A twit of a journalist called Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, thinks that science is the enemy or reason. Why? Well, she seems to be saying that abandonment of religion has led to people believing in new age nonsense, alternative medicine etc. Quite why this is science’s fault is unclear, but I think this “journalist’s” reasoning is that Richard Dawkins is somehow arrogant in deriding Intelligent Design, and that this is as illogical as religion. Or something. It is a little hard to make any sense of what passes for a reasoned argument in this woman’s mind.
See if you can make sense of this:
But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this is all as irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.
No. Irrationality was there already – people just believe in other irrational things too – as irrational as religion in many cases.
We are living in a scientific, largely post-religious age in which faith is presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have replaced such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense.
It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that "when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything."
Yes. That is why this blog is about critical thinking and skepticism, not just anti-religion. Pity this “journalist” didn’t apply some – maybe explain to her readers how to be a critical thinker. You know – write something useful.
The big mistake is to see religion and reason as polar opposites. They are not. In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe - which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science.
A rational creator? No, a petulant creator who demands obedience, worship and sometimes human sacrifice. Whose only son has to die so that he (God – who made the rules, remember?), can forgive us for our sins. Because he couldn’t just forgive us our sins unless his only son dies. Although he is God. Very rational.
And the most irrational thing about all this – believing in this pile of nonsense in the first place. Oh but wait:
Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don't correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance.
So which is it? Is there a rational creator, or is it all a metaphor? Surely it can’t be both?
The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is "true for me".
Which is the opposite of what science teaches. How is this science’s fault, again?
That is because our society won't put up with anything which gets in the way of 'what I want'. How we feel about things has become all-important. So reason has been knocked off its perch by emotion, and thinking has been replaced by feelings.
Agreed. But why is science to blame?
This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic.
How else do you distinguish between truth and lies?
In modern times, however, science has given rise to 'scientism', the belief that science can answer all the questions of human existence. This is not so.
Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now presumes to do so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.
Count the straw men. Science doesn’t even pretend to know the answers to “all the questions of human existence”, nor does it suggest it has explained “the origin of the universe”. Although it is the best method we have of knowing those things, if they are knowable.
The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin's theory of evolution - which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection - also accounts for the origin of life itself.
Well, I don’t know if Dawkins actually says that. But no scientific theory states that as yet. But at least science tries to answer those questions. What is Phillips’ better way? See what the Bible says?
There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question "Who created God?", it follows that if scientists say the universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question "What created the bang?"
The argument is that saying “God created the universe” is not an answer – it just raises the question “who created God. So “Goddidit” tells us nothing. The Big Bang, however, tells us a lot. And makes predictions.
Indeed, if the origin of life were truly spontaneous, this would constitute what religious people would call a miracle. Accordingly, this claim in itself resembles not so much science as the superstition that Dawkins derides.
If he claimed it true without evidence, then that might be correct. Of course, what scientists are trying to do is find the evidence for the origins of life. Again, what is the alternative? “Magic man did it”?
Moreover, since science essentially takes us wherever the evidence leads, the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research - which have revealed the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life - have thrown into doubt the theory that life emerged spontaneously in a random universe.
Er, no it hasn’t.
These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.
Some of them may be scientists (not many, but some of them may be), but they’re not practicing science. And the findings didn’t “give rise” to the school. The school existed before – it was religion that “gave rise” to it. They then tried to shoe-horn the evidence to fit the religious beliefs they already had.
While this theory is, of course, open to vigorous counter-argument, people such as Prof Dawkins and others have gone to great lengths to stop it being advanced at all, on the grounds that it denies scientific evidence such as the fossil record and is therefore worthless.
No, they go to lengths to prevent it being taught as science, because it is not. And being taught ID as though it were science would jeopardize future scientific progress.
Yet distinguished scientists have been hounded and their careers jeopardised for arguing that the fossil record has got a giant hole in it. Some 570 million years ago, in a period known as the Cambrian Explosion, most forms of complex animal life emerged seemingly without any evolutionary trail.
Again, nonsense. The Cambrian explosion is not a problem for evolution.
These scientists argue that only 'rational agents' could have possessed the ability to design and organise such complex systems.
Yes, but only because they can’t imagine how it could have come about without God.
Whether or not they are right (and I don't know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled - on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.
No, IDists do not have a “scientific argument about the absence of evidence”. They ignore the evidence for evolution, and they have no evidence for their lame idea. So yes, that isn’t science.
As a result of such arrogance, the West - the crucible of reason - is turning the clock back to a pre-modern age of obscurantism, dogma and secular witch-hunts.
Far from upholding reason, science itself has become unreasonable. So when Prof Dawkins fulminates against 'new age' irrationality, it is the image of pots and kettles that comes irresistibly to mind.
Science is unreasonable because it can’t yet explain how life started? And what is your explanation then Ms. Phillips? And what is your solution, if you don’t like science? Because you don’t provide any solutions in this long whine at Richard Dawkins. And if you have no solutions, what is the point? Pots and kettles indeed.