Indeed. I’m a skeptic by nature, so I’m resistant to claims by anyone to have complete answers to intractable human problems. I’m particularly annoyed by what’s now called “New Atheism,” and I react strongly against those who debunk the beliefs of others in a way I find bullying and shallow.
The New Atheists — Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and others — attack religions in the sublime confidence that these religions are myths and that they themselves harbor no myths, but that’s not true.
In many cases, the New Atheists are animated by 19th-century myths of various kinds: myths of human advancement, myths of what science can and cannot do, and all kinds of other myths. So yeah, I’m compelled to attack anyone who is debunking others for their reliance on myths when the debunkers themselves can’t see how their own thinking is shaped by myths.
Something as ancient, as profound, as inexhaustibly rich as religion or religions can’t really be written off as an intellectual error by clever people. Most of these clever people are not that clever when compared with really clever people like Wittgenstein or Saint Augustine or Pascal — all philosophers of the past who seriously engaged the religious perspective.
These New Atheists are mostly ignorant of religion, and only really concerned with a particular kind of monotheism, which is a narrow segment of the broader religious world.
But then he adds,
The human mind is like every other animal mind. If Darwinism is right, and I think it’s the best approximation we have to the truth about how humans came into the world, then all aspects of the human animal are shaped by the imperatives of survival.
That includes the human mind, so there’s a deep-seated tendency in the human mind to see the world in ways which promote human survival. And the tendency to obsess over reason and rationality overlooks this fact. Sean Illing, “Why science can’t replace religion” at Vox
One hardly need ask: If, as he says, the deep-seated tendency in the human mind is simply to see the world in ways that enable humans to survive, how does his own argument escape the charge? For example, he goes on to say, “ I don’t mean to imply that people can’t be moral without God, which is one of the stupidest claims I’ve ever heard.” But if his account is true, there is no “moral” for us to be anyway.
Darwin does that to people. A pity.
Hat tip: Heather Zeiger
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See also: John Gray offers harsh words for Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now: therapy for liberals
John Gray: No general theory of evolution