Philosopher Michael Ruse has recently put up an essay about the newest new atheism news: The Schism. Or as PZ Myers has described it Deep Rifts, DEEP RIFTS! that are rending the frail alliance of non-accomodationalist new atheists and the old republic of old accomdationalist atheist vangaurd! The drama! I can’t wait to hear of the latest encyclical from the pope his most rationalist Dawkins Darwin the Fifth on the dogmatic neccesity of philosophical naturalism and its twin sister the materialist evolutionism-ist neodawinianism-ist humanist secularism.
Anyway, Ruse says,
As a professional philosopher my first question naturally is: “What or who is an atheist?” If you mean someone who absolutely and utterly does not believe there is any God or meaning then I doubt there are many in this group. Richard Dawkins denies being such a person. If you mean someone who agrees that logically there could be a god, but who doesn’t think that the logical possibility is terribly likely, or at least not something that should keep us awake at night, then I guess a lot of us are atheists.
Seriously? His first question as a professional philosopher naturally is about who counts as an atheist? What a waste. Maybe he just means on this particular topic. Sure, in a certain sense, you can only be agnostic as to whether gods exist because, Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow (or some Other , Thing…)
strike all his believers dead rapture them to heaven, forcing a reconsideration of a few points of view.
Atheists are even more complex than a these-and-those situation. “We”, as Ruse doesn’t seem to realize, form a continuum of different beliefs, just like any other group of people you might care to imagine in your granfalloon.
But there is certainly a split, a schism, in our ranks. I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the “new atheists”, loathe and detest my thinking. …
I have had first hand experience with Michael Ruse. Both I and slightlyharmless were at the CFI World Congress in Bethesda, MD, where Ruse made the argument that, as he later states in this essay,
If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?
Really. He makes this argument (At Bethesda it was phrased a bit different, the content was the same). As if somehow beliefs derived from the bible are on par with hard earned science. So apparently, if a well meaning parent feeds a child bullshit, we “atheists” are to blame for science teachers contradicting the bullshit put there. This IS America, after all. Just because it’s factually wrong doesn’t mean you can’t make your kids believe it. Ruse treats creationism leading to kids being christians, and evolution leading kids to being atheists sitting on exactly the same grounds.
Its insane. Even putting aside whatever crap someone put in a child’s mind, shouldn’t any kind of real education change a child’s beliefs about the world? Any deep understanding of the sciences (or history, languages, art, literature, etc) *should* change how you view the world, because it makes you think in new, different ways.
Ruse does have the drop on me though. I didn’t know that, as a “new” atheist, “that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting”. I had previously thought that religions in general were full of good people because churches attracted a certain kind of them, but now I will dogmatically adopt the latest decree from the lords of new atheism. I hope they tell me to think for myself soon.
Ruse asks “us”, “how dare we be so condescending?” Oh, “we” new atheists, if we could just stop being such jerks! How dare we talk about the cause or contributing factor to many problems. Tough questions! The hard, varsity level ones like “should people be treated equally under the law?”. I’d say yes, but as Maine shows, religions can be part of the problem.
I’ve started re-reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and this part
But to tear down a factory of revolt against a government … because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. pg 88
The “new” atheist movement has a lot to do with religion. Mostly, against it. Some people just want religiously motived (or funded) groups to stop attacking the separation of state and church, and keep the god nonsense away from politics. Others would arrest all clergy for fraud. If the approach Ruse favors could work, it would have by now, and there would be no need for the entire “movement”, because we would all have moved on to moon bases, and free oral sex for everyone, and ending hunger and disease and overpopulation and all those other real problems, real people have, in this world, now.
It seems to come down to one main point Ruse seems to have for us: just shut up already.