Posted by: Andrew G | March 26, 2010

Atheism – Proving a Negative

An apologetic in North Carolina by the name of Frank Turek has a book with the title, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”.

It’s a clever enough title, in its way, so I’ll give him that. But I haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to. I first came across Turek’s name as it was tied to Christopher Hitchens because the two had a debate about God. If you would like to see the video, you can do a search or ask me for it. I will not link to it here because it was a sloppy and weak display of two otherwise mature adults refusing to listen to one another. Turek actually did stay on the topic better than Hitchens, to his credit. But you might as well put a revival-tent preacher on stage next to a political comedian empty of punchlines and say to them, “Make some entertaining faces for us, mm-kay.”

Since the word ‘faith’ is inappropriate (although deliciously ironic, I suppose), today I will use the word ‘worldview’.

The worldview of Atheism is the new darling of the media, mainly because the “New Atheists” are giving the media what it wants. The New Atheists are, generally speaking, a group of scholars and writers and  scientists that have decided to examine things like faith, institutionalized religion and the physical world, and from such studies try to go where the evidence leads them.

For the general low-down, the wikipedia is of course a starting point. But please don’t stop there.

The history of atheism has as ancient of roots as all of the theisms out there. Socrates himself was found guilty of, and put to death for, not recognizing the accepted gods and corrupting the youth of the city. Maybe this is the reason why atheism is often tied to academics, scholars, scientists and free-thinkers. It’s been a long time, but the academics are finally trying to get some payback for what was done to the ol’ Greek.

You don’t have to be that smart, really, to be an atheist. There is really no entry qualifications that way. And like every other worldview, there are dramatic schisms and groupings and regroupings, and certainly different flavours of humour. The Atheist Nexus is good sampler of blogs, and useful in terms of getting a sense of the modern mood in non-believers.

The real challenge for atheists is, as Ronald Aronson puts it, “the most urgent need [for] a coherent popular philosophy that answers vital questions about how to live one’s life.” (source: Steinfels through Sam Harris.org)

This is one thing that nags at me quite a bit — there is no worldview out there that really solves this problem. Yes, in religions, things tend to be spelled out rather plainly and absolutely, but that really hasn’t prevented abuses. And the same can be said about atheism. Not every atheist, for example, is a humanist, or just plain humane for that matter.

But, I do have to say that I like how this need is being studied now.

Here are two very important, relatively short videos that demonstrate the  work going on right now towards a philosophy on how to live one’s life. ( First exposure to these for me was  from Leah’s blog, The Whore of All the Earth. Thanks so much Leah for waking me up to TED talks — what an incredible, valuable site!)

And of course, Ramachandran for last. (This one totally blew my mind! Personal prognostication here, but I think the path to understanding morality will be through neuroscience and neurology).

(Ok, also: Leah recently posted Sam Harris’ talk on how science can answer moral questions. Check it out on her site.)

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Responses

  1. […] an earlier post I noted how the New Atheists have a problem right now of “the most urgent need [for] a coherent popular philosophy that answers vital questions about how to l…” They are now in the middle of a search for story. And they are exploring the moral […]

  2. ” I haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to.”

    That’s a shame. I hope you’d want people to read Dawkins.

    • Hi Birdie! Thanks for dropping in.

      My comment was directed towards Turek’s book. Turek is an apologist, and in trying to be nice, I can only say I have a cordial dislike of apologetics.

      I have not yet read Dawkins but I do intend to read something of his, eventually.

      Let’s be clear now. What I intend for myself and what I would recommend for others are two very separate things.

      Dawkins has been quoted as saying, “”I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me.”

      And you can see an interesting discussion of this through the comments on Leah’s site –> http://whoreofalltheearth.blogspot.com/2010/03/ted-talk-tuesday-sam-harris-says.html#comments


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