How Deeply Atheism Can Corrupt Rationality

by Tom Gilson

120500667Jerry Coyne, the University of Chicago biologist, is nothing if not dependable. When he takes religion to task for errors in thinking, you can always count on him demonstrating difficulties with rationality. Most recently he was upbraiding Father Alexander Lucie-Smith for writing in the Catholic Herald. He quotes Fr. Lucie-Smith:

Here is a saying that I find particularly problematic: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” [JAC: That quote comes from Dawkins’s River out of Eden.] …

What the statement seems to be conveying, rather than a scientific observable truth, is an existential statement of belief about the nature of the universe. While Christians believe that at the heart of the universe there is Love, Professor Dawkins makes an opposing and opposite statement. But if the first statement is unscientific, so surely is the second one as well.

Then he insists in response that Dawkins was making an inference from evidence. Well, so be it; that’s exactly what Dawkins was doing. It’s a bad inference, an unsupportable one, but an inference nonetheless. For example, Coyne says the problem of evil proves there is no God, but in fact the logical version of the POE was long ago shown to be toothless. Further, when Coyne speaks of “no apparent reason” for suffering, he goes well beyond science into philosophical reasoning; or perhaps rather, he fails to move into such reasoning. The world is full of truths that are not apparent, and suffering that has understandable explanations. If the reason for suffering isn’t apparent to Coyne, then maybe he’s not looking for it in the right place…


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