Friday, April 11, 2008

Dawkins Doesn't Have the Goods [SK]

Greg Koukl has an excellent talk out on CD about the so-called new atheists. (Order from Stand to Reason.) Tim Keller also deals with the subject in his book Reason for God.

As secular critics more and more challenge the ultimate foundations for the pro-life view, we'll need to respond effectively.

Briefly, the “new atheism” treats all religious truth claims as harmful and intolerable, even in the home. It’s atheism with attitude and its principal goal is to drive anything that smells like the metaphysics of religion—including belief in human exceptionalism—from the public square. Authors like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (to name a few) insist there is no truth outside the realm of nature. The human animal is merely the product of blind physical processes that did not have him in mind. Naturalistic claims about humankind aren’t new, but the angry, condescending tone in which new atheists deliver them certainly is.

The field of bio-ethics is not immune from this new atheistic attitude. The pro-lifer’s case against ESCR, we are told, is nothing more than an attempt to force irrational and intolerant religious absolutism on an unsuspecting public. For example, when President Bush vetoed federal funding for ESCR, Richard Dawkins spoke of a presidential mind “massively infected with the disease of religion.” It was unforgivable for a “pro-life” president to value non-sentient embryos “that are no bigger than a pinhead” while ignoring innocent civilians killed in Iraq. Clearly Dawkins thinks Bush ought to do better both morally and rationally. However, in a naturalistic universe there are no moral or rational oughts; there is only what is. Real oughts exist only in a place that has been designed for a purpose, something Dawkin’s own materialistic worldview flatly rejects.

Moreover, Dawkins's own metaphysical claim--sentient humans have a right to life while those who are not don't--makes no sense at all. Indeed, can a thoroughly materialistic (secular) worldview tell us why anyone--sentient or not--has value or a right to life? According to the materialism, everything in the universe—including human beings and their capacity for rational inquiry—came about by blind physical processes and random chance. The universe came from nothing and was caused by nothing. At best, human beings are cosmic accidents. In the face of this devastating news, secularists simply presuppose the dignity of human beings, human rights, and moral obligations. But on what naturalistic basis can human rights and human dignity be affirmed?

At the same time, how can we trust our minds to think rationally about anything, including materialism, if they are the products of blind, non-rational forces? The mechanism of evolution does not promote rational thought. It promotes survival.


  1. What I don't get is why these atheists are so keen to correct theists? If atheism is true, then why should they care about correcting us? There's no reason to be right about evolution or not! The only answer I can get from them is that if we cling to religious ideas, we prevent humanity from progressing. But that requires us to believe that we are moving from something not as good to something better! Progress requires moral absolutes and atheists, cannot tell us where those standards come from.

  2. Good for people to know.


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