Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

September 17, 2007

On “Rational Atheism” By Michael Shermer

Filed under: culture, religion, science — codesmithy @ 8:39 am

I picked up the September Issue of Scientific American. I was interested in their take on the obesity epidemic. I didn’t expect anything especially revelatory. Fad diets are unhealthy. Higher caloric intakes combined with more sedentary life-styles, especially among the lower classes is fueling an epidemic. In a way, artificially sweetened food has become the new tobacco as far as public health is concerned. We should expect higher rates of high-blood pressure, heart attacks, and type-2 (adult on-set) diabetes. But, I digress.

There was also an article by Michael Shermer called “Rational Atheism: An open letter to Messr. Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens.” It is a basic atheist apologist piece. Atheism will attract more people with sugar than vinegar arguments. He warns that a “new militancy has risen among religious skeptics.” With all due respect, I think that Mr. Shermer needs to watch “Jesus Camp” before talking about religious skeptic militancy. If he has, then he should provide one example of equivalent indoctrination of children on the atheist side.

Shermer criticisms also seem to be relatively baseless. He stresses five items.

  1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.
  2. Positive assertions are necessary.
  3. Rational is as rational does.
  4. The golden rule is symmetrical.
  5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

I am most familiar with Dawkins’ work and I haven’t gotten a chance to read the others. However, I can’t understand how Mr. Shermer could write what he did, if he had actually read “The God Delusion.” Items 1, 2, 3, and 4 don’t apply to Dawkins’ work. Dawkins frequently promotes the benefits of a rational rather than superstitious outlook on life (also present in “Unweaving the Rainbow”), therefore 1 and 2 are baseless. Dawkins is supremely rational and frequently promotes the ethic of reciprocity, one of the foundations of any moral philosophy. I would suggest watching Dawkins answering questions from a number of Liberty University students. The questions start around 40 minutes in. Dawkins is more than fair to the questions asked. The only grating thing about Dawkins is that some people don’t like what he has to say, and how forcefully he says it. Otherwise known as a “no win” situation and not a valid criticism.

As for the fifth point, I cannot subscribe to and I don’t think Dawkins does either. Not all beliefs are created equal. A Flying Spaghetti Monster or equally implausible deity should not hold equal standing with the principle of conservation of energy. Astrology should not be a peer to astronomy. Creationism or intelligent design should not be taught along side with evolution, as if they are both equally valid scientifically. Such a train of thought would say holocaust deniers should be given the same respect as holocaust survivors.

So, please call a spade a spade. Theologians are not experts on morality any more than literature professors. The type of diversity endorsement that Mr. Shermer gives is a cancer of liberalism. It promotes the idea that superstition is just as valid as rationality. And that, Mr. Shermer, is falling off a intellectual cliff. Such a view casts objective reality into doubt and gives credence to revelation. It says that there is no answer to the question: who are you going to believe? Me? Or your lying eyes?

In short, it is an equivalence that allows driving mankind back into the dark and a turning away from the enlightenment. No, Mr. Shermer might not be advocating it, but he is enabling it. And, I consider good people who do not fight against oppression pressed down on the backs of their fellow human beings almost as morally repugnant as the perpetrators.

So, Mr. Shermer, I declare the following statements non-negotiable. An objective reality exists. It can be understood through observation, reason and experimentation. And, the ability to understand this reality is open to all mankind.

These just aren’t beliefs, they are facts and religion doesn’t fit. I will not apologize or candy-coat it. Neither should anyone else.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] believe strange things.” I criticized one of his columns in Scientific American on “Rational Atheism.” So any criticism of Shermer should be tempered against the good work that he does. It is a […]

    Pingback by RE: Why People Don’t Trust Free Markets « Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind — May 26, 2008 @ 7:32 am


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