Thursday, March 29, 2012

More on the Reason Rally

The atheist "Reason Rally" held last weekend in Washington, D.C. drew between 10,000 and 30,000 participants and was touted as an event whose purpose was not to bash belief or believers but to present a positive image of unbelief.

Unfortunately, some of the participants just couldn't help themselves, as Lashawn Barber notes in a column at Barber writes specifically about a speech given by über atheist Richard Dawkins:
Rather than trashing religion, the Reason Rally was supposed to be a “positive experience” to celebrate “secular values” and motivate atheists to “become more active.” While that might sound reasonable, if you listen to Dawkins’s speech, you’d get a different impression.

Dawkins called on atheists and agnostics to “ridicule and show contempt” for the religious and their doctrines. The example he used was the Roman Catholic belief that the bread and wine of communion turns into the actual body and blood of Christ. He encouraged atheists to mock and ridicule the religious in public.
Rabbi Moshe Averick observes that this sort of arrogance is fueled by a conviction that atheists are just smarter and more reasonable than are believers. He also thinks they're quite mistaken about that:
What fuels the hubris of writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, P.Z. Myers, etc. is their belief that Science unequivocally supports their godless view of reality. An honest, open-minded investigation will reveal, however, that Science offers close to nothing in support of atheism.

A prodigious leap of faith is required to believe such a notion; a leap that rivals any that might be demanded by a particular religion. At every critical point of contention between believers and non-believers, scientific evidence is at the very least, inconclusive, and at best, supports belief in God and the spiritual.
What sorts of evidence does the rabbi have in mind when he makes this claim? He offers three examples:
Origin of Life – Much to the chagrin of chemists and molecular biologists, the “dirty little secret” of origin of life research – as Dr. Eugene Koonin put it – is that Science has, until now, utterly failed in its quest to discover a plausible naturalistic explanation for the origin of the astoundingly complex molecular machinery and information systems found in the earliest life on our planet. It is these same super-sophisticated machines and genetic information systems that would allow Darwinian evolution – conceding its truth for argument’s sake – to take place. The origin of these systems is a complete mystery. Perhaps the reason is because there is no naturalistic explanation. Perhaps, Darwin forbid, there is a Creator.

Human Consciousness and our unique sense of Identity – Neuroscientists are absolutely baffled when asked to explain the phenomena of human consciousness and self-awareness. Dr. Jerry Fodor, a non-believing cognitive scientist, has put it this way: “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious.” Nobel-Prize winning biologist George Wald has stated: “Consciousness seems wholly impervious to science.” Anyone ready to consider a non-material soul?

Man’s Relentless Search for Meaning and Abstract Moral Values – The Darwinian psychologist grasps at straws trying to understand why every other form of life on the planet does not seem to be bothered at all by the aforementioned issues and lives and thrives quite successfully without them, while human beings are obsessed with “meaning” and “moral values” and cannot live without them. The painful conundrum this raises in the atheist position is expressed by the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre: “That God does not exist I cannot deny, that my whole being cries out for God, I cannot forget.” Is there anyone out there open-minded enough to consider that perhaps human beings are radically and qualitatively different than all other forms of life?
He could have offered more, of course, but these three happen to coincide nicely with the argument that we've been making here at VP for eight years about the existential poverty of the naturalistic worldview and its impotence in trying to explain large swaths of human experience.

Averick concludes by saying that:
In my opinion, the most revealing moment of the “Reason Rally” was a headline performance by Australian entertainer, Tim Minchin. While the audience – many with young children in tow – clapped and bounced along with the rhythm, Mr. Minchin attempted to claim his place in the Guinness Book of Records by saying the word mother****er as many times as is humanly possible during a 3-minute “song.” The enthusiastic reaction of these “brights” to Mr. Minchin’s antics tells us much more about the true state of modern atheism than any science textbook ever will.
Actually, just as much as Minchin's squalid performance, the comment thread to Averick's post itself reveals a great deal about the state of modern atheism. Some of the commenters seem to believe that one wins an argument by lobbing more irrelevant invective at the other guy than he lobs back at you. It never seems to occur to them that they should be seeking to show that Averick is wrong, if they believe that he is, and not just be pounding him with lame insults.

The commenters make themselves sound like a bunch of high school kids. If that's what modern atheism looks like then no wonder it appeals to so few.