Category Archives: Religion
And he does. Which he has proven time and time again; and has, unsurprisingly, furnished us with more evidence of it:
In defense of Lawrence Krauss’s latest piece of intellectual self-immolation, Jerry argues:
“But if in fact one construes science broadly, as a combination of reason, empirical study, and verification, yes, existence of God should show up in “scientific” inquiry.” [But it does not, he goes on to argue].
If one “construes science” in such a manner, then yes, the existence of God, contra Jerry Coyne, does show up in “scientific inquiry”, for if we were to take, say, the argument from first cause, then we’re starting from principles that are not only based in reason, but are also empirically verifiable, and have in fact been empirically verified before the process of ’empirical verification’ had even been conceptualized.
But it’s even worse than that for Jerry, since “science”, so broadly construed, makes everyone a scientist — yes, even the theologians he expends great effort to criticize — for (almost) everyone goes about his merry way using reason, empiricism and verification. Apparently for Jerry, the mere act of mixing peanut butter and chocolate because reason and empirical verification has determined that the result can be extremely pleasing to the palate is already to do science.
And since Jerry is defending Krauss’s piece where Krauss argues all scientists must be militant atheists because “Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature . .”, then Jerry (and Krauss for that matter) might as well ride the crazy train all the way and argue all bakers need to be militant atheists given that belief or nonbelief is like totally irrelevant to making a cake.
And these guys — these scientists, no less! — claim to be rational and evidence-based.
As an aside, I can certainly say I used reason and have empirically verified that on matters philosophical Jerry Coyne demonstrably does not know what the hell he’s talking about. So, really, it’s just science.
But, yes, I’m sure other Christians like myself will be vastly amused to know that, as per Jerry, we can all start happily referring to each other as fellow scientists, since his broad definition of science not only grants us the status of scientist, it also grants theology the status of science.
That above is an atheist catchphrase that seems to never die, despite that it can very easily be demonstrated to be missing the salient point.
We’re not suggesting that people will be raping and pillaging with wild abandon the moment theistic ideas are jettisoned. Rather, we are pointing out the contradiction between what they say and what they believe.
They say they reject theism because of the lack of evidence. They believe absence of evidence is evidence of absence because of a prior metaphysical commitment to naturalism. In fact most intellectual atheists — or the more reflective of them, at least — admittedly subscribe to a naturalism of one sort or another.
Now, of course, with respect to the evidence for theism, I disagree, and that above is fine as far as it goes.
Until they deign to educate us on the immorality of our beliefs. Because the problem is that on naturalism, which is on which their atheism is predicated, good and evil simply do not exist.
What a naturalist sees as evil is really just a confluence of atoms that he happens to find personally distasteful. And he happens to find them personally distasteful because he’s been hardwired by evolution to do so, viz. his feelings of personal distaste, or any opinion he may have on what or what is not moral for that matter, are merely dispositions he had inherited that are the residue of an evolutionary history.
In other words, they are illusory.
He only has these set of moral opinions because they are, by mere chance, what made his ancestors, on the aggregate, survive. It thusly becomes not an objective fact of reality that, say, murdering babies for fun is wrong. In fact we can imagine an alien race having evolved in a way that would make them think that that’s a completely moral thing to do. Or a more terrestrial example would be the members of ISIS, say, who would opine to be moral that which we find immoral. And who are we to say they are wrong? Who are we to say they are evil? After all, these “evil” people are merely acting in accordance with how the atoms that comprise them happen to be arranged, and who, given naturalism, can say that one particular confluence of atoms is to be preferred over another?
So when an atheist-naturalist natters on about the ‘evils of religion’, it is a matter of logic that he might as well be nattering on about his choice of drapery, or about his choice of textile, or about the superiority of vanilla over chocolate. Because religion, or anything else for that matter, cannot possibly be evil in a universe where evil does not exist.
People often think that if someone — a scientist, perhaps — is able to adequately explain the manner by which particular mental states occur in the brain, then they’ve successfully called into question whether those mental states are objectively what we suppose them to be, if not outright proven they aren’t. They can’t be real, apparently, because they were the result of such and such neurons firing, or because of such and such materialistic explanations of how similar mental states occur. This is wrong-headed, of course, as it commits the genetic fallacy. Needless to say, what makes it doubly annoying is the fact that the people who make these logical fallacies claim to have lost their faith as a result of ‘rigorous thinking’.
So this atheist ex-pastor who wrote this blog post a friend of mine shared on fb is claiming, among other things, that the experience of the holy spirit — any ‘God experience,’ in fact — is merely a series of neurological events in the brain that’s been set off by some manner of hypnosis. This makes him conclude that it’s all superstitious foolery. I mean, it can’t be real — how can it be? — since we’ve got an adequate, step-by-step, causal account (from the words spoken by the evangelist to the very experience itself of the audience member) of how the experience came to be.
The problem here is that I can use that same kind reductionism and tell this guy he doesn’t actually love anyone; “Look, you don’t really love your wife — those are just the neurons firing!”
“Also, no, you’re not hungry — that is, again, just these other set of neurons firing!”
And reductio ad absurdum.
Of course, the more reflective will say, ah, but those neurons firing just is what we call love. Or those other neurons firing just is what we call hunger. But so can the silly chap who says he just experienced the holy spirit; he can likewise say that those neurons firing just is what happens when you experience the holy spirit!
I don’t even for one nano-second doubt that most, if not the overwhelming majority, of these claims to have experienced the holy spirit are nothing but a result of some kind of group hypnosis. I myself am skeptical of a lot of these claims. I think evangelists like Benny Hinn are frauds, and the people epileptically flailing-about around his pulpit have been duped, pretty much in the covert manner this ex-pastor describes. But to claim to have ‘debunked’ all ‘God experiences’ because you were able to give an account of how other experiences that can be mistaken for the genuine one can occur is just shoddy reasoning. Nobody but the sufficiently unintelligent is of the mind that people aren’t capable of being misled. And that people can be misled is the trite conclusion of this ex-pastor’s kilometric blog post.
Jerry Coyne, respected biologist, responding to a one Fr. Aidan, says:
“If you think there is a supernatural ‘being,’ first give me convincing evidence that it exists. And that evidence cannot be your personal revelation, or that of earlier theologians, but must be something that nearly all rational, objective, and skeptical observers would agree on. If you adduce Scripture as your evidence, then you’re also adducing the very kind of god you reject. Until you give me evidence as strong as that which I’d give you if you asked for evidence for evolution, I needn’t engage you or take your arguments for god seriously.”
O.K., Coyne. As you wish:
Firstly I’ll note with amusement that right-off the bat you misrepresent what our foremost theologians do. They do not, at least when arguing with your kind, cite personal revelation or scripture as evidence for theism. Remember, it’s you who prats on about there being no good arguments for theism, yet you show us that you are simply mostly unaware of them, or maybe pretend they either don’t exist or are unaware of them, as evidenced by what you imply most apologists do.
Convincing evidence that ‘a supernatural being’ (aka “God”) exists are the following: 1, The Cosmological Argument, 2, The Moral Argument, and 3, The Historicity of the man Jesus.
As far as I can gather, most of the rebuttals to these arguments are themselves unconvincing. For instance, one of the most popular objections to the cosmological argument is that it raises the question ‘who created God?’ That is of course not a serious objection as it is to wholly misunderstand the argument it attempts to rebut. Another objection to the cosmological argument is that the universe is simply a ‘brute fact.’ But that’s just to avoid the question and is no different from saying the universe just exists ‘magically’. In the case of the moral argument, one of the best objections that people from the new atheist cabal can give is that morality is an evolutionarily helpful illusion. Fine. It’s either an illusion or it is not. If it’s not an illusion, then some form of theism must be true (needs unpacking, but not here). So people can hardly be faulted for wanting to affirm morality to be objective, in fact Sam Harris, failingly, tries to do it all the time. On the historicity of Jesus, there have been many counter-hypotheses to the resurrection, some more unconvincing than others, like Jesus had a twin, or that the apostles — and hundreds of other people a lot of whom were previously skeptics — collectively hallucinated seeing Jesus. Of course, none of these are convincing. The only way they may seem more convincing is if, as Craig argues, one assumes naturalism from the onset. But if we don’t engage in the fallacious practice of begging the question, then the resurrection hypothesis clearly becomes the most explanatorily powerful given the background evidence (like Jesus’s prescient claims about himself, and so on).
Sure, some, mostly philosophers, do engage these arguments seriously. But you do not. And so do most others like you. So, unfortunately for you, Fr. Aidan Kimel is right: you don’t engage with the best arguments. I doubt it can even be said that you engage with any of the moderately intelligent ones, much less the best ones. In fact you, on one occasion, have made the very unintelligent (to put it mildly) remark that there are no arguments for God’s existence “that aren’t taken up and refuted in [the book] The God Delusion.” You actually seriously meant that Richar Dawkins’s book has ‘refuted’ all the arguments for the existence of God, which is, if you’ll excuse me, downright stupid (more about this and why below).
First of all, Dawkins never addresses the contingency part of the cosmological argument, except in an absolutely puerile manner. He mentions Aquinas’s 3rd way, yet demonstrates that he does not know what Aquinas even means as evidenced by the fact that he believes Aquinas was trying to show the universe had a beginning — Aquinas argues that it’s impossible to show the universe had a beginning! Dawkins even makes, perhaps even popularized, the ‘who created God’ objection, which is, as I soften say, not even a sightly serious objection to the cosmological argument, since the argument isn’t that ‘everything has a cause’, rather it’s that everything ‘contingent’ (or that had a beginning) has a cause. It simply beggars belief that someone who clearly does not have an atom of knowledge about the argument he is criticizing has been able to successfully refute it.
Dawkins, who you say wrote this book that had successfully refuted ‘all the arguments for the existence of God’ at one point even said: “No one has given any reason to think that the First Cause is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, etc”, which is, again, to show a complete bankruptcy of knowledge about the argument he attempts to refute. Aquinas, whom Dawkins is targeting, spends hundreds of pages exfoliating on this and getting those very characteristics of God from his first-cause argument. Other theologians like William Lane Craig, Samuel Clark, and Leibniz do the same thing. So to say that none of it had been done is simply wrong and shows that Dawkins — and, by extension, you — have zero idea, and have never actually read about the writers and theologians you both expend large amounts of energy criticizing. So addressing the best arguments for theism is something neither you nor Dawkins, or anyone like both of you for that matter, seem to do, or even want to do, or even will be doing in the future.
Contra the Moral argument, Dawkins, about whom you rather remarkably said had successfully refuted all the arguments for theism in existence, refreshingly admits that on atheism “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference..We are machines for propagating DNA.. It is every living object’s sole reason for being.”
Well, good luck with that. If that’s the case then religion isn’t the evil you claim it is, because, remember, as per Dawkins, “there is no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference.. We are machines for propagating DNA“!
I can go on about this book. But that, above, should suffice to show that Dawkins has not, like you claim, ‘refuted all arguments for God’s existence’. It should suffice to show that he (and you) do not understand, much less have successfully refuted, all, or even any, of the arguments for God’s existence. What he — you — was able to refute, and what Fr. Aidan claims you (and he) — and the likes of you and he — attempt to refute, are the strawman versions for the arguments for God’s existence, and not the arguments themselves.
So Fr. Aidan, 1, you 0.
Look, Jerry, clearly you’re an accomplished scientist. Evidence matters to you, I get it. But what’s also clear is that the evidence on this occasion is that when it comes to ‘tackling’ the arguments for God’s existence, you do not know what the hell you’re talking about.
Greg, a passerby, expresses bewilderment and requests an explanation:
If you believe that Sam Harris’s portrayal of the cosmological argument [for God’s existence] is a straw man, then I would be curious to hear your own interpretation of the argument.
As you wish, Greg.
But first let’s quote Sam for everyone else to see what his version (if it can even be called as such) of the argument actually is:
“The argument runs more or less like this: everything has a cause; space and time exist; space and time must, therefore, have been caused by something that stands outside of space and time; and the only thing that trascends space and time, and yet retains the power to create, is God… As many critics of religion have pointed out , the notion of a creator poses an inmediate problem of an infinite regress. If God created the universe, what caused God? To say that God, by definition, is uncreated simply begs the question”
For starters, the readily confirmable fact of the matter is that no respected theologian in the history of Christendom has ever concocted such an idiotic argument such as that. Not Craig, not Leibniz, not Aquinas, not Maimonides, not Avicenna, not Swinburne, not Plantinga, not anyone. Nobody in the history of the cosmological argument has ever begun the cosmological argument with the statement “everything has a cause.”
And the answer to that is actually quite simple. It is because none of them are, how shall we put it, dumb enough to ever argue anything so stupid. You’ll never be able to point to me one famous theologian who started off his cosmological argument in such a puerile manner.
What defenders of the cosmological argument actually defend is that what comes into existence has a cause, or that whatever is contingent has a cause, and not, as Sam likes to think, that everything has a cause. The difference between what actual defenders of the cosmological argument say and what Sam says they say is almost exactly like the difference between these 2 statements: 1, everything in the fridge is edible, and 2, everything is edible. If the differences between the 2 aren’t obvious still, then perhaps we could meet, as I’ve got this wonderful bridge to sell you which you can even pay in installments.
Defenders of the cosmological argument are not interested in showing that the cause of everything just somehow happens to be uncaused, leaving them open to being accused of special pleading. Rather, what they are (or were) interested in showing was that if there was to be an ultimate explanation of how everything came to be, then that explanation must be in principle uncaused. They argue, and don’t arbitrarily posit, for why this ultimate explanation must in principle be uncaused.
It is clear that Sam Harris, for his book, chose to consult infidel websites rather than the vast philosophical literature pertaining to the cosmological argument that exists.
Easter has been around for a long while that one can’t help but think the prevailing meanings attached to it as they are often told from the lectern to be not in the least bit insipid.
God, they say, gave his life for us.
“Rejoice,” suggest others, “for we now have eternal life!”
Well, awesome (not really).
Again, insipid. Barely even bland. Innocuous, at best. Because those feeble attempts to expressly explain what Easter is about, effete as they are, can scarcely enlighten, often just confounds, or even fatally misleads, as it woefully understates the grandeur of what God has accomplished.
Easter is as much about ‘being saved’ as medicine is about taking pills, which is to say it’s exactly about little if not zero of that. If you’re a Christian who’s already legally permitted to drink yet still think Easter to be all about your being ‘saved’ and being given ‘eternal life’ just on account of your ability to recite the proper incantations, then maybe it’s time you considered converting to atheism.
See, modern man has only Christianity to thank for the fact that we no longer look at with utter bewilderment the idea that man is an end in himself and not merely a means to one. Societies who predated Christianity for millennia happily estimated man’s worth to be close to nill, until Judaism comes into the picture and teaches that man was made in God’s image. Suddenly, this man whom they called the Christ comes along, was scourged till much of his flesh hung from bone while the thorns pressed into his scalp caused him excruciating pain, elevating man’s worth even further. Not only was man made in God’s image but so important was he that God condescended to man through Jesus.
So, Easter is about the divine repudiation of what the pagan infant-killers who preceded Christianity thought in their bones to be true, and what we lotus eaters now all seem to have forgotten is true absent the divine. And that is that we are, essentially, and without mincing words, animal shit.
Easter was the divine affront to that idea; it’s about God coming down and saying “No, [animal shit] you are not;” it’s about being the children of a God who loves us; it’s about the fact that life has objective meaning and purpose.
And that is why we rejoice this Easter.
I must respond to this batshit.
Steven Pinker says science makes belief in God ‘obsolete’ because… well, let’s hear it from him:
“Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral? Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.”
O.K., then, Mr. Pinker, let’s get back to those questions you imply science has now answered, or is at least, by your lights, close to answering, thusly making belief in God obsolete:
1. Where did the world [universe] come from?
In Pinker’s view there are 3 possibilties: 1, from nothing, 2, it’s a brute fact, and finally, 3, “beats me!”.
We couldn’t have possibly come from nothing because if we did, then anything can come from nothing, which is absurd. There isn’t anything in ‘nothing’ that would make it produce any specific thing, because prior to producing it, there wasn’t anything! So Scrap that.
Saying the universe is simply a brute fact is no different from saying ‘it’s just magic!’ The guy pulling a rabbit out of a hat will make just as much sense explaining the trick away by saying “it’s just a brute fact that I can pull rabbits out of hats!”
Saying you don’t bloody know where the universe came from is at least a respectable answer — but then we’re left with zero answers to the question you imply science has already answered!
2. How can mind arise from body?
Pinker doesn’t know, but he’ll happily issue a promissory note that science will one day be able to tell us, despite that his buddies Alex Rosenberg, the Churchlands, and Dennett are quite explicit about the answer. And it is that mind does not, in fact, exist — it’s an illusion. Seriously, that’s what they think — it’s what they’re left to think, actually, for how else do you get ‘mind’ from the inanimate except by explaining it away, which seems to be their wont whenever the target explanandum seems, in principle, to be beyond science’s reach. Of course, the problem here is that an illusion presupposes a (wait for it…) MIND to perceive it. So, essentially, to them (Pinker’s buddies, and perhaps to Pinker himself), we have a mind that perceives the illusion of a mind, and maybe another mind that perceives the illusion of a mind perceiving the illusion of a mind, and another mind.. ad infinitum. Or, in a nutshell, the answer they give amounts to illogical, self-referential drivel.
3. Why should anyone be moral?
Pinker is a naturalist, so to him morality is merely the sentimental predispositions humans have acquired that are the residue of evolutionary processes. In other words, we feel this way because feeling this way on the aggregate helps our species flourish. Or, in more other words, eating babies only seems morally reprehensible because if we kept eating babies — by golly — we wouldn’t have been able to be around for this long as a species! In more, more other words, nothing is really right or wrong, all that matters is what will make us survive! Or, in more, more, more other words, morality is just another illusion.
So, to recap:
Where did the universe come from? It either came from nothing, or it’s just magic — or we’ll never know.
How can mind arise from body? Mind is just an illusion, really.
Why should anyone be moral? Nothing, at bottom, really, as morality is just another illusion.
Profound Mr. Pinker. How very profound.
If there’s anything to take from all this, from the patently ridiculous answers Pinker, or the rest of gnu atheists, give to these questions about which people have pondered for millennia, it’s that, well, 1, Pinker is a real clever-silly, and, 2, there are a great many things that seem to be way beyond science’s scope.
Money, and, perhaps, fame, to the one who refutes, to Sam’s satisfaction, his contention that Science can determine moral values.
Really; Sam’s giving 2 thousand dollars to the winning essay — and, interestingly, 20 thousand dollars (inclusive of the matching pledge of one of his generous readers) to the essay that succeeds in changing his mind. Needless to say, changing his mind, or at least getting him to admit his mind had been changed, would be considerably more difficult then actually refuting his thesis — something which had been, as it were, refuted since 1739.
A few months ago, I entertained the thought of submitting one. The effort to do so, however, eventually seemed of scant worth, considering what would presumably be a large number of submissions unequivocally harping on the very argument I intended to make — indeed, the same argument, I think, everyone’s been making — against Sam’s thouroughly absurd thesis.
Sam is wrong; science does not — cannot ever — have the ability to determine moral values for precisely the reasons laid out by David Hume more than 200 years ago in A Treatise Of Human Nature.:
“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.”
Or, in short, Mr. Hume, in a rather overly verbose manner (as chaps of his time were wont to conduct themselves) is simply saying that one cannot derive an ought from an is; you cannot infer what ought to be from what is; or, if you like: since science merely describes what is, then it can hardly be able to tell us what ought to be.
Of course, that, above, should have been the whole story. Sadly, it isn’t for Harris.
Surprisingly competently, Sam realizes that moral goodness is a concept so amorphous as to be indeterminable (after all, people can’t always agree on what is good) so he substitutes (human) ‘well-being’ for ‘good’ because — or so we are told by him — ‘well-being’ as a metric succeeds in doing two things that can seemingly bridge Hume’s famous (or perhaps infamous) is-ought chasm: 1, it is something for which there can in principle be an objective unit of measurement, and 2, it proffers to actions a goal or purpose.
The obvious problem here is that well-being is, contrary to Sam’s claims, rather like moral goodness in that it is also objectively indeterminable. I mean, what is it? Sam simply puts the problem another step back, actually. How can we all even agree on what ‘well-being’ is?
Dahmer’s well-being, for instance, was predicated on the sodomization of young boys’ corpses. What would Sam’s answer be to this, one wonders. Dahmer was wrong because sodomizing corpses can hardly be said to add to someone’s well-being? But yes it can — people like Dahmer exist. Sure, we can cheerily rejoice in the fact that more people are of the opinion that sodomizing corpses reduces rather than increases ones well-being. But, on naturalism, that’s just an opinion, really — one that is, luckily, ascendant in society, but one that is an opinion no less.
Of course, Sam will argue that humans have evolved in such and such a way that makes us repelled by the sight of corpses, and therefore moreso with the prospect of having sex with them, making our collective anti corpse-sodomizing sentiments not merely an opinion but one for which a socio-biological component exists. Of course he’ll think this socio-biological underpinning furnishes us with a standard against which the morality of actions can be measured. But he’ll be wrong; for one can simply say that Dahmer was being unfashionable, or that Dahmer simply chose not to go with the flow, so to speak.
Swrong with that?
What, on naturalism, makes Sam able to say: “No, sodomizing corpses, bad!”, “Yes, well-being, good!”
Nothing, it seems.
Of course, this all poses zero problems for the theist who holds God to be good’s ontological base. After all, if the Christian God exists, then the universe was imbued with ‘oughts’ upon its very creation. Therefore theism furnishes us with a solid foundation for moral values and duties, while atheism, not so much.
Steven Pinker, in this piece, tells us not to fear scientism, then reminds us why we fear scientism.
It doesn’t seem Pinker gets it, actually, as evidenced by what he says here:
“The term “scientism” is anything but clear, more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine. Sometimes it is equated with lunatic positions, such as that “science is all that matters” or that “scientists should be entrusted to solve all problems.” Sometimes it is clarified with adjectives like “simplistic,” “naïve,” and “vulgar.” “
These positions Pinker calls “lunatic” are in fact what people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and a lot of the new atheists — a group of which Pinker is a glorified member — explicitly, if not implicitly (but actually, ‘explicitly’), subscribe to.
It is Sam Harris who claims ‘science can answer moral questions’, despite that it can’t. It is Richard Dawkins who claims all forms of theism, as per science, are false, despite that science can tell us no such thing. It’s Jerry Coyne who tells us that all meaningful questions have a science-based answer, making questions of ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, art, or even whether science is worth doing at all, all meaningless.
These new atheists say all that, mind you, because ‘science’. But, no, we’re all just foolish anti-scientismists, and, according to Pinker, scientism is “more of a boo-word than a label for any coherent doctrine.”
Pinker, again, further confounds:
“Demonizers of scientism often confuse intelligibility with a sin called reductionism. But to explain a complex happening in terms of deeper principles is not to discard its richness.”
One wonders if Pinker has ever met or talked to Naturalist Philosopher and defender of scientism Alex Rosenberg, who, according to wiki: “published a defense of what he called “Scientism”—the claim that “the persistent questions” people ask about the nature of reality, the purpose of things, the foundations of value and morality, the way the mind works, the basis of personal identity, and the course of human history, could all be answered by the resources of science.”?
Oh no. Scientism? — yeah, that’s just an incoherent “boo-word”, says Pinker. It’s been “equated with lunatic positions, such as that “science is all that matters”, says Pinker. Therefore we can very much expect Mr. Pinker to own up to his reasoning and tell Alex Rosenberg to his face that he (Alex) is, in fact, a ‘lunatic’ — oh wait.. no, we can’t.
But, at least, Alex isn’t discarding some complex happening’s (like, consciousness, say) ‘richness’. Of course he isn’t! In fact he says consciousness is an illusion! Oh wait.. he is.
O.K., O.K., but, at least, Sam Harris and Dan Dennet don’t fall into that ‘discarding-complex happening’s-richness’ rut; It’s not like they discard the “richness” of free-will and morality. I mean, they even say free-will and morality are both illusions! Oh wait.. Damnit!
More tripe from Pinker:
“In which ways, then, does science illuminate human affairs? Let me start with the most ambitious: the deepest questions about who we are, where we came from, and how we define the meaning and purpose of our lives.”
Notice the switch from ‘what is our meaning and purpose?’ (the real deep question) to ‘how do we define our meaning and purpose?’ (a ‘deep question’ according to Pinker)? To Pinker, one of the deepest questions humans have ever had to ask themselves is: “how [on earth] do we define the meaning and purpose of our lives [?!!?].” Pinker seems to assume that we do have meaning and purpose and it’s just a matter of how we go about defining it. But, who the hell asks himself that? “Look, so I have this meaning and purpose, I’m sure of it! Tricky part is..hmm.. how do I define it?” Did Pinker mean to say ‘what is the meaning and purpose of our lives’? No. Why? Well, because he damn well knows that that question — what is our meaning and purpose, and not how we define it — isn’t answerable by science. By rephrasing it into the question of how we can “define..meaning and purpose”, despite that probably nobody in history (except maybe linguists or some such) has ever really seriously asked himself that, he ingeniously makes it seem like it’s a question for which science can plausibly have an answer.
The rest of his piece merely harps on the idea that science is so awesome, that we’ve learned so much and cured so many diseases because of it, that it’s wrong to blame science for social darwinism, eugenics, and the millions of people who’ve died because of those kinds of sciency ideas, since they’ve not been done in the name of science, despite that all the cures and technology of which he spoke haven’t likewise been done in the name of science but are still something we apparently have to thank science for, and yada yada yada.
The problem with all this, with this piece, is that Pinker refuses to recognize that there even is a scientism problem — it’s an incoherent “boo word”, he says — and therefore does little to allay the fears of the anti-scientismist. If we can learn anything from this, it’s that we now ought to be more wary of these people.