations are not superior to, or prior to, investigations in the natural sciences, but in partnership with those truth-seeking enterprises, and that the proper job of philosophers here is to clarify and unify the often warring perspectives into single vision of the universe. (Dennett, Freedom Evolves, pp. 14-5, 2003)

Hmmm seems Dennett is ok with philosophy and science as methods of investigation. What about Christopher Hitchens?

We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason.  (Hitchens, God Is Not Great, p. 5, 2009)

Ok, what about Sam Harris who made a scientific case for the basis for bridging the gap between the is/ought problem of description and prescription in science and morals in his book The Moral landscape:

Throughout this book I have argued that the split between facts and values – and, therefore, between science and morality – is an illusion. However, the discussion has taken place on at least two levels: I have reviewed scientific data that, I believe, supports my arguments; but I have made a more basic, philosophical case, the validity of which does not narrowly depend on current data. (Harris, The Moral Landscape, p. 179, 2010)

Seems Harris is ok with the use of philosophy and science too and that the two are inextricably linked:

… we should observe that the boundary between science and philosophy does not always exist… We cannot always draw a line between scientific thinking and “mere” philosophy because all data must be interpreted against a background theory, and different theories come bundled with a fair amount of contextual reasoning. A dualist who believes in the existence of immaterial souls might say that the entire field of neuroscience is beholden to the philosophy of physicalism… and he would be right. The assumption that the mind is the product of the brain is integral to almost everything neuroscientists do. Is physicalism a matter of “philosophy” or “neuroscience”? The answer may depend upon where one happens to be standing on a university campus. (Harris, The Moral Landscape, pp. 179-80, 2010)

What about dogmatic faith in atheistic science – do the New Atheists give creation science it’s due?

If all the evidence in the universe turned in the favour of creationism I would be the first to admit it, and I would immediately change my mind. (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 19, 2008)

What about general dogmatic attitudes?

I am not in favour of offending or hurting anyone just for the sake of it. But I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion in our otherwise secular societies. (Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 49-50, 2008)

In January 2006 I presented a two-part television documentary on British television (Channel Four) called Root of All Evil? From the start I didn’t like the title and fought it hard. Religion is not the root of all evil, for no one thing is the root of anything at all. (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 22, 2008)

Even someone like John Loftus who seems as vocal an atheist as any – what is his stance on scientism – an obvious dogmatic stance.

J.P Moreland and William Lane Craig make a distinction here between strong scientism and weak scientism. Strong scientism states, “There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them.” Weak scientism , in their words, will “allow for the existence of truths apart from science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But advocates of weak scientism still hold that science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning… fields outside science gain if they are given scientific support and not visa versa.”… I’m an advocate of weak scientism. (Loftus, Why I Became an Atheist, p. 109, 2008)

It seems even Loftus, who many apologists would consider to be, to use the words of my girlfriend “hysterical”, is still not willing to commit to full-blown scientism – his worldview still allows for philosophical, and other, truths.

Conclusion

I hope the point of this blog is clear – yes the New Atheists clearly value science – but guess what: so does everyone else! It’s only those who are theologically unallowed to value some aspects of science that criticise those without those afflictions. What do I mean? I doubt there are too many apologists who would reject germ theory, or gravity theory, or electrical theory – yet when it comes to branches of science – namely evolution, climate etc that touch or outright conflict with their ideals – this is when science needs to be rejected. The New Atheists are often labelled dogmatic, fundamentalist, militant etc, but it hardly seems those label apply – when we take their writings as a totality! I don’t doubt there is language in the New Atheist writings that bothers theists, critiques always bother us.

References

Dawkins R. (2008). The God Delusion (second edition). Boston, New York. Bantam Press. Pp. 14, 22 49-50.

Dennett D. C. (2003). Freedom Evolves. London, England. The Penguin Group. Pp. 14-5.

Harris S. (2010). The Moral Landscape. New York, New York. Free Press. Pp. 22, 179, 180.

Hitchens. (2009).  God Is Not Great (2nd ed.). New York, New York. Hatchette Book Group. P. 5.

Loftus J. W. (2008). Why I Became an Atheist. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. P. 109.

Stenger V. J. (2009). The New Atheism. Amherst, New York.  Prometheus Books. Pp. 70-1.

Advertisements
Categories: Atheism
  1. January 13, 2012 at 1:20 am

    This is a good collection, and I think representative, of the views of so called New Atheists. I think it is an unfair and perhaps misguided criticism of atheism to accuse such views of being dogmatic or guilty of similar ‘faith’ to religion. The very nature of atheism is a position of rational scepticism, so as Dawkins rightly says is subject to change depending on the evidence! Good and well needed post, as these views are often unfairly critiqued.

    I write a blog primarily about films, but am very interested in philosophy and particularly this area of thinking. I tried to incorporate this into a post the other day! Might be of interest.

    http://mostlymotionpictures.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/the-invention-of-lying-2009-in-the-beginning-there-was-a-lie-god/

    In the future I’d like to do perhaps loftier musings on film! Linking film and philosophy. Would be interested in what you thought.

  2. January 13, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Thankyou for your comments and thoughts Dan.

    Dan said: “I think it is an unfair and perhaps misguided criticism of atheism to accuse such views of being dogmatic or guilty of similar ‘faith’ to religion.”

    Reply: Agreed. Not only is it unfair, but it is also factually incorrect.You cannot be dogmatic in not believing something, unless the evidence is obvious; a brute, or necessary truth you might say. And only the most staunch, or dare I say, dogmatic fundamentalist is going to claim that their religion is so obviously true (even if they did make that claim, is likely to be true? Given the sheer number of sects and religions the world over)…Same goes with atheism having a similar ‘faith’ to religion…

    Dan said: “In the future I’d like to do perhaps loftier musings on film! Linking film and philosophy. Would be interested in what you thought.”

    Reply: I’m actually doing a small philosophy course this year, and one of the units is based on the philosophy of film, I was considering doing it, as I also, love film. I’ve already added your blog to my blogroll, but I’d certainly be interested in reading what you had to say on the philosophy of film…

    Good luck with your endeavours!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: