The Bible of Militant Atheism

by Aasem Bakhshi

nullContrary to the mainstream religious belief, incredulity and skepticism regarding the ultimate nature of truth, existence of God and eschatological claims of scripture is not an entirely modern phenomenon. In his famous thought experiment Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, Ibn Tufayl the famous Muslim philosopher of 12th century Spain, aesthetically described discovery of God as the “joy without lapse, unending bliss, infinite rapture and delight” and inability to find Him as “infinite torture”. The curious and always speculative protagonist of the fable remains incessantly engaged between cosmological antinomies such as those put forward by contests between classical Greek eternalism and scriptural creationism; or the ones related to human origins such as spontaneous generation (understandably so, considering the scientific milieu of 12th century) or simple creationism as proposed by orthodox religion.

Ibn Tufayl’s classic as well as other such theologically flavored thought experiments of pre-modern period, for instance Avicenna’sFloating Man”, can be characteristically distinguished from modernist discourse in three important ways: their peculiar guarded speculative approach towards theology, the careful selection of premises mostly leading towards theistic conclusions and most importantly aesthetics of literary exposition.

There were of course exceptions raising more formal agnostic queries regarding nature of God, for example the physician Zakariya Razi and Avicenna himself; however these undertakings, even though penned by intellectuals who were primarily scientists did not go as far as to purport an outright rejection of faith. In modern times, the western philosophical tradition having roots in enlightenment, especially Kant and Hume, provided basis for a scientific endeavor that gave rise to more formal and popular agnosticism – and indirectly atheism – whose main proponents were among logicians, paleontologists and physicists whose writings while popularizing science as it was never done before in the history of scientific culture, also extended the domain of science to purely philosophical realms including metaphysics, ethics and theology. Yet, the religion was never presented so antagonistically in opposition to reason as it is done so remarkably by Richard Dawkins in God Delusion.

Based upon extreme scientific naturalism, Dawkins’ thesis casts the proposition that atheism is a natural consequence of human evolution. All kind of religious faith, being impossible to be vindicated empirically, is necessarily dissonant with reason. Religion, as interpreted by Dawkins, is at the the root of much that is going wrong in the world. Moreover, the idea of God in human consciousness can be explained away as a naturally evolved impulse to believe in an omniscient and omnipotent entity, an indulgence which is byproduct of “something useful” or simply speaking an error in the grand evolutionary process.

Unlike some of his predecessors, for instance Thomas Huxley, Bertrand Russell and Stephen. J. Gould, who chose to describe themselves as agnostics rather than atheists, Dawkins does not accept the idea that outright atheism is simply dogmatic due to its unwarranted metaphysical claims about the non-existence of God without enough empirical evidence. Therefore, religion and science does not belong to two “non-overlapping magisteria” – a term coined by Gould – limited to their respective domains. Consequently, any question or claim related to existence of God should be strictly considered a scientific question; simply, because it cannot circumvent other cosmological queries concerning origins of human life and universe.

The approach of Dawkins is rightly expressed as militant atheism by many intellectuals as he is in favor of dismantling all practical religion and every procedure that facilitates or establishes basis for its survival. As explained succinctly by Karen Armstrong in her new book The Case for God, the approach taken by Dawkins has a peculiar reductionist tendency which is remarkably similar to religious extremists as each considers the other as the “epitome of evil”. In both discourses, oversimplifications and gross generalizations necessitate wrong premises, ultimately bringing out the absolute worst of the other; no wonder therefore, why Dawkins invoke the likes of Ibn Warraq and Christopher Hitchens to argue that a tolerant and respectable view of religion is equally reprehensible for all the wrongs committed by religious extremists. Indeed, the superficiality of logical analysis in such discourses does not demand intellectually laborious critique as similarities are not hard to draw.

The nature of God, as understood by Dawkins to present his case against religion, is vulgarly anthropomorphic. The reader is almost duped into believing that all theists, irrespective of the particular creed they ascribe to, believe in some kind of spirit out there; a kind of superhuman entity which Dawkins pejoratively equates with Russell’s ‘Cosmic Teapot’ or ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’. The idea of universal symbolism towards some transcendent ineffable entity beyond the capacity of vocation of language seems alien to Dawkins’ naturalist preoccupancy. The religious belief, therefore, as he vociferously advocates, is something stupid, naive and incapable to be hold by an intelligent and unbiased rational being.

Due to his proclivity towards oversimplification in matters metaphysical, Dawkins seems to advertently disregard the inherent ineradicability of unknowing in the nature of acquired religious truth. He does not acknowledge the fact that no theist claims explicitly that he is in possession of the ultimate sacred truth, except the reductionism loving religious extremists. The scripture itself closes the door on such kind of claim by contending that “there is nothing like the likeness of Him“. All we have are symbols pointing towards the nature of ultimate truth concerning God and sundry eschatological issues.

Probably due to his aphilosophical bent, Dawkins is apparently unable to comprehend that for a theist, there is beauty in this astonishment; a sense of awe that tends to make him humbly aware regarding the degree of obscurity of his own self in the macrocosm. But he would at least agree that science, no matter how much it achieves in reducing complexity that surrounds us, also shares this sense of awe with religion as it also had to consistently rely on an act of faith.

On this particular note, conjuring probability model to disregard the so-called God hypothesis is outrageously strange. Dawkins’ conclusion that “God almost certainly does not exist” cannot be philosophically taken as a knowledge producing utterance unless ‘probability’ is taken as synonymous for ‘truth’; a subtle yet important point, that was profoundly framed by Karl Popper in his Logic of Scientific Discovery:

…we must not look upon science as a ‘body of knowledge’, but rather as a ‘system of hypothesis’; that is to say, as a system of guesses or anticipation which in principle cannot be justified but with which we work as long as they stand up to tests, and of which we are never justified in saying that we know that they are ‘true’ or ‘more or less certain’ or even ‘probable'”.

Because of strict evolutionary perspective that he sets up for himself, it was incumbent for Dawkins to give some kind of Darwinian origins to morality. Ultimately entailing the biological evolution of human intellect, this is perhaps the crassest assertion of the book; amounting to claim that our ancestors were less capable or probably less intellectually equipped to be objective in apprehending the ultimate reality. As Iqbal mentions in his second lecture on nature of religious experience, any such view regarding intellect being a product of evolution would “bring science into conflict with its own objective principle of investigation”. To find an appropriate expression of this conflict, he quotes Wildon Carr:

If intellect is a product of evolution the whole mechanistic concept of the nature and origin of life is absurd, and the principle that science has adopted must clearly be revised […] How can the intellect, a mode of apprehending reality, be itself an evolution of something which only exists as an abstraction of that mode of apprehending, which is the intellect? If intellect is an evolution of life, then the concept of the life which can evolve intellect as a particular mode of apprehending reality must be the concept of a more concrete activity than that of any abstract mechanical movement which the intellect can present to itself by analyzing its apprehended content.

Dawkins wishes to portray the book as a consciousness raiser of sorts: regarding atheism being more reasonable than agnosticism, religion being the root of all evil, religious education being equal to child abuse, religion and morality being completely uncorrelated and atheism being an objective conclusion not to be ashamed of rather the only rational position one can possibly hold with a sense of pride. I think some of the aims were partially achieved, especially raising the atheist pride by providing a kind of polemicist manual to hold tightly.

But perhaps the real strength of the book lies in questioning the innermost religious convictions of the people who are equally awed by the respective magisteria of religion and science and want to bridge gaps. Regarding the kind of evidence that would convince him regarding the existence of God, Bertrand Russell once replied that if a voice from the sky would reveal to him each and every thing that is going to happen in next few hours and that would eventually happen also, he may consider the possibility of existence of God. I sincerely doubt that even in the face of such evidence, Richard Dawkins would even come close in considering the truthfulness of God hypothesis. To borrow the quip that he himself quotes in the book, he does not merely believe in non-existence of God, he knows.

38 Comments

Filed under Books, Philosophy, Religion, Science

38 responses to “The Bible of Militant Atheism

  1. SV

    “But he would at least agree that science, no matter how much it achieves in reducing complexity that surrounds us, also shares this sense of awe with religion as it also had to consistently rely on an act of faith.”

    What does this mean?

  2. Bloody Civilian

    SV

    i suspect it’s a case of confusing the role of ‘serendipity’ in science with ‘an act of faith’. a (successful) scientist catches any fruits of ‘serendipity’ in a net made of dedicated effort and strict objectivity. scientists running naked in the street shouting eureka makes good copy, though.

    just like ‘serendipity’ may incorrectly be confused with ‘faith’, ‘dedication’ has similarities with ‘devotion’, and there cannot be true objectiviy without humility… hence the scientisit’s ‘religious experience’.. to use another figure of speech.

  3. Aasem, thanks for this brilliant post. Please write more for PTH and we desperately need diversity here..
    cheers
    RR

  4. Rashid

    “Regarding the kind of evidence that would convince him regarding the existence of God, Bertrand Russell once replied that if a voice from the sky would reveal to him each and every thing that is going to happen in next few hours and that would eventually happen also, he may consider the possibility of existence of God.”

    Commenting on this quote Dr. Zahid Aziz wrote on Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement blog (I just want to share here for some info):

    It might have convinced Bertrand Russell but if he tried to convince others of it on the basis of his own experience he would have faced the same opposition and scepticism that all men of God received!

    By the way, Bertrand Russell’s mother’s brother was one Henry Stanley (d. 1903), the 3rd Lord Stanley of Alderley. This Lord Stanley had embraced Islam in his youth. As a British diplomat he had lived in parts of the Muslim world. He had deep knowledge of several languages and of Islamic law.

    According to Maulana Muhammad Ali in a footnote in Bayan-ul-Quran, Lord Stanley used to cry in tahajjud prayers. It was that mention that once set me off to try to find who this “Lord Stanley” was.

    His father, the 2nd Lord Stanley, was a British minister under several prime ministers in the 19th century. Lord Henry Stanley’s death was reported by Maulana Muhammad Ali in the Review of Religions for February 1904. He was given Islamic funeral rites by an imam from the Turkish Embassy in London, and was buried in the family grounds in Cheshire, England.

  5. Karaya

    Dawkins does not accept the idea that outright atheism is simply dogmatic due to its unwarranted metaphysical claims about the non-existence of God without enough empirical evidence

    Dawkins is dogmatic because he makes claims about the non-existence of God as there is not enough empirical evidence to support such an existence. The horror!

    To tell you the truth (it’s ugly I warn ya), I’m a bit dogmatic too. I believe that the Earth is not flat because there is not enough empirical evidence to support such a claim. Absurd, isn’t it? If only I had faith.

    Why my “less capable or probably less intellectually equipped” ancestors thought otherwise is beyond me.

    The idea of universal symbolism towards some transcendent ineffable entity beyond the capacity of vocation of language seems alien to Dawkins’ naturalist preoccupancy.

    Then we should at the very least stop reading all our “Holy” books, not too mention Iqbal’s second lecture or whatever. Trust me, if more people would follow at least this simple assertion (rather than being “dogmatic” and ask for proof!) most Peshawaris, Mumbaikars etc at least would lead much happier lives.

  6. Karaya

    Probably due to his aphilosophical bent, Dawkins is apparently unable to comprehend that for a theist, there is beauty in this astonishment; a sense of awe that tends to make him humbly aware regarding the degree of obscurity of his own self in the macrocosm

    From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

    Also, I hope you believe in the big-bottomed green gremlins of Alpha Centauri. There is no evidence whatsoever to support my claim but I have faith so you should believe me.

  7. Vishal

    Couple of things:

    (1) In response to your comment about atheism’s “unwarranted metaphysical claims about the non-existence of God without enough empirical evidence”: Atheism does not mean denial of God’s existence. An absence of belief (in deities) is different than a disbelief (in deities).

    (2) The term “militant atheism” is just a feeble “swearword” used by religious tabloids that simply exaggerates the unfriendliness/disagreement of Atheist and call them “militants”.

    (3) The way I see it, the conflict is not between non-belief and belief. The conflict is between reason and dogma. It just happens that science belong to the former camp, and (most of) religion to the latter.

    (4) Faith requires you to believe in things without the need for any logical/empirical proof. And to that, here’s Hitchen’s quote that’s hard to argue against, “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

  8. kaju

    The absence of evidence is the evidence of absence

  9. puyu

    “If intellect is an evolution of life, then the concept of the life which can evolve intellect as a particular mode of apprehending reality must be the concept of a more concrete activity than that of any abstract mechanical movement which the intellect can present to itself by analyzing its apprehended content.”
    Why should that be so? Is there any logical reason to assume such a hierarchy of concepts?

  10. @ SV, Bloody Civilian

    Even though serendipity is an interesting nuance, I did not mean it when I say act of faith. I am actually referring to the philosophical thought that initially questioned the notion of absolute objectivity (for instance, Hume) and moved towards the question of nature of scientific “discovery” itself (for instance, Popper and Polanyi). Scientific theory is mostly established on the basis of probability and this “taming of chance” (a term coined by Ian Hacking) has great similitude with the an act of faith. “Truth” in scientific method always goes through a process of falsification and taken as a “fact” until it is falsified.

    This of course does not mean to diminish the value of scientific knowledge itself; it is just to highlight the nature of epistemic conjecture that is so often taken for granted in the name of “discovery”. In my humble view, scientific method cannot be used for proving or disproving God’s existence.

    regards

  11. @Vishal

    1. Point well taken but we are strictly speaking here in terms of Dawkins. Had he subscribed to this important distinction, he should not have disagreements with Gould’s NOMA proposition.

    2. The term is not generalized for all atheists / agnostics. I agree that it is pejorative but did you ever read someone calling Russell a militant atheist. The term is generally reserved for atheists who wear belligerence towards religion on face.

    3. The swift movement of reason/dogma duality to science/religion duality is a little awkward in my opinion. Reason and dogma is part and parcel of human consciousness at one level or another. Simplest of our scientific notions are dogmatically taken without proof at one level. There were nine planets when I was young; since August 2006, there are eight and I have seamlessly switched my belief.

    4. Logical and empirical are too different things. Believing that existence of God is an aesthetically consistent, valid and inductively plausible idea to hold is different than believing in Him through observation and experiment.

    regards

  12. Aaseem,

    Vishal: An absence of belief (in deities) is different than a disbelief (in deities).

    Point well taken but we are strictly speaking here in terms of Dawkins

    Actually, to the best of my knowledge, Dawkins has never relied on proving the non-existence of God. He’ll always affix a “probably” in there somewhere, which is very logical—the burden of proof always lies on the proposer. It’s impossible to prove something does not exist. For more on this do read up on Russell’s Tea Pot.

  13. Hayyer

    Hades
    You might also say that it is impossible to disprove something that does not exist. We must keep in mind the duck billed platypus. It was only proved because it was found. But if we can’t find something we only imagine exists, can someone disprove it?

  14. Hades

    Hayyer Saab,

    But if we can’t find something we only imagine exists, can someone disprove it?

    As I said, it’s very difficult to prove something does not exist. Also, it must be understood that the cardinality of the set of unproven things is infinite. Thus to ponder over the existence of something which could exist but has not been proven is an exercise in, well, futility (no offense meant).

    However, if we must go by the standard of “But if we can’t find something we only imagine exists, can someone disprove it?” let’s go to its full scope shall we? If you think about it, can you disprove the assertion that there are, say, three headed Marilyn Monroes with webbed feet on a Shahrukh Khan-shaped planet too far for humans to probe? I don’t think so. So would it be logical if I fervently believed in such an entity? I hope you’d answer in the negative.

    In effect, there’s no end to things we can imagine but which cannot be disproved, which makes the whole exercise a bit superfluous, IMO.

  15. SV

    Aasem,

    I agree , the scientific method can not be used to prove or disprove the existence of God. However, it can be used – very effectively – to repudiate and ridicule religion.

    I can not recall Dawkins or any other atheist blindly claiming that science disproves the existence of God. In the recent Atheist Bus campaign which Dawkins was the public face of, buses across London had this message painted across them ” There probably isn’t a God…so enjoy life” (or something to that effect)..emphasis on probably, which was added on Dawkin’s insistence.

    Here’s the thing.

    Agnostic: there may or may not be a god, this is unknowable and beyond the realm of science.

    Atheist: doesnt not believe that god exists

    This is really a question of belief in God vs the existence of god (which is unknowable)

    Now lets examine the theist position : Not only am i certain that there IS definitely a God, but he tells me how long my beard should be, what i can or not eat, who i can marry , etc etc.

    Hope this made sense.

  16. Hades

    SV,

    Atheist: doesnt not believe that god exists

    Keeping apart lexical definitions, most of the Dawkins/Myers types would describe themselves as:

    Atheist: doesn’t not believe that god exists because there is no proof of such an existence.

    The definition is inherently conditional and not absolute, which is why these chaps are so confident, I guess, when it comes to someone calling them dogmatic.

  17. SV

    Sorry Hades didn’t get you there..can you say it again without the triple negatives? Not trying to be cheeky …thanks.

  18. Hades

    SV,

    …the triple negatives?

    Heh! Sorry, my bad. Here’s what it should have been:

    Atheist: doesn’t believe that god exists because there is no proof of such an entity.

    So, Dawkins would, or so he says, condescend to become a theist if someone could show him some empirical proof of His existence.

  19. SV

    Yes, but i dont see what the problem with that position is.

    He is just following the standard scientific method where he would have to change his hypothesis in the light of contradictory evidence/observation. Or am i missing something?

    And while i can understand the Deist world view, i think theism is utterly foolish, and if it makes me look arrogant for saying it, then so be it.

  20. Bloody Civilian

    Aasem

    thanks for the explanation. i am looking at this from the pov of a (pure) ‘scientist’. what can be and is quite legitimately called scientific objectivity is perhaps more bringing a well-disciplined and highly organised way of thinking to an experiment or observation than necessarily being open-minded and objective in the same sense of a philospher applying herself to the larger questions of life.

    unlike me, dawkin, (perhaps) yourself and many others are philosophers (too). but a scientist would agree that every experiment and ‘discovery’ must have a basis in a hypothesis (even the ones that are assumed to be facts to the extent that what was previously proven may now be disproved). for that reason, no discovery is as purely ‘chance’ as it would have been had there been no pre-existing ‘hypotheses’ – again ‘facts’ included – and no new facts were being sought.

    as for how much we do live in the world of science and how much in one of philosophy, i don’t think any one is really arguing about that. most people agree that the two realms don’t necessarily entirely overlap… otherwise there would be no distinction between the two. hence your interesting formulation: “Logical and empirical are too different things. Believing that existence of God is an aesthetically consistent, valid and inductively plausible idea to hold is different than believing in Him through observation and experiment.” a scientist recognises empirical phenonema and accepts logical explanations for them only as probable/plausible, even elegant, theoretical explanations but not proof/principle (which has to be empirical).

  21. Hades

    Yes, but i dont see what the problem with that position is.

    It is very difficut to refute, that’s what the problem is.🙂

  22. SV

    “It is very difficut to refute, that’s what the problem is. ”

    Which is why i’m glad im on his side of the argument.

  23. Bloody Civilian

    Scientific theory is mostly established on the basis of probability and this “taming of chance” (a term coined by Ian Hacking) has great similitude with the an act of faith

    interesting. so empirical reproducibility may be seen as not necessarily more than a preponderance in favour of a notion of statistical certainty being accepted as scientific principle. of course, this may be an entirely acceptable view to take, in relative terms. it’s perfectly scientific. probability ‘theory’ of course says that even a certainty can only truly be proven after an infinte number of repetitions of the experiment.

  24. Hades

    Bloody Civilian,

    as for how much we do live in the world of science and how much in one of philosophy, i don’t think any one is really arguing about that.

    Actually, people are. If God was taken to be just a philosophical construct–in effect an entity that has no real existence and is a result of our imagination then there wouldn’t be too many arguments.

    However, a great number of people would take offense to anyone characterising God as just a figment of someone’s imagination and would instead strive to characterise Him as a physical entity. As soon as you do that, Bam! you’re in Science’s domain and after that things do tend to get a bit messy.

  25. SV

    Bam! you’re in Science’s domain and after that things do tend to get a bit messy.

    i think by messy, you mean elegant

  26. Vishal

    @ Aasem,

    Re. #3 “Simplest of our scientific notions are dogmatically taken without proof at one level.”

    No, science never claims to have found something absolute – especially without sufficient evidence.

    “All scientific truth is provisional, subject to modification in light of new evidence. There’s no alarm bell that goes off to tell scientists that they’ve finally hit the ultimate, unchangeable truths about nature. Scientists, unlike zealots, can’t afford to become arrogant about what they accept as true.” (Quote taken from ‘Why Evolution Is True’ by Jerry Coyne)

    Science is based on reason, logic, evidence. Dogmatic, it is not.

    #4 There’s no reason why the validity of religion should not be tested against the standards of reason. Here’s Stephen Pinker about the incompatibility about science and religion:

    “Knowledge is a continuous fabric, in which ideas are connected to other ideas. Reason-free zones, in which people can assert arbitrary beliefs safe from ordinary standards of evaluation, can only corrupt this fabric, just as a contradiction can corrupt a system of logic, allowing falsehoods to proliferate through it.

    Science can not be walled off from other forms of belief. That includes meaning and morality – reason connects them all. […] Just as coherent biological reasoning cannot proceed under the assumption that God can step in at any moment and push the molecules around, coherent moral reasoning cannot proceed under the assumption that the universe unfolds according a divine merciful plan, that humans have a free will that is independent of their neurobiology, or that people can behave morally only if they fear divine retribution in an afterlife.

    Reason is non-negotiable. Try to argue against it, or to exclude it from some realm of knowledge, and you’ve already lost the argument, because you’re using reason to make your case. And no, this isn’t having “faith” in reason (in the same way that some people have faith in miracles), because we don’t “believe” in reason; we use reason.”

  27. @ SV

    Well, I have no qualms in accepting that it makes sense. But all I am trying to do here is to pose some right questions to athiests of Dawkins tribe; foremost being that whether the question of God can be settled through a purely scientific discourse or not.

    Now lets examine the theist position : Not only am i certain that there IS definitely a God, but he tells me how long my beard should be, what i can or not eat, who i can marry , etc etc.

    “Theist position” – at least for three mainstream religions – is fundamentally based on some kind of divine scripture or historical text which can be scrutinized through standard methods of critique which are interestingly “scientific” enough in our age. This critique is an ongoing process and if a theist, or for that matter majority of theists choose to believe in dogma rather than critical thinking, it would be harsh to assert that there is something inherently wrong with theism.

  28. Bloody Civilian

    Hades

    i thought the discussion was within the context of Aasem’s essay and, therefore, not about people who would “take offense” on anything. Aasem has clarified that in his latest post above.

    as for ‘challenging science’, “Bam!”… such a claim would be no different than some scientisits’ that just because a theory was more logical, coherent, consistent and elegant than any other, with more supporting (albeit inconclusive) evidence, it must be accepted as fact. but to rightly refuse such a claim would not automatically mean that the theory is being relegated to the realm of children’s fables. calling something philosophy is not remotely the same as saying it’s all fairy tales.

  29. puyu

    @Aasem Bakhshi
    “…whether the question of God can be settled through a purely scientific discourse or not”

    As long as He/She/It does not intersect with the scientific domain God has nothing to fear which is not the case with three (?) mainstream religions. Charles Darwin has ensured that! But if the question of God is just an epistemological one as described in some eastern religious doctrines then you are right, science can not have an argument.

  30. @ Bloody Civilian

    so empirical reproducibility may be seen as not necessarily more than a preponderance in favour of a notion of statistical certainty being accepted as scientific principle. of course, this may be an entirely acceptable view to take, in relative terms. it’s perfectly scientific. probability ‘theory’ of course says that even a certainty can only truly be proven after an infinte number of repetitions of the experiment.

    I don’t find myself disagreeing with you here. I would just add in response to your last line that probability of an event is fundamentally different than probability of a hypothesis.

  31. Bloody Civilian

    @Aasem

    indeed. probability is no sensible test for logic. as a valid scientific method, statistics/probability is, of course, an alternative to (logical) analysis.

  32. Hades

    Blody Civilian,

    calling something philosophy is not remotely the same as saying it’s all fairy tales.

    No, not at all.

    But calling something, anything ‘philosophy’ does mean that it is a human invention. All philosophy is.

    Most people, though would disagree with this. They would characterise God as a physical entity. And I’m sure everybody knows what name Humans give to that branch of knowledge which studies physical entities—Science. So much for NOM!

  33. @puyu

    As long as He/She/It does not intersect with the scientific domain God has nothing to fear which is not the case with three (?) mainstream religions.

    Religion, in principle, should not be concerned with the purpose and method of scientific enquiry. The question of origin of cosmos and human life has never been settled by science for good and the swift shift is inherently embedded in the scientific method or how it has evolved uptill present. Similarly, the concept of movement is embedded in religion too as its ultimate claim rests on some kind of text whose character is physical and not metaphysical. It is but ink and paper. How it is read and understood is what finally matters. I have already written about it.

    On a different note, your argument can be made to stand on its head. Do you think science has a right to dwell into the question of morality? I am not sure but perhaps scientific method has gone too far in making assertions in the realm of ethics, sociology and human behavior.

  34. Before people jump on me, I should just add that I absolutely love Pinker and Weber🙂

  35. Bloody Civilian

    Hades

    there is human invention, human perception of reality and the reality of being human. not all parts of the reality of being human are easily told apart from human invention. nor is the full reality of being human itself limited to any given level of scientific knowledge. that is why i see no problem with seeing things as ‘scientific’ and ‘non-scientific’ and not necessarily as ‘real’ and ‘unreal’. i see the interaction between scientifically proven and unproven as a complimentarity and not a zero-sum game. as for ‘physical entities’, i don’t see why or how anything other than scientific method should be followed.

  36. Hades

    Civilian sahab,

    You lost me a bit there. However, it suffices to say that I am in agreement with you here:

    “as for ‘physical entities’, i don’t see why or how anything other than scientific method should be followed.”

    TTFN

  37. puyu

    Aasem Bakhshi
    Thank you for your reply.
    What are your objections to the evolutionary explanations of morality? I thought biological altruism is an established fact (I must admit that I have read very little about it). If neuropsychology is here to replace psychology, religions certainly need to redefine their roles quite drastically. Of course, science does not have all the answers. But at this point the scientific method seem to be capable of encompassing almost all human affairs.
    You are right, if religion contents itself with the Bishop Berkley school of philosophy and/or with making conjectures about what lies beyond the big bang singularity there should not be any conflict

  38. @puyu

    What are your objections to the evolutionary explanations of morality? I thought biological altruism is an established fact (I must admit that I have read very little about it).

    Well, evolutionary psychology is not my forte either but I do know that intricacies of biological altruism are still being understood. Among the sundry issues is “reciprocal altruism” and whether the biological altruism is “real” or not; question being: are all the species motivated by self interest? Another related issue is whether it is justified to extrapolate the results of animal behavior to human behavior.

    I also contend that most theistic objections to evolutionary explanations of human behavior – as these are usually per se – are philosophically unwarranted or simply bad science (rather no science keeping in view the Harun Yahya tribe). Having said that, it should be emphasized that ought and ought-not is perhaps the most important human indulgence. Unfortunately the contemporary paradigm of moral philosophy is at least skewed if not completely transposed; and one can always refer to MacIntyre for details.

    From a POV of a theist, I need not to mention that my main objection would be the evolutionary explanation of origins of human propensity for religion itself. I am unable to reconcile the scripture with it as yet and I dont think its possible. After all, things metaphysical are not more than illusions from a strict evolutionary perspective even if one ascribes to God gene theory.