Episode 45 - Truth Forum: The New Atheism, Part 1

September 06, 2010

In the first of two installments, a panel of thinkers probes the relationship between naturalism, humanism, and “the new atheism.” On November 7, 2008, the Center for Inquiry / Transnational in Amherst, New York, presented this discussion as part of its Truth Forum series.

Matt Flamm is assistant professor of philosophy and division chair at Rockford College. Judy Walker is a former higher education attorney and University of Colorado Foundation vice-president for development. John Shook is vice president for research and senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry.

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Episode 45 - Truth Forum: The New Atheism, Part 1

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/audio/centerstage/centerstage-0045.mp3

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Hmm. Not buying John Shook’s warning to refrain from naturalistic, scientific and/or evolutionary explanations for mystical/religious beliefs for a couple reasons.

1) It may have the benefit of being true and the study of these issues may offer explanatory power to mystical thinking and other aspects of human psychology.
2) There are many features of evolution that are “defective” yet serve their function well such as the blind spot in the eye, the laryngeal nerve etc. Just because they function doesn’t mean that they are “good” or “right” or even necessarily desirable.
3) I tend to believe that with every capitulation that faith makes to science, every time religion adopts or co-opts scientific principles and works scientific explanations into the fabric of its dogma, it makes it easier for the fence sitters to make a choice in favor of non-faith. I think it lowers the platform from which people make their leap of faith until it’s more like a mere step of reason.
4) If it is true and can be shown scientifically to be plausible, likely or nearly certain, then no one should “be careful” about giving believers new ammunition. That would be tantamount to not pursuing the science around the Big Bang because Catholics have embraced the idea as “the moment when God created the universe”.

We need to make sure that we don’t overstate the facts. Psychology doesn’t fossilize so we can’t make claims that are unscientific or we will commit the very crime that has driven us to skepticism ourselves. Seems to me we should pursue science where it goes, and speculate and hypothesize cavalierly as we seek answers though.

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:09pm by Bill Goodwin Comment #1

Hmm. Not buying John Shook’s warning to refrain from naturalistic, scientific and/or evolutionary explanations for mystical/religious beliefs for a couple reasons.

We need to make sure that we don’t overstate the facts. Psychology doesn’t fossilize so we can’t make claims that are unscientific or we will commit the very crime that has driven us to skepticism ourselves. Seems to me we should pursue science where it goes, and speculate and hypothesize cavalierly as we seek answers though.

With respect, after reading Mr Shooks article several times, I got the distinct impression that Mr Shook was trying to warn against engaging in debate without knowledge of naturalistic, scientific, evolutionary and especially mystical/religious beliefs.
While I do agree that the wording was ambiguous, the message was in furtherance of acquiring at least a general working knowledge in these areas.

I have not yet heard the (linked) presentation, and based the above on a recent article by Mr Shook in HuffPo.

Posted on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:54pm by Write4U Comment #2