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Reasonable Faith UTD: Responding to the New Atheists Jan 24, 2013 Allen Hainline

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1 Reasonable Faith UTD: Responding to the New Atheists Jan 24, 2013 Allen Hainline

2 Outline Who are the new atheists? – Not so much new arguments as a new, more aggressive approach What are their claims and arguments? – We’ll focus mostly on this area and responding to these How do we best discuss things with those influenced by this movement? 2

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4 Claims of New Atheists – Mischaracterize faith as being opposed to reason “Believing in the absence or in the teeth of evidence” Dawkins “Like believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy” NT authors could have chosen a word with this meaning but instead chose πίστις (pistis) – To be persuaded, to trust – No implication that trust not based on evidence – Christians commanded to give reasons for their beliefs (I Peter 3:15) – Example of Christian leaders throughout history » Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, … 4

5 Claims of New Atheists – Religion not just wrong but evil Some religious persons do evil but this is an obvious over-generalization New Atheists like to point out evil acts in the name of God or by supposed Christians – Inquisition, Crusades, etc. – Ignore how these acts go against teachings of Jesus – Ignore Christians contribution to end slavery& infanticide, start hospitals&universities, and organizations to feed poor – Ignore atheist rulers like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot By same argument could dismiss politics, romantic relationships or science because of evil they cause! 5

6 Claims of New Atheists – Science and Religion are at war Rejected by modern historians Cases of conflicts isolated anomalies – Involve particular subset of Christians, not core doctrines Christianity contributed to the birth of modern science – Christianity is mother of science because of "medieval insistence on the rationality of God“ Whitehead – “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.” —C.S. Lewis – Needham explained how Chinese worldview kept them disinterested in science despite technological gains – Greeks failed to connect observations with theories » Unlike Greek myths, Bible demystified physical entities as just being created objects not themselves divine 6

7 Needham on Why Science Failed to Arise in China “Third, the autochthonous idea of a supreme being, though certainly present from the earliest times, soon lost the qualities of personality and creativity. The development of the concept of precisely formulated abstract laws capable, because of the rationality of the Author of Nature, of being deciphered and re- stated, did not therefore occur.” 7

8 Christian Contributions to Birth of Science “[Experimental science] began its discoveries and made use of its methods in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation. The experimental method succeeded beyond man’s wildest dreams, but the faith that brought it into being owes something to the Christian conception of the nature of God. It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption.” Evolutionary Anthropologist Loren Eiseley 8

9 Claims of New Atheists – Claim a monopoly on reason Held a “Reason Rally” in DC Call themselves “brights” – Leaders encourage ridicule over debate “Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!” Dawkins – Is Dawkins highly influential book really reasonable? “The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist” “Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing.” Atheist Philosopher Michael Ruse 9

10 Claims of New Atheists Claim science only way of knowing things – Self-defeating since this cannot be proven scientifically – “I will not believe in God because there is no empirical evidence” They believe without empirical evidence – E.g.: Multiverse, String Theory, creation of universe out of nothing – "The reality of consciousness and cognition cannot be plausibly reconciled with scientific naturalism.“ Thomas Nagel – “It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection. We are expected to abandon this naïve response, not in favor of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by example. What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a credible argument that the story has a nonnegligible probability of being true.” Nagel 10

11 New Atheist Beliefs Undermine Their Complaints Complain religious are obligated to follow reason – Most New Atheists don’t believe in objective morality There is “no evil … Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows or case. DNA just is.” Dawkins Offer only an evolutionary explanation for morality – Morals could have evolved differently – No objective grounding Results in their being no obligations 11

12 Other Inconsistencies in New Atheist Beliefs Reasoning undermined by new atheist beliefs – Don’t believe in free will Undermines morality and reason Beliefs result from blind unguided processes not reason – "But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment.” Dawkins 12

13 Current Science Unclear on Free Will “But my beef with Coyne is that he is the one making the strong claim that free will denial is a scientific proposition. I am not at all making the symmetrical claim that affirmation of free will is demonstrated by science, only the neutral one that science has precious little (okay, pretty much nothing) to say about free will.” Massimo Pigliucci Some of the key experimenters whose work is being interpreted that we have no free will deny that the science shows that or even can (E.g. Marcel Brass, Libet) 13

14 Questions to Ask Atheists? What are some suggested ways of interacting with atheists? Don’t just start arguing - try to understand your atheist friend’s perspectives “Have you studied the evidence and arguments for the existence of God?” – Realize your friend may be being rational based on their limited knowledge Bad experiences in religion may have soured them – If you get in discussions over the evidence be open-minded and polite They may have some legitimate points that should force us to alter our arguments We just need one argument for the existence of God to go through 14

15 Questions to Ask Atheists? “Why do you believe there is no god?” – Many avoid defending belief that no god exists by saying they simply have no belief in God This is agnosticism not atheism as traditionally defined – If they believe that “no gods exist” they should offer some evidence Illogical to argue for atheism based on problem of evil Arguing evolution disproves God requires theological assumptions 15

16 If they complain about God, what kind of a god do you disbelieve in? – I don’t believe in that god either! If you don’t believe in any gods how can you make so many assumptions about what God would be like were He to exist? – Need to be answered to preserve coherence of Christian theism – Unwarranted assumptions commonly made How God would have created things – If the universe is finely-tuned for life then life should How God would have left evidence 16 Questions to Ask Atheists?

17 Awareness Topic: Modern-Day Slavery If you want to help fight slavery: See Get involved in International Justice Mission 17

18 Next Week A skeptical look at skepticism (Beau Bishop) – Is it irrational to be overly skeptical? – Beau is the co-director of the overall Reasonable Faith ministry Kyler Kelly will briefly present about modern-day slavery just to help spread awareness and let you know about the International Justice Mission group she helps to lead on campus 18

19 “I am not a devout Christian, yet if anything, the things said against me are worse. Richard Dawkins, in his best selling The God Delusion, likens me to Neville Chamberlain, the pusillanimous appeaser of Hitler at Munich. Jerry Coyne reviewed one of my books (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) using the Orwellian quote that only an intellectual could believe the nonsense I believe in. And non-stop blogger P. Z. Myers has referred to be as a “clueless gobshite.” This invective is all because, although I am not a believer, I do not think that all believers are evil or stupid, and because I do not think that science and religion have to clash.” Atheist Michael Ruse 2 millions copies of God Delusion sold (in English alone) 19

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21 Fundamentalist Atheist Fundamentalist – Cling to dogma over evidence, arguments from authority, hold views contrary to scholarly consensus, confirmation bias Some Christians fall into this type of camp as well 21

22 Give long list of claims and let audience respond “Improbable events happen all the time” Even if … bringing god into it doesn’t help Who made god? I don’t believe in ID claims of fine-tuning but I think that the multiverse is a better explanation -> that makes ID much more likely (especially the infinite multiverse which is a god substitute -> davies quotes) I don’t accept things by authority but only by evidence 22

23 But, someone will say, the improbable happens all the time. It is not at all improbable that something improbable should happen. Consider an example. You play a rubber of bridge involving, say, five deals. The probability that the cards should fall just as they do for those five deals is tiny—something like one out of ten to the 140th power. Still, they did. Right. It happened. The improbable does indeed happen. In any fair lottery, each ticket is unlikely to win; but it is certain that one of them will win, and so it is certain that something improbable will happen. But how is this relevant in the present context? In a fit of unbridled optimism, I claim that I will win the Nobel Prize in chemistry. You quite sensibly point out that this is extremely unlikely, given that I have never studied chemistry and know nothing about the subject. Could I defend my belief by pointing out that the improbable regularly happens? Of course not: you cannot sensibly hold a belief that is improbable with respect to all of your evidence. Plantiga Share Barnes on FT -> Universe from absolutely nothing … Loudest spokespersons are those disenfranchised by their religious experience – Lesson learned to treat people better, emotional reactions too, 23

24 Living up to your subtitle “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages. If ‘On the Origin of Species’ was biology’s deadliest blow to super­naturalism, we may come to see ‘A Universe From Nothing’ as the equivalent from cosmology. The title means exactly what it says. And what it says is ­devastating.” Dawkins in afterword to book Even antitheist Jerry Coyne gave this book a negative review – much of Krauss’s book felt like a bait-and-switch. NY Times article “the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings … amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.” Albert on Krauss Krauss backtracking in responding to Coyne’s article: “I may not be focusing on the classical question that has bother philosophers, but I don’t think I ever claim to.” 24

25 Genetic fallacy – cuts both ways anyway – Leading atheists had absentee dads or ones who rejected them – Kill the father figure 25

26 Michael Murrie – What if God hard-wired into the brain By God, comes natural Historians of science reject the science – religion conflict notion -> almost the opposite Stark & hannam etc. 26

27 Discuss concepts – Confirmation bias – Epistemology Theory of knowledge, how you know things If limited you’ll miss out on truth Apply to determining if a person did X (courtroom – not all science) – Then go back in time -> history … – Were Mendel’s experiments rigged? (sci history) – J. Warner Wallace … 27

28 History Jospeh needham, Alfred North Whitehead – Fellow of both Royal Society and British Academy Scholars such as Oppenheimer{5} and Whitehead{6} affirm that it was the Christian world view that gave birth to science. Specifically, the Christian views of man and of nature during the Renaissance and the Reformation were the spark that ignited the fires of science. 28

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