I am reading Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart and set forth a lengthy quote below. The topic of this thread will be Hart’s assertions in the last two quoted sentences. Instead of putting everything in the sometimes hard to read block quote format of WordPress, I notify one and all that everything past this sentence is a quote from the book:
Nothing strikes me as more tiresomely vapid than the notion that there is some sort of inherent opposition – or impermeable partition – between faith and reason, or that the modern period is marked by its unique devotion to the latter. One can believe that faith is mere credulous assent to unfounded premises, while reason consists in a pure obedience to empirical fact, only if one is largely ignorant of both. . . .
All reasoning presumes premises or intuitions or ultimate convictions that cannot be proved by any foundations or facts more basic than themselves, and hence there are irreducible convictions present wherever one attempts to apply logic to experience. One always operates within boundaries established by one’s first principles, and asks only the questions that those principles permit. . . .
There is, after all, nothing inherently reasonable in the conviction that all of reality is simply an accidental confluence of physical causes, without any transcendent source or end. Materialism is not a fact of experience or a deduction of logic; it is a metaphysical prejudice, nothing more, and one that is arguably more irrational than almost any other. In general, the unalterably convinced materialist is a kind of childishly complacent fundamentalist, so fervently, unreflectively, and rapturously committed to the materialist vision of reality that if he or she should encounter any problem – logical or experiential – that might call its premises into question, or even merely encounter a limit beyond which those premises lose their explanatory power, he or she is simply unable to recognize it. Richard Dawkins is a perfect example; he does not hesitate, for instance, to claim that ‘natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence.’ But this is a silly assertion and merely reveals that Dawkins does not understand the words he is using. The question of existence does not concern how it is that the present arrangement of the world came about, from causes already internal to the world, but how it is that anything (including any cause) can exist at all. This question Darwin and Wallace never addressed, nor were ever so hopelessly confused as to think thy had. It is a question that no theoretical or experimental science could ever answer, for it is qualitatively different from the kind of questions that the physical science are competent to address. Even if theoretical physics should one day discover the most basic laws upon which the fabric of space and time is woven, or evolutionary biology the most elementary phylogenic forms of terrestrial life, or paleontology an utterly seamless genealogy of every species, still we shall not have thereby drawn one inch nearer to a solution of the mystery of existence. . . . Even the simplest of things, and even the most basic of principles, must first of all be, and nothing within the universe of contingent things (nor even the universe itself, even if were somehow ‘eternal’) can be intelligibly conceived of as the source of explanation of its own being.