Friday, November 13, 2009

Dawkins, Religion and Materialism

Here is a funny video from John Cleese reminding us about the silliness about a strict material explanation for everything, especially the 'god meme':

This week, Camille Paglia has this to say about Dawkins:
On other matters, I was recently flicking my car radio dial and heard an affected British voice tinkling out on NPR. I assumed it was some fussy, gossipy opera expert fresh from London. To my astonishment, it was Richard Dawkins, the thrice-married emperor of contemporary atheists. I had never heard him speak, so it was a revelation. On science, Dawkins was spot on -- lively and nimble. But on religion, his voice went "Psycho" weird (yes, Alfred Hitchcock) -- as if he was channeling some old woman with whom he was in love-hate combat. I have no idea what ancient private dramas bubble beneath the surface there. As an atheist who respects and studies religion, I believe it is fair to ask what drives obsessive denigrators of religion. Neither extreme rationalism nor elite cynicism are adequate substitutes for faith, which fulfills a basic human need -- which is why religion will continue to thrive in our war-torn world.

A couple of thoughts:
(1) Why most cannot see that some of these detractors exchange one type of fundamentalism for another is beyond me. Everywhere worldview can be driven by zeal without knowledge. Every side in these important debate can have its wingnuts and radicals who exude not confidence by sheer arrogance.

(2) Romans 1 of course explains why even the materialist can hold to his/her views with such tenacity that we can dare say it is a religiosity. No matter how anti-religious one claims to be all one ever does at best is exchange one form of devotion for another and such devotion is at the end of the day a form of worship or false worship.

(3) John Cleese reminds us that quantum physics complicates things, even more so advances in philosophy beyond standard modernism. Now I am no fan of postmodernism but some of its critics of enlightenment rationalism and its quests to explain everything and master the universe was, at best, overrated.

(4) In his book, Simply Christian, N.T. Wright tells a very helpful parable about a dictator who attempts to cover a land with thousands of springs of water by simply paving over them. All the water would now be piped and treated to avoid the threat of dirty water. Everything was smoothed and controlled. He writes:
"We in the Western world are the citizens of that country. The dictator is the philosophy that has shaped our world for the past two or more centuries, making most people materialists by default. And the water is what we today call "spirituality," the hidden spring that bubbles up within human hearts and societies." (Simply Christian, 18).
Of course, the so called 'new atheists' like Dawkins and Hitchens cry "foul" at this new spirituality. At least, though, for the Christian, we can explain such things through Romans 1 without accusing people of mental deficiencies and bold irrationalities labling them 'crazy' while boldly pronouncing ourselves to the the 'brights' who have by the sheer force of intellect cast off such dark ages superstition. Ah, the wonders of tolerance.

(5) True Christianity is not opposed to reason and science but it fully admits that reason and science cannot explain all of life. C.S. Lewis reminds us: "Science works by is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that questions, 'Why is there a universe?' 'Why does it go on as it does?' 'Has it any meaning?' would remain just as they were?" (Mere Christianity, 22-23)

Indeed, science alone cannot quench the inner thirsts that rage inside of us. and answer these kinds of ultimate questions. True Christianity is not an abandonment of rationality for the irrational. It is not opposed to science. In fact, despite what popular authors may screed today--it was indeed Christian convictions that contributed to the rise of the scientific age. But Christianity does believe in the fallibility of human reasoning. Hence, Christianity is unashamedly dependent upon revelation that is supra-rational but can be discussed and believed rationally, when the mind submits to itself Christ.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Im from Australia.

Please check out these related references which point out that exoteric religionists such as yourself, are entirely materialistic too.

Tim Bertolet said...

"both scientific materialism and conventional God-religion are based upon these two fundamental human ideas (of ego-"I" and "objective reality"), scientific materialism and conventional God-religion differ only with respect to their interpretation (or interpretive idea) of what is egoically and "objectively" observed." (source)

Interesting juxtaposition and somewhat reflect of the contemporary morass that some debaters of religion vs. science find themselves in but not those who have a well thought out epistemology, particularly I think of a Reformed epistomological method. A careful theological argument, particularly offered within the above tradition cuts through this. Further more an understanding of the history of science undercuts this notion of a traditional war between the two.

The sort of monism that the article posits to transcend the so called 'ego-I' vs. 'objective reality'--is both irrational and self-defeating. Indeed, why waste such internet space arguing for the truth of one's position if in the end the goal is to transcend allusions and points of views. If individuals aren't in some sense real (the subjective) and if reality isn't in some sense objective--then there is little point in argument and persuasion; just transcend and be done with it. In fact, don't worry about those locked in their epistemological suffering (for they naively think there is a subject and object) since the "truth" is it is illusion. The more you engage real people with arguments for what you claim is the actual truth the more you justify there is both a subject and an object.

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...