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Friday, November 02, 2007

The atheist recants

Sir Anthony Flew is only one of many individuals, including me, who have rejected atheism or agnosticism as intellectually developed adults because of the evidence, not in spite of it.

Wiker: You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar as the latest scientific evidence tends strongly toward—or perhaps even demonstrates—a theistic conclusion. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

Flew: Yes indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.

I have found that one of the most damning things about atheism is the way in which very, very few come to an atheist position as adults, but rather as children (Hitchens) or teenagers (Dawkins, Russell). Sam Harris's irreligious awakening as a result of taking ecstasy is amusingly ironic, but equally unimpressive. This doesn't necessarily testify to the truth or falsehood of atheism itself, but it does go a long way towards judging the intellectual credibility of the individual atheist. College is not a time of intellectual refinement, but rather intellectual experimentation; it should be no surprise that college professors are particularly inclined towards atheism as they tend to be emotionally and intellectually stunted individuals, crippled by their existence in sheltered, artificial academic hot-houses.

They are college students in perpetuity, and one need only think back to one's university days to recall that there are few things sillier or more shallow than what passes for a college student's intellectual life.

Underlining the utter vaccuity of the atheist position is the fact that the average atheist does not even understand what the word "evidence" means. There are many types of evidence beyond scientific evidence, the entire basis for our system of law explicitly denies the concept that "scientific evidence" is the only valid form of evidence.

Of the four types of evidence deemed permissible for determining truth in court, only "real" evidence for God can possibly be considered lacking in any way, although not necessarily as documentary evidence is considered a form of real evidence. There is ample demonstrative, documentary, and testimonial evidence, and in legal terms, testimonial evidence is the strongest as it is "the only kind that does not usually require another form of evidence as a prerequisite for its admissibility. See Evid. Code § 702(b); Fed R. Evid. 602."

Scientific evidence, on the other hand, is often not permissible in court because it is too often known to be unreliable.

The atheist Theodore Dalrymple adds the obvious:

Of course, men—that is to say, some men—have denied this truth ever since the Enlightenment, and have sought to find a way of life based entirely on reason. Far as I am from decrying reason, the attempt leads at best to Gradgrind and at worst to Stalin. Reason can never be the absolute dictator of man’s mental or moral economy....

The curious thing about these books is that the authors often appear to think that they are saying something new and brave. They imagine themselves to be like the intrepid explorer Sir Richard Burton, who in 1853 disguised himself as a Muslim merchant, went to Mecca, and then wrote a book about his unprecedented feat. The public appears to agree, for the neo-atheist books have sold by the hundred thousand. Yet with the possible exception of Dennett’s, they advance no argument that I, the village atheist, could not have made by the age of 14....

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