We get mail. A friend writes to explain why Richard Dawkins, even though he is a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is), trusts his own reason. The argument goes something like this:
I trust my own reason because it proves itself useful time and time again, and until someone can demonstrate that reason isn’t to be trusted, there’s no reason to think otherwise.
We thought that sounded odd because it is his reason that tells him that it is useful. But then it would, right? And what if it didn’t? What then?
Other naturalist atheists say that our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth, so Dawkins’s conclusion is part of a fitness function—but how would he know that, given that consciousness is a user illusion anyway?
We asked science historian Michael Flannery what he thought, and he replied,
This argument from reason, a la Dawkins, goes nowhere. I can suggest at least three reasons.
1) As a Christian, my faith is founded upon the historical reliability of Scripture and the logical coherence of arguments by Augustine and others. Dawkins may find his reason “useful” but why do his rational conclusions trump mine? The Argument from Reason, in this sense, simply begs the question.
2) In arguing for the “usefulness” of something indicates pragmatism, but neither of the leading pragmatists I can think of (i.e. Charles Sanders Pierce and William James) would have supported the rank scientism espoused by Dawkins and his ilk.
3) If Darwin was right (as I’m sure Dawkins would insist) that we have no free will and we are nothing but the product of blind “laws of nature,” on what basis can we trust our own reason? Darwin himself admitted as much when he wrote to William Graham, “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” Where does that leave this so-called argument from reason?
Readers? Your thoughts?
It’s curious that someone would be arguing this in an age when, as we noted earlier today, science is becoming increasingly post-fact, and objectivity is sexist. (And that we need the right kind of post-fact science to help women succeed.)
See also: Einstein: Deist, pantheist—or theist?
Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us
Richard Dawkins needs to lie down
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