Monday, 2 November 2009

Ruse's Seven Deadly Sins

A simply appalling piece from arch-faitheist Michael Ruse in today's Guardian. Not for the first time, I find it hard to understand how an intelligent, educated man (certainly more intelligent and educated than me) could commit such howlers to print. Consider:
First, non-believer though I may be, I do not think (as do the new atheists) that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting.
Fail no. 1. I don't know a new atheist who thinks that; perhaps a reference to where all the new atheists say that or write that would be in order? The closest I can see is Hitchens saying that religion poisons everything; not the same thing, of course, as any 10 year old could surely see, let alone a philosopher.
Dawkins and company are ignorant of such claims and positively contemptuous of those who even try to understand them, let alone believe them. Thus, like a first-year undergraduate, he can happily go around asking loudly, "What caused God?" as though he had made some momentous philosophical discovery.
Fail no. 2. Just because a first-year undergraduate can ask the question doesn't mean *it has been answered*. The argument is about the inconsistency of the uncaused cause claim. It rests on nothing existing without a cause (we don't know that) and then uses *that* as a foundation for a single uncaused cause, which (guess what?) is shaped like their god, that they've been rabbiting on about for years. Who'd have thunk it? A 10 year old child could see the problem with this logic, let alone a philosopher. dare we be so condescending?
Fail no. 3. Treating claims seriously is not being condescending. Hand waving away atheists who object to religious claims as spoil sports and then claiming some kind of Kuhnian epistemological equivalence *is* condescending. A 10 year old child could surely see this?
I can explain their faith claims in terms of psychology; they can explain my lack of faith claims also probably partly through psychology and probably theology also. (Plantinga, a Calvinist, would refer to original sin.)
Fail no. 4. Which is the more likely explanation? The psychological, or the Calvinist? Or the Scientologist? Or the Pastafarian? Come on, don't be so *patronising*. A 10 year old child could *make up* a possible explanation, but that wouldn't make it valid, as she would surely understand.
I just keep hearing Cromwell to the Scots. "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."
Fail no. 5. *What* does this tell us? To *where* does this lead us? Knowledge is *tentative* and *doubtful*. What does faith require? Banishment of doubt. What do religions teach? Certainty, through divine knowledge. You've guessed it; a 10 year old child could see the contradiction, let alone a philosopher.
If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?
Fail no. 6. And sinister with it. Is he seriously suggesting that *if* science showed the falsity of religion then secularism would dictate it should not be taught? That it should be suppressed? Unfortunately this is the logical conclusion of allowing epistemological equivalence between knowledge derived scientifically and other 'knowledge', betrayed by his last line; 'Why are their beliefs exempt?' Until fools masquerading as martyrs abandon this nonsensical position then religious knowledge will be allowed to continue in its unjustified position of privilege. Many religions explicitly declare the falsity of religious knowledge; *just not their own*. How does Ruse choose the most valid body of knowledge from the cornucopia available to him? I suggest a 10 year old child could see the problem in Ruse's position, let alone a philosopher.

But, of course, the point of secularism is to protect the right of people to believe what they like, not to introduce thought-crime. If some facts imply the falsity of *anything*, then those facts should still be taught, but the pupils allowed to come to their own conclusions. *That* is surely the aim of the First Amendment?
But don't worry. In the God Delusion, we have a message as simplistic as in The Genesis Flood. This too will solve all of your problems. Peace and prosperity await you in this world, if not the next.
Fail no. 7. And finally, it's the rank dishonesty that shocks. As if TGD claims to 'solve all of your problems'. A 10 year old child could read the book and understand *that*, but not, apparently, Michael Ruse.


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