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Posts Tagged ‘Atheism’

The Bible and Apologetics (Part 3)-Defending Your Faith Pt 28

October 20, 2014 1 comment

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Why Philosophy Matters for Christians

October 20, 2014 3 comments

This is a guest post by Vern Poythress, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of Redeeming Philosophy: A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions.

 

Answering the Big Questions

To many people, the mention of “philosophy” brings up an image of gray-haired intellectuals endlessly debating irrelevancies. There is some truth in this image, especially the part about the endless debate.

But philosophy matters for Christians because many of the debates are about the “big questions” of human existence.

•Does God exist?
•If he does, what kind of God is he?
•What kind of world do we live in? Is the universe nothing but….

 

 

 

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The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins

October 20, 2014 3 comments

An atheist reviews Richard Dawkins’ autobiography and titles it “The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins.” Even atheists are increasingly embarrassed by Dawkins.

 

 

The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion by John Gray

……….Dawkins’s suggestion is that memes “leap from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” and it is clear that he sees this process at work throughout human culture, including religion.

There are many difficulties in talk of memes, including how they are to be identified. Is Romanticism a meme? Is the idea of evolution itself a meme, jumping unbidden from brain to brain? My suspicion is that the entire “theory” amounts to not much more than a misplaced metaphor. The larger problem is that a meme-based Darwinian account of religion is at odds with Dawkins’s assault on religion as a type of intellectual error. If Darwinian evolution applies to religion, then religion must have some evolutionary value. But in that case there is a tension between naturalism (the study of humans and other animals as organisms in the natural world) and the rationalist belief that the human mind can rid itself of error and illusion through a process of critical reasoning. To be sure, Dawkins and those who think like him will object that evolutionary theory tells us how we got where we are, but does not preclude our taking charge of ourselves from here on. But who are “we”? In a passage from The Selfish Gene that Dawkins quotes in this memoir, he writes:
They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, these replicators. Now they come by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

If we “are” survival machines, it is unclear how “we” can decide anything. The idea of free will, after all, comes from religion and not from science. Science may give us the unvarnished truth—or some of it—about our species. Part of that truth may prove to be that humans are not and can never be rational animals. Religion may be an illusion, but that does not mean science can dispel it. On the contrary, science may well show that religion cannot be eradicated from the human mind. Unsurprisingly, this is a possibility that Dawkins never explores.

For all his fervent enthusiasm for science, Dawkins shows very little interest in asking what scientific knowledge is or how it comes to be possible. There are many philosophies of science. Among them is empiricism, which maintains that scientific knowledge extends only so far as observation and experiment can reach; realism, which holds that science can give an account of parts of the world that can never be observed; irrealism, according to which there is no one truth of things to which scientific theories approximate; and pragmatism, which views science theories as useful tools for organizing and controlling experience. If he is aware of these divergent philosophies, Dawkins never discusses them. His attitude to science is that of a practitioner who does not need to bother with philosophical questions.

It is worth noting, therefore, that it is not as a practicing scientist that Dawkins has produced his assaults against religion. As he makes clear in this memoir, he gave up active research in the 1970s when he left his crickets behind and began to write The Selfish Gene. Ever since, he has written as an ideologue of scientism, the positivistic creed according to which science is the only source of knowledge and the key to human liberation. He writes well—fluently, vividly, and at times with considerable power. But the ideas and the arguments that he presents are in no sense novel or original, and he seems unaware of the critiques of positivism that appeared in its Victorian heyday.

Some of them bear re-reading today. One of the subtlest and most penetrating came from the pen of Arthur Balfour, the Conservative statesman, British foreign secretary, and sometime prime minister. Well over a century ago, Balfour identified a problem with the evolutionary thinking that was gaining ascendancy at the time. If the human mind has evolved in obedience to the imperatives of survival, what reason is there for thinking that it can acquire knowledge of reality, when all that is required in order to reproduce the species is that its errors and illusions are not fatal? A purely naturalistic philosophy cannot account for the knowledge that we believe we possess. As he framed the problem in The Foundations of Belief in 1895, “We have not merely stumbled on truth in spite of error and illusion, which is odd, but because of error and illusion, which is even odder.” Balfour’s solution was that naturalism is self-defeating: humans can gain access to the truth only because the human mind has been shaped by a divine mind. Similar arguments can be found in a number of contemporary philosophers, most notably Alvin Plantinga. Again, one does not need to accept Balfour’s theistic solution to see the force of his argument. A rigorously naturalistic account of the human mind entails a much more skeptical view of human knowledge than is commonly acknowledged.

Balfour’s contributions to the debate about science and religion are nowadays little known—compelling testimony to the historical illiteracy of contemporary philosophy. But Balfour also testifies to how shallow, crass, and degraded the debate has become since Victorian times. Unlike most of those who debated then, Dawkins knows practically nothing of the philosophy of science, still less about theology or the history of religion. From his point of view, he has no need to know. He can deduce everything he wants to say from first principles. Religion is a type of supernatural belief, which is irrational, and we will all be better off without it: for all its paraphernalia of evolution and memes, this is the sum total of Dawkins’s argument for atheism. His attack on religion has a crudity that would make a militant Victorian unbeliever such as T.H. Huxley—described by his contemporaries as “Darwin’s bulldog” because he was so fierce in his defense of evolution—blush scarlet with embarrassment.

 

 

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The Bible and Apologetics (Part 2)-Defending Your Faith Pt 27

October 13, 2014 1 comment

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The Bible and Apologetics (Part 1)-Defending Your Faith Pt 26

October 6, 2014 1 comment

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The Psychology Of Atheism – Defending Your Faith Part 25

September 29, 2014 1 comment

Vanity Of Vanity – Defending Your Faith Part 24

September 22, 2014 1 comment