“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

Berlinski Answers the New Atheists

“The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.”

David Berlinski, mathematician and philosopher, skeptic and iconoclast, in his latest book The Devil’s Delusion provides a counterpoint to the several New Atheists authors that have published works in the past few years, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens most notably. Berlinski, a secular Jew, has no quarrel with scientific pursuits but is skeptical of the claim by many scientists that they can answer, with authority, essentially scientifically unanswerable questions. He is impatient with the ever-increasing pomposity and boasting of popular representatives of the scientific community ( a few of whom are actually scientists) who seem to have answers for most everything from “the god gene” to multiple universes to origins of life with little more than a committed antagonism to religion to buttress their claims.

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.
Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.
Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.
Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.
Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.
Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.
Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.
Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.
Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

“According to Daniel Dennett, Berlinski exudes a ‘rich comic patina of smug miseducation'; Richard Dawkins implies that he may be wicked to the core; and blogger-ringleader P.Z. Myers has called him a ‘pompous pimple’ and a ‘supercilious snot.'” (quoted from Wikipedia)

Readers who have followed the many posts on Dakota Voice about science, creation and the perfection of the universe might find such comments reason enough to read The Devil’s Delusion and see what provokes such ire from writers who have contributed little to scientific understanding yet assert their beliefs with the certainty of religious zealots.


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3 Responses to “Berlinski Answers the New Atheists”

  1. Sounds like an interesting book.

    Science used to be primarily concerned with examining the evidence and determining working theories about the properties of the universe.

    Where it “jumped the tracks” was when it started assuming the role of philosophy and trying to answer the “big questions.” In doing so, it quickly married itself to a philosophical position and lost its objectivity.

    Ironically, that marriage has become such a fundamentally accepted part of “science” today that most scientists are totally oblivious to their own bias, and the bias of the materialist and naturalist philosophy that dominates the scientific community today.

  2. What Mr. Ellis said.

    Berlinski makes a nice combo with Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind”, and not just because both require much focus, a little caffeine and a handy dictionary to get through. (Think of reading these guys as a long, satisfying hike with at least a 3,000-foot change in elevation.) In particular, where Bloom talks about how philosopy itself has been derailed into a post-Heidigger(sp) nihilism and Berlinski talks of how science has been derailed into a similar nihilism since it’s moved into philosophical rhealms. I’m still parsing all this out, but I think one of the main ideas is that, if the rules one plays by are invalid (i.e. no proof of God means no God), then one gets stuck in a self-referential spiral that always results in despair.

    So, let’s here it for the unknown, eh?

  3. I love the last line, “writers who have contributed little to scientific understanding yet assert their beliefs with the certainty of religious zealots.” One, I was not aware that assertions may only be made by such people (high standards) and, two, assertions with evidence hold much more weight than assertions with no evidence (and mountains of counter-evidence). Wow, this is getting old for those of us who have gotten by the ruse…