History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Sam Harris on accomodationism

May 17th, 2011 · No Comments


This debate is almost completely useless. The real issue is that the ‘new atheism’ is the wrong vehicle to challenge religion. Many science types, like Mooney, sense this and bring in the issue of accomodationism.
But the fact remains that the new atheism will backfire and, if anything, restrengthen Xtian belief.

The first thing to observe is that Mooney and Kirshenbaum are confused about the nature of the problem. The goal is not to get more Americans to merely accept the truth of evolution (or any other scientific theory); the goal is to get them to value the principles of reasoning and educated discourse that now make a belief in evolution obligatory. Doubt about evolution is merely a symptom of an underlying condition; the condition is faith itself—conviction without sufficient reason, hope mistaken for knowledge, bad ideas protected from good ones, good ideas obscured by bad ones, wishful thinking elevated to a principle of salvation, etc. Mooney and Kirshenbaum seem to imagine that we can get people to value intellectual honesty by lying to them.

Harris trumpets the ideology of reason but appears confused himself about the evolution question. Or, perhaps, he is being cagey and omits reference to natural selection on purpose.
The point here is that the evidence for evolution is very strong, but the questioin of natural selection hides behind this but is far less established. So is Harris trying to pull a fast one: does he mean purely the fact of evolution? Or is he sneaking in natural selection, and then accusing its critics of rejecting evolution?

The ideology of reason promoted by Harris et al is completely sterile. Few problems are solved by true believers in Reason. I think nonetheless the heritage of Enlightenment reason is one we should study intensively, keeping in mind that practical creative problems very often come from a more complex combination of factors, including the ‘rational’ faculty.
But the question of Reason could never be monopolized by the cult of scientism, or the new atheists, whose irrationalities are a novelty in the history of atheism.

The use of the term ‘reason’ by modernists (what to say of philosophers of antiquity, like Plato) needs caution its usage, that of the philosopher Hegel with his dialectic being one of its variants, apt here given the narrow usage of science types with the phrase.

Tags: atheism · Science & Religion

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